Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XI/On the Acts of the Apostles/Homily IX on Acts iii. 12

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Homily IX.

Acts III. 12

“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this, or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we have made this man to walk?”

There is greater freedom of speech in this harangue, than in the former. Not that he was afraid on the former occasion, but the persons whom he addressed there, being jesters and scoffers, would not have borne it. Hence in the beginning of that address he also bespeaks their attention by his preamble; “Be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.” (ch. ii. 14.) But here there is no need of this management. (κατασκευἥς.) For his hearers were not in a state of indifference. The miracle had aroused them all; they were even full of fear and amazement. Wherefore also there was no need of beginning at that point, but rather with a different topic; by which, in fact, he powerfully conciliated them, namely, by rejecting the glory which was to be had from them. For nothing is so advantageous, and so likely to pacify the hearers, as to say nothing about one’s self of an honorable nature, but, on the contrary, to obviate all surmise of wishing to do so. And, in truth, much more did they increase their glory by despising glory, and showing that what had just taken place was no human act, but a Divine work; and that it was their part to join with the beholders in admiration, rather than to receive it from them. Do you see how clear of all ambition he is, and how he repels the honor paid to him? In the same manner also did the ancient fathers; for instance, Daniel said, “Not for any wisdom that is in me.” (Dan. ii. 30.) And again Joseph, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen. xi. 8.) And David, “When the lion and the bear came, in the name of the Lord I rent them with my hands.” (1 Sam. xvii. 34.) And so likewise here the Apostles, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (v. 13.) Nay, not even this;[1] for not by our own merit did we draw down the Divine influence. “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers.” See how assiduously he thrusts himself (εἰσωθει) upon the fathers of old, lest he should appear to be introducing a new doctrine. In the former address he appealed to the patriarch David, here he appeals to Abraham and the rest. “Hath glorified His Servant[2] Jesus.” Again a lowly expression, like as in the opening address.

But at this point he proceeds to enlarge upon the outrage, and exalts the heinousness of the deed, no longer, as before, throwing a veil over it. This he does, wishing to work upon them more powerfully. For the more he proved them accountable, the better his purpose were effected. “Hath glorified,” he says, “His Servant Jesus, Whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” The charge is twofold: Pilate was desirous to let Him go; you would not, when he was willing. “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince (or Author) of Life: Whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (v. 14, 15.) Ye desired a robber instead of Him. He shows the great aggravation of the act. As he has them under his hand, he now strikes hard. “The Prince of Life,” he says. In these words he establishes the doctrine of the Resurrection. “Whom God hath raised from the dead.” (ch. ii. 26.) “Whence doth this appear?” He no longer refers to the Prophets, but to himself, inasmuch as now he has a right to be believed. Before, when he affirmed that He was risen, he adduced the testimony of David; now, having said it, he alleges the College of Apostles. “Whereof we are witnesses,” he says.

“And His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” Seeking to declare the matter (ζητὥν τὸ πρἅγμα εὶπεἵν), he straightway brings forward the sign: “In the presence,” he says, “of you all.” As he had borne hard upon them, and had shown that He Whom they crucified had risen, again he relaxes, by giving them the power of repentance; “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” (v. 17.) This is one ground of excuse. The second[3] is of a different kind. As Joseph speaks to his brethren, “God did send me before you (Gen. xlv. 5); what in the former speech he had briefly said, in the words, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken,”—this he here enlarges upon: “But what God before had showed by the mouth of all His Prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” (v. 18.) At the same time showing, that it was not of their doing, if this be proved, that it took place after God’s counsel. He alludes to those words with which they had reviled Him on the Cross, namely “Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him; for He said, I am the Son of God. If[4] He trust in God, let Him now come down from the cross.” (Matt. xxvii. 42, 43.) O foolish men, were these idle words? It must needs so come to pass, and the prophets bear witness thereunto. Therefore if He descended not, it was for no weakness of His own that He did not come down, but for very power. And Peter puts this by way of apology for the Jews, hoping that they may also close with what he says. “He hath so fulfilled,” he says. Do you see now how he refers everything to that source? “Repent ye therefore,” he says, “and be converted.” He does not add, “from your sins;” but, “that your sins, may be blotted out,” means the same thing. And then he adds the gain: “So shall the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.” (v. 19.) This betokens them in a sad state, brought low by many wars.[5] For it is to the case of one on fire, and craving comfort, that the expression applies. And see now how he advances. In his first sermon, he but slightly hinted at the resurrection, and Christ’s sitting in heaven; but here he also speaks of His visible advent. “And He shall send Jesus the Christ ordained[6] (for you), “Whom the heaven must (i.e. must of necessity) receive, until the times of the restitution of all things.” The reason why He does not now come is clear. “Which God hath spoken,” he continues, “by the mouth[7] of His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Before, he had spoken of David, here he speaks of Moses. “Of all things,” he says, “which He hath spoken.” But he does not say, “which Christ,” but, “which God hath spoken[8] by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (v. 20, 21.) Then he betakes him to the ground of credibility, saying, “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things.” And then the greatness of the punishment: “And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those that follow, after, as many as have spoken have likewise foretold of these days.” (v. 23, 24.) He has done well to set the distinction here. For whenever he says anything great, he appeals to them of old. And he found a text which contained both truths; just as in the other discourse he said, “Until He put His foes under His feet.” (ch. ii. 35.) The remarkable circumstance is, that the two things stand together; that is, subjection and disobedience, and the punishment. “Like unto me,” he says. Then why are ye alarmed? “Ye are the children of the prophets” (v. 25): so that to you they spake, and for your sakes have all these things come to pass. For as they deemed that through their outrage they had become alienated (and indeed there is no parity of reason, that He Who now is crucified, should now cherish them as His own), he proves to them that both the one and the other are in accordance with prophecy. “Ye are the children,” he says, “of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, ‘And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’ Unto you first,” he continues, “God having raised up His Son (τόν Παἵδα) sent Him.” “To others indeed also, but to you first who crucified Him.” “To bless you,” he adds, “in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (v. 26.)

