12. Wouldest thou learn the same truth respecting cities? What could be more illustrious than the cities of Sodom? For the houses and the buildings were splendid, and so were their walls; and the country was fat and fertile, and” like the Paradise of God.” But the tent of Abraham was mean and small, and had no fortification. Yet when a foreign war took place, the strangers broke down and took the walled cities, and departed, carrying away their inhabitants captives. Abraham, however, the citizen of the desert, they could not resist when he attacked them! And so it was likely to be. For he had true piety: a power much greater than numbers and the defence of walls. If thou art a Christian, no earthly city is thine. Of our City “the Builder and Maker is God.” Though we may gain possession of the whole world, we are withal but strangers and sojourners in it all! We are enrolled in heaven: our citizenship is there! Let us not, after the manner of little children, despise things that are great, and admire those which are little! Not our city’s greatness, but virtue of soul is our ornament and defence. If you suppose dignity to belong to a city, think how many persons must partake in this dignity, who are whoremongers, effeminate, depraved and full of ten thousand evil things, and at last despise such honour! But that City above is not of this kind; for it is impossible that he can be a partaker of it, who has not exhibited every virtue.
13. Let us not therefore be senseless; but then let us grieve when any one deprives us of our dignity of soul, when we commit sin, when we have offended the common Lord of all; since as regards the things that have now befallen us, so far are they from injuring the city, that if we are watchful, they will greatly benefit us. For even already our city seems to be like a decorous, noble, sober-minded matron. Fear hath made her gentler and more dignified, and hath delivered her from those miscreants who were concerned in the late audacious deeds. Let us therefore not give way to womanish lamentations. For I have heard many about the forum saying, “Alas! for thee, Antioch! What hath befallen thee! How art thou dishonoured!” Truly when I heard, I smiled at the puerile mind which could give vent to these words! Such words were not becoming now; but when thou seest men dancing, drunken, singing, blaspheming, swearing, perjuring themselves, and lying, then apply such a saying as this: “Alas! for thee, O city, what hath befallen thee!” But if thou seest the forum containing a few meek, modest, and temperate persons, then pronounce the city, “Blessed!” For the fewness will never be able to injure it in any respect, if there be virtue withal; as on the other hand, numbers will never profit it at all, whilst iniquity is there. “If,” saith the prophet, “the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved;” that is to say, “Multitude will never prevail with Me.” So also Christ spoke. He called cities wretched; not because of their littleness, nor because they were not of metropolitan rank. And Jerusalem itself again, He calls wretched for the very same reason, speaking thus; “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem; thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee!” For what advantage, I ask, does a multitude bring, if their system of living be vicious? Nay, on the contrary, even injury results from it. What else, indeed, hath wrought the evils which have lately sprung up? Was it not the sloth, the recklessness, and the depravity of the inhabitants? Did the dignity of the city, did the magnificence of its architecture, or the circumstance that it was a metropolis, do it any service? If with the king who is on earth, nothing could protect it when it had done thus amiss, but all these privileges are taken away; much more with the Lord of angels will its dignity fail to protect it? For at that Day, it will nought avail us, that we have dwelt in a metropolis, that has many spacious porticoes, and other dignities of this kind! And why do I say, at That Day? For as regards the present life, what can it benefit thee that this thy city is a metropolis? Pray, has any one restored a distressed family by means of this? or received any revenue from this dignity? or dispelled sadness? or got rid of any bodily infirmity? or put away a vice of the soul? Beloved! let us not trifle, nor regard the opinions of the multitude, but understand what is indeed the dignity of a city; what it is that makes a city truly a metropolis?
14. I say all this, though I expect that the city will again regain even this outward distinction, and appear in its own proper place of precedence. For the Emperor is both philanthropic and godly. But I am desirous that if it should be restored, ye may not think too much of this; nor be boastful of it; nor place the honour of our city to that account. When you wish to pronounce an encomium on the city, tell me not of the suburb of Daphne, nor of the height and multitude of its cypresses, nor of its fountains of waters, nor of the great population who inhabit the city, nor of the great freedom with which its market-place is frequented even to midnight, nor of the abundance of its wares! All these are things of the outward sense, and remain only as long as the present life. But if you are able to mention virtue, meekness, alms-giving, nocturnal vigils, prayers, sobriety, true wisdom of soul; commend the city for these things! To those who inhabit the desert, the presence of these things makes it more illustrious than any city; and again the vilest of all places, should these things not be found with its citizens. Let us make this estimate not in the case of cities only, but also of men. And if you see a big man, who has been brought into good condition, tall, and surpassing others in length of limb, do not admire him, until you have ascertained what the man’s soul is. Not from the outward comeliness, but from the beauty that. appertains to the soul, should we pronounce any persons blessed! David was little, and short of stature; nevertheless, one so short and little, and bare of all arms, brought down at one blow so large an army, and that tower of flesh; and this without hurling spear, or letting fly arrow, or unsheathing sword, but doing all with a small pebble! For this reason a certain one exhorts, saying, “Commend not a man for his beauty, neither abhor a man for his outward appearance. The bee is little among such as fly, but her fruit is the chief of sweet things.”
