|<< 2 Corinthians 9 >>|
Homilies of Chrysostom
1For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:
For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you.
Though he had said so much about it, he says here, "It is superfluous for me to write to you." And his wisdom is shown not only in this, that though he had said so much about it, he saith, "it is superfluous for me to write to you," but in that he yet again speaketh of it. For what he said indeed a little above, he said concerning those who received the money, to ensure them the enjoyment of great honor: but what he said before that, (his account of the Macedonians, that "their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality," and all the rest,) was concerning loving-kindness and almsgiving. But nevertheless even though he had said so much before and was going to speak again, he says, "it is superfluous for me to write to you." And this he does the rather to win them to himself. For a man who has so high a reputation as not to stand in need even of advice, is ashamed to appear inferior to, and come short of, that opinion of him. And he does this often in accusation also, using the rhetorical figure, omission, for this is very effective. For the judge seeing the magnanimity of the accuser entertains no suspicions even. For he argues, he who when he might say much, yet saith it not, how should he invent what is not true?' And he gives occasion to suspect even more than he says, and invests himself with the presumption of a good disposition. This also in his advice and in his praises he does. For having said, "It is superfluous for me to write to you," observe how he advises them.
"For I know your readiness of which I glory on your behalf to them of Macedonia." Now it was a great thing that he even knew it himself, but much greater, that he also published it to others: for the force it has is greater: for they would not like to be so widely disgraced. Seest thou his wisdom of purpose? He exhorted them by others' example, the Macedonians, for, he says, "I make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the Churches of Macedonia." He exhorted them by their own, for he saith, "who were the first to make a beginning a year ago not only to do, but also to will." He exhorted them by the Lord's, for "ye know" he saith, "the grace of our Lord, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor." (ibid. 9.) Again he retreats upon that strong main point, the conduct of others. For mankind is emulous. And truly the example of the Lord ought to have had most power to draw them over: and next to it, the [consideration] of the recompense: but because they were somewhat weak, this draws them most. For nothing does so much as emulation. But observe how he introduces it in a somewhat novel way. For He did not say, Imitate them;' but what?
"And your zeal has stirred up very many." What sayest thou? A little before thou saidst, [they did it] "of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty," how then now, "your zeal?" Yes,' he saith, we did not advise, we did not exhort, but we only praised you, we only boasted of you, and this was enough to incite them." Seest thou how he rouses them each by the other, these by those, and those by these, and, along with the emulation, has intermingled also a very high encomium. Then, that he may not elate them, he follows it up in a tempered tone, saying, "Your zeal hath stirred up very many." Now consider what a thing it is that those who have been the occasion to others of this munificence, should be themselves behind hand in this contribution. Therefore he did not say, Imitate them,' for it would not have kindled so great an emulation, but how? They have imitated you; see then that ye the teachers appear not inferior to your disciples.'
And see how, whilst stirring up and inflaming them still more, he feigns to be standing by them, as if espousing their party in some rivalry and contention. For, as he said above, "Of their own accord, with much entreaty they came to us, insomuch that we exhorted Titus, that as he had made a beginning before, so he would complete this grace;" so also he says here,
2For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.
3Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:
Ver. 3. "For this cause have I sent the brethren that our glorying on your behalf may not be made void."
Seest thou that he is in anxiety and terror, lest he should seem to have said what he said only for exhortation's sake? But because so it is,' saith he, "I have sent the brethren;" so earnest am I on your behalf,' "that our glorying may not be made void." And he appears to make himself of the Corinthians' party throughout, although caring for all alike. What he says is this; I am very proud of you, I glory before all, I boasted even unto them  , so that if ye be found wanting, I am partner in the shame.' And this indeed he says under limitation, for he added,
"In this respect," not, in all points;
"That even as I said, ye may be prepared." For I did not say, they are purposing,' but all is ready; and nothing is now wanting on their part. This then,' he says, I wish to be shown by your deeds.' Then he even heightens the anxiety, saying,
4Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
Ver. 4. "Lest by any means if there come with me any from Macedonia, we, (that we say not ye,) should be put to shame in this confidence." The shame is greater when the spectators he has arrayed against them are many, even those same persons who had heard [his boasting.] And he did not say, for I am bringing with me Macedonians;' for there are Macedonians coming with me;' lest he should seem to do it on purpose; but how [said he?] "Lest by any means, if there come with me any from Macedonia?" For this may happen,' he says, it is matter of possibility.' For thus he also made what he said unsuspected, but had he expressed himself in that other way, he would have even made them the more contentious. See how he leads them on, not from spiritual motives only, but from human ones as well. For,' says he, though you make no great account of me, and reckon confidently on my excusing you, yet think of them of Macedonia,' "lest by any means, if they come and find you;" and he did not say unwillingly,' but "unprepared," not having got all completed. But if this be a disgrace, not to contribute quickly; consider how great it were to contribute either not at all, or less than behoved. Then he lays down what would thereupon follow, in terms at once gentle and pungent, thus saying, "We, (that we say not ye,) should be put to shame." And he tempers it again, saying, "in this confidence" not as making them more listless, but as showing that they who were approved in all other respects, ought in this one also to have great fearlessness.
