ART. VI.—1. Catena Aurea, Commentary on the Four Gospels, collected out of use Works of the Fathers. By S. Thomas Aquinas. Vol. I. St. Matthew, Part 1. Oxford: J. H. Parker. 1841.
2. The Gospel Narrative of our Lord's Passion harmonized, with Reflections. By Rev. Isaac Williams, B. D. Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. Rivingtons. 1841.

[?] "In Opuscula at B.O., N breaks off at p. 200."—Blehl.

[British Critic, vol. 30, July 1841.]

{197} THE name of Aquinas is almost synonymous with all that is popish, superstitious, sophistical, fanciful, and pedantic, in the minds of most of us. We conceive of this great oracle of the Church of Rome, as of one whose life was spent in his closet in busy trifling, in the incessant labour of abstract reasonings upon questions of fact or sacred doctrine, minutely followed out, ingeniously defended, and dogmatically enforced. If there is any thing harsh, corrupt and repulsive in the popular Roman theology, any possible narrowness in an Aristotelian, or any bigotry in a schoolman, we look upon St. Thomas of Aquinum as the type and model of it. Even in the most powerful exercise of his intellect, we expect nothing higher and nobler than the discussion how many spirits can stand on the point of a needle, or whether we are bound to love a possible angel more than an actually existing fly. Yet we now have before us the first portion of a Commentary on the Gospels, not composed indeed, but compiled by him, which certainly gives a very different idea of his character and talents, which has nothing in it but what is grave, impressive, and profitable, and put together with remarkable good sense and skill; and, stranger still, which really contains nothing at all, or next to nothing, of those corrupt tenets and opinions, which we so much deplore in Romanism.

That there is much in his theology, as well as in the notions of his age, which we cannot receive, and can only lament, need scarcely be said; but what we would insist upon, and what is most pleasant to observe, is, that whatever there was in his doctrinal views, which members of our own Church are unable to receive, be it less or more, still it does not interfere with the existence of a deep and broad substance of religious sentiment and opinion, which is the very same that is in esteem among ourselves, and, moreover, in the work before us is expressed in the very words of the primitive divines. In this work he seems to invite us and his own disciples, to lay our mutual differences aside, and to repose together under the shade of the ancient Church. He seems to say, "I will not enter into controversy with you for your new notions, your Protestantism, philosophism, {198} and worldly wisdom, and I will not provoke you by what you consider my scholastic venturousness; but I challenge you to say what there is you can possibly object to in these extracts I shall put before you, from the writings of our common fathers in the faith; do not Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Leo, Gregory, approve themselves to your religious judgment? for they are the very guides which I too wish to follow. If there be any one vital point in our common religion, must it not be in the feeling with which we regard our Lord, His person, His teaching, His actions, as recorded in the Gospels? Now do not both parties take one and the same view of it, and one and the same with that which the ancient doctors and bishops took of it? Why then need we unduly magnify those secondary points in which we differ, when we agree in what is primary and more essential?"

We believe that an inspection of the history and writings of divines in the middle ages, would, in a very great number of cases, lead us to the same conclusion, viz. that, in spite of serious differences in formal profession, yet, in the tenor of their lives and the staple of their thoughts, serious men then were like serious men now, with only such varieties as the peculiarities of the human mind and the state of society render unavoidable. This is remarkably illustrated in the letters of our present author's namesake, St. Thomas the Martyr, and his contemporaries, which, though of an highly ethical cast, yet, after striking out one or two sentences or phrases here or there, would not be recognized by any one as belonging to the school of Romanism.

More than this, we have no right or reason to expect in any age of the Church. It is impossible that truth ever should be taught, without its perversion attending on it, like its shadow. Truth of whatever kind, when received by a mind unfitted for it, necessarily becomes ipso facto a perversion and corruption. Error is the form which truth takes in unsuitable recipients, just as an oar looks crooked in the water. To desire that doctrinal corruption should not be in the Church, is to desire that good men and bad should not be mixed together in it; and to desire that it should not be prominent, is to desire that the elect should be the many; and the higher the truth, and the wider the field which it occupies, the more solid will be the substance, and the more huge the dimensions, of the error which apes it. And since superstition is the perversion of faith, therefore, while men are men, an age of faith will necessarily be an age of superstition; and in like manner, an age of zeal will be an age of violence; and a theological age, an age of dogmatism and bigotry; and again, an age of benevolence, on the other hand, will be an age of laxity. And, {199} moreover, sometimes the very same men will be examples both of the grace and its perversion; and much more, for one man who is a pattern of the grace, shall we have a hundred specimens of the perversion. St. Augustine had to oppose himself to the Pagan superstitions of Catholics in his day, as well as the Protestants of Exeter Hall now; and the Protestant teacher of this day has to warn his followers against the Antinomianism with which he may be indoctrinating them unwittingly, and which St. Augustine could find only in the Gnostic or Manichee. That the age then in which Aquinas lived was superstitious or bigoted, nay even were he such himself, need tell us little against his substantial faith and holiness, as the fact that our age, or ourselves are presumptuous, tells against our religious vitality; and it is a great satisfaction to find from such works as that before us, that what is abstractedly possible, was, in the case of this great man, true in matter of fact.

