Early Church Fathers
2 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 12For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom, but in the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world.
Here again he openeth to us yet another ground of comfort, and that not small, yea rather, exceeding great, and well fitted to upraise a mind sinking under perils. For seeing he had said, God comforted us, and God delivered us, and had ascribed all to His mercies and their prayers, lest he should thus make the hearer supine, presuming on God's mercy only and the prayers of others, he showeth that they themselves had contributed not a little of their own. And indeed he showed as much even before, when he said, "For as the sufferings of Christ abound [in us,] so our consolation also aboundeth." (ver. 5.) But here he is speaking of a certain other good work, properly their own. What then is this? That, saith he, in a conscience pure and without guile we behave ourselves every where in the world: and this availeth not a little to our encouragement and comfort; yea, rather, not to comfort merely, but even unto somewhat else far greater than comfort, even to our glorying. And this he said, teaching them too not to sink down in their afflictions, but, if so be they have a pure conscience, even to be proud of them; and at the same time quietly though gently hitting at the false Apostles. And as in the former Epistle he saith, "Christ sent me to preach the Gospel, not in wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect:" (1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 17) and, "that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God;" (ib. ii. 5.) so here also, "Not in wisdom, but in the grace of Christ."
And he hinted also something besides, by employing the words, "not in wisdom," that is, `not in deceit,' here too striking at the heathen discipline. "For our glorying," saith he, "is this, the testimony of our conscience;" that is, our conscience not having whereof to condemn us, as if for evil doings we were persecuted. For though we suffer countless horrors, though from every quarter we be shot at and in peril, it is enough for our comfort, yea rather not only for comfort, but even for our crowning, that our conscience is pure and testifieth unto us that for no evil-doing, but for that which is well-pleasing to God, we thus suffer; for virtue's sake, for heavenly wisdom's, for the salvation of the many. Now that previous consolation was from God: but this was contributed by themselves and from the purity of their' life. Wherefore also he calls it their glorying, because it was the achievement of their own virtue. What then is this glorying and what doth our conscience testify unto us? "That in sincerity," that is to say, having no deceitful thing, no hypocrisy, no dissimulation, no flattery, no ambush or guile, nor any other such thing, but in all frankness, in simplicity, in truth, in a pure and unmalicious spirit, in a guileless mind, having nothing concealed, no festering sore. "Not in fleshly wisdom;" thatis, not with evil artifice, nor with wickedness, nor with cleverness of words, nor with webs of sophistries, for this he meaneth by `fleshly wisdom:' and that whereupon they greatly prided themselves, he disclaims and thrusts aside: showing very abundantly that this is no worthy ground for glorying: and that not only he doth not seek it, but he even rejecteth and is ashamed of it.
"But in the grace of God we behaved ourselves in the world."
What is, "in the grace of God?" Displaying the wisdom that is from Him, the power from Him given unto us, by the signs wrought, by overcoming sages, rhetoricians, philosophers, kings, peoples, unlearned as we are and bringing with us nothing of the wisdom that is without. No ordinary comfort and glorying, however, was this, to be conscious to themselves that it was not men's power they had used; but that by Divine grace they had achieved all success. ["In the world."] So not in Corinth only, but also in every part of the world.
"And more abundantly to you-ward." What more abundantly to you-ward? "In the grace of God we behaved ourselves." For we showed both signs and wonders amongst you, and greater strictness, and a life unblameable; for he calls these too the grace of God, ascribing his own good works also unto it. For in Corinth he even overleapt the goal, making the Gospel without charge, because he spared their weakness.
Ver. 13. "For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or even acknowledge."
For since he spoke great things of himself and seemed to be bearing witness to himself, an odious thing, he again appeals to them as witnesses of what he says. For, he saith, let no one think that what I say is a boastful flourish of writing; for we declare unto you what yourselves know; and that we lie not ye more than all others can bear us witness. For, when ye read, ye acknowledge that what ye know that we perform in our actions, this we say also in our writings, and your testimony doth not contradict our epistles; but the knowledge which ye had before of us is in harmony with your reading.
Ver. 14. "As also ye did acknowledge us in part."
For your knowledge of us, he saith, is not from hearsay but from actual experience. The words "in part" he added from humility. For this is his wont, when necessity constraineth him to say any highsounding thing, (for he never doth so otherwise,) as desiring quickly to repress again the elation arising from what he had said.
