Extract from St. John Chrysostom, Homily III on Acts 1:12 [1]

"... And now I address no longer every one, but those who aim at preferment. If thou believest that the election is with God, be not displeased. (Mark x. 14, 21; xiv. 4.) For it is with Him thou art displeased, and with Him thou art exasperated: it is He who has made the choice; thou doest the very thing that Cain did; because, forsooth, his brother’s sacrifice was preferred, he was indignant, when he ought to have felt compunction. However, that is not what I mean here; but this, that God knows how to dispense things for the best. In many cases, thou art in point of disposition more estimable than the other but not the fit person. Besides, on the other hand, thy life is irreproachable, and thy habits those of a well-nurtured man, but in the Church this is not all that is wanted. Moreover, one man is adapted for one thing, another for another. Do you not observe, how much discourse the holy Scripture has made on this matter? But let me say why it is that the thing has become a subject of competition: it is because we come to the Episcopate not as unto a work of governing and superintending the brethren, but as to a post of dignity and repose. Did you but know that a Bishop is bound to belong to all, to bear the burden of all; that others, if they are angry, are pardoned, but he never; that others, if they sin, have excuses made for them, he has none; you would not be eager for the dignity, would not run after it. So it is, the Bishop is exposed to the tongues of all, to the criticism of all, whether they be wise or fools. He is harassed with cares every day, nay, every night. He has many to hate him, many to envy him. Talk not to me of those who curry favor with all, of those who desire to sleep, of those who advance to this office as for repose. We have nothing to do with these; we speak of those who watch for your souls, who consider the safety and welfare of those under them before their own. Tell me now: suppose a man has ten children, always living with him, and constantly under his control; yet is he solicitous about them; and a bishop, who has such numbers, not living under the same roof with him, but owing obedience to his authority—what does he not need to be! But he is honored, you will say. With what sort of honor, indeed! Why, the paupers and beggars abuse him openly in the market-place. And why does he not stop their mouths then? Yes, very proper work, this, for a bishop, is it not? Then again, if he do[es] not give to all, the idle and the industrious alike, lo! a thousand complaints on all sides. None is afraid to accuse him, and speak evil of him. In the case of civil governors, fear steps in; with bishops, nothing of the kind. As for the fear of God, it does not influence people, as regards them, in the least degree. Why speak of the anxiety connected with the word and doctrine? The painful work in Ordinations? Either, perhaps, I am a poor wretched incompetent creature, or else, the case is as I say. The soul of a Bishop is for all the world like a vessel in a storm: lashed from every side, by friends, by foes, by one’s own people, by strangers. Does not the Emperor rule the whole world, the Bishop a single city? Yet a Bishop’s anxieties are as much beyond those of the emperor, as the waters of a river simply moved, by the wind are surpassed in agitation by the swelling and raging sea. And why? because in the one case there are many to lend a hand, for all goes on by law and by rule; but in the other there is none of this, nor is there authority to command; but if one be greatly moved, then he is harsh; if the contrary, then he is cold! And in him these opposites must meet, that he may neither be despised, nor be hated. Besides, the very demands of business preoccupy him: how many is he obliged to offend, whether he will or not! How many to be severe with! I speak not otherwise than it is, but as I find it in my own actual experience. I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish: and the reason is, that it is an affair that requires a great mind. Many are the exigencies which throw a man out of his natural temper; and he had need have a thousand eyes on all sides. Do you not see what a number of qualifications the Bishop must have? To be apt to teach, patient, holding fast the faithful word in doctrine (see 1 Tim. iii. 2–9; Tit. i. 7–9). What trouble and pains does this require! And then, others do wrong, and he bears all the blame. To pass over every thing else: if one soul depart unbaptized, does not this subvert all his own prospect of salvation? The loss of one soul carries with it a penalty which no language can represent. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value, that the Son of God became man, and suffered so much, think how sore a punishment must the losing of it bring! And if in this present life he who is cause of another’s destruction is worthy of death, much more in the next world. Do not tell me, that the presbyter is in fault, or the deacon. The guilt of all these comes perforce upon the head of those who ordained them. Let me mention another instance. It chances, that a bishop has inherited from his predecessor a set of persons of indifferent character. What measures is it proper to take in respect of bygone transgressions (for here are two precipices) so as not to let the offender go unpunished, and not to cause scandal to the rest? Must one’s first step be to cut him off? There is no actual present ground for that. But is it right to let him go unmarked? Yes, say you; for the fault rests with the bishop who ordained him. Well then? must one refuse to ordain him again, and to raise him to a higher degree of the ministry? That would be to publish it to all men, that he is a person of indifferent character, and so again one would cause scandal in a different way. But is one to promote him to a higher degree? That is much worse.