Now let us consider again more minutely what has been read out. (Recapitulation.) In the first place, he establishes the point that the miracle was performed by them[9]; saying, “Why marvel ye?” And he will not let the assertion be disbelieved: and to give it more weight, he anticipates their judgment. “Why look ye,” he says, “so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (v. 12.) If this troubles and confounds you, learn Who was the Doer, and be not amazed. And observe how on all occasions when he refers to God, and says that all things are from Him, then he fearlessly chides them: as above where he said, “A man approved of God among you.” (ch. ii. 22.) And on all occasions he reminds them of the outrage they had committed, in order that the fact of the Resurrection may be established. But here he also subjoins something else; for he no more says, “of Nazareth,” but what? “The God of our fathers hath glorified His Servant Jesus.” (v. 13.) Observe also the modesty. He reproached them not, neither did he say at once, “Believe then now: behold, a man that has been forty years lame, has been raised up through the name of Jesus Christ.” This he did not say, for it would have excited opposition. On the contrary, he begins by commending them for admiring the deed, and again calls them after their ancestor: “Ye men of Israel.” Moreover, he does not say, It was Jesus that healed him: but, “The God of our fathers hath glorified,” etc. But then, lest they should say, How can this stand to reason—that God should glorify the transgressor? therefore he reminds them of the judgment before Pilate, showing that, would they but consider, He was no transgressor; else Pilate had not wished to release Him. And he does not say, “when Pilate was desirous,” but, “was determined to let Him go.” “But ye denied the Holy One,” etc. (v. 13, 14.) Him who had killed others, ye asked to be released; Him Who quickeneth them that are killed, ye did not wish to have! And that they might not ask again, How should it be that God now glorifies Him, when before He gave no assistance? he brings forward the prophets, testifying that so it behooved to be. “But those things which God before had showed,” etc., (infra v. 18.) Then, lest they should suppose that God’s dispensation was their own apology, first he reproves them. Moreover, that the denying Him “to Pilate’s face,” was no ordinary thing; seeing that he wished to release Him. And that ye cannot deny this, the man who was asked in preference to Him is witness against you. This also is part of a deep dispensation. Here it shows their shamelessness and effrontery; that a Gentile, one who saw Him for the first time, should have discharged Him, though he had heard nothing striking; while they who had been brought up among His miracles, have done the very opposite! For, as he has said, “When he (Pilate) had determined to let Him go,” that it may not be imagined that he did this of favor, we read, “And he said, It is a custom with you to release one prisoner: will ye therefore that I release unto you this man? (Matt. xxvii. 15.) “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just.” (Mark xv. 6.) He does not say, “Ye delivered up;” but everywhere, “Ye denied.” For, said they, “We have no king but Cæsar.” (John xix. 15.) And he does not say only, Ye did not beg off the innocent, and, “Ye denied” Him but, “Ye slew” Him. While they were hardened, he refrained from such language; but when their minds are most moved, then he strikes home, now that they are in a condition to feel it. For just as when men are drunk we say nothing to them, but when they are sober, and are recovered from their intoxication then we chide them; thus did Peter: when they were able to understand his words, then he also sharpened his tongue, alleging against them many charges; that, Whom God had glorified, they had delivered up; Whom Pilate would have acquitted they denied to his face; that they preferred the robber before Him.

Observe again how he speaks covertly concerning Christ’s power, showing that He raised Himself: just as in his first discourse he had said, “Because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (ch. ii. 24), so here he says, “And killed the Prince of Life.” (v. 15.) It follows that the Life He had was not from another. The prince (or author) of evil would be he that first brought forth evil; the prince or author of murder, he who first originated murder; so also the Prince (or Author) of Life must be He Who has Life from Himself.[10] “Whom God raised up,” he continues: and now that he has uttered this, he adds, “And his name, upon faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by Him hath given Him this perfect soundness. [The faith which is by Him ἡ δι᾽ αὐτοὕ πίστις.] And[11] yet it was ἡ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστις, “the faith which is in Him” (as its object) that did all. For the Apostles did not say, “By the name,” but, “In the name,” and it was in Him (εἰς αὐτὸν) that the man believed. But they did not yet make bold to use the expression, “The faith which is in Him.” For, that the phrase “By Him” should not be too low, observe that after saying, “Upon the faith of His name,” he adds, “His name hath made him strong,” and then it is that he says, “Yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness.” Observe how he implies, that in the καὶ ἐκεἵνο former expression also “Whom God raised up,” he did but condescend to their low attainments. For that Person needed not Another’s help for His rising again, Whose Name raised up a lame man, being all one as dead. Mark how on all occasions he adduces their own testimony. Thus above, he said, “As ye yourselves also know;” and, “In the midst of you:” and here again, “Whom ye see and know: in the presence of you all.” (ch. ii. 22.) And yet that it was, “In His name,” they knew not: but they did know that the man was lame, that he stands there whole.[12] They that had wrought the deed themselves confessed, that it was not by their own power, but by that of Christ. And had this assertion been unfounded, had they not been truly persuaded themselves that Christ had risen again, they would not have sought to establish the honor of a dead man instead of their own, especially while the eyes of the multitude were upon them. Then, when their minds were alarmed, immediately he encourages them, by the appellation of Brethren, “And now, brethren, I wot, etc.” For in the former discourse he foretold[13] nothing, but only says concerning Christ, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly:” here he adds an admonition. There he waited till the people spoke: here, he knew how much they had already effected, and that the present assembly was better disposed toward them. “That through ignorance ye did it.” And yet the circumstances mentioned above were not to be put to the score of ignorance. To choose the robber, to reject Him Who had been adjudged to be acquitted, to desire even to destroy Him—how should this be referred to ignorance? Nevertheless, he gives them liberty to deny it, and to change their mind about what had happened. “Now this indeed, that you put to death the innocent, ye knew: but that you were killing “the Prince of Life,” this, belike, ye did not know.” And he exculpated not them alone, but also the chief contrivers of the evil, “ye and your rulers:” for doubtless it would have roused their opposition, had he gone off into accusation. For the evil-doer, when you accuse him of some wickedness that he has done, in his endeavor to exonerate himself, grows more vehement. And he no longer says, “Ye crucified,” “Ye killed,” but, “Ye did it;” leading them to seek for pardon. If those rulers did it through ignorance, much more did these present.[14] “But these things which God before had showed,” etc. (v. 18.) But it is remarkable, that both in the first and in the second discourse, speaking to the same effect, that is, in the former, “By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God;” and in this, “God before had showed that Christ should suffer;” in neither does he adduce any particular text in proof. The fact is, that each one of such passages is accompanied with many accusations, and with mention of the punishment in store for them [as]; “I will deliver up,” says one, “the wicked in requital for His grave, and the rich in return for His death.” (Is. liii. 9.) And again, * * * “Those things,” he says, “which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.” It shows the greatness of that “counsel,”[15] in that all spoke of it, and not one only. It does not follow, because the event was through ignorance, that it took place irrespectively of God’s ordinance. See how great is the Wisdom of God, when it uses the wickedness of others to bring about that which must be. “He hath fulfilled,” he says: that they may not imagine that anything at all is wanting; for whatsoever Christ must needs suffer, has been fulfilled. But do not think, that, because the Prophets said this, and because ye did it through ignorance, this sufficeth to your exculpation. However, he does not express himself thus, but in milder terms says, “Repent ye therefore.” (v. 19.) “Why? For[16] either it was through ignorance, or by the dispensation of God.” “That your sins may be blotted out.” I do not mean the crimes committed at the Crucifixion; perhaps they were through ignorance; but so that your other sins may be blotted out: this[17] only. “So shall the times of refreshing come unto you.” Here he speaks of the Resurrection, obscurely.[18] For those are indeed times of refreshing, which Paul also looked for, when he said, “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened.” (2 Cor. v. 4.) Then to prove that Christ is the cause of the days of refreshing, he says, “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was for you ordained.” (v. 20.) He said not, “That your sin may be blotted out,” but, “your sins;” for he hints at that sin also. “He shall send.” And whence?[19] “Whom the heaven must receive.” (v. 21.) Still [“must”] “receive?” And why not simply, Whom the heaven hath received? This, as if discoursing of old times: so, he says, it is divinely ordered, so it is settled: not a word yet of His eternal subsistence.—“For Moses indeed said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord raise up for you:” “Him shall ye hear in all things that He shall speak unto you:” and having said, “All things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets,” (v. 22) now indeed he brings in Christ Himself. For, if He predicted many things and it is necessary to hear Him, one would not be wrong in saying that the Prophets have spoken these things. But, besides, he wishes to show that the Prophets did predict the same things. And, if any one will look closely into the matter, he will find these things spoken in the Old Testament, obscurely indeed, but nevertheless spoken. “Who was purposely designed,” says he: in Whom[20] there is nothing novel. Here he also alarms them, by the thought that much remains to be fulfilled. But if so, how says he, “Hath fulfilled?” (v. 18.) The things which it was necessary “that Christ should suffer,” are fulfilled: the things which must come to pass, not yet. “A prophet shall the Lord God raise up for you from among your brethren, like unto me.” This would most conciliate them. Do you observe the sprinkling of low matters and high, side by side,—that He Who was to go up into the heavens should be like unto Moses? And yet it was a great thing too. For in fact He was not simply like unto Moses,[21] if so be that “every soul which will not hear shall be destroyed.” And one might mention numberless other things which show that He was not like unto Moses; so that it is a mighty text that he has handled. “God shall raise Him up unto you,” says Moses, “from among your brethren,” etc.: consequently Moses himself threatens those that should not hear. “Yea, and all the prophets,” etc.: all this[22] is calculated to attract “Yea, and all the prophets,” says the Apostle, “from Samuel.” He refrains from enumerating them singly, not to make his discourse too long; but having alleged that decisive testimony of Moses, he passes by the rest. “Ye,” he says, “are the children of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made.” (v. 25) “Children of the covenant;” that is, heirs. For lest they should think that they received this offer from the favor of Peter, he shows, that of old it was due to them, in order that they may the rather believe that such also is the will of God. “Unto you first,” he continues, “God having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him.” (v. 26.) He does not say simply, “Unto you He sent His Son,” but also, after the resurrection, and when He had been crucified. For that they may not suppose that he himself granted them this favor, and not the Father, he says, “To bless you.” For if He is your Brother, and blesses you, the affair is a promise. “Unto you first.” That is, so far are you from having no share in these blessings, that He would have you become moreover promoters and authors of them to others. For[23] you are not to feel like castaways. “Having raised up”: again, the Resurrection. “In turning away,” he says, “every one of you from his iniquities.” In this way He blesses you: not in a general way. And what kind of blessing is this? A great one. For of course not the turning a man away from his iniquities is itself sufficient to remit them also. And if it is not sufficient to remit, how should it be to confer a blessing? For it is not to be supposed that the transgressor becomes forthwith also blessed; he is simply released from his sins. But this,[24] “Like unto me,” would no wise apply. “Hear ye Him,” he says; and not this alone, but he adds, “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” When he has shown them that they had sinned, and has imparted forgiveness to them, and promised good things, then indeed, then he says, “Moses also says the same thing.” What sort of connection is this: “Until the times of the restitution;” and then to introduce Moses, saying, that[25] all that Christ said shall come to pass? Then also, on the other hand, he says, as matter of encomium (so that for this reason also ye ought to obey): “Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant:” i.e. heirs. Then why do you stand affected towards that which is your own, as if it were another’s? True, you have done deeds worthy of condemnation; still you may yet obtain pardon. Having said this, with reason he is now able to say, “Unto you God sent his Son Jesus to bless you.” He says not, To save you, but what is greater; that the crucified Jesus blessed His crucifiers.