"And I hope ye will acknowledge even to the end."
[2.] Seest thou again how from the past he draws pledges for the future; and not from the past only, but also from the power of God? For he affirmed not absolutely, but cast the whole upon God and his hope in Him.
"That we are your glorying, even as ye also are our's, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Here he cuts at the root of the envy that his speech might occasion, by making them sharers and partners in the glory of his good works. `For these stick not with us, but pass over untoyou also, and again from you to us.' For seeing he had extolled himself, and produced proof of the past and given security for the future; lest his hearers should reflect on him for talking proudly, or, as I have said, be hurried to enviousness, he makes the rejoicing a common one and declares that this crown of praises is theirs. For if, he says, we have shown ourselves to be such, our praise is your glory: even as when ye also are approved, we rejoice and leap for joy and are crowned. Here also again he displays his great humility by what he says. For he so levels his expressions, not as a master discoursing to disciples, but as a disciple unto fellow-disciples of his own rank. And observe how he lifts them on high and fills them with philosophy, sending them on to That Day. For, he saith, tell me not of the present things, that is, the reproaches, the revilings, the scoffings of the many, for the things here are no great matter, neither the good nor the painful; nor the scoffings nor the praises which come from men: but remember, I pray, that day of fear and shuddering in the which all things are revealed. For then both we shall glory in you, and ye in us; when ye shall be seen to have such teachers, who teach no doctrine of men nor live in wickedness nor give [men] any handle; and we to have such disciples, neither affected after the manner of men nor shaken, but taking all things with readiness of mind, and unseduced by sophistries from what side soever. For this is plain even now to those that have understanding, but then to all. So that even if we are afflicted now, we have this, and that no light, consolation which the conscience affordeth now, and the manifestation itself then. For now indeed our conscience knoweth that we do all things by the grace of God, as ye also know and shall know: but then, all men as well will learn both our doings and yours: and shall behold us glorified through each other. For that he may not appear himself alone to derive lustre from this glorying, he gives to them also a cause of boasting, and leads them away from their present distresses. And as he did in respect to the consolation when he said, "We are comforted for your sakes," (ver. 6.) so he does here also, saying, `we glory on your account, as ye also on ours,' every where making them partakers of every thing, of his comfort, his sufferings, his preservation. For this his preservation he ascribes to their prayers. "For God delivered us," he saith, "ye helping together by prayer." In like manner also he makes the gloryings common. For as in that place he says, "Knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also of the consolation:" so here too, "we are your glorying, as ye also are ours."
Ver. 15. "And in this confidence I was minded to come before unto you." What confidence? `In relying exceedingly on you, glorying over you, being your glorying, loving you exceedingly, being conscious to myself of nothing evil, being confident that all is spiritual with us, and having you as witnesses of this.'
"I was minded to come unto you, and by you to pass into Macedonia."
And yet he promised the contrary in his former Epistle, saying thus: "Now I will come unto you when I shall have passed through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia." (1 Corinthians chapter 16, verse 5) How is it then that he here says the contrary? He doth not say the contrary: away with the thought. For it is contrary indeed to what he wrote, but not contrary to what he wished.
Wherefore also here he said not, `I wrote that I would pass by you into Macedona; but, `I was minded.' For though I did not write on that wise,' he says, `nevertheless I was greatly desirous, and `was minded,' even before, to have come unto you: so far was I from wishing to be later than my promise that I would gladly have come before it.` "That ye might have a second benefit." What is, a second benefit?`That ye might have a double benefit, both that from my writings, and that from my presence.' By "benefit" he here means pleasure.
Ver. 16, 17. "And by you to pass into Macedonia, and to come again from Macedonia unto you, and of you to be set forward on my journey unto Judaea. When I therefore was thus minded, did I show fickleness?"
[3.] Here in what follows, he directly does away with the charge arising out of his delay and absence. For what he says is of this nature. "I was minded to come unto you." `Wherefore then did I not come? Is it as light-minded and changeable?' for this is, "did I show fickleness?" By no means. But wherefore? "Because what things I purpose, I purpose not according to the flesh." What is, "not according to the flesh?" I purpose not `carnally.'
Ver. 17. "That with me there should be the yea yea and the nay nay."
