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Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourse (1894) pp.153-183. Discourse 6 -- The First Discourse on the Fear of God


Let us now with a mind fearing God again draw nigh to the doctrine of the word of the fear of God, and according to our power, and as we are able, that is to say, according as the grace of God shall grant, let us make use of [our] speech for our own help, and for the advantage of others. For we do not write in order that we may appear to be learned, but because we love to speak of our own benefits for [the good of] others. And we do not remain silent and speak not because many [others] have spoken and written, for those who were before us have written and spoken like teachers; but we, like their disciples, repeat after them their doctrine, even as a child who giveth utterance to and repeateth at all times the doctrine which he receiveth from his master that he may not forget it; and thus also do we repeat the things which have been heard by us, so that by repetition we may remember them, and so that our thoughts may be kept from wandering after empty things which benefit not. |154 For as long as the mind is not held fast [p. 160] by beneficial thoughts it wandereth outside itself, and goeth hither and thither in a place which is outside the help of God. And as when it meditateth upon virtues it dwelleth in the light of the remembrance of God, so also when it constructeth and meditateth upon useless and empty thoughts, its whole conversation is in the darkness. Whosoever standeth in darkness, seeth not, and is unseen; and he discerneth not, and is not discerned; and he knoweth not, and is not known; but he is deprived of the beauty of the appearance of created things, and all who themselves see are removed from his sight; and he discerneth not the path and understandeth not the way; and he seeth not the passage of those who go by. Now that this may not happen to us, let us be at all times occupied in the word of God, not merely bringing it up in repetition upon the tongue, but with the understanding meditating and thinking thereupon with the mind, so that at all times our mouth may speak through the superabundance of our heart. For what the mind meditateth upon in secret, that will the tongue speak openly, however careful a man may be; and if the tongue remaineth quiet through craftiness from that which it would speak, the secrets of the heart are made manifest to beholders by other means and motions of the senses, and the face by its various expressions giveth indications concerning the secret mind which hideth in the soul. Whosoever drinketh continually of the doctrine of God, the tree of his own person yieldeth divine fruit at all times, if it be not that he heareth the word of doctrine from mere habit, and that he listeneth not unto the helpful |155 word of God for pleasure's sake, and that he receiveth it not that he may increase in him human knowledge thereby, [p. 161] and that he listeneth not to learn it so that it may be for him the material of the handicraft of vain-glory. For the doctrine which is spoken in knowledge, and is heard with discernment, manifesteth spiritual fruit in two places, in the tongue of him that soweth it, and in the ear of him that receiveth it, because both the man who teacheth and the man who learneth hear his word gladly if he be an exact teacher, and if he be not a mere passage for the doctrine of others.

Now continuous labour at a handicraft addeth unto the knowledge thereof, and a man traineth all [his] faculties in working at it. And thus also meditation at all times in the word of doctrine moveth the thoughts to knowledge, and sharpeneth the tongue for speech, and bindeth the understanding in the contemplation of God. And whosoever meditateth upon God at all times, having this remembrance constant within his soul secretly, in him also is increased the fear of God, which becometh unto him a wall which protecteth from all evil things. For as the wall of a city protecteth its inhabitants from the harmful attacks of [their] enemies, so also doth the fear of God protect a man from enemies, and from those who would spoil our souls, and it keepeth back the body from the working of the lusts [thereof], and it protecteth the soul from abominable thoughts. Whosoever hath learned in very truth to fear God not only preserveth his body from the lusts [thereof], but also his heart from abominable motions. Now what the manner of the fear of God is, and in what grade standeth the |156 man who feareth God, [p. 162] and how this fear is to be acquired, and by what things it is increased, it is meet for us to shew, forth, according to what we have learned from those who were before us spectators of knowledge, and ministers of the word of teaching. Now according to what they have taught me, the true fear of God is produced from true faith, and whosoever believeth truly will himself also fear Him in Whom he believeth. And as his faith existeth not by means of plans and devices, so also his fear consisteth not of skill and knowledge; for as soon as a man believeth that God is, he beginneth to receive the doctrine of His commandments. For faith itself is born of the simplicity of nature, and it is established and protected entirely by simplicity. Now those commandments which faith heareth and accepteth, doth the fear of God keep; for in the manner in which simplicity preserveth faith, doth also the fear of God keep His commandments. Now by "fear" I do not mean the fear which a man meaneth when he sayeth by word of mouth, "I fear God," nor that fear which existeth in many who are habitually thought to be fearers of God; but I mean the fear which is excited in the soul naturally, and when the soul which is within trembleth and tottereth, it moveth together with itself all the members of the body. For the body is afraid of that which can injure it, and the soul also [p. 163] is moved at that which hath power to destroy it. For as is the fear of the body of external things which can injure it, of wild beasts, or of fire, or of swords and of scrapers, or of drowning in the water, or of falling from lofty rocks, or of the rumour of thieves, or of the sight of judges, or of painful |157 lashes, or of fetterings and imprisonment, so also is the soul naturally afraid of the hidden Judge Who is able to punish it with spiritual afflictions, according to its nature, together with the body. And as the body is naturally afraid of all these things which we have enumerated, even so is the soul naturally afraid of the remembrance of the judgment of God, and of the punishments which are laid up for those who provoke to wrath, and of the Gehenna which is threatened for those who work wickedness, and of the report of the outer darkness, and of the rumour of the fire which is not quenched, and of the worm which dieth not. For when the body seeth the things which can injure it, it is afraid of them, and when the soul looketh upon the things which can torment it, it is affrighted at them. The body is not excited by the machinations which exist to do it harm, but immediately it seeth them, or it meditateth upon the remembrance of them, it becometh excited and is afraid of them naturally. And thus also is it with the soul, for when, with the eye of faith, it looketh at the things which are threatened in the future, and it seeth inwardly the fearful things which the word of the Judge hath revealed, it is straightway filled with fear, and all its thoughts----which are its spiritual members----tremble, and by reason of its trembling, the body also trembleth, and through the fear of its thoughts the members of its body are also afraid. And as the soul itself participateth in the fear of the body, [p. 164] so also is the body mingled in the fear of the soul; for although the nature of the soul cannot be injured by the things which do harm to the body, yet, inasmuch as it is mingled therewith, it feareth therewith. And although the afflictions and |158 punishments which are about to come are not visible to the eyes of the body, yet because the soul seeth them inwardly it trembleth and is affrighted at them; and the body is also moved with it, and fear and terror take up their abode in all its members. For according to the experience of facts it is thus, and those who have had experience thereof, and have received the test thereof in their own persons know that immediately the soul remembereth the judgment of God, it shaketh at the remembrance thereof, and together with itself it maketh all the members of the body shake with one accord. When the soul and body of a man are not purified from sin, immediately he remembereth God he is forthwith wholly and entirely filled with fear, and all his members tremble, in the manner in which his body trembleth when it seeth suddenly that which can destroy and do it harm. And if a man hath not experienced this in his own person ----for not every man hath arrived at the measure of natural fear of God----from the fact that the body being moved, it moveth the soul also with it----which is manifest and well known unto every man----we may also understand that the soul is capable of fear and that it poureth out its fear upon the body, which only the few have experienced, that is to say, those whose souls are not dead in the death of sin, because the sin which happeneth carnally outside the remembrance of God, is the complete death of the soul, even as [p. 165] the Holy Book calleth the sinner dead which repenteth not. For repentance ariseth from the remembrance of God by a man, so then whosoever sinneth, and in whom the remembrance of the judgment of God is not moved, either when he sinneth, or after his |159 committing sin, this man is dead in his own soul, although in the body he appeareth to be alive. By the constant remembrance of God then may the soul which liveth be known; and if it sinneth and repenteth it is a sick thing, but if it sinneth carnally without repentance and without the remembrance of God, from this it is made manifest that it hath been slain by sin. For the knowledge of God is itself the spiritual life of the soul, even as the life of the body consisteth of the abiding of the soul which is therein within it; and its life is known by its perceiving everything which draweth nigh to it, or which it itself approacheth. And thus also the life of the soul is the knowledge of God, and it is known that it liveth from the fact that it is sensible of God.

For the body which is dead cannot feel any harm, neither can the soul which is slain feel the remembrance of the judgment of God, And whatever pains and tortures thou mayest bring upon the dead body it feeleth them not, and if thou wert to make the soul which is once dead to God a participator in all wickedness it would feel it not. If the dead body be struck it perceiveth it not, and if it be hacked and hewn in pieces it feeleth it not, and thus is it with the soul which is dead to God. It sinneth, and perceiveth it not; it doeth wickedness, and knoweth it not; it sinneth, and is unmindful of it; it is condemned, and its conscience pricketh it not; it doeth evil, and feeleth it not; and as its conscience pricketh it not to discretion [p. 166] when it fulfilleth naturally the things which are its natural need, even so the soul which is destroyed by sin, and is once dead to God, is not condemned by its conscience for the things which are wrought by it.

So then the remembrance of God is the life of the |160 soul. And as all the motions of the body are constant, and it moveth and is moved throughout by all its nerves and members so long as it participateth in life, even so the soul which hath therein the knowledge of God, moveth and is moved at all times by the remembrance of God, and so long as it remembereth God, it sinneth not. And if it happeneth that for a brief space the light of its knowledge becometh obscured through the smoke of lust, the remembrance of God is straightway stirred up in it, and the fear which ariseth therefrom driveth it to repentance. For the fear of God worketh two things in the soul: it keepeth a man that he sin not, or if he sinneth, it urgeth him to heal his sin in repentance; for it is the habit of all those with whom the fear of God or the fear of man is found, that they either offend not, or when they have offended they rectify their wrongdoing.

