Saint John Chrysostom : HOMILY XII. ROM. VI. 19.

"I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your
flesh: for as ye have yielded your members (so 4 Mss. Say. the
members of your flesh) servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto
iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness
unto holiness.''

SINCE he had required great strictness of life, charging us to be
dead to the world, and to Have died unto wickedness, and to abide
with no notion towards the workings of sin, and seemed to be saying
something great and burdensome, and too much for human nature;
through a desire to show that he is not making any exorbitant
demand, nor even as much as might be expected of one who
enjoyed so great a gift, but one quite moderate and light, he proves it
from contraries, and says, "I speak after the manner of men," as
much as to say, Going by human reasonings; by such as one usually
meets with.
 For he signifies either this, or the moderateness of it, by
the term applied, "after the manner of men." For elsewhere he uses
the same word. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is
common to man" (1 Cot. x. 13), that is, moderate and small. "For as
ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to
iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to
righteousness unto holiness." And truly the masters are very
different ones, but still it is an equal amount of servitude that I ask.
For men ought to give a much larger one, and so much the larger as
this is a greater and better mastership than the other. Nevertheless I
make no greater demand "because of the infirmity," and that, he
does not say of your free will or readiness of spirit, but "of your
flesh," so making what he says the less severe. And yet on one side
there is uncleanness, on the other holiness: on the one iniquity, a.d
on the other righteousness. And who is so wretched, he says, and in
such straits as not to spend as much earnestness upon the service
of Christ, as upon that of sin and the devil? Hear then what follows,
and you will see clearly that we do not even spend this little. For
when (stated in this naked way) it does not seem credible or easy to
admit, and nobody would endure to hear that he does not serve
Christ so much as he did serve the devil, he proves it by what
follows, and renders it credible by bringing that slavery before us,
and saying how they did serve him.
Ver. 20. "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from
Now what he says is somewhat of this kind, When ye lived in
wickedness, and impiety, and the worst of evils, the state of
compliance ye lived in was such that ye did absolutely no good thing
at all. For this is, "ye were free from righteousness." That is ye were
not subject to it, but estranged from it wholly. For ye did not even so
much as divide the manner of servitude between righteousness and
sin, but gave yourselves wholly up to wickedness. Now, therefore,
since ye have come over to righteousness, give yourselves wholly
up to virtue, doing nothing at all of vice, that the measure you give
may be at least equal. And yet it is not the mastership only that is so
different, but in the servitude itself there is a vast difference. And
this too he unfolds with great perspicuity, and shows what
conditions they served upon then, and what now. And as yet he says
nothing of the harm accruing from the thing, but hitherto speaks of
the shame.
Ver. 21. "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now
So great was the slavery, that even the recollection of it now makes
you ashamed; but if the recollection makes one ashamed, the reality
would much more. And so you gained now in two ways, in having
been freed from the shame; and also in having come to know the
condition you were in; just as then ye were injured in two ways, in
doing things deserving shame, and in not even knowing to be
ashamed. And this is worse than the former. Yet still ye kept in a
state of servitude. Having then proved most abundantly the harm of
what took place then from the shame of it, he comes to the thing in
question. Now what is this thing? "For the end of those things is
death." Since then shame seems to be no such serious evil, he
comes to what is very fearful, I mean death; though in good truth
what he had before mentioned were enough. For consider how
exceeding great the mischief must be, inasmuch as, even when freed
from the vengeance due to it, they could not get free of the shame.
What wages then, he says, do you expect from the reality, when from
the bare recollection, and that too when you are freed from the
vengeance, you hide your face and blush, though under such grace
as you are! But God's side is far otherwise.
Ver. 22. "For now being made free from sin, and become servants to
God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."
Of the former, the fruit was shame, even after the being set free. Of
these the fruit is holiness, and where holiness is, there is all
confidence. But of those things the end is death, and of these
everlasting life. Do you see how he points out some things as
already given, and some as existing in hope, and from what are
given he draws proof of the others also, that is from the holiness of
the life. For to prevent your saying (i.e. as an objection) everything
lies in hope, he points out that you have already reaped fruits, first
the being freed from wickedness, and such evils as the very
recollection of puts one to shame; second, the being made a servant
unto righteousness; a third, the enjoying of holiness; a fourth, the
obtaining of life, and life too not for a season, but everlasting. Yet
with all these, he says, do but serve as ye served it. For though the
master is far preferable, and the service also has many advantages,
and the rewards too for which ye are serving, still I make no further
demand. Next, since he had mentioned arms and a king, he keeps on
with the metaphor in these words:
Ver. 23. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal
life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of the blessings, he
has not kept to the same order (taxin, rank or relation): for he does
not say, the wages of good deeds, "but the gift of God;" to show,
that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due
they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but
by grace all these things came about. And so there was a superiority
for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their
condition for a better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble
upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them
much more than before, and that through His Son. And the whole of
this he has interposed as having discussed the subject of grace, and
being on the point of overthrowing the Law next. That these things
then might not both make them rather listless, he inserted the part
about strictness of life, using every opportunity of rousing the hearer
to the practice of virtue. For when he calls death the wages of sin, he
alarms them again, and secures them against dangers to come. For
the words he uses to remind them of their former estate, he also
employs so as to make them thankful, and more secure against any
inroads of temptations. Here then he brings the hortatory part to a
stop, and proceeds with the doctrines again, speaking on this wise.