[2.] Ver. 5. "I thought it necessary therefore to entreat the brethren, that they would make up beforehand this your bounty, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty and not of extortion.  "
Again, he resumed the subject in a different manner: and that he may not seem to be saying these things without object, he asserts that the sole reason for this journey was, that they might not be put to shame. Seest thou how his words, "It is superfluous for me to write," were the beginning of advising? You see, at least, how many things he discourses concerning this ministering. And along with this, one may further remark that, (lest he should seem to contradict himself as having said, "It is superfluous," yet discoursing at length about it,) he passed on unto discourse of quickness and largeness and forwardness [in contributing,] by this means securing that point also. For these three things he requires. And indeed he moved these three main points even at the first, for when he says, "In much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality," he says nothing else than that they contributed both much and gladly and quickly; and that not only did not giving much pain them, but not even being in trials, which is more grievous than giving. And the words, "they gave themselves to us;" these also show both their forwardness and the greatness of their faith. And here too again he treats of those heads. For since these are opposed to [each other,] munificence and forwardness, and one that has given much is often sorrowful, whilst another, that he may not be sorry, gives less; observe how he takes care for each, and with the wisdom which belongs to him. For he did not say, it is better to give a little and of free choice, than much of necessity;' because he wished them to contribute both much and of free choice; but how saith he? "that they might make up beforehand this your bounty, that the same might be ready as a matter of bounty  , and not extortion. He begins first with that which is pleasantest and lighter; namely, the not of necessity,' for, it is "bounty" he says. Observe how in the form of his exhortation he represents at once the fruit as springing up, and the givers as filled with blessing. And by the term employed he won them over, for no one gives a blessing with pain. Yet neither was he content with this; but added, "not as of extortion." Think not,' he says, that we take it as extortioners, but that we may be the cause of a blessing unto you.' For extortion belongs to the unwilling, so that whoso giveth alms unwillingly giveth of extortion.  Then from this he passed on again unto that, the giving munificently.
Ver. 6. "But this I:say:" that is, along with this I say also that. What?
"He that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." And he did not say niggardly, but a milder expression, employing the name of the sparing. And he called the thing sowing; that thou mightest at once look unto the recompense, and having in mind the harvest, mightest feel that thou receivest more than thou givest. Wherefore he did not say, He that giveth,' but "He that soweth:" and he said not ye, if ye sow,' but made what he said general. Neither did he say, largely,' but "bountifully," which is far greater than this. And again, he betakes himself to that former point of gladness; saying,
Ver. 7. "Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart." For a man when left to himself, does a thing more readily than when compelled. Wherefore also he dwells upon this: for having said, "according as he is disposed," he added,
"Not grudgingly, nor of necessity." And neither was he content with this, but he adds a testimony from Scripture also, saying,
"For God loveth a cheerful giver." Seest thou how frequently he lays this down? "I speak not by commandment:" and, "Herein I give my advice:" and, "as a matter of bounty, and not as of extortion," and again, "not grudgingly, nor of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." In this passage I am of opinion that a large [giver] is intended; the Apostle however has taken it as giving with readiness. For because the example of the Macedonians and all those other things were enough to produce sumptuousness, he does not say many things on that head, but upon giving without reluctance. For if it is a work of virtue, and yet all that is done of necessity is shorn of its reward  , with reason also he labors at this point. And he does not advise merely, but also adds a prayer, as his wont is to do, saying,
Ver. 8. "And may God  , that is able, fulfill all grace towards you."
