To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins.
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When by the terror he has agitated them, then he brings in the pardon, not spoken from himself but from the Prophets. And what is terrifying is from him, what is mild from the Prophets.
All you that have received this forgiveness, all you to whom it has been vouchsafed to attain unto faith, learn, I beseech you, the greatness of the Gift, and study not to be insolent to your Benefactor. For we obtained forgiveness, not that we should become worse, but to make us far better and more excellent. Let none say that God is the cause of our evil doings, in that He did not punish, nor take vengeance. If (as it is said) a ruler having taken a murderer, lets him go, say, is he (not) judged to be the cause of the murders afterwards committed? See then, how we expose God to the tongues of the wicked. For what do they not say, what leave unuttered? (God) Himself, say they, allowed them; for he ought to have punished them as they deserved, not to honor them, nor crown them, nor admit them to the foremost privileges, but to punish and take vengeance upon them: but he that, instead of this, honors them, has made them to be such as they are. Do not, I beseech and implore you, do not let any man utter such speech as far as we are concerned. Better to be buried ten thousand times over, than that God through us should be so spoken of! The Jews, we read, said to (Christ) Himself, Thou that destroyest the Temple, and in three days buildest it up, come down from the Cross Matthew 27:40: and again, If Thou be the Son of God: but the reproaches here are more grievous than those, that through us He should be called a teacher of wickedness! Let us cause the very opposite to be said, by having our conversation worthy of Him that calls us, and (worthily) approaching to the baptism of adoption. For great indeed is the might of baptism (φωτίσματου): it makes them quite other men than they were, that partake of the gift; it does not let the men be men (and nothing more). Make thou the Gentile (τὸν slave, like a malefactor, as though it were not your duty to live unto God? Why do you stand affected to Him, as if you had in Him a ruthless, cruel Master? What can be more heartless (ψυχρότερον), what more miserable, than those who make that the time to receive baptism? God made you a friend, and vouchsafed you all His good things, that you may act the part of a friend. Suppose you had done some man the greatest of wrongs, had insulted him, and brought upon him disgraces without end, suppose you had fallen into the hands of the person wronged, and he, in return for all this, had honored you, made you partaker of all that he had, and in the assembly of his friends, of those in whose presence he was insulted, had crowned you, and declared that he would hold you as his own begotten son, and then straightway had died: say, would you not have bewailed him? Would you not have deemed his death a calamity? Would you not have said, Would that he were alive, that I might have it in my power to make the fit return, that I might requite him, that I might show myself not base to my benefactor? So then, where it is but man, this is how you would act; and where it is God, are you eager to be gone, that you may not requite your benefactor for so great gifts? Nay rather, choose the time for coming to Him so that you shall have it in your power to requite Him like for like. True, say you, but I cannot keep (the gift). Has God commanded impossibilities? Hence it is that all is clean reversed, hence that, all the world over, every thing is marred— because nobody makes it his mark to live after God. Thus those who are yet Catechumens, because they make this their object, (how they may defer baptism to the last,) give themselves no concern about leading an upright life: and those who have been baptized (φωτισθεντες), whether it be because they received it as children, or whether it be that having received it in sickness, and afterwards recovered (ἀ νενεγκόντες), they had no hearty desire to live on (to the glory of God), so it is, that neither do these make an earnest business of it: nay, even such as received it in health, have little enough to show of any good impression, and warmly affected for the time, these also presently let the fire go out. Why do you flee? Why do you tremble? What is it you are afraid of? You do not mean to say that you are not permitted to follow your business? I do not part you from your wife! No, it is from fornication that I bar you. I do not debar you from the enjoyment of your wealth? No, but from covetousness and rapacity. I do not oblige you to empty out all your coffers? No, but to give some small matter according to your means to them that lack, your superfluities to their need, and not even this unrewarded. We do not urge you to fast? We do but forbid you to besot yourselves with drunkenness and gormandizing. The things we would retrench are but the very things which bring you disgrace; things which even here, on this side of hell-fire, you yourselves confess to be things to be shunned and hated. We do not forbid you to be glad and to rejoice? Nay, only rejoice not with a disgraceful and unbecoming merriment. What is it you dread, why are you afraid, why do you tremble? Where marriage is, where enjoyment of wealth, where food in moderation, what matter of sin is there in these things? And yet, they that are without enjoin the opposites to these, and are obeyed. For they demand not according to your means, but they say, You must give thus much: and if you allege poverty, they will make no account of that. Not so Christ: Give, says He, of what you have, and I inscribe you in the first rank. Again those say, If you will distinguish yourself, forsake father, mother, kindred, friends, and keep close attendance on the Palace, laboring, toiling, slaving, distracted, suffering miseries without number. Not so Christ; but keep thou, says He, at home with your wife, with your children, and as for your daily occupations reform and regulate them on the plan of leading a peaceable life, free from cares and from perils. True, say you, but the other promises wealth. Aye, but Christ a kingdom, and more, He promises wealth also with it. For, Seek ye, says He, the kingdom of Heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you Matthew 6:33: throwing in, by way of additional boon, what the other holds out as the main thing: and the Psalmist says, he has never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread. Psalm 37:25 Let us set about practising virtue, let us make a beginning; let us only lay hold on it, and you shall see what the good will be. For surely in these (worldly) objects you do not succeed so without labor, that you should be so faint-hearted for these (higher) objects— that you should say, Those are to be had without labor, these only with toil. Nay,— what need to tell you what is the true state of the case?— those are had only with greater labor. Let us not recoil from the Divine Mysteries, I beseech you. Look not at this, that one who was baptized before you, has turned out ill, and has fallen from his hope: since among soldiers also we see some not doing their duty by the service, while we see others distinguishing themselves, and we do not look only at the idle ones, but we emulate these, the men who are successful. But besides, consider how many, after their baptism, have of men become angels!
Fear the uncertainty of the future. As a thief in the night, so death comes: and not merely as a thief, but while we sleep it sets upon us, and carries us off while we are idling. To this end has God made the future uncertain, that we may spend our time in the practice of virtue, because of the uncertainty of expectation. But He is merciful, say you. How long shall we hear this senseless, ridiculous talk? I affirm not only that God is merciful, but that nothing can be more merciful than He, and that He orders all things concerning us for our good. How many all their life do you see afflicted with the worst form of leprosy! (ἐ ν ἐλέφαντι διάγοντας, Elephantiasis,) how many blind from their earliest youth even to old age! Others who have lost their eyesight, others in poverty, others in bonds, others again in the mines, others entombed (καταχωσθέντας) together, others (slaughtered) in wars! These things say you, do not look like mercy. Say, could He not have prevented these things had He wished, yet He permits them? True, say you. Say, those who are blind from their infancy, why are they so? I will not tell you, until you promise me to receive baptism, and, being baptized, to live aright. It is not right to give you the solution of these questions. The preaching is not meant just for amusement. For even if I solve this, on the back of this follows another question: of such questions there is a bottomless deep. Therefore do not get into a habit of looking to have them solved for you: else we shall never stop questioning. For look, if I solve this, I do but lead the way to question upon question, numberless as the snowflakes. So that this is what we learn, rather to raise questions, not to solve the questions that are raised. For even if we do solve them, we have not solved them altogether, but (only) as far as man's reasoning goes. The proper solution of such questions is faith: the knowing that God does all things justly and mercifully and for the best: that to comprehend the reason of them is impossible. This is the one solution, and another better than this exists not. For say, what is the use of having a question solved? This, that one needs no longer to make a question of the thing which is solved. And if you get yourself to believe this, that all things are ordered by the Providence of God, Who, for reasons known to Himself, permits some things and actively works others, you are rid of the need of questioning, and hast gotten the gain of the solution. But let us come back to our subject. Do you not see such numbers of men suffering chastisements? God (say you) permits these things to be. Make the right use of the health of the body, in order to the health of the soul. But you will say, What is the use to me of labors and toil, when it is in my power to get quit of all (my sins) without labor? In the first place, this is not certain. It may happen, that a person not only does not get quit of his sins without labor, but that he departs hence with all his sins upon him. However, even if this were certain, still your argument is not to be tolerated. He has drawn you to the contests: the golden arms lie there. When you ought to take them, and to handle them, you wish to be ingloriously saved, and to do no good work! Say, if war broke out, and the Emperor were here, and you saw some charging into the midst of the phalanxes of the enemy, hewing them down, dealing wounds by thousands, others thrusting (with the sword's point), others hounding (now here, now there), others dashing on horseback, and these praised by the Emperor, admired, applauded, crowned: others on the contrary thinking themselves well off if they take no harm, and keeping in the hindmost ranks, and sitting idly there; then after the close of the war, the former sort summoned, honored with the greatest gifts, their names proclaimed by the heralds: while of the latter, not even the name becomes known, and their reward of the good obtained is only that they are safe: which sort would you wish to belong to? Why, if you were made of stone, if you were more stupid even than senseless and lifeless things, would you not ten thousand times rather belong to the former? Yea, I beseech and implore you. For if need were to fall fighting, ought you not eagerly to choose this? See you not how it is with them that have fallen in the wars, how illustrious they are, how glorious? And yet they die a death, after which there is no getting honor from the emperor. But in that other war, there is nothing of the kind, but you shall in any wise be presented with your scars. Which scars, even without persecutions, may it be granted all us to have to exhibit, through Jesus Christ our Lord, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.