The Homilies of St. Chrysostom on St. Matthew were undoubtedly delivered at Antioch (see Hom. vii. p. 43) and probably in the latter part of the time during which he preached as a Presbyter. Montfaucon considers his little mention of the sin of swearing a sign of his having accomplished some reformation on that point by his previous exertions. In the Homilies delivered from 386 to 388, it is a constant topic; and the Homilies known to belong to that date are so numerous, as scarcely leave room for such a series as the present. These, however, contain very little to mark the period to which they belong. The argument from his reference to dissensions some time gone by, possibly those between St. Meletius and Paulinus and Evagrius, in commenting on St. Matt. xxiii. 6. is not very conclusive.
A modern reader must sometimes be struck with finding in St. Chrysostom a kind of criticism, which we are apt to think belongs only to later times. His main object, however, is moral, and he searches out with diligence both the meaning and the applications of particular passages, usually concluding with an eloquent exhortation to some special virtue. Some of the most remarkable of these exhortations are on the subject of Alms-giving, which he seems to have pressed with some success at last. His calculation in Hom. lxvi. as to what might be done, is somewhat curious. In the end of Hom. lxxxviii. he demands a reformation as the condition of his entering on the controversy with Infidels. In the next Homily he discusses the evidence of the Resurrection with nearly the same arguments as would still be used against an objector.
The Theatres are the theme of his frequent reprobation, and the Monks of the mountains near Antioch of his praise. In Hom. lxix. and lxx. he describes their mode of life as an edifying example to all. He frequently attacks the Anomœan or extreme Arian Heresy, and sometimes also the Manichæan. It is perhaps worth while to recollect the nearly contemporaneous prevalence of Manichæism in the West, as it appears in the early history of St. Augustine. In Hom. lxxxvi. there are some remarks on the device of Satan by which evil is introduced by little and little, which are worthy of consideration as applicable to the growth of erroneous doctrine and practice within the Church.
For all information with respect to the Text and Manuscripts of these Homilies, the learned reader is referred to the Greek Edition of Mr. Field, which has been of great service, as affording a safe basis for the Translation. The paucity of materials possessed by Savile, and the carelessness of the Benedictine Editor, had left much room for improvement by a judicious and faithful use of the existing copies. It may now at last be hoped, that we have a Text very closely approximating to the genuine work of the Author.
For the Translation, the Editors are indebted to the Rev. Sir George Prevost, M.A. of Oriel College, and for the Index to the Rev. J. E. Tweed, M.A. of Christ Church, Oxford. It will be their endeavor to complete the commentaries of St. Chrysostom on the New Testament, by bringing out the remainder of the Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, and those on the Epistle to the Hebrews, as soon as they are able. In both instances, however, the corrupt state of the Text has occasioned some difficulty and delay.
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