But still even this is obscure. What is it then he says? The carnal man, that is, he that is rivetted to the present things and is continually occupied in them, and is without the sphere of the Spirit's influence, has power to go every where, and to wander whithersoever he will. But he that is the servant of the Spirit, and is led, and led about by Him, cannot everywhere be lord of his own purpose, having made it dependent upon the authority thence given; but it so fares with him as if a trusty servant, whose motions are always ruled by his lord's biddings and who has no power over himself nor is able to rest even a little, should make some promise to his fellow-servants, and then because his master would have it otherwise should fail to perform his promise. This then is what he means by, "I purpose not according to the flesh." I am not beyond the Spirit's governance, nor have liberty to go where I will. For I am subject to lordship and commands, the Comforter's, and by His decrees I am led, and led about. For this cause I was unable to come, for it was not the Spirit's will. As happened also frequently in the Acts; for when he had purposed to come to one place, the Spirit bade him go to another. So that it was not from lightness, that is, fickleness in me that I came not, but that being subject to the Spirit I obeyed Him. Didst mark again his accustomed logic? That by which they thought to prove that "he purposed according to the flesh," namely, the non-fulfilment of his promise, he uses as the special proof that he purposed according to the Spirit, and that the contrary had been purposing according to the flesh. What then? saith one: was it not with the Spirit that he promised what he did? By no means. For I have already said that Paul did not foreknow every thing that was to happen or was expedient. And it is for this reason that he says in the former Epistle, "that ye may set me forward on my journey whithersoever I go;" (1 Corinthians chapter 16, verse 6) entertaining this very fear that after he had said, `into Judaea,' he might be compelled to go elsewhither; but now when his intention had been frustrated, he says it, "And of you be set forward on my journey unto Judaea." So much as was of love, he states, namely, the coming to them; but that which had no reference to them, his going, namely, from them into Judaea, he doth not add definitely. When however he had been proved wrong, he afterwards says here boldly, "toward Judaea." And this too befel for good, lest any among them should conceive of them (the Apostles, Acts chapter 14, verse 13) more highly than they deserved. For if in the face of these things they wished to sacrifice bulls to them. upon what impiety would they not have driven, had they not given many instances of human weakness? And why marvel if he knew not all things that were to happen, seeing that ofttimes he even in prayers knoweth not what is expedient.
"For," saith he "we know not what we should pray for as we ought." And that he may not seem to be speaking modestly, he not only saith this, but instances wherein he knew not in prayers what was expedient. Wherein then was it? When he entreated to be delivered from his trials, saying, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 7-2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 9) Seest thou how he knew not to ask what was expedient, and so although he asked often he obtained not.
Ver. 18. "But as God is faithful, our word toward you was not yea and nay."
He skillfully overturns a rising objection. For one might say, If after having promised, thou hast put off coming, and yea is not yea, and nay nay, with thee, but what thou sayest now thou unsayest afterwards, as thou didst in the case of this Journey: woe is unto us, if all this were the case in the Preaching too. Now lest they should have these thoughts and be troubled thereat, he says, "But as God is faithful, our word toward you was not yea and nay." This, saith he, was not the case in the Preaching, but only in our travels and journeyings; whereas whatever things we have said in our preaching, these abide steadfast and unmoveable, (for he calleth his preaching here, "word.") Then he bringeth proof of this that cannot be gainsaid, by referring all to God. What he saith is this; `the promise of my coming was my own and I gave that promise from myself: but the preaching is not my own, nor of man, but of God, and what is of God it is impossible should lie.' Whereupon also he said, "God is faithful," that is, "true." `Mistrust not then what is from Him, for there is nought of man in it.'
[4.] And seeing he had said "word," he adds what follows to explain what kind of word he means. Of what kind then is it?
Ver. 19. "For the Son of God," saith he, "Who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Silvanus, and Timothy, was not yea and nay."
For on this account he brings before them the company of the teachers also, as thence too giving credibility to the testimony by those who taught, and not who heard it only. And yet they were disciples; however in his modesty he counts them as in the rank of teachers. But what is, "was not yea and nay?" I have never, he saith, unsaid what before I said in the Preaching. My discourse to you was not now this, now that. For this is not of faith, but of an erring mind.
"But in Him was the yea." That is, just as I said, the word abideth unshaken and steadfast."
Ver. 20. "For how many soever be the promises of God," in Him is the yea, and in Him the Amen, unto the glory of God by us."
What is this, "how many soever the promises of God?" The Preaching promised many things; and these many things they proffered and preached. For they discoursed of beingraised again, and of being taken up, and of in corruption, and of those great rewards and unspeakable goods. As to these promises then, he saith that they abide immoveable, and in them is no yea and nay, that is, the things spoken were not now true, and now false, as was the case about my being with you, but always true. And first indeed he contends for the articles of the faith, and the word concerning Christ, saying, "My word" and my preaching, "was not yea and nay;" next, for the promises "for how many soever be the promises, of God, in Him is the yea." But if the things He promised are sure and He will certainly give them, much more is He Himself and the word concerning Him, sure, and it can not be said that He is now, and now is not, but He "always" is, and is the same. But what is, "In Him is the yea, and the Amen." He signifies that which shall certainly be. For in Him, not in man, the promises have their being and fulfilment. Fear not, therefore; for it is not man so that thou shouldest mistrust; but it is God Who both said and fulfilleth. "Unto the glory of God through us." What is, "unto [His] glory through us?" He fulfilleth them by us, that is, and by His benefits towards us unto His glory; for this is "for the glory of God." But if they be for the glory of God, they will certainly come to pass. For His own glory He will not think little of, even did He think little of our salvation. But as it is, He thinketh not little of our salvation either, both because He loveth mankind exceedingly, and because our salvation is bound up with His glory from these things accruing. So that if the promises are for His glory, our salvation also will certainly follow; to which also, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, he reverteth continually, saying, "to the maintenance of His glory;" (Ephesians chapter 1, verse 14) and every where he layeth down this, and shows the necessity of this result. And in this regard he here saith, that His promises lie not: for they not only save us, but also glorify Him. Dwell not on this therefore that they were promised by us; and so doubt. For they are not fulfilled by us, but by Him. Yea, and the promises were by Him; for we spoke not to you our own words, but His.
Ver. 21, 22. "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, andanointed us, is God; Who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Again, from the past He stablisheth the future. For if it is He that establisheth us in Christ; (i.e., who suffereth us not to be shaken from the faith which is in Christ;) and He that anointed us and gave the Spirit in our hearts, how shall He not give us the future things?
For if He gave the principles and the foundations, and the root and the fount, (to wit, the true knowledge of Him, the partaking of the Spirit,) how shall He not give the things that come of these: for if for the sake of these those are given, much more will he supply those. And if to such as were enemies he gave these, much more when now made friends will He "freely give" to them those. Wherefore He said not simply "the Spirit," but named "earnest," that from this thou mightest have a good hope of the whole as well. For did He not purpose to give the whole, He would never have chosen to give "the earnest" and to waste it without object or result. And observe Paul's candor. For why need I say, saith he, that the truth of the promises standeth not in us? The fact of your standing unwavering and fixed is not in us, but this too is of God; "for" saith he, "He who stablisheth us is God." It is not we who strengthen you: for even we also need Him that stablisheth. So then let none imagine that the Preaching is hazardous in us. He hath undertaken the whole, He cared for the whole.
And what is, "anointed," and "sealed?" Gave the Spirit by Whom He did both these things, making at once prophets and priests and kings, for in old times these three sorts were anointed. But we have now not one of these dignities, but all three preeminently. For we are both to enjoy a kingdom and are made priests by offering our bodies for a sacrifice, (for, saith he, "present your members a living sacrifice unto God;) and withal we are constituted prophets too: for what things "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," (1 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 9) these have been revealed unto us.
