« AnteriorContinuar »
" which is for ever reproaching blasphemers; and this “reflection alone will be as a salutary bridle to your
tongues, and keep them from venting blasphemies."
EXTRACT OF ST. CHRYSOSTOM'S DISCOURSE ON
Eutropius was favourite to the emperor Arcadius, and had an absolute ascendant over his master. This monarch, who discovered as much weakness when his ministers stood in need of his protection, as imprudence in raising them, was forced, in spite of himself, to abandon his favourite. Eutropius thereupon fell from the highest pitch of grandeur into an abyss of misery. The only friend he then found was St. John Chrysostom, whom he often had treated injuriously, and who yet had the pious generosity to receive him in the sacred asylum of the altars, which he had endeavoured to abolish, by various laws he had enacted against them, and to which he nevertheless fled in his calamity. The next day, on which the holy mysteries were to be celebrated, the people ran in crouds to the church, there to behold in Eutropius a livelyimage of human weakness, and of the vanity of worldly grandeur. The holy bishop treated this subject in so lively and moving a manner, that he changed the hatred and aversion which the people had for Eutropius, into compassion, and drew tears from the whole congregation. We are to observe, that it was usual with St. Chrysostom to address the great, and the powerful, even in the height of their prosperity, with a strength and liberty truly episcopal.
" [i] If ever there was reason to cry, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, it is certainly on this occasion. “Where is now that splendor of the most exalted dig“nities? Where are those marks of honour and dis"tinction? What is become of that pomp of feasting " and rejoicings ? What is the issue of those frequent
" acclamations, and extravagantly flattering encomi
ums, lavished by a whole people assembled in the “ Circus to see the public shew's ? A single blast of “ wind has stripped that proud tree of all its leaves ; "and, after shaking its very roots, has forced it in an “ instant out of the earth. Where are those false “friends, those vile flatterers, those parasites so assi“ duous in making their court, and in discovering a “servile attachment by their words and actions? All “ this is gone and fled away like a dream, like a flower, “ like a shadow. We therefore cannot too often re
peat these words of the Holy Spirit, l'unity of vanities, all is vanity. They ought to be written in the
most shining letters, in all places of public resort, “ on the doors of houses, and in all their apartments; “ but much more ought they to be engraved in our “ hearts, and be the perpetual subject of our medi“ tation.
“ Had I not just reason, says St. Chrysostom, ad“ dressing himself to Eutropius, to set before
the “ inconstancy of riches ? You now have found, by
your own experience, that, like fugitive slaves, they “ have abandoned you; and are become, in some “ measure, traitors and murderers with regard to you, “since they are the principal canse of your fall. I often “repeated to you, that you ought to have a greater “ regard to my reproaches
, how grating soever they “ might appear, than to the insipid praises which “ flatterers were perpetually lavishing on you, because
[k] Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the “kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Had I not just rea“son to address you in this manner? What is become " of the croud of courtiers ? They have turned their " backs ; they have renounced your friendship; and
solely intent upon their own interest and security, “ even at the expence of yours. We submitted to
your violence in the meridian of your fortune, and,
now you are fallen, we support you to the utmost of “ our power. The church, against which
have [k] Prov. xxvii. 6.
its bosom to receive you; and the theatres, the eternal object of your favour, which “ had so often drawn down your indignation upon us,
have abandoned and betrayed you.
“I do not speak this to insult the misfortunes of " him who is fallen, nor to open and make wounds
smart that are still bleeding; butin order to support
those who are standing, and teach them to avoid the “like evils. And the only way to avoid these, is, to
be fully persuaded of the trailty and vanity of world" ly grandeur. To call it a flower, a blade of
grass, "a smoke, a dream, is not saying enough, since it is
even below nothing. Of this we have a very sen"sible proof before our eyes. What man ever rose
to such an heigth of grandeur? Was he not im" mensely rich ? Did he not possess every dignity? “ Did not the whole empire stand in fear of hiin? And
now, more deserted, and trembling still more than " the meanest wretch, than the vilest slave, than the “ prisoners confined in dungeons; having perpetually " before his eyes swords unsheathed to destroy him;
torments and executioners; deprived of day-light at noon-day, and expecting every moment that " death which perpetually stares him in the face.
“You were witnesses yesterday, when people came from the palace in order to drag hinn hence, how he ran to the holy altars, shivering in every limb; pale " and dejected, scarce uttering a word but what was
interrupted bysobs and groans, and rather dead than alive. I again repeat, I do not declaiin in this "manner in order to insult his fall, but to move and
affect you by the description of his calamities, and
inspire you with tenderness and compassion for one " so wretched.
“ But some hard-hearted, merciless persons, who are even offended at us because we suffered him to "take sanctuary in the church, say, Was not that very
man its most inveterate enemy, who made laws for "shutting up that sacred asylum? It is so indeed, answers Chysostom; but we ought to glorify God the
more, in thus obliging so formidable an enemy of “it to come and pay homage both to the power
of “ the church, and to its clemency. To its power, “ since his persecution of it caused his fall; to its
clemency, since, notwithstanding all his injurious “ treatment, forgetting what is past, he is shrouded " by its wings; is covered by its protection, as though “it were a shield; and is received into the holy
sanctuary of those altars, which he himself had of. “ ten atteinpted to destroy. No victories or trophies “ could reflect so much honour on the church. So
generous an action, of which only the church is ca
pable, covers the Jews and infidels with shame. “ To afford protection publicly to a sworn enemy, “ fallen into disgrace, abandoned, and become uni
versally the object of contempt and abhorrence; to “discover more than a maternal tenderness for him ; “ to oppose at one and the same time the anger of “the emperor, and the blind fury of the people; in “ this consists the glory of our holy religion.
“ You declare with indignation, that he made laws “ for shutting up this sacred asylum. But, О man! “whosoever thou art, art thou then allowed to re“member the injuries that have been done thee? “ Are we not the servants of a crucified God, who
said, as he was breathing his last, [?] Father, for
give them, for they know not what they do? And “that man, now prostrate before the altar, and ex
posed to the sight of the whole world, does not he
appear in person to annul his own laws, and ac-
ple, and sitting on his throne, but his treading un.
“I see that our temple is as much crouded as at the
you now behold, afford; and how much more elo:
er of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon "it. And the poor man is taught, on this occasion, "to form a quite different judgment of his condi"tion, than he generally does; to be even pleased “ with his poverty, which is to him a sanctuary, a haven, a citadel; by affording him security, and preserving him from those fears and alarms, which he sees are caused by riches.”
St. Chrysostom's design in this discourse, was not only to instruct his hearers, but to move them to compassion, by the lively description he gave of Eutropius's misfortunes. And indeed he had the consolation, as was before observed, to draw tears from the whole congregation, notwithstanding their great aversion to Eutropius, who was justly considered as the author of all their calamities, both public and private. When St. Chrysostom perceived this, he proceeded in this manner: “Have I calmed your resentinents ? Have I softened
your anger? Have I extinguished inhumanity in your minds? Have I raised your compas"sion? 'Yes, I certainly must have effected all this;
for the frame of mind I now behold you in, and the "tears which trickle down your cheeks, are a certain
proof of it. Since then your hearts are become more tender, and the glow of charity has melted their ice, and softened their rigour; let us go together, and throw ourselves at the emperor's feet; or
rather, let us beseech the God of mercy to soften " his heart, and incline him to pardon Eutropius.”
This discourse had the desired effect, and St. Chrysostom saved the life of that unhappy man. But some days after, Eutropius having been so imprudent as to leave the church, in order to make his escape, he was [m] Isaiah xl. 6, 7: