Matthew 3
Homilies of Chrysostom
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
"In those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Jud?a, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

How "in those days"? For not then, surely, when He was a child, and came to Nazareth, but thirty years after, John cometh; as Luke also testifies. How then is it said, "in those days"? The Scripture is always wont to use this manner of speech, not only when it is mentioning what occurs in the time immediately after, but also of things which are to come to pass many years later. Thus also, for example, when His disciples came unto Him as He sat on the Mount of Olives, and sought to learn about His coming, and the taking of Jerusalem: [408] and yet ye know how great is the interval between those several periods. I mean, that having spoken of the subversion of the mother city, and completed His discourse on that subject, and being about to pass to that on the consummation, he inserted, "Then shall these things also come to pass;" [409] not bringing together the times by the word then, but indicating that time only in which these things were to happen. And this sort of thing he doth now also, saying, "In those days." For this is not put to signify the days that come immediately after, but those in which these things were to take place, which he was preparing to relate.

"But why was it after thirty years," it may be said, "that Jesus came unto His baptism"? After this baptism He was thenceforth to do away with the law: wherefore even until this age, which admits of all sins, He continues fulfilling it all; that no one might say, that because He Himself could not fulfill it, He did it away. For neither do all passions assail us at all times; but while in the first age of life there is much thoughtlessness and timidity, in that which comes after it, pleasure is more vehement, and after this again the desire of wealth. For this cause he awaits the fullness of His adult age, and throughout it all fulfills the law, and so comes to His baptism, adding it as something which follows upon the complete keeping of all the other commandments.

To prove that this was to Him the last good work of those enjoined by the law, hear His own words: "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." [410] Now what He saith is like this: "We have performed all the duties of the law, we have not transgressed so much as one commandment. Since therefore this only remains, this too must be added, and so shall we "fulfill all righteousness." For He here calls by the name of "righteousness" the full performance of all the commandments.

2. Now that on this account Christ came to His baptism, is from this evident. But wherefore was this baptism devised for Him? For that not of himself did the son of Zacharias proceed to this, but of God who moved him,--this Luke also declares, when he saith, "The word of the Lord came unto him," [411] that is, His commandment. And he himself too saith, "He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending like a dove, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." [412] Wherefore then was he sent to baptize? The Baptist again makes this also plain to us, saying, "I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water." [413]

And if this was the only cause, how saith Luke, that "he came into the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins?" [414] And yet it had not remission, but this gift pertained unto the baptism that was given afterwards; for in this "we are buried with Him," [415] and our old man was then crucified with Him, and before the cross there doth not appear remission anywhere; for everywhere this is imputed to His blood. And Paul too saith, "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified," not by the baptism of John, but "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God." [416] And elsewhere too he saith, "John verily preached a baptism of repentance," (he saith not "of remission,") "that they should believe on Him that should come after him." [417] For when the sacrifice was not yet offered, neither had the spirit yet come down, nor sin was put away, nor the enmity removed, nor the curse destroyed; how was remission to take place?

What means then, "for the remission of sins?"

The Jews were senseless, and had never any feeling of their own sins, but while they were justly accountable for the worst evils, they were justifying themselves in every respect; and this more than anything caused their destruction, and led them away from the faith. This, for example, Paul himself was laying to their charge, when he said, that "they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about [418] to establish their own, had not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." [419] And again: "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained [420] to righteousness; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained [421] unto the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works." [422]

Since therefore this was the cause of their evils, John cometh, doing nothing else but bringing them to a sense of their own sins. This, among other things, his very garb declared, being that of repentance and confession. This was indicated also by what he preached, for nothing else did he say, but "bring forth fruits meet for repentance." [423] Forasmuch then as their not condemning their own sins, as Paul also hath explained, made them start off from Christ, while their coming to a sense thereof would set them upon longing to seek after their Redeemer, and to desire remission; this John came to bring about, and to persuade them to repent, not in order that they might be punished, but that having become by repentance more humble, and condemning themselves, they might hasten to receive remission.

But let us see how exactly he hath expressed it; how, having said, that he "came preaching the baptism of repentance in the wilderness of Jud?a," he adds, "for remission," as though he said, For this end he exhorted them to confess and repent of their sins; not that they should be punished, but that they might more easily receive the subsequent remission. For had they not condemned themselves, they could not have sought after His grace; and not seeking, they could not have obtained remission.

Thus that baptism led the way for this; wherefore also he said, that "they should believe on Him which should come after him;" [424] together with that which hath been mentioned setting forth this other cause of His baptism. For neither would it have been as much for him to have gone about to their houses, and to have led Christ around, taking Him by the hand, and to have said, "Believe in This Man;" as for that blessed voice to be uttered, and all those other things performed in the presence and sight of all.

On account of this He cometh to the baptism. Since in fact both the credit of him that was baptizing, and the purport of the thing itself, [425] was attracting the whole city, and calling it unto Jordan; and it became a great spectacle. [426]

Therefore he humbles them also when they are come, and persuades them to have no high fancies about themselves; showing them liable to the utmost evils, unless they would repent, and leaving their forefathers, and all vaunting in them, would receive Him that was coming.

Because in fact the things concerning Christ had been up to that time veiled, and many thought He was dead, owing to the massacre which took place at Bethlehem. For though at twelve years old He discovered Himself, yet did He also quickly veil Himself again. And for this cause there was need of that splendid exordium and of a loftier beginning. Wherefore also then for the first time he with clear voice proclaims things which the Jews had never heard, neither from prophets, nor from any besides; making mention of Heaven, and of the kingdom there, and no longer saying anything touching the earth.

But by the kingdom in this place he means His former and His last advent.

3. "But what is this to the Jews?" one may say, "for they know not even what thou sayest." "Why, for this cause," saith he, "do I so speak, in order that being roused by the obscurity of my words, they may proceed to seek Him, whom I preach." In point of fact, he so excited them with good hopes when they came near, that even many publicans and soldiers inquired what they should do, and how they should direct their own life; which was a sign of being thenceforth set free from all worldly things, and of looking to other greater objects, and of foreboding [427] things to come. Yea, for all, both the sights and the words of that time, led them unto lofty thoughts.

Conceive, for example, how great a thing it was to see a man after thirty years coming down from the wilderness, being the son of a chief priest, who had never known the common wants of men, and was on every account venerable, and had Isaiah with him. For he too was present proclaiming him, and saying, "This is he who I said should come crying, and preaching throughout the whole wilderness with a clear voice." For so great was the earnestness of the prophets touching these things, that not their own Lord only, but him also who was to minister unto Him, they proclaimed a long time beforehand, and they not only mentioned him, but the place too in which he was to abide, and the manner of the doctrine which he had to teach when he came, and the good effect that was produced by him.

See, at least, how both the prophet and the Baptist go upon the same ideas, although not upon the same words.

Thus the prophet saith that he shall come saying, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." [428] And he himself when he was come said, "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance," [429] which corresponds with, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." Seest thou that both by the words of the prophet, and by his own preaching, this one thing is manifested alone; that he was come, making a way and preparing beforehand, not bestowing the gift, which was the remission, but ordering in good time the souls of such as should receive the God of all?

But Luke expresses somewhat further: not repeating the exordium, and so passing on, but setting down likewise all the prophecy. "For every valley," saith he, "shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." [430] Dost thou perceive how the prophet hath anticipated all by his words; the concourse of the people, the change of things for the better, the easiness of that which was preached, the first cause of all that was occurring, even if he hath expressed it rather as in figure, it being in truth a prophecy which he was uttering? Thus, when he saith, "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;" he is signifying the exaltation of the lowly, the humiliation of the self-willed, the hardness of the law changed into easiness of faith. For it is no longer toils and labors, saith he, but grace, and forgiveness of sins, affording great facility of salvation. Next he states the cause of these things, saying, "All flesh shall see the salvation of God;" no longer Jews and proselytes only, but also all earth and sea, and the whole race of men. Because by "the crooked things" he signified our whole corrupt life, publicans, harlots, robbers, magicians, as many as having been perverted before afterwards walked in the right way: much as He Himself likewise said, "publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you," [431] because they believed. And in other words also again the prophet declared the self-same thing, thus saying, "Then wolves and lambs shall feed together." [432] For like as here by the hills and valleys, he meant that incongruities of character [433] are blended into one and the same evenness of self-restraint, so also there, by the characters of the brute animals indicating the different dispositions of men, he again spoke of their being linked in one and the same harmony of godliness. Here also, as before, stating the cause. That cause is, "There shall be He that riseth to reign over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles trust:" [434] much the same as here too he said, "All flesh shall see the salvation of God," everywhere declaring that the power and knowledge of these our Gospels would be poured out to the ends of the world, converting the human race, from a brutish disposition and a fierce temper to something very gentle and mild.

4. "And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins." [435]

Observe, how the prophets foretold some things, others they left to the evangelists. Wherefore also Matthew both sets down the prophecies, and adds his own part, not accounting even this superfluous, to speak of the dress of the righteous man.

For indeed it was a marvellous and strange thing to behold so great austerity in a human frame: which thing also particularly attracted the Jews, seeing in him the great Elijah, and guided by what they then beheld, to the memory of that blessed man; or rather, even to a greater astonishment. For the one indeed was brought up in cities and in houses, the other dwelt entirely in the wilderness from his very swaddling clothes. For it became the forerunner of Him who was to put away all the ancient ills, the labor, for example, the curse, the sorrow, the sweat; himself also to have certain tokens of such a gift, and to come at once to be above that condemnation. Thus he neither ploughed land, nor opened furrow, he ate not his bread by the sweat of his face, but his table was hastily supplied, and his clothing more easily furnished than his table, and his lodging yet less troublesome than his clothing. For he needed neither roof, nor bed, nor table, nor any other of these things, but a kind of angel's life in this our flesh did he exhibit. For this cause his very garment was of hair, that by his dress he might instruct men to separate themselves from all things human, and to have nothing in common with the earth, but to hasten back to their earlier nobleness, wherein Adam was before he wanted garments or robe. Thus that garb bore tokens of nothing less than a kingdom, and of repentance.

And do not say to me, "Whence had he a garment of hair and a girdle, dwelling as he did in the wilderness?" For if thou art to make a difficulty of this, thou wilt also inquire into more things besides; how in the winters, and how in the heats of summer, he continued in the wilderness, and this with a delicate body, and at an immature age? how the nature of his infant flesh endured such great inconstancy of weather, and a diet so uncommon, and all the other hardships arising from the wilderness?

Where now are the philosophers of the Greeks, who at random and for nought emu lated the shamelessness of the Cynics (for what is the profit of being shut up in a tub, and afterwards running into such wantonness)? they who encompassed themselves with rings and cups, and men servants and maid servants, and with much pomp besides, falling into either extreme. But this man was not so; but he dwelt in the wilderness as in Heaven, showing forth all strictness of self-restraint. And from thence, like some angel from Heaven, he went down unto the cities, being a champion of godliness, and a crowned victor over the world, and a philosopher of that philosophy which is worthy of the heavens. And these things were, when sin was not yet put away, when the law had not yet ceased, when death was not yet bound, when the brazen gates were not yet broken up, but while the ancient polity still was in force.

Such is the nature of a noble and thoroughly vigilant soul, for it is everywhere springing forward, and passing beyond the limits set to it; as Paul [436] also did with respect to the new polity.

But why, it may be asked, did he use a girdle with his raiment? This was customary with them of old time, before men passed into this soft and loose kind of dress. Thus, for instance, both Peter [437] appears to have been "girded," and Paul; for it saith, "the man that owneth this girdle." [438] And Elijah [439] too was thus arrayed, and every one of the saints, because they were at work continually, laboring, and busying themselves either in journeyings, or about some other necessary matter; and not for this cause only, but also with a view of trampling under foot all ornaments, and practising all austerity. This very kind of thing accordingly Christ declares to be the greatest praise of virtue, thus saying, "What went ye out for to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in king's houses." [440]

But if he, who was so pure, and more glorious than the heaven, and above all prophets, than whom none greater was born, and who had such great boldness of speech, thus exercised himself in austerity, scorning so exceedingly all dissolute delicacy, and training himself to this hard life; what excuse shall we have, who after so great a benefit, and the unnumbered burdens of our sins, do not show forth so much as the least part of his penance, [441] but are drinking and surfeiting, and smelling of perfumes, and in no better trim than the harlot women on the stage, and are by all means softening ourselves, and making ourselves an easy prey to the devil? [442]

5. "Then went out to him all Judea, and Jerusalem, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him, confessing their sins." [443]

Seest thou how great power was in the coming of the prophet? how he stirred up all the people; how he led them to a consideration of their own sins? For it was indeed worthy of wonder to behold him in human form showing forth such things and using so great freedom of speech, and rising up in condemnation of all as children, and having his great grace beaming out from his countenance. And, moreover, the appearance of a prophet after the great interval of time contributed to their amazement, because the gift had failed them, and returned to them after a long time. And the nature of his preaching too was strange and unusual. For they heard of none of those things to which they were accustomed; such as wars and battles and victories below, and famine and pestilence, and Babylonians and Persians, and the taking of the city, and the other things with which they were familiar, but of Heaven and of the kingdom there, and of the punishment in hell. And it was for this cause, let me add, that although they that committed revolt in the wilderness, those in the company of Judas, and of Theudas, [444] had been all of them slain no great while before, yet they were not the more backward to go out thither. For neither was it for the same objects that he summoned them, as for dominion, or revolt, or revolution; but in order to lead them by the hand to the kingdom on high. Wherefore neither did he keep them in the wilderness to take them about with him, but baptizing them, and teaching them the rules concerning self-denial, he dismissed them; by all means instructing them to scorn whatever things are on earth, and to raise themselves up to the things to come, and press on every day.

6. This man then let us also emulate, and forsaking luxury and drunkenness let us go over unto the life of restraint. For this surely is the time of confession both for the uninitiated and for the baptized; for the one, that upon their repentance they may partake of the sacred mysteries; for the others, that having washed away their stain after baptism, they may approach the table with a clean conscience. Let us then forsake this soft and effeminate way of living. For it is not, it is not possible at once both to do penance [445] and to live in luxury. And this let John teach you by his raiment, by his food, by his abode. What then? dost thou require us, you may say, to practise such self-restraint as this? I do not require it, but I advise and recommend it. But if this be not possible to you, let us at least, though in cities, show forth repentance, for the judgment is surely at our doors. But even if it were further off, we ought not even so to be emboldened, for the term of each man's life is the end of the world virtually to him that is summoned. But that it is even at the doors, hear Paul saying, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand;" [446] and again, "He that cometh will come, and will not tarry." [447]

For the signs too are now complete, which announce that day. For "this Gospel of the Kingdoms," saith He, "shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." [448] Attend with care to what is said. He said not, "when it hath been believed by all men," but "when it hath been preached to [449] all." For this cause he also said, "for a witness to the nations," to show, that He doth not wait for all men to believe, and then for Him to come. Since the phrase, "for a witness," hath this meaning, "for accusation," "for reproof," "for condemnation of them that have not believed."

But we, while hearing these things and seeing them, slumber, and see dreams, sunk in a lethargy, as in some very deepest night. [450] For the things present are nothing better than dreams, whether they be prosperous, or whether they be painful. Wherefore I entreat you now at length to be awakened, and to look another way, unto the Sun of Righteousness. For no man while sleeping can see the sun, nor delight his eyes with the beauty of its beams; but whatever he may see, he beholds all as in a dream. For this cause we need much penance, and many tears; both as being in a state of insensibility while we err, and because our sins are great, and beyond excuse. And that I lie not, the more part of them that hear me are witnesses. Nevertheless, although they be beyond excuse, let us repent, and we shall receive crowns.

7. But by repentance I mean, not only to forsake our former evil deeds, but also to show forth good deeds greater than those. For, "bring forth," saith he, "fruits meet for repentance." [451] But how shall we bring them forth? If we do the opposite things: as for instance, hast thou seized by violence the goods of others? henceforth give away even thine own. Hast thou been guilty of fornication for a long time? abstain even from thy wife for certain appointed days; exercise continence. Hast thou insulted and stricken such as were passing by? Henceforth bless them that insult thee, and do good to them that smite thee. For it sufficeth not for our health to have plucked out the dart only, but we must also apply remedies to the wound. Hast thou lived in self-indulgence, and been drunken in time past? Fast, and take care to drink water, in order to destroy the mischief that hath so grown up within thee. Hast thou beheld with unchaste eyes beauty that belonged to another? Henceforth do not so much as look upon a woman at all, that thou mayest stand in more safety. For it is said, "Depart from evil, and do good;" [452] and again, "Make thy tongue to cease from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile." [453] "But tell me the good too." "Seek peace, and pursue it:" I mean not peace with man only, but also peace with God. And he hath well said, "pursue" her: for she is driven away, and cast out; she hath left the earth, and is gone to sojourn in Heaven. Yet shall we be able to bring her back again, if we will put away pride and boasting, and whatsoever things stand in her way, and will follow this temperate and frugal life. [454] For nothing is more grievous than wrath and fierce anger. This renders men both puffed up and servile, by the former making them ridiculous, by the other hateful; and bringing in opposite vices, pride and flattery, at the same time. But if we will cut off the greediness of this passion, we shall be both lowly with exactness, and exalted with safety. For in our bodies too all distempers arise from excess; and when the elements thereof leave their proper limits, and go on beyond moderation, then all these countless diseases are generated, and grievous kinds of death. Somewhat of the same kind one may see take place with respect to the soul likewise.

