Early Church Fathers
Colossians iii. 16, 17.-"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God. And whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Having exhorted them to be thankful, he shows also the way, that, of which I have lately discoursed to you. And what saith he? "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly"; or rather not this way alone, but another also. For I indeed said that we ought to reckon up those who have suffered things more terrible, and those who have undergone sufferings more grievous than ours, and to give thanks that such have not fallen to our lot; but what saith he? "Let the word of Christ dwell in you"; that is, the teaching, the doctrines, the exhortation, wherein He says, that the present life is nothing, nor yet its good things. If we know this, we shall yield to no hardships whatever. (Matt. vi. 25, &c) "Let it dwell in you," he saith, "richly," not simply dwell, but with great abundance. Hearken ye, as many as are worldly, and have the charge of wife and children; how to you too he commits especially the reading of the Scriptures and that not to be done lightly, nor in any sort of way, but with much earnestness. For as the rich in money can bear fine and damages, so he that is rich in the doctrines of philosophy will bear not poverty only, but all calamities also easily, yea, more easily than that one. For as for him, by discharging the fine, the man who is rich must needs be impoverished, and found wanting, and if he should often suffer in that way, will no longer be able to bear it, but in this case it is not so; for we do not even expend our wholesome thoughts when it is necessary for us to bear aught we would not choose, but they abide with us continually. And mark the wisdom of this blessed man. He said not, "Let the word of Christ" be in you, simply, but what? "dwell in you," and "richly."
"In all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another." "In all," says he. Virtue he calls wisdom, and lowliness of mind is wisdom, and almsgiving, and other such like things, are wisdom; just as the contraries are folly, for cruelty too cometh of folly. Whence in many places it calleth the whole of sin folly. "The fool," saith one, "hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Ps. xiv. 1); and again, "My wounds stink and are corrupt from the face of my foolishness." (Ps. xxxviii. 5, Sept.) For what is more foolish, tell me, than one who indeed wrappeth himself about in his own garments, but regardeth not his brethren that are naked; who feedeth dogs, and careth not that the image of God is famishing; who is merely persuaded that human things are nought, and yet clings to them as if immortal. As then nothing is more foolish than such an one, so is nothing wiser than one that achieveth virtue. For mark; how wise he is, says one. He imparteth of his substance, he is pitiful, he is loving to men, he hath well considered that he beareth a common nature with them; he hath well considered the use of wealth, that it is worthy of no estimation; that one ought to be sparing of bodies that are of kin to one, rather than of wealth. He that is a despiser of glory is wholly wise, for he knoweth human affairs; the knowledge of things divine and human, is philosophy. So then he knoweth what things are divine, and what are human, and from the one he keeps himself, on the other he bestoweth his pains. And he knows how to give thanks also to God in all things, he considers the present life as nothing; therefore he is neither delighted with prosperity, nor grieved with the opposite condition.
Tarry not, I entreat, for another to teach thee; thou hast the oracles of God. No man teacheth thee as they; for he indeed oft grudgeth much for vainglory's sake and envy. Hearken, I entreat you, all ye that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul. If ye will not any other, yet get you at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befall thee, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take thence comfort of thy trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather dive not into them merely, but take them wholly to thee; keep them in thy mind.
This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how ought we to come off safe? Well contented should we be if we can be safe with them, let alone without them. Throw not the whole upon us! Sheep ye are, still not without reason, but rational; Paul committeth much to you also. They that are under instruction, are not for ever learning; for then they are not taught. If thou art for ever learning, thou wilt never learn. Do not so come as meaning to be always learning; (for so thou wilt never know;) but so as to finish learning, and to teach others. In the arts do not all persons continue for set times, in the sciences, and in a word, in all the arts? Thus we all fix definitely a certain known time; but if ye are ever learning, it is a certain proof that ye have learned nothing.
This reproach God spake against the Jews. "Borne from the belly, and instructed even to old age." (Isa. xlvi. 3, 4, Sept.) If ye had not always been expecting this, all things would not have gone backward in this way. Had it been so, that some had finished learning, and others were about to have finished, our work would have been forward; ye would both have given place to others, and would have helped us as well. Tell me, were some to go to a grammarian and continue always learning their letters, would they not give their teacher much trouble? How long shall I have to discourse to you concerning life? In the Apostles' times it was not thus, but they continually leaped from place to place, appointing those who first learned to be the teachers of any others that were under instruction. Thus they were enabled to circle the world, through not being bound to one place. How much instruction, think ye, do your brethren in the country stand in need of, [they] and their teachers? But ye hold me riveted fast here. For, before the head is set right, it is superfluous to proceed to the rest of the body. Ye throw everything upon us. Ye alone ought to learn from us, and your wives from you, your children from you; but ye leave all to us. Therefore our toil is excessive.
"Teaching," he saith, "and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Mark also the considerateness of Paul. Seeing that reading is toilsome, and its irksomeness great, he led them not to histories, but to psalms, that thou mightest at once delight thy soul with singing, and gently beguile thy labors. "Hymns," he saith, "and spiritual songs." But now your children will utter songs and dances of Satan, like cooks, and caterers, and musicians; no one knoweth any psalm, but it seems a thing to be ashamed of even, and a mockery, and a joke. There is the treasury house of all these evils. For whatsoever soil the plant stands in, such is the fruit it bears; if in a sandy and salty soil, of like nature is its fruit; if in a sweet and rich one, it is again similar. So the matter of instruction is a sort of fountain. Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of the love of wisdom; as at once concerning chastity, or rather, before all, of not companying with the wicked, immediately with the very beginning of the book; (for therefore also it was that the prophet began on this wise, "Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly"; (Ps. i. 1), and again, "I have not sat in the council of vanity"; (Ps. xxvi. 4, Sept., and again, "in his sight a wicked doer is contemned, but he honoreth those that fear the Lord," (Ps. xv. 4, Sept.,) of companying with the good, (and these subjects thou wilt find there in abundance,) of restraining the belly, of restraining the hand, of refraining from excess, of not overreaching; that money is nothing, nor glory, and other things such like.
When in these thou hast led him on from childhood, by little and little thou wilt lead him forward even to the higher things. The Psalms contain all things, but the Hymns again have nothing human. When he has been instructed out of the Psalms, he will then know hymns also, as a diviner thing. For the Powers above chant hymns, not psalms. For "a hymn," saith one, "is not comely in the mouth of a sinner" (Ecclus. xv. 9); and again, "Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they sit together with me" (Ps. ci. 6, 7, Sept.); and again, "he that worketh haughtiness hath not dwelt in the midst of my house"; and again, "He that walketh in a blameless way, he ministered unto me." (Ps. ci. 6, Sept.)
So that ye should safely guard them from intermixing themselves, not only with friends, but even with servants. For the harm done to the free is incalculable, when we place over them corrupt slaves. For if when enjoying all the benefit of a father's affection and wisdom, they can with difficulty be preserved safe throughout; when we hand them over to the unscrupulous- ness of servants, they use them like enemies, thinking that they will prove milder masters to them, when they have made them perfect fools, and weak, and worthy of no respect.
More then than all other things together, let us attend seriously to this. "I have loved," saith he," those that love thy law." (Ps. cxix. 165, not exact.) This man then let us too emulate, and such let us love. And that the young may further be taught chastity, let them hear the Prophet, saying, "My loins are filled with illusions" (Ps. xxxviii. 7, Sept.); and again let them hear him saying, "Thou wilt utterly destroy every one that goeth a whoring from Thee." (Ps. lxxiii. 27, Sept.) And, that one ought to restrain the belly, let them hear again, "And slew," he saith, "the more part of them while the meat was yet in their mouths." (Ps. lxxviii. 30, Sept.) And that they ought to be above bribes, "If riches become abundant, set [not] your heart upon them" (Ps. lxii. 10); and that they ought to keep glory in subjection, "Nor shall his glory descend together after him." (Ps. xlix. 17.) And not to envy the wicked, "Be not envious against them that work unrighteousness." (Ps. xxxvii. 1.) And to count power as nothing, "I saw the ungodly in exceeding high place, and lifting himself up as the cedars of Libanus, and I passed by, and lo! he was not." (Ps. xxxvii. 35.) And to count these present things as nothing, "They counted the people happy, that are in such a case; happy are the people, whose helper is the Lord their God." (Ps. cxliv. 15, Sept.) That we do not sin without notice, but that there is a retribution, "for," he saith, "Thou shalt render to every man according to his works." (Ps. lxii. 12, Sept.) But why doth he not so requite them day by day? "God is a judge," he says, "righteous, and strong, and longsuffering." (Ps. vii. 11.) That lowliness of mind is good, "Lord," he saith, "my heart is not lifted up" (Ps. cxxxi. 1): that pride is evil, "Therefore," he said, "pride took hold on them wholly" (Ps. lxxiii. 6, Sept.); and again, "The Lord resisteth the proud"; and again, "Their injustice shall come out as of fatness." That almsgiving is good, "He hath dispersed, he hath given to the needy, his righteousness endureth for ever." (Prov. iii. 34.) And that to pity is praiseworthy, "He is a good man that pitieth, and lendeth." (Ps. lxxiii. 7, Sept.) And thou wilt find there many more doctrines than these, full of true philosophy; such as, that one ought not to speak evil, "Him that privily slandereth his neighbor, him did I chase from me." (Ps. cxii. 9.)