Chap. vii. ver. 1. "Know ye not, brethren, for I speak to them that
know the Law."
Since then he had said, we are "dead to sin," he here shows that not
sin only, but also the Law, hath no dominion over them. But if the
Law hath none, much less hath sin: and to render his language
palatable, he uses a human example to make this plain by. And he
seems to be stating one point, but he sets down at once two
arguments for his proposition. One, that when a husband is dead,
the woman is no longer subject to her husband, and there is nothing
to prevent her becoming the wife of another man: and the other, that
in the present case it is not the husband only that is dead but the
wife also. So that one may enjoy liberty in two ways. Now if when the
husband is dead, she is freed from his power, when the woman is
shown to be dead also, she is much more at liberty. For if the one
event frees her from his power, much more does the concurrence of
both. As he is about to proceed then to a proof of these paints, he
starts with an encomium of the hearers, in these words, "Know ye
not, brethren, for I speak to them that know the Law, that is, I am
saying a thing that is quite agreed upon, and clear, and to men too
that know all these things accurately, "How that the Law hath
dominion over a man as long as he liveth?"
He does not say, husband or wife, but "man," which name is
common to either creature; "For he that is dead," he says, "is freed
(Gr. justified) from sin." The Law then is given for the living, but to
the dead it ceaseth to be ordained (or to give commands). Do you
observe how he sets forth a twofold freedom? Next, after hinting this
at the commencement, he carries on what he has to say by way of
proof, in the woman's case, in the following way.
Ver. 2, 3. "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the
Law to her husband, so long as he liveth: but if the husband be dead,
she is loosed from the Law of her husband. So then, if while her
husband liveth, she be married to another man, she is called an
adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so
that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man."
He keeps continually upon this point, and that with great exactness,
since he feels quite sure of the proof grounded on it: and in the
husband's place he puts the Law, but in the woman's, all believers.
Then he adds the conclusion in such way, that it does not tally with
the premiss; for what the context would require would be, "and so,
my brethren, the Law doth not rule over you, for it is dead." But he
does not say so, but only in the premiss hinted it, and in the
inference, afterwards, to prevent what he says. being distasteful, he
brings the woman m as dead by saying, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye
also are become dead to the Law."
As then the one or the other event gives rise to the same freedom,
what is there to prevent his showing favor to the Law without any
harm being done to the cause? "For the woman which hath an
husband is bound by the Law to her husband as long as he liveth."
What is become now (3 Mss. then)
of those that speak evil of the Law? Let them hear, how even when
forced upon it, he does not bereave it of its dignity, but speaks great
things of its power; if while it is alive the Jew is bound, and they are
to be called adulterers who transgress it, and leave it whiles it is
alive. But if they let go of it after it has died, this is not to be
wondered at. For in human affairs no one is found fault with for
doing this: "but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of
her husband." You see how in the example he points out the Law as
dead, but in the inference he does not do so. So then if it be while
her husband liveth, the woman is called an adulteress. See how he
dwells upon the accusations of those who transgress the Law, while
it is yet living. But since he had put an end to it, he afterwards favors
it with perfect security, without doing any harm hereby to the faith.
"For if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she
is called an adulteress." Thus it would have been natural to say next,
ye also, my brethren, now the Law is dead, will not be judged guilty
of adultery, if ye become married to another husband. Yet he does
not use these words, but what? "Ye are become dead to the Law;" if
ye have been made dead, ye are no longer under the Law. For if,
when the husband is dead, the woman is no longer liable to it, much
more when herself is dead also she is freed from the former. Do you
note the wisdom of Paul, how he points out that the Law itself
designs that we should be divorced from it, and married to another?
For there is nothing, he means, against your living with another
husband, now the former is dead; for how should there be, since
when the husband was alive it allowed this to her who had a writing
of divorcement? But this he does not set down, as it was rather a
charge against the woman; for although this had been granted, still it
was not cleared of blame. (Matt. xix. 7, 8.) For in cases where he has
gained the victory by requisite and accredited proofs, he does not go
into questions beyond the purpose; not being captious. The marvel
then is this, that it is the Law itself that acquits us who are divorced
from it of any charge, and so the mind of it was that we should
become Christ's. For it is dead itself, and we are dead; and the
grounds of its power over us are removed in a twofold way. But he is
not content with this alone, but also adds the reason of it. For he has
not set down death without special purpose, but brings the cross in
again, which had wrought these things, and in this way too he puts
us under an engagement. For ye have not been freed merely, he
means, but it was through the Lord's death. For he says, "Ye are
become dead to the Law by the Body of Christ."