8. Let us therefore cut away excess, and drinking the salutary medicine of moderation, let us abide in our proper temperament, and give careful heed to our prayers. Though we receive not, let us persevere that we may receive; and if we do receive, then because we have received. For it is not at all His wish to defer giving, but by such delay He is contriving for us to persevere. With this intent He doth also lengthen out [455] what is good for us better than we do, and loves us more ardently than those who gave us birth. And let both these considerations be a charm for us to chant to ourselves in every terror that occurs, that so we may quell our despondency, and in all things glorify Him, who on our behalf doeth and ordereth all, even God.

For so we shall both easily repulse all hostile devices, and attain unto the incorruptible crowns: by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father glory, might, and honor, together with the Holy Ghost, now, and always, even for ever and ever. Amen.


[408] Matthew 24:3.

[409] Matthew 24:23.

[410] Matthew 3:15.

[411] Luke 3:2.

[412] John 1:33.

[413] John 1:31.

[414] Luke 3:3.

[415] Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4.

[416] 1 Corinthians 6:11.

[417] Acts 19:4.

[418] [zetonte, "seeking," R.V. ]

[419] Romans 10:3.

[420] katlabe [R.V. , "attained."]

[421] ephthase [R.V. , "did not arrive."]

[422] Romans 9:30-32. [See R.V. The text of Chrysostom follows one of the readings accepted by the Revisers, omitting nmou at the close of the citation; but it inserts dikaiosne (with Rec.) a second time in verse 31.--R.]

[423] Matthew 3:8.

[424] Acts 19:4.

[425] he to prgmato pthesi.

[426] thatron.

[427] oneiropolen .

[428] Isaiah 40.3.

[429] Matthew 3:8.

[430] Luke 3:5, 6.

[431] Matthew 21:31.

[432] Isaiah 11:6.

[433] t nmalon to thou.

[434] Isaiah 11:10; see also Romans 15:12. ["Hope" instead of "trust;" see foot-note on Hom. vii. 2, p. 45.--R.]

[435] Matthew 3:4.

[436] As in refusing to be supported (in several cases) by those to whom he preached the gospel. See his account of his views in so doing, 1 Corinthians 9. especially towards the end of the chapter.

[437] John 21:7.

[438] Acts 21:11.

[439] 2 Kings 1:8.

[440] Matthew 11:8.

[441] exomologseo .

[442] [t diabl. The Oxford edition has "the devils," but this is misleading, since it suggests a reference to "demons." Probably the plural is a misprint.--R.]

[443] Matthew 3:5, 6.

[444] Acts 5:36, 37.

[445] exomologesthai .

[446] Romans 13:12.

[447] Hebrews 10:37.

[448] Matthew 24:14. ["All the nations," so R.V. , and comp. what follows here.--R.]

[449] [par pnton nthrpon...par pas, is the explanation of Chrysostom, paraphrasing the New Testament passage.--R.]

[450] [en bathutt nukt.]

[451] Matthew 3:8. [R.V. , more literally, "worthy of repentance," with margin, "Or, your repentance," the Greek being t metanoa; so in the text of Chrysostom.--R.]

[452] Psalm 34:14.

[453] Psalm 34:13 [LXX. ].

[454] ["If we desire (thlomen), by putting away, pursue this temperate and frugal life."--R.]

[455] hupertthetai, used as in the word huprthesichrin edte pr pnton t edti. ]

And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

How then doth Christ say, that they did not believe John? [456] Because this was not believing, to decline receiving Him whom he preached. For so they thought they regarded their prophets and their lawgiver, nevertheless He said they had not regarded them, forasmuch as they received not Him, that was foretold by them. "For if ye had believed Moses," saith He, "ye would have believed Me." [457] And after this again, being asked by Christ, "The baptism of John, whence is it?" [458] they said, "If we shall say, Of earth, we fear the people; if we shall say, From heaven, He will say unto us, How then did ye not believe him?"

So that from all these things it is manifest that they came indeed and were baptized, yet they did not abide in the belief of that which was preached. For John also points out their wickedness, by their sending [459] unto the Baptist, and saying, "Art thou Elias? Art thou Christ?" wherefore he also added, "they which were sent were of the Pharisees." [460]

"What then? were not the multitudes also of this same mind"? one may say. Nay, the multitudes in simplicity of mind had this suspicion, but the Pharisees, wishing to lay hold of Him. For since it was acknowledged that Christ comes out of the village of David, and this man was of the tribe of Levi, they laid a snare by the question, in order that if he should say any such thing they might quickly come upon him. This at any rate he hath declared by what follows; for on his not acknowledging any of the things which they expected, even so they take hold of him, saying, "Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ?" [461]

And to convince thee that the Pharisees came with one mind, and the people with another, hear how the evangelist hath declared this too; saying of the people, "that they came and were baptized of him, confessing their sins;" [462] but concerning the Pharisees, no longer like that, but that "when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming, he said, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" O greatness of mind! How doth he discourse unto men ever thirsting after the blood of the prophets, and in disposition no better than serpents! how doth he disparage both themselves and their progenitors with all plainness!

2. "Yea," saith one; "he speaks plainly enough, but the question is if there be any reason in this plainness. For he did not see them sinning, but in the act of change; wherefore they did not deserve blame, but rather praise and approbation, for having left city and houses, and making haste to hear his preaching."

What then shall we say? That he had not things present, and even now doing, in his view, but he knew the secrets of their mind, God having revealed this. Since then they were priding themselves on their forefathers, and this was like to prove the cause of their destruction, and was casting them into a state of carelessness, he cuts away the roots of their pride. For this cause Isaiah also calls them, "rulers of Sodom," and "people of Gomorrah;" [463] and another prophet saith, "Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians;" [464] and all withdraw them from this way of thinking, bringing down their pride, which had caused them unnumbered evils.

"But the prophets," you will say, "naturally did so; for they saw them sinning: but in this case, with what view and for what cause doeth he the same, seeing them obey him." To make them yet more tender-hearted.

But if one accurately mark his words, he hath also tempered his rebuke with commendation. For he spake these things, as marveling at them, that they were become able, however late, to do what seemed almost an impossibility for them. His rebuke, you see, is rather that of one bringing them over, and working upon them to arouse themselves. For in that he appears amazed, he implies both their former wickedness to be great, and their conversion marvellous and beyond expectation. Thus, "what hath come to pass," saith he, "that being children of those men, and brought up so badly, they have repented? Whence hath come so great a change? Who hath softened down the harshness of their spirit? Who corrected that which was incurable?"

And see how straightway from the beginning he alarmed them, by laying first, for a foundation, his words concerning hell. For he spake not of the usual topics: "Who hath warned you to flee from wars, from the inroads of the barbarians, from captivities, from famines, from pestilences?" but concerning another sort of punishment, never before made manifest to them, he was striking the first preparatory note, saying thus, "Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

And full well did he likewise call them, "generation of vipers." For that animal too is said to destroy the mother that is in travail with her, and eating through her belly, thus to come forth unto light; which kind of thing these men also did being "murderers of fathers, and murderers of mothers," [465] and destroying their instructors with their own hands.

3. However, he stops not at the rebuke, but introduces advice also. For, "Bring forth," says he, "fruits meet for repentance." [466]

For to flee from wickedness is not enough, but you must show forth also great virtue. For let me not have that contradictory yet ordinary [467] case, that [468] refraining yourselves for a little while, ye return unto the same wickedness. For we are not come for the same objects as the prophets before. Nay, the things that are now are changed, and are more exalted, forasmuch as the Judge henceforth is coming, His very self, the very Lord of the kingdom, leading unto greater self-restraint, calling us to heaven, and drawing us upward to those abodes. For this cause do I unfold the doctrine also touching hell, because both the good things and the painful are for ever. Do not therefore abide as ye are, neither bring forward the accustomed pleas, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the noble race of your ancestors."

And these things he said, not as forbidding them to say that they were sprung from those holy men, but as forbidding them to put confidence in this, while they were neglecting the virtue of the soul; at once bringing forward publicly what was in their minds, and foretelling things to come. Because after this they are found to say, "We have Abraham to our father, and were never in bondage to any man." [469] Since then it was this, which most of all lifted them up with pride and ruined them, he first puts it down.

And see how with his honor paid to the patriarch he combines his correction touching these things. Namely, having said, "Think not to say, We have Abraham to our father," he said not, "for the patriarch shall not be able to profit you anything," but somehow in a more gentle and acceptable manner he intimated the self-same thing, by saying,

"For God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." [470]

Now some say, that concerning the Gentiles he saith these things, calling them stones, metaphorically; but I say, that the expression hath also another meaning. But of what kind is this? Think not, saith he, that if you should perish, you would make the patriarch childless. This is not, this is not so. For with God it is possible, both out of stones to give him men, and to bring them to that relationship; since at the beginning also it was so done. For it was like the birth of men out of stones, when a child came forth from that hardened womb.

This accordingly the prophet also was intimating, when he said, "Look unto the hard rock, whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit, whence ye are digged: look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you." [471] Now of this prophecy, you see, he reminds them, showing that if at the beginning he made him a father, as marvellously as if he had made him so out of stones, it was possible for this now also to come to pass. And see how he both alarms them, and cuts them off: in that he said not, "He had already raised up," lest they should despair of themselves, but that He "is able to raise up:" and he said not, "He is able out of stones to make men," but what was a much greater thing, "kinsmen and children of Abraham."

Seest thou how for the time he drew them off from their vain imagination about things of the body, and from their refuge in their forefathers; in order that they might rest the hope of their salvation in their own repentance and continence? Seest thou how by casting out their carnal relationship, he is bringing in that which is of faith?

4. Mark then how by what follows also he increases their alarm, and adds intensity to their agonizing fear.

For having said that "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham," he added, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees," [472] by all means making his speech alarming. For as he from his way of life had much freedom of speech, so they needed his severe rebuke, having been left barren [473] now for a long time. For "why do I say" (such are his words) "that ye are on the point of falling away from your relationship to the patriarch and of seeing others, even those that are of stones, brought in to your pre-eminence? Nay, not to this point only will your penalty reach, but your punishment will proceed further. "For now," saith he, "the axe is laid unto the root of the trees." There is nothing more terrible than this turn of his discourse. For it is no longer "a flying sickle," [474] nor "the taking down of a hedge," nor "the treading under foot of the vineyard;" [475] but an axe exceeding sharp, and what is worse, it is even at the doors. For inasmuch as they continually disbelieved the prophets, and used to say, "Where is the day of the Lord:" [476] and "let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel come, that we may know it," [477] by reason that it was many years before what they said came to pass; to lead them off from this encouragement also, he sets the terrors close to them. And this he declared by saying "now," and by his putting it to "the root." "For the space between is nothing now," saith he, "but it is laid to the very root." And he said not, "to the branches," nor "to the fruits," but "to the root." Signifying, that if they were negligent, they would have incurable horrors to endure, and not have so much as a hope of remedy. It being no servant who is now come, as those before Him were, but the very Lord of all, bringing on them His fierce and most effectual vengeance.

Yet, although he hath terrified them again, he suffers them not to fall into despair; but as before he said not "He hath raised up," but "He is able to raise up children to Abraham" (at once both alarming and comforting them); even so here also he did not say that "it hath touched the root," but "it is laid to the root, and is now hard by it, and shows signs of no delay." However, even though He hath brought it so near, He makes its cutting depend upon you. For if ye change and become better men, this axe will depart without doing anything; but if ye continue in the same ways, He will tear up the tree by the roots. And therefore, observe, it is neither removed from the root, nor applied as it is doth it cut at all: the one, that ye may not grow supine, the other to let you know that it is possible even in a short time to be changed and saved. Wherefore he doth also from all topics heighten their fear, thoroughly awakening and pressing them on to repentance. Thus first their falling away from their forefathers; next, others being introduced instead; lastly, those terrors being at their doors, the certainty of suffering incurable evils (both which he declared by the root and the axe), was sufficient to rouse thoroughly those even that were very supine, and to make them full of anxiety. I may add, that Paul too was setting forth the same, when he said, "A short word [478] will the Lord make upon the whole world." [479]

But be not afraid; or rather, be afraid, but despair not. For thou hast yet a hope of change; the sentence is not quite absolute, [480] neither did the axe come to cut (else what hindered it from cutting, close as it was to the root?); but on purpose by this fear to make thee a better man, and to prepare thee to bring forth fruit. For this cause he added, "Therefore every tree, which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire." [481] Now by the word "every," he rejects again the privilege which they had from their noble descent; "Why, if thou be Abraham's own descendant," saith he, "if thou have thousands of patriarchs to enumerate, thou wilt but undergo a double punishment, abiding unfruitful."

By these words he alarmed even publicans, the soldiers' mind was startled by him, not casting them into despair, yet ridding them of all security. For along with the terror, there is also much encouragement in what he saith; since by the expression, "which bringeth not forth good fruit," he signified that what bears fruit is delivered from all vengeance.

5. "And how," saith one, "shall we be able to bring forth fruit, when the edge is being applied, and the time so strait, and the appointed season cut short." "Thou wilt be able," saith he, "for this fruit is not of the same kind as that of common trees, waiting a long time, and in bondage to the necessities [482] of seasons, and requiring much other management; but it is enough to be willing, and the tree at once hath put forth its fruit. For not the nature of the root only, but also the skill of the husbandman contributes the most to that kind of fruit-bearing."

For (let me add) on account of this,--lest they should say, "Thou art alarming and pressing, and constraining us, applying an axe, and threatening us with being cut down, yet requiring produce in time of punishment,"--he hath added, to signify the ease of bearing that fruit, "I indeed baptize you with water, but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:" [483] implying hereby that consideration [484] only is needed and faith, not labors and toils; and as it is easy to be baptized, so is it easy to be converted, and to become better men. So having stirred their mind by the fear of God's judgment, and the expectation of His punishment, and by the mention of the axe, and by the loss of their ancestors, and by the bringing in of those other children, and by the double vengeance of cutting off and burning, and having by all means softened their hardness, and brought them to desire deliverance from so great evils; then he brings in what he hath to say touching Christ; and not simply, but with a declaration of His great superiority. Then in setting forth the difference between himself and Him, lest he should seem to say this out of favor, he establishes the fact by comparison of the gifts bestowed by each of them. For he did not at once say, "I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe;" but when he had first set forth the little value of his own baptism, and had shown that it hath nothing more than to lead them to repentance (for he did not say with water of remission, but of repentance), he sets forth Christ's also, which is full of the unspeakable gift. Thus he seems to say, "Lest, on being told that He cometh after me, thou shouldest despise Him as having come later; learn thou the virtue [485] of His gift, and thou wilt clearly know that I uttered nothing worthy nor great, when I said, "I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe." So too when thou art told, "He is mightier than I," do not think I said this in the way of making a comparison. For I am not worthy to be ranked so much as among His servants, no, not even the lowest of His servants, nor to receive the least honored portion of His ministry." Therefore He did not merely say, "His shoes," but not even "the latchet," which kind of office was counted the last of all. Then to hinder thy attributing what he had said to humility, he adds also the proof from the facts: "For He shall baptize you," saith he, "with the Holy Ghost and with fire."

6. Seest thou how great is the wisdom of the Baptist? how, when He Himself is preaching, He saith everything to alarm, and fill them with anxiety; but when He is sending men to Him, whatever was mild and apt to recover them: not bringing forward the axe, nor the tree that is cut down and burnt, and cast into the fire, nor the wrath to come, but remission of sins, and removing of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and brotherhood, and a partaking of the inheritance, and an abundant supply of the Holy Ghost. For all these things he obscurely denoted, when he said, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost;" at once, by the very figure of speech, declaring the abundance of the grace (for he said not, "He will give you the Holy Ghost," but "He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost"); and by the specification of fire on the other hand indicating the vehement and uncontrollable quality of His grace.