Let us then also imitate Him. Let us cast out that spirit of murder and enmity. It is not enough not to retaliate (for even in the Old Dispensation this was exemplified); but let us do all as we would for bosom-friends, as we would for ourselves so for those who have injured us. We are followers of Him, we are His disciples, who after being crucified, sets everything in action in behalf of his murderers, and sends out His Apostles to this end. And yet we have often suffered justly; but those acted not only unjustly, but impiously; for He was their Benefactor, He had done no evil, and they crucified Him. And for what reason? For the sake of their reputation. But He Himself made them objects of reverence. “The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that do ye, but after their works do ye not.” (Matt. xxiii. 2.) And again in another place, “Go thy way, show thyself to the priest.” (ib. viii. 4.) Besides, when He might have destroyed them, He saves them. Let us then imitate Him, and let no one be an enemy, no one a foe, except to the devil.

Not a little does the habit of not swearing contribute to this end: I mean to the not giving way to wrath:[26] and by not giving way to wrath, we shall not have an enemy either. Lop off the oaths of a man, and you have clipt the wings of his anger, you have smothered all his passion. Swearing, it is said, is as the wind to wrath. Lower the sails; no need of sails, when there is no wind. If then we do not clamor, and do not swear, we have cut the sinews of passion. And if you doubt this, just put it to experiment. Impose it as a law upon the passionate man that he shall never swear, and you will have no necessity of preaching moderation to him. So the whole business is finished. For[27] even though you do not forswear yourselves [yet], by swearing at all, do you not know in what absurd consequences you involve yourselves—binding yourselves to an absolute necessity and as with a cord, and putting yourselves to all manner of shifts, as men studying how to rescue their soul from an evil which there is no escaping, or, failing of that, obliged [by that self-imposed necessity] to spend your life thenceforth in vexation, in quarrels, and to curse your wrath? But all is in vain, and to no purpose. Threaten, be peremptory (διόρισαι), do all, whatever it be, without swearing; [so]: it is in your power to reverse (ἀναλὕσαι) both what you have said and what you have done if you have the mind. Thus on the present day I must needs speak more gently to you. For since ye have heard me, and the greater part of the reformation is achieved by you, now then let us see for what purpose the taking of oaths was introduced, and why allowed to be. In relating to you their first origin, and when they were conceived, and how, and by whom we shall give you this account in requital for your obedience. For it is fit that he who has made his practice right, should be taught the philosophy of the matter, but he who is not yet doing the right, is not worthy to be told the history.

They made many covenants in Abraham’s time, and slew victims, and offered sacrifices, and as yet oaths were not. Whence then did they come in? When evil increased, when all was confusion, upside down, when men had turned aside to idolatry: then it was, then, when men appeared no longer worthy to be believed, that they called God as witness, as if thereby giving an adequate surety for what they said. Such in fact is the Oath: it is a security where men’s principles cannot be trusted.[28] So that in the indictment of the swearer the first charge is this,—that he is not to be trusted without a surety, and a great surety too: for such is the exceeding faithlessness, that they ask not man as surety, but will needs have God! Secondly, the same charge lies against him who receives the oath: that, in a question of compact, he must drag in God for warranty, and refuse to be satisfied unless he get Him. O the excessive stupidity, the insolence of such conduct! Thou, a worm, earth and dust, and ashes, and vapor, to drag in thy Lord as the surety, and to compel the other to drag Him in likewise! Tell me, if your servants were disputing with each other, and exchanging[29] assurances with each other, and the fellow-servant should declare that for his part he would not be satisfied till he had their common master given him for surety, would he not have stripes given him without number, and be made to know that the master is for other purposes, and not to be put to any such use as this? Why do I speak of a fellow-servant?[30] For should he choose any respectable person, would not that person consider it an affront? But I do not wish to do this, say you.[31] Well: then do not compel the other to do so either: since where men only are in question, this is done—if your party says, “I give such an one as my surety,” you do not allow him. “What then,” say you, “am I to lose what I have given?” I am not speaking of this; but that you allow him to insult God. For which reason greater shall be the inevitable punishment to him who forces the oath upon another, than to him who takes it: the same holds with regard to him who gives an oath when no one asks him. And what makes it worse, is, that every one is ready to swear, for one farthing, for some petty item, for his own injustice. All this may be said, when there is no perjury; but if perjury follow in the train, both he that imposes and he that takes the oath have turned everything upside down. “But there are some things,” you will say, “which are unknown.” Well take these into account, and do nothing negligently; but, if you do act negligently, take the loss to yourself as your punishment. It is better to be the loser thus, than in a very different way. For tell me—you force a man to take an oath, with what expectation? That he will forswear himself? But this is utter insanity; and the judgment will fall upon your own head; better you should lose your money, than he be lost. Why act thus to your own detriment, and to the insulting of God? This is the spirit of a wild beast, and of an impious man. But you do this in the expectation that he will not forswear himself? Then trust him without the oath. “Nay, there are many,” you reply, “who in the absence of an oath would presume to defraud; but, once the oath taken, would refrain.” You deceive yourself, man. A man having once learnt to steal, and to wrong his neighbor, will presume full oft to trample upon his oath; if on the contrary he shrinks from swearing, he will much more shrink from injustice. “But he is influenced against his will.” Well then, he deserves pardon.

