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The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Volume 5) online

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Logical seu^

BR 60 .L52 v.5
John Chrysostom, d. 407.
The homilies of S. John
Chrysostom, Archbishop of

V, 5-




ARcnnisiior of Constantinople.


















* r


1 Cor. x. 25.

Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question
for conscience sake.

Having said that they could not drink the cup of the Lord,
and the cup of devils, and having once for all led them away
from those tables, by Jewish examples, by human reasonings,
by the tremendous Mysteries, by the rites solemnized among
the idols a ; and having filled them with great fear ; that he might
not by this fear drive them again to another extreme, and they
be forced, exercising a greater scrupulosity than was neces-
sary, to feel alarm, lest possibly even without their knowledge
there might come in some such thing, either from the market,
or from some other quarter ; to release them from this strait,
he saith, Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking
no question. " For," saith he, " if thou eat in ignorance, and
not knowingly, thou art not subject to the punishment: it
being thenceforth a matter, not of greediness, but of igno-

Nor doth he free the man only from this anxiety, but also
from another, establishing them in thorough security and
liberty. For he doth not even suffer them to question ; i.e.
to search and enquire, whether it be an idol-sacrifice, or no
such thing : but simply to eat every thing which comes from
the market, not even acquainting one's self with so much as
this, what it is that is set before us. So that even he that
eateth, if in ignorance, may be rid of anxiety. For such is
the nature of those things which are not in their essence evil,

* Savile conj. ttiuXtiois, " in the idol Temples:" but ttiiXut is the actual reading.

338 Double Caution of St. Paul about Idol-sacrifices.

HoMiL.but through the man's intention make him unclean. Where-


— - — -fore he saith, asking no question.

Ver. 26. For to the Lord belongetli the earth, and the ful-
ness thereof. Not to the devils. Now if the eaTth, and the
fruits, and the beasts be all His, nothing is unclean : but it
becomes unclean otherwise, from our intention and our dis-
obedience. Wherefore he not only gave permission, but also,

Ver. 27. If any of them that believe not bid you, saith he,
to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before
you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

See again his moderation. For he did not command, and
make a law, that they should withdraw themselves, yet neither
did he forbid it. And again, should they depart, he frees
them from all suspicion. Now what may be the account of
this ? That so great curiousness might not seem to arise from
any fear and cowardice. For he who makes scrupulous
enquiry, doth so as being in dread : but he who, on hearing
the fact, abstains, abstains as out of contempt, and hatred,
and aversion. Wherefore Paul, purposing to establish both
points, saith, Whatsoever is set before you, eat.

Ver. 28. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in
sacrifice unto idols ; eat not, for his sake that shelved it.

Thus it is not at all for any power that they have, but as
accursed, that he bids abstain from them. Neither then, as
though they could injure you, fly from them, (for they have no
strength ;) nor yet, because they have no strength, indifferently
partake : for it is the table of beings hostile and degraded.
Wherefore he said, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and
for conscience sake. For the earth is the Lord's, and the
fulness thereof.

Seest thou how both when he bids them eat, and when
they must abstain, he brings forward the same testimony ?
" For I do not forbid," saith he, " for this cause, as though
they belonged to others: (for the earth is the Lord's:) but
for the reason I mentioned, for conscience sake ; i. e. that it
may not be injured." Ought one therefore to inquire scru-
pulously ? " Nay," saith he : " for I said not thy conscience,
but his. For I have already said, for his sake that shewed it."
And again, v. 29. Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the

How the Greeks might be guarded against all offence. .'339

[2.] But perhaps some one may say, " The brethren indeed, l Cor.
as is natural, thou sparest, and dost not suffer us to taste for 10 " 29,
their sakes, lest their conscience being weak, might be drawn
in b to eat the idol sacrifices. But if it be some heathen,
what is this man to thee ? Was it not thine own word, Wliat
have I to do to judge them also that are without 1 ? Where- ] 1 Cor.
fore then dost thou on the contrary care for them?" " Not for 5- 12 '
him is my care," he replies, " but in this case also for thee."
To which effect also he adds,