Imagine only what sort of men it was meet for the hearers to become, when they considered that they were at once to be like the prophets, and like those great ones. For it was on this account, you see, that he made mention at all of fire; that he might lead them to reflect on the memory of those men. Because, of all the visions that appeared unto them, I had almost said, the more part appeared in fire; thus God discoursed with Moses in the bush, thus with all the people in the mount Sinai, thus with Ezekiel on the cherubim. [486]

And mark again how he rouses the hearer, by putting that first which was to take place after all. For the Lamb was to be slain, and sin to be blotted out, and the enmity to be destroyed, and the burial to take place, and the resurrection, and then the Spirit to come. But none of these things doth he mention as yet, but that first which was last, and for the sake of which all the former were done, and which was fittest to proclaim His dignity; so that when the hearer should be told that he was to receive so great a Spirit he might search with himself, how and in what manner this shall be, while sin so prevails; that finding him full of thought and prepared for that lesson, he might thereupon introduce what he had to say touching the Passion, no man being any more offended, under the expectation of such a gift.

Wherefore he again cried out, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which beareth the sin of the world." [487] He did not say, "which remitteth," but, that which implies a more guardian care, "which heareth it." For it is not all one, simply to remit, and to take it upon Himself. [488] For the one was to be done without peril, the other with death.

And again, he said, "He is Son of God." [489] But not even this declared His rank openly to the hearers (for they did not so much as know yet how to conceive of Him as a true Son): but by so great a gift of the Spirit that also was established. Therefore the Father also in sending John gave him, as you know, this as a first token of the dignity of Him that was come, saying, "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." [490] Wherefore himself too saith, "I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God;" as though the one were to all time the clear evidence of the other.

7. Then, as having uttered the gentler part of his message, and soothed and relaxed the hearer, he again binds him up, that he may not become remiss. For such was the nature of the Jewish nation; by all encouraging things they were easily puffed up, and corrupted. Wherefore he again adduces his terrors, saying, "Whose fan is in His hand." [491]

Thus, as before he had spoken of the punishment, so here he points out the Judge likewise, and introduces the eternal vengeance. For "He will burn the chaff," saith he, "with unquenchable fire." Thou seest that He is Lord of all things, and that He is Himself the Husbandman; albeit in another place He calls His Father the same. For "My Father," saith He, "is the Husbandman." [492] Thus, inasmuch as He had spoken of an axe, lest thou shouldest suppose that the thing needed labor, and the separation was hard to make; by another comparison he suggests the easiness of it, implying that all the world is His; since He could not punish those who were not His own. For the present, it is true, all are mingled together (for though the wheat appears gleaming through, yet it lies with the chaff, as on a threshing floor, not as in a garner), but then, great will be the separation.

Where now are they by whom hell-fire [493] is disbelieved? Since surely here are two points laid down, one, that He will baptize with the Holy Ghost, the other, that He will burn up the disobedient. If then that is credible, so is this too, assuredly. Yea, this is why the two predictions are put by him in immediate connection, that by that which hath taken place already, he might accredit the other, as yet unaccomplished. For Christ too Himself in many places doth so, often of the same things, and often of opposites, setting down two prophecies; the one of which He performs here, the other He promises in the future; that such as are too contentious may, from the one which has already come to pass, believe the other also, which is not yet accomplished. For instance, to them that strip themselves of all that they have for His sake [494] He promised to give an hundred fold in the present world, and life eternal in that which is to come; by the things already given making the future also credible. Which, as we see, John likewise hath done in this place; laying down two things, that He shall both baptize with the Holy Ghost, and burn up with unquenchable fire. Now then, if He had not baptized with the Spirit the apostles, and all every day who are willing, thou mightest have doubts concerning those other things too; but if that which seems to be greater and more difficult, and which transcends all reason, hath been done, and is done every day; how deniest thou that to be true, which is easy, and comes to pass according to reason? Thus having said, "He shall baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire," and having thence promised great blessings; lest thou, released wholly from the former things, grow supine, he hath added the fan, and the judgment thereby declared. Thus, "think not at all," saith he, "that your baptism suffices, if ye become ordinary persons [495] hereafter:" for we need both virtue, and plenty of that known self-restraint. [496] Therefore as by the axe he urges them unto grace, and unto the font, so after grace he terrifies them by the fan, and the unquenchable fire. And of the one sort, those yet unbaptized, he makes no distinction, but saith in general, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down," [497] punishing all the unbelievers. Whereas after baptism He works out a kind of division, because many of them that believed would exhibit a life unworthy of their faith.

Let no man then become chaff, let no one be tossed to and fro, nor lie exposed to wicked desires, blown about by them easily every way. For if thou continue wheat, though temptation be brought on thee, thou wilt suffer nothing dreadful; nay, for in the threshing floor, the wheels of the car, that are like saws, [498] do not cut in pieces the wheat; but if thou fall away into the weakness of chaff, thou wilt both here suffer incurable ills, being smitten of all men, and there thou wilt undergo the eternal punishment. For all such persons both before that furnace become food for the irrational passions here, as chaff is for the brute animal: and there again they are material and food for the flame.

Now to have said directly that He will judge men's doings, would not so effectually procure acceptance for His doctrine: but to blend with it the parable, and so establish it all, was apter to persuade the hearer, and attract him by a more ample encouragement. Wherefore also Christ Himself [499] for the most part so discourses with them; threshing floor, and harvest, and vineyard, and wine-press, and field, and net, and fishing, and all things familiar, and among which they were busied He makes ingredients in His discourses. This kind of thing then the Baptist likewise did here, and offered an exceeding great demonstration of his words, the giving of the Spirit. For "He who hath so great power, as both to forgive sins, and to give the Spirit, much more will these things also be within His power:" so he speaks.

Seest thou how now in due order the mystery [500] came to be laid as a foundation, before the resurrection and judgment? [501]

"And wherefore," it may be said, "did he not mention the signs and wonders which were straightway to be done by Him?" Because this was greater than all, and for its sake all those were done. Thus, in his mention of the chief thing, he comprehended all; death dissolved, sins abolished, the curse blotted out, those long wars done away; our entrance into paradise, [502] our ascent into heaven, our citizenship with the angels, our partaking of the good things to come: for in truth this is the earnest of them all. So that in mentioning this, he hath mentioned also the resurrection of our bodies, and the manifestation of His miracles here, and our partaking of His kingdom, and the good things, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man." [503] For all these things He bestowed on us by that gift. It was therefore superfluous to speak of the signs that were immediately to ensue, and which sight can judge of; but those were meet to be discoursed on, whereof they doubted; as for instance, that He is the Son of God; that He exceeds John beyond comparison; that He "beareth [504] the sin of the world;" that He will require an account of all that we do; that our interests are not limited to the present, but elsewhere every one will undergo the due penalty. For these things were not as yet proveable by sight.

8. Therefore, knowing these things, let us use great diligence, while we are in the threshing floor; for it is possible while we are here, to change even out of chaff into wheat, even as on the other hand many from wheat have become chaff. Let us not then be supine, nor be carried about with every wind; neither let us separate ourselves from our brethren, though they seem to be small and mean; forasmuch as the wheat also compared with the chaff is less in measure, but better in nature. Look not therefore to the forms of outward pomp, for they are prepared for the fire, but to this godly humility, so firm and indissoluble, and which cannot be cut, neither is burnt by the fire. It being for their sake that He bears long with the very chaff, that by their intercourse with them they may become better. Therefore judgment is not yet, that we may be all crowned together, that from wickedness many may be converted unto virtue.

Let us tremble then at hearing this parable. For indeed that fire is unquenchable. "And how," it may be said, "is it unquenchable?" Seest thou not this sun ever burning, and never quenched? didst thou not behold the bush burning, and not consumed? If then thou also desirest to escape the flame, lay up alms beforehand, and so thou wilt not even taste of that fire. For if, while here, thou wilt believe what is told thee, thou shalt not so much as see this furnace, after thy departure into that region; but if thou disbelieve it now, thou shalt know it there full well by experience, when no sort of escape is possible. Since in truth no entreaty shall avert the punishment from them who have not shown forth an upright life. For believing surely is not enough, since even the devils tremble at God, but for all that they will be punished.

9. Wherefore our care of our conduct hath need to be great. Why, this is the very reason of our continually assembling you here; not simply that ye should enter in, but that ye should also reap some fruit from your continuance here. But if ye come indeed constantly, but go away again reaping no fruit from thence, ye will have no advantage from your entering in and attendance in this place.

For if we, when sending children to teachers, should we see them reaping no benefit thereby, begin to be severe in blaming the teachers, and remove them often to others; what excuse shall we have for not bestowing upon virtue even so much diligence as upon these earthly things, but forever bringing our tablets home empty? And yet our teachers here are more in number and greater. For no less than prophets and apostles and patriarchs, and all righteous men, are by us set over you as teachers in every Church. And not even so is there any profit, but if you have joined in chanting two or three Psalms, and making the accustomed prayers at random and anyhow, are so dismissed, ye think this enough for your salvation. Have ye not heard the prophet, saying (or rather God by the prophet), "This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me?" [505]

Therefore, lest this be our case too, wipe thou out the letters, or rather the impressions, which the devil hath engraven in thy soul; and bring me a heart set free from worldly tumults, that without fear I may write on it what I will. Since now at least there is nothing else to discern, except his letters;--rapines, covetings, envy, jealousy. Wherefore of course, when I receive your tablets, I am not able so much as to read them. For I find not the letters, which we every Lord's day inscribe on you, and so let you go; but others, instead of these, unintelligible and misshapen. Then, when we have blotted them out, and have written those which are of the Spirit, ye departing, and giving up your hearts to the works of the devil, give him again power to substitute his own characters in you. What then will be the end of all this, even without any words of mine, each man's own conscience knoweth. For I indeed will not cease to do my part, and to write in you the right letters. But if ye mar our diligence, for our part our reward is unaltered, but your danger is not small.

Now, though I would fain say nothing to disgust you, yet I beseech again and entreat you, [506] imitate at least the little children's diligence in these matters. For so they first learn the form of the letters, after that they practise themselves in distinguishing them put out of shape, and then at last in their reading they proceed orderly by means of them. Just so let us also do; let us divide virtue, and learn first not to swear, nor to forswear ourselves, nor to speak evil; then proceeding to another row, [507] not to envy, not to lust, not to be gluttonous, not to be drunken, not fierce, not slothful, so that from these we may pass on again to the things of the Spirit, and practise continence, and neglect of the belly, temperance, righteousness, to be above glory, and gentle and contrite in mind; and let us join these one with another, and write them upon our soul.

10. And all these let us practise at home, with our own friends, with our wife, with our children. And, for the present, let us begin with the things that come first, and are easier; as for instance, with not swearing; and let us practise this one letter continually at home. For, in truth, there are many at home to hinder this our practice; sometimes a man's servant provoking him, sometimes his wife annoying and angering him, sometimes an indocile and disorderly child urges him on to threatening and swearing. If now at home, when thus continually galled, thou shouldest attain not to be tempted into swearing, thou wilt in the market-place also have power with ease to abide unconquered.

Yea, and in like sort, thou wilt attain to keep thyself from insulting any, by not insulting thy wife, nor thy servants, nor any one else among those in thy house. For a man's wife too not seldom, praising this or that person, or bemoaning herself, stirs him up to speak evil of that other. But do not thou let thyself be constrained to speak evil of him that is praised, but bear it all nobly. And if thou shouldest perceive thy servants praising other masters, be not perturbed, but stand nobly. Let thy home be a sort of lists, a place of exercise for virtue, that having trained thyself well there, thou mayest with entire skill encounter all abroad.

Do this with respect to vainglory also. For if thou train thyself not to be vainglorious in company of thy wife and thy servants, thou wilt not ever afterwards be easily caught by this passion with regard to any one else. For though this malady be in every case grievous and tyrannical, yet is it so especially when a woman is present. If we therefore in that instance put down its power, we shall easily master it in the other cases also.

And with respect to the other passions too, let us do this self-same thing, exercising ourselves against them at home, and anointing ourselves every day.

And that our exercise may be easier, let us further enact a penalty for ourselves, upon our transgressing any of our purposes. And let the very penalty again be such as brings with it not loss, but reward,--such as procures some very great gain. And this is so, if we sentence ourselves to intenser fastings, and to sleeping often on the bare ground, and to other like austerity. For in this way will much profit come unto us from every quarter; we shall both live the sweet life of virtue here, and we shall attain unto the good things to come and be perpetually friends of God.

But in order that the same may not happen again,--that ye may not, having here admired what is said, go your way, and cast aside at random, wherever it may chance, the tablet of your mind, and so allow the devil to blot out these things;--let each one, on returning home, call his own wife, and tell her these things, and take her to help him; and from this day let him enter into that noble school of exercise, using for oil the supply of the Spirit. And though thou fall once, twice, many times in thy training, despair not, but stand again, and wrestle; and do not give up until thou hast bound on thee the glorious crown of triumph over the devil, and hast for the time to come stored up the riches of virtue in an inviolable treasure-house.

For if thou shouldest establish thyself in the habits of this noble self-restraint, then, not even when remiss, wilt thou be able to transgress any of the commandments, habit imitating the solidity of nature. Yea, as to sleep is easy, and to eat, and to drink, and to breathe, so also will the deeds of virtue be easy to us, and we shall reap to ourselves that pure pleasure, resting in a harbor without a wave, and enjoying continual calm, and with a great freight bringing our vessel into haven, in that City, on that day; and we shall attain unto the undecaying crowns, unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory and might, now and always, and world without end. Amen.


[456] Luke 20:5.

[457] John 5:46.

[458] Matthew 21:25, 26.

[459] ["When some of them were sending."--R.]

[460] John 1:24.

[461] John 1:25.

[462] Matthew 3:6.

[463] Isaiah 1:10.

[464] Amos 9:7.

[465] 1 Timothy 1:9.

[466] [R.V. , "worth of repentance," marg., "your repentance."]

[467] [sunthe ]

[468] The correct reading seems to be hote, "when," not hoti, "that."--R]

[469] John 8:33.

[470] Matthew 3:9.

[471] Isaiah 51:1, 2.

[472] Matthew 3:10. [R.V. , "And even now is the axe laid," etc.--R.]

[473] chersothnte.

[474] Zechariah 5:1, LXX.

[475] Isaiah 5:5.

[476] See Amos 5:18; Jeremiah 17:15; Ezekiel 12:22, 27.

[477] Isaiah 5:19.

[478] lgon.

[479] Romans 9:28.

[480] atotels, self-executed.

[481] Matthew 3:10.

[482] ananka.

[483] Matthew 3:11. Comp. Luke 3:16. [In neither passage is the preposition repeated in the Greek text. Chrysostom (see sec. 6) interprets "fire" as part of the blessing promised. So many modern commentators.--R.]

[484] [gnme.]

[485] [dnamin.]

[486] Ezekiel 1:27.

[487] John 1:29; Engl. Vers. in marg. [So R.V. marg. The Greek phrase is ho aron, "he that taketh up."--R.]

[488] [atn nalaben is the better supported reading, but various conjectural emendations occur. "Himself to assume it," is the most literal rendering.--R.]

[489] John 1:34.

[490] John 1:33, 34. [ R.V. more correctly, "I have seen, and have borne witness," etc. The Greek perfects are to be taken in their grammatical sense, as the comment of Chrysostom implies.--R.]

[491] Matthew 3:12.

[492] John 15:1.

[493] [genn.]

[494] Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30.

[495] [phaloi, "worthless."--R.]

[496] philosopha.

[497] Matthew 3:10.

[498] pristeroeid, see Isaiah 40.15.

[499] [The better supported text seems to be ats, without ho christs; the latter is an explanatory gloss.--R.]

[500] "The Mystery:" i. e., Christ's Baptism by Fire, His dwelling in our hearts by His Spirit. Comp. Colossians 1:26, 27; Ephesians 1:9, 10; iii. 9.

[501] Hebrews 6:1, 2.

[502] ["The loosing of death, the abolition of sins," etc., "the entrance into Paradise," etc. The construction is the same throughout the list.--R.]

[503] 1 Corinthians 2:9.

[504] [See note 3 on sec. 6, p. 71.--R.]

[505] Isaiah 29:13; comp. Mark 7:6.

[506] [The first clause stands independently in the Greek text, forming the conclusion of the preceding paragraph. The new exhortation begins, "But I beseech again," etc.--R.]

[507] stchon.

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan," etc.

With the servants the Lord, with the criminals the Judge, cometh to be baptized. But be not thou troubled; for in these humiliations His exaltation doth most shine forth. For He who vouchsafed to be borne so long in a Virgin's womb, and to come forth thence with our nature, and to be smitten with rods, and crucified, and to suffer all the rest which He suffered;--why marvellest thou if He vouchsafed also to be baptized, and to come with the rest to His servant. For the amazement lay in that one thing, that being God, He would be made Man; but the rest after this all follows in course of reason.

For this cause, let me add, John also by way of anticipation said all that he had said before, that he "was not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe;" and all the rest, as for instance, that He is Judge, and rewards every man according to his desert, and that He will bestow His Spirit abundantly on all; in order that when thou shouldest see Him coming to the baptism, thou mightest not suspect anything mean. Therefore he forbids Him, even when He was come, saying,

"I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me." [508] For, because the baptism was "of repentance," and led men to accuse themselves for their offenses, lest any one should suppose that He too "cometh to Jordan" in this sort of mind, John sets it right beforehand, by calling Him both Lamb, and Redeemer from all the sin that is in the world. Since He that was able to take away the sins of the whole race of men, much more was He Himself without sin. For this cause then he said not, "Behold, He that is without sin," but what was much more, He "that beareth the sin of the world," in order that together with this truth thou mightest receive that other with all assurance, and having received it mightest perceive, that in the conduct of some further economy He cometh to the baptism. Wherefore also he said to Him when He came, "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?"

And he said not, "And art Thou baptized of me?" nay, for this he feared to say: but what? "And comest Thou to me?" What then doth Christ? What He did afterwards with respect to Peter, this did He then also. For so he too would have forbidden Him to wash his feet, but when he had heard, "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter," and "thou hast no part with me," [509] he speedily withdrew from his determination, and went over to the contrary. And this man again in like manner, when he had heard, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness," [510] straightway obeyed. For they were not unduly contentious, but they manifested both love and obedience, and made it their study to be ruled by their Lord in all things.

And mark how He urges him on that very ground which chiefly caused him to look doubtfully on what was taking place; in that He did not say, "thus it is just," but "thus it becometh." For, inasmuch as the point unworthy of Him was in his mind chiefly this, His being baptized by His servant, He stated this rather than anything else, which is directly opposed to that impression: as though He had said, "Is it not as unbecoming that thou avoidest and forbiddest this? nay, for this self-same cause I bid thee suffer it, that it is becoming, and that in the highest degree."

And He did not merely say, "suffer," but He added, "now." "For it will not be so forever," saith He, "but thou shalt see me such as thou desirest; for the present, however, endure this." Next He shows also how this "becometh" Him. How then doth it so? "In that we fulfill the whole law;" and to express this He said, "all righteousness." For righteousness is the fulfilling of the commandments. "Since then we have performed all the rest of the commandments," saith He, "and this alone remains, it also must be added: because I am come to do away the curse that is appointed for the transgression of the law. I must therefore first fulfill it all, and having delivered you from its condemnation, in this way bring it to an end. It becometh me therefore to fulfill the whole law, by the same rule that it becometh me to do away the curse that is written against you in the law: this being the very purpose of my assuming flesh, and coming hither."

2. "Then he suffereth Him. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him." [511]

For inasmuch as many supposed that John was greater than He, because John had been brought up all his time in the wilderness, and was son of a chief priest, and was clothed with such raiment, and was calling all men unto his baptism, and had been born of a barren mother; while Jesus, first of all, was of a damsel of ordinary rank (for the virgin birth was not yet manifest to all); and besides, He had been brought up in an house, and held converse with all men, and wore this common raiment; they suspected Him to be less than John, knowing as yet nothing of those secret things;--and it fell out moreover that He was baptized of John, which thing added support to this surmise, even if none of those mentioned before had existed; for it would come into their mind that this man was one of the many (for were He not one of the many, He would not have come with the many to the baptism), but that John was greater than He and far more admirable:--in order therefore that this opinion might not prevail with the multitude, the very heavens are opened, when He is baptized, and the Spirit comes down, and a voice with the Spirit, proclaiming the dignity of the Only Begotten. For since the voice that said, "This is my beloved Son," would seem to the multitude rather to belong to John, for It added not, "This that is baptized," but simply This, and every hearer would conceive it to be said concerning the baptizer, rather than the baptized, partly on account of the Baptist's own dignity, partly for all that hath been mentioned; the Spirit came in form of a dove, drawing the voice towards Jesus, and making it evident to all, that This was not spoken of John that baptized, but of Jesus who was baptized.

And how was it, one may say, that they did not believe, when these things came to pass? Because in the days of Moses also many wonderful works were done, albeit not such as these; and after all those, the voices, and the trumpets, and the lightnings, they both forged a calf, and "were joined unto Baal-peor." And those very persons too, who were present at the time, and saw Lazarus arise, so far from believing in Him, who had wrought these things, repeatedly attempted even to slay Him. Now if seeing before their eyes one rise from the dead, they were so wicked, why marvel at their not receiving a voice wafted from above? Since when a soul is uncandid and perverse, and possessed by the disease of envy, it yields to none of these things; even as when it is candid it receives all with faith, and hath no great need of these.

Speak not therefore thus, "They believed not," but rather inquire, "Did not all things take place which ought to have made them believe?" For by the prophet also God frames this kind of defense of His own ways in general. That is, the Jews being on the point of ruin, and of being given over to extreme punishment; lest any from their wickedness should calumniate His providence, He saith, "What ought I to have done to this vineyard, that I have not done?" [512] Just so here likewise do thou reflect; "what ought to have been done, and was not done?" And indeed whensoever arguments arise on God's Providence, do thou make use of this kind of defense, against those who from the wickedness of the many try to raise a prejudice against it. See, for instance, what astonishing things are done, preludes of those which were to come; for it is no more paradise, but Heaven that is opened.

But let our argument with the Jews stand over unto some other time; for the present, God working with us, we would direct our discourse to what is immediately before us.

3. "And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and lo! the heavens were opened unto Him." [513]

Wherefore were the heavens opened? To inform thee that at thy baptism also this is done, God calling thee to thy country on high, and persuading thee to have nothing to do with earth. And if thou see not, yet never doubt it. For so evermore at the beginnings of all wonderful and spiritual transactions, sensible visions appear, and such-like signs, for the sake of them that are somewhat dull in disposition, and who have need of outward sight, and who cannot at all conceive an incorporeal nature, but are excited only by the things that are seen: that so, though afterward no such thing occur, what hath been declared by them once for all at the first may be received by thy faith.

For in the case of the apostles too, there was a "sound of a mighty wind," [514] and visions of fiery tongues appeared, but not for the apostles' sake, but because of the Jews who were then present. Nevertheless, even though no sensible signs take place, we receive the things that have been once manifested by them. Since the dove itself at that time therefore appeared, that as in place of a finger (so to say) it might point out to them that were present, and to John, the Son of God. Not however merely on this account, but to teach thee also, that upon thee no less at thy baptism the Spirit comes. But since then we have no need of sensible vision, faith sufficing instead of all. For signs are "not for them that believe, but for them that believe not." [515]

But why in the fashion of a dove? Gentle is that creature, and pure. Forasmuch then as the Spirit too is "a Spirit of meekness," [516] He therefore appears in this sort. And besides, He is reminding us of an ancient history. For so, when once a common shipwreck had overtaken the whole world, and our race was in danger of perishing, this creature appeared, and indicated the deliverance from the tempest, and bearing an olive branch, [517] published the good tidings of the common calm of the whole world; all which was a type of the things to come. For in fact the condition of men was then much worse, and they deserved a much sorer punishment. To prevent thy despairing, therefore, He reminds thee of that history. Because then also, when things were desperate, there was a sort of deliverance and reformation; but then by punishment, now, on the contrary, by grace and an unspeakable gift. [518] Therefore the dove also appears, not bearing an olive branch, but pointing out to us our Deliverer from all evils, and suggesting the gracious hopes. For not from out of an ark doth she lead one man only, but the whole world she leads up into heaven at her appearing, and instead of a branch of peace from an olive, she conveys the adoption to all the world's offspring in common.

Reflect now on the greatness of the gift, and do not account His dignity the less for His appearing in such a likeness. For I actually hear some saying, [519] that "such as is the difference between a man and a dove, so great is that between Christ and the Spirit: since the one appeared in our nature, the other in the likeness of a dove." What must we say then to these things? That the Son of God did indeed take upon Him the nature of man, but the Spirit took not on Him the nature of a dove. Therefore the evangelist also said not, "in the nature of a dove," but "in the form of a dove." Accordingly, never after did He so much as appear in this fashion, but at that moment only. And if on this account thou affirmest His dignity to be less, the cherubim too will be made out by this reasoning much His superior, even as much so as an eagle is to a dove: because they too were figured into that visible shape. And the angels too superior again, for they no less have many times appeared in the fashion of men. But these things are not so, indeed they are not. For the truth of an economy is one thing, and the condescension of a temporary vision another.

Do not now, I pray thee, become unthankful towards thy Benefactor nor with the very contraries [520] requite Him that hath bestowed on thee the fountain of blessedness. For where adoption is vouchsafed, there is also the removing of evils, and the giving of all good things.

4. On this very account the Jewish baptism ceases, and ours takes its beginning. And what was done with regard to the Passover, the same ensues in the baptism also. For as in that case too, He acting with a view to both, brought the one to an end, but to the other He gave a beginning: so here, having fulfilled the Jewish baptism, He at the same time opens also the doors of that of the Church; as on one table then, so in one river now, He had both sketched out the shadow, and now adds the truth. For this baptism alone hath the grace of the Spirit, but that of John was destitute of this gift. For this very cause in the case of the others that were baptized no such thing came to pass, but only in the instance of Him who was to hand on [521] this; in order that, besides what we have said, thou mightest learn this also, that not the purity of the baptizer, but the power of the baptized, had this effect. Not until then, assuredly, were either the heavens opened, nor did the Spirit make His approach. [522] Because henceforth He leads us away from the old to the new polity, both opening to us the gates on high, and sending down His Spirit from thence to call us to our country there; and not merely to call us, but also with the greatest mark of dignity. For He hath not made us angels and archangels, but He hath caused us to become "sons of God," and "beloved," and so He draws us on towards that portion of ours.

Having then all this in thy mind, do thou show forth a life worthy of the love of Him who calls thee, and of thy citizenship in that world, and of the honor that is given thee. Crucified as thou art to the world, and having crucified it to thyself, show thyself with all strictness a citizen of the city of the heavens. And do not, because thy body is not translated unto heaven, suppose that thou hast anything to do with the earth; for thou hast thy Head abiding above. Yea with this very purpose the Lord, having first come here and having brought His angels, did then, taking thee with Him, depart thither; that even before thy going up to that place, thou mightest understand that it is possible for thee to inhabit earth as it were heaven.

Let us then keep watch over that noble birth, which we received from the beginning; and let us every day seek more and more the palaces there, and account all that is here to be a shadow and a dream. For so, had any king among those on earth, finding thee poor and a beggar, made thee suddenly his son, never wouldest thou have thought upon thy cottage, and thy cottage's mean appointments. Yet surely in that case the difference is not much. Do not then either in this case take account of any of the former things, for thou art called unto much greater. For both He who calls is the Lord of the angels, and the good things that are given surpass all both word and thought. Since not from earth to earth doth He remove thee, as the king doth, but from earth to heaven, and from a mortal nature to an immortal, and to glory unspeakable, then only possible to be properly manifested, when we shall actually enjoy it.

Now then, having to partake of such blessings, do I see thee minding money, and clinging to the pomp which is here? And dost thou not esteem all that is seen to be more vile than beggars rags? And how wilt thou appear worthy of this honor? And what excuse wilt thou have to plead? or rather, what punishment wilt thou not have to suffer, who after so great a gift art running to thy former vomit? For no longer art thou punished merely as a man, but as a son of God that hath sinned; and the greatness of thy honor becomes a mean of bringing a sorer punishment on thee. Since we too punish not equally slaves that do wrong, and sons committing the same offense; and most of all when they have received some great kindness from us.

For if he who had paradise for his portion, for one disobedience underwent such dreadful things after his honor; we, who have received Heaven, and are become joint heirs with the Only Begotten, what excuse shall we have, for running to the serpent after the dove? For it will be no longer, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," [523] and thou "tillest the ground," [524] and those former words, that will be said to us; [525] but what is far more grievous than these, the "outer darkness," [526] the bonds that may not be burst, the venomous worm, the "gnashing of teeth;" and this with great reason. For he that is not made better even by so great a benefit, would justly suffer the most extreme, and a yet more grievous punishment. Elias once opened and shut Heaven, but that was to bring down rain, and restrain it; whereas to thee the heaven is not so opened, but in order for thee to ascend thither; and what is yet more, not to ascend only, but to lead up others also, if thou wilt; such great confidence and power hath He bestowed on thee in all that is His.

5. Forasmuch then as our house is there, there let us store up all, and leave nothing here, lest we lose it. For here, though thou put a lock on it, and doors, and bars, and set thousands of servants to watch it; though thou get the better of all the crafty ones, though thou escape the eyes of the envious, the worms, the wasting that comes of time; which is impossible;--death at any rate thou wilt never escape, but wilt be deprived of all those things in one moment of time; and not deprived of them only, but wilt have to transfer them into the hands often of thy very enemies. Whereas if thou wouldest transfer them into that house, thou wilt be far above all. For there is no need to apply either key, or doors, or bars; such is the virtue [527] of that city, so inviolable is this place, and by nature inaccessible to corruption and all wickedness.

How then is it not of the utmost folly, where destruction and waste is the lot of all that is stored, there to heap up all, but where things abide untouched and increase, there not to lay up even the least portion; and this, when we are to live there forever? For this cause the very heathens [528] disbelieve the things that we say, since our doings, not our sayings, are the demonstration which they are willing to receive from us; and when they see us building ourselves fine houses, and laying out gardens and baths, and buying fields, they are not willing to believe that we are preparing for another sort of residence away from our city.

"For if this were so," say they, "they would turn to money all they have here, and lay them up beforehand there;" and this they divine from the things that are done in this world. For so we see those who are very rich getting themselves houses and fields and all the rest, chiefly in those cities in which they are to stay. But we do the contrary; and with all earnest zeal we get possession of the earth, which we are soon after to leave; giving up not money only, but even our very blood for a few acres and tenements: while for the purchase of Heaven we do not endure to give even what is beyond our wants, and this though we are to purchase it at a small price, and to possess it forever, provided we had once purchased it.

Therefore I say we shall suffer the utmost punishment, departing thither naked and poor; or rather it will not be for our own poverty that we shall undergo these irremediable calamities, but also for our making others to be such as ourselves. For when heathens see them that have partaken of so great mysteries earnest about these matters, much more will they cling themselves to the things heaping much fire upon our head. For when we, who ought to teach them to despise all things that appear, do ourselves most of all urge them to the lust of these things; when shall it be possible for us to be saved, having to give account for the perdition of others? Hearest thou not Christ say, that He left us to be for salt and for lights in this world, in order that we may both brace up [529] those that are melting in luxury, and enlighten them that are darkened by the care of wealth? When therefore we even cast them into more thorough darkness, and make them more dissolute, what hope shall we have of salvation? There is none at all; but wailing and gnashing our teeth, and bound hand and foot, we shall depart into the fire of hell, after being full well worn down by the cares of riches.

Considering then all these things, let us loose the bands of such deceit, that we may not at all fall into those things which deliver us over to the unquenchable fire. For he that is a slave to money, the chains both here and there will have him continually liable to them; but he that is rid of this desire will attain to freedom from both. Unto which that we also may attain, let us break in pieces the grievous yoke of avarice, and make ourselves wings toward Heaven; by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.


[508] Matthew 3:14.

[509] John 13:7, 8.

[510] Matthew 3:15. [R.V. , "Suffer it (or me) now, for thus it becometh," etc.--R.]

[511] Matthew 3:15, 16. [R.V. , "from the water," and "coming" for "lighting."--R.]

[512] Isaiah 5:4. [Chrysostom varies from the LXX. , introducing me dei, to strengthen his argument.--R.]

[513] Matthew 3:16.

[514] Acts 2:2.

[515] 1 Corinthians 14:22.

[516] Galatians 6:1. [The immediate reference in Galatians 6:1 is not to the Holy Spirit, yet there is a suggestion of the influence of the Holy Spirit.--R.]

[517] Genesis 8.p>[518] 2 Corinthians 9:15.

[519] i. e., the Macedonians, who were censured at Constantinople, A.D. 381.

[520] "The contraries:" for whereas the Spirit came to exalt, and make us partakers of the Divine Nature, the heretics would degrade Him to something like our own.

[521] [paradidnai; "hand down" would express the sense more clearly.--R.]

[522] [The sentence in the Greek is not negative but affirmative: "Then assuredly" both these events occurred.--R.]

[523] Genesis 3:19.

[524] Genesis 4:12. [The LXX. has g in both passages. The verbal suggestion of the original may be retained by rendering: "Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return," and thou "tillest the earth."--R.]

[525] [Literally, "that we shall hear."--R.]

[526] Matthew 25:30.

[527] [dnami ]

[528] [Ellene.] "Greeks." But the ecclesiastical use is correctly given in the translation. In the New Testament, the term was equivalent to "Gentiles," as opposed to Jews; but was afterwards applied to heathen as opposed to Christians. See Sophocles Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine periods, sub voce.--R.]

[529] [episphngomen, The verb means "to bind tight," and is variously applied.--R.]

But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom
Text Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

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