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Specimens of his Discourses.
theme. Indeed, passages of this nature are often so extended that the original subject is thrust quite into the back-ground.
On the other hand, he frequently keeps to a subject with a tenacity which is far from pleasing. Thus he has seven homilies on Lazarus, seven on the apostle Paul, and nine on repentance. So he has three on the history of David and Saul, five on the history of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and sixteen against profane swearing.
We observe in passing, that he often preached extemporaneously, and interwove into his discourses thoughts suggested by events occurring at the time of preaching. Thus, whole series of homilies, as the sixty-seven on Genesis, were extemporaneous, and in many discourses are passages which were doubtless introduced into his course of thought at the moment of delivery. Every true orator, clearly, possesses this faculty.
Specimens, illustrating the qualities of Chrysostom's Discourses.
It is now time to exhibit specimens of the qualities, both commendable and censurable, which have here been ascribed to Chrysostom.
1 Chrysostom expresses himself copiously on this point in the introduction to his first Homily on David and Saul. "A human body," he says, "that has been long disordered with a hard tumor, requires much time, and care, and skill in medicine, that the tumor may be reduced with perfect safety. So it is in respect to the soul. When we wish to eradicate from a person's soul a deeply seated disease, one day's or two day's admonition is not enough; it is necessary to admonish him repeatedly and for many days, if we wish to secure his benefit rather than our own fame and gratification. Hence, as on the subject of oaths we discussed to you many days in succession, we propose now to take the same course on the subject of anger. For this seems to me the best mode of instruction, to insist on a partic ular subject till we see our counsel taking effect. For he who discourses to-day on alms-giving, to-morrow on prayer, the next day on kindness, and the following day on humility, will really be able to set his hearers right in no one of these things, passing so rapidly from this subject to that, and from that to another; but he who would really reform his hearers in any particular, should not cease his admonitions and exhortations respecting it, nor pass to another subject, till he discovers his former admonitions well rooted in them."
It can hardly be necessary to notice particularly here, that this maxim of Chrysostom's can be adopted by a preacher only to a very limited extent. A preacher has to occupy the high ground of broad Christian principles, which embrace all the particular virtues and which must not be neglected for the sake of minutely considering all the details of the Christian life. So far as actual practice is concerned, Chrysostom did not adhere to his maxim, since he introduced into individual discourses matter very diversified in its character.
The commencement of the extemporaneous discourse on Almsgiving (III. 297.) happily illustrates both his facility in extemporaneous preaching, and his skill in devising attractive introductions. He was going to church on a winter's day, and saw beggars lying helpless in the streets and at the markets. This induced him to deliver a discourse on alms-giving, and to open it in the following manner:
"I have risen to discharge before you a commission just and useful, and one becoming to yourselves; a commission, to which I have been appointed by no other than the poor who live in our city. Not, however, in consequence of their request, or their votes, or the decision of a common council, but in consequence of the most sad and affecting spectacles which met my eyes. For while passing through the market and the lanes on my way to your assembly, I saw many lying on the ground, some having lost their hands and others their eyes, and others covered with incurable ulcers and wounds, and exposing limbs which ought to be concealed on account of the putrid matter that was lying on them. And I felt that it would be extreme inhumanity in me not to appeal to your compassion in their behalf; the more particularly as, besides what I have already said, the very season of the year urges us to notice their case. It is, indeed, always necessary to enforce the duty of charity, since we ourselves so greatly need pity from the Lord our Maker; but it is especially necessary at the present season when the weather is cold. For in summer, the poor receive much alleviation from the season; because they can then without hazard go without clothing, the sun's rays warming them instead, and they can with safety sleep on the bare ground and spend the night in the open air. Nor is there then so much need of shoes, nor of wine, nor of costly food; but they are satisfied with water from the fountains, and some of them with the poorer kinds of vegetables, and others with a little dry pulse, the very season of the year furnishing them an easily prepared table.
"They have, also, another alleviation not less than this, in the opportunity of finding employment; for men who are occupied in building, or in cultivating the earth, or in navigation, then require their services. And what fields and houses and other sources of income are to the wealthy, the bodies of the poor are to them, and all their income is from their own hands; they have no other resource. In summer, therefore, they enjoy some comfort; but in winter, war assails from every quarter. They are subjected to a
Style of his Introductions.
twofold siege; hunger within gnaws their bowels, cold without stiffens their flesh and makes it almost dead. They have, therefore, more need of food, and of thicker clothing, of houses and beds, of shoes and many other things. And what is worse than all, they have no opportunity for finding employment, the season of the year not permitting it.
"Since, then, there is a greater demand for the necessaries of life, and besides this they are deprived of opportunities for laboring, no one having work for these unhappy men, come, let us, instead of employers, stretch forth the hands of merciful men, taking Paul, that real patron and benefactor of the poor, as our fellow laborer in this commission."
The preacher now passes to his text: "For Paul, when mak ing a division of the disciples between himself and Peter, still would not resign the care of the poor; but, having said, They gave the right hands of fellowship to me and Barnabas, that we should go to the heathen, and they to the circumcision,' he added: 'Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.'"