By this prayer he takes out the way a thought which lay in wait against  this liberality and which is now also an hinderance to many. For many persons are afraid to give alms, saying, Lest perchance I become poor,' lest perchance I need aid from others.' To do away with this fear then, he adds this prayer, saying, May "He make all grace abound towards you." Not merely fulfil, but "make it abound." And what is "make grace abound?" Fill you,' he means, with so great things, that ye may be able to abound in this liberality.'
"That ye, having always all sufficiency in every thing, may abound to every good work."
Observe, even in this his prayer, his great philosophy. He prays not for riches nor for abundance, but for all sufficiency. Nor is this all that is admirable in him; but that as he prayed not for superfluity, so he doth not press sore on them nor compel them to give of their want, condescending to their weakness; but asks for a "sufficiency," and shows at the same time that they ought not to abuse the gifts received from God. "That ye may abound," he saith, "to every good work." It is therefore,' saith he, I ask for this, that ye may bestow on others also.' Yet he did not say, bestow,' but abound.' For in carnal things he asks for a sufficiency for them, but in spiritual things for abundance even; not in almsgiving only, but in all other things also, "unto every good work." Then he brings forward unto them the prophet for a counsellor, having sought out a testimony inviting them to bountifulness, and says,
Ver. 9. "As it is written,
He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor;
His righteousness abideth for ever."
This is the import of "abound;" for the words, "he hath dispersed abroad," signify nothing else but the giving plentifully. For if the things themselves abide not, yet their results abide. For this is the thing to be admired, that when they are kept they are lost; but when dispersed abroad they abide, yea, abide for ever. Now by "righteousness," here, he means love towards men. For this maketh righteous, consuming sins like a fire when it is plentifully poured out.
[3.] Let us not therefore nicely calculate, but sow with a profuse hand. Seest thou not how much others give to players and harlots? Give at any rate the half to Christ, of what they give to dancers. As much as they give of ostentation to those upon the stage, so much at any rate give thou unto the hungry. For they indeed even clothe the persons of wantons  with untold gold; but thou not even with a threadbare garment the flesh of Christ, and that though beholding it naked. What forgiveness doth this deserve, yea, how great a punishment doth it not deserve, when he indeed bestoweth so much upon her that ruineth and shameth him, but thou not the least thing on Him that saveth thee and maketh thee brighter? But as long as thou spendest it upon thy belly and on drunkenness and dissipation  , thou never thinkest of poverty: but when need is to relieve poverty, thou art become poorer than any body. And when feeding parasites and flatterers, thou art as joyous as though thou hadst fountains to spend from  ; but if thou chance to see a poor man, then the fear of poverty besets thee. Therefore surely we shall in that day be condemned, both by ourselves and by others, both by those that have done well and those that have done amiss. For He will say to thee, Wherefore wast thou not thus magnanimous in things where it became thee? But here is a man who, when giving to an harlot, thought not of any of these things; whilst thou, bestowing upon thy Master Who hath bid thee "not be anxious" (Matthew 6:25.), art full of fear and trembling.' And what forgiveness then shalt thou deserve? For if a man who hath received will not overlook, but will requite the favor, much more will Christ. For He that giveth even without receiving, how will He not give after receiving? What then,' saith one, when some who have spent much come to need other men's help?' Thou speakest of those that have spent their all; when thou thyself bestowest not a farthing. Promise to strip thyself of every thing and then ask questions about such men; but as long as thou art a niggard and bestowest little of thy substance, why throw me out excuses and pretenses? For neither am I leading thee to the lofty peak of entire poverty  but for the present I require thee to cut off superfluities and to desire a sufficiency alone. Now the boundary of sufficiency is the using those things which it is impossible to live without. No one debars thee from these; nor forbids thee thy daily food. I say food, not feasting; raiment, not ornament  . Yea rather, if one should enquire accurately, this is in the best sense feasting. For, consider. Which should we say more truly feasted, he whose diet was herbs, and who was in sound health and suffered no uneasiness: or he who had the table of a Sybarite, and was full of ten thousand disorders? Very plainly the former. Therefore let us seek nothing more than this, if we would at once live luxuriously and healthfully: and let us set these boundaries to sufficiency. And let him that can be satisfied with pulse and can keep in good health, seek for nothing more; but let him who is weaker and requires to be dieted with garden herbs, not be hindered of this. But if any be even weaker than this and require the support of flesh in moderation, we will not debar him from this either. For we do not advise these things, to kill and injure men but to cut off what is superfluous; and that is superfluous which is more than we need. For when we are able even without a thing to live healthfully and respectably, certainly the addition of that thing is a superfluity.
[4.] Thus let us think also in regard of clothing and of the table and of a dwelling house and of all our other wants; and in every thing inquire what is necessary. For what is superfluous is also useless. When thou shalt have practised living on what is sufficient; then if thou hast a mind to emulate that widow, we will lead thee on to greater things than these. For thou hast not yet attained to the philosophy of that woman, whilst thou art anxious about what is sufficient. For she soared higher even than this; for what was to have been her support; that she cast in, all of it. Wilt thou then still distress thyself about such things as be necessary; and dost thou not blush to be vanquished by a woman; and not only not to emulate her, but to be left even of her far behind? For she did not say the things we say, But what, if when I have spent all I be compelled to beg of another?' but in her munificence stripped herself of all she had. What shall we say of the widow in the Old Testament in the time of the prophet Elias? For the risk she ran was not of poverty, but even of death and extinction, and not her own only, but her children's too. For neither had she any expectation of receiving from others, but of presently dying. But,' saith one, she saw the prophet, and that made her munificent.' But do not ye see saints without number? And why do I speak of saints? Ye see the Lord of the prophets asking an alms, and yet not even so do ye become humane; but though ye have coffers spewing  one into another, do not even impart of your superfluity. What sayest thou? Was he a prophet that came to her, and did this persuade her to so great a magnanimity? This of itself deserves much admiration, that she was persuaded of his being a great and wonderful person. For how was it she did not say, as it would have been likely that a barbarian woman and a foreigner would have reasoned, If he were a prophet, he would not have begged of me. If he were a friend of God, He would not have neglected him. Be it that because of sins the Jews suffer this punishment: but whence, and wherefore, doth this man suffer?' But she entertained none of these thoughts; but opened to him her house, and before her house, her heart; and set before him all she had; and putting nature on one side and disregarding her children, preferred the stranger unto all. Consider then how great punishment will be laid up for us, if we shall come behind  and be weaker than a woman, a widow, poor, a foreigner, a barbarian, a mother of children, knowing nothing of these things which we know! For because we have strength of body, we are not therefore manly persons. For he alone hath this virtue, yea though he be laid upon his bed, whose strength is from within; since without this, though a man should tear up a mountain by his strength of body, I would call him nothing stronger than a girl or wretched crone. For the one struggles with incorporeal ills, but the other dares not even look them in the face. And that thou mayest learn that this is the measure of manliness, collect it from this very example. For what could be more manly than that woman who both against the tyranny of nature, and against the force of hunger, and against the threat of death, stood nobly fast, and proved stronger than all? Hear at least how Christ proclaimeth her. For, saith He, "there were many widows in the days of Elias, and to none of them was the prophet sent but to her." (Luke 4:25, 26.) Shall I say something great and startling? This woman gave more to hospitality, than our father Abraham. For she "ran" not "unto the herd," as he, (Genesis 18:7.) but by that "handful" (1 Kings 17:12.) outstripped all that have been renowned for hospitality. For in this was his excellence that he set himself to do that office; but hers, in that for the sake of the stranger she spared not her children even, and that too, though she looked not for the things to come. But we, though a heaven exists, though a hell is threatened, though (which is greater than all) God hath wrought such great things for us and is made glad and rejoiceth over such things, sink back supinely.  Not so, I beseech you: but let us "scatter abroad," let us "give to the poor" as we ought to give. For what is much and what little, God defines, not by the measure of what is given, but by the extent of the substance of him that gives. Often surely hast thou who didst cast in an hundred staters of gold offered less than he that offered but one obol, for thou didst cast in of thy superfluity. Howbeit do if but this, and thou wilt come quickly even to greater munificence. Scatter wealth that thou mayest gather righteousness. For along with wealth this refuseth to come to us; yet through it, though not with it, it is made present to us. For it is not possible that lust of wealth and righteousness should dwell together; they have their tents apart. Do not then obstinately strive to bring things together which are incompatible, but banish the usurper covetousness, if thou wouldest obtain the kingdom. For this  is the [rightful] queen, and of slaves makes freemen, the contrary of which the other doth. Wherefore with all earnestness let us shun the one and welcome the other, that we may both gain freedom in this life and obtain the kingdom of heaven, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.
 i. e. them of Macedonia.
