Â“ENCOURAGEMENT TO LABOURERSÂ”
From the Homilies on “The Rich Man and Lazarus” by Chrysostom
As the springs run when no one uses their waters; as the fountains pour forth when none draws from them; as the rivers flow on although no one drinks from their waves; so must the believer discharge his whole duty, though no one gives attention. Though by our efforts none may be converted, yet thereby are the impenitent kept from going on as freely in sin. I have not raised the sick, but I have rendered stronger the healthful; my discourse may not have recalled any from vice, but it has made the virtuous more careful. Moreover, he who hears today and resists, may tomorrow hear and obey; he also who despises this message today and tomorrow, may after a longer time, attend carefully to these instructions; for the fisherman may often draw an empty net through the whole day, but in the evening, when about to depart, take the fish that had till then escaped.
Were we to suspend business and sit down in idleness, when unsuccessful in our undertakings, our whole life would be lost, our spiritual as well as our temporal advantages. Were the husbandman to suspend all labour on account of one, or two, or many disasters from unfavourable weather, we should all perish from famine; and did the mariner abandon the sea even on account of many tempests, the business of navigation would cease, and all the conveniences thence derived to society be excluded; and were men to act in reference to the various employments of life as too many Christians act in reference to the interests of religion all things would go down to ruin.
When the husbandman has repeatedly sown the same field without a successful harvest, he returns again to the tillage of the lame ground, and in a single year reaps a full reward for his labours; and the merchant, though he has suffered many wrecks, again fits out his vessels, and embarks on the same enterprise, with
no better prospects of success than the former. It is so with men in every calling. Since they exercise so much diligence and perseverance in temporal things, the issue of which is uncertain, shall we. when our exhortations are unheeded, be at once discouraged? When his vessel is wrecked, the mariner finds none to relieve his poverty; and when the tempest, deluging his grounds, destroys his harvest, the husbandman must bear his wants. IT IS NOT SO WITH US.
Although the hearer may not receive the seed of the word, nor bring forth the fruit of obedience, you shall receive from God a recompense as great when he disobeys, as you would have received had he been obedient. YOU DID WHAT YOU COULD. We are not responsible for our hearers being persuaded, but only that they should be properly exhorted, to admonish is our duty. Let the limit of your exhortation be the obedience of him who is exhorted. The devil is constantly opposing our salvation though gaining nothing thereby, and injuring himself by his zeal. So great is his frenzy, that he often undertakes impossibilities, and assaults not only those whom he may hope to supplant and overthrow, but those who are probably superior to his devices. When he heard that Job was commended by the omniscient God, he hoped to be able to overthrow him; nor did the deceiver cease his various efforts and devices for destroying this just man, even though God had commended so highly the integrity of his saint.
Tell me then, shall we not be ashamed, shall we not blush, if, when the devil never despairs of our destruction, but constantly expects it, we despair of the salvation of our brethren? The devil does not retire from his assault against us, even when God forbids. Will you then abandon your brethren, when God is encouraging and urging to their aid.