Now it is not on this only he grounds his exhortation, but also on the
superiority of this second husband. And so he proceeds: "that ye
should be married to another, even to Him Who is raised from the
Then to prevent their saying, If we do not choose to live with another
husband, what theft? For the Law does not indeed make an
adulteress of the widow who lives in a second marriage, but for all
that it does not force her to live in it. Now that they may not say this,
he shows that from benefits already conferred, it is binding on us to
choose it: and this he Days down more clearly in other passages,
where he says, "Ye are not your own;" and, "Ye are bought with a
price;" and, "Be not ye the servants of men" (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20; vii. 23);
and again, "One died for all, that they which live should not
henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for
them." (2 Cor. v. 15.) This is then what he here alludes to in the
words, "By the Body." And next he exhorts to better hopes, saying,
"That we should bring forth fruit unto God." For then, he means, ye
brought forth fruit unto death, but now unto God.
Vet. 5. "For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which
were by the Law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto
You see then the gain to be got from the former husband! And he
does not say when we were in the Law, so in every passage
shrinking from giving a handle to heretics; but "when we were in the
flesh," that is, in evil deeds, in a carnal life. What he says then is, not
that they were in the flesh before, but now they went about without
any bodies; but by saying what he does, he neither says that the Law
is the cause of sins, nor yet frees it from odium. For it held the rank
of a bitter accuser, by making their sins bare: since that, which
enjoins more to him who is not minded to obey at all, makes the
offence greater. And this is why he does not say, the "motions of
sins" which were produced by the Law, but which "were through the
Law" (Rom. ii. 27), without adding any
"produced," but simply "through the Law," that is to say, which
through the Law were made apparent, were made known. Next that
he might not accuse the flesh either; he does not say which the
members wrought, but "which did work (or were wrought) in our
members," to show that the origin of the mischief was elsewhere,
from the thoughts which wrought in us, not from the members which
had them working in them. For the soul ranks as a performer, and
the fabric of the flesh as a lyre, sounding as the performer obliges it.
So the discordant tune is to be ascribed not to the latter, but to the
former sooner than to the latter.
Ver. 6. "But now," he says, "we are delivered from the Law."
(kathrghqhmen, "made of no effect.")
See how he again in this place spares the flesh and the Law. For he
does not say that the Law was made of no effect, or that the flesh
was made of no effect, but that we were made of no effect (i.e., were
delivered). And how were we delivered? Why by the old man, who
was held down by sin, being dead and buried. For this is what he
sets forth in the words, "being dead to that, wherein we were held."
As if he had said, the chain by which we were held down was
deadened and broken through, so that that which held down, namely
sin, held down no more. But do not fall back or grow listless. For you
have been freed with a view to being servants again, though not in
the same way, but "in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the
letter." Now what does he mean here? for it is necessary to disclose
it here, that when we come upon the passage, we may not be
perplexed with it. When then Adam sinned (he means), and his body
became liable to death and sufferings, it received also many physical
losses, and the horse became less active and less obedient. But
Christ, when He came, made it more nimble for us through baptism,
rousing it with the wing of the Spirit. And for this reason the marks
for the race, which they of old time had to run, are not the same as
ours. Since then the race was not so easy as it is now. For this
reason, He desires them to be clear not from murder only, as He did
them of old time, but from anger also; nor is it adultery only that He
bids them keep clear of, but even the unchaste look; and to be
exempt not from false swearing only, but even from true. (Matt. v. 21,
27, 33.) And with their friends He orders them to love their enemies
also. And in all other duties, He gives us a longer ground to run over,
and if we do but obey, threatens us with hell, so showing that the
things in question are not matters of free-will offering for the
combatants, as celibacy and poverty are, but are binding upon us
absolutely to fulfil. For they belong to necessary and urgent
requisites, and the man who does not do them is to be punished to
the utmost. This is why He said, "Except your righteousness exceed
the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case
enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. v. 20.) But he that does not
see the kingdom, shall certainly fall into hell. For this cause Paul too
says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not
under the Law, but under grace." And here again, "that ye should
serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." For it
is not the letter that condemneth, that is the old Law, but the Spirit
that helpeth. And for this reason among the ancients, if any were
found practising virginity, it was quite astonishing. But now the thing
is scattered over every part of the world. And death in those times
some few men did with difficulty despise, but now in villages and
cities there are hosts of martyrs without number, consisting not of
men only, but even of women. And next having done with this, he
again meets an objection which is rising, and as he meets it, gives
confirmation to his own object. And so he does not introduce the
solution of it as main argument, but by way of opposing this; that by
the exigency of meeting it, he may get a plea for saying what he
wishes, and make his accusation not so unpalatable. Having then
said, "in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the
letter," he proceeds.
Ver. 7. "What then? is the Law sin? God forbid."
Even before this he had been saying, that "the motions of sins,
which were by the Law did work in our members" (ver. 5): and, "sin
shall have no dominion over you, for ye are not under the Law." (vi.
14.) And that "where no law is, there is no transgression." (iv. 15.)