15. Thus also let us speak both of a city, and of men, and utter such wisdom one to an other, and be continually thankful to God, as well for present as for past mercies; and call upon Him in common with all our might, that those who now dwell in prison may be discharged, and that those who are about to be sent into exile may return back again. They too are our members. With us they have buffetted the waves, with us they have withstood the storm! Let us, then, beseech the merciful God, that with us they may enjoy the calm! Let no one say, “What farther concerns me? I am freed from danger; such an one may perish; such another may be destroyed!” Let us not provoke God by this indifference; but lament, as if we ourselves were in the same peril. So let us supplicate God with intense earnestness, fulfilling that saying of Paul, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Weeping also with them that weep; condescending to men of low estate.” This will also be of the greatest advantage to ourselves; for nothing useth so much to delight God, as that we should be very ready to mourn for our own members. Him therefore let us supplicate in common, both for things present, and for things to come; in order that He may deliver us from punishment hereafter. For the things present, whatever they are, are endurable, and have an end; but the torments there are immortal, and interminable! And while we are consoled, let us also ourselves endeavour to fall no more into such sins, knowing that hereafter we shall enjoy no pardon! Let us, then, all in common prostrate ourselves before God; and both while we are here, and when we are at home, let us say, “Thou, O Lord, art righteous in all things which Thou hast done towards us; for Thou hast brought upon us by a just judgment whatever Thou hast brought.” If “our sins rise up against us, undertake for us, for thy Name’s sake;” and do not permit us any more to experience such grievous troubles. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
The former subject of the Sedition continued; also of fasting; and upon the Apostolic saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
1. I Have observed many persons rejoicing, and saying one to another, “We have conquered; we have prevailed; the half of the fast is spent.” But I exhort such persons not to rejoice on this account, that the half of the fast is gone, but to consider whether the half of their sins be gone; and if so, then to exult. For this is a fit subject of gratification. This is what is to be sought after, and for which all things are done, that we may correct our defects; and that we may not quit the fast the same persons as we entered upon it, but in a cleansed state; and that having laid aside all that belongs to evil habits, we may thus keep the sacred feast, since if the case be otherwise, we shall be so far from obtaining any advantage, that the completion of the fast will be the greatest injury to us. Let us, therefore, not rejoice that we have gone through the length of the fast, for this is nothing great; but let us rejoice, if we have got through it with fresh attainments, so that when this is over, the fruit of it may shine forth. For the gain of winter is more especially manifested after the season is gone by. Then, the flourishing corn, and the trees teeming with leaves and fruit, proclaim, by their appearance, the benefit that has accrued to them from the winter Let the same thing also take place with us. For during the winter, we have enjoyed divers and frequent showers, having been during the fast partakers of a continued course of instruction, and have received spiritual seeds, and cut away the thorns of luxury.
2. Wherefore let us persevere, retaining with all diligence what we have heard; that when the fast is over, the fruit of the fast may abound, and that by the good things we gathered from the fast, we may remember the fast itself. If thus we fashion ourselves, we shall, when the fast returns, welcome it again with pleasure. For I see many who are so feeble-minded, that at the present season they are anxious about the following Lent; and I have heard many saying, that after their liberation from the fast, they are insensible to any pleasure from this remission, on account of their anxiety about the coming year. What can be more feeble-minded than this? I ask; and what is the cause of this? It is, that when the fast is arrived, we do not take pains that the concerns of the soul may be well ordered, but we limit the fast solely to an abstinence from food. Since, were we to reap the full benefit of it in a reformation of conduct, we should wish the fast to come round every day, receiving in very deed an experience of its good effects; and we should never cast away the desire of it, or be dejected and anxious whilst expecting it.
