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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

That human affairs are not, according to the unlearned surmises of the Greeks, subject as of necessity to the Hours, but that of our own choice we advance both to good and to the contrary: and that we are directed by the Will of God.

30 The Jews therefore were seeking to take Him: and no man laid a hand on Him, because His hour was not yet come.

THE Pharisees cut with His reproaches, and perceiving that their silence in those matters was not without damage to their own stubbornness, and was of benefit to the multitudes (for they were being persuaded of the duty of at length acknowledging that He is Christ), are carried along unto their wonted presumption, and again thirst for His Blood. For thrusting aside reverence for the law, as most unserviceable to them, and taking no account of what is contained in the Sacred Writings, and deeming not worthy of remembrance the command, The innocent and righteous slay thou not, they are sick of a most unrighteous madness against Christ. But by the Divine Might the result of their devices is turned to the utter contrary. For the deceitful man shall not attain his prey as it is written. For they seek to take Him, as the Evangelist saith, as though they had kept a voluntary and self-imposed silence at His rebukes, and would repel by their after wrath all appearance of having been kept back by Him. For this some of them of Jerusalem had accepted as a proof that Jesus is by Nature God, saying, Lo, He speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto Him: do the rulers know indeed that He is the Christ? But He Who taketh the wise in their own craftiness, rendereth their daring most useless to them who thus schemed, and confirmeth to the multitudes what had been bruited in secret by way of consideration and conjecture. For they are repressed by a God-befitting operation, which putteth a bridle upon their unholy deeds, and permitteth their designs to stretch forth but to attempts. For profitably did the most wise Evangelist put forward the reason of their being unable to carry through their proposed design to its fulfilment (for says he, His hour was not yet come). Here he evidently calls hour the time, i. e., of His Passion, and of the Precious Cross. To whom then will it not be evident by this also, that Christ would not have suffered at all, if He had put away the will to suffer? For not by the violence of the Jews, but of His own Will did He come to the Cross for our sakes and on account of us. Wherefore also He saith, averting the reproach of seeming powerlessness, No man taketh My life from Me, I lay it down of Myself: I have power to lay it down, and again I have power to take it. For as we have already before said, He bare no unwilling Cross for us. For He hath offered Himself as a Holy Sacrifice to God the Father, purchasing the salvation of all men by His Own Blood. Wherefore He also said in the Gospel preachings, For their sakes do I sanctify Myself. But sanctify He here says for “offer,” and “consecrate;” for that which is offered in sacrifice to God is holy. But that He accepted being the Sacrifice for all free from all violence from any, we shall know when we hear Him saying in the Psalms to God the Father, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a Body preparedst Thou Me: in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou tookest no pleasure: then I said, Lo I come, in the chapter of the book it is written of Me, to do Thy will, O God. Seest thou how of His own accord He comes unto His Passion for all? For He says, Lo I come, not, I am taken by compulsion by another. He escapes then from the present violence of the rulers, reserving His Passion for its appointed time, and using a most God-befitting boldness in all things.

I suppose then that this will suffice for the elucidation of the present passage, but since it is probable that some of the initiated on hearing the words, His hour had not yet come, may be carried away out of too great levity unto the mad folly of the Greeks, so as unreasonably to suppose that the affairs of man are subject to hours and days and seasons, I deem it necessary to say a little on this subject, since our aim is by every thought zealously to provide what is profitable to our readers. To the children of the Church then who are brought up on the Holy Scriptures, I suppose that will suffice for the refutation of the wiles of the Greeks and for the satisfactory casting off of the uncounsel hence arising, which is said by way of accusation or wise rebuke by Paul himself to some who were thus minded, Ye are observing days and months and times and years: I am afraid of you, lest I have toiled for you in vain. And indeed, apart from all subtlety of argument, it is manifest that he which is involved in such folly, will both destroy his own soul, and be found to dishonour the Maker of us all, to whom Alone wise and well-tutored reason attributes the helm of our affairs. But they who are minded unrightly to observe those things, will overturn the order of Providence, and believe that the Lord of all things is no longer Dispenser of our affairs, but will commit to times and seasons the government over all things, setting the creation over its Maker and despoiling of fairest Attributes, Him to Whom is due all honour and glory and worship, bestowing on the creature what is above it, and imparting to things made that wherewith they ought to crown the Creator: nor will their evil deeds stop here, but will advance to something yet heavier, for they will openly reproach God, lover of good, and will say that He, the enemy of all sin, is Himself the worker of evil deeds. For if by Him have been made time and hour and day and year, and these bring certain, of necessity and violence, unto sometimes unpurposed wickedness, and cause them to fall into the misfortunes consequent thereupon, how does not what we say shew itself to be true? And what then becomes of what is said by the all-wise Moses, And God saw (he says) every thing that He had made, and behold it was very good? But time is one of the every thing; and in time are both hour and day and year. But if we call that the introducing of evil, which the Eye of the Divine Nature saw to be good, shall we not be confessing outright that the Lord of all is found to be the Creator of things most base?

