Early Church Fathers
John xii. 42, 43.-"Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should he put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
[1.] It is necessary for us to avoid alike all the passions which corrupt the soul, but most especially those, which from themselves generate numerous sins. I mean such as the love of money. It is in truth of itself a dreadful malady, but it becomes much more grievous, because it is the root and mother of all mischiefs. Such also is vainglory. See, for instance, how these men were broken off from the faith through their love of honor. "Many," it saith, "of the chief rulers also believed on Him, but because of the Jews1 they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue." As He said also to them before, "How can ye believe which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" (c. v. 44.) So then they were not rulers, but slaves in the utmost slavery. However, this fear was afterwards done away, for nowhere during the time of the Apostles do we find them possessed by this feeling, since in their time both rulers and priests believed. The grace of the Spirit having come, made them all firmer than adamant. Since therefore this was what hindered them from believing at this time, hear what He saith.
Ver. 44. "He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me."
As though He had said, "Why fear ye to believe on Me? Faith passeth to the Father through Me, as doth also unbelief." See howin ever) way He showeth the unvaryingness of His Essence.2 He said not, He that believeth "Me," lest any should assert that He spake concerning His words; this might have been said in the case of mere men, for he that believeth the Apostles, believeth not them, but God. But that thou mightest learn that He speaketh here of the belief on His Essence, He said not, "He that believeth My words," but, "He that believeth on Me." "And wherefore," saith some one, "hath He nowhere said conversely, He that believeth on the Father, believeth not on the Father but on Me?" Because they would have replied, "Lo, we believe on the Father, but we believe not on thee." Their disposition was as yet too infirm. Anyhow, conversing with the disciples, He did speak thus: "Ye believe on the Father,3 believe also on Me" (c. xiv. 1); but seeing that these then were too weak to hear such words, He leadeth them in another way, showing4 that it is not possible to believe on the Father, without believing on Him. And that thou mayest not deem that the words are spoken as of man, He addeth,
Ver. 45. "He that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me."
What then! Is God a body? By no means. The "seeing" of which He here speaketh is that of the mind, thence showing the Consubstantiality. And what is, "He that believeth on Me"? It is as though one should say, "He that taketh water from the river, taketh it not from the river but from the fountain"; or rather this image is too weak, when compared with the matter before us.
Ver. 46. "I am come a light into the world."5
For since the Father is called by this name everywhere both in the Old (Testament) and in the New, Christ useth the same name also;therefore Paul also calleth Him, "Brightness" (Heb. i. 3), having learnt to do so from this source. And He showeth here His close relationship with the Father, and that there is no separation6 between them, if so be that He saith that faith on Him is not on Him, but passeth on to the Father. And He called Himself "light," because He delivereth from error, and dissolveth mental darkness.
Ver. 47. "If any man hear not Me, and believe not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."
[2.] For lest they should think, that for want of power He passed by the despisers, therefore spake He the, "I came not to judge the world." Then, in order that they might not in this way be made more negligent, when they bad learned that "he that believeth is saved, and he that disbelieveth is punished,"7 see how He hath also set before them a fearful court of judgment, by going on to say,
Ver. 48. "He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath One to judge him.""If the Father judgeth no man, and thou art not come to judge the world, who judgeth him?" "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him."8 For since they said, "He is not from God," He saith this,9 that, "they shall not then be able to say these things, but the words which I have spoken now, shall be in place of an accuser, convicting them, and cutting off all excuse." "And the word which I have spoken." What manner of word?
Ver. 49. "For I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak." And other such like.10
Surely these things were said for their sakes, that they might have no pretense of excuse. Since if this were not the case, what shall He have more than Isaiah? for he too saith the very same thing, "The Lord God giveth me the tongue of the learned, that I should know when I ought to speak a word." (Isa. l. 4, Isa. l. 4 LXX.) What more than Jeremiah? for he too when he was sent was inspired. (Jer. i. 9.) What then Ezekiel? for he too, after eating the roll, so spake. (Ezek. iii. 1.) Otherwise also, they who were about to hear what He said shall be found to be causes of His knowledge. For if when He was sent, He then received commandment what He should say, thou wilt then argue that before He was sent He knew not. And what more impious than these assertions? if (that is) one take the words of Christ in this sense, and understand not the cause11 of their lowliness? Yet Paul saith, that both he and those who were made disciples knew "what was that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. xii. 2), and did the Son not know until He had received commandment? How can this be reasonable? Seest thou not that He bringeth His expressions to an excess of humility, that He may both draw those men over, and silence those who should come after. This is why He uttereth words befitting a mere man, that even so He may force us to fly the meanness of the sayings, as being conscious that the words belong not to His Nature, but are suited to the infirmity of the hearers.
Ver. 50. "And I know that His commandment is life everlasting; whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak."
