In the Benedictine edition of his works given by Dom Montfaucon, we have in the first tome his Two Exhortations to Theodorus; three Books Against the Adversaries of a Monastic Life:—The Comparison between a King and a Monk: two books on Compunction: three books to Stagirius the monk, on Tribulation and Providence: Against those Clergymen who harbour Women, under their roof to serve them: another treatise to prove, That Deaconesses, or other Regular Women, ought not to live under the same roof with Men: On Virginity: To a young Widow: On the Priesthood: and a considerable number of scattered homilies. Theodorus, after renouncing the advantages which high birth, a plentiful estate, a polite education, and an uncommon stock of learning offered him in the world, and having solemnly consecrated himself to God in a monastic state, violated his sacred engagement, returned into the world, took upon him the administration of his estate, fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Hermione, and desired to marry her. Saint Chrysostom, who had formerly been his schoolfellow, under Libanius, and been afterwards instrumental in inducing him to forsake the world, and some time his companion in a religious state, grievously lamented his unhappy fall; and by two most tender and pathetic exhortations to repentance, gained him again to God. Every word is dictated by the most ardent zeal and charity, and powerfully insinuates itself into the heart by the charm of an unparalleled sweetness, which gives to the strength of the most persuasive eloquence an irresistible force. Nothing of the kind extant is more beautiful, or more tender, than these two pieces, especially the former. The saint, in the beginning, borrows the most moving parts of the lamentations of Jeremy, showing that he had far more reason to abandon himself to bitter grief than that prophet; for he mourned not for a material temple and city with the holy ark and the tables of the law; but for an immortal soul, far more precious than the whole material world. And if one soul which observes the divine law is greater and better than ten thousand which transgress it, what reason had he to deplore the loss of one which had been sanctified, and the holy living temple of God, and shone with the grace of the Holy Ghost: one in which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, had dwelt; but was stripped of its glory and fence, robbed of its beauty, enslaved by the devil, and fettered with his bolts and chains. Therefore the saint invites all creatures to mourn with him, and declares he will receive no comfort, nor listen to those who offer him any, crying out with the prophet: Depart from me; I will weep bitterly: offer not to comfort me. Isa. xxii. 4. His grief, he says, was just, because he wept for a soul that was fallen from heaven to hell, from grace into sin: it was reasonable, because by tears she might yet be recovered; and he protests that he would never interrupt them, till he should learn that she was risen again. To fortify his unhappy friend against the temptation of despair, he shows by the promises, examples, and parables of the Old and New Testament, that no one can doubt the power or goodness of God, who is most ready to pardon every sinner that sues for mercy. Observing that hell was not created for man, but heaven, he conjures him not to defeat the design of God in his creation, and destroy the work of his mercy by persevering in sin. The difficulties which seemed to stand in his way, and dispirited him, the saint shows would be all removed, and would even vanish of themselves, if he undertook the work with courage and resolution: this makes the conversion of a soul easy. He terrifies him by moving reflections on death, and the divine judgments, by a dreadful portraiture which he draws of the fire of hell, which resembles not our fire, but burns souls, and is eternal: lastly, by the loss of heaven, on the joys of which kingdom he speaks at large; on its immortality, the company of the angels, the joy, liberty, beauty, and glory of the blessed, adding that such is this felicity, that in its loss consists the most dreadful of all the torments of the damned. Penance averts these evils, and restores to a soul all the titles and advantages which she had forfeited by her fall; and its main difficulty and labour are vanquished by a firm resolution, and serious beginning of the work. This weakens and throws down the enemy: if he be thoroughly vanquished in that part where he was the strongest, the soul will pursue, with ease and cheerfulness, the delightful and beautiful course of virtue upon which she has entered. He conjures Theodorus, by all that is dear, to have compassion on himself: also to have pity on his mourning friends, and not by grief send them to their graves: he exhorts him resolutely to break his bonds at once, not to temporize only with his enemy, or pretend to rise by degrees; and he entreats him to exert his whole strength in labouring to be of the happy number of those, who, from being the last, are raised by their fervour to the first rank in the kingdom of God. To encourage him by examples, he mentions a young nobleman of Phœnicia, the son of one Urbanus, who having embraced with fervour the monastic state, insensibly fell into lukewarmness, and at length returned into the world, where he enjoyed large possessions, lived in pomp, and abandoned himself to the pursuit of vanity and pleasures; till, opening his eyes upon the remonstrances of certain pious friends, he distributed his whole estate amongst the poor, and spent the rest of his life in the desert with extraordinary fervour. Another ascetic, falling by degrees, in an advanced age, committed the crime of fornication; but immediately rising, attained to an eminent degree of sanctity, and was honoured with the gift of miracles. The disciple of Saint John, who had been a captain of a troop of robbers and murderers, became an illustrious penitent. In like manner, our saint exhorts and conjures this sinner to rise without delay, before he was overtaken by the divine judgments, and to confess his sins with compunction of heart abundant bitter tears, and a perfect change of life, labouring to efface his crimes by good works, to the least of which Christ has promised a reward.
Saint Chrysostom begins his second Exhortation to Theodorus, which is much shorter than the first, by expressing his grief as follows: (t. 1. p. 35.) “If tears and groans could have been conveyed by letters, this would have been filled. I grieve not that you have taken upon you the administration of your affairs; but that you have trampled under your feet the sacred engagement you had made of yourself to Christ. For this I suffer excessive trouble and pain; for this I mourn: for this I am seized with fear and trembling, having before my eyes the severe damnation which so treacherous and base a perfidiousness deserves.” He tells him yet “that the case is not desperate for a person to have been wounded, but for him to neglect the cure of his wounds. A merchant after shipwreck labours to repair his losses; many wrestlers after a fall have risen, and fought so courageously as to have been crowned: and soldiers, after a defeat, have rallied and conquered. You allege,” says he, “that marriage is lawful. This I readily acknowledge; but it is not now in your power to embrace that state: for it is certain that one who by a solemn engagement, has given himself to God as his heavenly spouse if he violate this contract, he commits an adultery, though he should a thousand times call it marriage. Nay, he is guilty of a crime so much the more enormous as the majesty of God surpasses man. Had you been free, no one would charge you with desertion; but since you are contracted to so great a king, you are not at your own disposal.” Saint Chrysostom pathetically shows him the danger, baseness, and crime of deferring his repentance, sets before him hell, the emptiness of the world, the uneasiness and troubles which usually attend a married life, and the sweetness of the yoke of Christ. He closes this pressing exhortation by mentioning the tears and prayers of his friends, which they would never interrupt, till they had the comfort of seeing him raised from his fall. Saint Chrysostom wrote these two exhortations about the year 369, which was the second that he spent in his mother’s house at Antioch when he led there an ascetic life. The fruit of his zeal and charity was the conversion of Theodorus, who broke his engagements with the world, and returned to his solitude. In 381 he was made bishop of Mopsuestia. In opposing the Apollinarist heresy, he had the misfortune to lay the seeds of Nestorianism in a book which he composed on the Incarnation, and other writings. He became a declared protector of Julian the Pelagian, when he took refuge in the East; wrote an express treatise against original sin, and maintained the Pelagian errors in a multitude of other works, which were all condemned after his death, though only fragments of them have reached us, preserved chiefly in Facundus, Photius, and several councils. He died in 428, before the solemn condemnation of his errors, and in the communion of the Catholic Church.
During Saint Chrysostom’s retreat in the mountains, two devout servants of God desired of him certain instructions on the means of attaining to the virtue of compunction. Demetrius, the first of these, though he was arrived at a high degree of perfection in an ascetic life, always ranked himself among those who crawl on the earth, and said often to Saint Chrysostom, kissing his hand and watering it with his tears: “Assist me to soften the hardness of my heart.” Saint Chrysostom addressed to him his first book On Compunction, in which he tells him that he was not unacquainted with this grace, of which he had a pledge in the earnestness of his desire to obtain it, his love of retirement, his watching whole nights, and his abundant tears, even those with which, squeezing him by the hand, he had begged the succour of his advice and prayers, in order to soften his dry stony heart into compunction. With the utmost confusion for his own want of this virtue, he yielded to his request, begging in return his earnest prayers for the conversion of his own soul. Treating first on the necessities and motives of compunction, he takes notice that Christ pronounces those blessed who mourn, and says we ought never to cease weeping for our own sins, and those of the whole world, which deserve and call for our tears so much the more loudly, as it is insensible of its own miseries. We should never cease weeping, if we considered how much sin reigns among men. The saint considers the sin of rash judgment as a general vice among men, from which he thinks scarcly any one will be found to have lived always free. He says the same of anger: then of detraction: and considering how universally these crimes prevail among men, cries out: “What hopes of salvation remain for the generality of mankind, who commit, without reflection, some or other of these crimes, one of which is enough to damn a soul?” He mentions also as general sins, swearing, evil words, vain glory, not giving alms, want of confidence in divine providence, and of resignation to his will, covetousness, and sloth in the practice of virtue. He complains that whereas the narrow path only leads to heaven, almost all men throw themselves into the broad way, walking with the multitude in their employs and actions, seeking their pleasure, interest, or convenience, not what is safest for their souls. Here what motives for our tears! A life of mortification and penance he prescribes, as an essential condition for maintaining a spirit of compunction: saying, that water and fire are not more contrary to each other, than a life of softness and delights is to compunction; pleasure being the mother of dissolute laughter and madness. A love of pleasure renders the soul heavy and altogether earthly; but compunction gives her wings, by which she raises herself above all created things. We see worldly men mourn for the loss of friends and other temporal calamities. And are not we excited to weep for our spiritual miseries? We can never cease if we have always before our eyes our sins, our distance from heaven, the pains of hell, God’s judgments, and our danger of losing Him, which is the most dreadful of all the torments of the damned.
In his second book on Compunction, which is addressed to Stelechius, he expresses his surprise that he should desire instructions on compunction of one so cold in the divine service as he was; but only one whose breast is inflamed with divine love, and whose words are more penetrating than fire, can speak of that virtue. He says that compunction requires, in the first place, solitude, not so much that of the desert, as that which is interior, or of the mind. For seeing that a multitude of objects disturbs the sight, the soul must restrain all the senses, remain serene, and without tumult or noise within herself, always intent on God, employed in his love, deaf to corporeal objects. As men placed on a high mountain hear nothing of the noise of a city situated below them, only a confused stir which they no way heed; so a Christian soul, raised on the mountain of true wisdom, regards not the hurry of the world; and though she is not destitute of senses, is not molested by them, and applies herself and her whole attention to heavenly things. Thus Saint Paul was crucified and insensible to the world, raised as far above its objects, as living men differ from carcases. Not only Saint Paul, amidst a multiplicity of affairs, but also David, living in the noise of a great city and court, enjoyed solitude of mind, and the grace of perfect compunction, and poured forth tears night and day, proceeding from an ardent love and desire of God and his heavenly kingdom, the consideration of the divine judgments, and the remembrance of his own sins. Persons who are lukewarm and slothful, think of what they do or have done in penance to cancel their debts; but David nourished perpetually in his breast a spirit of compunction, by never thinking on the penance he had already done, but only on his debts and miseries, and on what he had to do in order to blot out or deliver himself from them. Saint Chrysostom begs his friends prayers that he might be stirred up by the divine grace to weep perpetually under the load of his spiritual evils, so as to escape everlasting torments.
The saint’s three books, on Providence, are an exhortation to comfort, patience, and resignation, addressed to Stagirius, a monk possessed by an evil spirit. This Stagirius was a young nobleman, who had exasperated his father by embracing a monastic state: but some time after fell into lukewarmness, and was cruelly possessed by an evil spirit, and seized with a dreadful melancholy, from which those who had received a power of commanding evil spirits, were not able to deliver him. Saint Chrysostom wrote these books soon after he was ordained deacon in 380. In the first he shows that all things are governed by divine providence, by which even afflictions are always sent and directed for the good of the elect. For any one to doubt of this is to turn infidel: and if we believe it, what can we fear whatever tribulations befall us, and to whatever height their waves ascend. Though the conduct of divine providence, with regard to the just, be not uniform, it sends to none any tribulations which are not for their good; when they are most heavy they are designed by God to prepare men for the greatest crowns. Moreover, God is absolute master to dispose of us, as a potter of his clay. What then have we to say? or how dare we presume to penetrate into his holy counsels? The promise of God can never fail: this gives us an absolute security of the highest advantages, mercy, and eternal glory, which are designed us in our afflictions. Saint Chrysostom represents to Stagirius that his trials had cured his former vanity, anger and sloth, and it was owing to them that he now spent nights and days in fasting, prayer, and reading. In the second book he presses Stagirius strenuously to reject all melancholy and gloomy thoughts, and not to be uneasy either about his cure, or the grief his situation was likely to give his father, but leaving the issue to God, with perfect resignation to ask of him this mercy, resting in the entire confidence that whatever God ordained would turn to his greatest advantage. In the third book he mentions to Stagirius several of his acquaintance, whose sufferings, both in mind and body, were more grievous than those with which he was afflicted. He bids him also pay a visit to the hospitals and prisons; for he would there see that his cross was light in comparison of what many others endured. He tells him that sin ought to be to him the only subject of grief; and that he ought to rejoice in sufferings as the means by which his sins were to be expiated. A firm confidence in God, a constant attention to his presence, and perpetual prayer, he calls the strong ramparts against sadness.
