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Life Of John Chrysostom by Frederic M. Perthes

404–407

CHRYSOSTOM was fifty-seven years old when he went into exile, and he lived in banishment three and a quarter years. This to him was a period of great difficulty and distress. Previous to this, amid all his mental trials arising from the sad occurrences of the year past, his physical wants at least were provided for. But now, though advancing in years and while making fatiguing journeys or residing in inhospitable places, he was yet often deprived of proper nourishment and the most needful attentions, till at length his weak and delicate frame wasted away and sunk under its burdens. Unto the last, however, so far as circumstances would permit, he continued his active labors for the church of Christ, to which he had consecrated, and, with the exception of single hours of depression, had cheerfully devoted his life.

We will now trace the history of these last years of his life.

From the capital he was first borne to Nicæa in Bithynia. Here he must tarry four weeks for a decision in regard to his place of banishment. This period of repose after the storms of the last months was of great benefit to him in restoring his impaired health. He had indeed no servant with him to administer to his wants, but the place of one was well supplied by the two soldiers who guarded him. “They take such good care of me,” he wrote in a letter, “that I have not needed the service of an attendant since they themselves have performed the duty of a servant.”

As one who had found a rich source of consolation, he thus wrote to Olympias, now deeply afflicted, and harassed by the investigations going on in the capital:—

“The more my troubles increase, the greater is my consolation. I have good hope for the future, and even now all things go pleasantly with me, and I sail with favoring breeze. Who could imagine that, in a raging storm, amidst rocks and shallows, with my little bark enveloped in fog and night, it yet should be as well with me as with those who lie in a safe harbor? I am well and happy, and my only source of disquietude is the fear that you are not equally happy.”

Here in Nicæa he resumed his labors. He feared that in their anxiety for the church in its stormy conflicts, its friends had neglected those who stood without the church, and had forgotten those measures which he had devised for the conversion of the heathen, especially in Phœnicia. He wrote therefore a long letter to the presbyter Constantius in Antioch, to whom he had intrusted the execution of these plans at that place, in which he says:—

“I exhort you as I have always done, however severely the tempests may rage, not to omit doing your part of the work which you have undertaken. The difficult circumstances must not make you negligent. The higher the seas run the closer does the true seaman cling to the helm. The more dangerous the disease, the more attentively does the physician watch the sick man. The difficulty of the times cannot excuse us if we let our hands fall. When Paul lay in the jail at Philippi and could do no more, he still exercised his soul in prayer.”

He charges him always to send a minute account of the progress of the cause, how many houses of worship are erected yearly, how many preachers appointed, etc. etc.

In the neighborhood of Nicæa there lived a recluse, one of that singular class of hermits who completely immured themselves in caves, with the exception of a little opening through which they were able to converse and to receive their food. Chrysostom sought him out, and perceiving that, aside from this mistake of his, he was a pious and intelligent man, he strove to convince him that he could serve God in a more acceptable manner by laboring for the heathen. His suit was effectual. The man left his cell, went to Antioch, and was there set apart for the missionary service in Phœnicia.

In the beginning of July intelligence came from Constantinople that the town of Cucusus, (now Coscau,) on the borders of Isauria, Cilicia, and Armenia, was fixed upon as the place of banishment. This was a heavy stroke both for him and his friends. The place was known to be in a remote and desolate region, where the summers were very hot and the winters, on account of the neighboring high mountains, were extremely cold. To reside there was also unsafe on account of the wild Isaurians who frequently invaded that region and laid it waste by fire and pillage. Chrysostom received this intelligence with trembling, and his spirits sunk in despondency. We have a letter written by him at this time to the Deaconess Theodora, in the capital, in which he expressed himself in a very unusual manner.

“Cease not,” he writes, “to reproach my friends, that they, so many and powerful, have done no better for me. A condemned criminal would not be sent to so distant and desolate a region, yet I, a weak old man, must go among the wild Isaurians.”

In this he did his friends injustice. They had tried to do what they could, but the hatred of Eudoxia was too strong for them. Of the different places proposed, she succeeded in having this place fixed upon for him. His mind, however, soon returned to its usual calm state of resignation to God, and before receiving an answer from his friends, he thus wrote to Olympias:—

“Trouble no one further on account of the place. It is already well. My friends were kindly disposed, but could effect nothing. God be praised for all things! Thus will I ever speak, let what will happen to me.”

On the fourth of July he left Nicæa and passed first through Phrygia, Galatia, and Cappadocia to Cæsarea, a distance of about three hundred and seventy miles. It was a toilsome journey and attended with much suffering. The heat of the sun was intense. The roads leading over the mountains were extremely rugged, nor at the different stopping places were there to be found houses of entertainment or any means of accommodation and comfort. In the midst of the journey, which occupied a month and a half, he was attacked with a severe tertian ague, so that on finally reaching Cæsarea, he seemed, as he states, nearer dead than alive.

In his journey he was greatly refreshed by the general sympathy which, in spite of the hostile feelings of some of the clergy who were incensed against him, he found among the Christian population. Hosts of men and women from different places came to meet him and wept to see the venerable bishop on his tedious journey. The caravans of tradesmen on meeting him and learning who he was, came to a halt and testified the interest they felt in him.

“I write,” he says in a letter to Olympias, “to inform you that there are many who mourn with me. It is a great consolation when one is not obliged to say with the Psalmist, ‘I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and far comforters, but I found none.’ ”

Yet he complained very bitterly of the hardships he endured and of the condition in which he found himself on reaching Cæsarea.

“The bearer of this letter, although he saw me but a moment or two, may most fittingly say that I am wholly worn out,—a thousand times dead. I was unable to speak with him, so weak had I become in consequence of the protracted fever, in which I have been forced to journey day and night, through the heat, and in want of sleep, food, and attention. I have suffered greater hardships than the culprits in the mines. I have here found a haven at last, but this cannot repair the injury. Yet I breathe again, and get pure water to drink, and am no longer obliged to eat petrified or mouldy bread, nor bathe in broken vessels, and can again keep my bed during night.”

An additional comfort to him was the affection with which he was received in Cæsarea. Pharetrius, the bishop of the city, a cowardly and falsehearted man, kept himself indeed aloof. Chrysostom on his journey met with persons who saluted him in the name of their bishop, and gave him assurance that he longed to embrace him. When however he arrived at the city he saw nothing of the bishop’s embrace, and a dwelling-place was assigned him in a very remote part of the city. But many of the Christians of all ranks came to him the more cordially in order to supply his wants, and among these, the principals of the rhetorical schools are particularly mentioned. Chrysostom, however, chiefly extols the physicians who had aided him in his sickness by their skill, and still more, he says, by their love. One of them offered to accompany him the rest of his journey, in order to furnish him service when needed.

When his strength and spirits began to amend, as he had still to travel one hundred and forty miles to Cucusus, he proposed to continue his journey. At this time news was received that great numbers of Isaurian robbers had invaded the province of Cæsarea, had already set on fire a large village in the vicinity, and had threatened the city itself. The garrison of the city immediately started to meet them, yet as Chrysostom was dissuaded from leaving the city, he concluded to remain a while longer.

Early the next morning, however, he was awakened by a violent uproar before his house. A crowd of frantic monks from the city and environs had besieged the house and, incited probably by Pharetrius, required him to leave the city, threatening, unless he yielded compliance, to set his house on fire. For a time they were pacified by the assurance that as soon as the travelling became safe he would depart. Yet all this was to no purpose, since, on the next day, they returned, and Chrysostom must, under the burning heat of noon, ascend a litter and commence his journey.

When he was out of the city, to his great joy he met with the servants of Seleucia, a woman of distinction, who informed him and his guides, that in an estate belonging to their mistress, not far distant, they could conceal themselves in safety, that all things were made ready for his reception, and that the steward with his peasants, in case of necessity, would defend them against the monks. This kind offer was gladly accepted.

But this aid was of short continuance. The matter became known in the city, and at the instigation, probably, of Pharetrius, Seleucia was menaced and intimidated. She herself caused the rumor to be spread that the Isaurians were coming. Some one rushed into Chrysostom’s chamber at midnight with the cry, depart hence, for the Isaurians are close upon us. He quickly dressed himself, a mule was brought, and the flight was commenced. There was no moon, and the night was extremely dark. The way was narrow, rocky, and mountainous. They did not dare to light their torches through fear of the Isaurians. The mule stumbled and fell with Chrysostom. “I had nearly lost my life,” he writes, “and could hardly raise myself up. Euethius (one of his attendants) took me by the hand, and thus I helped myself along, led, or rather drawn by him.” Still, he says in another letter, “I have found more security in these forests than in your cities, where yet law and order should prevail.” And again he writes—“I feared no one so much as the bishops, a few of them excepted.”

In the middle of August, seventy days after leaving Constantinople, he arrived at Cucusus. This place was small and of mean appearance, and its situation augured to him nothing very favorable for the winter. Still he was glad to attain repose at last, and was very happy in all the sympathy which he here received.

A certain Dioscurus, with whom Chrysostom was formerly acquainted, had already sent to him while at Cæsarea a slave with the request that he would take up his abode with him. On reaching Cucusus, he found the house prepared for him, having been made strong and tight for the winter. Dioscurus himself had left in order that the bishop might have the whole house at his disposal. Several stewards in the neighborhood had received directions from their lords at Constantinople who had possessions here, to receive the bishop at their homes. Chrysostom, however, could not well do otherwise than to occupy the house of Dioscurus.

Here at his reception he met with a spirited old lady, Sabiniana. We know not whether she was one of his deaconesses from Constantinople or from his previous charge in Antioch. This faithful woman had made the long journey thither in less time than the bishop. She was already there on his arrival, and for some time she attended him and ministered to his wants.

It is a pleasure also to state, that the bishop of this city had not been led astray in his opinion of Chrysostom. Adelphius gave him a cordial welcome, and even urged him to preach occasionally from his own pulpit to the church of Cucusus. To this request, however, Chrysostom could not, of course, assent.

In a joyful and contented mood he now writes to his friends:—

“With my host I am always in strife. It is impossible for me to accept of all his favors. Sopater also, the governor of the province, has shown me greater kindness than I could have expected from a father.”

He requests his friends not to think of changing his residence. “I dread journeying more than any place of banishment. I have at heart,” he says, “only one thing—write to me often.” He himself was not remiss in this respect. A multitude of letters which he wrote to his friends in the capital and other places, partly to comfort the afflicted and distressed, and partly to animate them in their labors, are still extant. As soon as he had become settled in some degree, his activity again commenced.

Olympias, on account of the absence of Chrysostom, the deposition of many faithful clergy, and the concessions and apostasy of still others, seeing also the church in the hands of basest men, and falsehood to have become triumphant, appears for a time to have been disheartened, and in this mood to have written to her friend.

In a long letter, he answered her, in part, as follows:—

“However critical and sad the condition of the church may be,—and this cannot be denied,—yet with my eye fixed on the Ruler of the Universe, I do not give up all hope. His ways, which indeed are not as our ways, are often different from what we short-sighted creatures should expect. Yet He says at last—thus far and no further. But He does not do this at the first rising of the storm. It is God’s manner to let men have at first their own will and way, so that they themselves would seem to be as gods, and whoever is not steadfast in faith becomes disheartened. But when the distress waxes great, He then reveals His almighty arm.”

“I entreat you then, Olympias, give not yourself up to despondency. There is but one thing to be dreaded, namely, sin. I have never ceased to say that all things else, whether persecution, banishment, imprisonment, or torture are mere trifles. These all pass away. Remember what Paul says—the things which are seen are temporal; they pass by like the rushing waters. What the prophet says holds true of all that is fair, and all that is sad upon the earth. All flesh is as grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The wind passeth over it and it is gone. The same man of God also says, Fear not the reproach of men, neither be afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool. Be not disturbed at any thing that now takes place. Cease to call upon this one or that for help. Rely not upon human aid which is but a shadow. But cease not to call upon God to whom thou belongest, and thou wilt experience his aid. His favors are greater than our expectations, for, as the apostle says, He does exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

Speaking afterwards to the complaint of the unfaithfulness and apostasy of so many, he says:—

“Have then such things now happened for the first time, and have not the unfortunate obtained deliverance? Did not Peter deny his Lord, and all his disciples forsake Him, so that He stood bound before the tribunal alone? And have not the fallen been raised, and the erring been restored? Your grief is just. Yet as we should not hopelessly grieve over our own sins, so our grief for others should have its limits. It should not so overcome us as to lead us also to sin against God.”

To his friend Palladius who was likewise suffering in exile, he writes:—

“As regards myself, I need no consolation. The cause for which I suffer is sufficient consolation to me. I bewail, however, the sad state of the churches, and I urge you all to help by your prayers, that the church may be rescued from destruction, and that peace may again be granted her. Pray without ceasing, for by your removal from office to a life of retirement, you now have the more leisure to continue in prayer.”

Pæanius, a man of rank, having sought much but in vain to assist him, in a letter makes complaint of this, yet concludes in the favorite words of Chrysostom—God be praised for all things. Chrysostom expresses to him the joy he felt at this evidence of his faith, and says:—

“Cease not to utter these words, and teach all others to do the same. For this is a death blow to Satan, and to us in times of necessity is the richest source of comfort and joy. By it Job was sustained while the tempter was struck down. Whenever I speak these words, all clouds of sorrow vanish away.”

In another strain he was obliged to write to the presbyters, Theophilus and Sallust in Constantinople. They, indeed, were connected with those members who separated from the hostile party. Yet, though adhering to the Johannites, the former through fear had ceased to preach, and the latter seldom attended their meetings.

“What I have heard concerning you, has greatly grieved me. If the report be a calumny, let me be quickly informed of it. But if it be true, then make haste and reform. Your reward will be great, if at such a time you show yourselves courageous. But certainly you must expect a heavy judgment, if you indolently neglect your duty. Know you not what the Lord said of him who hid his talent in the earth? The flock, my own dear church, faithfully and daily keeps together for the service of God, and the shepherds are absent! How will you obtain forgiveness, if, when others are persecuted and banished, you at home do not stand by the church?”

One of his presbyters, Domitian, to whom he had intrusted the care of the poor, especially among the widows of his church, informed him that his funds were insufficient, and that those under his care were suffering from want. Chrysostom then wrote to a wealthy friend, Valentine, requesting his speedy assistance, reminds him of a small sum which he still claimed from him, and asks him to send it to Domitian for the object specified.

We thus see that Chrysostom, though four hundred and seventy miles distant, continued to act as the sympathizing pastor of the church in the metropolis. But his labors were not less abundant for the heathen tribes, whose evangelization originated in the efforts of his missionaries. He sought also to open new paths to those regions which he, as a bishop, had been unable to reach.

Through the activity of his presbyter, Elpidius, the heathen on Mount Amanus were converted, and churches and cloisters were built among them. Chrysostom on receiving information that money was wanting, commended the support of this mission to his friend Agapetus, a man of property.

When Unilas, the efficient bishop among the Goths, was taken away by death, they applied to Constantinople for a successor. Chrysostom knowing that the management of the church was in such corrupt hands, was extremely anxious over this matter, and labored in suitable ways to procure the sending thither of an upright and earnest man.

In Phœnicia, the cause still remained in a critical state. He was therefore specially active in imparting to the missionaries there consolation and aid.

“Let not the present disturbances,” he writes to them, “induce you to abandon your posts. As the difficulties become greater, labor the more earnestly that the fair structure which you have erected may not be left unfinished. How many difficulties you have already surmounted, how great advantages you have already secured. That you may not leave, I will see that garments, shoes, and provisions are sent to you. If you again want any thing, only send me word and I will assist you. Think of the apostles of the Lord; what must have been their necessities and sufferings during their whole lives.”

For these objects he had means even now at his command. Olympias was not the only one who was ever ready to give. Many gifts which were intended for his own use, he applied to the mission.

“Think it not ill in me,” he wrote to Carteria, an opulent widow in Antioch, “that I have returned your gift. It was gratefully received, but at present I do not need it. If ever I am in want you will see that with utmost assurance I shall turn to you and ask. For you must know that I regard your property as my own, and shall draw therefrom when I have need, but I cannot consent to take when it is not needed.”

From Diogenes, a man of distinction, he received through the hands of a presbyter, Phraates, a considerable sum of money. He affirmed that he did not need it. But when the presbyter persisted that he must not bear it home again, Chrysostom persuaded him to go to Phœnicia, and to give the money with himself to the mission there.

He sent another presbyter, Gerontius, to the same mission, and in writing to him, says: It is much better for you to go thither than to stay at home. Thou canst even there fast, and watch, and pray, but at home thou canst not sow and plant, and reap for God’s kingdom.

On hearing that a severe persecution was commenced against the clergy in Phœnicia, several of whom were put to death, and many others cruelly treated, he immediately applied to Antioch, to a presbyter there, Rufinus, whom he knew to be a whole man, and requested him to go at once to Phœnicia and stand by the distressed missionaries. “They need there,” he writes, “a man of courage, of discretion, of your spirit, Rufinus.”

In Persia the Christians had suffered severe persecutions for forty years. At this time Maruthus, the able bishop of Martyropolis in Mesopotamia had succeeded by means of skilfully conducted negotiations between Arcadius and the Persian Emperor, in securing the influence of the latter to put a check for the present to the persecutions. The more cruel these were, and the more earnest the intention to extirpate Christianity—for hundreds of Christians and ministers were put to death, and in part after the most shocking manner—the greater must have been the interest which Chrysostom felt in Maruthas and his cause. Yet this man had been won by his enemies in Constantinople, and at the second council had subscribed the sentence against him.

In such a case it must appear what one is most concerned about—whether his own loved self, which has been injured, or the cause of God.

Before reaching Cucusus, Chrysostom had sent to Olympias two letters for Maruthas. Soon after his arrival he wrote to her that she might use every means to explain his cause to this bishop. “If you succeed, inquire of him what he has accomplished in Persia by his endeavors. Let me know if he has received my letters. If he chooses to reply I shall be happy, if he will not, he will at least tell you how far he has advanced in his undertakings. I have taken extreme pains to have a personal interview with him. Cease not to do him all kind offices, and strive to draw him out of the gulf. I need him for the cause in Persia.”

Occupied in this manner, he passed the last part of summer and the autumn of the year 404. The mild air of this season in that region had confirmed his health. But now followed a year and a half—two winters with their icy cold and the intervening summer with its scorching heat, which put every thing back again, and brought him near to death. We will hear his own account of this. In a letter to Olympias, in the beginning of spring, 405, he says:—

“I write to you from the brink of the grave, for in the last few months I found myself no better but was worse than dead. I had only life enough to be sensible of sufferings from every quarter. It was for me a perpetual night. I was constantly confined to my bed, and notwithstanding all the precautions used, I was unable to protect myself from the disastrous effects of the cold. Though I kept fires burning, and, notwithstanding the vile smoke, shut myself up in a little chamber and loaded myself with a great number of coverings, and never crossed the threshold, I yet suffered continually from sickness, constant vomiting, headache, and long, sleepless nights. Since spring has opened and the air has changed, my complaints have abated, and I am now recovering.”

But soon came the scorching heat of summer, and he was forced to make fresh lamentations. “My health is violently assailed. There is nothing to be bought here, and physicians, medicine, and the most necessary means of life are wanting. The heat of summer and the consequent bad air, are no less afflictive than the cold of winter. In addition to this we are in constant fear of the incursions of the Isaurians.”

These threatened the place the whole summer, and had so overspread the country, that to the greatest grief of Chrysostom, his correspondence, heretofore so actively held with his friends in Constantinople, Antioch, and Phœnicia, was now interrupted. In the depth of the succeeding winter, when all was snow and ice, their devastations had become so severe that the people round about were forced to abandon their towns and hamlets and seek their shelter in the forests and caves. “They lay waste with fire,” writes Chrysostom, “and whom they do not kill they drag away with them as slaves.” Even the inhabitants of Cucusus forsook their town, and Chrysostom himself was obliged to journey days and nights together through snow and ice in order to reach a small fortress called Arabissus, forty-five miles distant. Here with a large body of men who had flocked together, among whom malignant diseases broke out and famine was threatening, Chrysostom led a sorrowful life.

“A short time since,” he writes, “I was obliged, in the severest cold to pass from one place to another and hide myself in clefts and caves, being driven hither and thither on all sides by the Isaurians. Finally I fled to Arabissus, hoping in this town, or rather in its castle to find safety. My situation here is harder to be endured than imprisonment. Death is daily at our doors, for the barbarians have encompassed us about, and with so large a number of us in this little place we must soon fear a famine.” In another he adds: “The fear of the Isaurians makes every one seek safety in flight. The towns are nothing but walls and roofs; the ravines and forests have become cities. The inhabitants of Armenia are like the lions and leopards who find their safety only in deserts. We daily change our habitations, like the Nomades or Scythians; and often little children, hastily removed by night in the excessively cold weather, are left dead in the snow.”

During this period, however, the feeling of resignation did not leave him, and at times his spirits were elevated to a Christian cheerfulness.

“We should strive,” he writes to a friend, “after one thing only, to reach with a cheerful conscience our common father-land. This is the only sure and imperishable good.” To another he says: “This is the nature of love; it is not vanquished under a multitude of sufferings, but like the flame it rises through them all, and only with the greater intensity.”

Our readers will be interested in the account we shall now give of the relation which even in this time of distress was formed between Chrysostom and a young man from Constantinople.

Theodotus, the son of a wealthy and eminent officer in the capital, had resolved, under the influence probably of the discourses, life, and sufferings of the bishop, to become an ecclesiastic. His father, having cherished other plans for him, had for a long time opposed the execution of his purpose. When at last with reluctance he gave up his opposition, the youth proceeded at once to Cucusus, in order to fit himself for his chosen work under the direction of the exile. He came to him just in the beginning of the unfortunate winter of 405–6. Chrysostom was soon convinced that the delicate health of the young man could not endure the climate and mode of life in his place of banishment. Having persuaded him to return, he delivered him up to the charge of a deacon in the capital, urging him to use his influence with the father, who was still unreconciled, while he himself wrote to him on sending back the presents which his son had brought for him, but of which, however, he had no need. This took effect, and the heart of the father was won back again to his child.

