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Meditations from st. Chrysostom on the study of the word of God, literally tr. by R. King

by John (st, Chrysostom.)


A.D. 398.

No. I.



p. 736. Ed. Bened. Parii, 1718.

The parable about Lazarus has afforded us, both rich and poor, no ordinary benefit,; for it has taught the one class to bear their poverty with contentment, and has shewn the others that they must not be proud of their riches: nay, further, it has proved to us, from the real circumstances of the case, that the most miserable of all men is he who lives in the enjoyment of luxury, and will share it with none besides. Now then, let us handle the same subject once more to-day: for they who are employed in mines, wherever they see many veins of gold, dig there again, and never leave off, until they have extracted all that they can find. Return we then to the point at which we ended our discourse on a former occasion, to resume the subject at the same place again. It were possible, indeed, to have expounded this whole parable to you in a single day: but our object is not to have a great deal spoken, before leaving this place, but rather that you should take in accurately, and secure possession of, what is said; that by retaining it in this way, you may receive some spiritual improvement. For when the fond mother wishes to bring her suckling child to the use of solid food, if she pour much together into its mouth, she gains nothing by it, when the little one sputters out what is given it, and wets the pinafore upon its bosom: but if she pour gently and by degrees, it swallows the food given without any trouble. Now in order that you too may not reject what is given you, we have not inclined the cup of doctrine to you too hastily, but have divided our matter into portions for several days, affording you in these intervening days an opportunity of resting after what you have heard, that the truths communicated to you may be safely laid up in the storehouse of your affections, and that you may receive what is afterwards to be said with a fresh and vigorous spirit. For this purpose too it is, that we frequently tell you, many days before, the subject of the discourses that are to be delivered, that in the days between, you may take the Book, and read the entire passage, and observe what is expressed, and what is understood, so as to have your mind better prepared for hearing what is to be spoken after. And this is what I am always advising you, and will never cease advising you, to do, namely, not merely to give your attention to what is said here, but also, when you are at home, to be constantly occupied with the reading of the Divine Scriptures. This moreover is what I have never omitted to urge upon those that have conversed with me in private. For let no one address me in that frigid language, (language that deserves to be strongly condemned,) saying, "I am tied to the court-house, I have city business to attend to, I have to look after my trade, I have a wife, I am rearing up children, I am head of a family, I am a man of the world: it is not my business to be reading the Scriptures: that belongs rather to them who have bid farewell to the world, who have settled on mountain tops, who spend this kind of life continually." What say you, my friend? Is it no business of yours to give attention to the Scriptures, because you are distracted with a thousand cares? Yours then, indeed, it is, more than theirs.* For they are not so much in need of assistance from the Divine Scriptures, as persons who move in the thick of urgent business. For the monks who have separated themselves from public life, and the troubles connected with it, and have fixed their abodes in the desert, and have no intercourse with any one, but meditate with security in the calm of that tranquility,—they, lying, as it were, in port, enjoy considerable safety; but we who are tossed, as it were, on the open sea, and are subject to the compulsion of sins unnumbered, are ever continually and perpetually in want of consolation from the Scriptures. They sit far from the battle, wherefore they receive not many wounds; but you stand continually in the forefront of the fight, and are constantly receiving strokes, so that you have the more need of medical aid. For there is the wife provoking, and a son giving trouble, and a servant exciting one to passion, and an enemy plotting, and an acquaintance envying, and a neighbour harassing, and a fellowsoldier tripping one up; and often too, a judge threatening, and poverty pinching, and loss of friends to afflict one; and prosperity elates, and adversity depresses. And there are many circumstances to furnish inevitable occasions of anger,

* The first anchorets were driven to the deserts to escape from persecution: and some of them became so much attached to the sequestered life they so led, and the quiet it afforded to religious persons, as to be unwilling to relinquish its attractions when the persecution abated; thinking that it furnished them with better facilities for walking faithfully with God than a more ordinary sort of life. Of such persons, Chrysostom says, that they, if any, had less need than other people, of constant reading of the Scriptures. It were, however, safer to say, that if any need constant refreshment and repeated counsels from the Word of God more than others, it is they who are most in the way of the temptations of the world from constant intercourse with it. A rural life certainly exposes many to less pressure of temptations than one spent in a city, as any person who has compared the two, may readily admit. Chrysostom evidently did not think the laity less in need than the clergy of acquaintance with the contents of God's Holy Word, as a means of regulating their daily walk in life, so as that it should be happy for themselves, and pleasing to Him.

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