When the Arian emperor Valens, in 375, commanded the monks to be turned out of their deserts, and enrolled in the troops, and several Catholics reviled them as bigots and madmen, Saint Chrysostom took up his pen to justify them, by three books entitled, Against the Impugners of a Monastic State. T. 1. p. 44. he expresses his surprise that any Christians could speak ill of a state which consists in the most perfect means of attaining to true virtue, and says they hurt themselves, not the monks, whose merit they increase; as Nero’s persecution of Saint Paul, because he had converted one of the tyrant’s concubines, enhanced the apostle’s glory. A more dreadful judgment is reserved to these enemies of the love of Christ. They said, they drew no one from his faith. The saint retorts: What will faith avail without innocence and virtue? they alleged that a Christian may be saved without retiring into the desert. He answers: Would to God men lived so in the world that monasteries were of no advantage! but seeing all disorders prevail in it, who can blame those who seek to shelter themselves from the storm? He elegantly shows that the number of those that are saved in the world is exceeding small, and that the gate of life is narrow. The multitude perished in Noah’s flood, and only eight escaped in the Ark. How foolish would it have been to rely carelessly on safety in such danger! Yet here the case is far more dreadful, everlasting fire being the portion of those that are lost. Yet in the world how few resist the torrent, and are not carried down with the crowd, sliding into anger, detraction, rash judgment, covetousness, or some other sin. Almost all, as if it were by common conspiracy, throw themselves into the gulf, where the multitude of companions will be no comfort. Is it not then a part of wisdom, to fly from these dangers, in order to secure our only affair in the best manner possible?
Whereas parents sometimes opposed the vocation of their children to a monastic state, in his second book he addresses himself to a pagan father, who grieved to see his son and heir engaged in that profession. He tells him he has the greatest reason to rejoice; proving from Socrates, and other heathen philosophers, that his son is more happy in voluntary poverty and contempt of the world than he could have been in the possession of empires: that he is richer than his father, whom the loss of one bag of his treasures would afflict, whereas the monk, who possessed only a single cloak could see without concern even that stolen, and would even rejoice though condemned to banishment or death. He is greater than emperors, more happy than the world, out of the reach of its malice or evil, whom no one could hurt if he desired it. A father who loves his son ought more to rejoice at his so great happiness than if he had seen him a thousand times king of the whole earth, and his life and kingdom secured to him for ten thousand years. What treasures would not have been well employed to purchase for him such a soul as his was rendered by virtue, could this blessing have been procured for money? He displays the falsehood of worldly pleasure; the inconstancy, anxiety, trouble, grief, and bitterness of all its enjoyments, and says that no king can give so sensible a joy, as the very sight of a virtuous man inspires. As he speaks to a pagan, he makes a comparison between Plato and Dionysius the tyrant; then mentions an acquaintance of his own. This was a holy monk whom his pagan father, who was a rich nobleman, incensed at his choice of that state, disinherited; but was at length so overcome by the virtue of his son that he preferred him to all his other children, who were accomplished noblemen in the world, often saying that none of them was worthy to be his slave; and he honoured and respected him as if he had been his own father. In the third book Saint Chrysostom directs his discourse to a Christian father, whom he threatens with the judgment of Hell, if he withdrew his children from this state of perfection, in which they would have become suns in heaven, whereas if they were saved in the world, their glory would probably be only that of stars. He inveighs against parents, who, by their discourse and example, instil into their children a spirit of vanity, and sow in their tender minds the seeds of covetousness and all those sins which overrun the world. He compares monks to angels, in their uninterrupted joy, and attention to God; and observes that men in the world are bound to observe the same divine law with the monks; but cannot so easily acquit themselves of this obligation, as he that is hampered with cords cannot run so well as he that is loose and at liberty. He exhorts parents to breed up their children for some years in monasteries, and to omit nothing in forming them to perfect virtue. In his elegant short treatise, entitled “A Comparison between a King and a Monk,” t. 1. p. 116. he beautifully shows that a pious monk is incomparably more honourable, more glorious, and more happy than the greatest monarch, by enjoying the favour of heaven, and possessing God: by the empire over himself and his own passions, by which he is king in his own breast, exercising the most glorious command; by the sweetness and riches of divine grace; by the kingdom of God established in his soul; by prayer, by which all things are in his power; by his universal benevolence and benificence to others, procuring to every one all spiritual advantages as far as lies in him; by the comfort which he finds in death, which is terrible to kings, but by which he is translated to an immortal crown, etc. This book is much esteemed by Montfaucon and the devout Blosius.
Saint Chrysostom in his treatise On Virginity, t. 1. p. 268, says, this virtue is a privilege peculiar to the true church, not to be found, at least pure, amongst heretics; he proves against the Manichees, that marriage is good: yet says that virginity as far excels it as angels men, but that all its excellency is derived from the consecration of a soul to God, and her attention to please him, without which this state avails nothing.
After he was ordained deacon at Antioch, he composed his book “To a young Widow,” (t. 1. p. 337.) a lady who had lost her husband Tarasius, candidate for the prefectship of the city. He draws motives to comfort her from the spiritual advantages of holy widowhood, and the happiness to which her husband was called. His second book “To the Widow,” (t. 1. p. 349.) is a dissuasive from second marriages, when they are contracted upon worldly motives.
His six incomparable books “On the Priesthood,” he composed to excuse himself to his friend Basil, who complained that he had been betrayed by him into the episcopal charge; for Chrysostom persuaded him they had time yet to conceal themselves; yet secretly absconded himself and left the other to be chosen. Basil, when he met him afterwards, was not able to speak for some time, but by a flood of tears; and at length broke through them only to give vent to his grief in bitter complaints against the treachery of his friend. This work is wrote in a dialogue between the two friends. Saint Chrysostom in the first book alleges (t. 1. p. 362.) that he could not deprive the church of a pastor so well qualified to serve it as Basil was; nor undertake himself a charge for which he had not the essential talents, and in which he should involve others and himself in ruin. In the second book he justifies his own action in not hindering the promotion of his friend to the episcopacy, by observing that to undertake the charge of souls is the greatest proof we can give of our love for Christ, which He declared by putting the question thrice to Saint Peter whether he loved him, before he committed to him the care of his flock. John xxi. 15. If we think it an argument of our love for a friend to take care of his servants or cattle, much more will God recompense faithful pastors, who feed those dear souls to save which God died. The pastoral charge is certainly the first of all others in merit and dignity. The saint therefore, thinks he should have prevaricated if he had deprived the church of a minister capable of serving it. But in order to justify his own flight, he adds that the dangers and difficulties of this state are proportioned to its preeminence and advantages. For what can be more difficult and dangerous, than the charge of immortal souls, and of applying to them remedies which to take effect depend upon their own co-operation and consent, and must be always proportioned to their dispositions and character which must be sounded, as well as to their wounds. Remissness leaves a wound half cured: and a suitable penance often exasperates and makes it wider. Herein the greatest sagacity and prudence are necessary. Nor is the difficulty less in bringing back to the church members which are separated from it. Basil replied to this discourse of Saint Chrysostom: “You then love not Christ, who fly from the charge of souls.” Saint Chrysostom answered, that he loved him and fled from this charge because he loved him, fearing to offend him by taking upon him such an office, for which he was every way unqualified. Basil retorts with warmth, that his treachery towards himself was unpardonable, because he was acquainted with his friend’s incapacity. Chrysostom answers, that he should never have betrayed him into that dignity, if he had not known his charity and other qualifications. In order to show that he had reason to shun that charge, he in his third book sets forth the excellence and obligations of that dignity; for it is not earthly, but altogether heavenly, and its ministry would do honour to the angels; and a pastor ought to look upon himself as placed among the heavenly spirits, and under an obligation of being no less pure and holy. This he shows, first, from the tremendous sacrifice of the altar, which requires in the offerer a purity truly becoming heaven, and even far surpassing the sanctity which was required in so terrible a manner of priests in the Old Law, a mere shadow of ours. “For,” says he, “when you behold the Lord himself lying the victim on the altar, and offered, and the priest attending, and praying over the sacrifice, purpled with his precious blood, do you seem to remain among men and on earth, or not rather to be translated into heaven? O wonderful prodigy! O excess of the divine mercy! He who is seated above at the right hand of the Father, is in that hour held by all in their hands, and gives himself to be touched and received. Figure to yourself Elias before the altar praying alone, the multitude standing around him in silence and trembling, and the fire falling from heaven and consuming the sacrifice. What is now done is far more extraordinary, more awful, and more astonishing. The priest is here standing, and calls down from heaven, not fire, but the Holy Ghost: he prays a long time, not that a flame may be kindled, but that grace may touch the sacrifice, and that the hearts of all who partake of it may be purged by the same.” c. 5. p. 385. (See the learned prelate Giacomelli’s Note on Saint Chrysostom’s doctrine on the real presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and on the sacrifice of the altar, in hunc librum, c. 4. p. 340.) Secondly, he mentions the eminent prerogative of binding and loosing, not bodies, but souls, with which the priesthood of the New Law is honoured: a power reaching the heavens, where God confirms the sentence pronounced by priests below: a power never given to angels, yet granted to men. John xx. 22. All power was given by the Father to the Son, who again transferred it on men. It is esteemed a great authority if an emperor confers on a private person power to imprison others or to set them at liberty. How great then is the authority with which God honours the priesthood? The priests of the Old Law declared lepers healed; those of the New really cleanse and heal our souls. They are our spiritual parents, by whom we are re-born to eternal life: they regenerate us by baptism, again remit our sins by Extreme Unction, (James v. 14.) and by their prayers appease God whom we have offended. From all which he infers that it is arrogance and presumption to seek such a dignity, which made Saint Paul himself tremble. (1 Cor. xi. 3, etc.) If the people in a mad phrensy should make an ignorant cobbler general of their army, every one would commend such a wretch if he fled and hid himself that he might not be instrumental in his own and his country’s ruin. “If any one,” says he, “should appoint me pilot, and order me to steer a large vessel in the dangerous Egæan or Tyrrhenian sea, I should be alarmed and struck with fear, and rather fly than drown both myself and crew.” The saint proceeds to mention the principal temptations to which a pastor of souls is himself exposed, and the storms by which he is assailed; as vain-glory, for instance, a more dreadful monster than the sirens of the poets, which passengers, by standing on their guard, could sail by and escape. “This rock,” says he, “is so troublesome to me even now, when no necessity drives me upon it, that I do not quite escape being hurt by it. But if any one had placed me on so high a pinnacle, it would have been as if, having tied my hands behind my back, he had exposed me to wild beasts to be torn in pieces.” He adds the danger of human respect, fear of the great ones, contempt or neglect of the poor; observing that none can encounter such dangers, but such as are perfect in virtue, disinterested, watchful over themselves, inured to mortification by great abstinence, resting on hard beds, and assiduous labour: lastly what is most rare, dead to themselves by meekness, sweetness and charity, which no injuries or reproaches, no ingratitude, no perverseness or malice can ever weary or overcome: for a perfect victory over anger is a most essential part of the character of a good pastor, without which all his virtues will be tarnished, and he will reap no fruit of his labours. He makes this dreadful remark, that within the circle of his own acquaintance he had known many who in solitude led lives pleasing to God, but being advanced to the priesthood, lost both themselves and others. If no Christian can call to mind, without trembling, the dreadful account which he is to give at the tribunal of Christ for his own sins, how must he tremble at this thought, who sees himself charged with the sins and souls of others? (Heb. xiii. 17.) In the fourth book he proves, that one unfit for the pastoral charge is not excused because it is imposed on him by others, as one unacquainted with the rules of architecture can by no means undertake to build, nor one to practice medicine who is a stranger to that profession. He speaks of the crime of those who choose unworthy pastors, and of the learning necessary for this charge, especially in applying suitable remedies to every spiritual disorder, in confuting Pagans, Jews, and heretics, and in instructing the faithful. A talent for preaching is an indispensable qualification. In the fifth book he prescribes the manner in which a preacher ought to announce the word of God, with what indefatigable pains, and with what purity of intention, desiring only to please God and plant his love in all hearts, and despising the applause of men, insensible both to their praise and censures. His discourse must be set off by piety, natural eloquence, plain simplicity, and dignity, that all may hear the divine word willingly, and with respect and pleasure, so as to wish at the end of the sermon that it were longer. The extreme danger of vain-glory so much alarmed him, that in the close of this book he again speaks against that vice, and says, that he who has entirely subdued this furious wild beast, and cut off its numberless heads, enjoys a great interior calm, with infinite spiritual advantages; and that every one is bound to stand always armed against its assaults. In the sixth book he shows, that priests will be punished for the sins of others. It is no excuse for a watchman to say, I heard not the trumpet: I saw not the enemy approach: (Ezech. xxxiii. 3.) for he is appointed centinel to watch and announce the danger to others. If a single soul perishes through his neglect, this will condemn him at the last day. In how great watchfulness must he live not to be infected with the contagion of the world, with which he is obliged to converse? With what zeal, vigilance, and fervour, is he bound to acquit himself of all his duties and functions? For priests are ambassadors of heaven, sent not to one city, but to the whole earth, with a strict charge never to cease scattering the divine seed, preaching and exhorting with so great diligence, that no secret sinner may be able to escape them. They are moreover appointed by God mediators to intercede with him for the sins both of the living and the dead; to offer the tremendous sacrifice, and hold the common Lord of all things in their hands. With what purity, with what sanctity ought he to be adorned, who exercises so sublime a function? In it angels attend the priest, all the choir of heaven joins, and the holy place near the altar is occupied by legions of blessed spirits, in honour of Him who is laid upon it. This he confirms by a vision of a holy old man, who saw a multitude of bright spirits surrounding the altar, profoundly bowing their heads. “Another,” says the saint, “assured me, that he had both seen himself, and heard from others, that the souls of those who receive the holy mysteries before death, depart out of their bodies attended by angels as troops of heavenly guards.” Lastly, he shows, that sins are more easily committed, and are more grievous in the episcopal ministry than in holy retirement. Basil at this discourse almost swooned away in the excess of grief and fear with which he was seized, till after some time, recovering himself, he said in the bitterness of his heart, What has the church of God committed to have deserved so dreadful a calamity, that the pastoral charge should be intrusted to the most unworthy of men? For he had before his eyes on one side the glory, the sanctity, the spiritual beauty and wisdom of the sacred spouse of Christ; and on the other, the sins and miseries of his own soul; and this consideration drew from him a flood of tears. Chrysostom. said, that as to himself, upon the first news of his danger he had swooned away, and only returned to himself to vent his grief by abundance of tears; in which agony he passed all that time. He adds: “I will now discover to you the deplorable state of my mind at that time, that out of mere compassion you may forgive me what I have done; and I wish I could show you my wretched heart itself.—But all my alarms are now converted into joy.” Basil replied, “But I am now plunged in bitter sorrow and tears: and what protection can I seek? If you have still any bowels of tenderness and compassion for my soul, any consolation in Christ, I conjure you never to forsake me in the dangers in which you have engaged me.” Saint Chrysostom answered, smiling, “In what can I serve you in your exalted station? However, when a respite from your functions affords you any leisure, I will wait upon you, and will never be wanting in any thing in my power.” Basil at this arose weeping. Saint John, embracing him and kissing his head, said, “Be of good courage, trusting in Christ, who has called you to his holy ministry.”
