Chrysostom The Preacher -- By: Henry Cook Sperbeck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:251 (Jul 1906)
Article: Chrysostom The Preacher
Author: Henry Cook Sperbeck


Chrysostom The Preacher

Reverend Henry Cook Sperbeck

In studying Chrysostom as a preacher we discover a rare union of superior qualities. He was distinguished for his simple, practical, and pathetic appeals, for his ornate style, for his fiery invectives, and for his flights of eloquence. He was expository and practical, and, since this style of preaching is demanded to-day, the study of Chrysostom will be profitable to the preacher. Greek writers give the following description of his appearance: “He was short with a large head, ample wrinkled forehead, eyes deep-set but pleasing, hollow cheeks, and a scanty gray beard.” The austerities of his youth left their mark upon his frame. Frequently he would preach sitting in the ambo. His voice was of superior quality, and has been described thus: “He had a tongue which exceeded the cataracts of the Nile for fluency.”

John Chrysostom was born (a.d. 347) at Antioch, Syria. His father’s name was Secundus, and his mother’s name was Anthusa. His father served in the Imperial army of Syria, where he won distinction. His mother was a woman of deep piety. Chrysostom was not many days old when his father died, leaving Anthusa a widow of twenty. This young mother was very careful in training her son. The task was a difficult one, because the Christianity of that day had absorbed much paganism. Then, too, most of the churches in the large cities were tainted with the sins of the time, such as avarice, luxury, and sensuality. Anthusa labored faithfully to save her son

from these pitfalls. Her part of the work was well done. Years later, when Chrysostom’s enemies sought to injure his fair name, they examined carefully into his early record, thinking to discover a profligate youth. But they found his character to be irreproachable.

At the age of twenty, Chrysostom attended lectures under the noted sophist Libanius. He was being prepared not for the clerical, but for the legal profession. He entered upon the legal profession, and doubtless saw worldly honor before him. In those days the law profession opened to high governmental positions. But the clerical profession was the one for which he seemed best adapted, and for which Providence had prepared him.

He gave himself up to the Christian life. In those days a holy life was one entirely separate from worldly pleasures and pursuits. Chrysostom desired to leave home and become an ascetic; but, on account of the earnest pleading of his mother, he remained at home for some time, possibly until she died. At his home in Antioch, he lived the life of a monk. He excluded from his life all worldly amusements and occupations, seldom going out of the ho...

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