3. For there is nothing whatever that will be able to afflict one who is well ordered in mind, and careful about his own soul; but he will enjoy a pure and continued pleasure. And that this is true ye have to-day heard from Paul, who exhorts us, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” I know indeed that to many this saying seems impossible. “For how is it possible,” says some one, “that he who is but a man, can continually rejoice? To rejoice is no hard matter, but to rejoice continually, this seems to me to be impossible.” For many are the causes of sadness, which surround us on all sides. A man has lost either a son, or a wife, or a beloved friend, more necessary to him than all kindred; or he has to sustain the loss of wealth; or he has fallen into sickness; or he has to bear some other change of fortune; or to grieve for contemptuous treatment which he did not deserve; or famine, or pestilence, or some intolerable exaction, or circumstances in his family trouble him;—nay, there is no saying how many circumstances of a public or private nature are accustomed to occasion us grief. How then, he may say, is it possible to “rejoice always?” Yea, Oman! it is possible; and if it were not so, Paul would not have given the exhortation; nor would a man endowed with spiritual wisdom have offered such counsel; and for this reason I have constantly said to you, and will not cease to say, that what ye could no where have learnt from any other, that wisdom ye may here meditate. For mankind are universally desirous of pleasure, and of rejoicing; and for this, they do all, say all, and undertake all things. Therefore it is, that the merchant goes on a voyage, in order that he may amass wealth; and he amasses wealth, to the end that he may rejoice over what he has treasured up. The soldier also for this reason exercises his warfare, and the husbandman his husbandry; for this each man plies his art. Those also who love dominion, love it for this end, that they may obtain glory; and they desire to obtain glory, that they may rejoice; and any one may perceive that each of our undertakings is directed to this point, and that every man looking to this makes haste to go towards it through a variety of means.
4. For as I said, all love gladness, but all are not able to attain it, since they know not the way which leads to it; but many suppose that the source of it is in being rich. But if this were its source, no one possessed of wealth would ever be sad. But in fact many of the rich think life not worth living, and would infinitely prefer death when they experience any hardship; and of all men these are the most liable to excessive sadness. For you should not look to their tables, or their flatterers, and parasites, but to the trouble that comes of such things, the insults, the calumnies, the dangers, and the distresses, and what is far worse, that they meet these reverses unpractised, and know not how to take them philosophically, or to bear with fortitude what befalls them; whence it happens that calamities do not appear to them such as they are in their own nature, but even things which are really light come to seem intolerable; whereas, with regard to the poor, the contrary takes place; things that are irremediable seem easy to be borne, since they are familiar with many such. For it is not so much the nature of the events as the disposition of the sufferers, that makes the evils which come upon us seem great or small. And that I may not go a long way off for examples of both these facts, I will speak to you of what has lately befallen ourselves. Behold then how all the poor escaped, and the populace are delivered from the danger, and enjoy an entire freedom! but those who manage the affairs of the city, the men who keep their studs of horses, and preside over the public games, and such as have borne other public charges, they are now the inmates of the prison, and fear the worst; and they alone pay the penalty of the deeds that have been perpetrated by all, and are in a state of constant terror; and they are now the most wretched of men, not because of the greatness of the danger, but on account of the luxury in which hitherto they have lived! Many, at least when exhorted by us, and counselled to sustain these adverse affairs with fortitude, said this, “We never practised any thing of the kind, and do not know how to exercise such philosophy; this is why we need so much consolation.”
5. Others again suppose, that to enjoy good health is the source of pleasure. But it is not so. For many of those who enjoy good health have a thousand times wished themselves dead, not being able to bear the insults inflicted on them. Others again affirm, that to enjoy glory, and to have attained to power, and to administer the highest offices, and to be flattered by multitudes, is productive of continual gladness. But neither is this the case. And why do I speak of other offices of power? For although we were to mount up in thought to royalty itself, and to him who lives in that station, we should find it encompassed with a diversity of troubles, and having so many necessary causes the more of sadness, in proportion as it is surrounded with a greater weight of affairs. And what need is there to speak of wars, and battles, and the insurrections of barbarians? Oftentimes he has reason to fear those by whom he is surrounded at home. For many of those monarchs who have escaped from the hands of their enemies, have not escaped the conspiracies of their own body-guards. And kings have of necessity as many causes of sadness as there are waves on the ocean. But if monarchy is unable to render life devoid of grief, then what else can possibly achieve this? Nothing, indeed, of this life; but this saying of Paul alone, brief and simple as it is, will of itself open to us this treasure.
