Newsletter of the District
on the Gospel of Matthew
1, 2. "And Jesus went out from the temple, and departed. And
His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.
And He answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things?
Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon
another, that shall not be thrown down."
as He said, "Your house is left desolate," and had previously
forewarned them of many grievous things; therefore the disciples
having heard these things, as though marvelling at it, came unto
Him, showing the beauty of the temple, and wondering, if so much
beauty was to be destroyed, and materials so costly, and variety
of workmanship past utterance; He no longer thenceforth talks to
them of desolation merely, but foretells an entire destruction.
"See ye not all these things," saith He, and do ye marvel,
and are ye amazed? "There shall not remain one stone upon
another." How then did it remain? one may say. But what is
this? For neither so hath the prediction fallen to the ground.
For He said these things either indicating its entire desolation,
or at that spot where He was. For there are parts of it destroyed
unto the foundations.
with its we would say another thing also, that from what hath been
done, even the most contentious ought to believe concerning the
remains, that they are utterly to be destroyed.
He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately,
saying, Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the
sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
they come unto Him privately, as it was of such matters they meant
to inquire. For they were in travail to know the day of His coming,
because of their eager desire to behold that glory, which is the
cause of countless blessings. And these two things do they ask
him, when shall these things be? that is, the overthrow of the temple;
and, what is the sign of thy coming? But Luke saith, the question
was one concerning Jerusalem, as though they were supposing that
then is His coming. And Mark saith, that neither did all of them
ask concerning the end of Jerusalem, but Peter and John, as having
greater freedom of speech. What then saith He? "Take heed
that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying,
I am Christ, and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars
and rumors of wars. See that ye be not troubled; for all these
things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."
For since they
felt as being told of vengeance falling on others when hearing of
that which was to be brought upon Jerusalem and as though they were
to be out of the turmoils, and were dreaming of good things only,
and looked for these to befall them quite immediately; for this
cause He again foretells to them grievous things, making them earnest,
and commanding them on two grounds to watch, so as neither to be
seduced by the deceit of them that would beguile them, nor to be
overpowered by the violence of ills that should overtake them.
For the war,
saith He, shall be twofold that of the deceivers, and that of the
enemies, but the former far more grievous, as coming upon them in
the confusion and turmoils, and when men were terrified and troubled.
For indeed great was the storm then, when the Roman power was beginning
to flourish, and cities were taken, and camps and weapons were set
in motion, and many were readily believed.
But of wars
in Jerusalem is He speaking; for it is not surely of those without,
and everywhere in the world; for what did they care for these?
And besides, He would thus say nothing new, if He were speaking
of the calamities of the world at large, which are happening always.
For before this, were wars, and tumults, and fightings; but He speaks
of the Jewish wars coming upon them at no great distance, for henceforth
the Roman arms were a matter of anxiety. Since then these things
also were sufficient to confound them, He foretells them all.
Then to show
that He Himself also will assail the Jews with them, and war on
them, He speaks not of battles only, but also of plagues sent from
God, famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, showing that the
wars also He Himself permitted to come upon them, and that these
things do not happen for no purpose according to what has been before
the accustomed course of things amongst men, but proceed from the
wrath on high.
saith, they shall come not by themselves or at once, but with signs.
For that the Jews may not say, that they who then believed were
the authors of these evils, therefore hath He told them also of
the cause of their coming upon them. "For verily I say unto
you," He said before, "all these things shall come upon
this generation," having made mention of the stain of blood
Then lest on
hearing of the showers of evils, they should suppose the gospel
to be broken through, He added, "See, be not troubled, for
all things must come to pass," i.e. which I foretold, and the
approach of the temptations will set aside none of the things which
I have said; but there shall indeed be tumults and confusion, but
nothing shall shake my predictions.
He had said to the Jews, "Ye shall not see me, till ye shall
say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord;" and
the disciples supposed that together with the destruction would
be the end also; to set right this secret thought of theirs, He
said, "But the end is not yet." For that they did suspect
even as I said, you may learn from their question. For, what did
they ask? When shall these things be? i.e. when shall Jerusalem
be destroyed? And what is the sign of Thy coming, and of the end
of the world?