And, "but the Law came in, that the offence might abound" (v. 20);
and, "the Law worketh wrath." (iv. 15.) Now as all these things seem
to bring the Law into disrepute, in order to correct the suspicion
arising from them, he supposes also an objection, and says, "What
then, is the Law sin? God forbid." Before the proof he uses this
adjuration to conciliate the hearer, and by z way of soothing any who
was troubled at it. For so, when he had heard this, and felt assured
of the speaker's disposition, he would join with him in investigating
the seeming perplexity, and feel no suspicions of him. Wherefore he
has put the objection, associating the other with him. Hence, he does
not say, What am I to say? but "What shall we say then?" As though
a deliberation and a judgment were before them, and a general
meeting called together, and the objection came forward not of
himself, but in the course of discussion, and from real
circumstances of the case. For that the letter killeth, he means, no
one will deny, or that the Spirit giveth life (2 Cor. iii. 6); this is plain
too, and nobody will dispute it. If then these are confessedly truths,
what are we to say about the Law? that "it is sin? God forbid."
Explain the difficulty then. Do you see how he supposes the
opponent to be present, and having assumed the dignity of the
teacher, he comes to the explaining of it. Now what is this? Sin, he
says, the Law is not. "Nay, I had not known sin, but by the Law."
Notice the reach of his wisdom! What the Law is not, he has set
down by way of objection, so that by removing this, and thereby
doing the Jew a pleasure, he may persuade him to accept the less
alternative. And what is this? Why that "I had not known sin, but by
the Law. For I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou
shalt not covet."
Do you observe, how by degrees he shows it to be not an accuser of
sin only, but in a measure its producer? Yet not from any fault of its
own, but from that of the froward Jews, he proves it was, that this
happened. For he has taken good heed to stop the mouths of the
Manichees, that accuse the Law; and so after saying, "Nay, I had not
known sin, but by the Law;" and, "I had not known lust, except the
Law had said, Thou shall not covet;" he adds, Ver. 8. "But sin, taking
occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of
Do you see how he has cleared it of all blame? For "sin," he says,
"taking occasion by the commandment," it was, and not the Law,
that increased the concupiscence, and the reverse of the Law's
intent was brought about. This came of weakness, and not of any
badness. For when we desire a thing, and then are hindered of it, the
flame of the desire is but increased. Now this came not of the Law;
for it hindered us (3 Mss. endeavored) of itself to keep us off from it;
but sin, that is, thy own listlessness and bad disposition, used what
was good for the reverse. But this is no fault in the physician, but in
the patient who applies the medicine wrongly. For the reason of the
Law being given was, not to inflame concupiscence, but to
extinguish it, though the reverse came of it. Yet the blame attaches
not to it, but to us. Since if a person had a fever, and wanted to take
cold drink when it was not good for him, and one were not to let him
take his fill of it, and so increase his lust after this ruinous pleasure,
one could not deservedly be found fault with. For the physician's
business is simply prohibiting it, but the restraining himself is the
patient's. And what if sin did take occasion from it? Surely there are
many bad men who by good precepts grow in their own wickedness.
For this was the way in which the devil ruined Judas, by plunging
him into avarice, and making him steal what belonged to the poor.
However it was not the being entrusted with the bag that brought this
to pass, but the wickedness of his own spirit. And Eve, by bringing
Adam to eat from the tree, threw him out of Paradise. But neither in
that case was the tree the cause, even if it was through it that the
occasion took place. But if he treats the discussion about the Law
with somewhat of vehemence, do not feel surprise. For Paul is
making a stand against the present exigency, and suffers not his
language to give a handle even to those that suspected otherwise,
but takes great pains to make the present statement correct. Do not
then sift what he is now going on to say (4 Mss. "here saying") by
itself, but put beside it the purpose by which he is led on to speak of
these things, and reckon for the madness of the Jews, and their
vigorous spirit of contention, which as he desires earnestly to do
away with, he seems to bear violently (polus pnein) against the Law,
not to find fault with it, but to unnerve their vigor. For if it is any
reproach to the Law that sin taketh occasion by it, this will be found
to be the case in the New Testament also. For in the New Testament
there are thousands of laws, and about many more (" far more,"
Field) important matters. And one may see the same come to pass
there also, not with regard to covetousness (lust, as v. 7) only, but to
all wickedness generally. For He says, "if I had not come and spoken
unto them, they had not had sin," (John xv. 22.) Here then sin finds a
footing in this fact, and so the greater punishment. And again when
Paul discourseth about grace, he says, "Of how much sorer
punishment, suppose ye, shall he be counted worthy, who hath
trodden under foot the Son of God."