It will be observed, that we are speaking as if the prejudices with which the name of Aquinas is encompassed in this age and country, were founded on some real knowledge of what he was or what he taught, or as if his Catena were an exception to the bulk of his writings, and accidentally disclosed a secret truth, which they rather negative; whereas, commonly, his writings are only known to us by hearsay; and as to his life, though any biographical dictionary would enable us to form some opinion of it; we are ordinarily ignorant even of his century and country, and the part he played in ecclesiastical and theological matters. We know he was a schoolman; we have our own idea of a schoolman, however obtained; and we thence consider ourselves to have a tolerable notion of St. Thomas, by a mode of reasoning as antecedent and abstract as any we impute to him.

Most men, on hearing of a great schoolman or divine, at once dress up such a personage with whatever is most unimaginative and unromantic. He is the inmate of a cloister from his youth to age, with logic and metaphysics for his only sciences, and books for his sole companions or informants, knowledge of life he actually has none; he never saw a human being except in a monk's cowl or scapulary, or in surplice and cope. He never conversed, except through the medium of the disputations of the schools, or in the alternations of the sacred choir; and the range of his travels circles round his monastic garden. He never heard of the printing press; he never had the privilege of a newspaper. At other times a more modern notion is entertained of him, as a fellow of a college, or an aged bachelor in some retired lodgings, with a range of dusty folios, a cat, a teapot, and a snuff-box. But in any case, we have commonly presented to us a consistent type of something {200} unsocial, selfish, dry, abstract, and narrowminded. In any case his devotion is form, and his faith is dogmatism. Tenderness, fervour, affectionateness, and poetry, we should as little attempt to associate with him, as to set the Thames on fire. Now it is not here maintained that we know enough of St. Thomas as an individual, to be able to refute these anticipations of him one by one in detail; yet some broad and bold outlines of his character and history we do possess, sufficient to show us that, whatever were his defects, intellectual and ethical, he cannot be said to have prejudice and bigotry so entirely to himself, but that we share it with him; nay, that it is far more certain that we misrepresent him, than that he misrepresented Christianity. We do not mean to say that he was, after all, a married man, or belonged to any fashionable clubs; but a few sentences will be sufficient to dissipate the notions popularly entertained of him.

St. Thomas was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, and Lord of Loretto and Belcastro, nephew to the Emperor Frederic, and allied also to St. Louis of France, and to the royal houses of Sicily and Arragon. His mother also was of a noble family. He was born about the year 1226 or 1227; and his place of birth is variously represented as Belcastro, Rocca Secca, and Aquino. When he was five years old he was placed under the Benedictines of Monte Cassino, where he made such progress in his youthful studies, that at the age of thirteen he was sent to the University of Naples, which had lately been founded by the Emperor Frederic II. Both at Cassino and at Naples, he was noted for the religiousness of his deportment. Here he fell in with some monks of the order of St. Dominic, who had himself died about twenty years before; and Thomas formed the resolution to join himself to their body. His tutor acquainting his father with what was in progress, the Count of Aquino exerted himself by all means in his power to divert him from his purpose. Thomas persisted, and at the age of seventeen commenced his novitiate at the Dominican convent at Naples. On the news of this step his mother set out for that city; Thomas had removed to Rome; she followed him thither; Thomas had gone forward towards Paris. Upon this she sent her two other sons after him, who were soldiers in the Emperor's army, who surprised him on his journey, and brought him back to Rocca Secca, the family castle. There they shut him up in confinement, and among other modes of shaking his firmness, had the atrocious cruelty and wickedness to introduce a young married woman into his chamber, of great beauty; he drove her from him with a firebrand from the hearth. Even under these adverse circumstances, however, his influence began to be felt on those around him; his sisters had been sent {201} to work upon his feelings; he succeeded in converting them both, and they supplied him with a Bible, Aristotle's Logic, and the Sentences of Peter Lombard. At the end of one or two years, Pope innocent IV. interfered, as well as the Emperor: his mother seemed disposed to connive at hits escape; and one of his sisters contrived to let him down out of his tower in a basket. Such was the early history of this celebrated man, and it ended the following year in his making his formal profession at the Dominican convent at Naples, when he was not yet twenty years old.

The influence of his conduct on his family was not confined to relentings of a temporary character, under the circumstances which have been described. In the event, to use the words of Alban Butler, "his eldest sister consecrated herself to God in St. Mary's, at Capua, and died abbess of that monastery; the youngest, Theodora, married the count of Marsico, and lived and died in great virtue; as did his mother. His two brothers, Landulph and Reynold, became sincere penitents; and having some time after left the emperor's service, he in revenge burnt Aquino, their seat, in 1250, and put Reynold to death."

Albertus Magnus, who was also of the order of St. Dominic, was at this time teaching at Cologne, and to him Aquinas was sent by his superiors. It was not to be supposed that a youth, whose history commences in so wild and enthusiastic a manner, would so give himself up to scholastic pursuits as to neglect his ascetic and devotional exercises; yet he furnishes a proof of the proverb, that at least "prayers," if not "provender," take up no time. He divided his hours between devotion and study, with a very niggard allowance out of them for meals and sleep. At the same time he observed what Ribadaneiro calls a "Pythagorean silence." This was taken by his companions for stupidity, and, added to the circumstance that he was of a plump habit (obesulus), as well as tall, gained him the nickname of the "dumb ox," or the "bos magnus Siciliæ," as the process of his canonization words it. One of them offered to explain his lessons to him, to whom he thankfully attended; another, not knowing better, told him to pronounce a word with a wrong quantity, and for obedience sake he so pronounced it. His master, Albert, however, had formed a different opinion of him; the lowings "of this ox," he said, "will one day be heard all over the world."