6. For many words are not needed, nor a long round of argument, but if we only consider his expression, we shall find the way that leads to it. He does not simply say, “Rejoice always;” but he adds the cause of the continual pleasure, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” He who rejoices “in the Lord,” can not be deprived of the pleasure by any thing that may happen. For all other things in which we rejoice are mutable and changeable, and subject to variation. And not only does this grievous circumstance attend them, but moreover while they remain they do not afford us a pleasure sufficient to repel and veil the sadness that comes upon us from other quarters. But the fear of God contains both these requisites. It is steadfast and immoveable, and sheds so much gladness that we can admit no sense of other evils. For the man who fears God as he ought, and trusts in Him, gathers from the very root of pleasure, and has possession of the whole fountain of cheerfulness. And as a spark falling upon a wide ocean quickly disappears, so whatever events happen to the man who fears God, these, falling as it were upon an immense ocean of joy, are quenched and destroyed! This indeed is most to be wondered at, that whilst things which minister sadness are present, the man should remain joyful. For if there was nothing to produce grief, it would be no great matter to him that he was able continually to rejoice. But that at a time when he is urged to sadness by the pressure of many things, he is superior to all these, and is blithe in the midst of sorrow. this is truly a matter for astonishment! And as no one would have wondered that the three Children were not burnt, if they had remained far off from the furnace of Babylon! (for the circumstance that astonished all was, that having been so long in such close contact with the fire, they left it more free from hurt than those who had not been in contact with it); so also we are able to say of the saints, that if no temptation had fastened itself upon them, we should not have wondered at their continual rejoicing. But the point worthy of admiration, and that which surpasses human nature, is this, that being encircled on all sides with innumerable waves, their condition is easier than that of those who enjoy an entire calm!
7. From what has been said, it is evident that amongst those who are outside the church it is impossible to find any situation in life, encircled with continual gladness from the things without. But that the believer cannot possibly be deprived of the enjoyment of a continued pleasure is what I will now proceed to prove, to the end that ye may not only learn, but also emulate this painless condition of life. For suppose a man having nothing for which to condemn himself, but cherishing a good conscience, and yearning after the future state, and the fulfilment of those good hopes; what, I ask, will be able to throw such a person into sadness? Does not death seem the most insupportable of all things? Yet the expectation of this is so far from grieving him, that it makes him the more joyful; for he knows that the arrival of death is a release from labour, and a speeding toward the crowns and rewards laid up for those who have contended in the race of piety and virtue. But is it the untimely end of his children? Nay, he will also bear this nobly, and will take up the words of Job, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed good unto the Lord, so is it come to pass. Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever.” But if death and loss of children cannot grieve, much less can the loss of money, or dishonour, or reproaches, or false accusations, at any time affect a soul so great and noble; no, nor anguish of body, since the Apostles were scourged, yet they were not made sad. This, indeed, was a great thing; but what is much more, instead of being made sad, they considered their very scourgings, as a ground of additional pleasure. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ.” Did any person insult and revile such a one? Well, he was taught by Christ to rejoice in these revilings. “Rejoice,” saith He, “and be exceeding glad, when they shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; for great is your reward in heaven.” But suppose a man hath fallen into disease? Well, he hath heard another admonishing, and saying, “In disease and poverty trust thou in Him; for as gold is tried in the fire, so are acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.” Since, therefore, neither death, nor loss of money,nor bodily disease, nor dishonour, nor reproach, nor any other thing of that nature, will be able to grieve him, but makes him even the more joyful, what foundation for sadness will he have at any time?
8. “What then,” says some one, “used not the Saint to be in sadness? Do you not hear Paul saying, “I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in my heart?” This, indeed, is the thing to wonder at, that sorrow brought a gain, and a pleasure that resulted from the gain; for as the scourge did not procure them anguish, but gladness; so also again the sorrow procured them those great crowns. And this is the paradox; that not only the sadness of the world, but also its joy, contains extreme loss; but in the case of spiritual things, it is exactly the reverse; and not the joy only, but the sadness too contains a rich treasure of good things! But how, I proceed to explain. In the world, a person often rejoices, on beholding an enemy in trouble; and by this joy he draws on himself a great punishment. Again, another person mourns, on seeing a brother fall; and because of this sadness he will procure for himself much favour with God. Seest thou how godly sorrow is better and more profitable than the joy of the world? Thus also Paul sorrowed for sinners, and for those who disbelieved in God; and this sorrow was the means of laying up a great reward for him. But that I may make what I say more clear, and that ye may know that although what I assert is very strange, it is nevertheless true, viz. that grief is often capable of refreshing distressed souls, and of rendering a burdened conscience light: consider how often women, when they have lost their most beloved children, break their hearts, and perish, if they are forbidden to mourn, and to shed tears. But if they do all which those who are sad, are wont to do, they are relieved, and receive consolation. And what wonder that this should be the case with women, when you may even see a prophet affected in a similar manner? Therefore he was continually saying, “Suffer me—I will weep bitterly—labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.” So that, oftentimes, sadness is the bearer of consolation; and if it is so with regard to this world. much more with regard to spiritual things. Therefore he says, “Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of.” This indeed seems to be obscure; but what he says is to this effect: “If thou grievest over wealth, thou art nothing profited. If for sickness, thou hast gained nothing, but hast increased thy affliction.”