For why is my liberty judged of another marts conscience?
meaning by liberty, that which is left without caution or pro-
hibition. For this is liberty, freed from Jewish bondage. And
what he means is this : " God hath made me free, and above
all reach of injury, but the Gentile knoweth not how to judge
of this high morality of mine, nor to see into the liberality of
my Master, but will condemn and say to himself, ' Christianity
is a fable ; they abstain from the idols, they shun daemons,
and yet cleave to the things offered to them : great is their
gluttony.' " " And what then ?" it may be said. " What harm
is it to us, should he judge us unfairly ?" But how much
better to give him no room to judge at all ! For if thou
abstain, he will not even say this. " How," say you, " will
he not say it ? For when he seeth me not making these
enquiries, neither in the shambles, nor in the banquet ; what
should hinder him from using this language, and condemning
me, as one who partakes without discrimination ?" It is not so
at all. For thou partakest, not as of idol-sacrifices, but as of
things clean. And if thou makest no nice enquiry, it is that
thou mayest signify, that thou fearest not the things set before
thee : this being the reason why, whether thou enterest a
house of Gentiles, or goest into the market, I suffer thee not
to ask questions; viz. lest thou become a startler at sounds 2 , v ^^„.
and entangled 3 , and shouldest occasion thyself needless l ihs -

,' "3 Xito-

trouble. «*»£.

Ver. 30. If I by grace be a partaker, why am I yet evil
spoken of for that for which 1 give thanks ? " Of what art
thou by grace a partaker? tell me." Of the gifts of God.

b olxtvop»0ri. qu. ajxaSo^xfl?, '' might boldened." cf. e. viii. 10.
be edified," 'or " instructed," or " em-

z 2

340 Scandal to be especially avoided on Occasions of Thanksgiving.

Homil. For His grace is so great, as to render my soul unstained,
* and above all pollution. For as the sun sending down his

beams upon many spots of pollution, withdraws them again
pure ; so likewise we, and much more than so, having our con-
versation in the midst of the world, remain pure, if we will,
by how much the power we have is even greater than his.
(2.) "Why then abstain?" say you. Not as though I should
become unclean, far from it ; but for my brother's sake, and
that I may not become a partaker with devils, and that I may
not be judged by the unbeliever. For in this case it is no
longer now the nature of the thing, but the disobedience, and
the friendship with devils, which maketh me unclean, and the
purpose of heart worketh the pollution.

But what is, why am I yet evil spoken of for that for which
I give thanks ? " I, for my part," saith he, " give thanks to
God, that He hath thus set me on high, and above the low
estate of the Jews, so that from no quarter am I injured. But
the Gentiles, not knowing my high rule of life, will suspect the
contrary, and will say, ' Here are Christians indulging a taste
for our customs ; they are a kind of hypocrites, abusing the
daemons, and loathing them, yet running to their tables; than
which what can be more senseless? We conclude, that not for
truth's sake, but through ambition and love of power they
have betaken themselves to this doctrine.' What folly then
would it be, that in respect of those things whereby I have
been so benefited, as even to give solemn thanks, in respect
of these I should become the cause of evil-speaking ?" " But
these things, even as it is," say you, " will the Gentile allege,
when he seeth me not making enquiry." In no wise. For all
things are not full of idol-sacrifices, so that he should suspect
this : nor dost thou thyself taste of them as idol-sacrifices.
Be not then scrupulous overmuch, nor again, on the other
hand, when any remark on its being an idol-sacrifice, do thou
partake. For Christ gave thee grace, and set thee on high,
and above all injury from that quarter, not that thou mightest
be evil spoken of, nor that the circumstance, which hath been
such a gain to thee as to be matter of special thanksgiving,
should be a mean of thy so injuring others, that they should
even blaspheme. " Nay, why," saith he, " do I not say to the
Gentile, ' I eat, I am no wise injured, and I do not this as

Duty of Christians to Unbelievers. 34 1

one in friendship with the daemons' ?" Because thou canst not l Cor.
persuade him, even though thou shouldest say it ten thousand 10 " 32-
times : weak as he is, and hostile. For if thy brother hath
not yet been persuaded by thee, much less the enemy and
the Gentile. If he is possessed by his consciousness of the
idol-sacrifice, much more the unbeliever. And besides, what
occasion have we for so great trouble?

