15 MARCH 1873, Page 18


Ma. STEPHENS has produced a work of permanent interest and value in this Life and Times of St. Chrysostom. He is not, indeed, free from the fault which seems almost inseparable from the office of biographer, the incapacity of putting himself in the position of those who disliked and opposed his hero. Whatever we may think of the virtues and the genius of Chrysostom, it is impossible but that the prelates who brought about his downfall should have had some way of justifying their conduct to the world and to themselves. Posterity has condemned them with unanimous voice, but it is incredible that the patriarch of a great see, backed by a majority of the bishops of at least one province, should have had no motives for their conduct but vulgar jealousy or unreason- ing dislike. If Mr. Stephens could have contrived to give us their view of the question, he would have given us a chapter not less interesting than any that we find in this volmme. Another defect is, that in analysing, as he does, with a very elaborate care, separate homilies and treatises, he sometimes burdens his pages with matter of but little interest, while, he fails to give his readers a complete view of the preacher's general attitude of mind. And he permits an occasional carelessness of expression which would have been better avoided. So we hear (p. 276) of " unravelling a roll," of " hesitating how to act " (p. 346), of " inveterate enemy " (p. 124), &c. When we have added that occasionally we notice in the style a not very felicitous imitation of Gibbon, we have finished our fault-finding.

There is much in the life of Chrysostom, as there is in that of not a few of the great divines of the early Church, which presents

• St. Chrysastom, Ms Life and Times: a Sketch of the Church and the Empire in the Fourth Century. By Rev. W. E. W. t3tephena, LA. London : John Murray. 1872.

a remarkable contrast to the orderly progress by which men now advance to ecclesiastical eminence. Though the son of a Christian mother, he had reached years of maturity before receiving baptism. Mr. Stephens makes the not improbable conjecture that he was unwilling to receive it at the hands of an Arian bishop, and Arian bishops continued for many years to preside over the Church of Antioch ; some orthodox priest might, however, have been easily found ; anyhow, the delay is singularly at variance with our notions and habits. It is probable indeed that the religious impulse in the man was still weak. The Chrysostom of after days would hardly have been willing to be a pupil of the heathen sophist Libanius, a pupil so diligent and successful that long afterwards the old man, when asked on his death-bed who should be his successor, replied, "It should have been John, if the Christians had not stolen him from us." Baptism once received, there was no doubt what should be the tenor of his life thereafter. Ordination to the office of " reader " followed almost immediately. Then came the resolution, made by him in conjunction with his friend Basil, to follow the ascetic life, a resolution which, for the present, at his mother's entreaty, he contented himself by carrying out in the practice of all kinds of austerities in his own home. He was thus engaged when an event occurred curiously illustrative of the times. Popular choice fixed upon the two friends as fit persona to succeed to certain vacant bishoprics, and this, though Chrysostom was not more than 26 years of age, and Basil not much older. Men in those days were often made bishops much as among some savage tribes maidens are made brides,—they were actually carried off by force and ordained. The two friends agreed to act together, but when the emissaries of the electors arrived, Chrysostom could not be found, and Basil was carried off and ordained. This pious fraud Chrysostom afterwards excused and defended in his tract "De Sacerdotio," in which, after accounting for his own conduct by alleging a strong sense of his own unworthiness, he dilates on the dignity of the priestly office. It denotes the movement which religious thought had by this time made to find that the word for " priest" used throughout

this treatise is isps();, that for the Eucharist It was not long after this that Chrysostom, whose mother seems to have been now dead, entered a monastery. Even this did not satisfy him, and for a while he became an anchorite, a change which broke down his health and compelled him to return to his home in Antioch. During this time Chrysostom, though still a layman, was becom- ing a power in the Christian community, which certainly possessed no abler or more accomplished member. Famous as he was, how- ever, he was perfectly content, when at last he consented to re- ceive holy orders, to fill for five years the humble office of a deacon, busying himself with purely mechanical functions in the ritual of the Church, and with "serving tables." In connec- tion with this latter office a curious fact comes out which enables us to compare the pauperism of the great cities of antiquity with that which offers so tremendous a problem to ourselves. Out of a total population of 200,000 in Antioch, one-half was Christian, and of this half not less than three thousand were mainly dependent on the bounty of the Church. The per-centage of pauperism is nearly three times greater than that which prevails in the metro- polis, though it must be remembered that, for reasons which are sufficiently obvious, the Christian half of the Antiochians probably contained far more than its due proportion of poor. When, at last, the priesthood gave Chrysostom the right of entering the pulpit, ho rose at once into the highest reputation as a preacher. His sermons were the strangest mixture of pro- found theological knowledge, controversial ability, fervid elo- quence, and the most direct, most homely plain-speaking. It is this last element that makes them especially interest- ing. Few things surpass them as pictures of the life of the times. The most striking incident in Chrysoatom's career at Antioch was that which called forth " The Homilies on the Statues." The mob of the city, enraged at the imposition of a tax, had broken out into a riot, and had insulted the images of the Emperor's father and wife. That Emperor was Theodosius. For a time it seemed likely that Antioch would suffer the terrible vengeance which afterwards fell on unfortunate Thessalonica. Bishop Flavian, though feeble with age, and though it was yet win- ter, hastened to Constantinople, a journey of 800 miles, to intercede with the Emperor. Meanwhile the Imperial Commissioners arrived, instructed to execute summary punishment on the guilty. Their action was stopped by the interference of some strange mediators. The hermits came down from their mountain-dwellings to plead for the sinful city which they had abandoned. One of them, Mace- donius, surnamed Crithophagus, or " the Barley-eater," because

barley was his only food, seized the bridle of one of the commis- sioners as they were passing to the ball of judgment, and com- manded him to dismount. " Who is this mad fellow ?" they had asked, but when they learnt his name, they fell on their knees before him and demanded his pardon. Finally, they con- sented to suspend their sentence till the pleasure of the Emperor should be known. Theodosius had by this time yielded to the entreaties of Flavian, who returned to the city in time to celebrate the Easter festival, and Chrysostom delivered on the occasion one of the greatest of his discourses. Mr. Stephens takes the oppor- tunity of telling the story of the massacre of Thessalonica, and points out the contrast between the supplicatory demeanour of Flavian and the commanding attitude of Ambrose, a contrast curiously significant of the difference between the Eastern and Western Churches as regards their relations to the secular power. For about eleven years Chrysostom remained the great preacher of Antioch. In A.D. 387 he was selected by Eutropius, then all- powerful in the Imperial Court, as successor to Nectarius in the Archbishopric of Constantinople. Something like force was employed to secure so desirable a candidate, and Chrysostom was consecrated, greatly to the dissatisfaction of many rivals, a dissatisfaction of which he was soon to experience the results. Chrysoatom's tenancy of his see was short and troubled. The people, indeed, adored him at Constantinople, as they adored him at Antioch ; but a clergy who were too often worldly and even dissolute in their manners, a corrupt and profli- gate Court, and, most dangerous enemy of all, the real ruler of the East, the Empress Eudoxia, hated him with a fervent hatred. A prelate who lived like an anchorite among men who had been accustomed to look upon the Archiepiscopal Palace as London citizens look upon the Mansion House, and who spoke with the direct plainness of John Knox, was not likely to please the corrupt and luxurious capital of the East. He did not strengthen his posi- tion, though he certainly reached the culminating glory of his life, by his courageous protection of the fallen Eutropius. The scene is wonderfully dramatic :—