In the first tome of his works, p. 228, we have a book which he composed when he was first made bishop of Constantinople, in 397, Against those who have sub-introduced Women; that is, against such of the clergy as kept deaconesses, or spiritual sisters, under the same roof to take care of their household. Saint Chrysostom condemns this custom as criminal in itself, both because dangerous, and because scandalous to others. Whatever pretexts such persons allege of imaginary necessities, and of their security and precautions against the danger, he shows that there is always danger of their finding a lurking pleasure in such company. Though they perceive not any secret passion, he will not believe them exempt; for men are often the greatest strangers to their own hearts. He urges that this conduct is at least criminal, because it is an occasion and incentive of evil. Job, so holy a man, so dead to himself by long habits of mortification, durst not cast his eye upon a virgin. Saint Paul, not content with his continual fatigues and sufferings, added voluntary chastisements of his flesh to subdue it. What austerities do anchorets practice to tame their bodies, by perpetual fasts, watching, and sackcloth! yet never suffer even visits of persons of the other sex. Ironically inveighing against the presumption of such as had not the like saving apprehension of danger, he tells them: “I must indeed call these strong men happy, who have nothing to fear from such a danger, and I could wish myself to be endowed with equal strength.” (t. 1. p. 231.) But he tells them this is as impossible as for a man to carry fire in his bosom without being burnt. “You bid me,” says he, “believe that though I see you converse with a virgin, this is a work of piety, not passion. O wonderful man! this may be said of those who live not with men but among stones.” (t. 1. p. 235.) Our zealous pastor shows, that the capital point in this warfare is, not to awake our domestic enemy, but by watchfulness to shun whatever can rouse him: and he adds, that though a man were invulnerable, he ought not to scandalize the weak, and by his example, draw them into a like snare. The stronger a person is, the more easy must it be to him not to give scandal. To the pretext of necessity, he answers, that this is mere madness, for a clergyman ought not to be so nice either in his furniture or table. The saint addressed a like book to women, under this title: That regular (or religious) Women ought not to live in the same House with Men. (t. 1. p 248.) Besides condemning this abuse and scandal, he zealously inveighs against the airy light dress of many ladies, and pathetically invites all servants of God to mingle floods of tears with his in the bitter anguish of his soul, for a scandal by which snares are laid for others, souls murdered, (though undesignedly,) and sin against the divine Majesty propagated.
Saint Chrysostom seems to have been only deacon when he compiled his book, On Saint Babylas, against the Gentiles; in which he speaks of the miracles wrought at his relics, as of facts to which he and his auditors had been eye-witnesses. (t. 2. p. 530.) Montfaucon refers to the same time his Synopsis of the Old Testament: in which he places in the canon the deutero-canonical books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Esther, Toby, and Judith; and out of the seven canonical epistles counts only three, viz.: that of Saint James, one of Saint Peter, and one of Saint John (no others being received by the Syrians, as appears from Cosmas Indicopleustes.).
Saint Chrysostom was ordained priest by the patriarch Flavian, in 386, and appointed his ordinary preacher. On this occasion the saint made a sermon (t. 1. p. 436.) in which he expresses his dread and surprise at his promotion, earnestly begs the prayers of the people, and says, he desires to entertain them on the praises of God, but was deterred by the checks of his conscience, and remorse for his sins: for the royal prophet, who invites all creatures, even dragons and serpents, to sound forth the praises of God, passes by sinners as unworthy to be allowed a place in that sacred choir: they are ignominiously ejected, as a musician cats off a string that is not tunable with the rest.
The holy doctor, grieving for the spiritual blindness of many who were seduced by heresy, and considering their dangers as most grievous, and their miseries most pressing, preached five most eloquent sermons, on the Incomprehensible Nature of God, against the Anomæans. He had taken notice that these heretics, who were very numerous in Syria, resorted willingly to his sermons with the Catholics, which afforded him an opportunity of more easily reclaiming them. The Anomæans were the followers of Eunomius, who to the errors of the rankest Arianism added a peculiar blasphemy, asserting that both the blessed in heaven, and also men in this mortal life, not only know God, but also comprehend and fathom the divine nature as clearly as we know our own, and even as perfectly as God comprehends himself. This fanaticism and impiety Saint Chrysostom confutes in these five homilies, demonstrating from the infinitude of the divine attributes, and from holy scriptures, that God is essentially incomprehensible to the highest angels. He strongly recommends to Catholics a modest and mild behaviour towards heretics; for nothing so powerfully gains others as meekness and tender charity; this heals all wounds, whereas harshness exasperates and alienates the mind. (Hom. 2. p. 461.) His method is to close every discourse with some pathetic moral exhortation. In his third homily, On the Incomprehensible, he complains bitterly that many who heard his sermon with patience, left the church when it was at an end, without attending the celebration of the divine mysteries. He shows the efficacy of public prayer to be far greater than that of private, and a far more glorious homage to be paid by it to God; by this Saint Peter was delivered from his chains; to it the apostles ascribed the wonderful success of their preaching. He mentions that ten years ago, when a magistrate condemned for high treason was led to execution with a halter about his neck, the citizens ran in a body to the hippodrome to beg a reprieve; and the emperor, who was not able to reject the request of the whole city, readily granted the criminal a full pardon. Much more easily will the Father of mercy suffer himself to be overcome by the concord of many in prayer, and show mercy to sinners. Not only men join the tremendous voice during the sacred mysteries, but the angels and archangels present to the Father of all things the Body of the Lord, entreating him to have mercy on them for whom he shed his blood, and sacrificed this very body. “By your acclamations you testify your approbation of what is said; but by your compliance show that your applause is sincere. This is the only applause that can give me pleasure or joy,” etc. (p. 471.) In the following sermon (Hom. 4. p. 477.) he commends their compliance by all assisting to the end of the public office, but severely finds fault that some conversed together in the church, and in that awful hour when the deacon cried out, “Let us stand attentive.” He bids them call to mind that they are then raised above created things, placed before the throne of God, and associated with the seraphims and cherubims in sounding forth his praises, (p. 477.) In the fifth homily he again makes fervent and humble prayer, by which all things are obtained and effected, the subject of his moral exhortation. Public prayer is a duty which he frequently inculcates as a most essential obligation, an homage most honourable to God, and a most powerful means of grace to ourselves and all mankind. (See Hom. de Obscur. Prophet. t. 6. p. 187, etc.) We have seven other homilies of this father against the Anomæans, in which he proves the consubstantiality of God the Son; subjoining exhortations to prayer, humility, good works, etc. His sermon upon not Anathematizing, (t. 1. p. 691.) was the fruit of his pious zeal to induce the Meletians and Paulinians to concord, and prevent private persons from anathematizing or branding others with the crime of heresy or schism; censures being reserved to the chief pastors, who are very sparing in using them. The spirit of Christ is meekness, and compassion and tenderness the means to gain souls. By this discourse he healed the sores left in the church of Antioch by the late schism. The Jews and the Gentiles shared in the fruits of his zeal and charity. Eight sermons which he preached against the Jews, whom he proves to have been cast off by God, and their ceremonial rites abolished, have reached us, and many others are lost. In his book against the Jews and Gentiles, he demonstrates the Christian religion from the propagation of the gospel, the martyrs, prophecies, and the triumph of the cross: this ensign now adorns the crowns of emperors, is carried by every one on his forehead, and placed every where with honour, in houses, market-places, deserts, highways, mountains, hills, woods, ships, beds, clothes, arms, vessels, jewels, and pictures; on the bodies of beasts when sick, on energumens, etc. We are all more adorned with it than with crowns and a thousand precious stones; all eagerly visit the wood on which the sacred body was crucified; men and women have small particles of it set in gold, which they hang about their necks. On the 20th of December, 386, our saint pronounced his discourse on Saint Philogonius, the twenty-first bishop of Antioch, who had zealously opposed the rising heresy of Arius, and died on this day in 322. Saint Chrysostom left the subject of the panegyric to his bishop Flavian, who was to speak after him, and entertained his people with an exhortation to the holy communion on Christmas-day, five days after. He tells them the Magi had the happiness only of adoring Christ, but that they who should approach him with a pure conscience, would receive him and carry him with them: that he whose life is holy and free from crimes may communicate every day; but he who is guilty in the sight of God, not even on the greatest festival. Nevertheless the sinner ought to prepare himself, by a sincere conversion and by good works, during the interval of five days, and then communicate. The Ninevites appeased the divine vengeance in three days by the fervour of their penance.
In his homily on the Calends, or First Day of the Year, (t. 1. p. 697.) he inveighs with great zeal against rioting and revels usual in that season, and strongly exhorts all to spend that day in works of piety, and in consecrating the year to God. As builders raise a wall by a ruler or plummet that no unevenness may spoil their work, so must we make the sincere intention of the divine glory our rule in our prayers, fasts, eating, drinking, buying, selling, silence, and discourse. This must be our great staff, our arms, our rampart, our immense treasure: wherever we are, and whatever we say or do, we must bear this motto always written on our heart, “To the glory of God;” ever glorifying God, not barely in words, but by all our actions in the sincere affections of our hearts, that we may receive glory from him who says: “Those who glorify me, I will crown with glory.”
In seven discourses, on Lazarus and the Rich Man, he shows that a life of sensuality and pleasures is condemned by Christ; laments that any Christian should abandon himself to debauchery, and declares he will never cease to pursue sinners by his exhortations, as Christ did Judas to the last moment: if any remain obstinately incorrigible, he shall esteem it a great happiness if he reclaim but one soul, or even prevent but one sin; at least that he can never see God offended and remain silent. (Hom. 1.) He sets off the advantages of afflictions which are occasions of all virtue, and even in the reprobate, at least abate the number of their sins, and the torments of another life. In the seventh homily he severely condemns the diversions of the Circus, and expresses the most tender grief that any Christian should so far forget God as to frequent them. He paternally exhorts all such to repentance; proves afflictions and the cross to be the portion of the just in this life, and says, “That they whom God does not visit with tribulations, ought at least to afflict themselves, by the labours of penance, the only path which can conduct us with Lazarus to God.”
In the second tome we have the holy doctor’s twenty-one sermons to the people of Antioch, or, On the Statutes; the following discourses, to the number of sixty, in the old editions not being genuine; but patched up by modern Greeks, chiefly out of several works of this father. The great sedition happened at Antioch on the 26th of February, 387, just after the saint had preached the first of the sermons, in which he spoke against drunkenness and blasphemy, pressing all persons to expel their company any one who should blaspheme. After the sedition he was silent, in the general grief and consternation, for seven days: then made his second sermon, in which he tells the people that their confusion and remorse is itself a greater punishment than it was in the power of the emperor to inflict; he exhorts them to alms-deeds, and to hope in the mercy of Christ, who, leaving the earth, left us his own flesh, which yet he carried with him to heaven, and that blood which he spilt for us, he again imparted to us. After this, what will he refuse to do for our salvation? The third sermon being made in the beginning of Lent, the preacher inculcates the obligation of fasting: from his words it is clear that Christians then abstained from wine and fish no less than from fowls and all flesh. He insists chiefly on the moral fast of the will from all sin, and of all the senses by self-denials in each of them. Detraction he singles out as the most common sin, and exhorts us to abhor, with the royal prophet, every one who secretly detracts another; to say to such: “If you have any thing to say to the advantage of another, I will hear you with pleasure; but if you have only ill to tell me, this is what I cannot listen to.” If detracters were thoroughly persuaded that by their evil speeches they rendered themselves more odious than those of whom they speak ill, they would be effectually cured of this pestilential habit. The saint draws an inference from what the people then saw before their eyes, and represented to them that if emperors punish with extreme rigour those who injure their statues, with what severity will God revenge the injury done by the detractor to his living image, and that offered by the blasphemer to his own adorable name? In the fourth homily, he speaks on the usefulness of afflictions, which withdraw men from many dangers of sin, and make them earnestly seek God. In the fifth he continues the same subject, and shows that they ought not to fear death, if they prepare themselves for it by sincere penance. Their conversion he would have them begin by correcting the habit of swearing, which had taken deep root among many of them. This victory, he says, would be easy if every one who had contracted such a habit, would enjoin himself some penance for every oath which should escape him, as the loss of a meal. “Hunger and thirst,” says the saint, “will put you in mind always to watch over yourself, and you will stand in need of no other exhortation.” In the sixth he shows that death is desirable to a Christian, who, by a penitential life, in imitation of the holy anchorets, is dead to the world and himself. In the thirteenth he describes the dreadful consternation with which the whole city was filled at the sight of new troops, and of a tribunal erected; and, to awaken sinners to a sincere repentance, he sets before their eyes the terrors of the last judgment. In the twentieth he exhorts them to redouble their fervour in preparing their souls for the Paschal communion, the nearer that time approached: especially by forgiving all injuries. In the twenty-first, which was spoken on Easter-day, after the return of the patriarch, he recites a great part of Flavian’s speech, and the emperor’s gracious answer, whose clemency he elegantly extols, with a pathetic exhortation to the people never to forget the divine mercy. From the mention he makes of Flavian’s speech, (Hom. 3. p. 35.) it appears that our saint had concerted it with him. He preached every day that Lent; but only these twenty-one have reached us: and only two catechetical discourses, out of many others which he made about Easter that year to the catechumens. In the first he censures those who defer baptism, and explains the names and fruits of that great sacrament: in the second he exhorts them always to bear in mind, and to repeat to themselves, on every occasion, those solemn words, “I renounce thee, Satan;” and to make it the study of their whole lives to be ever faithful to this most sacred engagement. He next puts them in mind, that they ought to pray without intermission, and always to have God before their eyes, at work, in the shop, abroad, sitting, or whatever else they were doing.
About the year 392, Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus, formerly Saint Chrysostom’s master, happened to preach at Antioch, and in his sermon highly commended our saint, whom he called John the Baptist, the voice of the church, and the rod of Moses. The people, by loud acclamations, testified how agreeable these encomiums of their preacher were to them: only Saint Chrysostom heard them with grief and confusion, and ascribed them to the fondness of a good master, and the charity of the people. Afterwards, ascending the pulpit, he said, that every word of the discourse had struck him to the heart, and made him sigh within himself: for praises sting the conscience no less than sins, when a soul is conscious to herself how far she is from what is said of her: they only set before her eyes the last day, in which, to her greater confusion, all things will appear naked and as they are; for we shall not be judged by the masks which are put on us by other men.
In three sermons on the Devil, he shows, that the divine mercy has restored us more by grace in our redemption, than the devil has robbed us of by the sin of Adam; and that the punishment itself of that sin served to set forth the excess of the divine mercy and goodness. (Hom. 1. de Diabolo, t. p. 246.) That temptations and the devil’s malice are occasions of great advantage, if we make a good use of them: that temporal calamities are sent by God: we fall into sin only by our own malice: the devil has no power against us but by the divine permission, and all his efforts are weak, unless by our sloth we give him power over us. He draws a parallel between Adam sinning in paradise by his free will, and Job victorious by patience on his dunghill under his sufferings, of which he gives a lively description, showing them to have been far more grievous than all the calamities under which we so easily lose our patience and crown.
In nine homilies on Penance, he extols its efficacy, and invites all sinners to repentance. Hom. 6. p. 316. he vehemently condemns stage entertainments, which he calls the school of pleasure, the seat of pestilence, and the furnace of Babylon. Hom. 3. he calls alms the queen of virtues, and charity and compassion the key of the divine mercy. Hom. 9. p. 347. he presses all to assist assiduously at the divine mysteries; but with attention, awe, and trembling.
In two homilies on the Treason of Judas, (p. 376.) he recommends meekness toward persecutors, and the pardon of injuries, by which we reap from them, without trouble or expense, the most precious of all advantages, grace and the pardon of our sins. Speaking on the holy eucharist, he says, that Christ gives us in it the same body which he delivered to death for us, and that he refused not to present to Judas the very blood which that traitor sold. (Hom. 1. de proditione Judæ, t. 2. p. 383.) He repeats the same thing. (Hom. 2. ib. p. 393.) He observes, that as God, by his word, Gen. i. 28. propagates and multiplies all things in nature to the end of the world, so it is not the priest, but Christ, by the words pronounced by the priest, and by virtue of those which he spoke at his last supper, saying, “This is my body,” who changes the offering (or bread and wine) in every church from that to this time, and consummates the sacrifice till his coming.
In two homilies, on the Cross, and on the Good Thief, preached on Good Friday, he makes many excellent reflections on the conversion of the latter, and on the precept of our forgiving injuries, by which we become true imitators of Christ, and inherit the privileges of his disciples. The cross he commends as the instrument of Christ’s glorious triumph, and of our happiness.
In a homily “On the Resurrection of the Dead,” he proves this article to be the foundation both of our faith, and of our morals. In that on the Resurrection of our Lord, he tells his flock, that on that day (which was the solemnity of Easter) they were no longer obliged to drink only water, to abstain from the bath, to live on herbs and pulse, and to fast as in Lent; but that they were bound to shun intemperance: he speaks against drunkenness, and says, the poor have equal reason for joy and thanksgiving with the rich on that solemnity, the advantages which it brings consisting in spiritual graces, not in feasting or pomp. In the first homily, on Whitsunday, he proves, that though the descent of the Holy Ghost is no longer manifested by miracles, since the faith had been sufficiently established by them, it was not less real, though made in an invisible manner in our souls, by his grace and peace. In the second, on the same feast, he calls Whitsunday the accomplishment of all the mysteries of our faith; and teaches, that the Holy Ghost delayed his descent, that he might not come upon the apostles in vain, or without having been long and earnestly desired: and that he manifested his descent by the emblem of tongues of fire to represent that he consumes like fire the thorns of our souls, and that his principal gift is charity. His seven homilies on Saint Paul, are standing proofs of his singular veneration for that great apostle, and admiration of his divine virtues. In the third, speaking of that apostle’s ardent love of God, which made ignominies and torments for his sake a triumph, and a subject of joy and pleasure, he seems to surpass himself, (p. 481.) In the sixth he speaks of miracles wrought at the relics of Saint Babylas at Daphne, and says, that the devil trembled at the name of Christ, and fled whenever it was pronounced. In many other homilies he speaks in raptures on the admirable virtues of Saint Paul, whose spirit he had imbibed and studied in his writings and example. The miracles of Saint Babylas are the subject of a panegyric which Saint Chrysostom has left us on that holy martyr. (ib. p. 531.) We have his panegyrics or homilies on Saint Meletius, Saint Lucian, SS. Juventinus and Maximin, Saint Pelagia, Saint Ignatius, Saint Eustathius, Saint Romanus, the Maccabees, SS. Bernice, Prosodoche, and Domnina, Saint Drosis. Saint Phocas, etc., in which he frequently and strongly recommends the most devout veneration for their relics. See that on Saint Ignatius, p. 693. etc. In hom. 1. On the Martyrs, (p. 650.) he says, that the very sight of their relics more strongly move to virtue than the most pathetic sermons, that their shrines are more precious than the richest earthly treasures, and that the advantages which these relics afford, are not diminished by their division, but multiplied. Some being surprised that in this discourse he had compared the crime of an unworthy communion to that of the Jews, who crucified Christ, he made another under this title, That we are not to preach to please Men; in which he repeats and enforces the same comparison; but, adds a serious exhortation to frequent communion, after a sincere repentance, and the distinct confession of every sin: “For it is not enough to say, I am a sinner, but every kind of sin is to be expressed.” (p. 667.) Though some circumstances aggravate a sacrilegious communion beyond the crime of Judas and that of the crucifiers of Christ; the last was, doubtless, as Saint Thomas Aquinas shows, far more enormous in itself; an injury offered to Christ in his own natural form differing from an insult which he receives hidden under sacramental veils, though it is hard to imagine that any crime into which a Christian can fall since the death of Christ, can be more enormous than an unworthy communion. Saint Chrysostom, in his second sermon On the Martyrs, (p. 668.) bids the faithful remain a long time in prayer at their tombs, and devoutly kiss their shrines, which abound with blessings. In that On the Martyrs of Egypt, (p. 699.) he calls their relics dispersed in different places, “the ramparts of the cities,” etc. In that “On the Earthquake,” he expresses a deep and tender concern for the public calamity; but rejoices at the spiritual advancement of the people, saying, that this scourge had wrought such a change in them, that they seemed to become angels. Two books “On Prayer,” bear the name of Saint Chrysostom: if they are not mentioned by the ancients among his works, that most important subject is treated in them in a manner not unworthy his pen. This book is made use of in many pious schools as a Greek classic, with another “On the Education of Children,” full of excellent maxims, ascribed to our saint; but unjustly, for it is a compilation made without much method out of several of his sermons and other works.
The first part of the third tome, in the Benedictin edition, presents us thirty-four elegant sermons of this saint on divers texts of holy scripture, and on various Christian virtues and duties. Those on forgiving injuries, humility, alms, prayer, widowhood, and three on marriage, particularly deserve attention. That “On Alms,” he took occasion to preach from the extreme miseries under which he saw the beggars groan, lying abandoned in the streets as he passed through them coming to the church; whence it is inferred by Tillemont and others, that it was spoken extempore, or without preparation. He says, that water does not so easily wash away the spots of our clothes, as alms blot out the stains of our souls. “On Marriage,” he proves that state to be holy, and will not have it dishonoured by profane pomps, which no custom can authorize; as by them God is offended. Christ is to be invited to give the nuptial blessing in the persons of the priests, and what many throw away on musicians, would be a grateful sacrifice to God if bestowed on the poor. Every one ought to be ambitious to set the example of so wholesome and holy a custom, which others would imitate. What incomparable advantages does a wife bring to a house, when she enters it loaded with the blessings of heaven? This is a fortune far beyond all the riches of the world. In the third discourse, he speaks of the inviolable precept of mutual tender love which the husband and wife are bound constantly to bear each other, and of forgetting one another’s faults. As a man in engaging in this state seeks a companion for life, the saint observes that nothing is baser than for him to make it an affair of traffic, or a money job. A wife with a moderate fortune usually brings more complaisance and submission, and blesses a house with peace, union, and friendship. How many rich men, by marrying great fortunes, in seeking to increase their estates, have forfeited the repose of their minds for the rest of their lives. A virtuous wife gives every succour and comfort to a family, by the virtuous education of her children, by possessing the heart of her husband, and by furnishing supplies for every necessity and comfort in every distress. Virtue was the only quality and circumstance which Abraham was solicitous about in the choice which he made of a wife for his son. Among the letters of the saint, which, with certain scattered homilies, fill up the latter part of this volume, the seventeen addressed to Saint Olympias, both by the subjects and style, deserve rather the title of treatises than of epistles.
The fourth tome, contains sixty-seven homilies on Genesis, which were preached at Antioch during Lent, some year later than 386. Photius takes notice, that in these his style is less correct than in any of his other writings, and as far beneath his comments on the Acts of the Apostles, as these fall short of his most eloquent discourses on Isaiah, or on the Epistles of Saint Paul. His parentheses are sometimes so long, that he forgets to wind up his discourse and return to his subject: for speaking not only with little or no preparation, but without much attention to a regular method for the instruction of the people, he suffered himself often to be carried away with the ardour with which some new important thought inspired him. Yet the purity of his language, the liveliness of his images and similes, the perspicuity of his expression, and the copiousness of his invention, never fail: his thoughts and words flow every where in a beautiful stream, like an impetuous river. He interweaves excellent moral instructions against vain-glory, detraction, rash judgment, avarice, and the cold words mine and thine; on prayer. etc. His encomiums of Abraham and other patriarchs, are set off by delicate strokes. In the first thirty-two he often explains the conditions of the Lent fast. In the year 386, during Lent, at which time the church read the book of Genesis, he explained the beginning thereof in eight elegant sermons, t. 4. p. 615. In the first he congratulates the people for the great joy and holy eagerness for penance with which they received the publication of the Lent fast, this being the most favourable season for obtaining the pardon of sins, and reaping the most abundant heavenly blessings and graces; a season in which the heavens are in a particular manner open, through the joint prayers, fasts, and alms of the whole church. These are usually called Sermons on Genesis, in order to be distinguished from the foregoing homilies, which were posterior to them in time. Five sermons “On Anna, the mother of Samuel,” (t. 4. p. 699.) were preached at Antioch in 387, after the emperor had granted his gracious pardon for the sedition. The saint treats in them on fasting, the honour due to martyrs and their relics, on purity, the education of children, the spiritual advantages of poverty, and on perpetual earnest prayer, which he recommends to be joined with every ordinary action, and practised at all times, by persons whilst they spun, walked, sat, lay down, etc. Invectives against stage-entertainments occur both in these, and in the following three discourses “On David,” in which he says many excellent things also on patience, and on forgiving injuries.