(Heb. x. 29.) Has not then the worse punishment its origin from
hence, from the greater benefit? And the reason why he says the
Greeks were without excuse was, because being honored with the
gift of reason, and having gotten a knowledge of the beauty of the
creation, and having been placed in a fair way for being led by it to
the Creator, they did not so use the wisdom of God, as it was their
duty. Seest thou that to the wicked in all cases occasions of greater
punishment result from good things? But we shall not in this accuse
the benefits of God, but rather upon this even admire them the more:
but we shall throw the blame on the spirit of those who abuse the
blessings to contrary purpose. Let this then be our line with regard
to the Law also. But this is easy and feasible--the other is what is a
difficulty. How is it that he says "I had not known lust except the Law
had said, Thou shall not covet?" Now if man had not known lust,
before he received the Law, what was the reason for the flood, or the
burning of Sodom? What does he mean then? He means vehement
lust: and this is why he did not say, lust, but" all manner of
concupiscence," intimating, in that, its vehemency. And what, it will
be said, is the good of the Law, if it adds to the disorder? None; but
much mischief even. Yet the charge is not against the Law, but the
listlessness of those who received it. For sin wrought it, though by
the Law. But this was not the purpose of the Law, nay, the very
opposite, Sin then became stronger, he says, and violent. But this
again is no charge against the Law but against their obstinacy. "For
without the Law sin is dead." That is, was not so ascertainable. For
even those before the Law knew that they had sinned, but they came
to a more exact knowledge of it after the giving of the Law. And for
this reason they were liable to a greater accusation: since it was not
the same thing to have nature to accuse them, and besides nature
the Law, which told them distinctly every charge.
Ver. 9. "For I was alive without the Law once."
When, pray, was that? Before Moses. See how he sets himself to
show that it, both by the things it did, and the things it did not do,
weighed down human nature. For when "I was alive without the
Law," he means, I was not so much condemned.
"But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
This seems indeed to be an accusing of the Law. But if any one will
look closely at it, it will be seen to be even an encomium of it. For it
did not give existence to sin that before was not, but only pointed
out what had escaped notice. And this is even a praise of the Law, if
at least before it they had been sinning without perceiving it. But
when this came, if they gained nothing besides from it, at all events
this they were distinctly made acquainted with, the fact that they had
been sinning. And this is no small point, with a view to getting free
from wickedness. Now if they did not get free, this has nothing to do
with the Law; which framed everything with a view to this end, but
the accusation lies wholly against their spirit, which was perverse
beyond all supposition. For what took place was not the natural
thing,--their being injured by things profitable. And this is why he
says "And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to
be unto death." He does not say, "it was made," or "it brought forth"
death, but "was found," so explaining the novel and unusual kind of
discrepancy, and making the whole fall upon their own pate. For if,
he says, you would know the aim of it, it led to life, and was given
with this view. But if death was the issue of this, the fault is with
them that received the commandment, and not of this, which was
leading them to life. And this is a point on which he has thrown fresh
light by what follows.
Ver. 11. "For sin taking occasion by the commandment deceived the,
and by it slew me."
You observe how he everywhere keeps to sin, and entirely clears the
Law of accusation. And so he proceeds as follows.
Ver. 12. "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and
just, and good."
But, if ye be so minded, we will bring before you the language of
those who wrest these declarations. For this will make our own
statements clearer. For there are some that say, that he is not here
saying what he does of the Law of Moses, but some take it of the law
of nature; some, of the commandment given in Paradise. Yet surely
Paul's object everywhere is to annul this Law, but he has not any
question with those. And with much reason; for it was through a fear
and a horror of this that the Jews obstinately opposed grace. But it
does not appear that he has ever called the commandment in
Paradise "Law" at all; no, nor yet any other writer. Now to make this
plainer from what he has really said, let us follow out his words,
retracing the argument a little. Having then spoken to them about
strictness of conversa tion, he goes on to say, "Know ye not,
brethren, how that the Law hath dominion over a man as long as he
liveth? Wherefore ye are become dead to the Law." Therefore if these
things are said about the natural law, we are found to be without the
natural law. And if this be true, we are more senseless,than the
creatures which are without reason. Yet this is not so, certainly. For
with regard to the law in Paradise, there is no need to be
contentious, test we should be taking up a superfluous trouble, by
entering the lists against things men have made up their minds
upon. In what sense then does he say, "I should not have known sin
but by the Law?" He is speaking, not of absolute want of knowledge,
but of the more accurate knowledge. For if this were said of the law
of nature, how would what follows suit? "For I was alive," he says,
"without the Law once." Now neither Adam, nor any body else, can
be shown ever to have lived without the law of nature. For as soon
as God formed him, He put into him that law of nature, making it to
dwell by him as a security to the whole kind (Gr. Nature, see p. 365).
And besides this, it does not appear that he has anywhere called the
law of nature a commandment. But this he calls as well a
commandment, and that "just and holy," as a "spiritual law." But the
law of nature was not given to us by the Spirit. For barbarians, as
well as Greeks and other men, have this law. Hence it is plain, that it
is the Mosaic Law that he is speaking of above, as well as
afterwards, and in all the passages. For this cause also he calls it
holy, saying, "Wherefore the Law is holy, and the commandment
holy, and just, and good." For even though the Jews have been
unclean since the Law, and unjust and covetous, this does not
destroy the virtue of the Law, even as their unbelief doth not make
the faith of God of none effect. So from all these things it is plain,
that it is of the Law of Moses that he here speaks.
Ver. 13. "Was then that which is good made death unto me? God
forbid. But sin that it might appear sin." (4 Mss. om. h.)