The fear of God then is a shield against all wickedness; it guardeth the man who is behind it from being harmed, and it is a wall of protection against all abominable things; now there are times when it becometh the healer of wickedness, even as both qualities [p. 167]----that of healer and that of protector----may be seen in this fear. For it is a protecting wall against evils that they come not, and it is a wise healer of the wickedness which is wrought by negligence. One man is terrified at the very sight of the judge, and another trembleth at the mere mention of him. The man who taketh heed that he sin not is restrained from wickedness by the sight of the judge; but the man who, after he hath sinned, turneth to repentance is terrified at the rumour of him, and he is affrighted |161 at the mere sound of his judgment. In the act of committing his sin he is unable to see him, for sin is the blindness of the soul; and when sin is wrought and ministered unto in the person of a man, the sight of the soul is obscured by the vapour of the work of lust as by much smoke, and it is unable to see the Judge. It heareth, however, the voice of His threatenings from the mouth of others----that is to say from the Holy Books----and it trembleth at the report thereof, and is afraid when it heareth them; now this happeneth while the soul is not entirely dead to the knowledge and perception of God. And the man also who is blind in his natural body is not terrified by the sight of dangers, neither is he afraid of them, except by the report which he heareth from others. For the lion which would come to crush him cannot be seen by him, nor the serpent which hisseth to sting him; but if he heareth the report of them from another man, he is frightened. And again, the rock or the pit which is in front of his footsteps he seeth not; but if another reveal to him [p. 168] the danger which is before him, fear preventeth him, and he straightway checketh himself, and turneth back; but whosoever hath sound sight naturally hath no need to learn concerning these things from others, for his sight teacheth him concerning the harm of his body. After this manner let us also consider the one who taketh heed unto himself and sinneth not, and the other who having sinned repenteth of his evil; for the soul is not afraid of the dangers of the body, although it must be imagined that it feareth because it is mingled therewith. And when the soul feareth the things which are here, its fear is outside its own nature, that is to say, the vapour of |162 bodily fear goeth up upon it, and darkeneth its power of discernment, and together with the body it is afraid of those things which cannot harm it. But if the soul is afraid of God its fear is natural, for the natural fear of the soul is that it should fear God alone; for the body is not naturally afraid of God, nor doth the soul naturally fear wild animals or any other harmful things. And behold, beasts, and wild animals, and birds, because they are body only, and participate not in a living soul, have not in their nature any fear of God; they only fear death by each other, or by other things which are opposed to them. And similarly the body also feareth only the dangers which belong to itself; now if thou liftest up the soul to participate in its thoughts, the body feeleth with it the fear of God, [p. 169] even as the soul feeleth with the body in its fear of wild animals. For the Judge Who can torment the soul is God Himself only, because He Who is more subtle of nature than the soul is alone able to be the Judge thereof; but the children of men may be judges of the body, and they are able even to kill it, although in their judgment they have no power over the soul, even according to the testimony of the word of Christ which saith, "Fear not those which kill the body, but who are not able to kill the soul;" 1 for the dominion of judges extendeth over the body only, and it can they judge, and torment, and slay. But as for the soul, its nature is exalted above the injury of those who can slay [it], and it cannot burn in their fire, and their stripes cannot fall upon its spiritual nature, and it cannot be cut in pieces by their swords, and its person cannot be lacerated |163 by their tools of torture; for he that judgeth is of the body, and the sentence which he passeth on evil doers he uttereth with the tongue of the body, although the soul moveth inwardly the deliberation of the penalty. And all the members which are ready [to receive] the sufferings are of the body, and through bodily sufferings the body alone receiveth injury; but the nature of the soul, because of its spirituality, is exalted and raised above these things. And however deeply the sufferings may penetrate, they sink into the body only, and however far in and deep they may pierce, the soul is situated more deeply within, and the death of these members hath no power over its life. Now judges are not able to kill the soul, and therefore it is not meet for men to be afraid of their judgment; "but fear Him that is able to destroy both the body and the soul [p, 170] in Gehenna."2 The Lord Himself alone is the Judge of the soul, and He that made it a living thing is Himself able to bring death upon its life, and to torment its spiritual nature by a spiritual sentence of judgment; and because the soul perceiveth that the Lord alone is its Judge it is afraid of Him naturally. And as with those who are alive in the body and are dead in their souls the remembrance of the judgment of [the] world restraineth them from their evil actions, so also doth the remembrance of the judgment of God check the man who is alive in his soul from his wickedness, and as long as he remembereth His judgment he keepeth himself from sin. The judgment which is near is not depicted before the eyes of the wise man, but upon that which is afar off he looketh intently, |164 and he trembleth and is affrighted thereat. For as the things which are manifest are revealed to the eye of the body, so also are the things which are hidden revealed to the eye of faith. And as the body which is alive perceiveth all the material things of this world, so also doth the soul which is alive feel all the spiritual things of the world which is to come, and it beholdeth them spiritually.

So therefore the remembrance of God is the light which sheweth the things which are to come, and where there is sin the making mention of His name causeth terror; but unless the conscience of a man in sin prick him, the fear of the future Judge will not prick him, for as is every man towards himself, even so is he towards the remembrance of God. If he standeth in the grade of sinners, [p. 171] God appeareth to him as a Judge; but if he hath gone up into the other grade of penitents, He sheweth Himself to him as one Who forgiveth. And again, if he standeth in the state of loving-kindness, he looketh at the riches of God's loving-kindness; if he be clothed with humility and meekness, the favour of God is apparent before him; if he hath acquired an understanding mind, he looketh at the unsurpassable wisdom of God; if he cease from anger and be free from wrath, and peace and quietness be moved in him at all times, he is lifted up to see the untroubled sincerity of God; and if the motions of faith are constantly rising within his soul, he at all times observeth the incomprehensibility of the works of God, and those things also which are thought to be simple he maketh sure that they are beyond [his] knowledge.

