DIONYSIƲS SYRƲS HIS EXPOSITION OF THE Ten Beatitudes, Pronounced in the Fifth Chapter of St. Matthew, &c. Translated out of the SYRIACK LANGUAGE, BY DƲDLEY LOFTƲS, J. U. D.
BEfore our Saviour pronounced the Beatitudes, he ascended a Mountain, that he might thereby shew, that it was he who descended on Mount Sinai, and gave the Ten Command∣ments.
Furthermore, That he might raise the Disciples, and the Multitude, to the Contemplation of heavenly Page 64Things; and that he might shew that his Doctrine was high and superior to Things that are earthly, and that it is not overcast with a Lye, but shineth forth unto all men; for he appeared as a man, and ascended the Mount, because the children of Israel desired that they might not see that fire, lest they should dye.
Moreover, He said thus, The Lord shall raise unto them a Prophet of their Brethren, because he was a Medi∣ator between God and men, as Moses between God and Israel.
And he foretold Things to come, and Taught Ten Commandments, as Moses did; and as the Ten Command∣ments comprehend the Law, so the Ten Beatitudes con∣tain the whole Gospel.
And how are the Beatitudes said to be Ten, since there are but Nine of them?
We say, That Luke added another: And blessed are they who weep now, for they shall rejoyce. Signifying by him that weeps, him who lamenteth for his sins, and our fall from Paradise; and that he freed them from dissolute Laughter, and vain Mirth; and that he who freed them from dissolute laughter, and vain mirth, will cause them to rejoyce in the world to come who flie therfrom; but if they say, that Luke deliver'd that which Matthew said, Blessed are they who mourn: Let them know, that it is another Beatitude (i.e.) The Assum∣ption of the Body and Blood when he gave these blessings; as yet he had not communicated the My∣steries, and therefore there is one of the Beatitudes wanting, that it might be fulfill'd in the receiving of his Body and Blood.
Moreover, Also there are Nine Commandments, yet are they called Ten.Page 65
- I. The First, I am the Lord thy God.
- II. The Second, Thou shalt not swear by the Name of the Lord.
- III. The Third, Keep the Sabbath day.
- IV. The Fourth, Honour thy Father and thy Mo∣ther.
- V. The Fifth, Thou shalt not commit Murther.
- VI. The Sixth, Thou shalt not commit Adultery.
- VII. The Seventh, Thou shalt not Steal.
- VIII. The Eigth, Thou shalt not bear false Wit∣ness.
- IX. The Ninth, Thou shalt not covet the House, nor Wife of thy Neighbour.
And wherefore then are they called Ten, being but Nine?
Because the number of Ten is a perfect number, and Perfection is not to be found in the Law, but in the Gospel; and therefore there was a defect in the Com∣mandments, that Perfection might be found in the Gospel according to the letter Jud, which is the first letter of Jesus, which signifieth Ten.
Moreover, The Doctrine of the Beatitudes is appli∣cable unto all men in general, and not to the Disciples onely; and that is manifest from hence, That he saith, Not Blessed are ye, but Blessed are they, speaking as to many. The name therefore of the Beatitudes, com∣prehendeth all joy and exultation, even as the name unhappy comprehendeth whatsoever is sad or grievous.Page 66
I. Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Poor he' calls those who enjoy wealth, and of their own accord become poor, scattering it among the poor, according to that, Sell thy possession, and give to the poor.
Again, Poor he calls those, who are able to acquire wealth, and do not acquire it, by reason of the King∣dom of Heaven, as Monks and Votaries.
Again, Those who possess Riches, and yet are not affected with them, or which have them; but yet are poor in spirit notwithstanding, and dispense them ho∣nourably, as did Job and Abraham.
Moreover, He doth not call them poor in opposition to wealth, because they if they offend are condemn'd, but the poor in spirit (i. e.) Those who are void of sin, and empty of sin and iniquity; and as the poor want the wealth of this World, so these are void of sin and iniquity.
Again, The poor he calls those, who are not puft up in their minds, either in respect of Justice, or Wealth, or Wisdom; but are meek and humble, according to this, With whom shall I walk, but with the meek and humble? For the inchantment of pride was the first∣born of Satan in the beginning, and therewith he lift∣ed up his Heel against his Creator, and thereby caused man to fall; justly therefore doth our Saviour purge this passion, giving a blessing unto the Righteous, who are free from pride.
The Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom, he calls the Bliss which the Saints enjoy after the Resur∣rection.Page 67
II. Blessed are they who mourn.
Mourning may be said in two senses. Worldly Mourning, whereby a man mourneth for that he is not rich, or that he is unable to revenge himself on his Enemy, or for the separation of Lovers. This Mourning begetteth Death, according to that, worldly sorrow worketh Death; but Mourning for God's sake, is the cause of life, and gaineth comfort, and doubleth blessings: Not to those who mourn for Po∣verty, or the Death of others, but to those who mourn for their sins, being afraid of Judgment, according to that, I have watered my Bed all the night.
Again, He calls him a Mourner, who being free from sin, mourns for the evil of other men, as Samuel for that of Saul, and David, who said, Sadness hath seized on me for the sins of those who have left thy Law: Or when we compute the Happiness from which Adam fell, or the Infelicity wherein we are left, according as it was said of one of the Saints, That whensoever he was willing to eat, did weep; and when he was asked the Reason, answered, I remember what we were in the be∣ginning, and how low we are cast to eat the grass, as the Beasts: These therefore are Mourners, who mourn for their sins.
Again, Mourners are those who eschew the pleasures of the world, and continually lament, fearing lest their vertue should decay.
Severus calls Mourning the patient Longanimity in severities of Suffering, and a Monastick life, and the removal from worldly desires.
Moreover, Mourning is a sad affection of the soul, which is placed in the deprivation of those sins which are delightful.Page 68
Again, Mourners he calls those, who are sad in re∣spect of the fear of future enjoyments.
For they shall be comforted. When they shall be re∣vealed, and that Fear shall be taken from them which they had of what they possest.
III. Blessed are the meek.
Since that of the poor in spirit, is like unto that of the meek, wherefore doth he reiterate it? The first of the poor in spirit, is spiritual, and is of those who are perfect in mind, who totally cast off all worldly Things out of their mind; but this second, is bodily of those who are eminent in descent, or otherwise; it is fit that they should possess meekness, for meekness is the term of perfection, and it sheweth it self two manner of wayes, either in gravity and quality, and plainness of behaviour, or in a separation made for God; and here he giveth the blessing to that which is made by separation, and therefore the meek is he who being vertuous, is satisfied with moderation, though he hath but little.
Again, He calls him meek, who is zealous in the practice of good things, and patient in the toleration of evil.
For they shall inherit the earth. Earth is the Fruit of the blessed, not this which begets Thorns to those who dwell thereon, nor the Lord of Paradise, or of the Centre, but that which is above the Heavens (viz.) the Firmament, which is not susceptible of passion, but is made for the life and delight of the Just, con∣cerning which David saith, I believe that I shall see the blessings of the Lord in the Land of the Living: And after the general Resurrection, the Just shall ascend to Page 69the earth; that is to say, above the Firmament which is seen of us, and there they shall be com∣forted without end; but the Wicked perish on this Earth, and shall be tormented immortally: And where∣fore doth he call Earth the Firmament? That he might illustrate the Things which are hidden, for those which are revealed.
IV. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst.
Hunger and Thirst are taken three manner of ways, either by reason of want of Victuals, or by reason of Righteousness, as in long Fasting, or for that, whereby one coveteth the knowledge of God and his Doctrine, according to that, He was hungry; not for Bread, but for the hearing of the Word of God: And here he doth not give the blessing to those who are affected with bodily Hunger and Thirst, but to those who have an hungring and thirsting after the knowledge of God, and the Doctrine of Salvation.
Righteousness. They call that Righteousness which is of them who without a worthy mind divide unto every man that which is equal, as a Judge who justi∣fies the Just, and condemns the guilty; but Matthew doth not call this Justice, but that which is opposed to Fraud and Oppression.
Moreover, The keeping of the Commandments is called Righteousness.
Again, All Vertue in general is called Righteous∣ness: Our Saviour also is called Righteousness, according to that which Paul said, That he was made for us Righteousness and Holiness.
For they shall be filled. That is to say, with unspeak∣able pleasures in the Kingdom.Page 70
V. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall, &c.
Mercy is taken in three several senses.
Bodily, as if a man should give Alms, and should aid the Weak, and fill the Hungry.
Mental, as if a man should love him who wrongs him, and should forgive the injuries of his Ene∣mies.