That is, that it might be shown what great evil sin is, namely, a
listless will, an inclinableness to the worse side, the actual doing (3
Mss. om. this clause), and the perverted judgment. For this is the
cause of all the evils; but he amplifies it by pointing out the
exceeding grace of Christ, and teaching them what an evil He freed
the human race from, which, by the medicines used to cure it, had
become worse, and was increased by the preventives. Wherefore he
goes on to say: "That sin, by the commandment, might become
exceeding sinful." Do you see how these things are woven together
everywhere? By the very means he uses to accuse sin, he again
shows the excellency of the Law. Neither is it a small point which he
has gained by showing what an evil sin is, and unfolding the whole
of its poison, and bringing it to view. For this is what he shows, by
saying, "that sin by the commandment might become exceeding
sinful." That is, that it may be made clear what an evil sin is, what a
ruinous thing. And this is what was shown by the commandment.
Hereby he also shows the pre minence of grace above the Law, the
pre minence above, not the conflict with, the Law. For do not look to
this fact, that those who received it were the worse for it; but
consider the other, that the Law had not only no design of drawing
wickedness out to greater lengths, but even seriously aimed at
hewing down what already existed.
But if it had no strength, give to it indeed a crown for its intention,
but adore more highly the power of Christ, which abolished, cut
away: and plucked up the very roots an evil so manifold and so hard
to be overthrown. But when you hear me speak of sin, do not think of
it as a substantial power, but evil doing, as it comes upon men and
goes from them continually, and which, before it takes place, has no
being, and when it has taken place, vanishes again. This then was
why the Law was given. Now no law is ever given to put an end to
things natural, but in order to correct a way of acting purposely
wicked. And this the lawgivers that are without too are aware of, and
all mankind in general. For it is the evils from viciousness alone that
they are for setting right, and they do not undertake to extirpate
those allotted us along with our nature; since this they cannot do.
For things natural remain unalterable (Arist. Eth. b. 2, c. 1), as we
have told you frequently in other discourses also.
And so let us leave these contests, and again practise ourselves in
exhortation. Or rather, this last part belongs to those contests. For if
we cast out wickedness, we should bring virtue in also: and by these
means we shall clearly teach that wickedness is no natural evil, and
shall be able easily to stop the mouths of them that enquire for the
origin of evil, not by means of words only, but of actions also, since
we share the same nature with them, but are freed from their
wickedness. For let us not be looking at the laboriousness of virtue,
but at the possibility of succeeding in it. But if we be in earnest, it
will be at once light and palatable to us. But if you tell me of the
pleasure of vice, tell out its end too. For it issueth in death, even as
virtue leadeth us to life. Or if you think fit let us rather scrutinize
them both even before their end; for we shall see that vice has a
great deal of pain attached to it, and virtue great pleasure. For what
pray is so painful as a bad conscience? or what more pleasing than
a good hope? For there is nothing, assuredly there is nothing, which
is used to cut us so deep, and press so hard on us, as the
expectation of evil: nothing that so keeps us up, and all but gives us
wings, as a good conscience. And this we may get a knowledge of
even by what takes place before our eyes. For they that dwell in a
prison, and are in expectation of sentence against them let them
have the enjoyment of luxury repeated beyond count, live a more
afflicting life than those that go a begging by the by-roads, yet with
nothing upon their consciences to trouble them. For the expectation
of a dreadful end will not let them perceive those pleasures which
they have in their hands. And why do I speak of prisoners? Why, as
for those that are living out of prison, and have a good fortune, yet
have a bad conscience about them, handicraftsmen that work for
their bread, and spend the whole day amid their labor, are in a far
better plight than they. And for this reason too we say, How
miserable the gladiators are (though seeing them as we do in
taverns, drunken, luxurious, gormandizing), and call them the most
miserable of men, because the calamity of the end which they must
expect is too great to admit of comparison with that pleasure. Now if
to them a life of this sort seems to be pleasing, remember what I am
continually telling you, that it is no such marvel that a man who lives
in vice should not flee from the misery and pain of vice. For see how
a thing so detestable as that, yet seems to be delectable to those
who practice it. Yet we do not on this account say, how happy they
are, for this is just the very reason why we think them pitiable,
because they have no notion of the evils they are amongst. And what
would you say of adulterers, who for a little pleasure undergo at
once a disgraceful slavery, and a loss of money, and a perpetual fear
(Hor. Sat. II. vii. 58-67), and in fact the very life of a Cain, or rather
one that is even much worse than his; filled with fears for the
present, and trembling for the future, and suspecting alike friend and
foe, and those that know about it, and those that know-nothing?
Neither when they go to sleep are they quit of this struggle, their bad
conscience shaping out for them dreams that abound with sundry
terrors, and in this way horrifying them. Far otherwise is the chaste
man, seeing he passes the present life unshackled and at full liberty.
Weigh then against the little pleasure, the sundry fluctuations of
these terrors, and with the short labor of continency, the calm of an
entire life; and you will find the latter hath more of pleasantness than
the former. But as for the man that is set upon plundering and laying
hands upon other men's goods, tell me if he has not to undergo
countless pains in the way of running about, fawning upon slaves,
freemen, doorkeepers; alarming and threatening, acting
shamelessly, watching, trembling, in agony, suspecting everything.
Far otherwise is the man that holds riches in contempt, for he too
enjoys pleasure in abundance, and lives with no fear, and in perfect
security. And if any one were to go through the other instances of
vice, he would find much trouble, and many rocks. But what is of
greater importance is, that in the case of virtue the difficulties come
first, and the pleasant part afterwards, so the trouble is even thus
alleviated. But in the case of vice, the reverse. After the pleasure, the
pains and the punishments, so that by these besides the pleasure is
done away.
For as he who waits for the crown, perceives nothing of present
annoyance, so he that has to expect the punishments after the
pleasures has no power of gathering in a gladness that is unalloyed,
since the fear puts everything in confusion. Or rather if any one were
to scrutinize the thing with care, even before the punishment which
follows upon these things, he would find that even at the very
moment when vice is boldly entered upon, a great deal of pain is felt.
And, if you think fit, let us just examine this in the case of those who
plunder other men's goods. Or those who in any way get together
money, and setting aside the fears, and dangers, and trembling, and
agony, and care, and all these things, let us suppose the case of a
man, who has got rich without any annoyance, and feels sure about
maintaining his present fortune (which he has no means of doing,
still for all that let it be assumed for argument's sake). What sort of
pleasure then is he to gather in from having so much about him? On
the contrary, it is just this very thing that will not let him be gladhearted.
For as long as ever he desires other things besides, he is
still upon the rack.
Because desire gives pleasure at the time it has come to a stand. If
thirsty, for instance, we feel refreshed, when we have drunk as much
as we wish; but so long as we keep thirsty, even if we were to have
exhausted all the fountains in the world, our torment were but
growing greater; even if we were to drink up ten thousand rivers, our
state of punishment were more distressing. And thou also, if thou
wert to receive the goods of the whole world, and still to covet,
wouldest make thy punishment the greater, the more things thou
hadst tasted of. Fancy not then that from having gathered a great
sum together thou shall have aught of pleasure, but rather by
declining to be rich. But if thou covetest to be rich thou wilt be
always under the scourge. For this is a kind of love that does not
reach its aim; and the longer journey thou hast gone, the further off
thou keepest from the end. Is not this a paradox then, a
derangement, a madness in the extreme? Let us then forsake this
first of evils, or rather let us not even touch this covetousness at all.
Yet, if we have touched it, let us spring away from its first motions
(prooimiwn). For this is the advice the writer of the Proverbs gives
us, when he speaks about the harlot: "Spring away," he says, "tarry
not, neither go thou near to the door of her house" (Prov. v. 8): this
same thing I would say to you about the love of money. For if by
entering gradually you fall into this ocean of madness, you will not
be able to get up out of it with ease, and as if you were in whirlpools,
struggle as often as ever you may, it will not be easy for you to get
clear; so after falling into this far worse abyss of covetousness, you
will destroy your own self, with all that belongs to you. (Acts viii. 20.)
And so my advice is that we be on our watch against the beginning,
and avoid little evils, for the great ones are gendered by these. For
he who gets into a way of saying at every sin, This matters nothing!
will by little and little ruin himself entirely. At all events it is this
which has introduced vice; which has opened the doors to the
robber (Mss. devil), which has thrown down the walls of cities, this
saying at each sin, "This matters nothing!" Thus in the case of the
body too, the greatest of diseases grow up, when trifling ones are
made light of. If Esau had not first been a traitor to his birthright, he
would not have a become unworthy of the blessings. If he had not
rendered himself unworthy of the blessings, he would not have had
the desire of going on to fratricide. If Cain had not fallen in love with
the first place, but had left that to God, he would not have had the
second place. Again, when he had the second place, if he had
listened to the advice, he would not have travailed with the murder.
Again, if after doing the murder he had come to repentance, when
God called him, and had not answered in an irreverent way, he would
not have had to suffer the subsequent evils. But if those before the
Law did owing to this listlessness come to the very bottom of
misery, only consider what is to become of us, who are called to a
greater contest, unless we take strict heed unto ourselves, and make
speed to quench the sparks of' evil deeds before the whole pile is
kindled. Take an instance of my meaning. Are you in the habit of
false swearing? do not stop at this only, but away with all swearing,
and you will have no further need of trouble. For it is far harder for a
man that swears to keep from false swearing, than to abstain from
swearing altogether. Are you an insulting and abusive person? a
striker too? Lay down as a law for yourself not to be angry or brawl
in the least, and with the root the fruit also will be gotten rid of. Are
you lustful and dissipated? Make it your rule again not even to look
at a woman (Job xxxi. 1), or to go up into the theatre, or to trouble
yourself with the beauty of other people whom you see about. For it
is far easier not even to look at a woman of good figure, than after
looking and taking in the lust, to thrust out the perturbation that
comes thereof, the struggle being easier in the preliminaries
(prooimiois). Or rather we have no need of a struggle at all if we do
not throw the gates open to the enemy, or take in the seeds of
mischief (kakias). And this is why Christ chastised the man who
looks unchastely upon a woman (Matt. v. 28), that He might free us
from greater labor, before the adversary became strong, bidding us
cast him out of tile house while he may be cast out even with ease.
