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Another reason undoubtedly is the remarkable energy and fruitfulness of the writer's mind, that command of language and of topics, and above all, that depth of charitable and religious feeling, which enabled him, to a very remarkable extent, to carry his hearers along with him, even when the things he recommended were most distasteful to their natures and prejudices. It is obvious how much of the expression of this quality must vanish in translation: the elegance and fluency of his Greek style, the flow of his periods, the quickness and ingenuity of his turns, all the excellencies to which more especially his surname was owing, must in the nature of things be sacrificed, except in cases of very rare felicity, on passing into a modern language. His dramatic manner indeed, which was one of the great charms of his oratory among the Greeks, and his rapid and ingenious selection and variation of topics, these may in some measure be retained, and may serve to give even English readers some faint notion of the eloquence which produced so powerful effects on the susceptible people of the East.
However, it is not of course as compositions that we desire to call attention to these or any other of the remains of the Fathers. Nor would this topic have been so expressly adverted to, but for the two following reasons. First, it is in such particulars as these, that the parallel mainly subsists, which has more than once been observed, between St. Chrysostom and our own Bishop Taylor: and it is good for the Church in general, aud encouraging for our own Church in particular, to notice such providential revirals of ancient graces in modern times.
Again, this profusion of literary talent, and eloquence and vehemence and skill in moral teaching, is of itself, as human nature now exists, a matter of much jealousy to considerate persons, who are aware how hardly and how seldom the
lives of such speakers and writers have been found answerable to the profession implied in their works. And therefore it was desirable to dwell on it in this instance, for the purpose of pointing out afterwards how completely his life gave evidence that he meant and practised what he taught.
Happily the details of that life have been preserved to us on very sufficient contemporary evidence. And perhaps these Homilies cannot be better introduced, than by a slight sketch of their author's history, down to the time when they were delivered
John, afterwards St. John CHRYSOSTOM, was the only son of Secundus and Anthusa, of good family in the city of Antioch, and was born about A.D. 347. His father, who was a person of some note in the Staff of the Master General, either of cavalry or infantry, on the Euphratean border of the empire, died very soon after his birth, leaving him with one sister, not yet two years old, to the care of his mother, who continued in widowhood. Although his parents were both Christians, his Baptism was deferred, as so often happened in that age; on the same erroneous principle, apparently, which causes so many among us to defer introducing their young people to the Holy Eucharist. He was educated with a view to the profession of the law, and had among his instructors the famous Rhetorician Libanius, the friend of Julian the Apostate; who is reported on his death bed, long after, to have borne this testimony to his pupil's ability; that when his friends enquired of him who should take his place, he answered,“ John, if the Christians had not stolen him away.” Philosophy he learned of Andragathius, who seems to have been a Platonist. But at the age of 18,“ considering,” says
The authorities from which this Bibl. Patr. Gallandi, t. viii; Socrates, sketch is taken are, Palladius, Dialogue E. H. b. vi. §. 3; Sozomen. E. H. on the Life of Chrysostom, $. 5. in vii. 2; Fleury, E. H. xix. 1-9.
Socrates, “the wearisomeness and unfair subtlety of the forensic life,” he determined to apply himself to divine studies and worship, and that which was called in those days Christian philosophy; giving up also the pleasures of the stage, for which, he says, he had then a great fancy. In this he was greatly encouraged by the example and advice of a friend of the name of Basil, the same whom he introduces afterwards in his book concerning Priesthood. But his mother most earnestly remonstrated with him, not to separate himself from her so entirely as his present plans seemed to indicate; and in obedience to her he continued in the city, pursuing his studies, and exercising a modified kind of asceticism, under the guidance and patronage of the Patriarch Meletius, for 3 years, when he was baptized, and ordained Reader. In the course of that time he had prevailed upon several others, pupils with himself of Libanius, to follow his example: one of whom, Theodore, afterwards Bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia, was within no long time tempted to renounce his good resolutions, engage himself in marriage, and go back to a secular life. This gave St. Chrysostom occasion to remonstrate with him in two Epistles, now extant, which had the effect of bringing him back to his purpose. It appears that at this time Theodore was but 20 years of age: which gives reason for believing that these letters are some of the earliest extant of the compositions of his friend and companion St. Chrysostom.