He by no means confines himself to this text, but quotes in the course of his sermon several other expressions of Paul, and most adroitly interweaves them, with explanations, into his discourse; or, to speak more exactly, these passages, taken together, form the thread on which he strings his discourse.
One would suppose, that no subject would allow of fewer irrelevant digressions than the theme of Almsgiving, and would justly expect that the whole soul of the orator would be absorbed with a topic so rich and touching. But even here, Chrysostom cannot abstain from his hurtful practice of pursuing excessively long incidental discussions. Having cited the words: Now concerning the collection for the saints, etc., he goes into a long and dry examination of the question: Whether these persons were really saints.
We return to his introductions. Truly plaintive is the commencement of the fourth discourse on the Change of Names1 (III. 155); at the same time, it is one of the passages which show, that even a Chrysostom could not always command an audience.
"When I look over your thin assembly and observe the flock
In the sermons thus entitled, Chrysostom inquires, for instance, why Saul assumed the name Paul; why the name Abram was changed into Abraham, etc. There are four sermons which bear this title.
becoming smaller at each meeting, I am both grieved and rejoiced; rejoiced, for your sake who are present; grieved, on their account who are absent. For you are indeed worthy of praise, in not yielding to negligence by reason of the smallness of your number; and they are open to censure, as not being excited to a cheerful attendance by your zeal. I therefore congratulate you and commend your zeal, because their backwardness does you no injury; them I pity and weep over, because your promptness does them no good. Nor have they listened to the prophet, who has said: I would rather have the lowest place in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of sinners. He did not say: I would rather dwell in the house of my God-nor, abide-nor, enter; but, I would rather have the lowest place. It is a privilege to me to be put even among the last: I am satisfied with this, he says, if I may be thought worthy even to stand on the threshold; I esteem it a signal favor, if I may be numbered even among the last in the house of my God. Affection makes the common Lord to be his Lord peculiarly; such is the power of love. In the house of my God.
"One that loves another wishes not merely to see him that is beloved, not merely to see his house, but even his gate; not merely his gate, but even the path to his house, and the street on which it stands. And if he may see his friend's cloak, or even his sandal, he regards the friend himself as present. Of such a spirit were the prophets. As they did not see God, who is incorporeal, they saw the house, and by means of the house they made him present to their minds."
As another specimen, we insert here the touching introduction with which he opens his homily on the Baptism of Christ (II. 433).
You are all to-day cheerful, and I alone am dejected. For when I look over this spiritual sea and behold this boundless wealth of the church, and then consider that, as soon as the festival is over, this multitude will spring away from us, I am pierced with grief that the church, having brought forth so many children, cannot enjoy them at each assembling, but only at a festival. How great would be the spiritual exultation, how great the joy, how great the glory of God, how great the spiritual profit, if on each occasion of assembling we could see the enclosures of the church thus filled! Sailors and pilots direct all their energies to the prosecution of their voyage, that they may reach the port; but we, through the whole sea, are tossing about, frequent
Exhortation to Constancy in religious Exercises.
ly engulfed in the overpowering business of life, occupied at the market, and in the halls of justice, and meeting each other here only once, or scarcely twice, in the whole year.
"Do you not know that God has erected churches in the cities, as havens along the sea, that we may flee hither from the commotion of worldly tumults and enjoy a steady calm? For here, there is no occasion to fear the severity of waves, nor the assaults of robbers, nor attacks from men in ambush, nor the violence of winds, nor the surprises of wild beasts. It is a haven free from all these things, the spiritual haven of souls. Of this you are witnesses; for should any one of you now disclose his inmost mind, he would find there great quietness; anger does not disturb, inordinate desire does not inflame, nor envy corrode, nor folly inflate, nor the love of vain glory corrupt; but all these beasts are placed under restraint, the reading of the Holy Scriptures, like some divine song, entering through each one's ears into his soul and putting to slumber all these irrational passions. What a misfortune it would be for persons who might attain to so great wisdom, not to repair with all diligence to the common mother of all, I mean the church!
"For, what employment can you mention more needful than this? and what assembling more useful? And what hindrance is there to your resorting hither? You will, doubtless, plead poverty as a hindrance to your frequenting this worthy assembly. But the plea has no force. The week has seven days: these seven days God divides between us and himself; and to himself he has not given the greater part and to us the smaller, nor indeed has he divided them by halves, taking three and giving three; but to you he has apportioned six, and left but one for himself. And not even during the whole of this day can you bear to withdraw yourself from the affairs of this life; but like those who plunder sacred property, you dare also to plunder and abuse to worldly cares the day which has been made sacred and set apart for the hearing of the sacred oracles. Why do I speak of the whole day? What the widow did as to alms, that do thou as to the time of this day; as she threw in two mites and obtained singular favor from God, so do thou spend two hours for God and thou shalt bring into thine house the gain of a thousand days. But if thou canst not bear to do this, beware lest, through unwillingness to abstain from earthly gains a small part of a day, thou lose the labors of entire years. For God, when he is treated with contempt, knows how to dissipate your accumulating gains; as once in threatening he said to the Jews, for their carelessly VOL. IV. No. 16.