[5.] And in another way too we become kings: if we have the mind to get dominion over our unruly thoughts, for that such an one is a king and more than he who weareth the diadem, I will now make plain to you. He hath many armies, but we again have thoughts exceeding them in number; for it is impossible to number the infinite multitude of the thoughts within us. Nor is their multitude all that one is to consider, but also that in this multitude of thoughts, there are many generals, and colonels, and captains, and archers, and slingers. What else makes a king? His apparel? But this one too is arrayed in a better and braver robe, which neither doth moth devour nor age impair. A crown too he hath of curious workmanship, that of glory, that of the tender mercies of God. For saith [the Psalmist], "Bless the Lord, O my soul, that crowneth thee with pity and tender mercies." (Psalms chapter 103, verse 2 and Psalms chapter 103, verse 4) Again, that of glory: "For thou hast crowned him with glory and honor." (Psalms chapter 8, verse 6) And" with favor Thou hast crowned us with a shield." (Psalms chapter 5, verse 12. LXX.) Again, that of grace: "For thou shalt receive a crown of grace upon thy head." (Proverbs chapter 1, verse 9 LXX.) Seest thou this diadem of many wreaths, and surpassing the other in grace. But let us institute anew and from the beginning a stricter inquiry into the condition of these kings. That king hath dominion over his guards, and issues orders to all, and all obey and serve him; but here I show you greater authority. For the number here is as great or even greater: it remains to inquire into their obedience. And bring me not forth those that have ruled amiss, since I too bring those that have been driven from their kingdom and murdered by their very body guards. Let us thenbring forth these instances, but seek for those of either kind who have ordered well their kingdom. And do thou put forward whom thou wilt. I oppose unto thee the patriarch against all. For when he was commanded to sacrifice his son, consider how many thoughts then rose up against him. Nevertheless, he brought all under submission, and all trembled before him more than before a king his guards; and with a look only he stilled them all and not one of them dared so much as mutter; but down they bowed and as unto a king gave place, one and all, though much exasperated and exceeding relentless. For even the heads of spears raised upright by many soldiers are not as fearful as were then those fearful thoughts, armed not with spears, but what is harder to deal with than many spears, the sympathy of nature! Wherefore they had power to pierce his soul more than sharpened spear point. For never spear could be so sharp as were the goads of those thoughts, which, sharpened and upraised from beneath, from his affections, were piercing through and through the mind of that righteous man. For here there needs time and purpose and a stroke and pain, and then death follows; but there, there needed none of these, so much were the wounds speedier and acuter. But still though so many thoughts were then in arms against him, there was a deep calm, and they stood all in fair array; adorning rather than daunting him. See him at least stretching out the knife, and set forth as many as thou wilt, kings, emperors, Caesars, yet shalt thou tell of nought like this, have no like mien to point to, so noble, so worthy of the heavens. For that righteous man erected a trophy at that movement over the most arbitrary of tyrannies. For nothing is so tyrannical as nature; and find ten thousand tyrannicides, one like this shalt thou never show us. For it was the, triumph in that moment of an angel, not a man. For consider. Nature was dashed to the ground with all her weapons, with all her host: and he stood with outstretched hand, grasping not a crown, but a knife more glorious than any crown, and the throng of angels applauded, and God from heaven proclaimed him conquerer.
For seeing that his citzenship was in heaven, thence also he received that proclamation. (Philippians chapter 3, verse 20) What could be more glorious than this? rather, what trophy could ever be equal to it? For if on occasion of a wrestler's success, not a herald below but the king above should have risen up and himself proclaimed the Olympic Victor, would not this have seemed to him more glorious than the crown, and have turned the gaze of the whole theatre upon him? When then no mortal king, but God Himself, not in this theatre but in the theatre of the universe, in the assembly of the angels, the archangels, proclaimeth his name with uplifted voice shouting from heaven, tell me what place shall we assign to this holy man?