 This verse, as given by Chrysostom, varies somewhat from the Received Text.
 A blessing, eulogian.
 Literally, giveth extortion.
 A.V. "God is able to, &c." [which gives the true text. C.]
 apo pegon dapanon.
 Chrys. trophen, ou truphen lego. skepasmata, ou kallopismata, with a manifest play on the words.
 elatton pheromen.
 i. e., righteousness. [According to the text which the Apostle quotes from Psalm 112. the abiding of righteousness forever is God's reward for scattering. Righteousness here appears to mean general excellence or virtue as manifested in beneficence. A parallel use of the term is found in the Sermon on the Mount where (Matth. vi. 1.) according to the true text, our Lord in giving general directions about almsgiving, etc., begins with the injunction, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them." When therefore it is said in the Psalm that the liberal man's righteousness or beneficence shall continue forever, the implication is that he shall always have the means to continue his liberality. This is sustained by the tendency of things and by the general course of Divine Providence. But Chrysostom, while enforcing the inculcation of beneficence, carries out the spirit of the Apostle's utterances, and calls attention not only to the frequency and amount of one's gifts but also to the spirit which prompts them. The mere mechanical view which makes a merit of voluntary poverty and praises a gift to others without respect to the motive that prompted it, finds no sanction in the Apostle's words or in those of his expounder. C.]
5Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.
6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
9(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
Now He that supplied seed to the sower, both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness  .
Herein one may particularly admire the wisdom of Paul, that after having exhorted from spiritual considerations and from temporal, in respect of the recompense also he again does the very same, making the returns he mentions of either kind. This, (for instance,) "He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness abideth for ever," belongs to a spiritual return; that again, "multiply your seed for sowing," to a temporal recompense. Still, however, he rests not here, but even again passes back to what is spiritual, placing the two continually side by side; for "increase the fruits of your righteousness," is spiritual. This he does, and gives variety by it to his discourse, tearing up by the roots those their unmanly and faint-hearted reasonings, and using many arguments to dissipate their fear of poverty, as also the example which he now brings. For if even to those that sow the earth God gives, if to those that feed the body He grants abundance; much more will He to those who till the soil  of heaven, to those who take care for the soul; for these things He willeth should yet more enjoy His providing care. However, he does not state this in the way of inference nor in the manner I have done, but in the form of a prayer; thus at once making the reference plain, and the rather leading them on to hope, not only from what [commonly] takes place, but also from his own prayer: for, May He minister,' saith he, and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.' Here also again he hints, in an unsuspicious way, at largeness [in giving], for the words, "multiply and increase," are by way of indicating this; and at the same time he allows them to seek for nothing more than necessaries, saying, "bread for food." For this also is particularly worthy of admiration in him, (and it is a point he successfully established  even before,) namely, that in things which be necessary, he allows them to seek for nothing more than need requires; but in spiritual things counsels them to get for themselves a large superabundance. Wherefore he said above also, "that having a sufficiency ye may abound to every good work:" and here, "He that ministereth bread for food, multiply your seed for sowing;" that is to say, the spiritual [seed]. For he asks not almsgiving merely, but with largeness. Wherefore also he continually calls it "seed." For like as the corn cast into the ground showeth luxuriant crops, so also many are the handfuls almsgiving produceth of righteousness, and unspeakable the fruits it showeth. Then having prayed for great affluence unto them, he shows again in what they ought to expend it, saying,
11Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
Ver. 11. "That being enriched in every thing to all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God."
Not that ye may consume it upon things not fitting, but upon such as bring much thanksgiving to God. For God made us to have the disposal of great things, and reserving to Himself that which is less yielded to us that which is greater. For corporeal  nourishment is at His sole disposal, but mental  He permitted to us; for we have it at our own disposal whether the crops we have to show be luxuriant. For no need is here of rains and of variety of seasons, but of the will only, and they run up to heaven itself. And largeness in giving is what he here calls liberality  . "Which worketh through us thanksgiving to God." For neither is that which is done almsgiving merely, but also the ground of much thanksgiving: yea rather, not of thanksgiving only, but of many other things besides. And these as he goes on he mentions, that by showing it to be the cause of many good works, he may make them thereby the forwarder.