But He answered
nothing directly to this question, but first speaks of those other
things that are urgent, and which it was needful for them to learn
first. For neither concerning Jerusalem straightway, nor of His
own second coming, did He speak, but touching the ills that were
to meet them at the doors. Wherefore also He makes them earnest
in their exertions, by saying, "Take heed that no man deceive
you; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ."
when He hath roused them to listen about these things (for, "take
heed," saith He, "that no man deceive you"); and
having made them energetic, and prepared them to be watchful, and
hath spoken first of the false Christs, then He speaks of the ills
of Jerusalem, assuring them ever by the things already past, foolish
and contentious though they were, of those which were yet to come.
2. But by
"wars and rumors of wars," He meaneth, what I before said,
the troubles coming upon them. After this, because, as I have already
said, they supposed after that war the end would come, see how He
warns them, saying, "But the end is not yet. For nation,"
He saith, "shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Of the preludes to the ills of the Jews doth He speak. "All
these are the beginning of sorrows, "that is, of those that
befall them. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted,
and shall kill you."
In good season
did He introduce their ills, having a consolation from the common
miseries; and not in this way only, but also by His adding, that
it is "for my name's sake. For ye shall be hated," He
saith, "of all men for my name's sake. Then shall many be
offended, and shall betray one another, and many false Christs and
false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many. And because
iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; but he that
shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
This is the
greater evil, when the war is intestine too, for there were many
false brethren. Seest thou the war to be threefold? from the deceivers,
from the enemies, from the false brethren. See Paul too lamenting
over the same things, and saying, "Without were fightings,
within were fears;" and, "perils among false brethren,"
and again, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers,
transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ."
again, what is more grievous than all, they shall not have so much
as the consolation from love. Then indicating, that these things
will in no degree harm the noble and the firm, He saith, Fear not,
neither be troubled. For if ye show forth the patience that becomes
you, the dangers will not prevail over you. And it is a plain proof
of this, that the word shall surely be preached everywhere in the
world, so much shall ye be above the things that alarm you. For,
that they may not say, how then shall we live? He said more, Ye
shall both live and preach everywhere. Therefore He added moreover,
"And this gospel shall be preached in the whole world for a
witness to all nations, and then shall the end come," of the
downfall of Jerusalem.
For in proof
that He meant this, and that before the taking of Jerusalem the
gospel was preached, hear what Paul saith, "Their sound went
into all the earth;" and again, "The gospel which was
preached to every creature which is under Heaven." And seest
thou him running from Jerusalem unto Spain ? And if one took so
large a portion, consider what the rest also wrought. For writing
to others also, Paul again saith con-coming the gospel, that "it
is bringing forth fruit, and growing up in every creature which
is under Heaven."
But what meaneth,
"For a witness to all nations?" For as much as though
it was everywhere preached, yet it was not everywhere believed.
It was for a witness, He saith, to them that were disbelieving,
that is, for conviction, for accusation, for a testimony; for they
that believed will bear witness against them that believed not,
and will condemn them. And for this cause, after the gospel is
preached in every part of the world, Jerusalem is destroyed, that
they may not have so much as a shadow of an excuse for their perverseness.
For they that saw His power shine throughout every place, and in
an instant take the world captive, what excuse could they then have
for continuing in the same perverseness? For in proof that it was
everywhere preached at that time, hear what Paul saith, "of
the gospel which was preached to every creature which is under Heaven."
is a very great sign of Christ's power, that in twenty or at most
thirty years the word had reached the ends of the world. "After
this therefore," saith He, "shall come the end of Jerusalem."
For that He intimates this was manifested by what follows.
For He brought
in also a prophecy, to confirm their desolation, saying, "But
when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel
the prophet, standing in the holy place, let him that readeth understand."
He referred them to Daniel. And by "abomination" He meaneth
the statue of him who then took the city, which he who desolated
the city and the temple placed within the temple, wherefore Christ
calleth it, "of desolation." Moreover, in order that
they might learn that these things will be while some of them are
alive, therefore He said, "When ye see the abomination of desolation."
one may most marvel at Christ's power, and their courage, for that
they preached in such times, in which most especially the Jewish
state was warred against, in which most especially men regarded
them as movers of sedition, when Caesar commanded all of them to
be driven away. And the result was the same as if any one (when
the sea was stirred up on every side, and darkness was filling all
the air, and successive shipwrecks taking place, and when all their
fellow-sailors were at strife above, and monsters were rising up
from beneath, and with the waves devouring the mariners, and thunderbolts
falling, and their being pirates, and those in the vessel plotting
one against another), were to command men inexperienced in sailing,
and who had not so much as seen the sea to sit at the rudder, and
to guide and fight the vessel, and when an immense fleet was coming
against them with a great array, making use of a single bark, with
her crew in this disturbed state, to sink and subdue the fleet.
For indeed by the heathens they were hated as Jews, and by the Jews
were stoned, as waging war against their laws; and nowhere could
Thus were all
things, precipices, and reefs, and rocks, the things in the cities,
the things in the fields, the things in the houses, and every single
person was at war with them; generals and rulers, and private persons,
and all nations, and all people, and a turmoil which cannot be set
forth by words. For the Jewish race was exceedingly detestable
to the government of the Romans, as having occasioned them endless
trouble; and not even from this did the preaching of the word take
hurt; but the city was stormed and set on fire, and involved its
inhabitants in countless evils; but the apostles that came from
thence, introducing new laws, prevailed even over the Romans.
O strange and
wonderful facts! Countless myriads of Jews did the Romans then
subdue, and they did not prevail over twelve men fighting against
them naked and unarmed. What language can set forth this miracle?
For they that teach need to have these two things, to be worthy
of credit, and to be beloved by them whom they are instructing;
and together with these, and besides them, that their sayings should
be easy of reception, and the time should be free from trouble and
But then were
all the contraries to these. For while they did not seem worthy
of credit, they were withdrawing from such as did seem worthy of
it, those who had been deceived by them. So far from being loved,
they were even hated, and were taking men away from what they loved,
both habits, and hereditary customs, and laws.
injunctions had great difficulty; but the things, from which they
were withdrawing men, much pleasure. And many were the perils,
many the deaths, both themselves and they that obeyed them underwent,
and together with all this, the time also occasioned them much difficulty,
teeming with wars, tumults, disturbance, so that, even if there
had been none of the things we have mentioned, it would have quite
thrown all things into confusion.
We have good
occasion to say, "Who shall tell the mighty works of the Lord,
and make all His praises to be heard. "For if his own people
amid signs hearkened not to Moses, because of the clay only, and
the bricks; who persuaded these that every day were beaten and slain,
and were suffering incurable evils, to leave a quiet life, and to
prefer thereto this which was teeming with blood and death, and
that when they who preached it were strangers to them, and very
hostile in every way? For I say not unto nations and cities and
people, but into a small house let one bring in him that is hated
of all that are in the house, and by him endeavor to bring them
away from those whom they love, from father, and wife, and child,
will he not surely be seen torn in pieces, before he hath opened
his mouth? And if there be added moreover a tumult and strife of
husband and wife in the house, will they not stone him to death
before he steps on the threshold? And if he also be one whom they
may readily despise, and who enjoins galling things, and commands
them who are living in luxury to practise self restraint, and together
with this the conflict be against those who are far more in numbers
and who excel him, is it not quite manifest that he will be utterly
destroyed? Yet nevertheless, this, which is impossible to be done
in one house, this hath Christ accomplished in all the world, through
precipices and furnaces, and ravines, and rocks, and land and sea
at war with Him, bringing in the healers of the world.
And if thou
art minded to learn these things more distinctly, I mean, the famines,
the pestilences, the earthquakes, the other calamities, peruse the
history about these things composed by Josephus, and thou wilt know
all accurately. Therefore Himself too said, "Be not troubled,
for all must be;" and, "He that endureth to the end, the
same shall be saved;" and, "The gospel shall surely be
preached in all the world." For when weakened and faint at
the fear of what had been said, He braces them up by saying, Though
ten thousand things be done, the gospel must be preached in every
part of the world, and then shall the end come.
4. Seest thou
in what a state things were then, and how manifold was the war?
And this is the beginning, when each of the things to be effected
most required quiet. In what state then were they? for nothing
hinders us from resuming the same things again. The first war was
that of the deceivers; "For there shall come," He saith,
"false Christs and false prophets:" the second, that of
the Romans, "For ye shall hear," He saith, "of wars:"
the third, that which bringeth on the "famines:" the fourth,
"the pestilences" and "the earthquakes:" the
fifth, "they shall deliver you into afflictions:" the
sixth, "ye shall be hated of all men:" the seventh, "They
shall betray one another, and hate one another" (an intestine
war doth He here make known); then, "false Christs," and
false brethren; then, "the love of the most shall wax cold,"
which is the cause of all the ills.
numberless kinds of war, new and strange? Yet nevertheless in the
midst of these things, and much more (for with the intestine wars
was mingled also that of kinsmen), the gospel prevailed over the
whole earth. "For the gospel," He saith, "shall
be preached in the whole world."
are they who set up the power of a nativity and the cycle of times
against the doctrines of the church? For who has ever recorded
that another Christ appeared; that such a thing took place? Although
they falsely affirm other things, that ten myriads of years passed,
yet this they cannot even feign. Of what kind of cycle then would
ye speak? For there was never another Sodom, nor another Gomorrah,
nor another flood. How long do ye trifle, talking of a cycle and
How then, it
is said, do many of the things they say come to pass? Because thou
hast bereaved thyself of the help God bestows, and didst betray
thyself, and didst place thyself without His providence; therefore
doth the evil spirit turn and twist about thy matters as he will.
But not so
among the saints, or rather not even amongst us sinners, who utterly
despise it. For although our practice is beyond endurance, yet
because by God's grace we cling with much exactness to the doctrines
of the truth, we are above the malice of the evil spirits.
what is a nativity? nothing else than injustice, and confusion,
and that all things are borne along at random; or rather not at
random only; but more than this, with folly.
there is not any nativity, whence is such a one rich? whence is
such a one poor?"
I know not:
for in this way I will for a time reason with thee, instructing
thee not to be curious about all things; neither in consequence
of this to go on at random and rashly. For neither because thou
art ignorant of this, oughtest thou to feign the things that are
not. It is better to be ignorant well, than to learn ill. For
he that knoweth not the cause, will come soon to the right one;
but he who because he does not know the real cause, feigns one that
is untrue, will not be able easily to receive the real; but he needs
more both of labors and toil, in order to take away the former.
For indeed on a tablet, if it have been wiped smooth, any one may
easily write what he will, but when it is written upon, no longer
in the same way, for we must first wipe out what has been ill written.
And amongst physicians again, he that applies nothing, is far better
than he that applies hurtful things; and he who builds unsoundly,
is worse than he who cloth not so much as build at all; like as
the land is far better that bears nothing, than that which bears
Let us not
then be impatient to learn all things, but let us endure to be even
ignorant of some things, that when we have found a teacher, we may
not afford him double toil. Or rather many oftentimes have remained
even incurably diseased, by carelessly entangling themselves in
evil opinions. For neither is the toil the same to pluck up first
what hath taken root amiss, and then to sow, as to plant a clear
ground. For in that case, he must overthrow first, and then put
in other things; but in this, the hearing is ready.
is such a one rich? I will say, now; many acquire wealth, by God's
gift; and many by His permission. For this is the short and simple
it is said, doth He make the whoremongers to be rich, and the adulterers,
and him that hath abused himself with mankind, and him that hath
made a bad use of his possessions? He doth not make them, but permits
them to be rich; and great is the difference, and quite infinite
between making and permitting. But wherefore doth He suffer it
at all? Because it is not yet the time for judgment, that every
one may receive according to his merits.
For what more
worthless than that rich man, who giveth not to Lazarus so much
as of his crumbs? Nevertheless, he was more wretched than all,
for he came to be possessed not even of a drop of water, and for
this very cause most especially, that being rich he was cruel.
For if there are two wicked men, who have not had the same portion
here, but one in wealth, the other in poverty, they will not be
similarly punished there, but the wealthier more grievously.
5. Dost thou
not see at least even this man, suffering more fearfully because
he had "received his good things?" Do thou also therefore,
when thou seest in prosperity one who is become rich by injustice,
groan, weep; for indeed this wealth is to him an addition of punishment.