But why am I speaking of this kind of oaths, while I pass over those in the market-place? For as regards these last, you can urge none of these pleas. For ten farthings you there have swearing and forswearing. In fact, because the thunderbolt does not actually fall from heaven, because all things are not overthrown, you stand holding God in your bonds: to get a few vegetables, a pair of shoes, for a little matter of money, calling Him to witness. What is the meaning of this? Do not let us imagine, that because we are not punished, therefore we do not sin; this comes of God’s mercy; not of our merit. Let your oath be an imprecation upon your own child, upon your own self: say, “Else let the hangman lash my ribs.” But you dare not. Is God less valuable than thy ribs? is He less precious than thy pate? Say “Else let me be struck blind.” But no. Christ so spares us, that He will not let us swear even by our own head; and yet we so little spare the honor of God, that on all occasions we must drag Him in! Ye know not what God is, and with what sort of lips he behooves to be invoked. Why, when we speak of any man of eminent worth, we say, “First wash your mouth, and then make mention of him:” and yet, that precious Name which is above every name, the Name which is marvellous in all the earth, the Name which devils hear and tremble, we haul about as we list! Oh! the force of habit! thereby has that Name become cheap. No doubt, if you impose on any one the necessity of coming into the sacred edifice to take his oath there, you feel that you have made the oath an awful one. And yet how is it that it seems awful in this way, but because we have been in the habit of using that at random, but not this? For ought not a shudder of awe to be felt when God is but named? But now, whereas among the Jews His Name was held to be so reverend, that it was written upon plates, and none was allowed to wear the characters except the high-priest alone: we bandy about His Name like any ordinary word. If simply to name God was not allowed to all; to call Him to witness, what audacity is it! nay, what madness! For if need were (rather than this) to fling away all that you have, ought you not readily to part with all? Behold, I solemnly declare and testify; reform these oaths of the forum, these superfluous oaths,[32] and bring to me all those who wish to take them. Behold, in the presence of this assembly, I charge those who are set apart for the tending of the Houses of Prayer, I exhort and issue this order to them, that no person be allowed to take such oaths at his own discretion: or rather, that none be allowed to swear in any other way, but that the person be brought to me, whosoever he be, since even for these matters less will not serve but they must needs come before us, just as if one had to do with little children. May there be no occasion! It is a shame in some things still to need to be taught. Do you dare to touch the Holy Table, being a person unbaptized? No, but what is still worse, you the baptized dare to lay your hand upon the Holy Table, which not even all ordained persons are allowed to touch, and so to take your oath. Now you would not go and lay your hand upon the head of your child,[33] and yet do you touch the Table, and not shudder, not feel afraid? Bring these men to me; I will judge, and send them away rejoicing, both the one and the other.[34] Do what you choose; I lay it down as a law that there be no swearing at all. What hope of salvation, while we thus make all to have been done in vain? Is this the end of your bills, and your bonds, that you should sacrifice your own soul? What gain do you get so great as the loss? Has he forsworn himself? You have undone both him and yourself. But has he not? even so still you have undone (both), by forcing him to transgress the commandment.[35] Let us cast out this disease from the soul: at any rate let us drive it out of the forum, out of our shops, out of our other work-places; our profits will but be the greater. Do not imagine that the success of your worldly plans is to be ensured by transgressions of the Divine laws. “But he refuses to trust me,” say you; and in fact I have sometimes heard this said by some: “Unless I swear oaths without number, the man will not trust me.” Yes, and for this you may thank yourself, because you are so off-hand with your oaths. For were it not so, but on the contrary were it clear to all men that you do not swear, take my word for it, you would be more readily believed upon your mere nod, than those are who swallow oaths by thousands. For look now: which do you more readily believe? me who do not swear, or those that do swear? “Yes,” say you, “but then you are ruler and bishop.” Then suppose I prove to you that it is not only for that reason? Answer me with truth, I beseech you; were I in the habit of perpetually swearing, would my office stand me in that stead? Not a whit. Do you see that it is not for this reason? And what do you gain at all? Answer me that. Paul endured hunger; do you then also choose to hunger rather than to transgress one of the commandments of God. Why are you so unbelieving? Here are you, ready to do and suffer all things for the sake of not swearing: and shall not He reward you? Shall He, Who sustains day by day both takers and breakers of oaths, give you over to hunger, when you have obeyed Him? Let all men see, that of those who assemble in this Church not one is a swearer. By this also let us become manifest, and not by our creed alone; let us have this mark also to distinguish us both from the Gentiles and from all men. Let us receive it as a seal from heaven, that we may everywhere be seen to be the King’s own flock. By our mouth and tongue let us be known, in the first place, just as the barbarians are by theirs: even as those who speak Greek are distinguished from barbarians, so let us be known. Answer me: the birds which are said to be parrots, how are they known to be parrots? is it not by speaking like men? Let us then be known by speaking like the Apostles; by speaking like the Angels. If any one bid you swear tell him, “Christ has spoken, and I do not swear.” This is enough to make a way for all virtue to come in. It is a gate to religion, a high road leading to the philosophy of piety;[36] a kind of training-school. These things let us observe, that we may obtain also the future blessings, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, power and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. ᾽Αλλ᾽ οὐδε τουτο· ού γὰρ, κ. τ. λ. This seems to refer to εὐσεβεία· “but not by our holiness any more than by our own power.” The modern text: Οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἡμέτερον, φησιν· οὐ γὰρ, κ. τ. λ. “Not even this is our own, he says; for not,” etc.