Now if a man standeth in the exalted state of |165 spiritual love, according to the state in which he is doth God appear to him, that is, He is wholly and entirely love. And this is a thing to be wondered at; although God is single in His nature, and He hath neither parts nor members, He appeareth unto every man in many [different] forms, and to whomsoever seeketh He appeareth on every side that He wisheth. And as in respect of Himself He is One, and hath no similitudes, He appeareth to minds in similitudes, according to the feelings which are nigh unto the soul. Whosoever wisheth to see that God is good, let him himself be good, and behold, He will appear to him to be good. Imagine not that thou wilt see God as a good. Being whilst thou standest in a place of wickedness, for this sight would work sluggishness in thee, [p. 172] and thou wouldst see God as He wisheth not to be seen by thee, that is to say, thou wouldst not see Him at all, because thou wishest to see Him outside His will; for until thou hast become like unto Him in every one of the virtues which He hath commanded thee to keep, He appeareth to thee as He is; and if thou thinkest that thou seest [Him], thou seest Him only in thy imagination, and not His true appearance. Now therefore everyone who standeth in a place of sin, and who feeleth that there are evil passions within him, and whose conscience pricketh him because of his wrong-doing, must look upon God as the Judge Who condemneth; and he must not dare to regard Him differently, lest thereby he may increase in himself the fear which will remove evil things from him. If now thou wishest to see God as One Who for-giveth, put away thy wickedness, and draw nigh to repentance, and put away also the sin which others |166 have sinned against thee; then shalt thou lift up the eye of thy understanding, and thou shalt see the One Who forgiveth. The man who sinneth continually, and worketh folly, and who thinketh that God is One Who forgiveth, heapeth up wickedness upon wickedness. Put not your trust in remission of sins, lest thou heap up sin upon sin; for many sin continually, and without repentance, relying upon pardon, never having felt pardon, and having heard only of the report of pardon. The man who forgiveth others is himself able to feel the pardon of God, and after this manner also is every good thing of God; until we have become the doers of good we cannot perceive that it is in God. For from hearing hath every man learned that God is good, but from knowledge of the soul [p. 173] alone it is that those who are good perceive His goodness; and from the rumour which is uttered every man confesseth that He is merciful, and long-suffering, and of great kindness, and that He is wholly and entirely filled with love. Those who have kept these things in their own persons through the perception of their soul experience them in God. Now therefore so long as thou standest in the place of sin, thou art bound to be mindful of the judgment of God, that by the remembrance of His judgment thou mayest drive away thy wickedness, and thou must not dare to think of Him in any other manner, so long as thou standest in the place of sin. For the place of fear is one, and the place of joy is another. The place of fear belongeth to penitents, and to those who feel their sins, and to the men who are not as yet free from [their] passions; but the place of joy is above love. After the victory over lusts a man is deemed worthy to arrive at joy, and when he |167 hath brought all his passions under the power of his thoughts, he then goeth into the country of joy, where there is neither terror nor fear, to live gloriously. Now fear is the opposite of joy, and where there is fear joy is not born, and where there is joy fear cometh not; because fear is an accessory of wickedness, and joy of goodness; and as goodness is the opposite of wickedness, so also is joy the opposite of fear. The man who [liveth] in wickedness perceiveth not the joy of the spirit when it is born of goodness, and the man who [liveth] in joy feeleth not the fear which is closely united to wickedness. That a man should wish to [live] in joy while [p. 174] he yet standeth in the region of fear, is like unto the man who imagineth himself to be good while he is evil, and while he fulfilleth all abominable things, or unto the man who imagineth himself to be rich while he is actually the poorest of men.

Everyone then who is conscious of his own follies and evil doings is bound to increase within himself at all times the fear of God, and he must meditate upon it in his going out and coming in, and he must deliberate upon it when he sitteth down, and when he riseth up, and during all his acts and deeds must his thoughts be filled with the fear of God. And one certain time must not be set apart for this fear, but all times must be to him times for the fear of God. When this fear springeth not up in a man, contempt for the commandments of God is found in him, and his thoughts are sunk in the sleep of error; and like a vessel without sense he meditateth wickedness, and doeth abominable things, and he sinneth, but knoweth not that he sinneth. But if he knoweth, it is the |168 knowledge of hearing and not of the truth, because the certain knowledge of wickedness straightway formeth fear in a man. And as when the eyes are opened the light shineth in through the pupils, so also is it with the remembrance of God; for immediately the fear of God shineth into the mind, it rouseth a man and it maketh him to rise up as out of the depth of slumber. And it is as if the light should shine upon a man who is plucked away into the depth of slumber, and although he be ready to get up forthwith, it should find him upon his bed; and when he openeth [p. 175] his eyes, and seeth it, he is straightway roused and greatly moved, and his sudden fright speedily driveth away from him all the heaviness of the sleep in which he was plunged. And so if a man be careless, and the wakefulness of the remembrance of God be taken away from him, and he remain in the sleep of contempt and the abyss of carelessness, if it happen that either for one reason or another, or by his own will, the light of the remembrance of God shineth in his soul, he is straightway roused and he casteth away his former contempt, and he is filled with fear, and the terror at the remembrance of the righteousness of the Judge groweth strong in him; and when contempt hath gone out from him, repentance therefor entereth into him straightway, and he is filled with trembling, either on account of the things which have been done by him, or on account of the wasted seasons which he hath enjoyed without the remembrance of God. For behold, the man who liveth in this remembrance is filled at all times with fear immediately an ordinary motion of lust flieth over his soul, and he is greatly moved and is roused by reason of the lustful thought |169 which hath come to him; and this thought of wickedness straightway fleeth, and is destroyed before the fear of the soul, even as a bird which riseth up unexpectedly before a man, who is thereby suddenly startled out of his composure.