The fifth tome presents us with fifty-eight sermons on the Psalms. He explained the whole Psalter; but the rest of the discourses are lost; a misfortune much to be regretted, these being ranked among the most elegant and beautiful of his works. In those notice is taken of several differences in the Greek translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion; also in the Hebrew text, though wrote in Greek letters, as in Origen’s Hexapla. The critics find the like supply for restoring parts of those ancient versions also in the spurious homilies in the appendix of this volume, compiled by some other ancient Greek preacher. In this admired work of Saint Chrysostom the moral instructions are most beautiful, on prayer, especially that of the morning, meekness, compunction, careful self-examination every evening, fasting, humility, alms, etc. In Ps. 43. p. 146. he thus apostrophizes the rich; “Hear this, you all who are slack in giving alms: hear this, you who, by hoarding up your treasures, lose them yourselves: hear me you, who, by perverting the end of your riches, are no better by them than those who are rich only in a dream; nay your condition is far worse,” etc. He says, that the poor, though they seem so weak, have arms more powerful and more terrible than the greatest magistrates and princes; for the sighs and groans which they send forth in their distresses, pierce the heavens, and draw down vengeance without thinking to demand it, upon the rich, upon cities, and upon whole nations. In Ps. 11. p. 120. he will have prayer to be made effectual by the exercise of all virtues and good works, especially by a pure love of God, hunger after his justice alone, and disengagement of the heart from all love of earthly things. In Ps. 41. p. 190. this prayer by aspirations, which may be borrowed from the psalms, he recommends to be practised in all places and times. Ib. He insists, that with David we begin the day by prayer, doing nothing before this duty to God be complied with: and that with him we consecrate part of the night to compunction and prayer. In Ps. 6. he says many excellent things on the remedies we are bound to employ against concupiscence, especially assiduous prayer, shunning all occasions which can prove incentives to this enemy or to our senses, and above all dangerous company; assiduous meditation on death and hell, etc. Ib. God only afflicts the just out of the excess of his love for them, and desire to unite them closely to himself. In Ps. 114. p. 308. as the Jews obtained not their return from their captivity to Jerusalem, but by long and earnestly desiring it, so only an ardent and pure desire of the heavenly Jerusalem can raise us thither: and an attachment to earthly goods and pleasures links us to our slavery, and chains us down too fast for us ever to rise so high. In Ps. Graduales, p. 328. he says, it was the custom at Antioch for all the faithful to recite every morning the 140th psalm, which he desires them carefully to understand, so as to penetrate the riches of the excellent sentiments every word contains, in order to repeat it with more dilated affections of the heart. In like manner he mentions that the 62nd psalm was recited by all every evening. From his exposition of Psalm 41. p. 131. it appears that the people answered by repeating the first verse of every psalm, after every verse, as it was sung by the clergy.
In the sixth tome, occur his excellent discourses on the seven first chapters of Isaiah: then his four homilies on the fall of king Ozias, (Isa. vi.) in which he sets forth the danger of pride, and necessity of perseverance and constant watchfulness, (t. 6. p. 94.) After several homilies on certain texts of Jeremy, Daniel, etc. we have his two elegant discourses on the “Obscurity of the Prophets,” in which he shows that the wisdom of Providence is displayed; for too great perspicuity would not have so well answered the various ends of the Old Law. The advantages of public prayer are here strongly set forth; and in the second the saint declaims against detraction, a vice which brings neither profit nor pleasure, yet is most enormous even in those who only listen to it. If he who scandalize one brother is so grievously punished, what will be the chastisement of him who scandalizes so many? We are bound to cover, not to proclaim the faults of others: but it is our duty to endeavour to reclaim and save sinners, according to the precept of Christ. The very company of detracters ought to be shunned: to correct, or at least set a mark upon such, he wishes, in order that they may be known and avoided, they were publicly branded with the name of flies, because, like these insects, they delight to dwell on filth and corruption. In the homily “On Perfect Charity,” he draws a most amiable portraiture of that virtue in society; and another, in striking colours, of the day of judgment. It is uncertain by what accident the imperfect work of Saint Matthew was formerly taken by some for a performance of Saint Chrysostom. The mistake is notorious; for the author declares himself an advocate of Arianism, (Hom. 19. 22. 28, etc.) and for the re-baptization of heretics. (Hom. 13 and 15.) He seems to have written about the beginning of the seventh century, and to have been a Latin, (not a Greek,) for he follows closely the Latin text.
The commentary of Saint Chrysostom on Saint Matthew fills the seventh tome, and consists of ninety homilies: the old Latin version, by dividing the nineteenth into two, counts ninety-one. They were preached at Antioch, probably in the year 390. This literal and most pious exposition of that gospel contains the whole practical science of virtues and vices, and is an inexhausted source of excellent morality, and a finished model of preaching the work of God, and of expounding the oracles of eternal life for the edification of souls. Saint Thomas Aquinas was possessed only of a bad Latin translation of this unparalleled work, yet said he would rather be master of this single book than of the whole city of Paris. The example of the saint shows that the most essential preparation for the study of the holy scriptures consists in simplicity and purity of heart, an eminent spirit of prayer, and habitual profound meditation on the sacred oracles. Thus qualified, he with admirable sagacity and piety penetrates and unfolds the unbounded spiritual riches of the least tittle in the divine word; and explains its sacred truths with incomparable ease, perspicuity, elegance, and energy of style. The moral instructions are enforced by all the strength and ornaments of the most sweet and persuasive eloquence. Inveighing against the stage, he calls it the reign of vice and iniquity, and the ruin of cities: and commends the saying of that ancient Roman, who, hearing an account of the usual entertainments which were represented on the stage, and how eagerly the citizens ran to them, cried out: “Have they then neither wives nor children at home?” giving to understand, that men ought not to seek diversion abroad which they would more rationally procure at home with those whom they love. (Hom. 37. p. 414.) On the precept of self-denial he takes notice, that by it Christ commands us, first, to be crucified to our own flesh and will; secondly, to spare ourselves in nothing; thirdly, not only to deny ourselves; but thoroughly to deny ourselves; by this little particle thoroughly, adding great force to his precept. He says further, Let him take up his cross; this is bearing not only all reproaches and injurious words, but also every kind of sufferings or death. (Hom. 55. p. 556.) On Vain-Glory, he calls it the most tyranical of all the diseases of the soul, (Hom. 19. p. 244.) and pathetically laments the extreme misery of a soul that forsakes God, who would commend and reward her, to court the empty esteem of the vainest of all creatures, and those who will the more hate and despise her as she more eagerly hunts after applause. He compares her to a king’s daughter who should abandon a most amiable and rich prince, to run night and day through the streets after fugitives and slaves, who hate and fly from her as the basest of prostitutes. Those she seeks to have for witnesses and applauders, or rather she herself, act the part of robbers, and rifle treasures laid up even in heaven in a place of safety. The devil sees them inaccessible to his arts therefore employs this worm to devour them. When you bestow an alms, shut your door; let him alone to whom you give it be witness, nor even him if possible: if others see you they will proclaim your vain-glory, and you will lose your reward both before God and men. If you conceal your charity, it will be published by God himself. (Hom. 71.) Speaking on alms, (Hom. 66.) he says, that the church of Antioch was then possessed only of the revenue of one rich and of one poor man, yet maintained three thousand virgins and widows, besides hospitals, etc. What then is not one rich man able to do? But they have children. The saint replies, that the best fortune they can leave them is a treasure laid up in heaven. Every one is bound at least to count the poor among his children, and allot to them one half, a third, or at least a tenth part. He declares, (Hom. 88.) that he will never cease preaching on the obligation, efficacy, and advantages of alms. He asserts, (Hom. 85.) that in the church of Antioch were contained one hundred thousand souls; besides whom as many Jews and idolaters dwelt in that city. (Hom. in Saint Ignat. t. 2. p. 597.) He applauds the constancy and virtue of a famous actress, (Hom. 67.) who being converted to God, would not be compelled by the threats of the governor or any punishment, to appear again upon the stage. In Hom. 68 and 69, he gives an amiable and edifying account of the lives of the monks of Syria; and (Hom. 47. 80, 81. 90, etc.) commends a state of voluntary poverty, and preaches on the contempt of the world. On visiting the tombs of martyrs, to obtain health of body and every spiritual advantage, see Hom. 37. p. 424. On the sign of the cross he says, (Hom. 54. p. 551.) “Let us carry about the cross of Christ as a crown, and let no one blush at the ensign of salvation. By it is every thing in religion done: the cross is employed if a person is regenerated, or fed with the mystical food, or ordained: whatever else is to be done, this ensign of victory is ever present: therefore we have it in our houses, paint it on our walls and windows, make it on our foreheads, and always carry it devoutly in our hearts.—We must not content ourselves with forming it with our finger, but must do it with great sentiments of faith and devotion. If you thus form it on your face, no unclean spirit will be able to stand against you when he beholds the instrument which has given him the mortal stab. If we tremble at the sight of the place where criminals are executed, think what the devils must suffer when they see that weapon by which Christ stripped them of their power, and cut off the head of their leader. Be not ashamed of so great a good which has been bestowed on you, lest Christ should be ashamed of you when he shall appear in glory, and this standard be borne before him brighter than the rays of the sun: for then the cross shall appear speaking as it were with a loud voice.—This sign, both in the time of our forefathers and in our own, has opened gates, deadened malignant poisons, and healed wounds made by the sting or bite of venomous creatures. If it has broken down the gates of hell, unbolted those of paradise, opened its glory to us, destroyed the empire and weakened the power of the devil, what wonder if it overcome poisons and wild beasts?” On the virtue of the sign of the cross, see also Hom. 8. ib. and Hom. 4. de Saint Paulo, t. 2. p. 494, et de libello repudii, t. 3. p. 204, etc. On the Holy Eucharist he gives frequent and admirable instructions. Speaking of the sick, who were cured by touching the hem of Christ’s garments, he adds, (Hom. 50. p. 517.) “What graces is it not in our power to receive by touching and receiving his whole body? What if you hear not his voice; you see him laid.—-He has given us himself to eat, and has set himself in the state of a victim sacrificed before us,” etc. And Hom. 82. p. 787. he writes: “How many now say, they wish to see his shape, his garments? You desire to see his garments, but he gives you himself, not only to be seen, but to be touched, to be eaten, to be received within you. Than what beam of the sun ought not that hand to be more pure which divides this flesh? that mouth which is filled with this spiritual fire? that tongue which is purpled with this adorable blood? The angels beholding it tremble, and dare not look thereon through awe and fear, and on account of the rays which dart from that wherewith we are nourished, with which we are mingled, being made one body, one flesh with Christ. What shepherd ever fed his sheep with his own limbs? nay, many mothers give their children to other nurses; whereas he feeds us with his own blood,” etc.
It is a familiar reflection of our saint, that by the communion we become of one flesh and of one blood with Christ, to express the close union of our souls with him in this divine sacrament. In the same Homily, 82. (olim 83.) on Saint Matthew, p. 782. t. 7. he says, the apostles were not affrighted when they heard Christ assure them, This is my body; because he had before initiated them in most wonderful mysteries, and made them witnesses to many prodigies and miracles, and had already instructed them in this very sacrament, at which they had been at first much struck, and some of them scandalized.—John vi. Moreover, that they might not fear, or say, Shall we then drink his blood and eat his flesh; he set the example in taking the cup, and drinking his own blood the first of all. The saint charges us (ib. p. 787.) not to question or contradict the words of Christ but to captivate our reason and understanding in obeying him, and believing his word, which cannot deceive us, whereas our senses often lead us into mistakes. When, therefore, he tells us, This is my body, we must believe him, and consider the mystery with spiritual eyes; for we learn from him, that what he gives us is something spiritual, which falls not under our senses. See this further on the same subject, Hom. 50. (olim 51.) in Matt. p. 516, 517, 518. Hom. de Baptismo Christi, t. 2. p. 374, 375. Hom. in Laudem Martyrum, t. 2. p. 654. Hom. non esse ad gratiam concionandum, ib. p. 658, 659. Expos. in Ps. 46. t. 5. p. 189. and in Ps. 133, p. 382. Hom. 5. in illud: Vidi Dominum, t. 6. p. 143. Hom. de Saint Philogonio, t. 1. p. 498. besides the passages quoted in this abstract. In the same comments on Saint Matthew, t. 7. Hom. 82. p. 788. he vehemently exhorts the faithful to approach the holy table with a burning thirst and earnest desire to suck in the spiritual milk, as it were, from the divine breast. As children throw themselves into the bosom of their nurse or mother, and eagerly suck their breast, so ought we with far greater ardour to run to the sacred mysteries, to draw into our hearts, as the children of God, the grace of his Holy Spirit. To be deprived of this heavenly food ought to be to us the most, sensible, nay, our only grief, (ib. p. 788.) Nothing can be more tender than his exhortations to frequent communion; he even recommends it daily (Hom. de Saint Philogonio, t. 1. p. 499, 500.) provided persons lead Christian lives, and bring suitable dispositions. But no solemnity can be a reason for those who are under the guilt of sin ever to approach in that state. (Ib.) No terms can he stronger than those in which he speaks in many places of the enormity of a sacrilegious communion, which he compares to the crime of Judas who betrayed Christ, of the Jews who crucified him, and of Herod who sought to murder him in his cradle, (Hom. 7. in Matt. p. 112, etc.) and frequently explains the dispositions requisite to approach worthily the holy table, insisting chiefly on great purity of soul, fervent devotion, and a vehement hunger and thirst after this divine banquet. (Hom. 17. in Heb. t. 12. p. 169. Hom. 24. in 1 Cor. t. 10. p. 218, etc.) He denounces the most dreadful threats of divine vengeance against unfaithful ministers who admit to it notorious sinners. (Hom. 72. in Matt. t. 7. p. 789, 790.) “Christ,” says he, “will demand of you an account of his blood, if you give it to those who are unworthy. If any such person present himself, though he were general of the army, or emperor, drive him from the holy table. The power with which you are invested is above that of an emperor.—If you dare not refuse to admit the unworthy, inform me. I will rather suffer my blood to be spilt than offer this sacred blood to one who is unworthy,” etc. (ib.)