[6.] But if you will, let us listen too to the voice itself. What then was the voice? "Abraham, Abraham, lay not thy hand upon Isaac, neither do thou any thing unto him. For now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy son, thy well-beloved, for My sake." (Genesis chapter 22, verse 11 and Genesis chapter 22, verse 12) What is this? He that knoweth all things before they are, did He now know! And yet even to man the Patriarch's fear of God was evident: so many proofs had he given that his heart was right toward God, as when He said to him, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred;" (Genesis chapter 12, verse 1) when for His sake and the honor due to Him he relinquished to his sister's son his priority; when He delivered him out of so great perils; when He bade him go into Egypt, and on his wife's being taken from him, he repined not, and more instances besides; and as I said, from these things even man would have learned the Patriarch's fear of God, much more than God Who waiteth not for the acts to know the end. And how too justified he him, if He knew not? For it is written, "Abraham believed, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." (Genesis chapter 15, verse 6. Romans chapter 4, verse 3)
What then means this, "Now I know?" The Syriac hath, "Now thou hast made known;" that is, to men. For I knew of old, even before all those commandments. And why, to men even, "now?" for were not those acts enough to prove his mind was right toward God? They were enough indeed, but this one so much greater than them all that they appear nothing beside it. As exalting then this good work and showing its superiority to all, He so spake. For of things which exceed and surpass all that went before, most men are wont to speak so: for instance, if one receive from another a gift greater than any former one, he often says, "Now I know that such an one loves me," not hereby meaning that he knew not in the time past, but as intending to declare what is now given to be greater than all. So also God, speaking after the manner of men, saith, "Now I know," intending only to mark the exceeding greatness of the exploit; not that He "then" came to know either his fear or the greatness of it. For when He saith, "Come, let Us go down and see," (Genesis chapter 11, verse 7; Genesis chapter 18, verse 21) He saith it not as needing to go down, (for He both filleth all things and knoweth all things certainly,) but to teach us not to give sentence lightly. And when He saith, "The Lord looked down from Heaven:" (Psalms chapter 14, verse 2) it describeth His perfect knowledge by a metaphor taken from men. So also here He saith, "Now I know," to declare this to be greater than all which had preceded it. Of this itself too He furnisheth proof by adding, "Because thou sparedst not thy son, thy well-beloved, for My sake; He saith not "thy son" only, but yet more, "thy well-beloved." For it was not nature only, but also parental fondness, which having both by natural disposition and by the great goodness of his child, he yet dared in him to spurn. And if about worthless children parents are not easily indifferent, but mourn even for them; when it is his son, his only-begotten, and his well-beloved, even Isaac, and the father himself is on the point of immolating him; who can describe the excessiveness of such philosophy? This exploit outshineth thousands of diadems and crowns innumerable. For the wearer of that crown, both death ofttimes assaileth and annoyeth, and before death, assaults of circumstances without number; but this diadem shall no one have strength to take from him that weareth it; no not even after death; neither of his own household, nor of strangers. And let me point you out the costliest stone in this diadem. For as a costly stone, so this comes at the end and clasps it. What then is this? the words, "for My sake?" for not herein is the marvel, that he spared not, but that it was "for His sake."
Oh! blessed right hand, of what a knife was it accounted worthy? oh! wondrous knife, of what a right hand was it accounted worthy? Oh! wondrous knife, for what a purpose was it prepared? to what an office did it serve? to what a type did it minister? How was it bloodied? how was it not bloodied? For I know not what to say, so awful was that mystery. It touched not the neck of the child, nor passed through the throat of that holy one: nor was crimsoned with the blood of the righteous; rather it both touched, and passed through, and was crimsoned, and was bathed in it, yet was not bathed. Perchance I seem to you beside myself, uttering such contradictions. For, in truth, I am beside myself, with the thought of the wondrous deed of that righteous man; but I utter no contradictions. For indeed the righteous man's hand thrust it in the throat of the lad, but God's Hand suffered it not, so thrust, to be stained with blood of the lad. For it was not Abraham alone that held it back, but God also: and he by his purpose gave the stroke, God by His voice restrained it. For the same voice both armed and disarmed that right hand, which, marshalled under God, as if under a leader, performed all things at His beck, and all were ministered at His voice. For observe; He said, "Slay," and straightway it was armed: He said, "Slay not," and straightway it was disarmed: for every thing [before] had been fully prepared.
And now God showed the soldier and general to the whole world; this crowned victor to the theatre of the angels; this priest, this king, crowned with that knife beyond a diadem, this trophy-bearer, this champion, this conqueror without a fight. For as if some general havinga most valiant soldier, should use his mastery of his weapons, his bearing, his ordered movements to dismay the adversary; so also God, by the purpose, the attitude, the bearing only of that righteous man, dismayed and routed the common enemy of us all, the Devil. For I deem that even he then shrunk away aghast. But if any one say, `And why did he not suffer that right hand to be bathed, and then forthwith raise him up after being sacrificed?' Because God might not accept such bloody offerings; such a table were that of avenging demons. But here two things were displayed, both the loving kindness of the Master, and the faithfulness of the servant. And before, indeed, he went out from his country: but then he abandoned even nature. Wherefore also he received his principal with usury: and very reasonably. For he chose to lose the name of father, to show himself a faithful servant. Wherefore he became not a father only, but also a priest; and because for God's sake he gave up his own, therefore also did God give him with these His own besides. When then enemies devise mischief, He allows it to come even to the trial, and then works miracles; as in the case of the furnace and the lions; (Dan. iii. and vi.)but when Himself biddeth, readiness attained, He stayeth His bidding. What then, I ask, was wanting further in this noble deed? For did Abraham foreknow what would happen? Did he bargain for the mercy of God? For even though he were a prophet, yet the prophet knoweth not all things. So the actual sacrifice afterwards was superfluous and unworthy of God. And if it was fit he should learn that God was able to raise from the dead, by the womb he had learnt this much more marvellously, or rather he learnt it even before that proof, for he had faith.