I think then that those who are involved in the offences just mentioned will at length blush. But since it is probable that some have chosen not only not to resist the uncounsels of the Greeks, but even to defend them, come let us consider the absurdity inherent in their doctrine in another light also and, heaping up profitable arguments as auxiliaries, let us lead out the truth against their abominations. For if according to you, sirs, at the, so to say, forcible invitation of time, and on the compulsion of the hour, we are drawn to ought good or the contrary, as it may be, then superfluous (as it seems) were reason, guiding us to each action, both counselling us to decline from ill deeds, and exhorting us rather to hasten after what is approved. For what benefit (tell me) remains, what advantageth sound reason, if I must surely suffer and advance even against my will, whithersoever the hour invites and the season chooses to compel? it is meet then, as they say that pilots of ships do, when they declare there is no hope of the ship being saved in the peril of the storm, to let go every rope, and undo the very tillers, no more enduring any skill therein, and to commit it to the force of the waves and to be tossed on the sea. For nought, nought (from what has been already said) is either the gain to those who desire virtue, nor yet will harm spring up to the workers of evil, unless we receive from God according to each one of the things we have wrought, and receive recompense according to the quality of our actions. For (tell me) will not the hour oftentimes mark out what is most excellent, and the season without distinction profit, even if I be taken in the basest deeds? Again on the other hand, the season will sometimes appoint not a single good thing to some, but rather will bring, so to say, the hardest of all things, upon those who have aimed at honouring above all things the performance of good deeds.

But (haply some one will say) it will be no such thing as this, but the hour and season will give to each what suits him.

Therefore the season will now reign over us, we will put about the hours the dignity of Providence, having no more thought of God, we will ask by prayer, of Him nought, but of the time or the season. And what follows? we shall worship the creature more than the Creator, and blasphemously give the glory of the Creator to things made by Him. The disgrace hence accruing and the magnitude of the blasphemy, we shall see with no great trouble to have abomination more open than that of women who are courtesans. But what comes into our minds, we will say for profit’s sake. Superfluously, it appears, do the laws both of God and man mark out to lovers of wickedness the punishments suitable for them, and add honours to those whose special aim it is to desire to live more rightly. For if nothing at all lies within our own wills, but all is subject to the necessity from the hours, which lead us without escape or power of refusal to both [good and evil], how can we still rightly allow that praise is meet for the good, and allot the contrary to those who are not so, as their just meed? Why (tell me) do the laws compel us to depart from vice, and press forward after what is better, if others hold the reins of our resolves, and easily bring us to whatsoever they please? For they say and will have it so, that human affairs are under the authority of the hours, taking no thought of the absurdity thence resulting. For will they not declare, even against their will, that he, whose is the supremacy over all things that are upon the earth, will be more wretched than the very brutes, and will live in pitiable state, and he who ought to excel by reason of his nature, will be brought down to the second, yea, even to the last place? For if the beasts by their self-ruling impulses, turn, no one hindering them, to what they please, and admit what they know to be wholesome, and shun what will hurt them, and WE are in bondage to time, that bitter master, and have the authority of the hours, a tyranny not to be escaped, suspended over us like a staff, shall not our condition be far worse than theirs is?

But he will blush, as is probable, who would fain be for (yea rather utter lies against) the hours and times, which were never created for any such purposes, and rejecting the absurdity of such opinions, will come forward saying: “We do not, sir, declare that the hour nor yet the time or season has authority over the affairs of men, but we say that there are evil hours, and seasons too, which sometimes like raging winds, spring upon us miserable.”