[2.] What then are these many good works? Hear him saying:
12For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
Ver. 12-14. "For the ministration of this service, not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints, but aboundeth also through many thanksgivings unto God; seeing that through the proving  of you by this ministration, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the Gospel  , and for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all; while they also with supplication on your behalf, long after you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you."
What he says is this; in the first place ye not only supply the wants of the saints, but ye are abundant even;' that is, ye furnish them with even more than they need: next, through them ye send up thanksgiving to God, for they glorify Him for the obedience of your confession.' For that he may not represent them as giving thanks on this account solely, (I mean, because they received somewhat,) see how high-minded he makes them, exactly as he himself says to the Philippians, "Not that I desire a gift." (Philip. iv. 17.) To them too I bear record of the same thing. For they rejoice indeed that ye supply their wants and alleviate their poverty; but far more, in that ye are so subjected to the Gospel; whereof this is an evidence, your contributing so largely.' For this the Gospel enjoins.
"And for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all." And on this account,' he says, they glorify God that ye are so liberal, not unto them only, but also unto all.' And this again is made a praise unto them that they gave thanks even for that which is bestowed upon others. For,' saith he, they do honor  , not to their own concerns only, but also to those of others, and this although they are in the extremest poverty; which is an evidence of their great virtue. For nothing is so full of envy as the whole race of such as are in poverty. But they are pure from this passion; being so far from feeling pained because of the things ye impart to others, that they even rejoice over it no less than over the things themselves receive.'
"While they themselves also with supplication." For in respect of these things,' saith he, they give thanks to God, but in respect of your love and your coming together, they beseech Him that they may be counted worthy to see you. For they long after this, not for the money's sake, but that they may be witnesses of the grace that hath been bestowed upon you.' Seest thou Paul's wisdom, how after having exalted them, he ascribed the whole to God by calling the thing "grace?" For seeing he had spoken great things of them, in that he called them ministers and exalted them unto a great height, (since they offered service  whilst he himself did but administer  ,) and termed them proved  ,' he shows that God was the Author of all these things. And he himself again, along with them, sends up thanksgiving, saying,
13Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
14And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
15Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
Ver. 15. "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."
And here he calls "gift," even those so many good things which are wrought by almsgiving, both to them that receive and them that give; or else, those unspeakable good things which through His advent He gave unto the whole world with great munificence, which one may suspect to be the most probable. For that he may at once both sober, and make them more liberal, he puts them in mind of the benefits they had received from God. For this avails very greatly in inciting unto all virtue; and therefore he concluded his discourse with it. But if His Gift be unspeakable, what can match their frenzy who raise curious questions as to His Essence? But not only is His Gift unspeakable, but that "peace" also "passeth all understanding," (Philip. iv. 7.) whereby He reconciled the things which are above with those which are below.
[3.] Seeing then that we are in the enjoyment of so great grace, let us strive to exhibit a virtue of life worthy of it, and to make much account of almsgiving. And this we shall do, if we shun excess and drunkenness and gluttony.  For God gave meat and drink not for excess, but for nourishment. For it is not the wine that produceth drunkenness, for if that were the case, every body would needs be drunken. But,' saith one, it would be better, if even to drink it largely did not injure.' These are drunkards' words. For if to drink it largely doth injure, and yet not even so thou desistest from thy excess in it; if this is so disgraceful and injurious, and yet thou ceasest not even so from thy depraved longing; if it were possible both to drink largely and be nothing harmed, where wouldest thou have stayed in thine excess? Wouldest thou not have longed that the rivers even might become wine? wouldest thou not have destroyed and ruined everything? If there is a mean in food which when we overpass we are injured, and yet even so thou canst not bear the curb, but snapping it as under seizest on what every body else hath, to minister to the wicked tyranny of this gluttony; what wouldest thou not have done, if this natural mean were abolished? wouldest thou not have spent thy whole time upon it? Would it then have been well to strengthen a lust so unreasonable, and not prevent the harm arising from excess? and to how many other harms would not this have given birth?