Seest thou the humility of the words? For he that hath received a commandment is not his own master. Yet He saith, "As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will." (c. v. 21.) Hath He then power to quicken whom He will, and to say what He will hath He not power? What He intendeth then by the words is this;12 "The action hath not natural possibility,13 that He should speak one set of words, and I should utter another." "And I know that His commandment is life everlasting." He said this to those that called Him a deceiver, and asserted that He had come to do hurt. But when He saith, "I judge not," He showeth that He is not the cause of the perdition of these men.14 By this He all but plainly testifies, when about to remove from, and to be no more with, them, that "I converse with you, speaking nothing as of Myself, but all as from the Father." And for this cause He confined His discourse to them to humble expressions, that He might say, "Even until the end did I utter this, My last word, to them." What word was that? "As the Father said unto Me, so I speak." "Had I been opposed to God I should have said the contrary, that I speak nothing of what is pleasing to God, so as to attract the honor to Myself, but now I have so referred all things to Him, as to call nothing My own.15 Why then do ye not believe Me when I say that `I have received a commandment,' and when I so vehemently remove your evil suspicion respecting rivalry? For as it is impossible for those who have received a commandment to do or say anything but what their senders wish, as long as they fulfill the commandment, and do not forge16 anything; so neither is it possible for Me to say or do anything except as My Father willeth. For what I do He doeth, because He is with Me, and `the Father hath not left Me alone.'" (c. viii. 29.) Seest thou how everywhere He showeth Himself connected with Him who begat Him, and that there is no separation?17 For when He saith, "I am not come of Myself," He saith it not, as depriving Himself of power, but as taking away all alienation or opposition.18 For if men are masters of themselves, much more the Only-begotten Son. And to show that this is true, hear what Paul saith,19 "He emptied Himself, and gave Himself for us." (Phil. ii. 7.) But, as I said, a terrible thing is vainglory, very terrible (Eph. v. 2); for this made these men not to believe, and others to believe ill, so that the things which were said for the sake of those men, through lovingkindness, they turned to20 impiety.
[3.] Let us then ever flee this monster: various and manifold it is, and everywhere sheds its peculiar venom, in wealth, in luxury, in beauty of person. Through this we everywhere go beyond needful use;21 through this arises extravagance in garments, and a great swarm of domestics; through this the needful use is everywhere despised, in our houses, our garments, our table; and extravagance prevails. Wilt thou enjoy glory? Do alms-deeds, then shall Angels praise thee, then shall God receive thee. Now the admiration goes no farther than the goldsmiths and weavers, and thou22 departest without a crown, often seeing that thou receivest curses. But if thou put not these things about thy body, but expend them in feeding the poor, great will be the applause from all sides, great the praise. Then shall thou have them, when thou givest them to others; when thou keepest them to thyself, then thou hast them not. For a house is a faithless treasury, but a sure treasury are the hands of the poor. Why adornest thou thy body, while thy soul is neglected, possessed by uncleanness? Why bestowest thou not so much thought on thy soul, as thy body? Thou oughtest to bestow greater; but anyhow, beloved,23 we ought to bestow equal care upon it. For tell me, if any one asked thee which thou wouldest choose, that thy body should be fresh and of good habit and surpassing in beauty, and wear mean raiment, or having the body deformed and full of diseases, to wear gold and finery; wouldest thou not much prefer to have beauty depending on the nature of thy person, than on the raiment with which thou art clothed? And wilt thou choose this in the case of thy body, but the contrary in the case of thy soul; and, when thou hast that ugly and unsightly and black, dost thou think to gain anything from golden ornaments? What madness is this! Shift this adorning within, put these necklaces about thy soul. The things that are put about thy body help neither to its health nor to its beauty, for it will not make black white, nor what is ugly either beautiful or good looking. But if thou put them about thy soul, thou shalt soon make it white instead of black, instead of ugly and unsightly, thou shalt make it beautiful and well-favored. The words are not mine, but those of the Lord Himself, who saith, "Though thy sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow" (Isa. i. 18, Isa. i. 18 LXX.); and, "Give alms-and all things shall be clean unto you" (Luke xi. 41); and by such a disposition thou shalt beautify not thyself only, but thy husband. For they if they see you putting off these outward ornaments, will have no great need of expense, and not having it, they will abstain from all covetousness, and will be more inclined to give alms, and ye too will be able boldly to give them fitting counsel. At present ye are deprived of all such authority. For with what mouth will ye speak of these things? with what eyes will ye look your husbands in the face, asking money for alms, when ye spend most upon the covering of your bodies? Then wilt thou be able boldly to speak with thy husband concerning alms-giving, when thou layest aside thine ornaments of gold. Even if thou accomplish nothing, thou hast fulfilled all thy part; but I should rather say, that it is impossible that the wife should not gain the husband, when she speaks by the very actions.24 "For what knowest thou, O woman, whether thou shalt save thy husband?" (1 Cor. vii. 16.) As then now thou shall give account both for thyself and for him, so if thou put off all this vanity thou shall have a double crown, wearing thy crown and triumphing25 with thy husband through those unalloyed26 ages, and enjoying the everlasting good things, which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.