  2. or, Child, τὸν παιδα. Œcumen. seems to have considered this as a lowly title, for he says: “And of Christ he speaks lowly, τῷ προσθειναι, τὸν Παῖδα.” But to this remark he adds, “For that which in itself is glorified, can receive no addition of glory.”—Below καθὼς ἐν τῷ προοιμί& 251· may refer to the prefatory matter (after the citation from Joel) of the sermon in ch. ii.: see below, in the Recapitulation, whence we might here supply, ἀνωτέρω ἔλεγεν, “᾽Ιησοῦν τὸν Ναζ. κ. τ. λ.” “As in the opening address [above, he said: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God,’ etc.].” Or, “like as in the opening words of this discourse he speaks in lowly manner of themselves.” Œcumen. “He still keeps to lowlier matters, both as to themselves, and as to Christ. As to themselves, in saying that not by their own power they wrought the miracle. As to Christ,” etc.
  3. ἡ δευτέρα ἑτέρα, A. B. C (N. om. ἡ) Cat. Namely, the first, “Ye did it ignorantly, as did also your rulers.” The second, “It was ordered by the counsel of God:” as below, “And he puts this by way of apology,” etc. The Edd. have adopted the absurd innovation, “‘Through ignorance ye did it:’ this is one ground of excuse: the second is, ‘As did also your rulers:’” E. F. D.
  4. Εἰ πέποιθεν, A. C. F. D. N. Cat. and νῦν after καταβ. om. C. F. D. N. Cat.
  5. Πολέμοις attested by Cat. and Œc. but A. has πόνοις, E. and Edd. κακοῖς. In the following sentence, Πρὸς γὰρ τὸν καυσούμενον καὶ παραμυθίαν ἐπιζητοῦντα οὗτος ἂν ἁρμόσειεν ὁ λόγος, B. and Œc. read κλαυσόμενον, C. F. D. N. κλαυσούμενον, (“to him that shall weep,”) A. καυσάμενον, Cat. καυσούμενον, the true reading. The scribes did not perceive that Chr. is commenting on the word ἀναψύξεως, “refrigeration,” as implying a condition of burning: hence the alteration, κλαυσόμενον, or in the “Doric” form (Aristoph.) κλαυσούμενον. E. and Edd. Διὸ καὶ οὕτως εἶπεν εἰδὼς ὅτι πρὸς τὸν πάσχοντα καὶ παραμυθ. ζητοῦντα κ. τ. λ. “Wherefore also he speaks thus, knowing that it is to the case of one who is suffering,” etc.—In the text here commented upon, ὅπως ἂν ἔλθωσι καιροὶ ἀναψ., E.V. makes ὅπως ἂν temporal, “When the times of refreshing,” etc. But here and elsewhere in the N.T. Matt. vi. 5; Luke ii. 35; Acts xv. 17; Rom. iii. 4; the correct usage is observed, according to which, ὅπως ἂν is nearly equivalent to “so (shall);” i.e. “that (ὅπως) they may come, as in the event of your repentance (ἂν) they certainly shall.” And so Chrys. took the passage: Εἶτα τὸ κέρδος ἐπάγει· & 169·Οπως ἂν κ. τ. λ. “Then he adds the gain: So shall the times,” etc.
  6. τὸν προκεχειρισμένον. Other mss. of N.T. read προκεκηρυγμένον, whence Vulg. E.V. “which was before preached.”
  7. E.V. has “all,” and so some mss. πάντων, and St. Chrys. gives it a little further on.
  8. Instead of this clause, “by the mouth.” etc. the Edd. have from E. “Still by keeping the matter in the shade, drawing them on the more to faith by gentle degrees.”
  9. Τέως κατασκευάζει ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐποίησαν τὸ θαῦμα. i.e. “by saying, Why marvel ye? he makes this good at the very outset: You see that a miracle has been wrought, and by us (as the instruments), not by some other man (this is the force of the αὐτοὶ here). This he will not allow them to doubt for a moment: he forestalls their judgment on the matter: you see that it is done by us, and you are inclined to think it was by our own power or holiness,” etc. There is no need to insert the negative, ὅτι οὐκ αὐτοὶ: Erasm. and Ben. Lat.
  10. Peter sharpens his accusation of them by the following contrasts: (1) This healing at which you wonder is to the glory of Christ, not of us. (2) God has glorified whom you have betrayed and denied. (3) This you did though Pilate himself would have released him. (4) You preferred to kill the holy and just one and let a murderer go free. (5) You sought to put to death the Author of Life. Vv. 12–15.—G.B.S.
  11. The meaning of the following passage is plain enough, but the innovator has so altered it as to make it unintelligible. Yet the Edd. adopt his reading (E. D. F.) without notice of the other and genuine reading. “And yet if it was ἡ εἰς αὐτὸν πίστις that did all, and that (ὅτι) it was εἰς αὐτὸν that the man believed, why did (Peter) say, not Διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος, but ᾽Εν τῷ ὀνόματι? Because they did not yet,” etc.
  12. E. has ὅτι ὑγιὴς ἕστηκεν after οὐκ ᾔδεσαν instead of after τοῦτο ᾔδεσαν. So Commel. Erasm. Ed. Par. Hence D. F. have it in both places, and so Morel. Ben. All these omit ὅτιbefore ἐν τῷ ὀν. “And yet in His name they knew not that he stands whole: but this they knew, that he was lame, (that he stands whole).” Savile alone has retained the genuine reading.
  13. οὐδὲν προεῖπεν, A. B. C. N. i.e. foretold nothing concerning them. Edd. οὐδὲν περὶ ἑαυτῶν εἶπεν, “said nothing concerning (the hearers) themselves.”
  14. There is one extenuating circumstance: they did it in ignorance (Cf. Luk. xxiii. 34; 1 Cor. ii. 8; Acts xiii. 27). This fact forms the transition-point to the presentation of a different side of the death of Jesus. It was their crime, but it was also God’s plan. They did it from motives of blindness and hate, but God designed it for their salvation. So that Peter, in effect, says: There is hope for you although you have slain the Lord, for his sacrificial death is the ground of salvation. To this view of the death of Christ he now appeals as basis of hope and a motive to repentance (οὖν v. 19).—G.B.S.
  15. μεγάλην δείκνυσι τὴν βουλήν, meaning the determinate counsel of God above spoken of. Above, after καὶ πάλιν, some other citation is wanting, in illustration of his remark that the prophecies of the Passion are all accompanied with denunciations of punishment.
  16. ἢ γὰρ κατὰ ἄγνοιαν, ἢ κατὰ οἰκονομίαν. Edd. omit this interlocution, Sav. notes it in the margin. “Repent ye therefore.” Why repent? for either it was through ignorance, or it was predestinated. (Nevertheless, you must repent, to the blotting out of your sins, etc.)
  17. τοῦτο μόνον, B. C. N. “this is all:” i.e. no more than this: he does not impute that one great sin to them, in all its heinousness: he only speaks of their sins in general. A. and the other mss. omit these words.
  18. The reference is hardly to the resurrection, but to the Parousia. To the hope of this event, always viewed as imminent, all the expressions: “times of refreshing,” “times of restitution” and “these days” (vv. 19–24) undoubtedly refer. So Olshansen, Meyer, Alford, Hackett, Gloag, Lechler and most recent critics.—G.B.S.
  19. The modern text; “Saying this, he does not declare, Whence, but only adds,” etc.—᾽Ακμὴν δεξασθαι. Ben. Utique suscipere. Erasm. adhuc accipere. It means, Is this still to take place, that he should say ὃν δεῖ δέξασθαι, as if the event were yet future? And the answer is, “He speaks in reference to former times, i.e. from that point of view. (So Œcumen. in loc. τὸ δεῖ ἀντὶ τοῦ ἔδει.) And then as to the necessity; this δεῖ is not meant in respect of Christ’s Divine Nature (for of that he forbears to speak), but the meaning is, So it is ordered,” etc. The report, however, is very defective, especially in what follows. He is commenting upon the words, “Until the time of restitution (or making good) of all that God spake,” etc. πάντων ὧν ἐλάλησεν ὁ Θεὸς, which expression he compares with what is said of the Prophet like unto Moses, πάντων ὅσα ἂν λαλησῃ. Christ is that Prophet: and what He spake, the Prophets, obscurely indeed, spake before. He adds, that Peter’s mention of the yet future fulfilment of all that the Prophets have spoken is calculated also to alarm the hearers. See the further comment on these verses at the end of the recapitulation.
  20. Οὗ οὐδὲν νεώτερον. Meaning perhaps, that as Christ was from the first designed for the Jews, the Gospel is no novelty, as if nothing had been heard of such a Saviour before. E. D. F. ὥστε οὐδὲν νεώτερον, which is placed before the citation τὸν προκεχ.—Below, A. B. C. N. ᾽Επλήρωσεν ἃ ἔδει παθεῖν; ᾽Επληρώθη ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐχρὴν οὐδέπω, which is manifestly corrupt. We restore it thus: ᾽Επλήρωσεν;῝Α ἔδει παθεῖν ἐπληρώθη, ἃ δὲ γενέσθαι ἐχρῆν οὐδεπω. The modern text: ᾽Επλήρωσεν ἃ ἔδει παθεῖν; ᾽Επλήρωσεν, εἶπεν, οὐκ ἐπληρώθη· δεικνυς ὅτι ἃ μὲν ἐχρῆν παθεῖν, ἐπλήρωσεν· ἅ δὲ (δέοι add. F. D.) γενέσθαι λείπεται ἔτι, οὐδέπω.
  21. C. N. Οὐ γὰρ δὴ κατὰ Μωσέα ἦν, εἰ γὰρ πᾶς ὁ μὴ ἀκ. ἐξολοθρευθήσεται, μυρία δὲ εἶπεν τὰ δεικνύντα ὅτι οὐκ ἔστι κατὰ Μωσέα. B. omits οὐ γὰρ.…ἦν, inadvertently passing from ἦν· οὐ γὰρ to the subsequent ἦν· εἰ γάρ. A. omits the words μυρία.…ὅτι, which disturb the sense of the passage. In the translation we have rejected the second γάρ. For εἶπεν, Sav. marg. gives εἴποι τις ἄν, which we have adopted. The modern text substitutes τὸ, καὶ, ἔσται for εἰ γὰρ, and inserts καὶ ἄλλα after μυρία δέ.
  22. Ταῦτα ὅλα ἐπαγωγὰ is strangely rendered by Ben. hæc omnia adjecta sunt. But this is the comment, not upon the threatening in v. 23, but upon the matters contained in the following verses, 24–26.
  23. Μὴ γὰρ ὡς ἀπερριμμένοι διακεῖσθε, B. N. οὐκοῦν μὴ γὰρ, A. πάλιν μὴ γὰρ, C. μὴ οὖν, F. D. καὶ γὰρ, Cat. οὐκοῦν μὴ. E. and Edd., which also add at the end of the sentence, ἢ ἀποβεβλημένοι, where the other mss. have, Πάλιν ἡ ἀνάστασις, as comment on ἀναστήσας.
  24. Τὸ δὲ, ῾Ως ἐμὲ οὐδαμοῦ λόγον ἂν ἔχοι. He had before said, that in the very description of “the Prophet like unto Moses,” it is shown that He is more than like Moses: for instance, “Every soul which will not hear,” etc. would not apply to Moses. Having finished the description, he now adds, You see that the ὡς ἐμὲ nowhere holds as the whole account of the matter: to be raised up (from the dead) and sent to bless, and this by turning every one from his iniquities, is not to be simply such as Moses. The modern text adds, “Unless it be taken in regard of the manner of legislation:” i.e. Christ is like unto Moses considered as Deliverer and Lawgiver, not in any other respect.
  25. E. and Edd. “that they shall hear all things which Christ shall say: and this not in a general way, but with a fearful menace.” It is a powerful connection, for it shows that for this reason also they ought to obey Him. What means it, “Children of the Prophets,” etc.
  26. λέγω δὴ τὸ μὴ ὀργίζεσθαι, as the explanation of εἰς τοῦτο. The other text confuses the meaning by substituting καὶ τὸ μὴ ὀργ. “Not to swear, and not to be angry, is a great help to this.” Which increases the “intricacy” of which Ben. complains in the following passage, where oaths are first said to be the wings of wrath, and then are compared to the wind filling the sails. Here instead of, ὥσπερ γὰρ πνεῦμα τῆς ὀργῆς ὁ ὅρκος, φησὶν, ἐστί, (cited as an apothegm), the modern text gives, ὥσπερ γὰρ πν. ἡ ὀργὴ καὶ ὁ ὅρκος ἐστι. “For wrath and swearing is as a wind.” The imagery is incongruous: oaths, the wings of wrath: oaths the wind, and wrath (apparently) the sails: but the alterations do not mend the sense.
  27. κἂν γὰρ μὴ ἐπιορκῆτε, ὀμνύντες ὅλως οὐκ ἴστε. The modern text, καὶ οὔτε ἐπιορκήσετε, οὔτε ὀμόσεσθε ὅλως. Οὐκ ἴστε. Which does not suit the context. “Make it a law with the passionate man, never to swear.…The whole affair is finished, and you will neither perjure yourselves, nor swear at all.” He seems to be speaking of oaths and imprecations, by which a man in the heat of passion binds himself to do or suffer some dreadful thing. “Suppose you do not perjure yourself, yet think of the misery you entail upon yourself: you must either study all sorts of expedients to deliver your soul, or, since that cannot be without perjury, you must spend your life in misery, etc. and curse your wrath.”—᾽Ανάγκῃ τινὶ καὶ δεσμῷ, with comma preceding: so Sav. but A. B. C. ἀνάγκη nom. preceded by a full stop: “For needs must you, binding yourselves as with a cord,” etc: and so the modern text, with other alterations (adopted by Sav.) which are meant to simplify the construction, but do not affect the sense. Below, ᾽Επειδὴ γὰρ ἠκόυσατε, καὶ τὸ πλέον ὑμῖν κατώρθωται. Ben makes this a sentence by itself, Quia enim audistis, magna pars res a vobis perfecta est. Savile connects it with the following, φέρε δὴ κ. τ. λ. See p. 53, where he alludes to some who laughed at him, perhaps even on the spot.
  28. Τοῦτο γὰρ ὅρκος ἐστὶ, τρόπων ἀπιστουμένων ἐγγύη.
  29. πιστουμένων ἑαυτοὺς, A. B. C. N. as in the phrase πιστοῦσθαί τινα (ὅρκῳ), “to secure a person’s good faith by oath.” Edd. ἀπιστουμένων ἑαυτοῖς, “being objects of distrust to each other.”
  30. ὁμόδουλον. So the mss. but we should have expected δεσπότην, “the master.”
  31. ᾽Αλλ᾽ ἐγὼ οὐ βούλομαι, φησί. “I do not wish [so to insult God].—Then do not oblige the other to do so: [nay, do not suffer him:] just as, should he pretend to name as his surety some person with whom he has no right to take such a liberty, σὺ οὐκ ἀνέχῃ you would not allow him.” That this is the meaning, is shown by what follows: ὅτι τὸν Θεὸν ὑβρίσαι ἀνέχῃ: “he insults God, and you suffer him to do it.”
  32. Τοὺς περιττοὺς, καὶ πάντας ἐμοὶ ἀγάγετε. E. and Edd. for τοὺς περιττοὺς καὶ have τοὺς δὲ μὴ πειθομένους. The following passage relates to a practice of swearing by touching, the Sacred Volume on the Holy Table. Against this custom he inveighs in one of his Sermons ad Pop. Antioch. xv. §. 5. (t. ii. 158. E.) “What art thou doing, O man? On the Holy Table, and where Christ lies sacrificed, there sacrificest thou thy brother?…. sacrificest him in the midst of the Church, and that, with the death to come, the death which dieth not? Was the Church made for this, that we should come there to take oaths? No, but that we should pray there. Does the Table stand there, that we should make men swear thereby? No, it stands there that we may lose sins, not that we may bind them. But do thou, if nothing else, at least reverence the very Volume which thou holdest forth to the other to swear by: the very Gospel which thou, taking in thine hands, biddest the other make oath thereby,—open it, read what Christ there saith concerning oaths, and shudder, and desist.”—Here, he forbids the sacristans to admit persons for any such purpose. “Let such be brought to me, since I must needs be the person to be troubled with these things, as if you were little children, needing to be taught such a simple matter as this.”
  33. i.e. to take an oath by the head of your child. So in the Tract. de Virgin. t. i. 309 D. it is remarked, that “men of rude and dull minds, who do not scruple to swear by God in great matters and small, and break their oath without remorse, would not for a moment think of swearing by the head of their children: although the perjury is more heinous, and the penalty more dreadful, in the former than in the latter case, yet they feel this oath more binding than that.”
  34. καὶ χαίροντας ἑκατέρους ἀποπέμψω. i. e. “both of them glad (to be rid of the quarrel):” unless it is a threat, in the form of an ironical antiphrasis. In a law-suit one party comes off rejoicing (χαίρων): here let both exult—if they can.
  35. Matt. v. 34. “Swear not at all:” which St. Chrysostom (as the surest remedy) would enforce literally, and without any exception.
  36. A. B. C. N. Sav. Ben. ῾Οδὸς ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν εὐλαβείας εἰσάγουσα· (Ν. ἄγουσα·) παλαίστρα τίς ἐστι. E. F. D. omit εὐλαβείας, and so Commel. Morel. It would be better transferred (as remarked by Ed. Par.) to the next clause: “a training-school for piety.”