" What then ? whereas we have known Christ, and give
thanks, while they blaspheme, shall we therefore abandon this
custom also ?" Far from it. For the thing is not the same.
For in the one case, great is our gain from bearing the re-
proach ; but in the other, there will be no advantage. Where-
fore also he said before, for neither if we eat, are we the
better ; nor if we eat not, are we the worse 1 . And besides 1 c.8. (
this too, he shewed that the thing was to be avoided, so that
even on another ground ought they to be abstained from, not
on this account only, but also for the other reasons which he
hath assigned.

[3.] Ver. 31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatso-
ever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Perceivest thou how from the subject before him, he
carried out the exhortation to what was general, giving us
one, the most excellent of all rules, that God in all things
should be glorified ?

Ver. 32. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the
Gentiles, nor to the Church of God : i. e. give no handle to
any one: since in the case supposed, both thy brother is
offended, and the Jew will the more hate and condemn
thee, and the Gentile in like manner deride thee even as
a gluttonous man and a hypocrite.

Not only, however, should the brethren receive no hurt
from us, but to the utmost of our power, not even those that
are without. For if we are light, and leaven, and luminaries,
and salt, we ought to enlighten, not to darken ; to bind, not
to loosen ; to draw to ourselves the unbelievers, not to drive
them away. Why then puttest thou to flight those whom
thou oughtest to draw to thee ? Since even some Gentiles are
hurt, when they see us shaping our course back to such
things ; for they know not our mind, nor that our soul hath

342 How St. Paul yleased all Men in all Things.

HoMit.come to be above all pollution of sense. And the Jews too,
— — - and the weaker brethren, will have the same feelings.

Seest thou how many reasons he hath assigned, for which
we ought to abstain from the idol-sacrifices? Because of their
unprofitableness, because of their needlessness, because of
the injury to our brother*, because of the evil-speaking of the
Jew, because of the reviling of the Gentile, because we ought
not to be partakers with devils, because the thing is a kind of

Further, because he had said, give none offence, and he
made them responsible for the injury done, both to the
Gentiles and to the Jews; and the saying was grievous; see
how he renders it acceptable and light, putting himself for-
ward, and saying,

Ver. 33. Even as I also please all men in all things, not
seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they
7nay be saved.

Chap. 11. ver. 1. Be ye folloicers of me, even as I also am
of Christ.

This is a rule of the most perfect Christianity, this is a
landmark exactly laid down, this the point which stands
highest of all ; viz. the seeking those things which are for the
common profit : which also Paul himself declared, by adding,
even as I also am of Christ. For nothing can so make a
man a follower of Christ, as caring for his neighbours. Nay,
though thou shouldest fast, though thou shouldest lie upon
the ground, and even strangle thyself, but take no thought
for thy neighbour ; thou hast wrought nothing great ; yet far
from this Image is thy station, while thou art so doing.

However, in the case before us, even the very thing itself
is naturally useful, viz. the abstaining from idol-sacrifices.
But " I," saith he, " have done many things among those
which were unprofitable also : e. g. when I used circumcision,
when I offered sacrifice ; for these, were any one to examine
them in themselves, rather destroy those that follow after them,
and cause them to fall from salvation : nevertheless I sub-
mitted even to these, on account of the advantage therefrom :
but here is no such thing. For in that case, except there
accrue a certain benefit, and except they be done for others'

Disinterestedness, a Condition of high Moral Goodness. 343

sake, then the thing becomes injurious: but in this, though 1 Cor.
there be none offended, even so ought one to abstain from the "' '"
things forbidden.

But not only to things hurtful have I submitted, but also
to things toilsome. For " / robbed other Churches, saith he,
taking wages of them l , and when it was lawful to eat, and ' 2 Cor.
not to work, I sought not this, but chose to perish of hunger,
rather than offend another." This is why he says, / please
all men in all things. " Though it be against the law,
though it be laborious and hazardous, which is to be done,
I endure all for the profit of others. I may say then, that
being above all in perfection, I have become 2 beneath all in* Sav.
condescension." yjL M .