If then there were only the responsibility of the office itself for people to run after in the episcopate, none would be so quick to accept it. But as things go, we run after this, just as we do after the dignities of the world. That we may have glory with men, we lose ourselves with God. What profit in such honor? How self-evident its nothingness is! When you covet the episcopal rank, put in the other scale, the account to be rendered after this life. Weigh against it, the happiness of a life free from toil, take into account the different measure of the punishment. I mean, that even if you have sinned, but in your own person merely, you will have no such great punishment, nothing like it: but if you have sinned as bishop, you are lost. Remember what Moses endured, what wisdom he displayed, what good deeds he exhibited: but, for committing one sin only, he was bitterly punished; and with good reason; for this fault was attended with injury to the rest. Not in regard that the sin was public, but because it was the sin of a spiritual Ruler; for in truth we do not pay the same penalty for public and for hidden faults. (Aug in Ps. xcix. 6.) The sin may be the same, but not the harm of it; nay, not the sin itself; for it is not the same thing to sin in secret and unseen, and to sin openly. But the bishop cannot sin unobserved. Well for him if he escape reproach, though he sin not; much less can he think to escape notice, if he do sin. Let him be angry, let him laugh, or let him but dream of a moment’s relaxation, many are they that scoff, many that are offended, many that lay down the law, many that bring to mind the former bishops, and abuse the present one; not that they wish to sound the praise of those; no, it is only to carp at him that they bring up the mention of fellow-bishops, of presbyters. Sweet, says the proverb, is war to the inexperienced; but it may rather be said now, that even after one has come out of it, people in general have seen nothing of it: for in their eyes it is not war, but like those shepherds in Ezekiel, we slay and devour. (Ezek. xxxiv. 2.) Which of us has it in his power to show that he has taken as much care for the flocks of Christ, as Jacob did for Laban’s? (Gen. xxxi. 40.) Which of us can tell of the frost of the night? For talk not to me of vigils, and all that parade. The contrary plainly is the fact. Prefects, and governors (ὕπαρχοι καὶ τοπάρχαι) of provinces, do not enjoy such honour as he that governs the Church. If he enter the palace, who but he is first? If he go to see ladies, or visit the houses of the great, none is preferred to him. The whole state of things is ruined and corrupt. I do not speak thus as wishing to put us bishops to shame, but to repress your hankering after the office. For with what conscience, (even should you succeed in becoming a bishop, having made interest for it either in person or by another), with what eyes will you look the man in the face who worked with you to that end? What will you have to plead for your excuse? For he that unwillingly, by compulsion and not with his own consent, was raised to the office, may have something to say for himself, though for the most part even such an one has no pardon to expect, and yet truly he so far has something to plead in excuse. Think how it fared with Simon Magus. What signifies it that you give not money, if, in place of money, you pay court, you lay many plans, you set engines to work? “Thy money perish with thee!” (Acts viii. 20.) Thus was it said to him, and thus will it be said to these: your canvassing perish with you, because you have thought to purchase the gift of God by human intrigue! But there is none such here? And God forbid there should be! ..."

[1] St. John Chrysostom, "Homily III (Acts 1:12)," Saint Chrysostom: Homilies On the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans. A Select Library Of The Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers Of The Christian Church, [First Series], Vol. XI, Philip Schaff, ed., The Christian Literature Company, New York, 1889, pp. 17-24.