Continuing St. John Chrysostom
Here the sermon of St John Chrysostom dealing with the subject of humility is continued from the last post:
Let us beware therefore of saying anything good about ourselves, for this renders us both odious with men and abominable to God. For this reason, the greater the good works we do, the less let us say of ourselves; this being the way to reap the greatest glory both with men and with God. Or rather, not only glory from God, but a reward, yes, a great recompense. Therefore, do not demand a reward that you may receive a reward. Confess yourself to be saved by grace, that He may profess Himself a debtor to you; and not for your good works only, but also for such rightness of mind. For when we do good works, we have Him debtor for our good works only; but when we do not so much as think we have done any good work, then also for this disposition itself. It is even more for this disposition, than for the other things, so that this is equivalent to our good works. For should the humble disposition be absent, then the works shall appear to be great. For in the same way, we too, if we have servants, most approve them when, after having performed all their service with good will, they do not think they have done anything great. Therefore, if you would make your good deeds great, do not think them to be great, and then they will be great.
It was in this way that the centurion also said, “I am not fit that thou shouldest enter under my roof;” (Matt. 8:8) because of this, he became worthy, and was “marveled at” above all Jews. In this manner also Paul said, “I am not meet to be called an apostle;” (ICor. 15:9) because of this he became even first of all. So likewise John: “I am not meet to loose the latchet of His shoe;” (Matt. 3:11) because of this he was the “friend of the Bridegroom,” (John 3:29) and the hand which he affirmed to be unworthy to touch His shoes, this did Christ draw unto His own head. So Peter too said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man;” (Luke 5:8) because of this he became a foundation of the Church.
For nothing is so acceptable to God as to number one’s self with the last. This is a first principle of all practical wisdom. For he that is humbled, and bruised in heart, will not be vainglorious, will not be wrathful, will not envy his neighbor, will not harbor any other passion. For neither shall we be able to lift a bruised hand high up, though we strive ten thousand times. If therefore we were thus to bruise our heart likewise, though it were stirred by ten thousand swelling passions, it could not be lifted up, no, not ever so little. For if a worldly man, by mourning over the loss things pertaining to this life, drives out all the diseases of his soul, much more will he, who mourns for sins, enjoy the blessing of self-restraint.
“But who,” one may say, “will be able thus to bruise his own heart?” Listen to David, who became illustrious primarily because of this, and behold the contrition of his soul. How after ten thousand good works, and when he was on the point of being deprived of country, and home, and life itself, at the very season of his calamity, seeing a vile and outcast common soldier trample on the turn of his fortunes and revile him; so far from reviling him again, he utterly forbid one of his captains, who was desirous to have slain him, saying, “Let him alone, for the Lord hath bidden him.” (IISam. 16:11) And again, when the priests desired to carry about the ark of God with him, he did not permit it; but what did he say? “Let me set it down in the temple, and if God deliver me from the dangers that are before me, I shall see the beauty thereof; but if He says to me, I have no delight in you, behold, here am I, let Him do to me as seems good to Him.” (IISam. 15:25-6) And that which was done with regard to Saul, again and again, what excellence of self-restraint does it not show? Yes, for he even surpassed the old law, and came near to the apostolic injunctions. For this cause he bore with contentedness all that came from the Lord’s hands; not contending against what befell him, but aiming at one object alone, namely, in everything to obey, and follow the laws set by Him. And when after so many noble deeds on his part, he saw the tyrant, the parricide, the murderer of his own brother, that injurious, that frenzied one, possessing in his stead his own kingdom, not even so was he offended. But “if this please God,” he said, “that I should be chased, and wander, and flee, and that he should be in honor, I acquiesce, and accept it, and do thank God for His many afflictions.” Not like many of the shameless and impudent ones, who when they have not done, no not the least part of his good works, yet if they see any in prosperity, and themselves enduring a little discouragement, ruin their own souls by ten thousand blasphemies. But David was not such an one; rather he showed forth all modesty. Therefore God also said, “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart.” (IISam. 16:10)
Such a spirit as this let us also acquire, and whatever we may suffer we shall bear it easily, and before the Kingdom, we shall reap here the gain accruing from lowliness of mind. Thus the Lord said, “learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) Therefore in order that we may enjoy rest both here and hereafter, let us with great diligence implant in our souls the mother of all things that are good, I mean humility. For thus we shall be enabled both to pass over the sea of this life without waves, and to end our voyage in that calm harbor hereafter; by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.”