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124 What Obstacles Abraham overcame in believing.
HOMIL. against man's hope, in hope which is of God. (For he is shewing the loftiness of the action, and leaving no room for disbelieving what is said.) Things which are contrary to one another, yet faith blends them together. But if he were speaking about such as were from Ishmael, this language would be superfluous: for it was not by faith but by nature that they were begotten. But he bringeth Isaac also before us. For it was not concerning those nations that he believed, but concerning him who was to be from his barren wife. If then it be a reward to be father of many nations, it would be so of those nations clearly of whom he so believed. For that you may know that he is speaking of them, listen to what follows.
Ver. 19. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb.
Do you see how he gives the obstacles, as well as the high spirit of the righteous man which surmounts all? Against hope, he says, was that which was promised: this is the first obstacle. For Abraham had no other person who had received a son in this way to look to. They that were after him looked to him, but he to no one, save to God only. And this is why he said, against hope. Then, his body now dead. This is a second. And, the deadness of Sarah's womb. This is a third, aye and a fourth obstacle.
Ver. 20. But he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief.
For God neither gave any proof nor made any sign, but there were only bare words promising such things as nature did not hold out any hopes of. Yet still he says, he staggered not. He does not say, 'He did not disbelieve,' but, He staggered not, that is, he neither doubted nor hesitated though the hindrances were so great. From this we learn, that if God promise even countless impossibilities, and he that heareth, doth not receive them, it is not the nature of things. that is to blame, but the unreasonableness of him who receiveth them not. But was strong in faith. See the pertinacity of Paul". For since the discourse was about them that
• 6 Mss. Qıλovixsíav, Sav. Qız.oropías, than the reading of Savile. See above, 1 Ms. copiar, which makes better sense
Unreasoning Trust honours God, questioning dishonours Him. 125
work and them that believe, He shews that the believer Roм. works more than the other, and requires more power, and great strength, and sustains no common degree of labour. For they counted faith worthless, as having no labour in it. Insisting then upon this, he shews that it is not only he that succeeds in temperance, or any other virtue of this sort, but he that displays faith also who requires even greater power. For as the one needs strength to beat off the reasonings of intemperance, so hath the faithful also need of a soul endued with power, that he may thrust aside the suggestions of unbelief. How then did he become strong? By trusting the matter, he replies, to faith and not to reasonings: else he had fallen. But how came he to thrive in faith itself? By giving glory to God, he says.
Ver. 21. And being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.
Abstaining then from curious questionings is glorifying God, as indulging in them is transgressing. But if by entering into curious questions, and searching out things below, we fail to glorify Him, much more if we be over curious in the matter of the Lord's generation, shall we suffer to the utmost for our insolence. For if the type of the resurrection is not to be searched into, much less those unutterable and awestriking subjects. And he does not use the word 'believed' merely, but, being fully persuaded. For such a thing is faith, it is clearer than the demonstration by reasons, and persuades more fully. For it is not possible for another reasoning succeeding to it to shake it afterwards. He indeed that is persuaded with words may have his persuasion altered too by them. But he that stays himself upon faith, hath henceforward fortified his hearing against words that may do hurt to it. Having said then, that he was justified by faith, he shews that he glorified God by that faith; which is a thing specially belonging to a good life. Let your light so Mat. 5, shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
b λογισμούς. It may be used for imaginations, as by Macarius.
e Tertull. de Res. Carn. cap. xii. Totus hic ordo revolubilis rerum, &c.
d Sav. and 1 Ms. diaraλsoas, 4 Mss. διαλῦσαι, 1 διαλύσαι. Savile's reading seems the most forcible, but the other makes good sense.
126 Faith has every advantage of works in a higher degree.
HOMIL. glorify your Father which is in heaven. But lo! this is VIII. shewn also to belong to faith! And again, as works need power, so doth faith. For in their case the body often sheweth the toil, but in the faith the well-doing belongeth to the soul alone. And so the labour is greater, since it has no one to share the struggles with it'. Do you observe how he shews that all that belonged to works attached to faith in a far greater degree, as having whereof to glory before God,requiring power and labour,--and again, glorifying God? And after saying, that what He had promised, He is able also to perform, he seems to me to speak beforehand of things to come. For it is not things present merely that He promises, but also things to come. For the present are a type of the other. It is then a sign of a weak, little, and pitiful mind not to believe. And so when any make faith a charge against us, let us make want of faith a charge against them in return, as pitiful, and little-minded, and foolish, and weak, and no better in disposition than asses. For as believing belongs to a lofty and high-born soul, so disbelieving doth to a most unreasonable and worthless one, and such as is - sunken drowsily into the senselessness of brutes. Therefore having left these, let us imitate the Patriarch, and glorify God as he gave Him glory. He held in mind His righte26 Mss. ousness, His boundless power. And having formed a just conception of Him, he was also fully persuaded about His promises.
Let us then also glorify Him by faith as well as by works, that we may also attain to the reward of being glorified by Rom. 2, Him. For them that glorify me I will glorify, He says: and indeed, if there were no reward, the very privilege of glorifying God were itself a glory. For if men take a pride in the mere fact of speaking eulogies of kings, even if there be no other fruit of it; consider how glorious it must be, that our Lord is glorified by us: as again, how great a punishment to cause Him to be by our means blasphemed. And yet this very being glorified, He wisheth to be brought
e 6 Mss. add' But,' and 'also,' they also place the stop after again, and add 'for.'
f So 6 Mss. and Sav. conj. The text of Sav. admits no other sense, but is not grammatical.
How to resist Satan and glorify God.
about for our sakes, since He doth not need it Himself. Rom. For what distance dost thou suppose to be between God 4, 21. and man? as great as that between men and worms &? But when I have mentioned a distance even thus great, I have not at all expressed it: since to express its greatness is impossible. Would you, now, wish to have a great and marked reputation among worms? Surely not. If then thou that lovest glory, wouldest not wish for this, how should He who is far removed from this passion, and so much farther above us, stand in need of glory from thee? Nevertheless, free from the want of it as He is, still He saith that He desireth it for thy sake. Yet if He endured for thy sake to become a slave, why wonder that He upon the same ground layeth claim to the other particulars also? For He counts nothing unworthy of Himself which may be conducive to our salvation. Since then we are aware of this, let us shun sin altogether, because by reason of it He is blasphemed. For it says, flee from sin, as from before a serpent. If Wisd. thou goest near unto it, it will bite thee: for it is not it 21, that comes to us, but we that desert to it. God has so ordered things that the Devil should not prevail over us by compulsion': since else none would have stood against' Gr. tyhis might. And on this account He set him a distant abode, ranny as a kind of robber and tyrant'. And unless he find a person unarmed and solitary for his assaults, he doth not venture to attack him. Except he see us travelling by the desert, he has not the courage to come near us. Now the Devil's desert place is nothing else than sin. We then have need of the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, not only that we may not get evil intreated, but that even should he be minded to leap' upon us, we may cut off his head. Need we have of continual prayer that he may be bruised under our feet, for he is shameless and full of hardihood, and this though
on the same place, Oxf. Trans. p. 117,
Alluding perhaps to the sons of
128 The Serpent's assaults. Power of the Cross and our Lord's Name.
HOMIL. he fights from beneath. But yet even so he gets the VIII. victory and the reason is, that we are not earnestly set upon being above his blows. For he has not even the power to lift himself very high, but he trails along upon the ground. And of this the serpent is a type. But if God set him in that rank from the beginning, much more will He now. But if thou dost not know what fighting from beneath may be, I also will try to explain to thee the manner of this war. What then may this fighting from beneath be? It is standing upon the lower things of the world to buffet us, such as pleasure and riches and all the goods of this life. And for this reason, whoever he seeth flying toward heaven, first, he will not even be able to leap upon him. Secondly, even if he should attempt it he will speedily fall. For he hath no feet; be not afraid: he hath no wings; fear not. He trails upon the earth, and the things of the earth. Do thou then have nought in common with the earth, and thou wilt not need labour even. For he hath not any knowledge of open fight: but as a serpent he hideth him in the thorns, nestling evermore in the deceivableness of riches. And if thou wert to cut away the thorns, he will easily be put to flight, being detected': and if thou knowest how to charm him with the inspired charms, he will straightway be struck. For we have, we surely have, spiritual charms, even the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the might of the Cross. This charm will not only bring the serpent out of his lurking places, and cast him into the fire, but even wounds it healeth. But if some that have said this Name have not been healed, it came of their own little faith, and was not owing to any weakness in what they said. For some did throng Jesus and press Him, and got no good therefrom. But the woman with an issue, without even touching His Body, but merely the hem of His garment, stanched a flux of blood of so long standing. This Name is fearful alike to the devil, and to passions, and to diseases. In this then let us find a pleasure, herewith let us fortify ourselves. It was thus Paul waxed great, and yet he was of the like nature with ourselves. But faith had made
Sav. mar. and 5 Mss. dλos.