"Such a vast concourse of men and women thronged the cathedral as was rarely seen except on Easter Day. All were in a flutter of expectation to hear what the ' golden mouth' would utter, the mouth of him who had dared, in defence of the Church's right, to defy the arm of the law, and to stem the tide of popular feeling. But few perhaps were prepared to witness such a dramatic scene as was actually presented, and which gave additional force and effect to the words of the preacher. It was a common practice with the Archbishop, on ac- count partly of his diminutive stature and some feebleness of voice, to preach from the ambo, ' or high reading-desk, which stood a little west- ward of the chancel, and therefore brought him into closer proximity with the people. On the present occasion, ho had just taken his seat in the ambo, and a sea of upturned faces was directed towards his thin pale countenance in expectation of the stream of golden eloquence, when the curtain which separated the nave from the chancel was par- tially drawn aside, and disclosed to the view of the multitude the cower- ing form of the unhappy Eutropius, clinging to one of the columns which supported the holy table. Many a time had the Archbishop preached to light minds and unheeding ears on the vain and fleeting character of worldly honour, prosperity, luxury, wealth ; now he would enforce attention, and drive his lesson home to the hearts of a vast audience, by pointing to a visible example of fallen grandeur in the poor unhappy creature who lay grovelling behind him. Presently he burst forth: MavariTsc fsaretieorikcn!-0 vanity of vanities!' words how seasonable at all times, how pre-eminently seasonable now. Where now are the pomp and circumstance of yonder man's consulship ? where his torch-lit festivities? where the applause which once grouted him ? where his banquets and garlands ? Where is the stir that once attended his appearance in the streets, the flattering compliments addressed to him in the amphitheatre ? They are gone, they are all gone ; one rude blast has shattered all the leaves, and shows us tho tree stripped quite bare, and shaken to its very roots.' Then, turning to- wards the pitiable figure by the holy table : ' Did I not continually warn thee that wealth was a runaway slave, a thankless servant ? but thou wonldst not hoed, thou wouldat not be persuaded. Lo 1 now experience has proved to thee that it is not only fugitive and thankless, but murderous also ; for this it is which has caused thee to tremble now with fear.' . . . . . . It was the glory of the Church to have afforded shelter to an enemy ; the suppliant was the ornament of the altar. What !' you say, ' is this iniquitous, rapacious creature an ornament to the altar ?' Hush ! the sinful woman was permitted to touch the feet of Jesus Christ himself, a permission which excites not our reproach, but our admiration and praise.' "

We have not space to follow the disgraceful story of the great preacher's overthrow. Theophilus of Alexandria, who had un- willingly taken part in his consecration, was the prime mover of the cabal against him. The enmity against him was but indirectly

connected with controversy; the actual charges alleged, all of them, as it seems to as, ludicrously improbable or utterly trifling, concerned his personal conduct and demeanour. He was deposed by a synod most irregularly convened, and banished ; but an opportune earthquake troubled the conscience of the Emperor, and the people of the city successfully demanded his recall. After a short stay, he was again expelled, this time never to

return. His abode was fixed by his persecutors successively at Cucusus, a village in the range of Mount Taurus, a bleak spot, and constantly exposed to the incursions of the barbarous Isaurians ; and at Pityus, a still more inhospitable region on the coast of the Euxine. The latter place, indeed, he did not reach, for he died on his road, at Comana, in Pontus. Twenty-seven years later his relics (why should the word be written, as here, reliques?) were brought to Constantinople, and deposited in the Church of the Apostles.

The fame of Chrysostom as a preacher is amply justified by the sermons which we possess. It must have rested, more than is often the case, on the intrinsic merit of his oratory. His " bodily presence was weak ;" he had not the full ringing voice which sometimes gives so powerful a charm to indifferent rhetoric ; but the glow and power of his speech, now loftily elevated, now even humbly practical, are still so manifest when we read, that we can- not hesitate to rank the " Goldenmouth " among the great orators of the world. As an interpreter of Scripture, again, he has merits of a high order ; to no one of the " Fathers " can we look with more confidence for the honesty and good sense which are not always found in commentators. These points, as well as the im- portant subject of the bearing of Chrysostom's writings on the great Roman controversy, are discussed with ability and candour by Mr. Stephens, of whom, with thanks for a valuable and interesting book, we mast now take leave.