Albert was sent to Paris by the Dominicans in 1245, when he taught in the college of St. James, from which the Jacobins lately have taken a name, which raises very different associations. Thomas went with him, and here he took his degrees of M.A. and afterwards D.D.; in the meanwhile, whereas thirty-five was ordinarily {202} the earliest age for teaching divinity, he was allowed, by a dispensation of the University, to give lectures when only twenty-five. He now began to write those works which have had so wonderful an influence on the theology of the Church. It appears, though it is almost incredible, that he sometimes dictated to three or four secretaries at a time, and it may be added, that he never wrote, lectured or disputed, without earnest and continued prayer beforehand. He took his Doctor's degree at Paris the same year with his great contemporary Bonaventura, who was of the Franciscan order, and with whom he formed a close intimacy. It is said that once, when Thomas had come to see his friend, he found him busy on a life of St. Francis; on which he withdrew, saying, "Let alone a saint in his labours for a saint."

The Dominicans are called the "Order of the Preachers," and Thomas took care to fulfil his profession in this respect as in others. At Cologne, Paris, Rome, and other Italian cities, his sermons excited the most extraordinary sensation; Pope Urban took him about with him wherever he went, and the Jews ran to hear him, and many of them, especially two Rabbins, were converted. One Good Friday, when he preached on the divine love to man, his whole auditory was melted into tears, and he was obliged to stop his discourse several times.

He was much revered by St. Louis, who often asked him to his table. One day Thomas, whose mind was full of a controversial subject, to which the errors of the Albigenses gave rise, cried out at table, "Here is the answer to the Manichæans;" his prior brought him to himself, but the king obliged him to dictate his answer to a secretary without delay, in spite of his confusion and apologies.

His repartee to Innocent IV. is well known. Calling on him one day he found him counting money. The Pope, by way of apology, said, "You see the Church can no longer say, 'Silver and gold have I none;'" "True, holy Father," answered Thomas, nor can she say to the paralytic, 'Take up thy bed and walk.'"

When asked, on one occasion, who is in the way to become learned, he answered, "Whoever will content himself with the reading of a single book."

Clement IV. and Urban IV. attempted in vain to persuade him to accept preferment. He had received priest's orders at Cologne, but he would not suffer himself to be raised to a see; and in the year 1263, when he was about thirty-seven, he obtained permission to release himself from his duties as a teacher. This was on his attending a chapter of his order at London; about ten years afterwards he died, at the age of forty-eight. Three {203} months before his death, which took place in 1274, he laid aside all theological studies. In the spring of that year, Gregory X. convoked the second council of Lyons, and required the presence of Thomas. Accordingly he set out from Naples at the end of January, but was soon seized with a fever. He stopped at Fossa Nuova, a Cistercian abbey, near Terrocina. As he entered, he used the words of the Psalm, "Hæc requies mea in sæculum sæculi;" and after lying there a month, he was removed from his earthly toils. In this interval, the monks, who attended him with the most earnest affection and devotion, asked him to dictate an exposition of the Canticles after St. Bernard; he answered, "Give me Bernard's spirit, and I will do it." However, he attempted to comply, and the Comment which remains is commonly assigned to this closing period of his labours. When he was dying, he requested to be taken off his bed, and laid upon ashes spread upon the floor. On the holy Eucharist being brought to him, he prayed the Lord, in whose presence he was lying, "that whatever he had written well, such as it was, he would graciously accept; and what otherwise, he would pardon, seeing that he had ever set it before him, not to deviate, even by a hair's breath, from the divine will." He died on the 7th of March, after thanking God that he was called out of the world so early.

Considering St. Thomas died at so premature an age, and that his life was spent, not only in those vast intellectual works, of which the nineteen volumes folio to which his name is attached are but an inadequate token, but in various important theological negociations in which the popes of his day employed him, it is a fresh wonder to find that he had time for reading the works of his predecessors, and a special to find that reading so mature, orderly, and well digested as appears in the comment which has given rise to these remarks.

Mr. Pattison, the translator of the portion which is occupied on St. Matthew, has drawn up a very luminous account of the history of Catenas generally, and the characteristics of St. Thomas's in particular. By a Catena is meant a string or series of passages from the Fathers in illustration of some portion of Scripture; and he considers that such compilations originated in the short scholia or glosses which it was customary to introduce in MSS. of the Scriptures, between the lines or on the margin, perhaps in imitation of the scholiasts on profane authors. These, as time went on, were gradually expanded, and passages from the homilies or Sermons of the Fathers upon the same Scriptures added to them.