In this work of Saint Chrysostom upon Saint Matthew, we meet with beautiful instructions on almost every Christian virtue. Read Hom. 38. on humility, which he styles the queen of all virtues; Hom. 58. where he calls it the beginning of a virtuous life; and Hom. 65. where he shows that it exalts a man above the highest dignities. On the entire contempt of the world as a nothing, Hom. 12. 33, etc. On the happiness of him who serves God, whom the whole world cannot hurt, Hom. 24. 56. 90. Against avarice, Hom. 28. 63. 74. Against drunkenness, Hom. 70. On compunction, Hom. 41. where he proves it indispensable from the continual necessity of penance for hidden sins, and for detraction, vain-glory, avarice, etc. We ought also to weep continually for our dangers. Speaking on the same virtue, Hom. 6. p. 94. he teaches that compunction is the daughter of divine love, which consumes in the heart all affections for temporal things, so that a man is disposed with pleasure to part with the whole world and life itself. A soul is by it made light, and soaring above all things visible, despises them as nothing. He who is penetrated with this spirit of love and compunction, frequently breaks into floods of tears; but these tears afford him incredible sweetness and pleasure. He lives in cities as if he were in a wilderness; so little notice does he take of the things of this life. He is never satiated with tears which he pours forth for his own sins and those of others. Hence the saint takes occasion to launch forth into the commendation of the gift of holy tears, p. 96, 97. He inveighs against stage entertainments, Hom. 6, 7. 17. 37, etc. See especially Hom. contra ludos et theatra, t. 6. 274.
On Hell he says, (Hom. 23. in Mat.) that the loss of God is the greatest of all the pains which the damned endure, nay more grievous than a thousand hells. Many tremble at the name of hell: but he much more at the thought of losing God, which the state of damnation implies. (Ib.) He distinguishes in hell the loss of God, and secondly, fire and the other pains of sense. (Hom. 47.) He shows that company abates nothing in its torments. (Hom. 43.) Some object that to meditate on those torments is too frightful: to whom he answers, that this is most agreeable, because by it we learn to shun them, the hope of which inspires joy, and so great earnestness in the practice of penance, that austerities themselves become agreeable. (Ib.) He often mentions grace before and after meat: and, Hom. 55. p. 561. recites that which the monks about Antioch used before their meals, as follows: “Blessed God, who feedest me from my youth, who givest nourishment to all flesh, fill our hearts with joy, that being supported by thy bounty we may abound in every good work in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom be all honour, praise, and glory given with the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen. Glory be to thee, O Lord; glory be to thee, O Holy: glory be to thee, O King, because thou hast given us food in joyfulness. Fill us with thy Holy Spirit, that we may be found acceptable in thy sight, that we may not be covered with confusion when Thou shalt render to every one according to his works.” This whole prayer is admirable, says the saint, but especially the close, the remembrance of the last day being a bridle and check to sensuality and concupiscence. (Ib.) The saint shows (Hom. 86. p. 810.) the malice and danger of small faults wilfully committed, which many are apt to make slight of: but from such the most dreadful falls take their rise. The old Latin translation of Saint Chrysostom’s homilies on Saint Matthew, is too full of words, and often inaccurate. Anian, the author, seems to have been the Pelagian deacon of that name, who assisted at the council of Diospolis in 415. The new Latin translation is far more exact, but very unequal in elegance and dignity of expression to the general.
The eighth tome is composed of the homilies of Saint Chrysostom upon Saint John, which are eighty-eight in number, though in former Latin editions, in imitation of Morellus, the first is called preface, and only eighty-seven bear the title of homilies. They were preached at Antioch, about the year 394, at break of day, long before the usual hour of the sermon. (Hom. 31.) We find here the same elevation of thought, the same genius and lively imagination, and the same strength of reasoning which we admire in those on Saint Matthew; but the method is different. After a short literal exposition of the text, the holy doctor frequently inserts polemical discussions, in which he proves the Consubstantiality of the Son against the Anomæans. Hence his moral reflections in the end are short: in which nevertheless he is always admirable, especially when he speaks of the love which God testifies for us, in the mystery of the Incarnation. (See Hom. 27. olim 26. p. 156.) He observes that Christ miraculously multiplied five loaves, before he gave his solemn promise of the Eucharist, which he calls “The miracle of mysteries, and this he did,” says our saint, “That being taught by that miracle they might not doubt in giving credit to his words—that not only by love, but in reality we are mingled with his flesh.” (Hom. 46. olim 45. in Joan. t. 8. p. 272.) Christ by this institution thus invites us to his heavenly banquet, says our saint. “I feed you with my flesh, I give you myself for your banquet. I would become your brother: for your sake, I took upon myself flesh and blood: Again, I give you the flesh and blood, by which I have made myself of the same nature and kindred with you ([Greek], congener.)—This blood by being poured forth has cleansed the whole world.—This blood has purified the sanctuaries and the Holy of Holies. If its figure had so great efficacy in the temple of the Hebrews and sprinkled on the doors of Egypt, the truth will have much greater.” (Ib. p. 273.) He calls the holy Eucharist “the tremendous mysteries, the dreadful altar,” [Greek] (ib.) and says, “When you approach the sacred cup, come as if you were going to drink the blood flowing from his side.” (Hom. 85. olim 84. in Joan. p. 507.)
The fifty-five Homilies On the Acts of the Apostles, he preached at Constantinople, in the third year of his episcopal dignity, of our Lord 401, as appears from Hom. 44. p. 335. t. 9. The famous censure of Erasmus, who judged them absolutely unworthy of our saint, (ep. ad Warham. archiepiscopum Cantuarens.) is well known: Billius, on the contrary, thinks them very elegant. Both judgments show how far prepossession is capable of misleading the most learned men. That this work is undoubtedly genuine, is demonstrated by Sir Henry Saville. Photius justly admires an admirable eloquence, rich veins of gold scattered through it, and the moral instructions are so noble and beautiful, that no other genius but that of a Chrysostom could have formed them. The style indeed in many parts of the comments, is not regular or correct: which might be owing to some indisposition, or to an extraordinary hurry of troublesome affairs, to a confusion of mind, and to alarms, the city being then in imminent danger by the revolt and blockade of Gainas, and in daily fears of being plundered by that barbarian. In the first homily our saint speaks against those who deferred to receive baptism, for fear of forfeiting the grace by relapsing into sin: which delay he shows to imply a wilful and obstinate contempt of God and his grace, with the guilt of a base and inexcusable sloth, like one who should desire to enrol himself in the army when the war was over, yet expect a share in the triumph; or a wrestler who should enter the lists when the games are closed. He adds, that in sickness, under alarms and pains, it is scarcely to be hoped that a person will be able to dispose himself for so great a sacrament. Prudent men make their wills whilst in health, imagining that at best they will retain their senses but by halves at the approaches of death; and can we think dying men capable of duly making so solemn an engagement with God. He assures his flock that he is not able to express the consternation, grief, and agony, with which he is seized whenever he hears of any one being dead without baptism or penance, (p. 13.) In Hom. 3. p. 30. he exaggerates the grievousness of sin in a priest, and has these remarkable words, “I do not believe that many priests are saved; but that far the greater number is lost: for this dignity requires a great soul and much courage.”
In Hom. 7. he draws a most amiable and beautiful portraiture of the charity which reigned in the primitive church, when all with joy cast away their money; setting no value but on the inestimably greater treasures which they possessed in God: when all lived without envy, jealousy, pride, contempt of any one, and without any cunning or ill-will; and when the cold words mine and thine were banished from among them. p. 58. 59. A passage often quoted by those who write on the small number of the elect, occurs Hom. 24. p. 198. “How many,” says he, “do you think there are in this city who will be saved? What I am going to say is frightful indeed; yet I will speak it. Out of so many thousands not one hundred belongs to the number of the elect: and even of these I doubt. How much vice among the youth! What sloth in the old! No one takes due care of the education of his children. If we see a man truly devout in his old age, he is imitated by nobody. I see persons behave disrespectfully and without due attention in the church, and even when the priest is giving his blessing. Can any insolence be found equal to this? Amidst such scandals, what hopes can we entertain of the salvation of many? At a ball every one dances in his rank, every thing is regulated, and done without confusion. And here in the company of angels, and singing the praises of God with the blessed spirits, you talk and laugh. Should we be surprised if thunder fell from heaven to punish such impiety?” The monks then lived without the walls, and could not be included by him: nor probably the clergy, deaconesses, or others particularly consecrated to a devout life; as appears from his invective. Nor does he speak this with any certitude, but from his private apprehension by comparing the lives of the generality of the people with the severe maxims of the gospel. This is manifest from the proof he draws from the manners of the people, and from a like invective in Hom. 61. olim 62. on Saint Matthew, (t. 7. p. 612.) spoken at Antioch ten years before. See also l. 1. adv. Oppugnatores Vitæ Mon. n. 8. t. 1. p. 55. Speaking on the general impiety of the world (Hom. 10. in 1 Tim.) he says “We have great reason to weep: scarcely the least part of the world is saved: almost all live in danger of eternal death.” But he shows that the multitude will only increase the torments of the wicked, as if a man saw his wife and children to be burnt alive with him. Saint Chrysostom counts in Constantinople, at that time, one hundred thousand Christians, (Hom. 11. in Acta.) and says that the poor in that city amounted to fifty thousand, and the riches of the particulars to about one million pounds of gold. Yet he reckons the assembly of the Christians greater at Antioch than at Constantinople. (Hom. 1. adv. Judæos. p. 592. t. 1.) If the estate of one rich and that of one poor man maintained three thousand poor at Antioch, and the like estates often rich men would have supported all the poor of that city, it is inferred that there were in Antioch only thirty thousand poor, though it might perhaps have more inhabitants than Constantinople. See Bandurius on the site and extent of Constantinople under the emperors Arcadius and Honorius; and Hasius de magnitudine urbium, p. 47.
Saint Chrysostom teaches that grace is conferred by God at the imposition of hands in the ordination of priests, Hom. 14. in Acta. p. 114. also, Hom. 3. de Resurrect, t. 2. p. 436. and Hom. 21. in Acta. p. 175. that “Oblations (or masses) are not offered in vain for the dead.” It is his pious counsel (Hom. 17. in Acta.) that when we find ourselves provoked to anger, we form on our breast the sign of the cross; and Hom. 26. he exhorts all Christians, even the married, and both men and women, to rise every midnight to pray in their own houses, and to awake little children at that hour that they may say a short prayer in bed. He says that saints and martyrs are commemorated in the holy mysteries, because this is doing them great honour, (Hom. 21. in Acta. p. 276.) and by the communion with them in their virtues the rest of the faithful departed reap much benefit. (Hom. 51. in 1 Corinth, t. 10. p. 393.)
For a specimen of the zeal and charity with which this great preacher instructed his flock, two or three passages are here inserted. Hom. 3. in Acta. p. 31. t. 9. “I wish,” says he, “I could set before your eyes the tender charity and love which I bear you: after this no one could take it amiss or be angry if I ever seem to use too harsh words in correcting disorders. Nothing is dearer to me than you; not even life or light. I desire a thousand times over to lose my sight, if by this means I could convert your souls to God; so much more sweet is your salvation to me. If it happens that any of you fall into sin, you are present even in my sleep: through grief I am like persons struck with a palsy, or deprived of their senses. For what hope or comfort can I have left, if you advance not in virtue? And if you do well, what can afflict me? I seem to feel myself taking wing when I hear any good of you. Make my joy complete. Phil. ii. 2. Your progress is my only desire. You are to me all, father and mother, and brothers and children.” Hom. 44. in Act. p. 335. having appealed to his closet and secret retreats to bear witness how many tears he shed without intermission for them, he says, “What shall I do? I am quite spent daily crying out to you: Forsake the stage. Yet many laugh at our words: Refrain from oaths and avarice, and no one listens to us. For your sakes I have almost abandoned the care of my own soul and salvation; and whilst I weep for you, I bewail also my own spiritual miseries, to which, through solicitude for you, I am not sufficiently attentive: so true it is that you are all things to me. If I see you advance in virtue, through joy I feel not my own ills; and if I perceive you make no progress, here again through grief I forget my own miseries. Though I am sinking under them, on your account, I am filled with joy: and whatever subject of joy I have in myself, I am overwhelmed with grief if all is not well with you. For what comfort, what life, what hope can a pastor have, if his flock be perishing? How will he stand before God? What will he say? Though he should be innocent of the blood of them all, still he will be pierced with bitter sorrow which nothing will be able to assuage. For though parents were no way in the fault, they would suffer the most cruel anguish for the ruin or loss of their children. Whether I shall be demanded an account of your souls or no, this will not remove my grief. I am not anxious that you may attain to happiness by my labours, but that you be saved at any rate, or by any means. You know not the impetuous tyranny of spiritual travails, and how he who spiritually brings forth children to God desires a thousand times over to be hewn to pieces rather than to see one of his children fall or perish. Though we could say with assurance, we have done all that lay in us, and are innocent of his blood, this will not be enough to comfort us. Could my heart be laid open and exposed to your view, you would see that you are every one there and much dilated, women, children, and men. So great is the power of charity that it makes a soul wider than the heavens. Saint Paul bore all Corinth within his breast. 2 Corinth, vii. 2. I can make you no reproaches for any indifference toward me on your side. I am sensible of the love which you reciprocally bear me. But what will be the advantage either of your love for me or of mine for you, if the duties you owe to God are neglected? It is only an occasion of rendering my grief more heavy. You have never been wanting in any thing towards me. Were it possible you would have given me your very eyes: and on our side we were desirous to give you with the gospel also our lives. Our love is reciprocal. But this is not the point. We must in the first place love Christ. This obligation both you and I have great need to study: not that we entirely neglect it; but the pains we take are not adequate to this great end.”