Now fear and shame of the children of men preserve the body from lusts, but the fear and shame which man hath of God preserve the motions of the soul from thoughts of evil things; and because man seeth that at all times God seeth him, he becometh perpetually an observer [p. 176] of himself that he sin not, and he preserveth his inner man from the secret blemishes upon which the hidden eye of God looketh. Hedge thyself round then with a fence of the fear of God, O man of understanding, and evil things will not dare to enter into the city of thy soul. Be thou ashamed before God inwardly, and behold thy soul shall be preserved in its purity; excite within thee at all times the fear of Him, and behold thou shalt be kept from sins of the thoughts. Let the continual remembrance of Him abide in thee, and the remembrance of wickedness cannot sojourn with thee. For so long as thou art mindful of God it is not possible for thee to remember evil things; because light and darkness cannot dwell in the eye together, neither can the remembrance of God and the remembrance of wickedness abide together within the soul. Until thou forgettest God thou canst not be mindful of wickedness, and until thou forgettest wickedness, the remembrance of God riseth not in thee; for the error of the one is the remembrance of the other, and the going in of one is the going out of the other. And the remembrance of wickedness is error, and the remembrance of God |170 is true knowledge; and error is darkness, but knowledge is light. And as modesty is near unto the man who standeth in the light, so also is the soul, into which the remembrance of God shineth, always constant in shamefacedness at the nakedness of wickedness. And as the sight of men frighteneth a man to cover his nakedness, so also when the remembrance of God looketh [p. 177] into the soul, it dazeth it, and maketh it quickly to be ashamed, and it suddenly spreadeth over itself the garment of modesty. And if it hath any member of darkness which is manifest, it covereth it; and if it containeth any thing which is not seemly thereto, it is straightway terrified and casteth it away. And if it be confused, it setteth itself in order; and if it be in turmoil, it composeth itself; and if it sinneth, it maketh itself just; and if it be spotted, it maketh itself white; and if it be foul, it purifieth itself; and if it be unclean, it sanctifieth itself; and if it be polluted, it is made clean; and if it be impure it is made chaste; and if it be wanton, it becometh modest; and if it be foolish, it is made wise; and if it be poured out, it is gathered together; and if it wander outside itself, it returneth to itself; and if it be poverty-stricken, it gaineth wealth; and if it hath lost its life, it runneth and seeketh it; and if it be sick, it is healed; and if it be feeble, it is made strong; and if it be infirm, it is healed; and if it hath in it a breaking [of bones], it bindeth them up; and if it be filled with gaping wounds it presseth them together; and if it happen that it hath grown old, and hath become worn out in sin, straightway the remembrance of God, together with the fear of Him, maketh it new.

Therefore the experience of the fear of God |171 belongeth to the soul, and man himself is alone able to know by it whether he feareth God or not. Each one of us is bound to take this good thing within himself. If thou art mindful of God, and if thou art moved when thou rememberest him, and art straightway filled with fear, and thy thoughts and thy members tremble, and thy soul and body are moved, and thy knowledge boweth down its head, and thy understanding is ashamed before God inwardly, if these things happen unto thee thou mayest know [p. 178] that thou hast the fear of God in thee, and that the remembrance of the Lord is in very truth near unto thee. For it is not the man who saith, "I fear God," who feareth God, but the man who experienceth within himself the things which I have said is he who is truly a fearer of God. The good deeds which are seen outwardly do not prove that the doer of them is in truth a fearer of God, because the causes which work good deeds among the children of men are many, and there are various ways of keeping the commandments. The man who keepeth God's commandments through fear of him, is a true servant, and a divine labourer who feareth Him that laid down the law, and he fulfilleth His law; and moreover the divine law cannot be kept wholly unless it be kept by the body and by the soul. There many who bear the weight of spiritual labours outwardly, but who inwardly minister unto all wickedness; and there are others who have bound their limbs with the fetters of afflictions, but who have sent away and dismissed their thoughts to wander after abominable things; and there are others who are outwardly clothed in chastity, but who are clothed with wantonness within; and there are others who to outward appearance fast, but who |172 inwardly are prodigals and gluttons; and there are others who outwardly appear to be righteous, but who secretly work all wickedness. One man keeping a fast, eateth; and another professing poverty, is a lover of money; and another, professing outwardly to be long-suffering, is a man of wrath, for his patient endurance appeareth outwardly, but anger secretly dwelleth within him. One man excuseth himself from pleasures outwardly, but he seeketh for them secretly; and another cannot be constrained to hear the word of blasphemy, but inwardly he blasphemeth actually at all times, [p. 179] One man prayeth openly, and another prayeth in secret; one man singeth Psalms with his tongue, and another singeth them with his understanding. One man crucifieth his body only, and another crucifieth his soul together with his body. One man keepeth himself from sin that he may not be reproached by man, and another restraineth himself from it because of the love of righteousness. One man standeth in awe at the face of God, and another is ashamed before the face of the children of men. One man hateth to sin because he knoweth that sin is hateful to God; and another taketh heed not to commit iniquity because he seeth that wickedness is disgraceful in the sight of men. One man sinneth not through fear of the judgment which is beyond [this world], and another committeth not offences through fear of the judgment which is nigh. One through the remembrance of the fire which is near cooleth the lust of his members, and maketh its motions to be at rest; and another through the remembrance of the Gehenna which is afar off allayeth his lust and destroyeth it.