The earliest commentaries on Scripture had been of this discursive {204} nature, being addresses by word of mouth to the people, which were taken down by secretaries, and so preserved. While the traditionary teaching of the Church had the force and life which were its original characteristics, and stamped, as it were, a definite impression of itself upon the mind of the Christian expositor, he was able to give reins, if we may so speak, to his thoughts, and to allow himself to comment on the sacred text freely, in the confidence that, however wide might be the range which his exposition took, his own deeply fixed views of Catholic truth would bring him home at last in safety and without extravagance. Accordingly, while the early comments preserve a very remarkable unanimity in their principles and matter, they are at the same time singularly individual, and one writer would never be mistaken for the other. About the sixth or seventh century, however, this originality disappears; the oral or traditionary teaching became fixed in a written tradition, and henceforward there is a uniform invariable character as well as substance in Scripture interpretation. Mr. Pattison considers Pope Gregory as the last of the original commentators; and all later comments as catenas or selections from the earlier Fathers, whether they bear the form of quotations, or of remarks, in form extempore, upon the lesson or Gospel of the day. Mr. Pattison then continues as follows:—

"All such commentaries have more or less merit and usefulness, but they are very inferior to the 'Catena Aurea,' which is now presented to the English reader; being all of them partial and capricious, dilating on one passage, and passing unnoticed another of equal or greater difficulty; arbitrary in their selection from the Fathers, and as compilations crude and undigested. But it is impossible to read the Catena of St. Thomas without being struck with the masterly and architectonic skill with which it is put together. A learning of the highest kind,—not a mere literary book-knowledge, which might have supplied the place of indexes and tables in ages destitute of those helps, and when everything was to be learned in unarranged and fragmentary MSS. But a thorough acquaintance with the whole range of ecclesiastical antiquity, so as to be able to bring the substance of all that had been written on any point to bear upon the text which involved it, a familiarity with the style of each writer, so as to compress into a few words the pith of a whole page, and a power of clear and orderly arrangement in this mass of knowledge, are qualities which make this Catena perhaps nearly perfect as a conspectus of patristic interpretation. Other compilations exhibit research, industry, learning; but this, though a mere compilation, evinces a masterly command over the whole subject of theology.

"The Catena is so contrived that it reads as a running commentary, the several extracts being dove-tailed together by the compiler. And it consists wholly of extracts, the compiler introducing nothing of his own but the few connecting particles which link one extract to the next. There are also a few quotations headed 'Glossa,' which none of the editors have {205} been able to find in any author, and which from their character, being briefly introductory of a new chapter or a new subject, may be probably assigned to the compiler, though even this is dispensed with when it is possible; when a Father will furnish the words for such transition or connection, they are dexterously introduced. In the Gospel of St. Matthew there are only a few other passages which seem to belong to St. Thomas. These are mostly short explanations or notes upon something that seemed to need explanation in some passage quoted, and which in a modern book would have been thrown into the form of a foot note.

"This continuity is expressed in the title which the author gives his work in his dedication to Pope Urban IV. 'expositio continua;'—the term Catena was not used till after his death ... The sacred text is broken into paragraphs longer or shorter; the shortest less than a verse, the longest twenty verses, and the exposition of each part follows this order. First, the transition from the last paragraph to that under review; if they are events, the harmony of the chronology with the other Evangelists is shown, S. Augustine (de Consensu Evangelistarum) being the authority used for this; then comes the literal, or, what is called, the historical exposition. Where different Fathers have given different explanations, they are introduced generally in the order of the most obvious and literal first, and so proceeding to the most recondite, by the words 'Vel aliter.' Then if any important doctrine hinges upon any part of the passage or comma, selections are given from the most approved treatises on the subject; ... And the comment on the portion is wound up with what is variously called the mystical, moral, allegorical, tropical, tropilogical, and spiritual sense. The peculiar exposition of Origen, which seems to hold a mean place between the historical and the authorized mystical interpretation, is accordingly often inserted between these ...

"Nor is it the case with this Catena, as it seems to be with every other, that some one commentary has been taken as a nucleus or basis, into which other extracts have been inserted. Dr. Cramer says, that Chrysostom is the staple of all the Greek Catenas on St. Matthew; but though St. Thomas held Chrysostom in such esteem that he is reported to have said 'malle se uti Chrysostom libris in Matthæum quam possidere fruique Lutetia Parisiorum,' (præf. Ben.) and though he has drawn upon the Homilies very largely, it is no more than he has done upon nearly all the principal commentaries. If any book might be supposed to have been his guide more than another it would be Rabanus Maurus; though we should not say that he quoted any other writers mediately through Rabanus, yet this compiler seems often to have guided him to quotations in St. Augustine, Gregory, and the general treatises of the Latin Fathers."—iii.—vi.

We shall now present the reader with one or two ample extracts from the Catena, taken almost at random, in illustration of its character. We think they justify the strong words of the editors, that the work "will be found as useful in the private study of the Gospel, as it is well adapted for family reading, and full of thought for those who are engaged in religious instruction." {206}

The first shall be the comment on the text in the Sermon of the Mount,—"Swear not at all:"—