But O the senseless ones! who wallowing as in mire, in drunkeness and all other debauchery, when they have got a little sober again, sit down and do nothing but utter such sort of sayings, Why doth this end  in this way?' when they ought to be condemning their own transgressions. For instead of what thou now sayest, Why hath He set bounds? why do not all things go on without any order?' say, Why do we not cease from being drunken? why are we never satiated? why are we more senseless than creatures without reason?' For these things they ought to ask one another, and to hearken to the voice of the Apostle and learn how many good things he witnesseth to the Corinthians proceed from almsgiving, and to seize upon this treasure. For to contemn money maketh men approved, as he said; and provideth that God be glorified; and warmeth love; and worketh in men loftiness of soul; and constituteth them priests, yea of a priesthood that bringeth great reward. For the merciful man is not arrayed in a vest reaching to the feet, nor does he carry about bells, nor wear a crown; but he is wrapped in the robe of loving-kindness, a holier than the sacred vestment; and is anointed with oil, not composed of material elements, but produced  by the Spirit, and he beareth a crown of mercies, for it is said, "Who crowneth thee with pity and mercies;" (Psalm 103:4.) and instead of wearing a plate bearing the Name of God, is himself like to God. For how? "Ye," saith He, "shall be like  unto your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:45.)
Wouldest thou see His altar also? Bezaleel built it not, nor any other but God Himself; not of stones, but of a material brighter than the heaven, of reasonable souls. But the priest entereth into the holy of holies. Into yet more awful places mayest thou enter when thou offerest this sacrifice, where none is present but "thy Father, Which seeth in secret," (Matthew 6:4.) where no other beholdeth. And how,' saith one, is it possible that none should behold, when the altar standeth in public view?' Because this it is that is admirable, that in those times double doors and veils made the seclusion: but now, though doing thy sacrifice in public view, thou mayest do it as in the holy of holies, and in a far more awful manner. For when thou doest it not for display before men; though the whole world hath seen, none hath seen, because thou hast so done it. For He said not simply, "Do" it "not before men," but added, "to be seen of them." (Matthew 6:1.) This altar is composed of the very members of Christ, and the body of the Lord is made thine altar. That then revere; on the flesh of the Lord thou sacrificest the victim. This altar is more awful even than this which we now use, not only than that used of old. Nay, clamor not. For this altar is admirable because of the sacrifice that is laid upon it: but that, the merciful man's, not only on this account, but also because it is even composed of the very sacrifice which maketh the other to be admired. Again, this is but a stone by nature; but become holy because it receiveth Christ's Body: but that is holy because it is itself Christ's Body. So that this beside which thou, the layman, standest, is more awful than that. Whether then does Aaron seem to thee aught in comparison of this, or his crown, or his bells, or the holy of holies? For what need is there henceforth to make our comparison refer to Aaron's altar, when even compared with this, it has been shown to be so glorious? But thou honorest indeed this altar, because it receiveth Christ's body; but him that is himself the body of Christ thou treatest with contumely, and when perishing, neglectest. This altar mayest thou everywhere see lying, both in lanes and in market places, and mayest sacrifice upon it every hour; for on this too is sacrifice performed. And as the priest stands invoking the Spirit, so dost thou too invoke the Spirit, not by speech, but by deeds. For nothing doth so sustain and kindle the fire of the Spirit, as this oil largely poured out. But if thou wouldest see also what becomes of the things laid upon it, come hither, and I will show thee them. What then is the smoke, what the sweet savor of this altar? Praise and thanksgiving. And how far doth it ascend? as far as unto heaven? By no means, but it passeth beyond the heaven itself, and the heaven of heaven, and arriveth even at the throne of the King. For, "Thy prayers," saith he, "and thine alms are come up before God." (Acts 10:4.) And the sweet savor which the sense perceives pierceth not far into the air, but this opened the very vault of heaven. And thou indeed art silent, but thy work speaketh  : and a sacrifice of praise is made, no heifer slain nor hide burnt, but a spiritual soul presenting her proper offering. For such a sacrifice is more acceptable than any loving-kindness. When then thou seest a poor believer, think that thou beholdest an altar: when thou seest such an one a beggar, not only insult him not, but even reverence him, and if thou seest another insulting him, prevent, repel it. For so shalt thou thyself be able both to have God propitious to thee, and to obtain the promised good things, whereunto may we all attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom and with Whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and forever, and world without end. Amen.
 [The Rev. Version differs from Chrysostom's text, which is the same as the T.R. but is not well sustained. C.]
 Gr. Singleness.
 A.V. experiment.
 Rec. Text. Gospel of Christ.
 i. e. In the word, proving.
 This is St. Chrysostom's usual reading of the passage. As e.g. in his commentary on the text itself Hom. xviii. on St. Matthew, Oxf. Translation p. 277. [This edition p. 126.]