So therefore the labours which are visible are not |173 alone sufficient to prove a man to be a fearer of God; do thou then, O man of understanding, examine thyself, and let thy testimony be from and in thyself, if the fear of God be in thy soul. For by the righteousness which dwelleth within is the fear of God made, but that fear which dwelleth without, and the course of the actions of which is external, the sight of man inciteth thereto, and its agency is external, and not internal, and it is only seen by the eyes of men, and it is not wrought for the sight of God inwardly.

The afflictions which can be seen are good because they compel [p. 180] the limbs to become obedient to the thoughts, and they subdue the stony nature of the body, and make it to become subservient to the soul, but they do not cleanse the understanding from the motions of sins, and they do not make the soul to fear God, unless the soul hath learned inwardly to fear God; for the hidden service belongeth to the soul, and the labour which is manifest belongeth to the body. The labour of the body cannot be justified without the service of the soul, but the service of the soul can be justified even without the labours of the body, if it be that a man doth not excuse himself from labours through contempt, and he doth not flee from afflictions like a man who loveth pleasures. For the sight of men doth not protect the outward and inner man from sins, but the sight of the fear of God doth restrain the body and soul from sins; and as the man who standeth before the judge to be questioned concerning his wrong-doing hath no means wherewith to act corruptly before the judge, but is anxious to hide also his former offences, so also the man before whose sight the fear of God the Judge is set, and the |174 fear of Whom striketh his thoughts at all times, cannot sin, but by day, and by night, and at all times he putteth on chastity and modesty over his inner man, and every motion of sin which riseth up in him he driveth away from him in the fear of God. The fear which is of God maketh beautiful the inner man, but the fear which is of men adorneth with virtues the outer man; [p. 181] He Who is the Judge of thy works shall also be the One Who shall approve of thy contest, and the fear of Him must be set before thine eyes continually.

For if the fear of masters is set before the sight of their servants, and the dread of kings, and of judges, and of generals clotheth always those who have been subdued by them, and those who are subject unto them----and moreover the fear of teachers and masters preserveth and guardeth continually the innocency of childhood----how much more binding is it upon that man who hath become a disciple of God, and who is naturally a servant of the Heavenly Lord, and a soldier of the Everlasting King, and a subject of the Judge of the truth of the law, that the fear of Him should rule continually over his whole course of life, and over his thoughts in secret, and over his members outwardly? The fear of God is a bridle which holdeth back the violent impulses of a man from the error of wickedness, and it driveth him back from the pursuit of abominable lusts, not in his outer man only, but more especially in his inner man. The spiritual soldier should not fear God only as servants fear their masters, or as people who have been conquered fear kings and judges, for the fear of them decks itself in outward forms, and it appeareth externally on the members of |175 the body only; for although it may happen that they hate them inwardly, and despise them in their thoughts, yet outwardly they manifest to them the guise of fear. Let then thy fear of God be not like unto this, but from the place on which He looketh, from there let it shew fear, and where He seeth [p. 182] secretly the motions of thy soul, there let the power of His fear lay hold upon thee. And let thy whole being----both thy inner man, and thy outer man----entirely fear God, Who is the Judge of thy secret things, and of those which are manifest. Let thy soul be ashamed before Him, and sin not, and let thy thought be shamefaced, and commit no wickedness. For if the shame of the children of men driveth us from sin, how much more should the shame of God restrain us from wickedness?

Remember thou then at all times that God looketh at thee, and do thou thyself also look at Him inwardly, even as He seeth thee inwardly, and sin shall not abide in thy thoughts. For as in the place whereupon the sun looketh darkness abideth not, even so in the soul upon which God looketh, and which itself also feeleth that He is regarding it, the darkness of wickedness remaineth not. "The eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the Sun," saith the Holy Book, "and He seeth all the works of the children of men."3 And in another place it saith, "All the deeds of men shine as the sun before Him, and He examineth and knoweth their ways."4 Now the prophet of God also rebuketh by his speech the wickedness of that man who is without the fear of God, and who upon the cushion of his couch acteth abominably, |176 and rebuking his stupid thought that God could not see him, for God doth see him, he brought forward this proof saying, "The eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun," in order that he might teach every man that God seeth our secret things, and that we should take heed with all diligence against the sins which are wrought in secret. For thou shalt not sin in thy thought, [p. 183] neither shalt thou do wickedly in thy house in secret, because God seeth thee especially in these secret things. Immediately the sight of the children of men is turned away from thee, the sight of God receiveth thee; and when the children of men no longer look at thee as thou art, the Lord of what hath been formed observeth thee the more, for He knoweth that as long as man looketh upon thee that thou wilt be watchful against [doing] before them the deeds of shame, and that fear and shamefacedness of them will drive thee from the deeds of sin. So then when thou art alone, and the walls and the roof of thy house hide thee on all sides, the armour of the fear of God is necessary for thee, for in the darkness sin is readily committed; and then art thou bound to rouse up thyself to the remembrance of God, and thou must strengthen thy members that they be not conquered before lust, and thou must stand up like a man against the sin which warreth against thee to overcome thee, and against the secret Enemy who with the motions of thy lust fighteth with thy life.

