John Chrysostom, Preacher -- By: Edward Ulback

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 095:379 (Jul 1938)
Article: John Chrysostom, Preacher
Author: Edward Ulback


John Chrysostom, Preacher

Edward Ulback

Before Chrysostom was made Bishop of Constantinople, at the close of the fourth century, the churches of the East had become so debased and corrupted, that men who feared God, and were sick of the voluptuousness and licentiousness that were rampant in great towns, not only among the laity but the clergy, withdrew to monasteries and deserts, to spend their days in penitence and prayer. Constantinople, the metropolis of the empire and the Church, led the way, and was hurrying downwards with such accelerated motion, that Chrysostom, with all his piety and eloquence, in vain attempted to arrest its career, and by his efforts at reformation only brought destruction on himself.

But we are anticipating, and must, ere we consider his

brief career as Bishop of the Byzantine capital, glance at his early life, and the first triumphs of his eloquence even in Antioch, where, as presbyter, he preached for twelve years. Here he was born in the year of Christ 347. His father, Secundus, died when John was but a child, leaving him to the care of his mother. She did not again enter the wedded state, but devoted herself entirely to the training of her boy, who early displayed marks of genius. She was a woman of great piety and judgment, and exercised an important influence over the mind of the future orator. Under her watchful and pious eye, preserved from the dangers and untainted by the vices of youth, he grew up, the simple faith of his childhood strengthening and expanding with his developing powers. Unlike the great Augustine, the mental struggles of his age seem never to have affected him; there are no remarkable epochs in his religious history, and, as far as we know, there was never room for a revolution of mind so marked and decided as that which the renowned Bishop of Hippo relates in his “Confessions.” For three years he enjoyed the religious instructions of Meletius, the Bishop of Antioch. Following this his early aspirations after eloquence drew him to the school of the distinguished rhetorician Libanius, and so brilliant was his success as a student, that his master, being asked which of his pupils would be capable of succeeding him in his school, replied: “John, if the Christians had not stolen him from us.” He applied himself to the study of the Platonic philosophy under Andragathius: and at the age of eighteen he devoted himself to sacred literature under Carterius and Diodorus, the latter of whom afterwards became Bishop of Tarsus. If his oratorical training under Libanius contributed to make him the most eloquent of Preachers, he in a great degree owed it to Diodorus that he became one of the most sound, rational, and felicitous of the expounders of Scripture. In opposit...

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