For like as they who sin much, and are not minded to repent, treasure
up to themselves a treasure of wrath; even so they, who, besides
not being punished, are even enjoying prosperity, will undergo the
And the proof
of this, if thou wilt, I will show thee, not from the things to
come only, but also from the present life. For the blessed David,
when he sinned that sin of Bathsheba, and was convicted by the prophet,
for this cause most of all was he more severely reproved, that even
when he had enjoyed such security, he was like this. Hear at least
God upbraiding him with this especially. "Did not I anoint
thee for a king, and delivered thee from the hand of Saul, and give
thee all that pertained to thy master, and all the house of Israel
and Judah, and if it had been little for thee, I would have added
thus and thus; and wherefore hast thou done that which was evil
in my sight? "For not for all sins are there the same punishments,
but many and diverse, according to the times, according to the persons,
according to their rank, according to their understanding, according
to other things besides. And that what I say may be more clear,
let one sin be set forth, fornication; and mark how many different
punishments I find not from myself, but from the divine Scriptures.
Did any one commit fornication before the law, he is differently
punished; and this Paul showeth, "For as many as have sinned
without law, shall also perish without law." Did any one commit
fornication after the law? He shall suffer more grievous things.
"For as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the
law." Did any one commit fornication being a priest, he receives
from his dignity a very great addition to his punishment. So for
this cause, whereas the other women were slain for fornication,
the daughters of the priests were burnt; the lawgiver showing the
more amply, how great punishment await the priest if he commits
this sin. For if on the daughter he inflicts a greater punishment,
because of her being a priest's daughter, much more on the man himself
who bears the priest's office. Was fornication committed with any
violence? she is even freed from punishment. Did One play the harlot
being rich, and another being poor? Here again also is a difference.
And this is evident from what we have said before concerning David.
as any one guilty of fornication after Christ's coming? Should
he depart uninitiated, he will suffer a punishment more sore than
all those. Was any guilty of fornication after the layer? in this
case not even a consolation is left for the sin any more. And this
selfsame thing Paul declared when he said, "He that despised
Moses' law dieth without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of
how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be counted worthy,
who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the
blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and hath done despite to
the grace of the Spirit? Hath any been guilty of fornication, bearing
the priest's office now? this above all is the crown of the evil
of one sin how many different forms? one that before the law, another
that after the law, another that of him who bears the priest's office;
that of the rich woman, and that of the poor woman, of her that
is a catechumen. and of the believing woman, of the daughter of
And from the
knowledge again great is the difference; "For he which knew
his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."
And to sin after examples bringeth greater vengeance. Therefore
He saith, "But ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterwards,"
though ye had had the advantage of much care. Therefore He upbraids
Jerusalem likewise with this saying, "How often would I have
gathered thy children together, and ye would not!"
And to sin
being in luxury, this is shown by the history of Lazarus. And from
the place also the sin becomes more grievous, which He Himself indicated
when He said, "Between the temple and the altar."
And from the
equality of the offenses themselves, "It is not marvellous
if one be taken stealing;" and again, "Thou didst slay
thy sons and thy daughters; this is beyond all thy whoredoms, and
thine abominations." And from the persons again: "If
one man sin against another, they shall pray for him; but if he
sin against God, who shall entreat for him ?"
And when any
one surpasses in negligence those who are far inferior; wherewith
in Ezekiel He doth charge them, saying, "Not even according
to the judgments of the nations hast thou done."
And when one
is not sobered even by the examples of others, "She saw her
sister," it is said, "and justified her."
And when one
has had the advantage of more abundant care; "For if,"
He saith, "these mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would have repented long ago; but it shall be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon than for that city."
perfect exactness, and that all for the same sins are not paying
the same penalty? For moreover when we have had the benefit of
long-suffering, and profit nothing, we shall endure worse things.
And this Paul shows, where he says, "But after thy hardness
and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up for thyself wrath."
these things, let us not be offended, neither let us be confounded
at any of the things that happen, nor bring in upon us the storm
of thought, but giving place to God's providence, let us give heed
to virtue, and flee vice, that we may also attain to the good things
to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom and with whom be glory unto the Father together with the
Holy Spirit, now and always, and world without end. Amen.