Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.: Introductory Discourse.
homilies of St. John Chrysostom,
archbishop of constantinople,
epistle of St. paul the apostle
The Philippians are of a city in Macedonia, a city that is a colony, as Luke saith. Here that seller of purple was converted, a woman of uncommon piety and heedfulness. Here the ruler of the synagogue 507 believed. Here was Paul scourged with Silas. Here the magistrates requested them to depart, and were afraid of them, and the preaching had an illustrious commencement. And he bears them many and high testimonies himself, calling them his own crown, and saying they had suffered much. For, “To you,” he saith, “it hath been granted of God, 508 not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in His behalf.” (Philip. i. 29.) But when he wrote to them, it happened that he was in bonds. Therefore he says, “So that my bonds became manifest in Christ in the whole prætorium,” calling the palace of Nero the prætorium. 509 But he was bound and let go again, 510 and this he showed to Timothy by saying, “At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” (2 Tim. iv. 16.) He speaks of the bonds then in which he was before that defence. For that Timothy was not present then, is evident: for, “At my first defence,” he says, “no man took my part”; and this, by writing, he was making known to him. He would not then, had he already known it, have written thus to him. But when he wrote this epistle, Timothy was with him. And he shows it by what he says: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you.” (Philip. ii. 19.) And again, “Him I hope to send forthwith so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.” For he was loosed from his bonds and again bound after he had been to them. But if he saith, “Yea, and I am 511 offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith,” it is not as though this were now come to pass, but as much as to say, “and whenever this takes place I am glad,” raising them from their dejection at his bonds. For that he was not about to die at that time is plain from what he saith: “But I hope 512 in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly unto you.” (Philip. ii. 24.) And again, “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all.”
2. But the Philippians had sent to him Epaphroditus, to carry him money, and to know the things concerning him, for they were most lovingly disposed toward him. For that they sent, hear himself, saying, “I have all things, and p. 182 abound; I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you.” At the same time they sent to know this. For that they sent also to know this he shows at once in the beginning of the epistle, writing of his own matters, and saying, “But I would have you know that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the Gospel.” (Philip. i. 12.) And again, “I hope to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort when I know your state.” This, “that I also,” is as if he meant “as you for full assurance sent to know the things concerning me, so I also, that I may be of good comfort when I know the things concerning you.” Since then they had also been a long time without sending 513 (for this he proves by saying, “Now at length you have revived your thought for me”) (Philip. iv. 10.), and then they heard that he was in bonds (Philip. ii. 26.); for if they heard about Epaphroditus, that he was sick, he being no such very remarkable person as Paul was, much more did they hear about Paul, and it was reasonable that they should be disturbed; therefore, in the opening of the epistle he offers them much consolation about his bonds, showing that they should not merely not be disturbed, but even rejoice. Then he gives them counsel about unanimity and humility, teaching them that this was their greatest safety, and that so they could easily overcome their enemies. For it is not being in bonds that is painful to your teachers, but their disciples not being of one mind. For the former brings even furtherance to the Gospel, but the latter distracts.
3. So then after admonishing them to be of one mind, and showing that unanimity comes of humility, and then aiming a shaft at those Jews who were everywhere corrupting the doctrine under a show of Christianity, and calling them “dogs” and “evil workers” (Philip. iii. 2.), and giving admonition to keep away from them, and teaching to whom it is right to attend, and discoursing at length on moral points, and bringing them to order, and recalling them to themselves, by saying, “The Lord is at hand” (Philip. iv. 5.), he makes mention also, with his usual wisdom, of what had been sent, and then offers them abundant consolation. But he appears in writing to be doing them special honor, and never in any place writes any thing of reproof, which is a proof of their virtue, in that they gave no occasion to their teacher, and that he has written to them not in the way of rebuke, but throughout in the way of encouragement. And as I said also at first, this city showed great readiness for the faith; inasmuch as the very jailor, (and you know it is a business full of all wickedness,) at once, upon one miracle, both ran to them, and was baptized with all his house. For the miracle that took place he saw alone, but the gain he reaped not alone, but jointly with his wife and all his house. Nay, even the magistrates who scourged him seem to have done this rather of sudden impulse than out of wickedness, both from their sending at once to let him go, and from their being afterwards afraid. And he bears testimony to them not only in faith, or in perils, but also in well-doing, where he says, “That even in the beginning of the Gospel, ye sent once and again unto my need” (Phil. 4:15, 16.), when no one else did so; for he says, “no Church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving”; and that their intermission had been rather from lack of opportunity than from choice, saying, “Not that ye took no thought for me, but ye lacked opportunity.” (Philip. iv. 10.) Let us also, knowing these things, and having so many patterns, and the love that he bore them—for that he loved them greatly appears in his saying, “For I have no man like minded, who will care truly for your state” (Philip. ii. 20.); and again, “Because I have you in my heart, and in my bonds,”—
4. let us also, knowing these things, show ourselves worthy of such examples, by being ready to suffer for Christ. 514 But now the persecution is no more. So then, if there is nothing else, let us imitate their earnestness in well doing, and not think, if we have given once or twice, that we have fulfilled all. For we must do this through our whole life. For it is not once that we have to please God, but constantly. The racer, if, after running even ten heats, he leave the remaining one undone, has lost all; and we, if we begin with good works, and afterward faint, have lost all, have spoiled all. Listen to that profitable admonition that saith, “Let not mercy 515 and truth forsake thee.” (Prov. iii. 3.) He saith not do so once, nor the second time, nor the third, nor the tenth, nor the hundredth, but continually: “let them not forsake thee.” And he did not say, Do not forsake them, but, “Let them not forsake thee,” showing that we are in need of them, and not they of us; and teaching us that we ought to make every effort to keep them with us. And “bind them,” saith he, “about thy neck.” For as the children of the wealthy have an ornament of gold about their neck, and never put it off, because it exhibits a token of their high birth, so should we too wear mercy ever about us, showing that we are children of the compassionate one, “who p. 183 makes the sun to rise upon the evil and the good” (Matt. v. 45.). “But the unbelievers,” you say, “do not believe it.” I say then, hereby shall they believe, if we do these works. If they see that we take pity on all, and are enrolled under Him for our Teacher, they will know that it is in imitation of Him that we so act. For “mercy,” it says, “and true faith.” 516 He well said “true.” For He willeth it not to be of rapine or fraud. For this were not “faith”; this were not “truth.” For he that plundereth must lie and forswear himself. So do not thou, saith he, but have faith with thy mercy.