With this young man he maintained a constant and friendly correspondence. Soon after his return he thus wrote:—

“Through the power of love, it seems as though you were still present with me, and I hope I shall yet have the pleasure of seeing your face again. Though the winter has driven you away from Armenia, you still have an abode in my heart. If the war with the Isaurians had not obstructed the intercourse, you would have received a multitude of letters, but though my tongue must keep silence, my heart has often spoken with you. Write to me often how you prosper in body and mind. Give your whole time to the reading of the Scriptures, so far as your eyes will permit, in order that you may become familiar with the letter of God’s word, and I will afterwards guide you into its spirit.”

“I am concerned,” he again writes, “only in regard to the bad state of your eyes. Take good care of them. Consult with physicians concerning them and do all in your power. As to the trials which befall you, you must, as I have often told you, rejoice over them, and I rejoice with you, knowing what fruit of patience is secured thereby. Let nothing which happens trouble you. There is but one evil. Every thing else, if you continue watchful, and sober, will be even for your gain, and will secure to you the unspeakable gifts of heaven in rich abundance. I should be glad to have you with me, but the heat of summer here would be too much for you. The unhealthy air, I fear, would injure your eyes. Take good care of them, and when you write inform me, though there be but a slight improvement.”

Many persons, as this young man, resorted to Chrysostom from different quarters. Indeed his renown, as a writer remarks, was greater in exile than as a bishop. Thus, Constantius, a presbyter from Antioch, resided with him for a long period, and probably at different times. He had been driven away from Antioch by the hostile party, and thus writes to his mother from Cucusus:—

“.… The mother that bears a true love for her children is seen in this, that she, to put her son in the way of duty, drives him from home, endures the separation patiently and even thanks him for going away. You have raised yourself above the dominion of nature in requiring me to exchange the city for the wilderness, the security of repose for a life among the Isaurians that I might not be compelled to do any thing dishonorable. Not only therefore do I thank you for my birth, but much more for the education you have given me, by which you have shown yourself to be a true mother.” In a consolatory letter addressed to her amid the disturbances at Antioch, he says: “I beg you to remember that there is only one calamity, sin. Power, reputation, glory, among men are all vanity. The way to heaven passes through the depths of suffering. My intercourse with the holy bishop has refreshed me not a little, so that I have become almost another man, and do not feel that I am living in a strange place. Such a fulness of spiritual blessings surrounds me, and such a wealth exalts my soul, that I cease not to thank God continually.”

Before passing to the section which is to speak of the end of our pious friend, we may with propriety give some account of his last writings. During the mournful year and a half of which the preceding sections have treated, he still continued to labor for his church in Constantinople. On the accession of Atticus as bishop in the place of Arsacius, the persecution against the Johannites broke out with fresh violence. It was occasioned by the fact that the oppressed party who endured the first attacks with lively enthusiasm, even now, after the voice of the aged bishop had been silent for months and almost for years, remained steadfast in feeling and action. In consequence of this persecution, the bishop sat down and wrote for them two treatises, or tracts as they might be called, in order to strengthen their faith.

From the multitude of his writings, and from his comments which we possess, on the greater part of the Bible, we have not given many extracts, as they would fail to excite a popular interest. We shall, however, be interested in reading the last work which has come to us from his pen, in the evening of his life.

In the shorter treatise he develops the truth, that no one can injure him who does not injure himself. This proposition savors of the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, who placed all happiness in the power of man’s freewill, and supposed that man was sufficient unto himself. This, of course, is not inculcated in this treatise, yet its design is to operate upon the will—a will, however, which rests on a Christian foundation. This is demanded by the aim which Chrysostom had before him, besides it results directly and wholly from the peculiarity of his Christian nature. He speaks in this particular case at the close of life as he had often spoken before. On this account many members of our churches will find something in Chrysostom which they do not approve. They coincide in their views more nearly with one who was born a short time after him, and whose influence began to be felt when he had closed his earthly career, and has since been felt most powerfully throughout the western church, while Chrysostom and his writings for centuries have been among us as if forgotten. I refer to the great Augustine, who could so thankfully ascribe all things to the grace of God by which alone he had been rescued, that he was unable to believe in a human will on which it depends, whether one chooses to be possessed of this grace or not. He maintained that after man had fallen through Adam, it must depend solely on God whether he be restored. Whom God will save, to him help is granted, while all others are lost. Chrysostom was not of this opinion. It was his deep and firm conviction that without the will of man, nothing is effected. The grace and gift of God are certain to us and are indispensable,—but what they effect in us, and whether, and how far, they benefit one, and how far another,—this depends on the fidelity or unfaithfulness of the human will. Hence he laid much stress upon the will, both in himself and in others, during his life. If he went too far in this direction we yet will not deny that his contemporary on the other hand, did not go far enough. We see in these two persons the same Christianity apprehended, yet in a manner conformable to their individual characters and more or less defectively.

In the treatise mentioned, he starts from the principle that nothing can harm me which does not injure my proper being. But the proper being of man is not physical health and strength, which sickness may destroy, nor honor and a good name, which calumny may take from us, nor liberty, for one can put me in chains, nor life simply, for then I must fear death. It consists rather in the disposition of mind, in a genuine faith, and this no one, not even Satan, can take from me if I will but hold it fast.

How, then, inquires Chrysostom, can you charge your opponents with injuring this or that one of our friends, since those have not done it, but the blame thereof lies with these?

After describing the unshaken firmness of Paul, he brings forward the objection—true, but Paul was one of the elect of Christ,—to which he replies—was not Judas also called and endowed with great gifts? But calling, choosing, and endowments avail not. Judas fell, notwithstanding, because his will consented to evil, while Paul remained firm through the integrity of his will.

Hence Scripture history, he says, presents to us a long series of those who have fallen and of those who have been crowned from Adam unto Christ, in order to show us that all the terror of the world cannot injure him who remains firm in his will, and that no provisions of grace will help him who is not watchful and sober.

Why, he asks, did the house of the foolish man in the parable fall, Matt. 7:26; on account of the descending torrents? The same beat also upon the wise man’s house. It fell, rather, because the sand on which it was built had no stability.

The chosen people of Israel had received the most numerous proofs of the Divine care in the wilderness, had witnessed the most extraordinary miracles, and yet they turned back to idolatry. The heathen of Nineveh humbled themselves in penitence at the simple word of the prophet. Whence came this? Our answer is, these were men of upright will, and only a slight incentive from without was needed to effect their reformation.

He refers them to the victory of the three men in the fiery furnace at Babylon. Do you say that God helped them? But if you do your part, the help of God assuredly will not be wanting. Nor do I wonder so much at their remaining in the fire unhurt, as at the triumph they achieved before going into the fire. For they stood forth as victors at the moment when they said to the king: “Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. But if he chooses not to do it, be it known unto you that we will not serve thy gods.”

He then concludes: since we can gather this knowledge and abundant examples of a like nature from the rich treasure of the Scriptures, let us firmly adhere to the truth that no evil of the times, nor power of tyranny can furnish an excuse for us if we err and fall. No one can harm him who wrongs not himself.

These words, coming from the lips of one whom many sought to injure, but who, through the strength of his will resting in God, received no harm, have, aside from the truth they contain, a special value. Yet not less important is the truth which he utters in the second treatise.

This bears the title: To those who have taken offence at the tribulation of the faithful and the defection of the unfaithful.

It is evident from this treatise, that among the adherents of Chrysostom, there must have been some who, from the occurrences they beheld in the church of the East, were in danger of being led astray as to their reliance on the providence of God, without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground. Nor can this surprise us. In order to explain and to apologize for the gloomy doubts which tempted these poor people, we need not have recourse to the refined ideas of the Greeks. They, are made sufficiently intelligible from the atrocities committed, “the abomination of desolation,” which stood triumphant and insolent in the holy place. It was the commencement, or rather a mighty stride forward upon the way, which has led to the goal before which we now stand, as before an enigma in the government of the Head of the Church.

For more than a thousand years the work of Christ has disappeared from all the regions of the East, where our Saviour and his apostles labored, and the gilded crescent gleams where once the simple cross gathered around itself the churches of Christ. We wish not to affirm that had Theophilus, Eudoxia, and their confederates been defeated, and Chrysostom and his friends had kept the field, and the influence of their spirit had continued, the East had been preserved to the church. The circumstances, however, with which we have become acquainted in the foregoing narrative, necessarily had their influence.

If to the query, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in the field? from whence then hath it tares? the reply, an enemy hath done this, has at any time held good since the establishment of the church, it certainly does so here. What must have been the feelings of those Christians when they saw the league of ungodly men unmasking themselves, coming forth as victors, and successfully carrying out their plans? At the head of the church, in the three principal Sees of the East, were such men as Theophilus in Alexandria, Atticus in Constantinople, and Porphyrius in Antioch, and by these the clerical offices around them were filled with creatures like themselves. Men of earnest purpose and influence were deprived of their office, and wherever a church wished to meet for justice and truth, it was violently trampled, as it were, underfoot. If, then, the righteous inquired, what will become of the cause of Christ among us if these things continue, where is the Lord’s promise, “Lo, I am with you alway,” if He does not now reveal his arm of deliverance,—if they made these inquiries, who can censure them? We still make the same and can do so with a deeper emphasis, for we know what has become of the church there—it is extinct.

Chrysostom, who was intimately connected with these times and occurrences, having heard of the anxious inquiries of the faithful, gave reply. He could answer them calmly, for a doubt of this kind had never entered the mind of this great man. God be praised for all things, was his abiding motto; and that which enabled him to be thus firm and unmoved by the doubts of others, we find described in the last writing which we have from his hand. What then is his reply?

Ye are sick, my poor friends, in Constantinople. Ye let your minds be carried away by an impulse which a man in health knows nothing of, much less obeys. You wish to fathom what is incomprehensible—the ways of Providence, the purposes of God. Observe the sound mind of Paul. He was a man of large genius and acute intellect, who well knew how to think, and he had looked upon things which were obscure. Yet what did he do when he saw the Jews rejected, the Gentiles brought in through their rejection, and salvation prepared for both through the mercy of God? He stood in silence and thought—O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?

The apostle knew the narrow limits of our vision, and the poverty of the most affluent mind, and hence he says: If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. He well understood that since we here below cannot survey the whole, we cannot rightly judge the separate parts of God’s work—that “we only know in part and prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” And so great did the difference seem to him between these two states, that he adds by way of comparison: “When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” It is presumption and madness to seek to penetrate into that which is closed against us. Listen to the apostle, saying, Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Behold, how deep a silence he requires! The apostle speaks thus not to take away your freewill,—far from it; but that you, in view of the ways of God, should be as uncomplaining as the lump of clay under the hand of the potter. You should not oppose nor speculate, but with the feeling of trust should give yourselves up as the clay is given up to the potter.

Can we not do this? But we who are Christians know that the Lord is love, not passionate indeed, yet ardent, unspeakable, unquenchable love. Has He not declared this in word and proved it in act? It is the manner of him who loves, to try repeatedly and in diverse ways better to express the love he feels, and yet the greatness of his love baffles his powers of description. God also has done thus in the Bible. When some once sighed as ye do now—“The Lord has forgotten us, the Lord has forsaken us,” He replies: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?” He compares his love with the love of a mother, which is the greatest on earth. But even this is not the measure of his love, for he adds—“yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” And again—“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”

Heaven is high above the earth—is it not higher than all else? But from thence He takes the figure—“As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” The east and the west are separated from each other at remotest limits, but “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.”

“With Him is plenteous redemption;” and to show its fulness, He says, in Isaiah 55:8–9—“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

In Hosea 11:8, immediately after uttering a threat He adds, but “mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” So it is with him who loves. He cannot bear to have pained a loved one even by a word, and therefore he says: My heart is turned within me.

After reminding his friends of the words in which God assures us of his love, Chrysostom reviews with them the acts of God in which He reveals His love, and finally comes to the manifestation of the Redeemer. “Who is there that must not gaze with astonishment at the unspeakable compassion of God, when he considers how God for his ungrateful servants gave up his only begotten Son to death, even the ignominious death of the vilest malefactor. And this He suffered for your sakes, and in pity to you, that the power of sin and death might be destroyed, the curse of guilt removed, and the door of heaven opened, and also that you should learn patience and not be offended at the terrors of the world, He has endured all things—mockery, insult, slander, persecution, and death itself—and has obtained the victory over them, that henceforth we should not fear any of these things. And now, sitting on the right hand of power in heaven, He is ready to impart the gift of His Spirit.

“Why, now, do you sit down and brood over these dark occurrences? When you lie quietly under the physician’s knife, and are lanced or cauterized without requiring of him an account where and how deep and for what length of time he shall operate, while the result of this is yet uncertain, how can you desire to question our Lord, whose wisdom is unerring, or to censure His way, while yet we stand at the entrance of it. Only wait! If an ignorant person should see the refiner cast the gold into the fire, and bury it with ashes, he would, unless he waited, imagine the precious metal to be lost. If one who was born and grew up on the ocean, should on the land observe how the husbandman casts his grain, which he has hitherto kept so carefully, into the ground and covers it with earth, he would, unless he waited, condemn the foolish peasant. Yet which of these is at fault, and on whose side is the folly? And if the countryman waits through the autumn and entire winter, and is not made solicitous by the storms and tempests, frosts and ice, so it becomes you to wait for His results, whose field is the world, and whose harvest are the souls of all His creatures. You complain that the church is scattered and bitterly afflicted, her noblest members persecuted and scourged, and that the pastors are banished to remotest regions. But only wait. Do not look at things as they now are, but forward to what shall grow out of them. Consider that Israel, without the prospect of the resurrection, were obliged to keep silence and resign themselves to patience, however often the counsels of Jehovah were marvellous in their eyes. Must not we, then, who know that the dead shall rise again, take shame to ourselves if our faith in Him wavers, who is excellent in working? Remember Abraham, who indulged not in gloomy forebodings, but raised himself above human weakness, and trusted all things to the power and wisdom of God. That was indeed a dark counsel when God required the sacrifice of his son: Can God require this bloody human sacrifice? require of a father the sacrifice of his own beloved child? Can He require the son on whose life depends the fulfilment of all his promises? Thus he might have queried, yet he questioned nothing of all this, but he believed and trusted where he could not see, for he knew that he was trusting the Lord Almighty. Had Abraham indulged in gloomy apprehensions as ye do now, it had gone ill with him; but not doing this, he received all things which were promised him.

“And this we likewise shall receive here or hereafter. I ask not how? for the ways I leave to God. If the enigma is explained in this world, I shall thank God, but if not, I shall wait till the life to come. Superlative good is found alone in heaven. All below is unstable and changeable. Here is our pilgrimage, but there is our fatherland and home.”

Chrysostom then calls the attention of his friends to the separate traces of good which had already grown out of those otherwise dark events. Many a one who heretofore had been seemingly indifferent, and wholly lukewarm and stupid, was reawakened to a pious zeal. Many also who formerly seemed to take delight only in the theatre and the race-course, returned with good confessions again to the church. Divine worship in many places was no longer as it had been, but again exhibited warmth, zeal, and life; and where it could no more be held in the house of God, the different churches, even without the guidance of pastors, converted the hills, forests, and deserts into temples of praise. Truly, he says, “the time of the martys has come again. Men, women, and even youth once more have endured tortures rather than yield consent to wrong. And on the other hand, the hearts of many have become manifest. O how many who a few years since wore the mask of piety and appeared to be somewhat, now stand forth in their own nakedness. The times have been as a furnace, the chaff is consumed, the dross is separated, but the precious metal has only become the more glorious.”

“O the cross,” he then says, “the cross of Christ. It has still the same power and efficacy as four hundred years ago. To the Jews, indeed, it remains a stumbling-block, and to the heathen foolishness, but to them that are called, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Why then will we mourn and sigh? With the apostle let us rejoice in the cross. It brings a blessing even here; what will it do in that day? When all the generations of earth shall be assembled before him, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken, the billows roar, and the angel host descend, and when the prophets and apostles and all the saints shall be gathered together, then the Lord will come bearing the radiant cross. The sun will grow dim, and the moon lose its brightness when ‘the sign of the Son of Man’ shall appear. O the glory of sufferings! O the splendor of the cross! Thou wilt stand in heaven outshining the stars.”

We now draw near his end. Both by word and deed he has evinced to us his preparedness for his final summons.