To abolish the sacrilegious custom of swearing at Constantinople, as he had done at Antioch, he strained every sinew, and in several sermons he exerted his zeal with uncommon energy, mingled with the most tender charity. In Hom. 8. in Act. t. 9. p. 66, 67. he complains that some who had begun to correct their criminal habit, after having fallen through surprise, or by a sudden fit of passion, had lost courage. These he animates to a firmer resolution and vigour, which would crown them with victory. He tells them he suffers more by grief for them than if he languished in a dungeon, or was condemned to the mines; and begs, by the love which they bear him, they would give the only comfort which could remove the weight of his sorrow by an entire conversion. It will not justify him, he says, at the last day, to allege that he had reprimanded those who swore. The judge will answer: “Why didst not thou check, command, and by laws restrain those that disobeyed?” Heli reprimanded his sons; but was condemned for not having done it, because he did not use sufficient severity. 1 Kings xi. 24. “I every day cry aloud,” says the saint, “yet am not heard. Fearing to be myself condemned at the last day for too great lenity and remissness, I raise my voice, and denounce aloud to all, that if any swear, I forbid them the church. Only this month is allowed for persons to correct their habit.” His voice he calls a trumpet, with which in different words he proclaims thrice this sentence of excommunication against whosoever should persist refractory, though he were a prince, or he who wears the diadem. Hom. 9. p. 76. he congratulates with his audience for the signs of compunction and amendment which they had given since his last sermon, and tells the greatest part of the difficulty is already mastered by them. To inspire them with a holy dread and awe for the adorable name of God, he puts them in mind that in the Old Law only the high priest was allowed ever to pronounce it, and that the devils trembled at its sound. Hom. 10. he charges them never to name God but in praising him or in imploring his mercy. He takes notice that some among them still sometimes swore, but only for want of attention, by the force of habit, just as they made the sign of the cross by mere custom, without attention, when they entered the baths, or had lighted a candle. He tells them (Hom. 11. p. 95.) that the term of a month, which he had fixed, was almost elapsed, and most affectionately conjures them to make their conversion entire. A sight of one such conversion, he says, gave him more joy, than if a thousand imperial diadems of the richest jewels had been placed upon his head. Other specimens of the saint’s ardent love for his people at Constantinople, see Hom. 9. in Hebr. t. 12. p. 100. Hom. 23. in Hebr. p. 217. Hom. 9. in 1 Thess. t. 11. p. 494. Hom. 7. in 1 Coloss. Hom. 39. in Act. p. 230, etc. For his people at Antioch, t. 3. v. 362, t. 2. p. 279, t. 7. p. 374, etc. On his humility, t. 2. p. 455. t. 4. p. 339. On his desire to suffer for Christ, t. 1. p. 453. t. 7. p. 243. t. 11. p. 53. 55.
The inspired epistles of Saint Paul were the favourite subject of this saint’s intense meditation, in which he studied the most sublime maxims, and formed in himself the most perfect spirit of Christian virtue. The epistle to the Romans is expounded by him in thirty-two homilies, (2. 9. p. 429.) which he made at Antioch, as is clear from Hom. 8. p. 508, and Hom. 30. p. 743. Nothing can go beyond the commendations which Saint Isidore of Pelusium bestows on this excellent work, (l. 5. ep. 32.) to which all succeeding ages have subscribed. The errors of Pelagius, which were broached soon after in the West, are clearly guarded against by the holy preacher, though he is more solicitous to confute the opposite heresy of the Manichees, which then reigned in many parts of the East. He also confounds frequently the Jews. But what we most admire is the pious sagacity with which he unfolds the deep sense of the sacred text, and its author, the true disciple of Christ, and the perspicuity and eloquence with which he enforces his moral instructions. Whoever reads any one of these homilies, will bear testimony to this eulogium. See Hom. 24. (t. 9. p. 694.) on the shortness of human life: Hom. 8. on fraternal charity and forgiving injuries: Hom. 20. on our obligation of offering to God a living sacrifice of our bodies by the exercise of all virtues, and the sanctity of our affections: Hom. 22 and 27. on patience in bearing all injuries, by which we convert them into our greatest treasure: Hom. 5. on the fear of God’s judgment, and on his love, to which he pathetically says, it would be more grievous to offend God than to suffer all the torments of hell, which every one incurs who is not in this disposition, (p. 469.) though it is a well-known maxim that persons ought not to propose to themselves in too lively a manner such comparisons, or to become their own tempters: Hom. 7. against envy, and on alms, he says this is putting out money at interest for one hundred fold from God, who is himself our security, and who herein considers not the sum, but the will, as he did in Saint Peter, who left for him only a broken net, a line, and a hook. The promise of a hundred fold made to him, is no less made to us.
The commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (t. 10.) in forty-four homilies, was likewise the fruit of his zeal at Antioch, and is one of the most elaborate and finished of his works. The interpreter seems animated with the spirit of the great apostle whose sacred oracles he expounds, so admirably does he penetrate the pious energy of the least tittle. If Saint Paul uses the words My God, he observes, that out of the vehement ardour and tenderness of his love he makes Him his own, who is the common God of all men; and that he names Him with a sentiment of burning affection and profound adoration, because he had banished all created things from his heart, and all his affections were placed in God. He extols the merit and advantages of holy virginity, (Hom. 19.) and Hom. 26. speaks on the duties of a married state, especially that of mutual love and meekness in bearing each other’s faults: this he bids them learn from Socrates, a pagan, who chose a very shrew for his wife, and being asked how he could bear with her, said: “I have a school of virtue at home, in order to learn meekness and patience by the daily practice.” The saint adds, it was a great grief to him to see Christians fall short of the virtue of a heathen, whereas they ought to be imitators of the angels, nay of God himself. Recommending the most profound respect for the holy eucharist and a dread of profaning it, he says, Hom. 24. p. 217, 218. “No one dares touch the king’s garments with dirty hands. When you see Him (i. e. Christ) exposed before you, say to yourself: This body was pierced with nails; this body which was scourged, death did not destroy; this body was nailed to a cross, at which spectacle the sun withdrew its rays; this body the Magi venerated,” etc. The saint inveighs against several superstitious practices of that age, Hom. 12. His discourses are animated and strong on the characters of fraternal charity, and against avarice, envy, etc.
The thirty homilies, on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (t. 10. p. 417.) were also preached at Antioch: for he speaks of Constantinople as at a distance, (Hom. 26.) which passage Sir Henry Saville has mistaken, as Montfaucon clearly shows. This commentary is inferior to the last, though not in elegance, yet in fire, the moral instructions being shorter. The saint mentions several of the ceremonies used still at mass, or in the public office of the church. Hom. 18. p. 568. Hom. 39. p. 650. On visiting the shrines of martyrs, he says, Hom. 26. p. 629. “The tombs of those who served the crucified Christ surpass in splendour the courts of kings. Even he who wears purple visits and devoutly kisses them, and standing suppliant, prays the saint to be a protection to him before God.” He adds that emperors sue for their patronage, and count it an honour to be porters to them in their graves. By this he alludes to the burial of Constantine the Great in the porch of the church of the apostles. He proves, Hom. 3. p. 441. and Hom. 14. p. 537. that the essence of repentance consists in a change of the heart: that without an amendment of life, penance is only a mask and a shadow, what fasts or other works soever attend it, and that it must be founded not barely in the fear of hell, but in the love of so good and loving a God. He teaches, Hom. 10. p. 505. that a Christian ought to rejoice at the approaches of death. He speaks in many places on the precept of alms-deeds with great vehemence. He says, Hom. 16. that to be animated with a spirit of charity and compassion is something greater than to raise the dead to life: our alms must be liberal, plentiful, voluntary, and given with joy. He says, Hom. 19. that Christ stripped himself of his immense glory and riches for love of us; yet men refuse him a morsel of bread. They throw away on dogs and what is superfluous among servants that which Christ wants in his members, to whom all strictly belongs whatever we enjoy beyond what is necessary for life. He enters into a severe and elegant detail of these superfluities, Hom. 19. p. 570. The apostle, as he observes, (Hom. 20. p. 577.) justly calls alms a seed, because it is not lost, but sown, and produces a most plentiful harvest.
His commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, (t. 10.) is an accurate interpretation of the text, with frequent remarks against the Anomæans, Marcionites, and Manichees, but very sparing in moral exhortations: these the saint probably added in the pulpit, and gave to the work the form of discourses; for it appears to have been delivered in homilies to the people, though it is not now divided into discourses. It was certainly compiled at Antioch.
The twenty-four homilies on the Epistle to the Ephesians, (t. 11.) were preached at Antioch; and though some passages might have received a higher polish from a second touch of the saint’s masterly file, they are a most useful and excellent work. From Hom. 3. p. 16. it is clear that his predecessor Nectarius had not abolished canonical public penances, when he removed the public penitentiary; but that this office, as before the institution of such a charge, was exercised altogether by the bishop. For Saint Chrysostom having taken notice that many assisted at mass who did not communicate, tells them, that those who were guilty of any grievous sin could not approach the holy table even on the greatest solemnity; but that such persons ought to be in a course of penance, and consequently not at mass with the rest of the faithful: and he terrifies them by exaggerating the danger and crime of delaying to do penance. Those who are not excluded by such an obstacle, he exhorts strongly to frequent communion, seeming desirous that many would communicate at every day’s mass. “With a pure conscience,” he says, “approach always; without this disposition, never. In vain is the daily sacrifice offered; to no purpose do we assist at the altar: no one communicates. I say not this to induce any one to approach unworthily, but to engage all to render yourselves worthy. The royal table is prepared, the administering angels are present, the King himself is there waiting for you: yet you stand with indifference,” etc. (Hom. 3. in Ephes. p. 23.) The virtues of Saint Paul furnish the main subject of his sixth and seventh homilies; in the eighth he speaks of that apostle’s sufferings for Christ, and declares in a kind of rapturous exclamation, that he prefers his chains to cold and diadems, and his company in prison to heaven itself. He wishes he could make a pilgrimage to Rome, to see and kiss those chains at which the devils tremble, and which the angels reverence, whilst they venerate the hands which were bound with them. For it is more desirable and more glorious to suffer with Christ, than to be honoured with him in glory: this is an honour above all others. Christ himself left heaven to meet his cross: and Saint Paul received more glory from his chains, than by being rapt up to the third heaven, or by curing the sick by the touch of his scarfs, etc. He desires to feast his heart by dwelling still longer on the chains of this apostle, being himself fettered with a chain from which he could not be separated: for he declares himself to be closer and faster linked to Saint Paul’s chains by desire, than that apostle was in prison. In the like strain, he speaks of the chains of Saint Peter, and of Saint John the Baptist. In the next Homily (9.) he returns in equal raptures to Saint Paul in chains for Christ: in which state he calls him a spectacle of glory far beyond all the triumphs of emperors and conquerors. Our saint gives excellent instructions on the duties of married persons, Hom. 20.; on the education of children in the practice and spirit of obedience and piety, Hom. 21.; and on the duties of servants, Hom. 22.
The eighteen homilies on the First Epistle to Timothy, and ten on the Second, seem also to have been preached at Antioch. (t. 11. p. 146.) They are not equally polished; but contain excellent instructions against covetousness, and the love of the world; on alms, on the duties of bishops, and those of widows, etc.; on the education of children, Hom. 10. p. 596. The six, on the Epistle to Titus, are more elaborate: also three on the Epistle to Philemon, which seem all to have been finished at Antioch.
In the eleventh tome we have also eleven sermons, which Saint Chrysostom preached at Constantinople about the end of the year 398. The second was spoken upon the following occasion: (ib. p. 332.) The empress Eudoxia procured a solemn procession and translation of the relics of certain martyrs, to be made from the great church in Constantinople to the church of Saint Thomas the apostle in Drypia, on the sea-shore, nine miles out of town. The princes without any retinue, priests, monks, nuns, ladies, and the people, attended the procession in such multitudes, that from the light of the burning tapers which they carried in their hands, the sea seemed as it were on fire. The empress walked all the way behind, touching the shrine and the veil which covered it. The procession set out in the beginning of the night, passed through the market-place, and arrived at Drypia about break of day. There Saint Chrysostom made an extemporary sermon, in which he described the pomp of this ceremony, commended the piety of the empress, and proved that if the clothes, handkerchiefs, and even shadow of saints on earth had wrought many miracles, a blessing is certainly derived from their relics upon those who devoutly touch them. The next day the emperor Arcadius, attended by his court and guards, arrived, and the soldiers having laid aside their arms, and the emperor his diadem, he paid his devotions before the shrine. After his departure Saint Chrysostom preached again.
Saint Chrysostom was removed to Constantinople in 397. The fifteen (or if, with some editors, we include the prologue, sixteen) homilies on the Epistle to the Philippians, (t. 11. p. 189.) were preached in that capital of the empire. The moral instructions turn mostly on alms and riches. The order which prudence prescribes in the distribution of alms, he explains, (Hom. 1. t. 11. p. 201.) and condemns too anxious an inquiry and suspicion of imposture in the poor, as contrary to Christian simplicity and charity, affirming that none are so frequently imposed upon by cheats as the most severe inquirers. Prudence and caution he allows to be necessary ingredients of alms, in which those whose wants are most pressing, or who are most deserving, ought to be first considered. Hom. 3. p. 217. he lays it down as a principle, that catechumens who die without baptism, and penitents without absolution, “are excluded from heaven with the damned:” which we are to understand, unless they were justified by perfect contrition joined with a desire of the sacrament, as Saint Ambrose, Saint Austin, and all the fathers and councils declare. Saint Chrysostom adds, that it is a wholesome ordinance of the apostles in favour of the faithful departed, to commemorate them in the adorable mysteries: for how is it possible God should be deaf to our prayers for them, at a time when all the people stand with stretched forth hands with the priests, in presence of the most adorable sacrifice? But the catechumens are deprived of this comfort, though not of all succour, for alms may be given for them, from which they receive some relief or mitigation of their pains. Though such not dying within the exterior pale of the church, cannot be commemorated in its public suffrages and sacrifices; yet if by desire they were interiorly its members, and by charity united to Christ its head, they may be benefited by private suffrages which particulars may offer for them. This is the meaning of this holy doctor. Exhorting the faithful to live in perpetual fear of the dangers with which we are surrounded, (Hom. 8. in Ephes. t. 11.) he says, “A builder on the top of a house always apprehends the danger of falling, and on this account is careful how he stands: so ought we much more to fear, how much soever we may be advanced in virtue. The principal means always to entertain in our souls this saving fear, is to have God always before our eyes, who is every where present, hears and sees all things, and penetrates the most secret foldings of our hearts. Whether you eat, go to sleep, sit at dainty tables, are inclined to anger, or any other passion, or whatever else you do, remember always,” says he, “that God is present, and you will never fall into dissolute mirth, or be provoked to anger; but will watch over yourselves in continual fear.” With great elegance he shows (Hom. 10. p. 279.) that precious stones serve for no use, are not so good even as common stones, and that all their value is imaginary, and consists barely in the mad opinion of men; and he boldly censures the insatiable rapaciousness and unbounded prodigality of the rich, in their sumptuous palaces, marble pillars, and splendid clothes and equipages. Houses are only intended to defend us from the weather, and raiment to cover our nakedness. All vanities he shows to be contrary to the designs of nature, which is ever content with little. In Hom. 12. we have an excellent instruction on that important maxim in a spiritual life, that we must never think how far we nave run, but what remains of our course, as in a race a man thinks only on what is before him. It will avail nothing to have begun, unless we finish well our course. In Hom. 13. he excellently explains the mystery of the cross which we bear if we study continually to crucify ourselves by self-denial. We must in all places arm ourselves with the sign of the cross.
The Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, in twelve homilies, (t. 11.) was made at Constantinople in the year 399. In the second homily (p. 333.) he says, that a most powerful means to maintain in ourselves a deep sense of gratitude to God, and to increase the flame of his love in our hearts, is to bear always in mind his numberless benefits to us, and the infinite evils from which he has mercifully delivered us. In Hom. 8. p. 319. he teaches that no disposition of our souls contributes more effectually to our sanctification, than that of returning thanks to God under the severest trials of adversity, a virtue little inferior to martyrdom. A mother who, without entertaining the least sentiment of complaint at the sickness and death of her dearest child, thanks God with perfect submission to his will, will receive a recompense equal to that of martyrs. After condemning the use of all superstitious practices for the cure of distempers, he strongly exhorts mothers rather to suffer their children to die, than ever to have recourse to such sacrilegious methods; and contenting themselves with making the sign of the cross upon their sick children, to answer those who suggested any superstitious remedy: “These are my only arms; I am utterly a stranger to other methods of treating this distemper.” The tenth homily (p. 395.) contains a strong invective against the excessive luxury and immodesty of ladies in their dress, and their vanity, pride, and extravagance. The empress Eudoxia, who was at the head of these scandalous customs, and the mistress of court fashions and vices, could not but be highly offended at this zealous discourse. The saint says, that many ladies used vessels of silver for the very meanest uses, and that the king of Persia wore a golden beard.
The eleven homilies on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, were also part of the fruit of his episcopal labours at Constantinople. (t. 11.) In the second he shows the excellency of fraternal love and friendship, by which every thing is as it were possessed in common, and those cold words mine and thine, the seed of all discords, are banished as they were among the primitive Christians. In the third, he doubts not but perfect patience, under grievous sicknesses, may equal the merit of martyrdom. In the fifth, he speaks incomparably on the virtue of purity, and against occasions which may kindle in the heart the contrary passion, which, with Saint Paul, he will not have so much as named, especially against the stage, and all assemblies where women make their appearance dressed out to please the eyes and wound the hearts of others. In Hom. 6. he condemns excessive grief for the death of friends. To indulge this sorrow for their sake, he calls it want of faith: to grieve for our own sake because we are deprived of a comfort and support in them, he says, must proceed from a want of confidence in God: as if any friend on earth could be our safeguard, but God alone. God took this friend away, because he is jealous of our hearts, and will have us love him without a rival. (p. 479.) In Hom. 10. we are instructed, that the best revenge we can take of an enemy is to forgive him, and to bear injuries patiently. In Hom. 11. p. 505. he gives an account, that a certain lady being offended at a slave for a great crime, resolved to sell him and his wife. The latter wept bitterly; and a mediator, whose good offices with her mistress in her behalf she implored, conjured the lady in these words: “May Christ appear to you at the last day in the same manner in which you now receive our petition.” Which words so strongly affected her, that she forgave the offence. The night following Christ appeared to her in a comfortable vision, as Saint Chrysostom was assured by herself. In Hom. 7. (ib.) he shows the possibility of the resurrection of the flesh against infidels.
The five homilies on the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, were also preached at Constantinople. (T. 11. p. 510.) In the second, he exhorts all to make the torments of hell a frequent subject of their meditation, that they may never sin; and to entertain little children often with some discourse on them instead of idle stories, that sentiments of holy fear and virtue may strike deep roots in their tender hearts. On traditions received by the church from the apostles he writes as follows: (Hom. 4. in 2. Thess. p. 532.) “Hence it is clear that they did not deliver all things by their epistles, but communicated also many things without writing: and these likewise deserve our assent or faith. It is a tradition: make no further inquiry.” In the same Hom. 4. p. 534. he expresses how much he trembled at the thought of being, by the obligation of his office, the mediator between God and his people; and declares, that he ceased not most earnestly to pour forth his prayers for them both at home and abroad. In Hom. 4. ib, he severely reprimands those who reproach the poor in harsh words, adding to the weight of their affliction and misery.
The thirty-four homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews, (t. 12. p. 1.) were compiled at Constantinople. In the seventh he shows, that the evangelical precepts and counsels belong to all Christians, not only to monks, if we except the vow of perpetual virginity: though also men engaged in a married state are bound to be disentangled in spirit, and to use the world as if they used it not. Hom. 17. ib. p. 169. he explains that the sacrifice of the New Law is one, because the same body of Christ is every day offered; not one day one sheep, another day a second, etc. (On this sacrifice see also Hom. 5. in 1. Tim. t. 11. p. 577. Hom. 3. contra. Judæos. t. 1. p. 611. Hom. 7. contra Judæos. t. 1. p. 664. Hom. in Saint Eustath. t. 2. p. 606. Hom. 24. in 1. Cor. t. 10. p. 213.) In Hom. 34. ad. Hebr. p. 313. he expresses his extreme fears for the rigorous account which a pastor is obliged to give for every soul committed to his charge, and cries out, “I wonder that any superior of others is saved.”
A letter to a certain monk called Cæsarius, has passed under the name of Saint Chrysostom ever since Leontius and Saint John Damascen; and not only many Protestants, but also F. Hardouin, (Dissert. de ep. ad Cæsarium Monachum,) Tillemont, (t. 11. art. 130. p. 340.) and Tournelly, (Tr. de Euchar. t. 1. p. 282. and Tract. de Incarnat. p. 486.) are not unwilling to look upon it as a genuine work of our holy doctor. But it is demonstrated by P. Le Quien, (Diss. 3. in Saint Joan. Damasc.) Dom Montfaucon, (in Op. Saint Chrys. t. 3. p. 737.) Ceillier, (t. 9. p. 249.) F. Merlin in his learned dissertations on this epistle (in Mémoires de Trevoux. an. 1737. p. 252. 516. and 917.) and F. Stilting, the Bollandist, (t. 4. Sept. Comment. in vitam. Saint Chrys. s. 82. p. 656.) that it has been falsely ascribed to him, and is a patched work of some later ignorant Greek writer, who has borrowed some things from the first letter of Saint Chrysostom to Olympias, as Stilting shows. Merlin thinks the author discovers himself to have been a Nestorian heretic. At least the style is so opposite to that of Saint Chrysostom, both in the diction and in the manner of reasoning, that the reader must find himself quite in another world, as Montfaucon observes. The author’s long acquaintance with this Cæsarius seems not easily reconcilable with the known history of Saint Chrysostom’s life. This piece, moreover, is too direct a confutation of the Eutychian error to have been written before its birth; or if it had made its appearance, how could it have escaped all the antagonists of that heresy? Whoever the author was, he is far from opposing the mystery of the real presence, or that of transubstantiation, in the blessed eucharist, for both of which he is an evident voucher in these words, not to mention others: “The nature of bread and that of our Lord’s body are not two bodies, but one body of the Son,” which he introduces to make a comparison with the unity of Christ’s Person in the Incarnation. It is true, indeed, that he says the nature of bread remains in the sacrament: but it is easy to show that by the nature of bread he means its external natural qualities or accidents.
Among former Latin translations of Saint Chrysostom’s works, only those made by the learned Jesuit Fronto-le-Duc are accurate. These are retained by Montfaucon, who has given us a new version of those writings which Le Duc had not translated. The edition of Montfaucon in twelve volumes, an. 1718, is of all others the most complete. But it is much to be wished that he had favoured us with a more elegant Latin translation, which might bear some degree of the beauty of the original. The Greek edition, made by Sir Henry Saville at Eton, in nine volumes, in 1612, is more correct and more beautiful than that of the learned Benedictin, and usually preferred by those who stand in need of no translation.
As to the French translations, that of the homilies on the epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, etc., by Nicholas Fontaine, the Port-Royalist, in 1693, was condemned by Harlay, archbishop of Paris; and recalled by the author, who undesignedly established in it the Nestorian error. The French translation of the homilies on Saint John, was given us by Abbé le Merre: of those on Genesis and the Acts, with eighty-eight chosen discourses, by Abbé de Bellegarde, though for some time attributed to de Marsilly, and by others to Sacy. That of the homilies on Saint Matthew, ascribed by many to de Marsilly, was the work of le Maitre and his brother Sacy. That of the homilies to the People of Antioch was given us by Abbé de Maucroix in 1671. That of the saint’s panegyrics on the martyrs is the work of F. Duranty de Bonrecueil, an Oratorian, and made its appearance in 1735.
Saint Chrysostom wrote comments on the whole scripture, as Cassiodorus and Suidas testify; but of these many, with a great number of sermons, etc. are lost. Theophylactus, Æcumenius, and other Greek commentators, are chiefly abridgers of Saint Chrysostom. Even Theodoret is his disciple in the excellent concise notes he composed on the sacred text. Nor can preachers or theologians choose a more useful master or more perfect model in interpreting the scripture; but ought to join with him some judicious, concise, critical commentator. As in reading the classics, grammatical niceties have some advantage in settling the genuine text: yet if multiplied or spun out in notes, are extremely pernicious, by deadening the student’s genius and spirit, and burying them in rubbish, whilst they ought to be attentive to what will help them to acquire true taste, to be employed on the beauties, ease, and gentleness of the style, and on the greatness, delicacy, and truth of the thoughts or sentiments, and to be animated by the life, spirit and fire of an author. So much more in the study of the sacred writings, a competent skill in resolving grammatical and historical scruples in the text is of great use, and sometimes necessary in the church: in which, among the fathers, Origen and Saint Jerom are our models. Yet from the conduct of divine providence over the church, and the example of the most holy and most learned among the primitive fathers, it is clear, as the learned doctor Hare, bishop of Chichester, observes, that assiduous, humble, and devout meditation on the spirit, and divine precepts of the sacred oracles is the true method of studying them both for our own advantage, and for that of the church. Herein Saint Chrysostom’s comments are our most faithful assistant and best models. The divine majesty and magnificence of those writings is above the reach, and beyond the power, of all mortal wit. None but the Spirit of God could express his glory, and display either the mysteries of his grace, or the oracles of his holy law. And none but they whose hearts are disengaged from objects of sense, and animated with the most pure affections of every sublime virtue, and whose minds are enlightened by the beams of heavenly truth, can penetrate the spirit of these divine writings, and open it to us. Hence was Saint Chrysostom qualified to become the interpreter of the word of God, to discover its hidden mysteries of love and mercy, the perfect spirit of all virtues which it contains, and the sacred energy of each word or least circumstance.
The most ingenious Mr. Blackwall, in his excellent Introduction to the Classics, writes as follows, on the style of Saint Chrysostom, p. 139. “I would fain beg room among the classics for three primitive writers of the church, Saint Chrysostom, Minutius Felix, and Lactantius. Saint Chrysostom is easy and pleasant to new beginners; and has written with a purity and eloquence which have been the admiration of all ages. This wondrous man in a great measure possesses all the excellencies of the most valuable Greek and Roman classics. He has the invention, copiousness, and perspicuity of Cicero; and all the elegance and accuracy of composition which is admired in Isocrates, with much greater variety and freedom. According as his subject requires, he has the easiness and sweetness of Xenophon, and the pathetic force and rapid simplicity of Demosthenes. His judgment is exquisite, his images noble, his morality sensible and beautiful. No man understands human nature to greater perfection, nor has a happier power of persuasion. He is always clear and intelligible upon the loftiest and greatest subjects, and sublime and noble upon the least.” All that has been said of Saint Chrysostom’s works is to be understood only of those which are truly his. The irregular patched compilations from different parts of his writings, made by modern Greeks, may be compared to scraps of rich velvet, brocade, and gold cloth, which are clumsily sewed together with packthread.
- Father Alban Butler. “On the Writings of Saint John Chrysostom”. , 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 January 2013. Web. 4 May 2016. <>