The thoughts of the soul hide within the members of the body, and as the body hideth within the house, even so do the thoughts of the soul hide themselves under the covering of the body. And because the man who is within cannot easily be seen corporeally, he |177 sinneth quickly, and every time he wisheth, he doeth wickedly. The sin of the thoughts is more easy and light than the sin of the members, because the members are restrained and impeded by many things; but immediately the thought wisheth to sin, it fulfilleth m itself the act of sin. [p. 184] And neither time, nor place, nor material, is necessary for sin, for as is the swiftness of the movement, so also is the swiftness of its sin, and against this swiftness which the thought hath is the persistence of the remembrance of God necessary, and the perpetual fear of the Judge of secret things must abide therein. And, if we may say so, the motion of the fear of God must be swifter in him than the motion of his thought, so that when the thought of sin hath been moved the remembrance of God may smite it at once. The soul upon which this bridle hath been cast is silently dumb to the motions of hateful thoughts, and if it happen that it be seized suddenly, this remembrance checketh it, and turneth it back that it may look upon its own person.

Now therefore there is none of the virtues which is not preserved by the fear of God, and if a man were to call the fear of God "a guard-house of virtues," he would not do wrong. For faith is confirmed thereby, it preserveth fasting, through the remembrance of it prayers are made constant with us, it urgeth [us] to give alms, it quieteth the abominable motions which are in the soul, it quencheth the lust which burneth in the members, it purifieth filthy thoughts, it uprooteth the meditation of abominable things from the soul, it maketh it empty of thoughts, and anger and enmity, it driveth the mind of every man from daring to lust for that which is not his own, it stablisheth laws that they be |178 not trodden under foot, it counselleth men that the divine commandments be not transgressed; and it is a boundary against [p. 185] all wickedness, and like a shield it standeth against all abominable things. It standeth against the left hand, and inciteth to the right with noble deeds; it doeth away with wickedness, and stirreth up to the service of the virtues. The fear of God also preventeth wickedness from being wrought. It keepeth a man back from the path of iniquity, and it ministereth unto good in two ways, for it keepeth a man from the way of wickedness, and maketh him watchful to travel in the path of virtue, and it inciteth him. to gather together noble things, and it turneth and guardeth what hath been gathered together by him; for if there was no fear [of God], corruption would [rule over everything. It followeth judges, and for this reason their commandments are established firmly; it surroundeth kings, and therefore their laws are not transgressed; it cleaveth to governors, and therefore their rule is formidable to those who are subject unto them; and it keepeth all men in the faith of God. Now although the fear [of God] is born of faith, yet it itself is also the preserver of faith. Whosoever feareth God taketh heed not to transgress the boundary of the faith of God, and whosoever believeth in God himself draweth nigh to the fear of God, and the man, in whose soul the fear of God dwelleth, himself becometh a watchful guardian of all the commandments. Adam believed in God, and he was not afraid of God; he believed that He was, and he received from Him the law which He delivered into him. And because he cast out the fear of God from his mind, he forsook the faith, and trod the law under foot. |179 For He that ordained the law [p.186] involved the commandment with fear: "In the day that thou eatest of the tree, thou shalt die the death."5 And because Adam had cast out from him that fear, he believed the crafty one instead of God, and trod under foot the law which had been ordained by the Judge. And not only Adam did God surround with fear that it might be a fence for the keeping of His commandments, but in all generations, to all the commandments which He ordained did He unite fear. Over Cain, who did not fear God of his own freewill, did fear rule of necessity, and he became a vagabond and a wanderer in the earth; for because he did not fear the One Who was worthy to be feared, he was filled with fears at everything which appeared unto him. And by reason of the torture of fear he entreated God and besought Him that whosoever found him might kill him, so that he might flee from a life filled with fear and dread. And God also gave the law by the hand of Moses, which was filled with many and divers commandments, and to all the commandments He linked fear, for without fear the commandments would not be kept. "Thou shalt do no murder", and "whosoever slayeth shall be slain;" 6 for the sickness He ordained the medicine of fear, that it might not increase and grow strong in iniquity. "Thou shalt not commit adultery", and "whosoever committed adultery shall be slain;" 7 and fear keepeth [this] commandment from being held in contempt. |180 For by fear He checked them from doing wickedness to one another, and because He saw that they loved wickedness, He restrained them from their [evil] deed by the fear of the judgment. Where there is no love, [p. 187] it is fear that keepeth the commandments. There are three things through which all commandments are kept; by fear, or by reward, or by love. Of all these the first is fear, and the second is the possessions which are promised, and the third is true love; the first belongeth to servants, and the second belongeth to hirelings, and the third belongeth to spiritual beings and friends. Now the beginning of the way of the conduct and life of Christ is accompanied by fear, for unto every one who beginneth to learn this doctrine cleaveth the mind of a child, and fear is seemly unto childhood, and it urgeth it to receive instruction. For childhood is unable to taste the sweets of knowledge, and on this account it is meet that fear should accompany it; for when it has tasted the knowledge of Christ, and a man hath felt the power of His commandments, the pleasantness itself of what he tasteth leadeth him to the keeping of the commandments. But so long as a man hath not arrived at this state, it is necessary for fear to be his nurse, and a teacher, and a reminder of all the commandments. And as the children of nature receive instruction from teachers, and the schoolmaster receiveth them that he may be unto them at all times a reminder of what they have heard, so also doth a man receive the doctrine of the commandments from God, Who is the true Teacher and Doctor.