Having survived the sufferings of the winter 405–6, he found himself subsequently more comfortable. He had by degrees learned suitably to protect himself against the climate of this region. The want of a bath, which formerly seemed to him indispensable, and over whose absence he at first made frequent complaint, he afterwards supposed operated beneficially. His friends provided him with various means for the alleviation, as they hoped, of his complaints. From Syncletia he received a stomach plaster which greatly mitigated the sufferings he usually experienced in the winter. He also praises a costly balsam “which Carteria had prepared for him with her own hands, and had put up so carefully that, notwithstanding the great distance, it was perfectly, fresh when it reached him.” In a cheerful and spirited letter to Olympias, whom, when it was possible, he ever sought to console with good tidings, he thus, in the winter of 407, writes:—

“Give yourself no uneasiness on account of the winter, my stomach complaint, or the Isaurians. The winter, indeed, is such as might be expected in Armenia, yet having adopted suitable precautions for self-protection, it has not much injured my health. I keep a fire burning, enclose the room I live in on all sides, cover myself up with a multitude of clothes, and do not go out. This is indeed truly irksome, but it must be borne, for, so sure as I expose myself to the air, I have to suffer for it.” He then urges her in turn to take good care of her health, and to consult with skilful physicians, and gently reproves her for desiring her release from this world. “It is not in vain that we suffer, and suffer long, since it brings forth its fruit. Job was glorified through his sufferings. Timothy suffered, and Paul, who even raised the dead, did not check his malady, but gave him up to its purifying efficacy. Paul himself, indeed, entreated the Lord thrice that he might be delivered from the thorn in his flesh, but when his request was not granted, and he had learned the benefits of suffering, he was not only resigned, but he rejoiced in what had happened. Imagine not, when obliged to stay at home and keep your bed, that you are living to no purpose. If, however, our separation makes you desponding, then wait for its end.” …

He then speaks as if he expected to be released again from exile, and that he should live to see a happy issue to the mournful strifes in the church.

The ground of this hope was in the efforts put forth by the bishop of Rome and the united clergy of the West, with the countenance also of Honorius, their Emperor. These interceded for him; Honorius wrote to his brother an earnest and severe letter, and the Roman bishop insisted on a general council for the investigation and adjustment of the matter. A monk, also, who lived by himself at Mount Sinai, but who enjoyed great repute, the excellent and enlightened Nilus, who deserved to be more widely known, declared openly and boldly for Chrysostom. When the Emperor Arcadius, alarmed at the violent storms and earthquakes which had visited the city, sent, in his anxiety, to Nilus that he might offer supplications for the capital, he returned this answer:—

“How can you hope to see Constantinople delivered from earthquakes and fires from heaven while so many crimes are there committed, and vice reigns with impunity, and the pillar of the church, the light of truth, the messenger of Christ, the bishop John, is banished from the place! How can you hope that I should pray for a city stricken with the wrath of God, while the profligacy with which the laws are trampled under foot surpasses all conception.

But all these efforts not only proved unavailing, but rather incensed the dominant party, to whom also the renown which the bishop still enjoyed in his exile gave offence. The decision was formed in Constantinople to remove Chrysostom still further off, and away from all connection with the Christian world.

In the summer of 407 he appears to have had an account of this plan, and in a letter to the bishop of Rome—probably the last which he wrote—in which he thanks him for his endeavors, he thus speaks:—

“If I should be banished to a still more remote and desolate region, I shall carry with me no small consolation in your love.”

Soon after this, in August, notice came that he should be removed to the town of Pityus, on the north-east coast of the Black Sea, at the foot of Mount Caucasus, in a desolate region at the extreme limits of the Roman Empire. Two Roman soldiers made their appearance and led him away. One of them treated him kindly, the other was coarse and brutal, and augmented the hardship of his lot, according to orders which he professed to have received.

It was plain to be foreseen that the bishop could not endure the toilsome journey, and we therefore conjecture that their real design was to rid him from the earth.

Chrysostom did not reach Pityus. His delicate and worn-out frame sank under the hardships of the journey. He was only borne about six miles beyond Comana (the modern Alcaons), in the province of Pontus. There he passed the night of the thirteenth of September, in the church of St. Basiliscus. He seems to have had some presentiment of the nearness of death. In a vision of the night, the saint of the church appeared to him and said: be of good comfort, my brother, to-morrow we shall be together.

On the following morning, he entreated for permission to tarry there till noon, but in vain. After dragging himself along for more than an hour, the soldiers, seeing he could go no further, carried him back to the church. Happy in reaching it once more, he desired to partake of the holy supper, and, changing his garments for this purpose, he distributed his travelling dress and what else he had among those who were present. After receiving the sacrament, he engaged in prayer, and while breathing his last, concluded with the words which had so often given him joy in life—Thanks be to God for all things.

This was on the fourteenth of September, 407. Soon after, his body was laid to rest near the remains of St. Basiliscus.

What fortune did his name, his cause, and his church subsequently meet with? In the eyes of the world even, his enemies were guilty of wrongdoing. The injustice, however, which he suffered, which even the Emperor had done him, was afterwards atoned for by the Emperor’s son. Arcadius died eight months after Chrysostom. Thirty years later, his son, Theodosius II. and the bishop Proclus brought the remains of Chrysostom, with the greatest honors, from Asia Minor to Constantinople. On the twenty-seventh of January, 438, Theodosius knelt down on his coffin and entreated forgiveness of the sainted spirit for the injustice which his parents, and especially his mother, had done him. His remains were interred in the “Church of the Apostles.” The Johannites were now reconciled and returned again to the communion of the church. At a later period, Chrysostom was received by the Catholic church into the number of the “saints,” and from that time onward, the twenty-seventh of January, has borne his name in our calendar.








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