Page images








A free translation from the German of C. F. W. Paniel, by H. J. Ripley, Professor in Newton Theological Institution.

[The original, of which the following is a free translation, is an Article in Paniel's Geschichte der Christlichen Beredsamkeit. It is a fair and impartial view of Chrysostom. The author is neither his eulogist, nor his apologist; he sees blemishes as well as beauties.

My aim has been in the translation to do justice to the original and yet to make a readable English article. I have also, at certain points, abbreviated the original essay.

The extracts from Chrysostom's discourses are here translated, and in some instances enlarged, from the original Greek, of the Paris edition of 1836. In the references to Chrysostom's Works, the Roman numerals indicate the volume, the Arabic the page. -H. J. R.]

AMONG the early preachers, no one's life and fortunes were determined so much by his eloquence as were Chrysostom's. It was the cause both of his elevation and of his abasement; of the high respect he acquired while living, and of the still higher and more enduring renown which has been awarded to him since his death. His proper name was John. The surname, Chrysostom VOL. IV. No. 16.


(golden-mouthed), became appropriated to him in after times; yet certainly before the year 636, since Isidore of Hispala, who died in that year, speaks of him under this name. As, however, it doubtless originated in the East, not in the West, he must have been known by it before the time of Isidore, though neither the early ecclesiastical historians, Socrates and Sozomen, nor Palladius, in his Greek biography of Chrysostom, make mention of it.

Biographical Sketch of Chrysostom.

Chrysostom was born, probably, about the year 347, at Antioch, of a distinguished and wealthy family. Soon after his birth he lost his father, Secundus, who held an important place in the staff of the highest military commander of the Roman Asiatic provinces. But his pious and excellent mother, Anthusa, who from love to her son and her deceased husband was disinclined to enter again the marriage-state, watched over his youthful years with most devoted and judicious solicitude. Though warmly attached to the Christian faith, she yet avoided the fault committed by other mothers of eminent teachers in the church, of devoting her son from his birth to the ministry, or to monastic life, and, in consequence, of giving him a contracted ascetic education; and, contrary to the practice of other women of high rank who obtained for their sons only some slight instruction in Latin literature and in Roman law, she rather provided for him the means of a general and thorough literary training.

His principal instructor was Libanius, the most distinguished heathen rhetorician of his time. Libanius early discovered Chrysostom's promising talents, and lamented, on his death-bed, that this scholar who afterwards became so much his superior in eloquence, could not be procured as his successor in the chair of rhetoric. In philosophy, Chrysoston's instructor was Andragathus. Neither his belief in Christianity, nor his love of religion, suffered injury from his being educated by these heathen teachers; for his mother was in the habit of leading her beloved son, with Christian zeal, to the fountain of truth; and he made himself, by personal study, familiar with the Holy Scriptures.

1 The name Chrysostom was also given to Antiochus, during his lifetime, a contemporary and opponent of John Chrysostom.

* Paniel says, In der Beredsamkeit. But I here follow the Latin biography appended to Chrysostom's Works, which follows in this instance the authority of Socrates and with which the statement of Leo agrees, in his edition of Chrysostom's treatise on the Priesthood, p. 1.—TR.


Monastic Life.


He was, however, in his youth, far from being indisposed to participate in the scenes of public life. The dramatic exhibitions, against which at a later period he expressed himself with so much vehemence, and the pleadings of advocates at the forum, were particularly attractive to him. His earliest opportunity for exercising his native oratorical talent was at the forum; and he actually entered on the practice of law, an employment which was then the first step to the higher posts of secular honor. He soon, however, contracted a dislike for the low arts which the advocates allowed themselves; and this dislike gradually increased, till he became disaffected towards secular pursuits in general, and anxious for quiet retirement and exclusive occupation with divine things. Meletius, the venerable bishop of Antioch, encouraged his purpose, and, when he had spent three years in study and had received baptism, appointed him to the office of Anagnost; that is, a public reader of the Scriptures. He was at that time about twenty-three years of age.

Impressed with reverence for the monks and hermits who were living in the vicinity of Antioch, and many of whom were truly estimable men, he had, at an earlier period, been desirous to associate with them in their ascetic mode of life. It was not, however, in all probability, till after the death of his mother, who had in the most touching manner entreated him not to leave her, that he was able to accomplish this long-cherished purpose. In the monastery, two abbots, Carterius and Diodorus, the latter of whom became very distinguished and was appointed bishop of Tarsus, assumed his further education for the sacred office; and to the latter, particularly, he was indebted for his initiation into just grammatical and logical principles of scriptural interpretation.1 After residing six years in the monastery, employed in extending his literary and religious attainments, besides writing a vindication of the monastic life, his health had become so impaired by his ascetic severities as to make it necessary for him, in the year 380, to return to Antioch.

He had, some years before, in consequence of his mother's entreaty and of his own modesty, declined the office of bishop to which it was in contemplation to elect him. He was now, how

1 Neander, in the second edition of his Life of Chrysostom, is rather inclined to the opinion, that Diodorus was not connected with the monastery; but that, while a presbyter at Antioch, he also gathered around him a company of young men for theological instruction and preparation for the sacred office.-TR.

*To this circumstance we are indebted for his treatise on the Priesthood, in

ever, ordained a deacon by Meletius, and about six years after a presbyter by Flavian, the successor of Meletius. As he was not allowed, while a deacon, to preach in public, his great abilities were not fully displayed till after he became a presbyter. Being now the principal and most intimate assistant of his bishop, and occupying the highest place in his esteem, he soon had most ample opportunity for extensive usefulness, as the distinguished preacher of a large congregation embracing, it was estimated, a hundred thousand souls. In the second year after he became a presbyter, occurred the insurrection at Antioch, in which the statnes of the imperial family were destroyed, and the city was in consequence subjected to great suffering. This was the occasion of his preaching the celebrated twenty-one discourses on the Statues. In these discourses, he did not restrict himself to the public calamities, though these were at the time matters of chief interest to the people of Antioch. He rather employed the occasion to expose such delinquencies of the Christians as gave them little solicitude, and to show the necessity of amendment. His activity in the ministry, besides the proof of it thus furnished, was so great that few days passed without his preaching in public.

For twelve years he labored at Antioch; and the fame of his eloquence and of his virtues had spread through the whole East. His promotion to a more distinguished post of influence, which might seem but the just recompense of his great merits, was, nevertheless, consequent on the accidental circumstance that Eutropius, the favorite of the emperor Arcadius, happening to be in Antioch, was filled with admiration at his remarkable eloquence. On the death of Nectarius, bishop of Constantinople, in the year 397, Eutropius proposed Chrysostom as the successor to that office. The church of Constantinople, assailed from all quarters by competitors for the vacant bishopric, could not form a decision, and at length solicited the emperor himself to appoint a bishop of approved abilities. With this the influence of the powerful chamberlain, Eutropius, was conjoined, and Chrysostom was selected.2

which he accounts for his declining the election, and unfolds his views of the high dignity of the sacred office.

Antioch had a population of 200,000; one half professing the Christian religion.-TR.

2 This transfer to the highest post of the Eastern church was effected by authority and artifice, without seeking Chrysostom's consent. "Every preparation,” says Neander, "being made, he was enticed out of the city of Antioch under a false


Career as a Preacher.


This new office, however, far from adding to his welfare, was on the contrary the occasion of his two exiles, and at length of his death; a well nigh violent death.

Animated with the most intense zeal for purity of morals, yet seeking to bring about reforms by applying ascetic principles, and often condemning even allowable gratifications; cherishing the loftiest ideas of the dignity and the duties of his office, at the same time disregarding the claims of the world, and particularly not heeding customs which excessive refinement and court-society had introduced; strict, in all respects, towards himself, making no allowance for human frailties; inclined to asperity in his judgments from his own consciousness of moral purity, and inspired with hatred of the prevalent corruption of the church; maintaining, also, a proud distance from every one whose virtue was stained-it could not but be, that, on taking up his abode at Constantinople with such peculiarities both of nature and education, he would make to himself many friends and admirers and equally many embittered enemies. The former he found in the middle and lower classes; the latter, among the higher and even among the clergy. To the better part of his people he was a model of the noblest virtues, a pattern of sobriety, of clerical dignity and activity. He was a friend of the poor, a protector of the oppressed, an unsparing judge of the wealthy and corrupt dignitaries. These last hated him as an enemy of their covetousness and licentiousness, of the baseness to which the men stooped, and the luxury and sensuality in which the women and widows of rank indulged; as a stern censor of the haughtiness of the great, and of the hypocrisy and corruption of the clergy. In these circumstances, and considering the power of the last-mentioned classes, it could not long remain doubtful what destiny awaited him. The hatred of the men in power and of the clergy, long sought for a pretext against him; but the most of his people were so fond of his preaching, that they clung to him with an affection that made it no easy thing to dispossess him of his office. Besides, in the distress which the seditious Goth, Gainas, had brought on the city and on the whole empire, Chrysostom had rendered services too great to be overlooked by the weak emperor.

As, however, he did not in his preaching spare the superstitious and corrupt empress Eudoxia, his numerous and powerful foes

pretext, in order to forestall his refusal and prevent the disorders which his congregation, who were so attached to him, might raise; and he was sent to Constantinople."-TR.

« PreviousContinue »