[7.] Do not then only admire this righteous man, but also imitate him, and when thou seest him amid so great uproar and surge of waves sailing as in a calm, take thou in hand in like way the helm of obedience and fortitude. For look, pray, not only at this that he built up the altar and the wood; but remember too the voice of the lad, and reflect what hosts like snow storms assaulted him to dismay him, when he heard the lad say, "My father, where is the lamb?" Bethink thee how many thoughts were then stirred up armed not with iron, but with darts of flame; and piercing into and cutting him through on every side. If even now many, and those not parents, are broken down, and would have wept, did they not know the end: and many, I see, do weep, though they know it; what must it be thought he would feel, who begat, who nurtured him, in old age had him, had him only, him such an one, who sees, who hears him, and is presently about to slay him? What intelligence in the words! What meekness in the question! Who then is here at work? The Devil that he might set nature in a flame? God forbid! but God, the more to prove the golden soul of the righteous man. For when indeed the wife of Job speaks, a Devil is at work. For of such sort the advice is. But this one uttereth nothing blasphemous, but what is both very devout and thoughtful; and great the grace that overspread the words, much the honey that dropped therefrom, flowing from a calm and gentle soul. Even a heart of stone these words were enough to soften. But they turned not aside, nay, shook not that adamant. Nor said he, `Why callest thou him father, who in a little while will not be thy father, yea, who hath already lost that title of honor?' And why doth the lad ask the question? Not of impertinence merely, not of curiosity, but as anxious about what was proposed. For he reflected that had his father not meant to make him a partner in what was done, he would not have left the servants below, and taken him only with him. For this reason, too, surely, it is that when they were alone, then he asks him, when none heard what was said. So great was the judgment of the lad. Are ye not all warmed towards him, both men and women? Doth not each one of you mentally infold and kiss the child, and marvel at his judgment; and venerate the piety which, when he was both bound and laid on the wood, made him not be dismayed nor struggle nor accuse his father as mad; but he was even bound and lifted up and laid upon it, and endured all in silence, like a lamb, yea, rather like the common Lord of all. For of Him he both imitated the gentleness, and kept to the type. For "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before his shearer." (Isaiah chapter 53, verse 7) And yet Isaac spake; for his Lord spake also. How dumb then? This meaneth, he spake nothing wilful or harsh, but all was sweet and mild, and the words more than the silence manifested his gentleness. For Christ also said, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me? "(John chapter 18, verse 23) and manifested His gentleness more than if He had help His peace. And as this one speaketh with his father from the altar, so too doth He from the Cross, saying," Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." What then said the Patriarch? (ver. 8.) "God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering, my son." Either uses the names of nature; the former, father; the latter, son; and on either side arduous is the war stirred up, and mighty the storm, and yet wreck no where: for religion triumphed over all. Then after he heard of God, he spoke no further word nor was impertinently curious. Of such judgment was the child even in the very bloom of youth. Seest thou the king, over how many armies, in how many battles which beset him, he hath been victorious? For the barbarians were not so fearful to the city of Jerusalem when they assaulted her oftentimes, as were to this man the thoughts on every side besieging him: but still he overcameall. Wouldest thou see the priest also? The instance is at hand. For when thou hast seen him with fire and a knife; and standing over an altar, what doubtest thou after as to his priesthood? But if thou wouldest see the sacrifice also, lo, here a twofold one. For he offered a son, he offered also a ram, yea, more and above all, his own will. And with the blood of the lamb he consecrated his right hand, with the sacrifice of his son, his soul. Thus was he ordaineda priest, by the blood of his only-begotten, by the sacrifice of a lamb; for the priests also were consecrated by the blood of the victims which were offered to God. Wouldest thou see the prophet also? It is written, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad." (Levit. viii. John viii. 56.)