"Gloss. It is written in Leviticus, Thou shalt not forswear thyself in my name; and that they should not make gods of the creature, they are commanded to render God their oaths, and not to swear by any creature. Render to the Lord thy oaths; that is, if you shall have occasion to swear, you shall swear by the Creator and not by the creature. As it is written in Deuteronomy, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by His name.—Jerome. This was allowed under the Law, as to children; as they offered sacrifice to God that they might not do it to idols, so they were permitted to swear by God; not that the thing was right, but that it were better done to God than to demons.—Pseudo-Chrysostom. For no man can swear often but he must sometimes forswear himself; as he who has a custom of much speaking will sometimes speak foolishly.—Augustine. Inasmuch as the sin of perjury is a grievous sin, he must be further removed from it who uses no oath, than he who is ready to swear on every occasion; and the Lord would rather that we should not swear, and keep close to the truth, than that swearing we should come near to perjury.—Id. This precept also confirms the righteousness of the Pharisees, not to forswear; inasmuch as he who swears not at all cannot forswear himself. But as to call God to witness is to swear, does not the apostle break this commandment when he says several times to the Galatians, The things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not: so the Romans, God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit? Unless, perhaps, some one may say, it is no oath unless I use the form of swearing by some object; and that the apostle did not swear in saying, God is my witness. It is ridiculous to make such a distinction; yet the apostle has used even this form, I die daily by your boasting.—Id. But what we could not understand by mere words, from the conduct of the saints we may gather in what sense should be understood what might easily be drawn the contrary way, unless explained by example. The apostle has used oaths in his epistles, and by this shows us how that ought to be taken, I say unto you, swear not at all, namely, lest by allowing ourselves to swear at all we come to readiness in swearing; from readiness we come to a habit of swearing; and from a habit of swearing we fall into perjury. And so the apostle is not found to have used an oath but only in writing, the greater thought and caution which that requires not allowing of slip of the tongue.—Id. Therefore in his writings, as writing allows of greater circumspection, the apostle is found to have used an oath in several places, that none might suppose that there is any direct sin in swearing what is true, but only that our weak hearts are better preserved from perjury by abstaining from all swearing whatever.—Jerome. Lastly, consider that the Saviour does not here forbid to swear by God, but, by the heavens, the earth, by Jerusalem, by a man's head; for this evil practice of swearing by the elements the Jews had always, and are, therefore, often accused in the prophetic writings; for he who swears, shows either reverence or love for that by which he swears. Thus, when the Jews swore by the angels, by the city of Jerusalem, by the temple and the elements, they paid to the creature the honour and {207} worship belonging to God; for it is commanded in the Law that we should not swear but by the Lord our God.—Augustine. Or, it is added, By the heavens, &c., because the Jews did not consider themselves bound when they swore by such things. As if He had said, When you swear by the heaven and the earth, think not that you do not owe your oath to the Lord your God, for you are proved to have sworn by Him whose throne the heaven is, and the earth His footstool; which is not meant as though God had such limbs set upon the heaven and the earth, after the manner of a man who is sitting, but that seat signifies God's judgment of us. And since, in the whole extent of this universe, it is the heaven that has the highest beauty, God is said to sit upon the heavens, as showing Divine power to be more excellent than the most surpassing show of beauty; and He is said to stand upon the earth, as putting to lowest use a lesser beauty. Spiritually, by the heavens are denoted holy souls, by the earth the sinful, seeing He that is spiritual judgeth all things. But to the sinner it is said, Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return. And he who would abide under a law, is put under a law, and therefore He adds, it is the footstool of His feet. Neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King; this is better said than 'it is mine;' though it is understood to mean the same. And because He is also truly Lord, whoso swears by Jerusalem owes his oath to the Lord. Neither by the head. What could any think more entirely his own property than his own head? But how is it ours when we have not power to make one hair black or white? Whoso then swears by his own head, also owes his vows to the Lord; and by this the rest may be understood.—Chrysostom. Note how He exalts the elements of the world, not from their own nature, but from the respect which they have to God, so that there is opened no occasion of idolatry."—pp. 192-195.

Next we select the comments on a very different part of the same divine discourse:—

"Chrysostom. Having shown that it is not right to be anxious about food, He passes to that which is less, (for raiment is not so necessary as food), and asks, And why are ye careful wherewith ye shall be clothed? He uses not here the instance of the birds, as the peacock, or the swan, but brings forward the lilies, saying, Consider the lilies of the field. He would prove in two things the abundant goodness of God, to wit, the richness of the beauty with which they are clothed, and the mean value of the things so clothed with it; for lilies within a fixed time are formed into branches, clothed in whiteness, and endowed with sweet odour, God conveying, by an unseen operation, what the earth had not given to the root. But in all the same perfectness is observed, that they may not be thought to have been formed by chance, but may be known to have been ordered by God's providence. When he says, They toil not, He speaks for the comfort of men; neither do they spin, for the women.—Chrysostom. He forbids not labour, but carefulness, both here and above when he spoke of sowing.—Gloss. And for the greater exaltation of God's providence in those things that are beyond human industry, He adds, I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. {208} Jerome. For, in sooth, what regal purple, what silk, what web of divers colours from the loom, may vie with flowers? What work of man has the red blush of the rose? the pure white of the lily? How the Tyrian dye yields to the violet, sight alone and not words can express.—Chrysostom. As widely as truth differs from falsehood, so widely do our clothes differ from flowers. If then Solomon, who was more eminent than all other kings, was yet surpassed by flowers, how shall you exceed the beauty of flowers by your garments? And Solomon was exceeded by the flowers not once only, or twice, but throughout his whole reign; and this is that He says, In all his glory; for in no one day was he arrayed as are the flowers.—Pseudo-Chrysostom. Or the meaning may be, that Solomon, though he toiled not for his own raiment, yet he gave command for the making of it. But where command is, there is often found both offence of them that minister, and wrath of him that commands. When then any are without these things, then they are arrayed as are the lilies.—Hilary. Or, by the lilies are to be understood the eminences of the heavenly angels, to whom a surpassing radiance of whiteness is communicated by God. They toil not, neither do they spin, because the angelic powers in the very first allotment of their existence are of such a nature, that as they were made, so should they ever continue to be; and when, in the resurrection, men shall be like unto angels, He would have them look for a covering of angelic glory by this example of angelic excellence.—Pseudo- Chrysostom. If God then thus provides for the flowers of the earth which only spring up, that they may be seen and die, shall He overlook men whom He has created, not to be seen for a time, but that they should be for ever?—Jerome. Tomorrow in Scripture is put for time future in general. Jacob says, So shall my righteousness answer for me tomorrow. And in the phantasm of Samuel, the Pythoness says to Saul, Tomorrow shalt thou be with me.—Chrysostom. He calls them no more lilies, but the grass of the field, to show their small worth; and adds, moreover, another cause of their small value, which today is—and he said not, and tomorrow is not—but what is yet greater fall, is cast into the oven.—Hilary. Or, under the signification of grass the Gentiles are pointed to. If then an external existence is only, therefore, granted to the Gentiles, that they may soon be handed over to the judgment fires, how impious it is that the saints should doubt of attaining to eternal glory, when the wicked have eternity bestowed on them for their punishment.—Remig. Spiritually, by the birds of the air are meant the saints who are born again in the water of holy baptism, and by devotion raise themselves above the earth, and seek the skies. The apostles are said to be of more value than these, because they are the heads of the saints. By the lilies also may be understood the saints, who, without the toil of legal ceremonies, pleased God by faith alone, of whom it is said, My beloved, who feedeth among the lilies. Holy Church also is understood by the lilies, because of the whiteness of its faith, and the odour of its good conversation, in which it is said in the same place, As the lily among the thorns. By the grass are denoted the unbelievers, of whom it is said, The grass hath dried up, and the flowers thereof faded. By the oven eternal damnation; so that the sense be, if God bestows temporal {209} goods on the unbelievers, how much more shall He bestow on you eternal goods."—p. 255-257.

The following passage belongs to the miracle of the raising the ruler's daughter:—

"Gloss. After the healing of the woman with the issue of blood, follows the raising of the dead; And when Jesus was come into the ruler's house.—Chrysostom. We may suppose He proceeded slowly, and spake longer to the woman whom he had healed, that He might suffer the maid to die, and thus an evident miracle of restoring to life might be wrought. In the case of Lazarus also, He waited till the third day. And when He saw the minstrels, and people making a noise; this was a proof of her death.—Ambrose. For, by ancient custom, minstrels  were engaged to make lamentation for the dead.—Chrysostom. But Christ put forth all the pipers, but took in the parents, that it might not be said that He had healed her by any other means; and before the restoring to life he excites their expectations by His words; And He said, Give place, for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth.—Bede. As though He had said, To you she is dead, but to God, who has power to give life, she sleeps only, both in soul and body.—Chrysostom. By this saying, He soothes the minds of those that were present, and shows that it is easy to Him to raise the dead; the like He did in the case of Lazarus; Our friend Lazarus sleepeth. This was also a lesson to them not to be afraid of death; forasmuch as He himself also should die, He made His disciples learn, in the persons of others, confidence and patient endurance of death. For when He was near, death was but as sleep. When He had said this, They mocked him. And He did not rebuke their mocking, that this mocking, and the pipes, and all other things, might be a proof of her death.—Jerome. They that had mocked the Reviver were not worthy to behold the mystery of the revival; and, therefore, it follows. And when the multitude was put forth, he entered, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.—Chrysostom. He restored her to life, not by bringing in another soul, but by recalling that which had departed, and, as it were, raising it from sleep, and through this sight preparing the way for belief of the resurrection. And He not only restores her to life, but commands food to be given her, as the other evangelists relate, that that which was done might be seen to be no delusion. And the fame of him went abroad into all that country.—Gloss. The fame, namely, of the greatness and novelty of the miracle, and its established truth; so that it could not be supposed to be a forgery.

"Hilary. Mystically; the Lord enters the ruler's house, that is the synagogue, throughout which there resounded, in the songs of the Law, a strain of wailing.—Jerome. To this day the damsel lays dead in the ruler's house; and they that seem to be teachers are but minstrels singing funeral dirges. The Jews also are not the crowd of believers, but of people making a noise. But when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, then all Israel shall be saved.—Hilary. But that the number of the elect might be known to be but few out of the whole body of believers, the multitude is put forth; the Lord indeed would that they should be {210} saved, but they mocked at His sayings and actions, and so were not worthy to be made partakers of His resurrection.—Jerome. He took her by the hand, and the maid arose, because if the hands of the Jews, which are defiled with blood, be not first cleansed, their synagogue, which is dead, shall not revive.—Hilary. His fame went about into all that country; that is, the salvation of the elect, the gift and works of Christ are preached.—Raban. Morally; The damsel dead in the house is the soul dead in thought. He says that she is asleep, because they that are now asleep in sin may yet be roused by penitence. The minstrels are flatterers who cherish the dead.—Greg. The multitude are put forth that the damsel may be raised; for, unless the multitude of worldly cares is first banished from the secrets of the heart, the soul which is laid within cannot rise again.—Raban. The maiden is raised in the house with few to witness; the young man without the gate, and Lazarus in the presence of many; for a public scandal requires a public expiation, a less notorious, a less remedy; and secret sins may be done away by penitence."—pp. 351-353.

Mr. Williams's work, on our Lord's Passion, is on too sacred a subject to allow of our going at length into it in this place; but our judgment of its merits will be understood by our putting it into so close a connection with the work of a saint. It is indeed in great measure actually composed from the Aurea Catena, but with much original matter interspersed. We heartily hope that, as the author hints, he will be induced to complete the whole work, of which it is but a specimen, though an important one: meanwhile, we make a series of extracts from one passage of it, which, while they give a fair idea of its general character, are as removed from the solemn events which are its main subject as any portion which could be selected.

"There have been some who have considered that Mary Magdalene is the same person as the sister of Lazarus under another name; but on inquiry, we usually find that there is no evidence to support this opinion either in Holy Scriptures or among the early Fathers; we are then, perhaps, apt to dismiss the supposition altogether as untenable and erroneous; and yet at length, on further thought, there are some reasons which dispose one not altogether to reject it. For although we cannot find sufficient authority to support the opinion by direct evidence, yet, when we have formed unconsciously a picture of Mary Magdalene in our minds, we find that it extremely resembles that which we have unconsciously been forming, at the same time, of the sister of Lazarus. If any one, judging from the circumstances recorded in the Gospels, were to give an accurate description of what he supposed to be the character of either of these, it would be in great measure a character of the other also; with this difference perhaps, that with Mary Magdalene we connect something more of penitential sorrow; with the other, that calmness of piety which belongs to one that had always 'chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.' And yet {211} perhaps it may be shown, that there is not sufficient reason for even this supposed discrepancy, either in their histories or their characters.

"The few circumstances recorded of St. Mary Magdalene are such as to excite in us an exceeding interest. We behold her standing among the nearest to our Saviour's cross, sitting the last at his grave at night, and coming the first there in the early morning; and more than all, the circumstances of our Lord's interview with her rivet our strongest attentions and emotions. So eminent among those holy women for her devoted service; and eminent, even among those holy women, in the favour and acceptance of her Lord. Now, in the previous history we have circumstances recorded of an equal and similar interest in Mary, the sister of Lazarus. The same attachment to our Lord, the same favour expressed towards her, and the occasions on which they are mentioned, bring out the same points of disposition in both. In both the same calm, yet intense devotedness, of character; in both, a disposition retiring and contemplative, and yet in both, at the same time, earnest and unshrinking. We have here Mary Magdalene sitting by the sepulchre, and withdrawing from the busier company of her friends, the Galilean women, who had gone to prepare spices to do honour to their Lord. We have on another occasion Mary, the sister of Martha, sitting at Christ's feet to hear his instructions, and in so doing, separated from her more active sister, who was busied in preparations to do honour to our Lord, by receiving him worthily. We have Mary Magdalene sitting in grief at his grave. We have the sister of Martha sitting in grief in the house, mourning for her brother Lazarus. Again, we have self-sacrifice and self-devotion in both; in Mary Magdalene, when she stood at the foot of the cross in that most trying hour, amidst taunts and revilings, unmoved; in Mary, the sister of Martha, when she seems to have sacrificed her livelihood to embalm our Lord's body with great cost, and that in spite of the reproaches of the bystanders. In both a depth of feeling which would be considered contemplative, and yet in both it was combined with a most active energy. Under circumstances of the same kind, they both come forward to our notice by a development of a similar character; and yet the conduct of each of them, under those circumstances, is different from that of others on the same occasions. Thus, at the death of Lazarus, we read of Mary his sister, 'but Mary sat still in the house,' in the position and character of a mourner; but on our Lord's coming, it is said, 'as soon as she heard that, she arose quickly.' The earnest activity which marks this movement displays also incidentally the deep and strong devotedness of her disposition; for the Jews who knew her concluded she had gone to sit at the grave as an action naturally expected of her character and affections, supposing that she was going to act as we find Mary Magdalene now doing. 'The Jews, therefore, which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she arose up hastily, and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.' Now let this account be compared with that of Mary Magdalene on our Lord's death: the one, as was observed, sat still in the house mourning; the other now sits still at the grave mourning. But from that posture {212} the former arose hastily on hearing of our Lord; and again, there is the same active intensity shown, when on perceiving in the twilight that the stone was removed, she hastened to inform the disciples, anticipating even her companions, who waited after her at the place, and saw the angel. Again, when they come into the presence of our Lord himself, there is something very similar in the character displayed by both of them; and yet not similar to anything mentioned of any other of our Lord's followers. At the grave of Lazarus, we read, 'when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping … He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.' At the scpulchre of our Lord, and Mary Magdalene's interview with him, we read, 'Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping;' and the angels say unto her, 'Why weepest thou? And soon afterwards our Lord says unto her, 'Woman, why weepest thou?' The words that follow are few, but in the highest degree expressive, and set before us, in vivid colours, the person of Mary Magdalene, when she acknowledges our Lord by the single word 'Rabboni!' and our Lord replies to her 'Touch me not.' Words, doubtless, mysteriously and divinely intended to support the human weakness of her nature; but, at the same time, indicative of some action of intense devotedness and adoration in her. Throughout this touching scene we cannot help imagining that we see the same person again at our Lord's feet, who was weeping at his feet at the grave of Lazarus, when he was troubled and wept at the sight. There is in both a singular forgetfulness of self; the same intense but deep and calm affection of Divine love. To these points of identity of character may be added the remarkable fact of there being no mention made of Mary, the sister of Martha, at our Lord's death and resurrection."—pp. 405-409.