Let us put on this ornament. Let us make a golden chain for our soul, of mercy I mean, while we are here. For if this age 517 pass, we can use it no longer. And why? There there are no poor, There there are no riches, no more want There. While we are children, let us not rob ourselves of this ornament. For as with children, if they become men, these are taken away, and they are advanced to other adornment; so too is it with us. There will be no more alms by money, but other and far nobler. 518 Let us not then deprive ourselves of this! Let us make our soul appear beautiful! Great is alms, beautiful, and honorable, great is that gift, but greater is goodness. If we learn to despise riches, we shall learn other things besides. For behold how many good things spring from hence! He that giveth alms, as he ought to give, learns to despise wealth. He that has learned to despise wealth has cut up the root of evils. So that he does not do a greater good than he receives, not merely in that there is a due recompense and a requital for alms, but also in that his soul becomes philosophic, and elevated, and rich. He that gives alms is instructed not to admire riches or gold. And this lesson once fixed in his mind, he has gotten a great step toward mounting to Heaven, and has cut away ten thousand occasions of strife, and contention, and envy, and dejection. For ye know, ye too know, that all things are done for riches, and unnumbered wars are made for riches. But he that has learned to despise them, has placed himself in a quiet harbor, he no longer fears damage. For this hath alms taught him. He no longer desires what is his neighbors; for how should he, that parts with his own, and gives? He no longer envies the rich man; for how should he, that is willing to become poor? He clears the eye of his soul. And these are but here. But hereafter it is not to be told what blessings he shall win. He shall not abide without with the foolish virgins, but shall enter in with those that were wise, together with the Bridegroom, having his lamps bright. And though they have endured hardship in virginity, he that hath not so much as tasted these hardships shall be better than they. Such is the power of Mercy. 519 She brings in her nurslings with much boldness. For she is known to the porters in Heaven, that keep the gates of the Bride-Chamber, and not known only, but reverenced; and those whom she knows to have honored her, she will bring in with much boldness, and none will gainsay, but all make room. For if she brought God down to earth, and persuaded him to become man, much more shall she be able to raise a man to Heaven; for great is her might. If then 520 from mercy and loving-kindness God became man, and He persuaded Himself to become a servant, much rather will He bring His servants into His own house. Her let us love, on her let us set our affection, not one day, nor two, but all our life long, that she may acknowledge us. If she acknowledge us, the Lord will acknowledge us too. If she disown us, the Lord too will disown us, and will say, “I know you not.” But may it not be ours to hear this voice, but that happy one instead, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. xxv. 34.) Which may we all obtain, by His grace and lovingkindness, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, strength, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
[This reading contains an obvious error, and would be readily altered by students or copyists; and one manuscript gives “keeper of the prison.” Chrysostom not unfrequently makes slips in quoting from memory, as do most preachers. He is here doubtless thinking of Crispus. (Acts xviii. 8.) Below, in paragraph 3, he has it right.—J.A.B.]181:508
[All documents for New Testament give “in behalf of Christ.” Chrysostom was quoting from memory.—J.A.B.]181:509
[Scholars now generally understand the prætorian camp or the prætorian guard. See Lightfoot here.—J.A.B.]181:510
His statement amounts to this, that the present epistle was written in St. Pauls first imprisonment, when Timothy was with him, for that the second to Timothy was written in a second imprisonment, from which he was only released by martyrdom. The “first defence” belongs to the second imprisonment. Between the two, it is probable that he visited the Philippians, according to his intention.181:511
The if is omitted, perhaps in order to put the objection in a strong light.181:512
[Correct New Testament text, “trust.”—J.A.B.]182:513
[The altered text and most editions add “but had then done it,” through misunderstanding of the rather obscure connection.—J.A.B.]182:514
[Such a digressive and awkward sentence is of course smoothed out in the altered text, but is perfectly natural in a freely spoken discourse.—J.A.B.]182:515
The same word is here used for “mercy” and “alms.” [And it is quoted from the Sept. in the plural, “mercies,” or “almsgivings.”—J.A.B.]183:516
The LXX. have “faith,” probably in the sense of “truth,” which Aquila has, and the Hebrew requires; “true” is added by St. Chrys. to mark this.183:517
ἡλικία, which carries on the simile. [He means the age of childhood, when ornaments are a pleasure.—J.A.B.]183:518
He probably refers to the benefits conferred by the Saints on those on earth.183:519
[The same Greek word that above is translated “alms.”—J.A.B.]183:520
Such a repetition is common with Chrysostom, sometimes perhaps from his own excitement. Here it seems rather meant to temper the warmth of his eloquence, and fix a sober thought.
Next: Homily I
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