What is the hymn of those above? The Faithful know. What say the cherubim above? What say the Angels? "Glory to God in the highest." (Ps. cxii. 5.) Therefore after the psalmody come the hymns, as a thing of more perfection. "With psalms," he saith, "with hymns, with spiritual songs, with grace singing in your hearts to God." (Ps. ci. 5, Sept.) He means either this, that God because of grace hath given us these things; or, with the songs in grace; or, admonishing and teaching one another in grace; or, that they had these gifts in grace; or, it is an epexegesis and he means, from the grace of the Spirit. "Singing in your hearts to God." Not simply with the mouth, he means, but with heedfulness. For this is to "sing to God," but that to the air, for the voice is scattered without result. Not for display, he means. And even if thou be in the market-place, thou canst collect thyself, and sing unto God, no one hearing thee. For Moses also in this way prayed, and was heard, for He saith, "Why criest thou unto Me?" (Ex. xiv. 15) albeit he said nothing, but cried in thought-wherefore also God alone heard him-with a contrite heart. For it is not forbidden one even when walking to pray in his heart, and to dwell above.
Ver. 17. "And whatsoever ye do," he saith, "in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
For if we thus do, there will be nothing polluted, nothing unclean, wherever Christ is called on. If thou eat, if thou drink, if thou marry, if thou travel, do all in the Name of God, that is, calling Him to aid thee: in everything first praying to Him, so take hold of thy business. Wouldest thou speak somewhat? Set this in front. For this cause we also place in front of our epistles the Name of the Lord. Wheresoever the Name of God is, all is auspicious. For if the names of Consuls make writings sure, much more doth the Name of Christ. Or he means this; after God say ye and do everything, do not introduce the Angels besides. Dost thou eat? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Dost thou sleep? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Launchest thou into the forum? Do the same-nothing worldly, nothing of this life. Do all in the Name of the Lord, and all shall be prospered to thee. Whereonsoever the Name is placed, there all things are auspicious. If it casts out devils, if it drives away diseases, much more does it render business easy.
And what is to "do in word or in deed"? Either requesting or performing anything whatever. Hear how in the Name of God Abraham sent his servant; David in the Name of God slew Goliath. Marvelous is His Name and great. Again, Jacob sending his sons saith, "My God give you favor in the sight of the man." (Gen. xliii. 14.) For he that doeth this hath for his ally, God, without whom he durst do nothing. As honored then by being called upon, He will in turn honor by making their business easy. Invoke the Son, give thanks to the Father. For when the Son is invoked, the Father is invoked, and when He is thanked, the Son has been thanked.
These things let us learn, not as far as words only, but to fulfill them also by works. Nothing is equal to this Name, marvelous is it everywhere. "Thy Name," he saith, "is ointment poured forth." (Cant. i. 3.) He that hath uttered it is straightway filled with fragrance. "No man," it is said, "can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. xii. 3.) So great things doth this Name Work. If thou have said, In the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, with faith, thou hast accomplished everything. See, how great things thou hast done! Thou hast created a man, and wrought all the rest (that cometh) of Baptism! So, when used in commanding diseases, terrible is The Name. Therefore the devil introduced those of the Angels, envying us the honor. Such incantations are for the demons. Even if it be Angel, even if it be Archangel, even if it be Cherubim, allow it not; for neither will these Powers accept such addresses, but will even toss them away from them, when they have beheld their Master dishonored. "I have honored thee," He saith, "and have said, Call upon Me"; and dost thou dishonor Him? If thou chant this incantation with faith, thou wilt drive away both diseases and demons, and even if thou have failed to drive away the disease, this is not from lack of power, but because it is expedient it should be so. "According to Thy greatness," he saith, "so also is Thy praise." (Ps. xlviii. 10.) By this Name hath the world been converted, the tyranny dissolved, the devil trampled on, the heavens opened. We have been regenerated by this Name. This if we have, we beam forth; This maketh both martyrs and confessors; This let us hold fast as a great gift, that we may live in glory, and be well-pleasing to God, and be counted worthy of the good things promised to them that love Him, through the grace and lovingkindness, &c.