Spiritual, as if a man should love those who are er∣roneous, and should convert them from the errour of their wayes, and should instruct the ignorant, and bring them to the Lord; and this is like the mercy of God, who alwayes loves the Creatures: Here he gives the blessing, not only to those who shew mercy in deeds, but to those also, who in the cogitations of their minds possess mercy.
Merciful. So he calls them who have mercy on the poor and strangers, and on offenders, and the guilty, and those who have a good will to shew mercy, though it be not in their power to perform it; and those who have mercy on themselves, and are restrained from sin, lest they should enter into Torment.
Again, Those who have compassion with those who suffer, and are grieved for those who grieve. And it is certain, That these are merciful, because the trouble of mind which ariseth from the evil which afflicteth stran∣gers, is the extremity of mercy.
Moreover, That Will abounds with Love, which suffereth with those who suffer for those things which afflict them.
Moreover, Mercy is principal among the Vertues of the Soul, and deriveth it's name from God himself, who is truly merciful.Page 71
Moreover, To have mercy on the good, is the per∣fection of Righteousness natural and legal.
VI. Blessed are the pure in heart.
(i. e.) In their Souls, Consciences and Hearts, be∣cause they are freed from all kinds of evil and bitter∣ness, and rust of sin, and he is pure of mind; and pureness of body is to be cleansed with water, and to be washed from Turpitude, and this also is commenda∣ble: And it is fitting that men should be washed from filth, but the blessing doth not appertain to this, but unto that of the Soul, because the Saints, and those which are pure, appear so in Soul and Body by the proper pureness and cleanness of the Soul.
For they shall see God. But how said he unto Mo∣ses, No man can see me, and live? And John also, No man saw God at any time? And Paul, No man ever saw him?
We say, That they said so concerning the natural and hidden Vision of God; for the Nature of God, such as it is, personally transcends the comprehension of humane understandings, and therefore they said, That he is neither seen nor comprehended. Therefore this, That they shall see God, hath this meaning, That he who is pure in heart, participateth of Divine Revela∣tions, and gaineth life uncorruptible, and a Kingdom for joy without ceasing; and the light of Truth are called the Vision of God, therefore he calleth Vision a Communion, according to that, The wicked shall be taken away, and shall not see glory (which is) That they shall not participate of Glory.
Moreover, God created us after his Image, as the Wax according to the likeness of the Seal wherewith Page 72it is impressed, and breareth its Effigies; but we by our wickedness have covered it, as Rust obscureth Iron; for he whose heart is pure from Passions, seeth in him∣self the image of Divine nature, as Iron, when it is polished from its dross, yieldeth splendor and bright∣ness, especially if it be brought to a clear Sun shine: Let us therefore be pure in heart, that we may be wor∣thy of the blessing, and be comforted in the Vision of the Divine image.
Again, Vision is taken in seven several significations, but generally it may be reduced into three (viz.) to Sense, Reason and Faith; and God is onely seen by Faith, and Faith is the persuasion of those things which are in Hope.
Again, He is seen in his Works, according to that, They shall seek after God, and find him out in his crea∣tures. The Organ of this sight is a pure Heart, which doth not adhere to earthly Things.
Furthermore, They call sight, the light and revelati∣on which the Soul receiveth from within, by the know∣ledge of him, and of these spiritual Things, according to that, Clear mine eyes, that I may see the wonderful things which are in thy Law.
VII. Blessed are the Peace-makers.
For Peace is the equality of Will which is perfected in Love, and the Proprieties of Peace, and its Facul∣ties, are Love, Quietness, Unanimity and Charity. These are the contraries to Peace, Scandal, Commo∣tion; and the Properties of him who is in Commoti∣on, are distorted Eyes, tuberous Lips, gnashing Teeth, a distended Neck, a moving and shaking Head, Hands beating the Air, stamping Feet; therefore he calls Page 73them Peace-makers, who cause War and Seditions to cease.
Moreover, Him who worketh quietness between the Soul and the Body, for the Spirit loves whatsoever keeps down the Body.
Moreover, Whomsoever worketh quietness between himself and others.
For they shall be called the Sons of God. But how can man, that is made of dust, be the Son of God?
We say, That by Grace this was bestowed on him, as it was in the beginning, Free-will, our own Liberty and Immortality are by Grace, and what is this Filia∣tion? (That is to say) That man was made of mor∣tal, corruptible and temporal: immortal, incorruptible and eternal, and that which is more, he was made a di∣vine man; for he who was worthy to be the Son of God, possesseth the glory of his Father, as bodily Sons do inherit the riches of their Fathers.