The instructors of these young men in theology were Carterius and Diodorus, some time Bishop of Tarsus, who at that time presided over eminent monasteries in Antioch. Diodorus was remarkable for confining his public expositions to the letter of the sacred Scriptures, as one who, it is not said " denied,” but,“ shrunk from, their mysterious significations b.” This may help to account for the infrequency of
b Socr. vi. 3. τάς θεωρίας αυτών εκτρεφόμενος. Soc. viii. 2. αποφεύγοντα.
mystical allusion in St. Chrysostom's own commentaries: although he fully recognizes the principle, and has given some striking exemplifications of it.
He seems to have been about twenty-one years of age at the time that he was made Reader, and soon found something within him which told him not to limit himself to such labours and self-denials as the city afforded. He withdrew accordingly into the neighbouring mountains. Perhaps an additional cause of his retirement might be his dread of being taken by force (no rare event in those times) and made a Priest: at least this seems as probable a date as any for the transaction between him and his friend Basil, which gave occasion to the books De Sacerdotio. Basil informed Chrysostom that such a proceeding might be expected, and that he himself should be entirely guided by his example in submitting to or withdrawing from it. Chrysostom put him off for the present, saying, there was no hurry to determine immediately, and then retired without his knowledge : so that the people when they made the attempt, found Basil, and succeeded in forcing the sacred office upon him. His disappointment and remonstrance at finding that his friend had “left him to serve alone,” is represented as giving occasion to the seven books of that famous treatise, which is conducted in the way of dialogue between the two friends.
St. Chrysostom continued in his retirement six years: four in company with an aged monk of Syria, whom he selected as bis model and director in the ascetic discipline, and two by himself, avoiding observation: in such rigour, of watchfulness particularly, (for it is said that he never lay down by day or by night,) as seriously affected his bodily powers, and made it necessary for him to return to Antioch,“ Christ's Providence,"
c St. Chrysostom's age at the time irregular; and it is
assign is certainly a strong objection ; but any later date in his life to which his Bingham, 2. 10. 1. gives several in- mother's remonstrances, De Sacerdot. stances of such early ordination, though i. 2. may be referred.
says his biographer,“so ordering it for the good of the Church.” His employment in his solitude was the study of the two Testaments, and the composition of certain works of morality and piety; particularly of three discourses in defence of the monastic life. Two years after his return, he was ordained Deacon by Meletius, being then thirty-one years of age; in which office he wrote his Books on Providence and several others, and obtained more and more influence by his power of teaching, and by a certain engaging kind of austerity which appeared in his life and conversation.
At length, being certainly not less than thirty-five years old, probably thirty-seven, he was prevailed upon to receive the priestly office at the hands of Flavian, who had succeeded Meletius as Bishop of Antioch. Part of his first sermon after his ordination is extant, and is remarkable for the deep sense which he expresses of the dignity to which he was raised,
as yet in mere boyhood :” so he expresses himself. He continued twelve years in this office, preaching as it appears throughout Lent and on every Sunday besides, and, as his remains uniformly testify, exerting himself to the utmost to turn his oratorical powers, and the influence they gave him, to the real benefit of his hearers and of the Church. In the third
year of this his ministry, A. D. 387, occurred the wellknown tumult, in which the statues of the Emperor Theodosius and some of his family were thrown down by the populace of Antioch, provoked by certain taxes: in consequence of which the whole city was in a kind of agony for some months, expecting the severest penal decrees from the Emperor. The influence of the Church was signally tried, and we may say blessed, on this occasion : for it was by the intercession of the Bishop, Flavian, that Theodosius was induced to grant a free pardon to the whole city, and to all concerned in the outrage : and the principal support and consolation of the citizens during the Bishop's absence on this errand were the