[4.] For no virtuous action can be very exalted, when it doth " he be-
not distribute its benefit to others also : as is shewn by him
who brought the one talent safe, and was cut in sunder,
because he had not made more of it. And thou then, brother,
though thou shouldest remain without food, though thou
shouldest sleep upon the ground, though thou shouldest eat
ashes, and be ever wailing, and do good to no other ; thou
wilt do no great work. For so also those great and noble
persons who were in the beginning made this their chiefest
care : examine accurately their life, and thou wilt see clearly,
that none of them ever looked to his own things, but each
one to the things of his neighbour, whence also they shone
the brighter. For so Moses (to mention him first) wrought
many and great wonders and signs ; but nothing made him so
great, as that blessed voice which he uttered unto God, say-
ing, If Thou wilt forgive their sin, forgive ; but if not, blot
me also out 3 . Such too was David: wherefore also he said, 3 Exod.
/ the shepherd have sinned, and I have done wickedly, but 32 - 32 -
these, the flock, what have they done? Let Thine hand be upon
me, and upon my father's house 4 . So likewise Abraham 4 2 Sam.
sought not his own profit, but the profit of many. Where- 24 - 17 -
fore he both exposed himself to dangers, and besought God
for those who in no wise belonged to him.

Well: these indeed so became glorious. But as for those
who sought their own, consider what harm too they received.
The nephew, for instance, of the last mentioned, because he
listened to the saying, If thou wilt go to the right, I will

344 Ancient Examples of Disinterestedness.

Homil.</o to the left 1 ; and accepting the choice, sought his own
— — " profit, did not even find his own : but this country was
13. 9. burned up, while that remained untouched. Jonas again,
not seeking the profit of many, but his own, was in danger
even of perishing : and while the city stood fast, he himself
was tossed about and overwhelmed in the sea. But when he
sought the profit of many, then he also found his own. So
likewise Jacob among the flocks, not seeking his own gain,
had that exceeding riches for his portion. And Joseph also,
seeking the profit of his brethren, found his own. At least,
« Gen. being sent by his father 2 , he said not, " What is this ? Hast
thou not heard that for a vision and certain dreams they even
attempted to tear me in pieces, and I was held guilty of my
dreams, and suffer punishment for being beloved of thee ?
What then will they not do when they get me in the midst of
them ?" He said none of these things, he thought not of them,
but prefers the care of his brethren above all. Therefore he
enjoyed also all the good things which followed, which both
made him very brilliant, and declared him glorious. Thus
also Moses, — for nothing hinders that we should again a
second time make mention of him, and behold how he over-
looked his own things, and sought the things of others: — I
say this Moses, being conversant in a king's court, be-
3 Heb - cause he counted the reproach 5 greater riches than the
r<,dx s ,<r- treasures in Egypt ; and having cast them even all out of
Tcvom. his hands, became a partaker of the afflictions of the
Hebrews ; — so far from being himself enslaved, he liberated
them also from bondage.

Well: these surely are great things, and worthy of an
(4.) angelical life. But the conduct of Paul far exceeds this.
For all the rest, leaving their own blessings, chose to be
partakers in the afflictions of others : but Paul did a thing
much greater. For it was not that he consented to be a
partaker in others' misfortunes, but he chose himself to be at
all extremities, that other men might enjoy blessing. Now
it is not the same for one who lives in luxury, to cast away
his luxury and suffer adversity, as for one himself alone
suffering adversity, to cause others to be in security and
honour. For in the former case, though it be a great thing
to exchange prosperity for affliction for your neighbour's

St. Paul excelled the Old Saints in Charity. 345

sake, nevertheless it brings some consolation to have partakers l Cor.
in the misfortune. But consenting to be himself alone in U ' l '
the distress, that others may enjoy their good things, — this
belongs to a much more energetic soul, and to Paul's own

And not by this only, but by another and greater excellency,
doth he surpass all those before mentioned. That is, Abraham
and all the rest exposed themselves to dangers in the present
life, and all these were but asking for this kind of death, once
for all : but Paul prayed 1 that he might fall from the glory of i Rom.
the world to come for the sake of others' salvation. 9 " 3 *

I may mention also a third point of superiority. And
what is this ? That some of those, though they interceded
for persons who conspired against them, nevertheless it was
for those with whose guidance they had been entrusted : and
the same thing happened, as if one should stand up for a
wild and lawless son, but still a son : whereas Paul wished
to be accursed in the stead of those with whose guardianship
he was not entrusted. For to the Gentiles was he sent.
Dost thou perceive the greatness of his soul, and the lofti-
ness of his spirit, transcending the very heaven ? This man
do thou emulate : but if thou canst not, at least follow those
who shone in the old covenant. For thus only shalt thou
find thine own profit, if thou seekest that of thy neighbour.
Wherefore, when thou feelest backward to care for thy
brother, considering that no otherwise canst thou be saved,
at least for thine own sake stand thou up for him and his

[5.] And although what hath been said is sufficient to con-
vince thee, that no otherwise is it possible to secure our own
benefit : yet if thou wouldest also assure thyself of it by the
examples of common life, conceive a fire happening any
where to be kindled in a house, and then some of the neigh-
bours, with a view to their own interest, refusing to expose
themselves to the risk, but shutting themselves up and
remaining at home, in fear lest some one come and find his
way in, and purloin some part of the household goods ; how
great punishment will they endure? Since the fire will
come on, and burn down likewise all that is theirs; and
because they looked not to the profit of their neighbour, they

346 Disinterestedness taught by the Order of Society.

HoMiL.lose even their own besides. For so God, willing to bind us
— ■ — : all to each other, hath imposed upon things such a necessity,
that in the profit of one neighbour that of the other is bound
up ; and the whole world is thus constituted. And therefore
in a vessel too, if a storm had come on, and the steersman,
leaving the profit of the many, should seek his own only, he
will quickly sink both himself and them. And of each several
art too we may say, that should it look to its own profit only,
life could never stand, nor even the art itself which so seeketh
its own. Therefore the husbandman sows not so much corn
only, as is sufficient for himself; since he would long ago have
famished both himself and others ; but seeks the profit of the
many: and the soldier takes the field against dangers, not
that he may save himself, but that he may also place his
cities in security : and the merchant brings not home so
much as may be sufficient for himself alone, but for many
others also.

Now if any say, " each man doeth this, not looking
to my interest, but his own, for he engages in all these things
to obtain for himself money, and glory, and security, so that
in seeking my profit, he seeks his own :" this also do I say,
and long since wished to hear from you, and for this have I
framed all my discourse; viz. to signify, that thy neighbour
then seeks his own profit, when he looks to thine. For since
men would no otherwise make up their mind to seek the things
of their neighbour, except they were reduced to this necessity;
therefore God hath thus joined things together, and suffers
them not to arrive at their own profit, except they first travel
through the profit of others.

Well then, this is natural to man, thus to follow after his
neighbour's advantage : but one ought to be persuaded not
from this i-eason, but from whit pleases God. For it is not
possible to be saved, wanting this ; but though thou shouldest
practise the highest philosophy, and neglect others who are
perishing, thou wilt gain no confidence towards God. Whence
is this evident ? From what the blessed Paul declared. For
if I sell my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be
1 1 Cor. burned, and have not charity, it prq/iteth me nothing 1 , saith
13- he. Seest thou how much Paul requireth of us ? And yet he
that sold his goods to feed the poor, sought not his own good,

Excuses for not practising it answered. 347

but that of his neighbour. But this alone is not enough, he i Cor.
saith. For he would have it done with sincerity and much — —
sympathy. For therefore also God made it a law, that he
might bring us into the bond of love. When therefore
He demands so large a measure, and we do not render even
that which is less, of what indulgence shall we be worthy ?

" And how," saith one, " did G od say to Lot by the Angels,
Escape for thy life 1 ? n Say, when, and why. When the 1 Gen.
punishment was bearing down on them, not when there
was an opportunity of correction, but when they were
condemned and incurably diseased, and old and young
had rushed into the same passions, and henceforth they
must needs be burned up, and in that day when the thun-
derbolts were about to descend. And besides, this was not
spoken of vice and virtue, but of the chastisement inflicted
by God. For what was he to do, tell me ? Sit still and
await the punishment, and without at all profiting them, be

Online LibrarySaint John ChrysostomThe homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Volume 5) → online text (page 1 of 34)