VIII. Blessed are they who are persecuted for Righteousness.
(i. e.) The Martyrs and Confessors, who are per∣secuted by the Devil or Tyrants; and our Lord calleth Righteousness himself, as hath been said before.
Moreover, He calleth Righteousness all the victories of vertues; those who are persecuted for vertue, ei∣ther for the care of our Brethren, or for Truth's sake.
Moreover, This eighth Beatitude, hath affinity with the number Eight, and, as the Head of all Beatitudes, is placed in the summity of divine vertues. This David sheweth in the eight Psalm, and also Moses, by the Page 74Circumcision the eighth day, cutting off and circum∣cising the dead skin wherewith we were cloathed for Transgression of the Commandment; and here the eighth Beatitude gaineth us a return to Heaven, and a regress to our former Righteousness.
Again, This number of eight is celebrated in Na∣ture, and in Books, and among the Heathen Phi∣losophers.
Moreover, There are eight passions of the right hand, and eight of the left; those of the right, are Simplicity of the Mind, Mourning, Humility, Righteous∣ness, Mercy, Pureness of Thought, Peace, and perfect Suf∣fering. Those of the left hand, are Pride, Fornicati∣on, Vain glory, Intemperance, Covetousness, Anger, Envy, Disdain. There is a Cure set down for every one of the left-handed passions (viz.) one of those of the right hand; and the Soul is rectified, and the Body perfected of him who takes care thereof. Pride (which is the first Devil) a man overcometh by Simplicity, which is of mean nature. And Fornication (the se∣cond, being of a Swinish nature) by the passion of the heart and Mourning. Vain glory (a Thorn which pricketh on every side, and is without Fruit) by Hu∣mility, which is the good ground, and cultivated with all vertues. Gulosity (a burning fire, and never sa∣tisfied) by an appetite regulated by Justice and Ʋp∣rightness. The rich man (an Oppressor of, and ha∣ted by all men) by clemency and mercy towards all men. A turbulent passion of the mind, and commotion of a confus'd person, by sincerity of thoughts and cor∣dial love. Envy (the Fountain of all Contention and Strife) by Peace, the reconciler of differences. Dis∣dain (the Father of pusillanimity and neglect) by patient suffering, the mother and root of all good Things.Page 75
IX. Blessed are ye when men deride you.
(i. e.) When men call you Sorcerers, Criminal, Er∣roneous, and by other reviling Terms; for scorns and reproaches sometimes are a greater punishment than blows, and many times men strangle themselves, for that they have been reproached or reviled; for what reason is this Beatitude of Reproach set in the last place? By reason of the asperity thereof; for if a man have not attain'd the perfection of the former, he cannot endure this; for he needeth to be a fortified man, who can bear a reproach, according as Job, who bore the re∣proaches of his friends; and David, those of Shi∣mei.
And persecute you (i. e.) Because they were to con∣vert the Gentiles from worshipping of Idols, to Faith in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, therefore persecutions arise against you.
And speak against you every evil word. Not for your offences, but by reason of me, it being untrue what they shall say against you, as Paul said, Let none of you suffer as an evil doer, but as a Christian. Then rejoyce and be glad for your reward (i. e.) in Truth when the Apostles were reproached and reviled for Christ, they greatly rejoyced, and now a reward is given unto them, and then the glory which is to be revealed in us, and these words are taken to concern all those who suffer Tentation for Christ.
For so persecuted they the Prophets. This passage doth not only regard the Apostles, but also the Do∣ctors; That as the Prophets suffered for the Father, so ye (shall suffer) for me: And by this he sheweth his Majesty, and the Equality of his Glory with the Fa∣ther. Page 76And inasmuch as he said, The Prophets which were before them. He shewed, That even they also had Prophets.
Again, Though in every of the Beatitudes, the King∣dom is not promised, be not dismayed; for though the rewards in the Beatitudes, be divers and different one from the other, yet all and every of them will bring him who observeth any of them to the Kingdom of Heaven: And after he taught them their Duty, he ap∣plieth himself to the praysing of them, that they might not be troubled, and say, How can we attain the ful∣filling of the Commandments, which is requisite for our entrance into Heaven?