He then answers the objection drawn from the circumstance that Martha is not mentioned at this time any more than Mary. He observes, that on other occasions also Mary is separated from Martha in her mode of acting, owing to the marked difference of character which exists between the sisters. As Martha was busied about serving on a former occasion, while Mary sat at our Lord's feet, so now the former might be preparing spices while the latter was sitting over against the sepulchre.

Mr. Williams continues:

"There still remains the question, if these descriptions are of one and the same person, why are there distinct appellations usually applied to them? But this would not be the only case of the kind in Scripture; as there occurs no distinct intimation that Nathaniel and Bartholomew are but different names for the same individual, as we reasonably conclude that they are. If Mary Magdalene was a widow, and belonged to or possessed a place called Magdala, in Galilee, by marriage, she might have been generally known under that title, excepting when in the house of, or spoken in connection with, Lazarus and her sister at {213} Bethany. And it may be also noticed that St. Matthew, St. Mark, (i.e. perhaps St. Peter), and St. John, who speak mostly of her, and under the title of Mary Magdalene, would naturally have known her by that name, as men of Galilee. St. Luke speaks of her under this title, not as a familiar appellative, but as a person so 'called.' He twice mentions her as the person 'out of whom went seven devils,' which is the designation of a stranger, and so also is that other term, when he speaks of her as one 'who ministered unto our Lord in Galilee.'

"One would indeed be glad to think that there should have been two such persons: for it is certain that the sister of Lazarus had given herself up to the one thing which is needful with singleness of heart; and also that Mary Magdalene was a person of most fervent piety. Theophylact observes, that although the evangelists mention different women, 'yet they all speak of Mary Magdalene on account of her fervent affection.' And St. Augustine says of her, that Mary Magdalene came, without doubt as being much more fervent in affection than the rest of the women which ministered unto the Lord; so that not undeservedly John makes mention of her, while he says nothing of those who came with her, as the other testify."—pp. 409, 410.

Our author then comes to the question whether St. Mary Magdalene is the same with the "woman who was a sinner, who anointed our Lord's feet in the Pharisee's house." He observes that for many centuries this has been commonly answered in the affirmative, though there is no evidence of the fact either in Scripture or among the early Fathers. Granting then that the supposition is incapable of proof, still he considers that certain considerations may be urged in favour of it, which it may be right to mention, out of respect to the persons who have maintained it. As to the Fathers, if there is no evidence in favour of this supposition, at least there is none against it. Origen, Ambrose, Chrysostom, and Augustine plainly decide on conjectural grounds. St. Ambrose suggests that there might have been more than one Mary Magdalene. Pope Gregory speaks of St. Mary Magdalene as the sinner who, by loving the truth, had washed away with tears the stains of crime. St. Austin considers Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who anointed our Lord at Bethany, as the same person whom St. Luke records as the sinner who anointed him in the house of the Pharisee. His reason is this, that before the anointing at Bethany, upon Lazarus's being raised from the dead, St. John speaks of her as the person who had anointed our Lord, and wiped his feet with the hair of her head. This argument will introduce a further passage from Mr. Williams, with which we shall conclude this article.

"In answer to this argument of St. Austin's, it might be said that St. John thus designates her, not by an action which had at that time taken place, viz. at time raising of Lazarus, but by an action for which she was {214} afterwards known. But still the expression of her 'wiping His feet with her hair,' although St. John records this circumstance in the anointing at Bethany; whereas the other two evangelists only speak of her anointing His head: yet this circumstance itself seems more characteristic of the action in St. Luke than it is of the later one at Bethany. The action of wiping His feet with her hair is in itself so beautiful and so extraordinary, that we feel a love and desire to connect it for ever with the same person: it was an action that could not have been done by a second person from imitation: and would scarce have spontaneously occurred to two different persons. But when we consider both these anointings to have been by one and the same individual, the change that takes place in the action, that she who once anointed Christ's feet only, should now, after many expressions of His favour and approbation, venture to combine the head also in that deed of honour, is most touchingly significative; expressive of her improved condition, of her higher acceptance, and of her overflowing gratitude for the same. Now this new case of question appears indeed greatly to increase the difficulty of the former; for many would be inclined to allow the former, that St. Mary Magdalene may be no other than Mary, the sister of Martha; and many also would be disposed to take it for granted, that, St. Mary Magdalene was 'the sinner' we are speaking of. But most persons would be very loth to suppose that the good sister of Martha should have been 'the sinner' described by St. Luke."—pp. 413, 414.

Mr. Williams answers this difficulty by suggesting, first, that the term "sinner" has not that force which at first sight we should be apt to give it; and next, by insisting on the power of our Lord's absolution, whatever the woman's sins were; an absolution very different from any that is vouchsafed to us who have already in baptism received the gift of grace, and have profaned it.

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