But we shall answer, O mad in mind, and steeped in sheer insanity, how is it that YE do not perceive that ye arming your own mind against That Essence which is above all? for will not He be a worker of iniquity, if ought of the things made by Him be wicked? But this, as we have mentioned it before, we will pass over, and will rather endeavour to be persuaded by you, how the hour or season could hurt us, or on the contrary rejoice us, did not God order all things according to His will, and will that they should, as belongeth to each, give either pain or contrariwise pleasure? For we but now heard you say, that nought of our affairs are under the authority of the hours, but that some are by nature evil, and are borne violently down upon us like the wind. But I do not think it will be any hard matter to shew that this your argument is replete with extremest folly. For who does not clearly see that the twelve intervals of the hours are meted out, some to the day, others to the night, and that night and day do not come to one man, to another not, but pervade all things? but their evil, innate and unavoidably tending thereto, is not evil to one, to another not, nor yet to one perchance, or a second, but rather will bring harm in equal degree upon all, upon whom the interval of night or of day comes? How then does it happen that in a single day or hour, one may see one man prosperous and enjoying himself with many jovial companions, so as to go to sumptuous feasts and gather together with much diligence his guests, and others you may clearly see in opposite plight, so that one is often borne forth to die miserably. What (tell me) is the reason, or how is it possible, that in one single hour or period, one person is found in the former state, another in the latter? what will you call that hour? evil, or the reverse? for I cannot say, looking at either side and finding one man revelling, another lying a breathless and miserable corpse. Will not then those opinions respecting the hours be proved an unlearned fable, and the inventions of devilish madness? I think all will agree to this without any hesitation, and will condemn those who hold such opinions.

And we might well, I think, be content with what has been said, but lest by committing every thing to hazard and conjecture I should leave an excuse for quibbling to any, I will betake myself to history, and from facts will confirm past all doubt the already beaten track of our argument. When the Assyrians then encompassing the holy city (I mean the holy Jerusalem) were purposing to besiege it, their general, Rabshakeh, was first endeavouring at one time by words of guile to undermine the minds of the fighting men which were therein, at another thought to do this by threats: and the blessed Hezekiah who at that time held the kingly power trusted not in his forces, but attributed the achievement of victory to God Who is over all, and by most fervent prayer did he keep calling for the alone aid which is from Him, and immediately did God incline His Ear to the righteous man, and granted him grace answerable to his prayers. For the angel of the Lord went forth, as it is written, and slew out of the camp of the aliens an hundred fourscore and five thousand. What then will you say to this, o most excellent of men? In one night and in the same hour and season, the Assyrian fell overpowered by Angel’s hand, the multitude of them of Jerusalem was saved, and the one were in the depths of misery, the other in joy and delight. Where is the power of the hour? how was it apportioned unequally for both? and for the one it wrought rejoicing, for the other an evil death? For you will not venture to call it two-natured and multiform, even though you babble exceedingly. The same argument will hold as to Dathan and Abiram, who having once made a sedition against the authority of Moses, and fearing not unbidden to spring upon the office of the Divine priesthood, went down with all their household into the depths of the earth; and they were in Hades, while the rest of the congregation were preserved. But the vengeance surely should not forsooth, since it was not at all that of Divine wrath, but of the hour, have burst forth upon one part merely of the assembly, but should have taken hold on the whole equally.

Let us not then admit that hour or day or season is the giver either of sorrow or joy, in respect of its own nature or however one might rightly speak of it; but let us grant the profit from the hour or season and contrariwise the damage, when we setting to either skilfully or ignorantly, meet with results pleasant or otherwise. For, example, To every thing a season, as it is written, and to know the fit times, is most useful, not to know them, replete with damage. For in winter one ought not to make voyages, to do so in summer is not ill-instructed. Being thus minded we shall commit the helm of our affairs to God the Lord of all. For if, according to the unlying word of the Saviour, this little sparrow of no worth shall never fall into a snare without the Will of God the Father, how shall he who is so honoured and has the authority over all, suffer ought contrary to his mind or wish, unless Providence brings upon him any of the things above mentioned in accordance with the life of each?

I will further add another thing which has been shaken out and come forth of my memory, exceeding kin to the present matter, yea rather calling for the same investigation, though the solution be not hard, but most easy to the man of full understanding and that hath the senses of his understanding exercised to discern both good and evil. What then is this, of which we so speak? They of Cana, inhabiting the country bordering on Judea, namely Galilee, were once celebrating a marriage, and they invited the Lord to their banquet with His Mother and the holy disciples, and the cause of this their feast was the marriage-bed. But when sitting at meat with those who with Him were assembled for this purpose, the Lord was there to bless that marriage which He had ordained, wine began to fail the company. But the Mother of the Saviour as still having authority over her Son, by reason of His exceeding subjection, and having now learnt by much experience Him too that hath God-befitting Power, saith, They have no wine. For she knew that He would perform, and that most easily, whatever the nature of things required. And the Lord said to her, Woman what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. The devout mind, then, far removed from monstrous opinions, and fleeing utterly Greek superstition, will receive piously what is said. For not yet He says, is the time of My manifestation, i. e., by miracles, come. For being God by Nature, He was not ignorant of the time befitting each work (how could He?) But he who of his exceeding senselessness turns about hither and thither (for evil is a beaten track to the multitude, who suppose, as certain trifling say, that Christ Himself also was subject to the operations of the hours,) will be here proved by us to have no understanding and by those very things by which he looked to strengthen his own argument, by these will he be condemned for the inherent absurdity of his tenets. For if we grant that the nature of things is subjected to the operations of the hours, and that therefore Christ said to His Mother, Mine hour is not yet come, how (tell me) when according to your abominable and most unwise reasoning He had not yet the operation of the hour to cooperate with His Will, does He become the Creator of the things asked for? for forthwith He manifestly turns water into wine. But if ye think that affairs must be subject to the authority of the hours, how ought not the Lord at the first not a whit to have attempted to accomplish what the concourse of the hours did not grant? But evidently He took no thought of this, but gave them His Grace before that time. The power of the hour was then no hindrance, but since the time was not yet come for His proclamation by miracles, does Christ say thus.

We are then set free from your surmises hereon, and when hour is mentioned, let it be considered to be the time which suits each work: and that we too are set free from the necessity of the hours, I think needs no more expenditure of words to prove: for we have already sufficiently gone through this.

But we will endeavour to shew now, that we shall find that hour in the Divine Scriptures signifies the time suitable to each action. And the admirable Paul cries out and indicates the meaning of the word hour, And that, knowing the time, that it is the hour for you to awake out of sleep: the night is far spent, the day hath drawn near. Thou seest how having first put time, he added hour, as indicating by the same, it, and not ought else. For it was time that they who lay in the deep sleep of sin should rouse themselves and open their eyes to what was their profit, and be raised to a God-loving watchfulness.

31 Of the multitude therefore many believed on Him, and said, The Christ when He cometh, will He do more miracles than those which This Man did?

How great the economy herein, and how fitly it hath followed after those things, is meet to see. For having before said that the Jews were seeking to take Him and to enclose Him by the meshes of their senselessness, into so cruel and unseasonably contrived danger, he shews the multitudes of them that believe, that the ill machinations of their rulers against Him may at length be acknowledged. So far are the people from desiring to rage against Him, that they at length even gather some ideas from His miracles, and openly confess that they ought to give heed to His doctrines. For a report (it seems) was noised abroad throughout the whole race of the Jews and spread throughout all their country, that the Presence of Christ would be for some mighty deeds, and that He would work exceeding miracles, and introduce teaching more notable far and superior to the instruction of the Law. For the woman of Samaria, when she came to Jacob’s well to draw water and was conversing with the Saviour, said, We know that Messias cometh Which is called Christ, when He is come, He will tell us all things. And the words, we know, here, we shall not reasonably apply to the woman alone, but joining the whole race of Samaritans and Jews, we shall confirm the argument we have just adduced. These then now perceiving that the glorious hopes commonly entertained of Him do not surpass what was already present, well-nigh speak thus one to another, For what hath the Law declared that Christ should be revealed to us? what manner of man hath the word of the holy Prophets foretold? a Worker of miracles plainly and instructer in what is most excellent. But we see that He Who is now come is wholly pre-eminent unto both. What exceedingness in miracles remains for them who conceive of somewhat greater yet? In what difficulty has He failed? what that is above utterance and miraculous has He not wrought? in whom shall we still seek for more? let us see whether Christ have not at length reached the bounds of all marvel! what is looked for in Christ which is not apparent in this Man? Shameless now at length is the withholding of our faith, senseless our indifference, and quite unpersuasive the argument of delay under colour of choosing the best. Let God be confessed: for this the nature of things requires, even of those who will it not.

Not unsuitably then nor unbecomingly, might one put this in the mouth of the Jews. We must note however that through the perverseness of the rulers the subjects perished: for the one were most admirable guessers, led by the renown of His Works to the duty of believing on Him, and only waiting for the judgment of their rulers concerning Christ; and these were so mighty in savage cruelty, as to attempt to ill-treat Him Who had been foretold for vast hopes, and was accredited by what He had already wrought.

32 The chief priests and Pharisees heard the people murmuring these things concerning Him.

The multitude are with great reason indignant against their rulers. For they were making a great outcry respecting our Saviour Christ, not because He was a wondrous Wonder-worker and beyond expectation, nor yet because He came telling of things better than the legal worship; but because He was not yet accepted by the chief priests and Pharisees, albeit having glory answerable to what was spoken of Christ, and no whit inferior to what the common reports tell of Him, or the word of the holy Prophets fore-heralded. So then they justly accuse them of being overcome with envy rather than really caring for the salvation of the people. But the constant utterance of blame as to this does not escape the knowledge of the rulers, and the multitude (it seems) gave them offence, now reasonably astonished at the Lord, and thirsting exceedingly to believe on Him, and already ill enduring the yoke of the rulers’ arrogance, and essaying to do that which is said in the Psalms, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their yoke from us. For by not subjecting the mind of the people to the commands of the Law, but placing them in subjection to their own inventions, and teaching for doctrines the commands of men, they, leaving the right way and beaten track were conducting among precipices and foot-falls, those who were even now ready to be saved and of themselves were being led to rightness of conception.

And the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to take Him.

Albeit the Law declared, The innocent and righteous thou shalt not slay, and every where clearly crieth aloud, Thou shalt not be with the multitude to do evil, the guardians of the Law desire to kill, overbearing in respect of esteeming Moses’ Law holy, and accustomed to blame every one who did not live in the same way. But caring nothing for the Law in these matters, and so to say, spurning its most precious things, they are zealous to take in their meshes Him That had done no wrong at all, but rather is now by His very works accredited that He is indeed the Christ. And surely (some one will reasonably say) these ungodly rulers of the Jews ought, since they are learned in the Divine Oracles and skilled in the Divine Laws, rather to speak to the multitudes, to turn aside their clamour hereat by reasonable arguments, and to thrust aside all suspicions of envy, and turn them to think as they should do, if in ought they, travailing with right surmises about Christ, seemed to have fallen therefrom: they ought to have proved by testimonies from the Prophets and, going in short through the whole Divine Scripture, to have cleansed the multitude from their errors and, as knowing more, to have taught them clearer truth about Christ. But finding no defence from thence, in fear of the holy Scripture, as finding that it agreed with the multitude in accusing them, they fall into shameless daring, and strive to make away with Christ, not being able to convict Him of any offence. And most intolerable of all, this resolution is that not of chance people, but the daring deeds of the chief Priests coincident in mind with the Pharisees, albeit they ought to have led them inasmuch as they were superior through the office of the priesthood and, since they had the first place through this, they ought to have shewn themselves guides in thoughts of good also, and to have taken the lead in counsel not counter to God. But since they are outside of any good disposition, and have cast the Divine Law behind their own imaginations, they are carried to that alone which pleased their own undiscerning impulses. For the head has become the tail, as it is written. For he that is chief follows, and consenting to the impiety of the Pharisees, makes now his unbridled attacks against Christ too. But without a cause is ever found to be the war of the wicked against the pious, and the mode of their contest so to speak halteth, unaided by the auxiliaries of reasonable causes, and merely hampered by the disease of envy. For since they are not able to compete with their mighty deeds, nor through equal strength of soul to attain corresponding glory, or even by better deeds to be seen in better case, they fall into savageness of mind, and foolishly arm themselves against the praises of those who surpass them, zealous for the destruction of what makes them to be disgraced. For evil is ever convicted by juxta-position with the better. For they ought rather to desire by equal actions to equal them, and to be zealous rather to do and think the same with those who are praised. But it was likely that the Pharisees should be bitterly disposed. For since they perceived that the multitudes were murmuring, and even now in common talk one to another saying, Is not This He Whom they seek to kill? lo, He speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto Him: do the rulers know that He is the Christ? repelling again this supposition with the wickedness that was their foster sister, they give orders to bind Him, and send out officers to accomplish this very purpose.

33 Jesus therefore said unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him That sent Me.

The Lord is not ignorant, inasmuch as He is by Nature God, of the Pharisees’ bloodthirsty deeds of daring, and of the unholy design of the chief priests against Himself. For with the Eyes of Deity He beholds now present and mingled with the multitudes, the servants who had been chosen by them to take Him. Therefore He makes His answer common indeed as to all the people standing round, yet having a special answer to them, and at the same time teaches much that is profitable. For He threatens them skilfully, yea He convicts them of pettiness of soul in regard to those things at which they ought to be pleased: and that in another way should their attempt be frustrate, even though it were to take place; and how, we will say, going through the whole account. For in saying, Yet a little while am I with you, He evidently all but teaches them, Tell Me (says He) why are ye indignant as though I were lingering too long in this world? I am burdensome to you, I confess it, and am no great pleasure to those who honour not virtue; dashing in pieces him who loves not God, and smiting at times with My rebukes the ungodly, I am not ignorant that I have wrought hatred for Myself. But do not thus untimely spread forth the net of death for Me. Yet a little while shall I be with you, I shall depart with joy, when the fit time for My Passion comes, nor shall I endure any more to be with evil men (for not pleasant to Me, He says, is the abode with the bloodthirsting) I shall depart from the ungodly, as God, but shall be with Mine Own all the days of the world, even though I seem to be absent in the Flesh. But in saying, I go to Him That sent Me, He means something again of this kind: In vain did ye sharpen against Me (He says) the sword of your own blasphemy. Why do ye tear yourselves to pieces with fruitless counsels? stay the weapon of envy, for it is shot forth for nothing: it will not subject Life to death, neither will corruption have the better of incorruption. I shall not be holden of the gates of Hades, I shall not be a dead body in your graves, I shall fly up to Him from Whom I am, I shall ascend again to Heaven, seen as an accusation of your blasphemy by both angels and men. For the one shall marvel at My going up, the other when they meet Me shall say, What are these Wounds in Thine Hands? And I shall say unto them, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My beloved. The speech then has been made in great meekness and exceeding gentleness, for our example in this too: whence Paul also says that the servant of God must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. For it behoves the pious mind to be free from all tumult and the fierce motions of wrath, and to study to refuse as a wild onslaught of waves what comes of pettiness of soul, and to rejoice in thoughts of meekness like breezeless calms, and to love to live as much as possible in longsuffering, to shew himself forbearing to all, and hold fast a mind wholly good, and make his conversation with his enemies not unseemly.

34 Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me.

This too He says skilfully and with much gentleness. For it means what taken generally is not difficult of comprehension, yet contains it some keen mystery hidden within it. For when He says that He shall ascend to Him That sent Him, that is, to God the Father, even though they yet attempt to plot against Him, and do not cease from persecuting Him, He is saying that He That hath ascended into the very Heavens can never be taken by them. But the truer meaning and that which is darkly signified, is this: I (He says) was sent to give you life, I came to take away from human nature death which from transgression fell upon it, and with long—suffering to bring back to God those who through sin had stumbled: I came to engraft the Divine and Heavenly Light in those in darkness, and moreover to preach the Gospel to the poor, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to preach deliverance to the captives, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. And since it seems good to you in your senselessness to drive forth from you Him who sets before you so rich enjoyment of heavenly goods, after a little I Myself will take Me again to Him from Whom I am, and YE shall repent, and consumed by unavailing after-counsels weep bitterly for yourselves, and though ye should fain find yet the Giver of Life, ye shall not then be able to enjoy Him ye long for. For after having once turned aside and departed from My Love towards you, I shall wholly shut out from you what is profitable to seek after.

Something of this kind we shall also find in the preachings of the Prophets concerning them. For a certain one saith of them of Jerusalem, With sheep and bullocks shall they go to seek the Lord, and shall not find Him, for He hath withdrawn from them. For they who would not when it was in their power choose Life, and with foolish reasoning thrust away the good that was in their power, how shall they be fit any more to receive it? and they who made no account of missing the opportunity, how can they have the good things out of their season? For it is while the opportunity exists and is yet present, that we must seek for the good things that are in it and of it, but when it is now passed away and gone by, superfluous at last and most vain is all seeking after the good things it contained. And verily the blessed Paul saith, Behold, now is the accepted time, behold now the day of salvation, and also, While we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men. For indeed, indeed it beseems those who are good in their habits, not when opportunity is now passing her prime, to have to seek for her good things, but rather when she is commencing and shewing so to say, her most blooming presence.

And one might yet say much more about occasion out of the Divine Scripture, but leaving it for the labour-loving to search them out, I will say a little thing common, and in use among us, but which yet has no mean profit. They say then that those who make pictures on tablets, when they represent occasion in human form, represent the remaining fashion of her body as pleases them, but the head alone like this. They represent her behind as bald and very smooth, touching it with brilliant tints: but from the middle of the scull, they hang much hair over the forehead, full in front and flowing: by this form itself signifying, that while any occasion still exists, and meets us, so to say, face to face, it may easily be laid hold of, but when it is now passed, how can it any longer be taken hold of? being as it were bushy and easy to hold, while yet present, but when passed, no longer. For this the smoothness behind indicates, which all but mocks the hand of him that would hold it. Since then when occasions are passed, we have not what they bring, let us not slumber when good things are present, but rather watch, and not when search is useless, unwisely use diligence to catch what is profitable.

And where I am, YE cannot come.

With greatest gentleness does He again put the race of the Jews forth from the kingdom of Heaven, adding words correspondent to those that He had already uttered, yet concealing therein a deep Mystery. For applying our mind more simply to the words, and admitting a more surface consideration thereof, we say that it signifies something of this sort, that He, will in no wise be apprehensible by them, nor yet will fall into their meshes, having gone back to the Father. For not accessible to them shall be the Heaven too, and He That sitteth by God the Father Himself, how shall He be to be taken of them that seek Him? This one word therefore is not deep, but more suited to the levity of the Jews, and superior to their understandings (for they are found ever to mind what is more low): but the exact and secret mind of the things said is after: this sort; I (He says) having escaped the snare of your unholiness, shall be received back to God the Father; for I shall surely prevent in My departure My worshippers, in order that having shewn the way that upward tends, passable to them too, I may have all with Myself. But YE cannot come where I am, that is, ye shall be found without lot in the Divine good things, ye shall be without share in My glory and alien from co-reigning with the saints, untasting shall ye abide of the gift that is in hope, unfeasting; shall ye be of the Divine marriage-feast, Mine assembly shall ye not see, ye shall not ascend up to the mansions above, nor shall behold the beauty of the Church of the first-born, unseen of you shall be the city that is above, ye shall not behold Jerusalem in her prosperity: for there shall My flock glorify Me, YE cannot come. For the Heaven will not receive slayers of her Lord, nor the Cherubim open the gates of Paradise for a people to enter in who fight against God, never shall a man guilty of impiety against God appease the flaming sword, it only knows the pious man and honours the devout, and makes faith its covenant of peace.

Some such thought as this shall we bring to what has been said, from all sides tracking the sense which is true and befits those who have understanding. But we will add to them some few things, shewing for profit’s sake that all who attain unto devout habits, shall both be with and feast with Christ: but they who go along with Jewish unlearning, not so (whence could it be?), but shall undergo the bitter punishment of their unbelief. Let then the Divine Paul come in crying aloud to those who have died to sin, For ye died and your life has been hidden with Christ in God: when Christ, your Life, shall appear, then shall YE also appear with Him in glory: and again putting forth his discourse on the resurrection, he says, And WE which are alive, which remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. And things akin to this is the Saviour Himself too seen discoursing of to His disciples. For as He sat and did eat with them, He says, But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of Heaven: yea and to the robber who hung on high along with Him, at the very gates of death through faith in Him seizing on the grace of the saints, He saith, Verily, verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. They then who by obedience have honored Him, shall be with Him unhindered, and shall delight them in the good things that pass understanding: but they who refuse not to insult Him with their folly, albeit sons of the bridechamber, shall go away in sorrow to hell, to pay bitter penalties. For they shall be cast out, as it is written, into the outer darkness. True therefore will be the Lord saying darkly to the Jews, Where I am YE cannot come.

35 The Jews said then among themselves, Whither will this man go that WE shall not find Him? will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles and teach the Gentiles?

Seest thou herein again the wretchedness of Jewish reasonings? seest thou the most miserable surmise of grovelling mind? for they do not say that He will ascend up to Heaven, although they clearly heard, Yet a little while am I with you, and I go unto Him that sent Me, but they are imagining the country of the Gentiles, as though among them were He That sent Him, unto Whom He promised to return. But the people of the Jews is hereby, as it seems, prophesying, albeit not knowing what it is saying. For moved by some Divine impulse they present Christ to the country of the Gentiles, in the way of a suspicion thinking of what a little after became true. For He was in truth about to go unto the Gentiles and teach them, spurning Jerusalem the ungrateful mother of the Jews.

But note that they do not speak of this simply: for they surmise that He will not only depart unto the dispersed of the Gentiles, but in their stubbornness add, and will He teach the Gentiles, that their suspicion may again beget for them a plea of accusal. For the having intercourse with the dispersed of the Gentiles by reason of going through their cities or countries, was a common thing among the Jews and unblamed, but to explain the Law to aliens and to unfold the Divine Mysteries to the uninitiated, was a matter of accusal and not unblamed by them. And verily God found fault with some who were indifferent about this, saying by the Prophet Jeremiah, And they read the Law without. Keenly then do they say that He will teach the Gentiles, casting a slur on Him as readily transgressing the Law, and from what He had afore wrought on the sabbath day, believing that to do all things without heed, even if they were counter to the Divine laws, was His habit and that He thought nothing of it.

37 In the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.

We must search well in this too, what it is the most wise Evangelist is hinting with some extreme great care, calling the last day of the feast great, or what it was that induced our Lord Jesus Christ, as of some needful reason and belonging to the time, to say on it to the Jews, If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink. For He might have used other words, such as, I am the Light, I am the Truth. But turning His explanation to the matters of believing, He hath introduced the word, let him drink, as something necessary and due to the matters of the feast. And the aim in what is before us I will endeavour briefly to say.

When therefore God was ordering what belongs to the feast of tabernacles, He says thus unto Moses, On the fifteenth day of the seventh month a feast of tabernacles unto, the Lord, and ye shall offer whole burnt sacrifices and sacrifices seven days, and the first day shall be notable holy. Then after enjoining besides the mode of the sacrifices, He added again, And in the fifteenth day of this seventh month, ye shall offer whole burnt offerings unto the LORD seven days, and the first day a rest and the seventh day a rest. And on the first day ye shall take you boughs of palm trees and thick branches of a tree and fruit of a goodly tree and willows and branches of agnus from the brook to rejoice withal. Having then already in the second book gone through every portion of the above cited passage and expended much discourse thereon, we will yet again make mention of it briefly. For we said that the feast of tabernacles signified the thrice longed for time of the resurrection: that the taking boughs and the fruit of a goodly tree, and the other things besides, meant a recovery of Paradise about to be given us again through Christ. But that since it is put at the end that one ought to take every thing out of the brook, and again to rejoice thereof, we said that our Lord Jesus Christ was compared to a brook, in Whom we shall find all delight and enjoyment in hope, and in Him shall delight us Divinely and spiritually. And that He is and is called spiritually a Brook, the most wise Psalmist too will testify to us, saying to God the Father about us, The children of men shall hope in the shadow of Thy wings: they shall be inebriated with the fatness of Thy House, and Thou shalt give them drink of the Brook of Thy delights. And the Lord Himself somewhere in the prophets says, Behold I am inclining to them as a river of peace and as an overflowing brook.

Since then the Law used to call the first and the seventh day of the great feast notable, the holy Evangelist himself too called it great, not disregarding, it seems, the accustomed habit of the Jews. There being then in the ordinances about the feast a mention too of the brook, the Saviour shewing that He is Himself that brook which was fore-declared in the Law, says, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. For see how He removes the mind of the Jews away from the types in the letter and transfers fitly the things in figure, if at all they aid for the truth. For I (He says) am the Brook which by the Lawgiver was fore-proclaimed in the account of the feast. And if one must needs take branches of willow and agnus and thick branches of trees from the brook, and Christ is not strictly a brook, neither yet is the fashion of the feast really in these, but they will rather be symbols of spiritual things which shall be given to the pious through Christ.

But seeing that we discussed these things more at large in the second Book, as we have already said, we will not repeat ourselves, but will rather follow on to the next.

38 He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

He shews that vast and ageless is the reward of faith, and says that he who does not disbelieve shall revel in richest graces from God. For he shall be so replete with the gifts through the Spirit, as not only to fatten his own mind, but even to be able to overflow into others’ hearts, like the river stream gushing forth the God-given good upon his neighbour too. This very thing used He to enjoin the holy Apostles, saying, Freely ye received, freely give. And the wise and holy Paul too himself longing to be effectual unto this writes, For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift. And one may see this most exceeding well in both the holy Evangelists and in the Evangelic teachers of the church, who on those who go to Christ through faith pouring forth most plenteous word of inspired teaching, spiritually delight them, no more suffering them to thirst after the knowledge of the truth, with their wise soundings all but crying aloud into the heart of those who are being instructed. Wherefore the Psalmist rejoicing in spirit called out concerning them, The rivers lifted up, o LORD, the rivers lifted up their voices. Great and mighty sounded forth the word of the Saints, and into all the earth went forth their voice, as it is written, and unto the ends of the world their words. Such rivers did God, the God and Lord of all, promise to set forth to us, saying by the Prophet Isaiah, The beasts of the field shall honour Me, the dragons and the daughters of the owl, because I have given water in the wilderness and rivers in the thirsty ground to give drink to My chosen generation, My people whom I formed for Myself to shew forth My praises. Very evident then it is that the Saviour says that out of the belly of him that believeth shall come forth the grace that through the spirit giveth instruction and eloquence, whereof Paul too maketh mention saying, To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom.

It is good to know besides that the Saviour applied to His own words this saying, not exactly as it had been before put out by the Divine Scripture, but rather interpreting it according to its meaning. For we find of every one who honoureth and loveth God that he shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring whose water fails not. And what He says a little before to the woman of Samaria, this now too He clearly declares. For there He says, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be to him a well of water springing up into everlasting life: and here again carrying up the aim of His discourse to the same meaning, He says, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.








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