For what need to have superfluous trouble, and to get entangled with
the enemies, when without entanglement we may erect the trophy,
and before the wrestling seize upon the prize? For it is not so great a
trouble not to look upon beautiful women, as it is while looking to
restrain one's self. Or rather the first would be no trouble at all, but
immense toil and labor comes on after looking. Since then this
trouble is less (most Mss. add, "to the incontinent"), or rather there
is no labor at all, nor trouble, but the greater gain, why do we take
pains to plunge into an ocean of countless evils? And farther, he
who does not look upon a woman will overcome such lust not only
with greater ease, but with a higher purity, as he on the other hand
who does look, getteth free with more trouble, and not without a kind
of stain, that is, if he does get free at all. For he that does not take a
view of the beautiful figure, is pure also from the lust that might
result. But he who lusteth to look, after first laying his reason low,
and polluting it in countless ways, has then to cast out the stain that
came of the lust, that is, if he do cast it out. This then is why Christ,
to prevent our suffering in this way, did not prohibit murder only, but
wrath; not adultery only, but an unchaste look even: not perjury only,
but all swearing whatsoever. Nor does he make the measure of virtue
stop here, but after having given these laws, He proceeds to a still
greater degree. For after keeping us far away from murder, and
bidding us to be clear of wrath, He bids us be ready even to suffer ill,
and not to be prepared to suffer no more than what he who attacks
us pleases, but even to go further, and to get the better of his utmost
madness by the overflowingness of our own Christian spirit (ths
oikeias figosofias). For what He says is not, "If a man smite thee on
thy right cheek, bear it nobly and hold thy peace;" but He adds to
this the yielding to him the other too.
For He says, "Turn to him the other also." (Matt. v. 39.) This then is
the brilliant victory, to yield him even more than what he wishes, and
to go beyond the bounds of his evil desire by the profuseness of
one's own patient endurance. For in this way you will put a stop to
his madness, and also receive from the second act again the reward
of the first, besides putting a stop to wrath against him. See you,
how in all cases it is we that have it in our power not to suffer ill, and
not they that inflict it? Or rather it is not the not suffering ill alone,
but even the having benefits (Sav. conj.
paqein eu, so 2 Mss.) done us that we have in our own power. And
this is the truest wonder, that we are so far from being injured, if we
be right-minded, that we are even benefited, and that too by the very
things that we suffer unjustly at the hands of others. Reflect then;
has such an one done you an affront? You have the power of making
this affront redound to your honor. For if you do an affront in return,
you only increase the disgrace. But if you bless him that did you the
affront, you will see that all men give you victory, and proclaim your
praise. Do you see how by the things wherein we are wronged, we
get good done unto us if we be so minded?
This one may see happening in the case of money matters, of blows,
and the same in everything else. For if we requite them with the
opposite, we are but twining a double crown about us, one for the ills
we have suffered, as well as one for the good we are doing.
Whenever then a person comes and tells you that "such an one has
done you an affront, and keeps continually speaking ill of you to
everybody," praise the man to those who tell you of him. For thus
even if you wish to avenge yourself, you will have the power of
inflicting punishment. For those who hear you, be they ever so
foolish, will praise you, and hate him as fiercer than any brute beast,
because he, without being at all wronged, caused you pain, but you,
even when suffering wrong, requited him with the opposite. And so
you will have it in your power to prove that all that he said was to no
purpose. For he who feels the tooth of slander, gives by his vexation
a proof that he is conscious of the truth of what is said. But he who
smiles at it, by this very thing acquits himself of all suspicion with
those who are present. Consider then how many good things you
cull together from the affair. First, you rid yourself of all vexation and
trouble. Secondly (rather this should come first), even "if you have
sins, you put them off, as the Publican did by bearing the Pharisee's
accusation meekly. Besides, you will by this practice make your soul
heroic (Gr. philosophic), and will enjoy endless praises from all men,
and will divest yourself of any suspicion arising from what is said.
But even if you are desirous of taking revenge upon the man, this
too will follow in full measure, both by God's punishing him for what
he has said, and before that punishment by thy heroic conduct
standing to him in the place of a mortal blow. For there is nothing
that cuts those who affront us so much to the heart, as for us who
are affronted to smile at the affront. As then from behaving with
Christian heroism so many honors will accrue to us, so from being
little-minded just the opposite will befall us in everything. For we
disgrace ourselves, and also seem to those present to be guilty of
the things mentioned, and fill our soul with perturbation, and give
our enemy pleasure, and provoke God, and add to our former sins.
Taking then all this into consideration, let us flee from the abyss of a
little mind mikroYukias, and take refuge in the port of patient
endurance makroqumias, that here we may at once "find rest unto
our souls" (Matt. xi. 29), as Christ also set forth, and may attain to
the good things to come, by the grace and love toward man, etc.

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