So then fear must straightway be used, that, like the schoolmaster, it may remind a man of what he hath |181 received; and that if he forgetteth, it may remind him; and if he be negligent, it may stir him up; and if [p. 188] he sleep, it may awake him; and if he love foolish talk, it may rebuke him; and if he wander forth towards deceit, it may turn him back into the path; and if he act contemptuously, it may remind him of authority; and if he act scornfully, it may remind him of the instructor; for these things a life of fear accompanieth not, for it wandereth among all wickedness.

For every one who hath need to learn fear is necessary to remind him of his instruction, for without fear instruction is not perfected, or if it be perfected without it, it is not acceptable, and if it be accepted without it, it is not preserved. And the prophet of God reproacheth 8 severely those who have broken the yoke, and cut the bands of the fear of God, and again, in another place,9 he heapeth contumely upon Israel who had slipped his shoulder from [under] the yoke of the divine commandments: "As an ox which hath escaped from the yoke, so have the children of Israel escaped, they and their kings and their nobles". Now Israel became rebels because there was no fear [in them]; and they trod under foot the commandments because they were not mindful of what was threatened; and they despised the law because they remembered not the penalty of Him that ordained it. For He Who ordained the law because He knew to whom He was giving the law, against [the breaking of] His commandments multiplied His threats in His wisdom, so that although freewill might hold the law in contempt, |182 the fear which followed thereafter might incite [Israel] to the keeping thereof. And because he that received the law became a rebellious slave, He made him to labour in bondage in the fear of tribulation. Before his face He displayed all the various forms of punishment, so that as long [p. 189] as he looked thereupon he might take heed to the commandments, and keep the law.

Let us then study to fix the fear of God in our mind, and let us meditate thereupon by day and by night. If the fire of lust kindleth in us, let us set in opposition thereto the fire of Gehenna.10 If greediness of the belly seize upon us, let us remember the worm which dieth not.11 If the beauty of the face excite us, let us remember the outer darkness.12 If the love of mammon fight against us, let us call to mind our own unworthiness. If human benefits stir us, let us be afraid lest we lose the kingdom which abideth for ever. If wrath attacketh us with its violent onset, let us look at the threat of God against those who provoke to wrath. If vainglory raise a tumult within us, let us bring up in our minds the disgrace and contempt [which we shall feel] before our Judge. By fear let us make fear of none effect, and by death let us vanquish death.

And together with these things, whosoever wisheth to keep his life with all diligence from sin hath need of the perpetual remembrance of death; for whosoever is continually mindful of the day of his |183 departure, and who at all seasons meditateth upon the hour of his death doth not easily march on to iniquity, and doth not dare to draw nigh unto the work of sin. The remembrance of death drieth up all lusts, and the sight of the remembrance of death scattereth all the wickedness which is gathered together against the soul, and all the lusts which are drawn up against the body. Let the death which is near be unto us a teacher against the death of Gehenna, and let us keep [p. 190] our life on all sides with watchfulness, let us remember God and fear His judgment, and let us keep His commandments, that being pure from all vices, and our persons being adorned with all virtues, we may be worthy to enjoy the heavenly delights with all the saints, and that, together with them, we may praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for ever, Amen.

Here endeth the First Discourse upon the Fear of God.

[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end.  Page numbers in brackets refer to the Syriac text in vol. 1 of the printed edition.]

1. 1 St. Matthew x. 28; St. Luke xli. 4.

2. 1 St. Matthew x. 28; St. Luke xii. 4.

3. 1 Ecclesiasticus xxiii. 19.

4. 2 Ecclesiasticus xvii. 19.

5. 1 Genesis ii. 17.

6. 2 Exodus xx. 13; and compare Exodus xxi. 12; Leviticus xxiv. 17; Numbers xxxv. 16-21, 30, 31.

7. 3 Exodus xx. 14; Leviticus xx. 10; Deuteronomy xxii. 22.

8. 1 Jeremiah v. 5; and compare Jeremiah ii. 22.

9. 2 Compare Jeremiah xxxii. 32.

10. 1 Compare St. Mark ix. 43.

11. 2 Compare Isaiah Ixvi. 24; St. Mark ix. 46.

12. 3 Compare St. Matthew viii. 12.

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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts