A Bishop's special office is to teach; St. Ambrose
himself, however, has to learn in order that he may teach; or rather has
to teach what he has not learnt; at any rate learning and teaching with
himself must go on together.
1. I THINK I shall not seem to be taking too much on myself, if, in the
midst of my children, I yield to my desire to teach, seeing that the
master of humility himself has said: "Come, ye children, hearken unto me:
I will teach you the fear of the Lord."1
Wherein one may observe both the humility and the grace of his reverence
for God. For in saying "the fear of the Lord," which seems to be common to
all, he has described the chief mark of reverence for God. As, however,
fear itself is the beginning of wisdom and the source of blessedness for
they that fear the Lord are blessed he has plainly marked himself out as
the teacher for instruction in wisdom, and the guide to the attainment of
2. We therefore, being anxious to imitate his reverence for God, and
not without justification in dispensing grace, deliver to you as to
children those things which the Spirit of Wisdom has imparted to him, and
which have been made clear to us through him, and learnt by sight and by
example. For we can no longer now escape from the duty of teaching which
the needs of the priesthood have laid upon us, though we tried to avoid
it: "For God gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers."
3. I do not therefore claim for myself the glory of the apostles (for
who can do this save those whom the Son of God Himself has chosen?); nor
the grace of the prophets, nor the virtue of the evangelists, nor the
cautious care of the pastors. I only desire to attain to that care and
diligence in the sacred writings, which the Apostle has placed last
amongst the duties of the saints; and this very: thing I desire, so that,
in the endeavour to teach, I may be able to learn. For one is the true
Master, Who alone has not learnt, what He taught all; but men learn before
they teach, and receive from Him what they may hand on to others.
4. But not even this was the case with me. For I was carried off from
the judgment seat, and the garb [infulis] of office, to enter on
the priesthood, and began to teach you, what I myself had not yet learnt.
So it happened that I began to teach before I began to learn. Therefore I
must learn and teach at the same time, since I had no leisure to learn
Manifold dangers are incurred by speaking; the remedy for which
Scripture shows to consist in silence.
5. Now what ought we to learn before everything else, but to be silent,
that we may be able to speak? lest my voice should condemn me, before that
of another acquit me; for it is written: "By thy words thou shalt be
condemned." What need is there, then, that thou shouldest hasten to
undergo the danger of condemnation by speaking, when thou cans, be more
safe by keeping silent? How many have I seen to fall into sin by speaking,
but scarcely one by keeping silent; and so it is more difficult to know
how to keep silent than how to speak. I know that most persons speak
because they do not know how to keep silent. It is seldom that any one is
silent even when speaking profits him nothing. He is wise, then, who knows
how to keep silent. Lastly, the Wisdom of God said: "The Lord hath given
to me the tongue of learning, that I should know when it is good to
speak." Justly, then, is he wise who has received of the Lord to know when
he ought to speak. Wherefore the Scripture says well: "A wise man will
keep silence until there is opportunity."
6. Therefore the saints of the Lord loved to keep silence, because they
knew that a man's voice is often the utterance of sin, and a man's speech
is the beginning of human error. Lastly, the Saint of the Lord said: "I
said, I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not in my tongue." For he
knew and had read that it was a mark of the divine protection for a man to
be hid from the scourge of his own tongue, and the witness of his own
conscience. We are chastised by the silent reproaches of our thoughts, and
by the judgment of conscience. We are chastised also by the lash of our
own voice, when we say things whereby our soul is mortally injured, and
our mind is sorely wounded. But who is there that has his heart clean from
the impurities of sin, and does not offend in his tongue? And so, as he
saw there was no one who could keep his mouth free from evil speaking, he
laid upon himself the law of innocency by a rule of silence, with a view
to avoiding by silence that fault which he could with difficulty escape in
7. Let us hearken, then, to the master of precaution: "I said, I will
take heed to my ways;" that is, "I said to myself: in the silent biddings
of my thoughts, I have enjoined upon myself, that I should take heed to my
ways." Some ways there are which we ought to follow; others as to which we
ought to take heed. We must follow the ways of the Lord, and take heed to
our own ways, lest they lead us into sin. One can take heed if one is not
hasty in speaking. The law says: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God" It
said not: "Speak," but "Hear. "Eve fell because she said to the man what
she had not heard from the Lord her God. The first word from God says to
thee: Hear! If thou hearest, take heed to thy ways; and if thou hast
fallen, quickly amend thy way. For: "Wherein does a young man amend his
way; except in taking heed to the word of the Lord?" Be silent therefore
first of all, and hearken, that thou fail not in thy tongue.
8. It is a great evil that a man should be condemned by his own mouth.
Truly, if each one shall give account for an idle word, how much more for
words of impurity and shame? For words uttered hastily are far worse than
idle words. If, therefore, an account is demanded for an idle word, how
much more will punishment be exacted for impious language?
Silence should not remain unbroken, nor should it arise from idleness.
How heart and mouth must be guarded against inordinate affections.
9. WHAT then? Ought we to be dumb? Certainly not. For: "there is a time
to keep silence and a time to speak." If, then, we are to give account for
an idle word, let us take care that we do not have to give it also for an
idle silence. For there is also an active silence, such as Susanna's was,
who did more by keeping silence than if she had spoken. For in keeping
silence before men she spoke to God, and found no greater proof of her
chastity than silence. Her conscience spoke where no word was heard, and
she sought no judgment for herself at the hands of men, for she had the
witness of the Lord. She therefore desired to be acquitted by Him, Who she
knew could not be deceived in any way. Yea, the Lord Himself in the Gospel
worked out in silence the salvation of men. David rightly therefore
enjoined on himself not constant silence, but watchfulness.
10. Let us then guard our hearts, let us guard our mouths. Both have
been written about. In this place we are bidden to take heed to our mouth;
in another place thou art told: "Keep thy heart with all diligence." If
David took heed, wilt thou not take heed? If Isaiah had unclean lips who
said: "Woe is me, for I am undone, for I am a man, and have unclean
lips" if a prophet of the Lord had unclean lips, how shall we have them
11. But for whom was it written, unless it was for each one of us:
"Hedge thy possession about with thorns, and bind up thy silver and gold,
and make a door and a bar for thy mouth, and a yoke and a balance for thy
words"? Thy possession is thy mind, thy gold thy heart, thy silver thy
speech: "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in the
fire." A good mind is also a good possession. And, further, a pure inner
life is a valuable possession. Hedge in, then, this possession of thine,
enclose it with thought, guard it with thorns, that is, with pious care,
lest the fierce passions of the flesh should rush upon it and lead it
captive, lest strong emotions should assault it, and, overstepping their
bounds, carry off its vintage. Guard thy inner self. Do not neglect or
contemn it as though it were worthless, for it is a valuable possession;
truly valuable indeed, for its fruit is not perishable and only for a
time, but is lasting and of use for eternal salvation. Cultivate,
therefore, thy possession, and let it be thy tilling ground.
12. Bind up thy words that they run not riot, and grow wanton, and
gather up sins for themselves in too much talking. Let them be rather
confined, and held back within their own banks. An overflowing river
quickly gathers mud. Bind up also thy meaning; let it not be left slack
and unchecked, lest it be said of thee: "There is no healing balsam, nor
oil, nor bandage to apply." Sobriety of mind has its reins, whereby it is
directed and guided.
13. Let there be a door to thy mouth, that it may be shut when need
arises, and let it be carefully barred, that none may rouse thy voice to
anger, and thou pay back abuse with abuse. Thou hast heard it read to-day:
"Be ye angry and sin not." Therefore although we are angry (this arising
from the motions of our nature, not of our will), let us not utter with
our mouth one evil word, lest we fall into sin; but let there be a yoke
and a balance to thy words, that is, humility and moderation, that thy
tongue may be subject to thy mind. Let it be held in check with a tight
rein; let it have its own means of restraint, whereby it can be recalled
to moderation; let it utter swords tried by the scales of justice, that
thee may be seriousness in our meaning, weight in our speech, and due
measure in our words.
The same care must be taken that our speech proceed not from evil
passions, but from good motives; for here it is that the devil is
especially on the watch to catch us.
14. If any one takes heed to this, he will be mild, gentle, modest. For
in guarding his mouth, and restraining his tongue, and in not speaking
before examining, pondering, and weighing his words as to whether this
should be said, that should be answered, or whether it be a suitable time
for this remark he certainly is practising modesty, gentleness, patience.
So he will not burst out into speech through displeasure or anger, nor
give sign of any passion in his words, nor proclaim that the flames of
lust are bunting in his language, or that the incentives of wrath are
present in what he says. Let him act thus for fear that his words, which
ought to grace his inner life, should at the last plainly show and prove
that there is some vice in his morals.
15. For then especially does the enemy lay his plans, when he sees
passions engendered in us; then he supplies tinder; then he lays snares.
Wherefore the prophet says not without cause, as we heard read to-day:
"Surely He hath delivered me from the snare of the hunter and from the
hard word." Symmachus said this means "the word of provocation;" others
"the word that brings disquiet." The snare of the enemy is our speech
that itself is also just as much an enemy to us. Too often we say
something that our foe takes hold of, and whereby he wounds us as though
by our own sword. How far better it is to perish by the sword of others
than by our own!
16. Accordingly the enemy tests our arms and clashes together his
weapons. If he sees that I am disturbed, he implants the points of his
darts, so as to raise a crop of quarrels. If I utter an unseemly word, he
sets his snare. Then he puts before me the opportunity for revenge as a
bait, so that in desiring to be revenged, I may put myself in the snare,
and draw the death-knot tight for myself. If any one feels this enemy is
near, he ought to give greater heed to his mouth, lest he make room for
the enemy; but not many see him.
We must guard also against a visible enemy when he incites us by
silence; by the help of which alone we can escape from those greater than
ourselves, and maintain that humility which we must display towards all.
17. BUT we must also guard against him who can be seen, and who
provokes us, and spurs us on, and exasperates us, and supplies what will
excite us to licentiousness or lust. If, then, any one reviles us,
irritates, stirs us up to violence, tries to make us quarrel; let us keep
silence, let us not be ashamed to become dumb. For he who irritates us and
does us an injury is committing sin, and wishes us to become like himself.
18. Certainly if thou art silent, and hidest thy feelings, he is wont
to say: "Why are you silent? Speak if you dare; but you dare not, you are
dumb, I have made you speechless." If thou art silent, he is the more
excited. He thinks himself beaten, laughed at, little thought of, and
ridiculed. If thou answerest, he thinks he has become the victor, because
he has found one like himself. For if thou art silent, men will say: "That
man has been abusive, but this one held him in contempt." If thou return
the abuse, they will say: "Both have been abusive." Both will be
condemned, neither will be acquitted. Therefore it is his object to
irritate, so that I may speak and act as he does. But it is the duty of a
just man to hide his feelings and say nothing, to preserve the fruit of a
good conscience, to trust himself rather to the judgment of good men than
to the insolence of a calumniator, and to be satisfied with the stability
of his own character. For that is: "To keep silence even from good words;"
since one who has a good conscience ought not to be troubled by false
words, nor ought he to make more of another's abuse than of the witness of
his own heart.
19. So, then, let a man guard also his humility. If, however, he is
unwilling to appear too humble, he thinks as follows, and says within
himself: "Am I to allow this man to despise me, and say such things to my
face against me, as though I could not open my mouth before him? Why
should I not also say something whereby I can grieve him? Am I to let him
do me wrong, as though I were not a man, and as though I could not avenge
myself? Is he to bring charges against me as though I could not bring
together worse ones against him?"
20. Whoever speaks like this is not gentle and humble, nor is he
without temptation. The tempter stirs him up, and himself puts such
thoughts in his heart. Often and often, too, the evil spirit employs
another person, and gets him to say such things to him; but do thou set
thy foot firm on the rock. Although a slave should abuse, let the just man
be silent, and if a weak man utter insults, let him be silent, and if a
poor man should make accusations, let him not answer. These are the
weapons of the just man, so that he may conquer by giving way, as those
skilled in throwing the javelin are wont to conquer by giving way, and in
flight to wound their pursuers with severer blows.
In this matter we must imitate David's silence and humility, so as not
even to seem deserving of harm.
21. WHAT need is there to be troubled when we hear abuse? Why do we not
imitate him who says: "I was dumb and humbled myself, and kept silence
even from good words"? Or did David only say this, and not act up to it?
No, he also acted up to it. For when Shimei the son of Gera reviled him,
David was silent; and although he was surrounded with armed men he did not
return the abuse, nor sought revenge: nay, even when the son of Zeruiah
spoke to him, because he wished to take vengeance on him, David did not
permit it. He went on as though dumb, and humbled; he went on in silence;
nor was he disturbed, although called a bloody man, for he was conscious
of his own gentleness. He therefore was not disturbed by insults, for he
had full knowledge of his own good works.
22. He, then, who is quickly roused by wrong makes himself seem
deserving of insult, even whilst he wishes to be shown not to deserve it.
He who despises wrongs is better off than he who grieves over them. For he
who despises them looks down on them, as though he feels them not; but he
who grieves over them is tormented, just as though he actually felt them.
How admirably Ps. xxxix. [xxxviii.] takes the place of an introduction.
Incited thereto by this psalm the saint determines to write on duties. He
does this with more reason even than Cicero, who wrote on this subject to
his son. How, further, this is so.
23. NOT without thought did I make use of the beginning of this psalm,
in writing to you, my children. For this psalm which the Prophet David
gave to Jeduthun to sing, I urge you to regard, being delighted myself
with its depth of meaning and the excellency of its maxims. For we have
learnt in those words we have just shortly touched upon, that both
patience in keeping silence and the duty of awaiting a fit time for
speaking are taught in this psalm, as well as contempt of riches in the
following verses, which things are the chief groundwork of virtues.
Whilst, therefore, meditating on this psalm, it has come to my mind to
write "on the Duties."
24. Although some philosophers have written on this subject, Panaetius,
for instance, and his son amongst the Greek, Cicero amongst the Latin,
writers I did not think it foreign to my office to write also myself. And
as Cicero wrote for the instruction of his son, so I, too, write to teach
you, my children. For I love yon, whom I have begotten in the Gospel, no
less than if you were my own true sons. For nature does not make us love
more ardently than grace. We certainly ought to love those who we think
will be with us for evermore. than those who will be with us in this world
only. These often are born unworthy of their race, so as to bring disgrace
on their father; but you we chose beforehand, to love. They are loved
naturally, of necessity, which is not a sufficiently suitable and constant
teacher to implant a lasting love. But ye are loved on the ground of our
deliberate choice, whereby a great feeling of affection is combined with
the strength of our love: thus one tests what one loves and loves what one
The word "Duty" has been often used both by philosophers and in the
holy Scriptures; from whence it is derived.
25. SINCE, therefore, the person concerned is one fit to write on the
Duties, let us see whether the subject itself stands on the same ground,
and whether this word is suitable only to the schools of the philosophers,
or is also to be found in the sacred Scriptures. Beautifully has the Holy
Spirit, as it happens, brought before us a passage in reading the Gospel
to-day, as though He would urge us to write; whereby we are confirmed in
our view, that the word officium, "duty," may also be used with us.
For when Zacharias the priest was struck dumb in the temple, and could not
speak, it is said: "And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his
duty [officii] were accomplished, he departed to his own house." We
read, therefore, that the word, "duty," can be used by us.
26. And this is not inconsistent with reason, since we consider that
the word officium (duty) is derived from efficere (to
effect), and is formed with the change of one letter for the sake of
euphony; or at any rate that you should do those things which injure [officiant]
no one, but benefit all.
A duty is to be chosen from what is virtuous, and from what is useful,
and also from the comparison of the two, one with the other; but nothing
is recognized by Christians as virtuous or useful which is not helpful to
the future life. This treatise on duty, therefore, will not be
27. THE philosophers considered that duties were derived from what is
virtuous and what is useful, and that from these two one should choose the
better. Then, they say, it may happen that two virtuous or two useful
things will clash together, and the question is, which is the more
virtuous, and which the more useful? First, therefore, "duty" is divided
into three sections: what is virtuous, what is useful, and what is the
better of two. Then, again, these three are divided into five classes;
that is, two that are virtuous, two that are useful, and, lastly, the
right judgment as to the choice between them. The first they say has to do
with the moral dignity and integrity of life; the second with the
conveniences of life, with wealth, resources, opportunities; whilst a
right judgment must underlie the choice of any Of them. This is what the
28. But we measure nothing at all but that which is fitting and
virtuous, and that by the rule of things future rather than of things
present; and we state nothing to be useful but what will help us to the
blessing of eternal life; certainly not that which will help us enjoy
merely the present time. Nor do we recognize any advantages in
opportunities and in the wealth of earthly goods, but consider them as
disadvantages if not put aside, and to be looked on as a burden, when we
have them, rather than as a loss when expended.
29. This work of ours, therefore, is not superfluous, seeing that we
and they regard duty in quite different ways. They reckon the advantages
of this life among the good things, we reckon them among the evil things;
for he who receives good things here, as the rich man in the parable, is
tormented there; and Lazarus, who endured evil things here, there found
comfort. Lastly, those who do not read their writings may read ours if
they will if, that is, they do not require great adornment of language or
a skilfully-treated subject, but are satisfied with the simple charm of
the subject itself.
What is seemly is often found in the sacred writings long before it
appears in the books of the philosophers. Pythagoras borrowed the law of
his silence from David. David's rule, however, is the best, for our first
duty is to have due measure in speaking.
30. WE are instructed and taught that "what is seemly" is put in our
Scriptures in the first place. [In Greek it is called pre'pon (Greek Transliteration)]
For we read: "A Hymn be-seems Thee, O God, in Sion," In Greek this is:
Soi' pre'pei hu'mnos ho Theo`s en Siw'n. And the Apostle says: "Speak
the things which become sound doctrine." And elsewhere: "For it beseemed
Him through Whom are all things and for Whom are all things, in bringing
many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect
31. Was Panaetius or Aristotle, who also wrote on duty," earlier than
David? Why, Pythagoras himself, who lived before the time of Socrates,
followed the prophet David's steps and gave his disciples a law of
silence. He went so far as to restrain his disciples from the use of
speech for five years. David, on the other hand, gave his law, not with a
view to impair the gift of nature, but to teach us to take heed to the
words we utter. Pythagoras again made his rule, that he might teach men to
speak by not speaking. But David made his, so that by speaking we might
learn the more how to speak. How can there be instruction without
exercise, or advance without practice?
32. A man wishing to undergo a warlike training daily exercises himself
with his weapons. As though ready for action he rehearses his part in the
fight and stands forth just as if the enemy were in position before him.
Or, with a view to acquiring skill and strength in throwing the javelin,
he either puts his own arms to the proof, or avoids the blows of his foes,
and escapes them by his watchful attention. The man that desires to
navigate a ship on the sea, or to row, tries first on a river. They who
wish to acquire an agreeable style of singing and a beautiful voice begin
by bringing out their voice gradually by singing. And they who seek to win
the crown of victory by strength of body and in a regular wrestling match,
harden their limbs by daily practice in the wrestling school, foster their
endurance, and accustom themselves to hard work.
33. Nature herself teaches us this in the case of infants, For they
first exercise themselves in the sounds of speech and so learn to speak.
Thus these sounds of speech are a kind of practice, and a school for the
voice. Let those then who want to learn to take heed in speaking not
refuse what is according to nature, but let them use all watchful care;
just as those who are on a watch-tower keep on the alert by watching, and
not by going to sleep. For everything is made more perfect and strong by
exercises proper and suitable to itself.
34. David, therefore, was not always silent, but only for a time; not
perpetually nor to all did he refuse to speak; but he used not to answer
the enemy that provoked him, the sinner that exasperated him. As he says
elsewhere: "As though he were deaf he heard not them that speak vanity and
imagine deceit: and as though he were dumb he opened not his mouth to
them." Again, in another place, it is said: "Answer not a fool according
to his folly, lest thou also be like to him."
35. The first duty then is to have due measure in our speech. In this
way a sacrifice of praise is offered up to God; thus a godly fear is shown
when the sacred Scriptures are read; thus parents are honoured. I know
well that many speak because they know not how to keep silence. But it is
not often any one is silent when speaking does not profit him. A wise man,
intending to speak, first carefully considers what he is to say, and to
whom he is to say it; also where and at what time. There is therefore such
a thing as due measure in keeping silence and also in speaking; there is
also such a thing as a due measure in what we do. It is a glorious thing
to maintain the right standard of duty.
It is proved by the witness of Scripture that all duty is either
"ordinary" or "perfect." To which is added a word in praise of mercy, and
an exhortation to practise it.
36. EVERY duty is either "ordinary" or "perfect," a fact which we can
also confirm by the authority of the Scriptures. For we read in the Gospel
that the Lord said: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
He saith: Which? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt
not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false
witness, Honour thy father and thy mother, Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself." These are ordinary duties, to which something is wanting.
37. Upon this the young man says to Him: "All these things have I kept
from my youth up, what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him: If thou wilt be
perfect, go and sell all thy goods and give to the poor, and thou shalt
have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me." And earlier the same is
written, where the Lord says that we must love our enemies, and pray for
those that falsely accuse and persecute us, and bless those that curse us.
This we are bound to do, if we would be perfect as our Father Who is in
heaven; Who bids the sun to shed his rays over the evil and the good, and
makes the lands of the whole universe fertile with rain and dew without
any distinction. This, then, is a perfect duty (the Greeks call it
chato'rthwma), whereby all things are put right which could have any
failings in them.
38. Mercy, also, is a good thing, for it makes men perfect, in that it
imitates the perfect Father. Nothing graces the Christian soul so much as
mercy; mercy as shown chiefly towards the poor, that thou mayest treat
them as sharers in common with thee in the produce of nature, which brings
forth the fruits of the earth for use to all. Thus thou mayest freely give
to a poor man what thou hast, and in this way help him who is thy brother
and companion. Thou bestowest silver; he receives life. Thou givest money;
he considers it his fortune. Thy coin makes up all his property.
39. Further, he bestows more on thee than thou on him, since he is thy
debtor in regard to thy salvation. If thou clothe the naked, thou clothest
thyself with righteousness; if thou bring the stranger under thy roof, if
thou support the needy, he procures for thee the friendship of the saints
and eternal habitations. That is no small recompense. Thou sowest earthly
things and receivest heavenly. Dost thou wonder at the judgment of God in
the case of holy Job? Wonder rather at his virtue, in that he could say:
"I was an eye to the blind, and a foot to the lame. I was a father to the
poor. Their shoulders were made warm with the skins of my lambs. The
stranger dwelt not at my gates, but my door was open to every one that
came." Clearly blessed is he from whose house a poor man has never gone
with empty hand. Nor again is any one more blessed than he who is sensible
of the needs of the poor, and the hardships of the weak and helpless. In
the day of judgment he will receive salvation from the Lord, Whom he will
have as his debtor for the mercy he has shown.
To prevent any one from being checked in the exercise of mercy, he
shows that God cares for human actions; and proves on the evidence of Job
that all wicked men are unhappy in the very abundance of their wealth.
40. BUT many are kept back from the duty of showing active mercy,
because they suppose that God does not care about the actions of men, or
that He does not know what we do in secret, and what our conscience has in
view. Some again think that His judgment in no wise seems to be just; for
they see that sinners have abundance of riches, that they enjoy honours,
health, and children; while, on the other hand, the just live in poverty
and unhonoured, they are without children, sickly in body, and often in
41. That is no small point. For those three royal friends of Job
declared him to be a sinner, because they saw that he, after being rich,
became poor; that after having many children, he had lost them all, and
that he was now covered with sores and was full of weals, and was a mass
of wounds from head to foot. But holy Job made this declaration to them:
"If I suffer thus because of my sins, why do the wicked live? They grow
old also in riches, their seed is according to their pleasure, their
children are before their eyes, their houses are prosperous; but they have
no fear; there is no scourge from the Lord on them."
42. A faint-hearted man, seeing this, is disturbed in mind, and turns
his attention away from it. Holy Job, when about to speak in the words of
such a one, began thus, saying: "Bear with me, I also will speak; then
laugh at me. For if I am found fault with, I am found fault with as a man.
Bear, therefore, the burden of my words." For I am going to say (he means)
what I do not approve; but I shall utter wrong words to refute you. Or, to
translate it in another way: "How now? Am I found fault with by a man?"
That is: a man cannot find fault with me because I have sinned, although I
deserve to be found fault with; for ye do not find fault with me on the
ground of an open sin, but estimate what I deserve for my offences by the
extent of my misfortunes. Thus the faint-hearted man, seeing that the
wicked succeed and prosper, whilst he himself is crushed by misfortune,
says to the Lord: "Depart from me, I desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.
What good is it that we serve Him, or what use to hasten to Him? In the
hands of the wicked are all good things, but He sees not their works."
43. Plato has been greatly praised, because in his book "on the State,"
he has made the person who undertook the part of objector against justice
to ask pardon for his words, of which he himself did not approve; and to
say that that character was only assumed for the sake of finding out the
truth and to investigate the question at issue. And Cicero so far approved
of this, that he also, in his book which he wrote "on the Commonwealth,"
thought something must be said against that idea.
44. How many years before these did Job live! He was the first to
discover this, and to consider what excuses had to be made for this, not
for the sake of decking out his eloquence, but for the sake of finding out
the truth. At once he made the matter plain, stating that the lamp of the
wicked is put out, that their destruction will come; that God, the teacher
of wisdom and instruction, is not deceived, but is a judge of the truth.
Therefore the blessedness of individuals must not be estimated at the
value of their known wealth, but according to the voice of their
conscience within them. For this, as a true and uncorrupted judge of
punishments and rewards, decides between the deserts of the innocent and
the guilty. The innocent man dies in the strength of his own simplicity,
in the full possession of his own will; having a soul filled as it were
with marrow. But the sinner, though he has abundance in life, and lives in
the midst of luxury, and is redolent with sweet scents, ends his life in
the bitterness of his soul, and brings his last day to a close, taking
with him none of those good things which he once enjoyed carrying away
nothing with him but the price of his own wickedness.
45. In thinking of this, deny if thou canst that a recompense is paid
by divine judgment. The former feels happy in his heart, the latter
wretched; that man on his own verdict is guiltless, this one a criminal;
that man again is happy in leaving the world, this man grieves over it.
Who can be pronounced guiltless that is not innocent in the sight of his
own conscience? "Tell me," he says, "where is the Covering of his
tabernacle; his token will not be found." The life of the criminal is as a
dream. He has opened his eyes. His repose has departed, his enjoyment has
fled. Nay, that very repose of the wicked, which even while they live is
only seeming, is now in hell, for alive they go down into hell.
46. Thou seest the enjoyments of the sinner; but question his
conscience. Will he not be more foul than any sepulchre? Thou beholdest
his joy, thou admirest the bodily health of his children, and the amount
of his wealth; but look within at the sores and wounds of his soul, the
sadness of his heart. And what shall I say of his wealth, when thou
readest: "For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things
which he possesseth"? When thou knowest, that though he seems to thee to
be rich, to himself is poor, and in his own person refutes thy judgment?
What also shall I say of the number of his children and of his freedom
from pain when he is full of grief and decides that he will have no heir,
and does not wish that those who copy his ways should succeed him? For the
sinner really leaves no heir. Thus the wicked man is a punishment to
himself, but the upright man is a grace to himself and to either, whether
good or bad, the reward of his deeds is paid in his own person.
The ideas of those philosophers are refuted who deny to God the care of
the whole world, or of any of its parts.
47. BUT let us return to our point, lest we seem to have lost sight of
the break we made in answering the ideas of those who, seeing some wicked
men, rich, joyous, full of honours, and powerful, whilst many upright men
are in want and are weak, suppose therefore that God either cares nothing
about us (which is what the Epicureans say), or that He is ignorant of
men's actions as the wicked say or that, if He knows all things, He is an
unjust judge in allowing the good to be in want and the wicked to have
abundance. But it did not seem out of place to make a digression to meet
an idea of this kind and to contrast it with the feelings of those very
persons whom they consider happy for they think themselves wretched. I
suppose they would believe themselves more readily than us.
48. After this digression I consider it an easy matter to refute the
rest above all the declaration of those who think that God has no care
whatever for the world. For instance, Aristotle declares that His
providence extends only to the moon. But what workman is there who gives
no care to his work? Who would forsake and abandon what he believes
himself to have produced? If it is derogatory to rule, is it not more so
to have created? Though there is no wrong involved in not creating
anything, it is surely the height of cruelty not to care for what one has
49. But if some deny God to be the Creator, and so count themselves
amongst the beasts and irrational creatures, what shall we say of those
who condemn themselves to such indignity? They themselves declare that God
pervades all things, that all depend upon His power, that His might and
majesty penetrate all the elements, lands, heaven, and seas; yet they
think it derogatory to Him to enter into man's spirit, which is the
noblest thing He has given us, and to be there with the full knowledge of
the divine Majesty.
50. But philosophers who are held to be reasonable laugh at the teacher
of these ideas as besotted and licentious. But what shall I say of
Aristotle's idea? He thinks that God is satisfied with His own narrow
bounds, and lives within the prescribed limits of His kingdom. This,
however, is also what the poets' tales tell us. For they relate that the
world is divided between three gods, so that it has fallen to the lot of
one to restrain and rule heaven, to another the sea, and to a third the
lower regions. They have also to take care not to stir up war one with the
other by allowing thoughts and cares about the belongings of others to
take hold of them. In the same way, Aristotle also declares that God has
no care for the earth, as He has none for the sea or the lower regions.
How is it that these philosophers shut out of their ranks the poets whose
footsteps they follow?
Nothing escapes God's knowledge. This is proved by the witness of the
Scriptures and the analogy of the sun, which, although created, yet by its
light or heat enters into all things.
51. NEXT comes the answer to the question, whether God, not having
failed to show care for His work, now fails to have knowledge of it? Thus
it is written: "He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that made
the eye, shall He not regard?"
52. This false idea was not unknown to the holy prophets. David himself
introduces men to speak whom pride has filled and claimed for its own. For
what shows greater pride than when men who are living in sin think it
unfit that other sinners should live, and say: "Lord, how long shall the
ungodly, how long shall the ungodly triumph?" And later on: "And yet they
say, the Lord shall not see: neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.''
Whom the prophet answers, saying: "Take heed, ye unwise among the people:
O ye fools, when will ye understand? He that planted the ear, shall He not
hear? or He that made the eye, shall He not see? He that rebuketh the
nations, shall He not punish? He that teacheth man knowledge? The Lord
knoweth the thoughts of man that they are vain." Does He Who discerns
whatsoever is vain not know what is holy, and is He ignorant of what He
Himself has made? Can the workman be ignorant of his own work? This one is
a man, yet he discerns what is hidden in his work; and God shall He not
know His own work? Is there more depth, then, in the work than in its
author? Has He made something superior to Himself; the value of which, as
its Author, He was ignorant of, and whose condition He knew not, though He
was its Director? So much for these persons.
53. But we are satisfied with the witness of Him Who says: "I search
out the heart and the reins." In the Gospel, also, the Lord Jesus says:
"Why think ye evil in your hearts? For He knew they were thinking evil."
The evangelist also witnesses to this, saying: "For Jesus knew their
54. The idea of these people will not trouble us much if we look at
their actions. They will not have Him to be judge over them, Whom nothing
deceives; they will not grant to Him the knowledge of things hidden, for
they are afraid their own hidden things may be brought to light. But the
Lord, also, "knowing their works, has given them over unto darkness. In
the night," he says, "he will be as a thief, and the eye of the adulterer
will watch for the darkness, saying, No eye shall see me; he hath covered
up his face." For every one that avoids the light loves darkness, seeking
to be hid, though he cannot be hid from God, Who knows not only what is
transacted, but also what will be thought of, both in the depths of space
and in the minds of men. Thus, again, he who speaks in the book
Ecclesiasticus says: "Who seeth me? The darkness hath covered me, and the
walls have hidden me; whom do I fear?" But although lying on his bed he
may think thus, he is caught where he never thought of it. "It shall be,"
it says, "a shame to him because he knew not what the fear of the Lord
55. But what can be more foolish than to suppose that anything escapes
God's notice, when the sun which supplies the light enters even hidden
spots, and the strength of its heat reaches to the foundations of a house
and its inner chambers? Who can deny that the depths of the earth,
which-the winter's ice has bound together, are warmed by the mildness of
spring? Surely the very heart of a tree feels the force of heat or cold,
to such an extent that its roots are either nipped with the cold or sprout
forth in the warmth of the sun. In short, wherever the mildness of heaven
smiles on the earth, there the earth produces in abundance fruits of
56. If, then, the sun's rays pour their light over all the earth and
enter into its hidden spots; if they cannot be checked by iron bars or the
barrier of heavy doors from getting within, how can it be impossible for
the Glory of God, which is instinct with life, to enter into the thoughts
and hearts of men that He Himself has created? And how shall it not see
what He Himself has created? Did He make His works to be better and more
powerful than He Himself is, Who made them (in this event) so as to escape
the notice of their Creator whensoever they will? Did He implant such
perfection and power in our mind that He Himself could not comprehend it
when He wished?
Those who are dissatisfied with the fact that the good receive evil,
and the evil good, are shown by the example of Lazarus, and on the
authority of Paul, that punishments and rewards are reserved for a future
57. WE have fully discussed two questions; and this discussion, as we
think, has not turned out quite unfavourably for us. A third question yet
remains; it is this: Why do sinners have abundance of wealth and riches,
and fare sumptuously, and have no grief or sorrow; whilst the upright are
in want, and are punished by the loss of wives or children? Now, that
parable in the Gospel ought to satisfy persons like these; for the rich
man was clothed in purple and fine linen, and dined sumptuously every day;
but the beggar, full of sores, used to gather the crumbs of his table.
After the death of the two, however, the beggar was in Abraham's bosom in
rest; the rich man Was in torment. Is it not plain from this that rewards
and punishments according to deserts await one after death?
58. And surely this is but right. For in a contest there is much labour
needed and after the contest victory falls to some, to others disgrace.
Is the palm ever given or the crown granted before the course is finished?
Paul writes well; He says: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown
of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at
that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His
appearing." "In that day," he says, He will give it not here. Here he
fought, in labours, in dangers, in shipwrecks, like a good wrestler; for
he knew how that "through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom
of God." Therefore no one can receive a reward, unless he has striven
lawfully; nor is the victory a glorious one, unless the contest also has
To confirm what has been said above about rewards and punishments, he
adds that it is not strange if there is no reward reserved for some in the
future; for they do not labour here nor struggle. He goes on to say also
that for this reason temporal goods are granted to these persons, so that
they may have no excuse whatever.
59. Is not he unjust who gives the reward before the end of the
contest? Therefore the Lord says in the Gospel: "Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." He said not: "Blessed are
the rich," but "the poor." By the divine judgment blessedness begins there
whence human misery is supposed to spring. "Blessed are they that hunger,
for they shall be filled; Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be
comforted; Blessed are the merciful, for God will have mercy on them;
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Blessed are they
that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven; Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and
shall say all manner of evil against you for righteousness' sake. Rejoice
and be exceeding glad, for plentiful is your reward in heaven." A reward
future and not present, in heaven, not on earth, has He promised shall
be given. What further dost thou expect? What further is due? Why dost
thou demand the crown with so much haste, before thou dost conquer? Why
dost thou desire to shake off the dust and to rest? Why dost thou long to
sit at the feast before the course is finished? As yet the people are
looking on, the athletes are in the arena, and thou dost thou already
look for ease?
60. Perhaps thou sayest: Why Are the wicked joyous? why do they live in
luxury? why do they not toil with me? It is because they who have not put
down their names to strive for the crown are not bound to undergo the
labours of the contest. They who have not gone down into the race-course
do not anoint themselves with oil nor get covered with dust. For those
whom glory awaits trouble is at hand. The perfumed spectators are wont to
look on, not to join in the struggle, nor to endure the sun, the hear, the
dust, and the showers. Let the athletes say to them: Come, strive with us.
The spectators will but answer: We sit here now to decide about you, but
you, if you conquer, will gain the glory of the crown and we shall not.
61. They, then, who have devoted themselves to pleasures, luxury,
robbery, gain, or honours are spectators rather than combatants. They have
the profit of labour, but not the fruits of virtue. They love their ease;
by cunning and wickedness they heap up riches; but they will pay the
penalty of their iniquity, though it be late. Their rest will be in hell,
thine in heaven; their home in the grave, thine in paradise. Whence Job
said beautifully that they watch in the tomb, for they cannot have the
calm of quiet rest which he enjoys who shall rise again.
62. Do not, therefore, understand, or speak, or think as a child; nor
as a child claim those things now which belong to a future time. The crown
belongs to the perfect. Wait till that which is perfect is come, when thou
mayest know not through a glass as in a riddle, but face to face the
very form of truth made clear. Then will be made known why that person was
rich who was wicked and a robber of other men's goods, why another was
powerful, why a third had many children, and yet a fourth was loaded with honours.
63. Perhaps all this happens that the question may be asked of the
robber: Thou wast rich, wherefore didst thou seize on the goods of others?
Need did not force thee poverty did not drive thee to it. Did I not make
thee rich, that thou mightest have no excuse? So, too, it may be said to a
person of power: Why didst thou not aid the widow the orphans also, when
enduring wrong? Wast thou powerless? Couldst thou not help? I made thee
for this purpose, not that thou mightest do wrong, but that thou mightest
check it. Is it not written for thee "Save him that endureth wrong?" Is it
not written for thee: "Deliver the poor and needy out of the hand of the
sinner"? It may be said also to the man who has abundance of good things:
I have blessed thee with children and honours; I have granted thee health
of body; why didst thou not follow my commands? My servant, what have I
done to thee, or how have I grieved thee? Was it not I that gave thee
children, bestowed honours, granted health to thee? Why didst thou deny
me? Why didst thou suppose that thy actions would not come to my
knowledge? Why didst thou accept my gifts, yet despise my commands?
64. We can gather the same from the example of the traitor Judas. He
was chosen among the Twelve Apostles, and had charge of the money bag, to
lay it out upon the poor, that it might not seem as though he had betrayed
the Lord because he was unhonoured or in want. Wherefore the Lord granted
him this office, that He might also be justified in him; he would be
guilty of a greater fault, not as one driven to it by wrong done to him,
but as one misusing grace.
The duties of youth, and examples suitable to that age, are next put
65. SINCE it has been made sufficiently plain that there will be
punishment for wickedness and reward for virtue, let us proceed to speak
of the duties which have to be borne in mind from our youth up, that they
may grow with our years. A good youth ought to have a fear of God, to be
subject to his parents, to give honour to his elders, to preserve his
purity; he ought not to despise humility, but should love forbearance and
modesty. All these are an ornament to youthful years. For as seriousness
is the true grace of an old man, and ardour of a young man, so also is
modesty, as though by some gift of nature, well set off in a youth.
66. Isaac feared the Lord, as was indeed but natural in the son of
Abraham; being subject also to his father to such an extent that he would
not avoid death in opposition to his father's will. Joseph also, though he
dreamed that sun and moon and stars made obeisance to him, yet was subject
to his father's will with ready obedience. So chaste was he, he would not
hear even a word unless it were pure; humble was he even to doing the work
of a slave, modest, even to taking flight, enduring, even to bearing
imprisonment, so forgiving of wrong as even to repay it with good, Whose
modesty was such, that, when seized by a woman, he preferred to leave his
garment in her hands in flight, rather than to lay aside his modesty.
Moses, also, and Jeremiah, chosen by the Lord to declare the words of God
to the people, were for avoiding, through modesty, that which through
grace they could do.
On the different functions of modesty. How it should qualify both
speech and silence, accompany chastity, commend our prayers to God, govern
our bodily motions; on which last point reference is made to two clerics
in language by no means unsuited to its object. Further he proceeds to say
that one's gait should be in accordance with that same virtue, and how
careful one must be that nothing immodest come forth from one's mouth, or
be noticed in one's body. All these points are illustrated with very
67. LOVELY, then, is the virtue of modesty, and sweet is its grace! It
is seen not only in actions, but even in our words, so that we may not go
beyond due measure in speech, and that our words may not have an
unbecoming sound. The mirror of our mind often enough reflects its image
in our words. Sobriety weighs out the sound even of our voice, for fear
that too loud a voice should offend the ear of any one. Nay, in singing
itself the first rule is modesty, and the same is true in every kind of
speech, too, so that a man may gradually learn to praise God, or to sing
songs, or even to speak, in that the principles of modesty grace his
advance. 68. Silence, again, wherein all the other virtues rest, is the
chief act of modesty. Only, if it is supposed to be a sign of a childish
or proud spirit, it is accounted a reproach; if a sign of modesty, it is
reckoned for praise. Susanna was silent in danger, and thought the loss of
modesty was worse than loss of life. She did not consider that her safety
should be guarded at the risk of her chastity. To God alone she spoke, to
Whom she could speak out in true modesty. She avoided looking on the face
of men. For there is also modesty in the glance of the eye, which makes a
woman unwilling to look upon men, or to be seen by them.
69. Let no one suppose that this praise belongs to chastity alone. For
modesty is the companion of purity, in company with which chastity itself
is safer. Shame, again, is good as a companion and guide of chastity,
inasmuch as it does not suffer purity to be defiled in approaching even
the outskirts of danger. This it is that, at the very outset of her
recognition, commends the Mother of the Lord to those who read the
Scriptures, and, as a credible witness, declares her worthy to be chosen
to such an office. For when in her chamber, alone, she is saluted by the
angel, she is silent, and is disturbed at his entrance, and the Virgin's
face is troubled at the strange appearance of a man's form. And so, though
she was humble, yet it was not because of this, but on account of her
modesty, that she did not return his salutation, nor give him any answer,
except to ask, when she had learnt that she should conceive the Lord, how
this should be. She certainly did not speak merely for the sake of making
70. In our very prayers, too, modesty is most pleasing, and gains us
much grace from our God. Was it not this that exalted the publican, and
commended him, when he dared not raise even his eyes to heaven? So he was
justified by the judgment of the Lord rather than the Pharisee, whom
overweening pride made so hideous. "Therefore let us pray in the
incorruptibility of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God
of great price," as St. Peter says. A noble thing, then, is modesty,
which, though giving up its rights, seizing on nothing for itself, laying
claim to nothing, and in some ways somewhat retiring within the sphere of
its own powers, yet is rich in the sight of God, in Whose sight no man is
rich. Rich is modesty, for it is the portion of God. Paul also bids that
prayer be offered up with modesty and sobriety. He desires that this
should be first, and, as it were, lead the way of prayers to come, so that
the sinner's prayer may not be boastful, but veiled, as it were, with the
blush of shame, may merit a far greater degree of grace, in giving way to
modesty at the remembrance of its fault.
71. Modesty must further be guarded in our very movements and gestures
and gait. For the condition of the mind is often seen in the attitude of
the body. For this reason the hidden man of our heart (our inner self) is
considered to be either frivolous, boastful, or boisterous, or, on the
other hand, steady, firm, pure, and dependable. Thus the movement of the
body is a sort of voice of the soul.
72. Ye remember, my children, that a friend of ours who seemed to
recommend himself by his assiduity in his duties, yet was not admitted by
me into the number of the clergy, because his gestures were too unseemly.
Also that I bade one, whom I found already among the clergy, never to go
in front of me, because he actually pained me by the seeming arrogance of
his gait. That is what I said when he returned to his duty after an
offence committed. This alone I would not allow, nor did my mind deceive
me. For both have left the Church. What their gait betrayed them to be,
such were they proved to be by the faithlessness of their hearts. The one
forsook his faith at the time of the Arian troubles; the other, through
love of money, denied that he belonged to us, so that he might not have to
undergo sentence at the hands of the Church. In their gait was discernible
the semblance of fickleness, the appearance, as it were, of wandering
73. Some there are who in walking perceptibly copy the gestures of
actors, and act as though they were bearers in the processions, and had
the motions of nodding statues, to such an extent that they seem to keep a
sort of time, as often as they change their step.
74. Nor do I think it becoming to walk hurriedly, except when a case of
some danger demands it, or a real necessity. For we often see those who
hurry come up panting, and with features distorted. But if there is no
reason for the need of such hurry, it gives cause for just offence. I am
not, however, talking of those who have to hurry now and then for some
particular reason, but of those to whom, by the yoke of constant habit, it
has become a second nature. In the case of the former I cannot approve of
their slow solemn movements, which remind one of the forms of phantoms.
Nor do I care for the others with their headlong speed, for they put one
in mind of the ruin of outcasts.
75. A suitable gait is that wherein there is an appearance of authority
and weight and dignity, and which has a calm collected bearing. But it
must be of such a character that all effort and conceit may be wanting,
and that it be simple and plain. Nothing counterfeit is pleasing. Let
nature train our movements. If indeed there is any fault in our nature,
let us mend it with diligence. And, that artifice may be wanting, let not
amendment be wanting.
76. But if we pay so much attention to things like these, how much more
careful ought we to be to let nothing shameful proceed out of our mouth,
for that defiles a man terribly. It is not food that defiles, but unjust
disparagement of others and foul words. These things are openly shameful.
In our office indeed must no word be let fall at all unseemly, nor one
that may give offence to modesty. But not only ought we to say nothing
unbecoming to ourselves, but we ought not even to lend our ears to words
of this sort. Thus Joseph fled and left his garment, that he might hear
nothing inconsistent with his modesty. For he who delights to listen,
urges the other on to speak.
77. To have full knowledge of what is foul is in the highest degree
shameful. To see anything of this sort, if by chance it should happen, how
dreadful that is! What, therefore, is displeasing to us in others, can
that be pleasing in ourselves? Is not nature herself our teacher, who has
formed to perfection every part of our body, so as to provide for what is
necessary and to beautify and grace its form? However she has left plain
and open to the sight those parts which are beautiful to look upon; among
which, the head, set as it were above all, and the pleasant lines of the
figure, and the appearance of the face are prominent, whilst their
usefulness for work is ready to hand. But those parts in which there is a
compliance with the necessities of nature, she has partly put away and
hidden in the body itself, lest they should present a disgusting
appearance, and partly, too, she has taught and persuaded us to cover
78. Is not nature herself then a teacher of modesty? Following her
example, the modesty of men, which I suppose is so called from the mode of
knowing what is seemly, has covered and veiled what it has found hid in
the frame of our body; like that door which Noah was bidden to make in the
side of the ark; wherein we find a figure of the Church, and also of the
human body, for through that door the remnants of food were cast out. Thus
the Maker of our nature so thought of our modesty, and so guarded what was
seemly and virtuous in our body, as to place what is unseemly behind, and
to put it out of the sight of our eyes. Of this the Apostle says well:
"Those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary, and
those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these
we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts have more abundant
comeliness." Truly, by following the guidance of nature, diligent care has
added to the grace of the body. In another place I have gone more fully
into this subject, and said that not only do we hide those parts which
have been given us to hide, but also that we think it unseemly to mention
by name their description, and the use of those members.
79. And if these parts are exposed to view by chance, modesty is
violated; but if on purpose, it is reckoned as utter shamelessness.
Wherefore Ham, Noah's son, brought disgrace upon himself; for he laughed
when he saw his father naked, but they who covered their father received
the gift of a blessing. For which cause, also, it was an ancient custom in
Rome, and in many other states as well, that grown-up sons should not
bathe with their parents, or sons-in-law with their fathers-in-law, in
order that the great duty of reverence for parents should not be weakened.
Many, however, cover themselves so far as they can in the baths, so that,
where the whole body is bare, that part of it at least may be covered.
80. The priests, also, under the old law, as we read in Exodus, wore
breeches, as it was told Moses by the Lord: "And thou shalt make them
linen breeches to cover their shame: from the loins even to the thighs
they shall reach, and Aaron and his sons shall wear them, when they enter
into the tabernacle of witness, and when they come unto the altar of the
holy place to offer sacrifice, that they lay not sin upon themselves and
die." Some of us are said still to observe this, but most explain it
spiritually, and suppose it was said with a view to guarding modesty and
How should seemliness be represented by a speaker? Does beauty add
anything to virtue, and, if so, how much? Lastly, what care should we take
that nothing conceited or effeminate be seen in us?
81. IT has given me pleasure to dwell somewhat at length on the various
functions of modesty; for I speak to you who either can recognize the good
that is in it in your own cases, or at least do not know its loss. Fitted
as it is for all ages, persons, times, and places, yet it most beseems
youthful and childish years.
82. But at every age we must take care that all we do is seemly and
becoming, and that the course of our life forms one harmonious and
complete whole. Wherefore Cicero thinks that a certain order ought to be
observed in what is seemly. He says that this lies in beauty, order, and
in appointment fitted for action. This, as he says, it is difficult to
explain in words, yet it can be quite sufficiently understood.
83. Why Cicero should have introduced beauty, I do not quite
understand; though it is true he also speaks in praise of the powers of
the body. We certainly do not locate virtue in the beauty of the body,
though, on the other hand, we do recognize a certain grace, as when
modesty is wont to cover the face with a blush of shame, and to make it
more pleasing. For as a workman is wont to work better the more suitable
his materials are, so modesty is more conspicuous in the comeliness of the
body. Only the comeliness of the body should not be assumed; it should be
natural and artless, unstudied rather than elaborated, not heightened by
costly and glistening garments, but just clad in ordinary clothing, One
must see that nothing is wanting that one's credit or necessity demands,
whilst nothing must be added for the sake of splendour.
84. The voice, too, should not be languid, nor feeble, nor womanish in
its tone, such a tone of voice as many are in the habit of using, under
the idea of seeming important. It should preserve a certain quality, and
rhythm, and a manly vigour. For all to do what is best suited to their
character and sex, that is to attain to beauty of life. This is the best
order for movements, this the employment fitted for every action. But as I
cannot approve of a soft or weak tone of voice, or an effeminate gesture
of the body, so also I cannot approve of what is boorish and rustic. Let
us follow nature. The imitation of her provides us with a principle of
training, and gives us a pattern of virtue.
If we are to preserve our modesty we must avoid fellowship with
profligate men, also the banquets of strangers, and intercourse with
women; our leisure time at home should be spent in pious and virtuous
85. MODESTY has indeed its rocks not any that she brings with her, but
those, I mean, which she often runs against, as when we associate with
profligate men, who, under the form of pleasantry, administer poison to
the good. And the latter, if they are very constant in their attendance at
banquets and games, and often join in jests, enervate that manly gravity
of theirs. Let us then take heed that, in wishing to relax our minds, we
do not destroy all harmony, the blending as it were of all good works. For
habit quickly bends nature in another direction.
86. For this reason I think that what ye wisely do is befitting to the
duties of clerics, and especially to those of the priesthood namely, that
ye avoid the banquets of strangers, but so that ye are still hospitable to travellers, and give no occasion for reproach by reason of your great care
in the matter. Banquets with strangers engross one's attention, and soon
produce a love for feasting. Tales, also, of the world and its pleasures
often creep in. One cannot shut one's ears; and to forbid them is looked
on as a sign of haughtiness. One's glass, too, even against one's will, is
filled time after time. It is better surely to excuse oneself once for all
at one's own home, than often at another's. When one rises sober, at any
rate one's presence need not be condemned by the insolence of another.
87. There is no need for the younger clergy to go to the houses of
widows or virgins, except for the sake of a definite visit, and in that
case only with the elder clergy, that is, with the bishop, or, if the
matter be somewhat important, with the priests. Why should we give room to
the world to revile? What need is there for those frequent visits to give
ground for rumours? What if one of those women should by chance fall? Why
shouldst thou undergo the reproach of another's fall? How many even strong
men have been led away by their passions? How many are there who have not
indeed yielded to sin, but have given ground for suspicion?
88. Why dost thou not spend the time which thou hast free from thy
duties in the church in reading? Why dost thou not go back again to see
Christ? Why dost thou not address Him, and hear His voice? We address Him
when we pray, we hear Him when we read the sacred oracles of God. What
have we to do with strange houses? There is one house which holds all.
They who need us can come to us. What have we to do with tales and fables?
An office to minister at the altar of Christ is what we have received; no
duty to make ourselves agreeable to men has been laid upon us.
89. We ought to be humble, gentle, mild, serious, patient. We must keep
the mean in all things, so that a calm countenance and quiet speech may
show that there is no vice in our lives.
We must guard against anger, before it arises; if it has already arisen
we must check and calm it, and if we cannot do this either, at least we
should keep our tongue from abuse, so that our passions may be like boys'
quarrels. He relates what Archites said, and shows that David led the way
in this matter, both in his actions and in his writings.
90. LET anger be guarded against. If it cannot, however, be averted,
let it be kept within bounds. For indignation is a terrible incentive to
sin. It disorders the mind to such an extent as to leave no room for
reason. The first thing, therefore, to aim at, if possible, is to make
tranquillity of character our natural disposition by constant practice, by
desire for better things, by fixed determination. But since passion is to
a large extent implanted in our nature and character, so that it cannot be
uprooted and avoided, it must be checked by reason, if, that is, it can be
foreseen. And if the mind has already been filled with indignation before
it could be foreseen or provided against in any way, we must consider how
to conquer the passion of the mind, how to restrain our anger, that it may
no more be so filled. Resist wrath, if possible; if not, give way, for it
is written: "Give place to wrath."
91. Jacob dutifully gave way to his brother when angry, and to Rebecca;
that is to say, taught by counsels of patience, he preferred to go away
and live in foreign lands, rather than to arouse his brother's anger; and
then to return only when he thought his brother was appeased. Thus it was
that he found such great grace with God. With what offers of willing
service, with what gifts, did he reconcile his brother to himself again,
so that he should not remember the blessing which had been taken away from
him, but should only remember the reparation now offered?
92. If, then, anger has got the start, and has already taken possession
of thy mind, and mounted into thy heart, forsake not thy ground. Thy
ground is patience, it is wisdom, it is reason, it is the allaying of
indignation. And if the stubbornness of thy opponent rouses thee, and his
perverseness drives thee to indignation: if thou canst not calm thy mind,
check at least thy tongue. For so it is written: "Keep thy tongue from
evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile. Seek peace and pursue it."
See the peace of holy Jacob, how great it was! First, then, calm thy mind.
If thou canst not do this, put a restraint upon thy tongue. Lastly, omit
not to seek for reconciliation. These ideas the speakers of the world have
borrowed from us, and have set down in their writings. But he who said it
first has the credit of understanding its meaning.
93. Let us then avoid or at any rate check anger, so that we may not
lose our share of praise, nor yet add to our list of sins. It is no light
thing to calm one's anger. It is no less difficult a thing than it is not
to be roused at all. The one is an act of our own will, the other is an
effect of nature. So quarrels among boys are harmless, and have more of a
pleasant than a bitter character about them. And if boys quickly come to
quarrel one with the other, they are easily calmed down again, and quickly
come together with even greater friendliness. They do not know how to act
deceitfully and artfully. Do not condemn these children, of whom the Lord
says: "Except ye be converted and become as this child, ye shall not enter
into the kingdom of heaven." So also the Lord Himself, Who is the Power of
God, as a Boy, when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He was struck,
struck not back. Set then thy mind on this like a child never to keep an
injury in mind, never to show malice, but that all things may be done
blamelessly by thee. Regard not the return made thee by others. Hold thy
ground. Guard the simplicity and purity of thy heart. Answer not an angry
man according to his anger, nor a foolish man according to his folly. One
fault quickly calls forth another. If stones are rubbed together, does not
fire break forth?
94. The heathen (they are wont to exaggerate everything in
speaking) make much of the saying of the philosopher Archires of
Tarentum, which he spoke to his bailiff: "O you wretched man, how I would
punish you, if I were not angry." But David already before this had in his
indignation held back his armed hand. How much greater a thing it is not
to revile again, than not to avenge oneself! The warriors, too, prepared
to take vengeance against Nabal, Abigail restrained by her prayers. From
whence we perceive that we ought not only to yield to timely entreaties,
but also to be pleased with them. So much was David pleased that he
blessed her who intervened, because he was restrained from his desire for
95. Already before this he had said of his enemies: "For they cast
iniquity upon me, and in their wrath they were grievous to me." Let us
hear what he said when overwhelmed in wrath: "Who will give me wings like
a dove, and I will flee away and be at rest." They kept provoking him to
anger, bat he sought quietness.
96. He had also said: Be ye angry and sin not." The moral teacher who
knew that the natural disposition should rather be guided by a reasonable
course of teaching, than be eradicated, teaches morals, and says: "Be
angry where there is a fault against which ye ought to be angry." For it
is impossible not to be roused up by the baseness of many things;
otherwise we might be accounted, not virtuous, but apathetic and
neglectful. Be angry therefore, so that ye keep free from fault, or, in
other words: If ye are angry, do not sin, but overcome wrath with reason.
Or one might put it thus: If ye are angry, be angry with yourselves,
because ye are roused, and ye will not sin. For he who is angry with
himself, because he has been so easily roused, ceases to be angry with
another. But he who wishes to prove his anger is righteous only gets the
more inflamed, and quickly falls into sin. "Better is he," as Solomon.
says, "that restraineth his anger, than he that taketh a city," for anger
leads astray even brave men.
97. We ought therefore to take care that we do not get into a flurry,
before reason prepares our minds. For oftentimes anger or distress or fear
of death almost deprives the soul of life, and beats it down by a sudden
blow. It is therefore a good thing to anticipate this by reflection, and
to exercise the mind by considering the matter. So the mind will not be
roused by any sudden disturbance, but will grow calm, being held in by the
yoke and reins of reason.
On reflection and passion, and on observing propriety of speech, both
in ordinary conversation and in holding discussions.
98. THERE are two kinds of mental motions those of reflection and of
passion. The one has to do with reflection, the other with passion. There
is no confusion one with the other, for they are markedly different and
unlike. Reflection has to search and as it were to grind out the truth.
Passion prompts and stimulates us to do something. Thus by its very nature
reflection diffuses tranquillity and calm; and passion sends forth the
impulse to act. Let us then be ready to allow reflection on good things to
enter into our mind, and to make passion submit to reason (if indeed we
wish to direct our minds to guard what is seemly), lest desire for
anything should shut out reason. Rather let reason test and see what
99. And since we have said that we must aim at the observance of what
is seemly, so as to know what is the due measure in our words and deeds,
and as order in speech rather than in action comes first; speech is
divided into two kinds: first, as it is used in friendly conversation, and
then in the treatment and discussion of matters of faith and justice. In
either case we must take care that there is no irritation. Our language
should he mild and quiet, and full of kindness and courtesy and free from
insult. Let there be no obstinate disputes in our familiar conversations,
for they are wont only to bring up useless subjects, rather than to supply
anything useful. Let there be discussion without wrath, urbanity without
bitterness, warning without sharpness, advice without giving offence. And
as in every action of our life we ought to take heed to this, in order
that no overpowering impulse of our mind may ever shut out reason (let us
always keep a place for counsel), so, too, ought we to observe that rule
in our language, so that neither wrath nor hatred may be aroused, and that
we may not show any signs of our greed or sloth.
100. Let our language be of this sort, more especially when we are
speaking of the holy Scriptures. For of what ought we to speak more often
than of the best subject of conversation, of its exhortation to
watchfulness, its care for good instruction? Let us have a reason for
beginning, and let our end be within due limits. For a speech that is
wearisome only stirs up anger. But surely it is most unseemly that when
every kind of conversation generally gives additional pleasure, this
should give cause of offence!
101. The treatment also of such subjects as the teaching of faith,
instruction on self-restraint, discussion on justice, exhortation to
activity, must not be taken up by us and fully gone into all at one time,
but must be carried on in course, so far as we can do it, and as the
subject-matter of the passage allows. Our discourse must not be too
lengthy, nor too soon cut short, for fear the former should leave behind
it a feeling of aversion, and the latter produce carelessness and neglect.
The address should be plain and simple, clear and evident, full of dignity
and weight; it should not be studied or too refined, nor yet, on the other
hand, be unpleasing and rough in style.
Jests, although at times they may be quite proper, should be altogether
banished among clerics. The voice should be plain and frank.
102. MEN of the world give many further rules about the way to speak,
which I think we may pass over; as, for instance, the way jesting should
be conducted. For though at times jests may be proper and pleasant, yet
they are unsuited to the clerical life. For how can we adopt those things
which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?
103. We must also take care that in relating stories we do not alter
the earnest purpose of the harder rule we have set before us "Woe unto you
that laugh, for ye shall weep," says the Lord. Do we seek for something to
laugh at, that laughing here we may weep hereafter? I think we ought to
avoid not only broad jokes, but all kinds of jests, unless perchance it is
not unfitting at the time for our conversation to be agreeable and
104. In speaking of the voice, I certainly think it ought to be plain
and clear. That it should be musical is a gift of nature, and is not to be
won by exertion. Let it be distinct in its pronunciation and full of a
manly vigour, but let it be free from a rough and rustic twang. See, too,
that it does not assume a theatrical accent, but rather keeps true to the
inner meaning of the words it utters.
There are three things to be noticed in the actions of our life. First,
our passions are to be controlled by our reason; next, we ought to observe
a suitable moderation in our desires; and, lastly, everything ought to be
done at the fight time and m the proper order. All these qualities shone
forth so conspicuously in the holy men of Old Testament time, that it is
evident they were well furnished with what men call the cardinal virtues.
105. I THINK I have said enough on the art of speaking. Let us now
consider what beseems an active life. We note that there are three things
to be regarded in connection with this subject. One is, that passion
should not resist our reason. In that way only can our duties be brought
into line with what is seemly. For if passion yields to reason we can
easily maintain what is seemly in our duties. Next, we must take care
rest, either by showing greater zeal or less than the matter we take up
demands, we look as though we were taking up a small matter with great
parade or were treating a great matter with but little care. Thirdly, as
regards moderation in our endeavours and works, and also with regard to
order in doing things and in the right timing of things, I think that
everything should be open and straightforward.
106. But first comes that which I may call the foundation of all
namely, that our passions should obey our reason. The second and third are
really the same moderation in either case. There is room with us for the
survey of a pleasing form, which is accounted beauty, and the
consideration of dignity. Next follows the consideration of the order and
the timing of things. These, then, are the three points, and we must see
whether we can show them in perfection in any one of the saints.
107. First there is our father Abraham, who was formed and called for
the instruction of generations to come. When bidden to go forth from his
own country and kindred and from his father's house, though bound and held
back by many ties of relationship, did he not give proof that ill him
passion was subject to reason? Who does not delight in the sweet charms of
his native land, his kindred, and his own home? Their sweetness then
delighted him. But the thought of the heavenly command and of an eternal
reward influenced him more. Did he not reflect that he could not take his
wife with him without the greatest danger, unused as she was to hardships,
and so tender to bear insults, and so beautiful as to be likely to arouse
the lust of profligate men? Yet he decided somewhat deliberately to
undergo all this rather than to escape it by making excuses. Lastly, when
he had gone into Egypt, he advised her to say she was his sister, not his
108. See here what passions are at work! He feared for the chastity of
his wife, he feared for his own safety, he had his suspicions about the
lust of the Egyptians, and yet the reasonableness of performing his duty
to God prevailed with him. For. he thought that by the favour of God he
could be safe everywhere, but if he offended the Lord he could not abide
unharmed even at home. Thus reason conquered passion, and brought it into
subjection to itself.
109. When his nephew was taken captive, without being terrified or
dismayed at the hordes of so many kings, he resumed the war. And after the
victory was gained he refused his share of the spoil, which he himself had
really won. Also, when a son was promised him, though he thought of the
lost vigour of his body, now as good as dead, and the barrenness of his
wife, and his own great age, he believed God, though it was against the
law of nature.
110. Note how everything meets together here. Passion was not wanting,
but it was checked. Here was a mind equable in action, which neither
treated great things as unimportant or little things as great. Here there
was moderation in different affairs, order in things, fitness of occasion,
due measure in words. He was foremost in faith, conspicuous in virtue,
vigorous in battle, in victory not greedy, at home hospitable, and to his
111. Jacob also, his holy grandson, loved to pass his time at home free
from danger; but his mother wished him to live in foreign parts, and so
give place to his brother's anger. Sound counsels prevailed over natural
feelings. An exile from home, banished from his parents, yet everywhere,
in all he did, he observed due measure, such as was fitting, and made use
of his opportunities at the right time. So dear was he to his parents at
home, that the one, moved by the promptness of his compliance, gave him
his blessing, the other inclined towards him with tender love. In the
judgment of his brother, also, he was placed first, when he thought that
he ought to give up his food to his brother. For though according to his
natural inclinations he wished for food, yet when asked for it he gave it
up from a feeling of brotherly affection. He was a faithful shepherd of
the flock for his master, an attentive son-in-law to his father-in-law; he
was active in work, sparing in his meals, conspicuous in making amends,
lavish in repaying. Nay, so well did he calm his brother's anger that he
received his favour, though he had feared his enmity.
112. What shall I say of Joseph? He certainly had a longing for
freedom, and yet endured the bonds of servitude. How meek he was in
slavery, how unchanging in virtue, how kindly in prison! Wise, too, in
interpreting, and self-restrained in exercising his power! In the time of
plenty was he not careful? In the time of famine was he not fair? Did he
not praiseworthily do everything in order, and use opportunities at their
season; giving justice to his people by the restraining guidance of his
113. Job also, both in prosperity and adversity, was blameless,
patient, pleasing, and acceptable to God. He was harassed with pain, yet
could find consolation.
114. David also was brave in war, patient in time of adversity,
peaceful at Jerusalem, in the hour of victory merciful, on committing sin
repentant, in his old age foreseeing. He preserved due measure in his
actions, and took his opportunities as they came. He has set them down in
the songs of succeeding years; and so it seems to me that he has by his
life no less than by the sweetness of his hymns poured forth an undying
song of his own merits to God.
115. What duty connected with the chief virtues was wanting in these
men? In the first place they showed prudence, which is exercised in the
search of the truth, and which imparts a desire for full knowledge; next,
justice, which assigns each man his own, does not claim another's, and
disregards its own advantage, so as to guard the rights of all; thirdly,
fortitude, which both in warfare and at home is conspicuous in greatness
of mind and distinguishes itself in the strength of the body; fourthly,
temperance, which preserves the right method and order in all things that
we think should either be done or said.
A reason is given why this book did not open with a discussion of the
above-mentioned virtues. It is also concisely pointed out that the same
virtues existed in the ancient fathers.
116. PERHAPS, as the different classes of duties are derived from these
four virtues, some one may say that they ought to have been described
first of all. But it would have been artificial to have given a definition
of duty at the outset, and then to have gone on to divide it up into
various classes. We have avoided what is artificial, and have put forward
the examples of the fathers of old. These certainly offer us no
uncertainty as regards our understanding them, and give us no room for
subtlety in our discussion of them. Let the life of the fathers, then, be
for us a mirror of virtue, not a mere collection of shrewd and clever
acts. Let us show reverence in following them, not mere cleverness in
117. Prudence held the first place in holy Abraham. For of him the
Scriptures say: "Abraham believed God, and that was counted to him for
righteousness;" for no one is prudent who knows not God. Again: "The fool
hath said, There is no God;" for a wise man would not say so. How is he
wise who looks not for his Maker, but says to a stone: "Thou art my
father"? Who says to the devil as the Manichaean does: "Thou art the
author of my being"? How is Arius wise, who prefers an imperfect and
inferior creator to one who is a true and perfect one? How can Marcion or
Eunomius be wise, who prefer to have an evil rather than a good God? And
how can he be wise who does not fear his God? For: "The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom." Elsewhere, too, it stands: "The wise turn not
aside from the mouth of the Lord, but come near Him in their confession of
His greatness." So when the Scripture says: "It was counted to him for
righteousness," that brought to him the grace of another virtue.
118. The chief amongst ourselves have stated that prudence lies in the
knowledge of the truth. But who of them all excelled Abraham, David, or
Solomon in this? Then they go on to say that justice has regard to the
whole community of the human race. So David said: "He hath dispersed
abroad and given to the poor, His righteousness remaineth for over." The
just man has pity. the just man lends. The whole world of riches lies at
the feet of the wise and the just. The just man regards what belongs to
all as his own, and his own as common property. The man just accuses
himself rather than others. For he is just who does not spare himself, and
who does not suffer his secret actions to be concealed. See now how just
Abraham was! In his old age he begat a son according to promise, and when
the Lord demanded him for sacrifice he did not think he ought to refuse
him, although he was his only son.
119. Note here all these four virtues in one act. It was wise to
believe God, and not to put love for his son before the commands of his
Creator. It was just to give back what had been received. It was brave to
restrain natural feelings by reason. The father led the victim; the son
asked where it was: the father's feelings were hardly tried, but were not
overcome. The son said again: "My father," and thus pierced his father's
heart, though without weakening his devotion to God. The fourth virtue,
temperance, too, was there. Being just he preserved due measure in his
piety, and order in all he had to carry out. And so in bringing what was
needed for the sacrifice, in lighting the fire, in binding his son, in
drawing the knife, in performing the sacrifice in due order; thus he
merited as his reward that he might keep his son.
120. Is there greater wisdom than holy Jacob's, who saw God face to
face and won a blessing? Can there be higher justice than his in dividing
with his brother what he had acquired, and offering it as a gift? What
greater fortitude than his in striving with God? What moderation so true
as his, who acted with such moderation as regards time and place, as to
prefer to hide his daughter's shame rather than to avenge himself? For
being set in the midst of foes, he thought it better to gain their
affections than to concentrate their hate on himself.
121. How wise also was Noah, who built the whole of the ark! How just
again! For he alone, preserved of all to be the father of the human race,
was made a survivor of past generations, and the author of one to come; he
was born, too, rather for the world and the universe than for himself. How
brave he was to overcome the flood! how temperate to endure it! When he
had entered the ark, with what moderation he passed the time! When he sent
forth the raven and the dove, when he received them on their return, when
he took the opportunity of leaving the ark, with what moderation did he
make use of these occasions!
In investigating the truth the philosophers have broken through their
own rules. Moses, however, showed himself more wise than they. The greater
the dignity of wisdom, the more earnestly must we strive to gain it.
Nature herself urges us all to do this.
122. IT is said, therefore, that in investigating the truth, we must
observe what is seemly. We ought to look for what is true with the
greatest care. We must not put forward falsehood for truth, nor hide the
truth in darkness, nor fill the mind with idle, involved, or doubtful
matters. What so unseemly as to worship a wooden thing, which men
themselves have made? What shows such darkness as to discuss subjects
connected with geometry and astronomy (which they approve of), to measure
the depths of space, to shut up heaven and earth within the limits of
fixed numbers, to leave aside the grounds of salvation and to seek for
123. Moses, learned as he was in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, did
not approve of those things, but thought that kind of wisdom both harmful
and foolish. Turning away therefrom, he sought God with all the desire of
his heart, and thus saw, questioned, heard Him when He spoke. Who is more
wise than he whom God taught, and who brought to nought all the wisdom of
the Egyptians, and all the powers of their craft by the might of his
works? He did not treat things unknown as well known, and so rashly accept
them. Yet these philosophers, though they do not consider it contrary to
nature, nor shameful for themselves to worship, and to ask help from an
idol which knows nothing, teach us that these two things mentioned in the
words just spoken, which are in accordance both with nature and with
virtue, ought to be avoided.
124. The loftier the virtue of wisdom is, the more I say we ought to
strive for it, so that we may be able to attain to it. And that we may
have no ideas which are contrary to nature, or are disgraceful, or
unfitting, we ought to give two things, that is, time and care, to
considering matters for the sake of investigating them. For there is
nothing in which man excels all other living creatures more than in the
fact that he has reason, seeks out the origin of things, thinks that the
Author of his being should be searched out. For in His hand is our life
and death; He rules this world by His nod. And to Him we know that we must
give a reason for our actions. For there is nothing which is more of a
help to a good life than to believe that He will be our judge, Whom hidden
things do not escape, and unseemly things offend, and good deeds delight.
125. In all men, then, there lies, in accordance with human nature, a
desire to search out the truth, which leads us on to have a longing for
knowledge and learning, and infuses into us a wish to seek after it. To
excel in this seems a noble thing to mankind; but there are only few who
attain to it. And they, by deep thought, by careful deliberation, spend no
little labour so as to be able to attain to that blessed and virtuous
life, and to approach its likeness in their actions. "For not he that
saith to Me Lord. Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he
that doeth those things that I say."' To have a desire for knowledge
without actions to correspond well! I do not know whether that carries
anything more with it.
The first source of duty is prudence, from whence spring three other
virtues; and they cannot be separated or torn asunder, since they are
mutually connected one with the other.
126. THE first source of duty, then, is prudence. For what is more of a
duty than to give to the Creator all one's devotion and reverence? This
source, however, is drawn off into other virtues. For justice cannot exist
without prudence, since it demands no small amount of prudence to see
whether a thing is just or unjust. A mistake on either side is very
serious. "For he that says a just man is unjust, or an unjust man is just,
is accursed with God. Wherefore does justice abound unto the wicked?" says
Solomon. Nor, on the other hand, can prudence exist without justice, for
piety towards God is the beginning of understanding. On which we notice
that this is a borrowed rather than an original idea among the worldly
wise, for piety is the foundation of all virtues.
127. But the piety of justices is first directed towards God; secondly,
towards one's country; next, towards parents; lastly, towards all. This,
too, is in accordance with the guidance of nature. From the beginning of
life, when understanding first begins to be infused into us, we love life
as the gift of God, we love our country and our parents; lastly, our
companions, with whom we like to associate. Hence arises true love, which
prefers others to self, and seeks not its own, wherein lies the
pre-eminence of justice.
128. It is ingrained in all living creatures, first of all, to preserve
their own safety, to guard against what is harmful, to strive for what is
advantageous. They seek food and converts, whereby they may protect
themselves from dangers, storms, and sun, all which is a mark of
prudence. Next we find that all the different creatures are by nature wont
to herd together, at first with fellows of their own class and sort, then
also with others. So we see oxen delighted to be in herds, horses in
droves, and especially like with like, stags, also, in company with stags
and often with men. And what should I say on their desire to have young,
and on their offspring, or even on their passions, wherein the likeness of
justice is conspicuous?
129. It is clear, then, that these and the remaining virtues are
related to one another. For courage, which in war preserves one's country
from the barbarians, or at home defends the weak, or comrades from
robbers, is full of justice; and to know on what plan to defend and to
give help, how to make use of opportunities of time and place, is the part
of prudence and moderation, and temperance itself cannot observe due
measure without prudence. To know a fit opportunity, and to make return
according to what is right, belongs to justice. In all these, too,
large-heartedness is necessary, and fortitude of mind, and often of body,
so that we may carry out what we wish.
A community rests upon justice and good-will. Two parts of the former,
revenge and private possession, are not recognized by Christians. What the
Stoics say about common property and mutual help has been borrowed from
the sacred writings. The greatness of the glory of justice, and what
hinders access to it.
130. JUSTICE, then, has to do with the society of the human race, and
the community at large. For that which holds society together is divided
into two parts, justice and good-will, which also is called liberality
and kindness. Justice seems to me the loftier, liberality the more
pleasing, of the two. The one gives judgment, the other shows goodness.
131. But that very thing is excluded with us which philosophers think
to be the office of justice. For they say that the first expression of
justice is, to hurt no one, except when driven to it by wrongs received.
This is put aside by the authority of the Gospel. For the Scripture wills
that the Spirit of the Son of Man should be in us, Who came to give grace,
not to bring harm.
132. Next they considered it consonant with justice that one should
treat common, that is, public property as public, and private as private.
But this is not even in accord with nature, for nature has poured forth
all things for all men for common use. God has ordered all things to be
produced, so that there should be food in common to all, and that the
earth should be a common possession for all. Nature, therefore, has
produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for a few.
Here, too, we are told that the Stoics taught that all things which are
produced on the earth are created for the use of men, but that men are
born for the sake of men, so that mutually one may be of advantage to
133. But whence have they got such ideas but out of the holy
Scriptures? For Moses wrote that God said: "Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth." And David said: "Thou hast put all
things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the
field, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea." So these
philosophers have learnt from our writings that all things were made
subject to man, and, therefore, they think that all things were produced
also for man's sake.
134. That man was made for the sake of man we find stated also in the
books of Moses, when the Lord says: "It is not good that man should be
alone, let us make him an helpmeet for him." Thus the woman was given to
the man to help him. She should bear him children, that one man might
always be a help to another. Again, before the woman was formed, it was
said of Adam: "There was not found an help-meet for him." For one man
could not have proper help but from another. Amongst all the living
creatures, therefore, there was none meet for him, or, to put it plainly,
none to be his helper. Hence a woman was looked for to help him.
135. Thus, in accordance with the will of God and the union of nature,
we ought to be of mutual help one to the other, and to vie with each other
in doing duties, to lay all our advantages as it were before all, and (to
use the words of Scripture) to bring help one to the other from a feeling
of devotion or of duty, by giving money, or by doing something, at any
rate in some way or other; so that the charm of human fellowship may ever
grow sweeter amongst us, and none may ever be recalled from their duty by
the fear of danger, but rather account all things, whether good or evil,
as their own concern. Thus holy Moses feared not to undertake terrible
wars for his people's sake, nor was he afraid of the arms of the mightiest
kings, nor yet was he frightened at the savagery of barbarian nations. He
put on one side the thought of his own safety so as to give freedom to the
136. Great, then, is the glory of justice; for she, existing rather for
the good of others than of self, is an aid to the bonds of union and
fellowship amongst us. She holds so high a place that she has all things
laid under her authority, and further can bring help to others and supply
money; nor does she refuse her services, but even undergoes dangers for
137. Who would not gladly climb and hold the heights of this virtue,
were it not that greed weakens and lessens the power of such a virtue? For
as long as we want to add to our possessions and to heap up money, to take
into our possession fresh lands, and to be the richest of all, we have
cast aside the form of justice and have lost the blessing of kindness
towards all. How can he be just that tries to take from another what he
wants for himself?
138. The desire to gain power also enervates the perfect strength and
beauty of justice. For how can he, who attempts to bring others under his
own power, come forward on behalf of others? And how can a man help the
weak against the strong, when he himself aspires to great power at the
cost of liberty?
Justice should be observed even in war and with enemies. This is proved
by the example of Moses and Elisha. The ancient writers learnt in turn
from the Hebrews to call their enemies by a gentler term. Lastly, the
foundation of justice rests on faith, and its symmetry is perfect in the
139. How great a thing justice is can be gathered from the fact that
there is no place, nor person, nor time, with which it has nothing to do.
It must even be preserved in all dealings with enemies. For instance, if
the day or the spot for a battle has been agreed upon with them, it would
be considered an act against justice to occupy the spot beforehand, or to
anticipate the time. For there is some difference whether one is overcome
in some battle by a severe engagement, or by superior skill, or by a mere
chance. But a deeper vengeance is taken on fiercer foes, and on those that
are false as well as on those who have done greater wrongs, as was the
case with the Midianites. For they had made many of the Jewish people to
sin through their women; for which reason the anger of the Lord was poured
out upon the people of our fathers. Thus it came about that Moses when
victorious allowed none of them to live. On the other hand, Joshua did not
attack the Gibeonites, who had tried the people of our fathers with guile
rather than with war, but punished them by laying on them a law of
bondage. Elisha again would not allow the king of Israel to slay the
Syrians when he wished to do so. He had brought them into the city, when
they were besieging him, after he had struck them with instantaneous
blindness, so that they could not see where they were going, For he said:
"Thou shall not smite those whom thou hast not taken captive with thy
spear and with thy sword. Set before them bread and water, that they may
eat and drink and return and go to their own home." Incited by their kind
treatment they should show forth to the world the kindness they had
received. "Thus" (we read) "there came no more the bands of Syria into the
land of Israel."
140. If, then, justice is binding, even in war, how much more ought we
to observe it in time of peace. Such favour the prophet showed to those
who came to seize him. We read that the king of Syria had sent his army to
lie in wait for him, for he had learnt that it was Elisha who had made
known to all his plans and consultations. And Gehazi the prophet's
servant, seeing the army, began to fear that his life was in danger. But
the prophet said to him: "Fear not, for they that be with us are more than
they that be with them." And when the prophet asked that the eyes of his
servant might be opened, they were opened. Then Gehazi saw the whole
mountain full of horses and chariots round about Elisha. As they came down
to him the prophet says: "Smite, O God, the army of Syria with blindness."
And this prayer being granted, he says to the Syrians: "Follow me, and I
will bring you to the man whom ye seek." Then saw they Elisha, whom they
were endeavouring to lay hold of, and seeing him they could not hold him
fast. It is clear from this that faith and justice should be observed even
in war; and that it could not but be a disgraceful thing if faith were
141. So also the ancients used to give their foes a less harsh name,
and called them strangers. For enemies used to be called strangers after
the customs of old. This too we can say they adopted from our writings;
for the Hebrews used to call their foes "allophyllos," that is,
when put into Latin, "alienigenas" (of another race). For so we
read in the first book of Kings: "It came to pass in those days that they
of another race put themselves in array against Israel."
142. The foundation of justice therefore is faith, 4 for the hearts of
the just dwell on faith, and the just man that accuses himself builds
justice on faith, for his justice becomes plain when he confesses the
truth. So the Lord saith through Isaiah: "Behold, I lay a stone for a
foundation in Sion." This means Christ as the foundation of the Church.
For Christ is the object of faith to all; but the Church is as it were the
outward form of justice, she is the common right of all. For all in common
she prays, for all in common she works, in the temptations of all she is
tried. So he who denies himself is indeed a just man, is indeed worthy of
Christ. For this reason Paul has made Christ to be the foundation, so that
we may build upon Him the works of justice, whilst faith is the
foundation. In our works, then, if they are evil, there appears
unrighteousness; if they are good, justice.
On kindness and its several parts, namely, good-will and liberality.
How they are to be combined. What else is further needed for any one to
show liberality in a praiseworthy manner.
143. Now we can go on to speak of kindness, which breaks up into two
parts, goodwill and liberality. Kindness to exist in perfection must
consist of these two qualities. It is not enough just to wish well; we
must also do well. Nor, again, is it enough to do well, unless this
springs from a good source even from a good, will. "For God loveth a
cheerful giver." If we act unwillingly, what is our reward? Wherefore the
Apostle, speaking generally, says: "If I do this thing willingly, I have a
reward, but if unwillingly, a dispensation is given unto me." In the
Gospel, also, we have received many rules of just liberality.
144. It is thus a glorious thing to wish well, and to give freely, with
the one desire to do good and not to do harm. For if we were to think it
our duty to give the means to an extravagant man to live extravagantly, or
to an adulterer to pay for his adultery, it would not be an act of
kindness, for there would be no good-will in it. We should be doing harm,
not good, to another if we gave him money to aid him in plotting against
his country, or in attempting to get together at our expense some
abandoned men to attack the Church. Nor, again, does it look like
liberality to help one who presses very hardly on widows and orphans, or
attempts to seize on their property with any show of violence.
145. It is no sign of a liberal spirit to extort from one what we give
to another, or to gain money unjustly, and then to think it can be well
spent, unless we act as Zacchaeus did, and restore fourfold what we have
taken from him whom we have robbed, and make up for such heathenish crimes
by the zeal of our faith and by true Christian labour. Our liberality must
have some sure foundation.
146. The first thing necessary is to do kindness in good faith, and not
to act falsely when the offering is made. Never let us say we are doing
more, when we are really doing less. What need is there to speak at all?
In a promise a cheat lies hid. It is in our power to give what we like.
Cheating shatters the foundation, and so destroys the work. Did Peter grow
angry only so far as to desire that Ananias and his wife should be slain?
Certainly not. He wished that others, through knowing their example,
should not perish.
147. Nor is it a real act of liberality if thou givest for the sake of
boasting about it, rather than for mercy's sake. Thy inner feelings give
the name to thy acts. As it comes forth from thee, so will others regard
it. See what a true judge thou hast! He consults with thee how to take up
thy work, and first of all he questions thy mind. "Let not," he says, "thy
left hand know what thy right hand doth." This does not refer to our
actual bodies, but means: Let not him who is of one mind with thee, not
even thy brother, know what thou doest, lest thou shouldst lose the fruit
of thy reward hereafter by seeking here thy price in boastfulness. But
that liberality is real where a man hides what he does in silence, and
secretly assists the needs of individuals, whom the mouth of the poor, and
not his own lips, praises.
148. Perfect liberality is proved by its good faith, the case it helps,
the time and place when and where it is shown. But first we must always
see that we help those of the household of faith. It is a serious fault if
a believer is in want, and thou knowest it, or if thou knowest that he is
without means, that he is hungry, that he suffer distress, especially if
he is ashamed of his need. It is a great fault if he is overwhelmed by the
imprisonment or false accusation of his family, and thou dost not come to
his help. If he is in prison, and upright though he is has to suffer
pain and punishment for some debt (for though we ought to show mercy to
all, yet we ought to show it especially to an upright man); if in the time
of his trouble he obtains nothing from thee; if in the time of danger,
when he is carried off to die, thy money seems more to thee than the life
of a dying man; what a sin is that to thee! Wherefore Job says
beautifully: "Let the blessing of him that was ready to perish come upon
149. God, indeed, is not a respecter of persons, for He knows all
things. And we, indeed, ought to show mercy to all. But as many try to get
help on false pretences, and make out that they are miserably off;
therefore where the case is plain and the person well known, and no time
is to be lost, mercy ought to be shown more readily. For the Lord is not
exacting to demand the utmost. Blessed, indeed, is he who forsakes all and
follows Him, but blessed also is he who does what he can to the best of
his powers with what he has. The Lord preferred the two mites of the widow
to all the gifts of the rich, for she gave all that she had, but they only
gave a small part out of all their abundance. It is the intention,
therefore, that makes the gift valuable or poor, and gives to things their
value. The Lord does not want us to give away all our goods at once, but
to impart them little by little; unless, indeed, our case is like that of
Elisha, who killed his oxen, and fed the people on what he had, so that no
household cares might hold him back, and that he might give up all things,
and devote himself to the prophetic teaching.
150. True liberality also must be tested in this way: that we despise
not our nearest relatives, if we know they are in want. For it is better
for thee to help thy kindred who feel the shame of asking help from
others, or of going to another to beg assistance in their need. Not,
however, that they should become rich on what thou couldst otherwise give
to the poor. It is the facts of the case we must consider, and not
personal feeling. Thou didst not dedicate thyself to the Lord on purpose
to make thy family rich, but that thou mightest win eternal life by the
fruit of good works, and atone for thy sins by showing mercy. They think
perhaps that they are asking but little, but they demand the price thou
shouldst pay for thy sins. They attempt to take away the fruits of thy
life, and think they are acting rightly. And one accuses thee because thou
hast not made him rich, when all the time he wished to cheat thee of the
reward of eternal life.
151. So far we have given our advice, now let us look for our
authority. First, then, no one ought to be ashamed of becoming poor after
being rich, if this happens because he gives freely to the poor; for
Christ became poor when He was rich, that through His poverty He might
enrich all." He has given us a rule to follow, so that we may give a good
account of our reduced inheritance; whoever has stayed the hunger of the
poor has lightened his distress. "Herein I give my advice," says the
Apostle, "for this is expedient for you, that ye should be followers of
Christ." Advice is given to the good, but warnings restrain the
wrong-doers. Again he says, as though to the good: "For ye have begun not
only to do, but also to be willing, a year ago." Both of these, and not
only one, is the mark of perfection. Thus he teaches that liberality
without good-will, and good-will without liberality, are neither of them
perfect. Wherefore he also urges us on to perfection, saying: "Now,
therefore, perform the doing of it; that as the will to do it was ready
enough in you, so also there may be the will to accomplish it out of that
which ye have. For if the will be ready, it is accepted according to that
a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. But not so that others
should have plenty, and ye should be in want: but let there be
equality, your abundance must now serve for their want, that their
abundance may serve for your want; that there may be equality, as it is
written: "He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered
little had no lack."
152. We notice how the Apostle includes both good-will and liberality,
as well as the manner, the fruits of right giving, and the persons
concerned. The manner certainly, for he gave advice to those not perfect:
For only the imperfect suffer anxiety. But if any priest or other cleric,
being unwilling to burden the Church, does not give away all that he has,
but does honourably what his office demands, he does not seem to me to be
imperfect. I think also that the Apostle here spoke not of anxiety of
mind, but rather of domestic troubles.
153. And I think it was with reference to the persons concerned that he
said: "that your abundance might serve for their want, and their abundance
for your want." This means, that the abundance of the people might arouse
them to good works, so as to supply the want of food of others; whilst the
spiritual abundance of these latter might assist the want of spiritual
merits among the people themselves, and so win them a blessing.
154. Wherefore he gave them an excellent example: "He that gathered
much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack." That
example is a great encouragement to all men to show mercy. For he that
possesses much gold has nothing over, for all in this world is as nothing;
and he that has little has no lack, for what he loses is nothing already.
The whole matter is without loss, for the whole of it is lost already.
155. We can also rightly understand it thus. He that has much, although
he does not give away, has nothing over. For however much he gets, he
always is in want, because he longs for more. And he who has little has no
lack, for it does not cost much to feed the poor. In like manner, too, the
poor person that gives spiritual blessings in return for money, although
he has much grace, has nothing over. For grace does not burden the mind,
but lightens it.
156. It can further be taken in this way: Thou, O man, hast nothing
over! For how much hast thou really received, though it may seem much to
thee? John, than whom none was greater among those born of woman, yet was
less than he who is least in the kingdom of heaven.
157. Or once more. The grace of God is never superabundant, humanly
speaking, for it is spiritual. Who can measure its greatness or its
breadth, which one cannot see? Faith, if it were as a grain of mustard
seed, can transplant mountains and more than a grain is not granted thee.
If grace dwelt fully in thee, wouldst thou not have to fear lest thy mind
should begin to be elated at so great a gift? For there are many who have
fallen more terribly, from spiritual heights, than if they had never
received grace at all from the Lord. And he who has little has no lack,
for it is not tangible so as to be divided; and what seems little to him
that has is much to him that lacks.
158. In giving we must also take into consideration age and weakness;
sometimes, also, that natural feeling of shame, which indicates good
birth. One ought to give more to the old who can no longer supply
themselves with food by labour. So, too, weakness of body must be
assisted, and that readily. Again, if any one after being rich has fallen
into want, we must assist, especially if he has lost what he had from no
sin of his own, but owing to robbery or banishment or false accusation.
159. Perchance some one may say: A blind man sits here in one place,
and people pass him by, whilst a strong young man often has something
given him. That is true; for he comes over people by his importunity. That
is not because in their judgment he deserves it, but because they are
wearied by his begging. For the Lord speaks in the Gospel of him who had
already closed iris door; how that when one knocks at his door very
violently, he rises and gives what is wanted, because of his importunity.
A kindness received should be returned with a freer hand. This is shown
by the example of the earth. A passage from Solomon about feasting is
adduced to prove the same, and is expounded later in a spiritual sense.
160. IT is also rights that more regard should be paid to him who has
conferred some benefit or girl upon thee, if he ever is reduced to want.
For what is so contrary to one's duty as not to return what one has
received? Nor do I think that a return of equal value should be made, but
a greater. One ought to make up for the enjoyment of a kindness one has
received from another, to such an extent as to help that person. even to
putting an end to his needs. For not to be the better in returning than in
conferring a kindness, is to be the inferior; for he who was the first to
give was the first in point of time, and also first in showing a kind
161. Wherefore w e must imitate the nature of the earth in this
respect, which is wont to return the seed she has received, multiplied a
thousand-fold. And so it is written: "As a field is the foolish man, and
as a vineyard is the man without sense. If thou leavest him, he will be
made desolate." As a field also is the wise man, so as to return the seed
given him in fuller measure, as though it had been lent to him on
interest. The earth either produces fruits of its own accord, or pays back
and restores, what it was entrusted with, in fruitful abundance. In both
these ways a return is due from thee, when thou enterest upon the use of
thy father's possession, that thou mayest not be left to lie as an
unfruitful field. It may be that a man can make an excuse for not giving
anything, but how can he excuse himself for not returning what was given?
It is hardly right not to give anything; it is certainly not right to make
no return for kindness done to oneself.
162. Therefore Solomon says well: "When thou sittest to eat at the
table of a ruler consider diligently what is before thee, and put forth
thine hand, knowing that it behoves thee to make such preparations. But if
thou art insatiable, be not desirous of his dainties, for they have but a
deceptive life." I have written these words as I wish that we all should
follow them. It is a good thing to do a service, but he who knows not how
to return one is very hard. The earth herself supplies an example of
kindliness. She provides fruits of her own accord, which thou didst not
sow; she also returns many-fold what she has received. It is not right for
thee to deny knowledge of money paid in to thee, and how can it be right
to let a service done go without notice? In the book of Proverbs also it
is said: that the repayment of kindness has such great power with God,
that through it, even in the day of destruction, a man may find grace,
though his sins outweigh all else. And why need I bring forward other
examples when the Lord Himself promises in the Gospel a fuller reward to
the merits of the saints, and exhorts us to do good works, saying:
"Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you;
good measure, shaken together and running over, shall men give into your
163. But the feasting that Solomon speaks of has not to do with common
food only, but it is to be understood as having to do with good works. For
how can the soul be feasted in better wise than on good works; or what can
so easily fill the mind of the just as the knowledge of a good work done?
What pleasanter food is there than to do the will of God? The Lord has
told us that He had this food alone in abundance, as it is written in the
Gospel, saying: "My food is to do the will of My Father which is in
164. In this food let us delight of which the prophet says: "Delight
thou in the Lord." In this food they delight, who have with wonderful
knowledge learnt to take in the higher delights; who can know what that
delight is which is pure and which can be understood by the mind. Let us
therefore eat the bread of wisdom, and let us be filled with the word of
God. For the life of man made in the image of God consists not in bread
alone, but in every word that cometh from God. About the cup, too, holy
Job says, plainly enough: "As the earth waiteth for the rain, so did they
for my words."
After saying what return must be made for the service of the
above-mentioned feast, various reasons for repaying kindness are
enumerated. Then he speaks in praise of good-will, on its results and its
165. IT is therefore a good thing for us to be bedewed with the
exhortations of the divine Scriptures, and that the word of God should
come down upon us like the dew. When, therefore, thou sittest at the table
of that great man, understand who that great man is. Set in the paradise
of delight and placed at the feast of wisdom, think of what is put before
thee! The divine Scriptures are the feast of wisdom, and the single books
the various dishes. Know, first, what dishes the banquet offers, then
stretch forth thy hand, that those things which thou readest, or which
thou receivest from the Lord thy God, thou mayest carry out in action, and
so by thy duties mayest show forth the grace that was granted thee. Such
was the case with Peter and Paul, who in preaching the Gospel made some
return to Him Who freely gave them all things. So that each of them might
say: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace in me was not in
vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all."
166. One repays the fruit of a service done him, and repays it, gold
with gold, silver with silver. Another gives his labour. Another and I do
not know whether he does not do it in fuller measure gives but the best
wishes of his heart? But what if there is no opportunity to make a return
at hand? If we wish to return a kindness, more depends on the spirit in
which we do it than on the amount of our property, whilst people will
think more of our good-will, than of our power to make a full return. For
a kindness done is regarded in the light of what one has. A great thing,
therefore, is good-will. For even if it has nothing to give, yet it offers
the more, and though there is nothing in its own possession, yet it gives
largely to many, and does that, too, without loss to itself, and to the
gain of the many. Thus good-will is better than liberality itself. It is
richer in character than the other is in gifts; for there are more that
need a kindness than there are that have abundance.
167. But good-will also goes in conjunction with liberality, for
liberality really starts from it, seeing that the habit of giving comes
after the desire to give. It exists, however, also separate and distinct.
For where liberality is wanting, there good-will abide's the parent as it
were of all in common, uniting and binding friendships together. It is
faithful in counsel, joyful in times of prosperity, and in times of sorrow
sad. So it happens that any one trusts himself to the counsels of a man of
good-will rather than to those of a wise one, as David did. For he, though
he was the more farseeing, agreed to the counsels of Jonathan, who was the
younger. Remove good-will out of the reach of men, and it is as though one
had withdrawn the sun from the world. For without it men would no longer
care to show the way to the stranger, to recall the wanderer, to show
hospitality (this latter is no small virtue, for on this point Job praised
himself, when he said: "At my doors the stranger dwelt not, my gate was
open to every one who came"), nor even to give water from the water that
flows at their door, or to light another's candle at their own. Thus
good-will exists in all these, like a fount of waters refreshing the
thirsty, and like a light, which, shining forth to others, fails not them
who have given a light to others from their own light.
168. There is also liberality springing from good-will, that makes one
tear up the bond of a debtor which one holds, without demanding any of the
debt back from him. Holy Job bids us act thus by his own example. For he
that has does not borrow, but he that has not does not put an end to the
agreement. Why, then, if thou hast no need, dost thou save up for greedy
heirs what thou canst give back immediately, and so get praise for
good-will, and that without loss of money?
169. To go to the root of thereafter good-will starts first with those
at home, that is with children, parents, brothers, and goes on from one
step to another throughout the world. Having started from Paradise, it has
filled the world. For God set the feeling of good-will in the man and
woman, saying: "They shall be one flesh," and (one may add) one spirit.
Wherefore Eve also believed the serpent; for she who had received the gift
of good-will did not think there was ill-will.
Good-will exists especially in the Church, and nourishes kindred
170. GOOD-WILL expands in the body of the Church, by fellowship in
faith, by the bond of baptism, by kinship through grace received, by
communion in the mysteries. For all these bonds claim for themselves the
name of intimacy, the reverence of children, the authority and religious
care of parents, the relationship of brothers. Therefore the bonds of
grace clearly point to an increase of good-will.
171. The desire to attain to like virtues also stands one in good
stead; just as again good-will brings about a likeness in character. For
Jonathan the king's son imitated the gentleness of holy David, because he
loved him. Wherefore those words: "With the holy thou shalt be holy," seem
not only to be concerned with our ordinary intercourse, but also to have
some connection with good-will. The sons of Noah indeed dwelt together,
and yet their characters were not at all alike. Esau and Jacob also dwelt
together in their father's house, but were very unlike. There was,
however, no good-will between them to make the one prefer the other to
himself, but rather a rivalry as to which should first get. the blessing.
Since one was so hard, and the other gentle, good-will could not exist as
between such different characters and conflicting desires. Add to this the
fact that holy Jacob could not prefer the unworthy in son of his father's
house to virtue.
172. But nothing is so harmonious as justice and impartiality. For
this, as the comrade and ally of good-will, makes us love those whom we
think to be like ourselves. Again, good-will contains also in itself
fortitude. For when friendship springs from the fount of good-will it does
not hesitate to endure the great dangers of life for a friend. "If evils
come to me through him," it says, "I will bear them."
Some other advantages of goodwill are here enumerated.
173. GOOD-WILL also is wont to remove the sword of anger. It is also
good-will that makes the wounds of a friend to be better than the willing
kisses of an enemy. Goodwill again makes many to become one. For if many
are friends, they become one; in whom there is but one spirit and one
opinion. We note, too, that in friendship corrections are pleasing. They
have their sting, but they cause no pain. We are pierced by the words of
blame, but are delighted with the anxiety that good-will shows.
174. To conclude, the same duties are not owed to all. Nor is regard
ever paid to persons, though the occasion and the circumstances of the
case are generally taken into consideration, so that one may at times have
to help a neighbour rather than one's brother. For Solomon also says:
"Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off." For this
reason a man generally trusts himself to the good-will of a friend rather
than to the ties of relationship with his brother. So far does good-will
prevail that it often goes beyond the pledges given by nature.
On fortitude. This is divided into two parts: as it concerns matters of
war and matters at home. The first cannot be a virtue unless combined with
justice and prudence. The other depends to a large extent upon endurance.
175. WE have discussed fully enough the nature and force of what is
virtuous from the standpoint of justice. Now let us discuss fortitude,
which (being a loftier virtue than the rest) is divided into two parts, as
it concerns matters of war and matters at home. But the thought of warlike
matters seems to be foreign to the duty of our office, for we have our
thoughts fixed more on the duty of the soul than on that of the body; nor
is it our business to look to arms, but rather to the affairs of peace.
Our fathers, however, as Joshua, the son of Nun, Jerubbaal, Samson, and
David, gained great glory also in war.
176. Fortitude, therefore, is a loftier virtue than the rest, but it is
also one that never stands alone. For it never depends on itself alone.
Moreover, fortitude without justice is the source of wickedness. For the
stronger it is, the more ready is it to crush the weaker, whilst in
matters of war one ought to see whether the war is just or unjust.
177. David never waged war unless he was driven to it. Thus prudence
was combined in him with fortitude in the battle. For even when about to
fight single-handed against Goliath, the enormous giant, he rejected the
armour with which he was laden. His strength depended more on his own arm
than on the weapons of others. Then, at a distance, to get a stronger
throw, with one cast of a stone, he slew his enemy. After that he never
entered on a war without seeking counsel of the Lord. Thus he was
victorious in all wars, and even to his last years was ready to fight. And
when war arose with the Philistines, he joined battle with their fierce
troops, being desirous of winning renown, whilst careless of his own
178. But this is not the only kind of fortitude which is worthy of
note. We consider their fortitude glorious, who, with greatness of mind,
"through faith stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong." They did
not gain a victory in common with many, surrounded with comrades, and
aided by the legions, but won their triumph alone over their treacherous
foes by the mere courage of their own souls. How unconquerable was Daniel,
who feared not the lions raging round about him. The beasts roared, whilst
he was eating.
One of the duties of fortitude is to keep the weak from receiving
injury; another, to check the wrong motions of our own souls; a third,
both to disregard humiliations, and to do what is right with an even mind.
All these clearly ought to be fulfilled by all Christians, and especially
by the clergy.
179. THE glory of fortitude, therefore, does not rest only on the
strength of one's body or of one's arms, but rather on the courage of the
mind. Nor is the law of courage exercised in causing, but in driving away
all harm. He who does not keep harm off a friend, if he can, is as much in
fault as he who causes it. Wherefore holy Moses gave this as a first proof
of his fortitude in war. For when he saw an Hebrew receiving hard
treatment at the hands of an Egyptian, he defended him, and laid low the
Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Solomon also says: "Deliver him that is
led to death."
180. From whence, then, Cicero and Panaetius, or even Aristotle, got
these ideas is perfectly clear. For though living before these two, Job
had said: "I delivered the poor out of the hand of the strong, and I aided
the fatherless for whom there was no helper. Let the blessing of him that
was ready to perish come upon me." Was not he most brave in that he bore
so nobly the attacks of the devil, and overcame him with the powers of his
mind? Nor have we cause to doubt the fortitude of him to whom the Lord
said: "Gird up thy loins like a man. Put on loftiness and power. Humble
every one that doeth wrong." The Apostle also says: "Ye have a strong
consolation." He, then, is brave who finds consolation in any grief.
181. And in very truth, rightly is that called fortitude, when a man
conquers himself, restrains his anger, yields and gives way to no
allurements, is not put out by misfortunes, nor gets elated by good
success, and does not get carried away by every varying change as by some
chance wind. But what is more noble and splendid than to train the mind,
keep down the flesh, and reduce it to subjection, so that it may obey
commands, listen to reason, and in undergoing labours readily carry out
the intention and wish of the mind?
182. This, then, is the first notion of fortitude. For fortitude of the
mind can be regarded in two ways. First, as it counts all externals as
very unimportant, and looks on them as rather superfluous and to be
despised than to be sought after. Secondly, as it strives after those
things which are the highest, and all things in which one can see anything
moral (or as the Greeks call it, pre'pon,) with all the powers of
the mind. For what can be more noble than to train thy mind so as not to
place a high value on riches and pleasures and honours, nor to waste all
thy care on these? When thy mind is thus disposed, thou must consider how
all that is virtuous and seemly must be placed before everything else; and
thou must so fix thy mind upon that, that if aught happens which may break
thy spirit, whether loss of property, or the reception of fewer honours,
or the disparagement of unbelievers, thou mayest not feel it, as though
thou wert above such things; nay, so that even dangers which menace thy
safety, if undertaken at the call of justice, may not trouble thee.
183. This is the true fortitude which Christ's warrior has, who
receives not the crown unless he strives lawfully. Or does that call to
fortitude seem to thee but a poor one: "Tribulation worketh patience, and
patience, experience, and experience, hope"? See how many a contest there
is, yet but one crown! That call none gives, but he who was strengthened
in Christ Jesus, and whose flesh had no rest. Affliction on all sides,
fighting without and fears within. And though in dangers, in countless
labours, in prisons, in deaths; he was not broken in spirit, but fought so
as to become more powerful through his infirmities.
184. Think, then, how he teaches those who enter upon their duties in
the Church, that they ought to have contempt for all earthly things: "If,
then, ye be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why do ye
act as though living in the world? Touch not, taste not, handle not, which
all are to perish with the using." And further: "If ye then be risen with
Christ, seek those things which are above, not those things which are on
the earth." And again: "Mortify, therefore, your members which are on the
earth." This, indeed, is meant for all the faithful. But thee, especially,
my son, he urges to despise riches and to avoid profane and old wives'
fables allowing nothing but this: "Exercise thyself unto godliness, for
bodily exercise profiteth a little, but godliness is profitable unto all
185. Let, then, godliness exercise thee unto justice, continence,
gentleness, that thou mayest avoid childish acts, and that rooted and
grounded in grace thou mayest fight the good fight of faith. Entangle not
thyself in the affairs of this life, for thou art fighting for God. For if
he who fights for the emperor is forbidden by human laws to enter upon
lawsuits, to do any legal business, or to sell merchandise, how much more
ought he who enters upon the warfare of faith to keep from every kind of
business, being satisfied with the produce of his own little bit of land,
if he has it? If he has not that, let him be content with the pay he will
get for his service. Here is a good witness to this fact, who says: "I
have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous
forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." That is the true rest and
temperance of the mind which is not excited by the desire of gain, nor
tormented by the fear of want.
An even mind should be preserved in adversity as well as in prosperity.
However, evil things must be avoided.
186. THERE is also that true freedom of the mind from vexation which
makes us neither give way too much in our griefs, nor be too elated in
prosperity. And if they who urge men to undertake the affairs of the state
give such rules, how much more ought we who are called to do duty in the
Church, to act thus and do those things which are pleasing to God, so that
Christ's power may show itself forth in us. We too must prove ourselves to
our Captain, so that our members may be the weapons of justice; not carnal
weapons in which sin may reign, but weapons strong for God, whereby sin
may be destroyed. Let our flesh die, that in it every sin may die. And as
though living again after death, may we rise to new works and a. new life.
187. These, then, are the services of fortitude; and full they are of
virtuous and seemly duties. But in all that we do we must look to see, not
only if it is virtuous, but whether it is possible, so that we may not
enter upon anything that we cannot carry out. Wherefore the Lord, to use
His own word, wills us to flee in the time of persecution from one city to
another; so that no one, whilst longing for the crown of martyrdom, may
put himself in the way of dangers which possibly the weak flesh or a mind
indulged could not bear and endure.
CHAPTER XXXY III.
We must strengthen the mind against troubles to come, and build it up
by looking out for them beforehand. What difficulties there are in doing
188. BUT again, no one must retire through cowardice, or give up his
faith from fear of danger. With what grace must the soul be equipped, and
the mind trained and taught to stand firm, so as never to be disturbed by
any fears, to be broken by any troubles, or to yield to any torments! With
what difficulty indeed are they borne! But as all pains seem less in the
fear of greater pains, so also, if thou dost build up thy soul by quiet
counsel, and dost determine not to go from thy course, and layest before
thee the fear of divine judgment and the torment of eternal punishment,
canst thou gain endurance of mind.
189. If a man thus prepares himself, he gives signs of great diligence.
On the other hand it is a sign of natural ability, if a man by the power
of his mind can foresee the future, and put as it were before his eyes
what may happen, and decide what he ought to do if it should take place.
It may happen, too, that he will think over two or three things at once,
which he supposes may come either singly or together, and that he settles
what he will do with them as he thinks will be to the most advantage, in
the event of their coming either singly or together.
200. Therefore it is the duty of a brave man not to shut his eyes when
anything threatens, but to put it before him and to search it out as it
were in the mirror of his mind, and to meet the future with foreseeing
thought, for fear he might afterwards have to say: This has come to me
because I thought it could not come about. If misfortunes are not looked
for beforehand, they quickly get a hold over us. In war an unexpected
enemy is with difficulty resisted, and if he finds the others unprepared,
he easily overcomes them; so evils unthought of readily break down the
200. In these two points, then, consists the excellency of the soul: so
that thy soul, trained in good thoughts, and with a pure heart, first, may
see what is true and. virtuous (for "blessed are the pure in heart, for
they shall see God"), and may decide that only to be good which is
virtuous; and, next, may never be disturbed by business of any kind, nor
get tossed about by any desires.
201. Not that this is an easy thing for any one. For what is so
difficult as to discern, as though from some watch-tower, the resources of
wisdom and all those other things, which to most seem so great and noble?
Again, what so difficult as to place one's decision on fixed grounds, and
to despise what one has decided to be worthless, as of no good? Or, once
more, what so difficult, when some misfortune has happened, and it is
looked on as something serious and grieving, as to bear it in such a way
that one considers it nothing beyond what is natural, when one reads:
"Naked was I born, naked shall I go forth. What the Lord gave, the Lord
hath taken away" (he who said this had lost children and possessions), and
to preserve in all things the character of a wise and upright man, as he
did who says: "As the Lord pleased, so did He. Blessed be the name of the
Lord." And again: "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.
Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
One must show fortitude in fighting against all vices, especially
against avarice. Holy Job teaches this lesson.
202. FORTITUDE of soul, then, is not an unimportant thing, nor is it
cut off from the. Other virtues, for it wages war in conjunction with the
virtues, and alone defends the beauty of all the virtues, and guards their
powers of discernment, and fights against all vices with implacable hate.
It is unconquerable as regards labours, brave to endure dangers, stern as
against pleasures, hardened against allurements, to which it knows not how
to lend an ear, nor, so to speak, to give a greeting. It cares not for
money, and flies from avarice as from a plague that destroys all virtue.
For nothing is so much opposed to fortitude as when one allows oneself to
be overcome by gain. Often when the enemy is repulsed and the hosts of the
foe are turned to flight, has the warrior died miserably among those whom
he has laid low, whilst he is busy with the spoils of the fallen; and the
legions, whilst busy with their booty, have called back upon them the
enemy that had fled, and so have been robbed of their triumph.
203. Fortitude, then, must repulse so foul a plague and crush it down.
It must not let itself be tempted by desires, nor shaken by fear. Virtue
stands true to itself and bravely pursues all vices as though they were
the poison of virtue. It must repel anger as it were with arms, for it
removes counsel far off. It must avoid it as though it were some severe
sickness. It must further be on its guard against a desire for glory,
which often has done harm when sought for too anxiously, and always when
it has been once attained.
204. What of all this was wanting in holy Job, or in his virtue, or
what came upon him in the way of vice? How did he bear the distress of
sickness or cold or hunger? How did he look upon the dangers which menaced
his safety? Were the riches from which so much went to the poor gathered
together by plunder? Did he ever allow greed for wealth, or the desire for
pleasures, or lusts to rise in his heart? Did ever the unkind disputes of
the three princes, or the insults of the slaves, rouse him to anger? Did
glory carry him away like some fickle person when he called down vengeance
on himself if ever he had hidden even an involuntary fault, or had feared
the multitude of the people so as not to confess it in the sight of all?
His virtues had no point of contact with any vices, but stood firm on
their own ground. Who, then, was so brave as holy Job? How can he be put
second to any, on whose level hardly one like himself can be placed?
Courage in war was not wanting in our forefathers, as is shown by the
example of the men of old, especially by the glorious deed of Eleazar.
205. BUT perhaps renown in war keeps some so bound to itself as to make
them think that fortitude is to be found in battle alone, and that
therefore I had gone aside to speak of these things, because that was
wanting in us. But how brave was Joshua the son of Nun, who in one battle
laid low five kings together with their people! Again, when he fought
against the Gibeonites and feared that night might stop him from gaining
the victory, he called out with deep faith and high spirit: "Let the sun
stand still;" and it stood still until the victory was complete. Gideon
with three hundred men gained a triumph over a great nation and a cruel
foe. Jonathan when a young man showed great courage in battle, and what
shall I say about the Maccabees?
206. First, I will speak of the people of our fathers. They were ready
to fight for the temple of God and for their rights, and when attacked on
the Sabbath day by the craft of the enemy, willingly allowed wounds to be
inflicted on their unprotected bodies, rather than to join in the fight,
so that they might not defile the Sabbath. They all gladly gave themselves
up to death. But the Maccabees thinking that then all the nation would
perish, on the Sabbath also, when they were challenged to fight, took
vengeance for the death of their innocent brethren. And afterwards when he
had been roused by this to fresh exertions, King Antiochus, having begun
the war afresh under the leadership of his generals Lysias, Nicanor, and
Georgias, was so utterly crushed, together with his Eastern and Assyrian
forces, that he left 48,000 lying on the battle-field, slain by an army of
but 3,000 men.
207. Mark the courage of the leader, Judas Maccabaeus, as exemplified
in the character of one of his soldiers. Eleazar, meeting with an elephant
higher than all the rest, and with all the royal trappings upon it, and
thinking that the king was on it, ran hastily and threw himself into the
midst of the legion; and, casting away his shield, with both hands he slew
those opposed to him, until he reached the beast. Then he got beneath it,
thrust in his sword and slew it. But the beast in falling crushed Eleazar
and so killed him. What courage of mind was his then, first, in that he
feared not death, next because, when surrounded by enemies, he was carried
by it into the thickest of his foes and penetrated the very centre! Then,
despising death, and casting away his shield, he ran beneath the huge
beast, wounded it with both his hands, and let it fall upon him. He ran
beneath it so as to give a more deadly blow. Enclosed by its fall, rather
than crushed, he was buried in his own triumph.
208. Nor was he deceived in his intention, though he was deceived by
the royal ornaments. For the enemy, startled at such an exhibition of
velour, dared not rush upon this single unarmed man, held fast though he
was. They were so terrified after the mischance of the slaughter of the
beast, that they considered themselves altogether unequal to the valour of
one. Nay, King Antiochus, son of Lysias, terrified at the fortitude of
one, asked for peace. He had come to the war with 120,000 armed men and
with 32 elephants, which glittered and gleamed with the sheen of arms like
a line of burning lamps, as the sun rose upon them, marching along one by
one, like very mountains for size. Thus Eleazar left peace as the heir of
his courage. These are the signs of triumphs.
After praising Judas' and Jonathan's loftiness of mind, the constancy
of the martyrs in their endurance of tortures, which is no small part of
fortitude, is next brought before us.
209. BUT as fortitude is proved not only by prosperity but also in
adversity, let us now consider the death of Judas Maccabaeus. For he,
after Nicanor, the general of King Demetrius, was defeated, boldly engaged
20,000 of the king's army with 900 men who were anxious to retire for fear
of being overcome by so great a multitude, but whom he persuaded to endure
a glorious death rather than to retire in disgraceful flight. "Let us not
leave,'' he says, "any stain upon our glory." Thus, then, engaging in
battle after having fought from sunrise till evening, he attacks and
quickly drives back the right wing, where he sees the strongest troop of
the enemy to be. But whilst pursuing the fugitives from the rear he gave a
chance for a wound to be inflicted. Thus he found the spot of death more
full of glory for himself than any triumph.
210. Why need I further mention his brother Jonathan, who fought
against the king's force, with but a small troop. Though forsaken by his
men, and left with only two, he retrieved the battle, drove back the
enemy, and recalled his own men, who were flying in every direction, to
share in his triumph.
211. Here, then, is fortitude in war, which bears no light impress of
what is virtuous and seemly upon it, for it prefers death to slavery and
disgrace. But what am I to say of the sufferings of the martyrs? Not to go
too far abroad, did not the children of Maccabaeus gain triumphs over the
proud King Antiochus, as great as those of their fathers? The latter in
truth were armed, but they conquered without arms. The company of the
seven brothers stood unconquered, though surrounded by the legions of the
king tortures failed, tormentors ceased; but the martyrs failed not. One,
having had the skin of his head pulled off; though changed in appearance,
grew in courage. Another, bidden to put forth his tongue, so that it might
be cut off, answered: "The Lord hears not only those who speak, for He
heard Moses when silent. He hears better the silent thoughts of His own
than the voice of all others. Dost thou fear the scourge of my tongue and
cost thou not fear the scourge of blood spilt upon the ground? Blood, too,
has a voice whereby it cries aloud to God as it did in the case of Abel. "
212. What shall I say of the mother who with joy looked on the corpses
of her children as so many trophies, and found delight in the voices of
her dying sons, as though in the songs of singers, noting in her children
the tones of the glorious harp of her own heart, and a sweeter harmony of
love than any strain of the lute could give?
213. What shall I say of those two-year-old children of Bethlehem, I
who received the palm of victory before they felt their natural life
within them? What of St. Agnes, who when in danger as regards two great
matters, that is, chastity and life, protected her chastity and exchanged
life for immortality?
214. And let us not pass by St. Lawrence, who, seeing Xystus his bishop
led to martyrdom, began to weep, not at his sufferings but at the fact
that he himself was to remain behind. With these words he began to address
him: "Whither, father, goest thou without thy son? Whither, holy priest,
art thou hastening without thy deacon? Never wast thou wont to offer
sacrifice without an attendant. What are thou displeased at in me, my
father? Hast thou found me unworthy? Prove, then, whether thou hast chosen
a fitting servant. To him to whom thou hast entrusted the consecration of
the Saviour's blood, to whom thou hast granted fellowship in partaking of
the Sacraments, to him dost thou refuse a part in thy death? Beware lest
thy good judgment be endangered, whilst thy fortitude receives its praise.
The rejection of a pupil is the loss of the teacher; or how is it that
noble and illustrious men gain the victory in the contests of their
scholars rather than in their own? Abraham offered his son, Peter sent
Stephen on before him! Do thou, father, show forth thy courage in thy son.
Offer me whom thou hast trained, that thou, confident in thy choice of me,
mayest reach the crown in worthy company."
215. Then Xystus said: "I leave thee not nor forsake thee. Greater
struggles yet await thee. We as old men have to undergo an easier fight; a
more glorious triumph over the tyrant awaits thee, a young man. Soon shalt
thou come. Cease weeping; after three days thou shalt follow me. This
interval must come between the priest and his levite. It was not for thee
to conquer under the eye of thy master, as though thou neededst a helper.
Why dost thou seek to share in my death? I leave to thee its full
inheritance. Why dost thou need my presence? Let the weak disciples go
before their master, let the brave follow him, that they may conquer
without him. For they no longer need his guidance. So Elijah left Elisha.
To thee I entrust the full succession to my own courage."
216. Such was their contention, and surely a worthy one, wherein priest
and attendant strove as to who should be the first to suffer for the name
of Christ. When that tragic piece is played, it is said there is great
applause in the theatre as Pylades says he is Orestes, whilst Orestes
declares that he is really himself. The former acted as he did that he
might die for Orestes, and Orestes, that he might not allow Pylades to be
slain instead of himself. But it was not right that they should live, for
each of them was guilty of parricide, the one because he had committed the
crime, the other because he had helped in its commission. But here there
was nothing to call holy Lawrence to act thus but his love and devotion.
However, after three days he was placed upon the gridiron by the tyrant
whom he mocked, and was burnt. He said: "The flesh is roasted, turn it and
eat." So by the courage of his mind he overcame the power of fire.
The powers that be are not needlessly to be irritated. One must not
lend one's ears to flattery.
217. I THINK we must take care, lest in being led on by too great a
desire for glory, we should abuse the powers that be, and arouse the minds
of the heathen, who are opposed to us, to desire persecution, and excite
them to anger. How many do some cause to perish, that they themselves may
continue to the end, and overcome their tortures!
218. We must also look to it that we do not open our ears to
flatterers. To allow oneself to be smoothed down by flattery seems to be a
sign not only of want of fortitude, but a sign of actual cowardice.
On temperance and its chief parts, especially tranquillity of mind and
moderation, care for what is virtuous, and reflection on what is seemly.
219. As we have spoken of three of the virtues, there remains but the
fourth for us to speak of. This is called temperance and moderation;
wherein, before all else, tranquillity of mind, the attainment of
gentleness, the grace of moderation, regard for what is virtuous, and
reflection on what is seemly are sought and looked for.
220. We must keep to a certain order in life, so that a foundation may
be laid with our first feelings of modesty, for that is the friend and
ally of calmness of mind. Avoiding over-confidence, averse to all excess,
it loves sobriety, guards what is honourable, and seeks only what is
221. Let choice of intercourse come next. Let us link ourselves with
older men of approved goodness. For as the companionship of people of our
own age is the pleasanter, so that of our elders is the safer. By their
guidance and the conduct of their lives they give colour to the character
of younger men, and tinge them as it were with the deep purple of probity.
For if they who are ignorant of a locality are very glad to take a journey
in the company of skilled guides, how much more ought young men to enter
on the path of life, which is new to them, in the company of old men; so
that they may not go wrong, and turn aside from the true path of virtue.
For nothing is better than to have the same men both to direct us in life,
and also to be witnesses of how we live.
222. One must also in every action consider what is suitable for
different persons, times, and ages, and what will also be in accordance
with the abilities of individuals. For often what befits one does not
befit another; one thing suits a youth, another an old man; one thing does
in danger, another in good fortune.
223. David danced before the ark of the Lord. Samuel did not dance; yet
David was not blamed, while the other was praised. David changed his
countenance before the king, whose name was Achish. If he had done this
without any fear of being recognized, he would certainly not have escaped
the charge of levity. Saul also, surrounded by the company of prophets,
himself prophesied. Yet of him alone, as though he were unworthy, was it
said: "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
Every one ought to apply himself to the duties suited to his character.
Many, however, are hindered by following their fathers' pursuits. Clerics
act in a different way.
224. EACH one knows his own powers. Therefore let each one apply
himself to that which he has chosen as suitable to himself. But he must
first consider what will be the consequences. He may know his good points,
but he must know his faults also. He must also be a fair judge of himself,
so as to aim at what is good and avoid what is bad.
225. One is more fitted for the post of reader, another does better for
the singing, a third is more solicitous for exorcising those possessed
with an evil spirit, another, again, is held to be more suited to have the
charge of the sacred things. All these things a priest should look at. He
should give each one that particular duty for which he is best fitted. For
whither each one's bent of mind leads him, or whatever duty befits him,
that position or duty is filled with greater grace.
226. But as this is a difficult matter in every state of life, so in
our case it is most difficult. For each one is wont to follow his parent's
choice in life. Thus those whose fathers were in the army generally enter
the army too. And others do the same with regard to the different
227. In the clerical office, however, nothing is more rare than to find
a man to follow his father's footsteps, either because the difficulties of
the work hold him back, or continence in the uncertain days of youth is
too difficult to hold to, or the life seems to be too quiet for the
activity of youth. So they turn to those pursuits which are thought to be
more showy. Most, indeed, prefer the present to the future. They are
fighting for the present, we for the future. Wherefore it follows that the
greater the cause in which we are engaged, the more must our attention be
devoted to it.
On what is noble and virtuous, and what the difference between them is,
as stated both in the profane and sacred writers.
228. LET US then hold fast modesty, and that moderation which adds to
the beauty of the whole of life. For it is no light thing in every matter
to preserve due measure and to bring about order, wherein that is plainly
conspicuous which we call "decorum," or what is seemly. This is so closely
connected with what is virtuous, that one cannot separate the two. For
what is seemly is also virtuous and what is virtuous is seemly. So that
the distinction lies rather in the words than in the things themselves.
That there is a difference between them we can understand, but we cannot
229. To make an attempt to get some sort of a distinction between them,
we may say that what is virtuous may be compared to the good health and
soundness of the body, whilst what is seemly is, as it were, its
comeliness and beauty. And as beauty seems to stand above soundness and
health and yet cannot exist without them, nor be separated from them in
any way for unless one has good health, one cannot have beauty and
comeliness so what is virtuous contains in itself also what is seemly, so
as to seem to start with it, and to be unable to exist without it. What is
virtuous, then, is like soundness in all our work and undertaking; what is
seemly is, as it were, the outward appearance, which, when joined with
what is virtuous, can only be known apart in our thoughts. For though in
some cases it seems to stand out conspicuous, yet it has its root in what
is virtuous, though the flower is its own. Rooted in this, it flourishes;
otherwise it fails and droops. For what is virtue, but to avoid anything
shameful as though it were death? And what is the opposite of virtue,
except that which brings barrenness and death? If, then, the essence of
virtue is strong and vigorous, seemliness will also quickly spring forth
like a flower, for its root is sound. But if the root of its purpose is
corrupt, nothing will grow out of it.
230. In our writings this is put somewhat more plainly. For David says:
"The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with splendour." And the Apostle says:
"Walk honestly as in the day." The Greek text has
this really means: with good clothing, with a good appearance. When God
made the first man, He created him with a good figure, with limbs well
set, and gave him a very noble appearance. He had not given him remission
of sins. But afterwards He, Who came in the form of a servant, and in the
likeness of man, renewed him with His Spirit, and poured His grace into
his heart, and put on Himself the splendour of the redemption of the human
race. Therefore the Prophet said: "The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with
splendour." And again he says: "A hymn beseems Thee, O God, in Sion." That
is: It is right and good to fear Thee, to love Thee, to pray to Thee, to
honour Thee, for it is written: "Let all things be done decently and in
order." But we can also fear, love, ask, honour men; yet the hymn
especially is addressed to God. This seemliness which we offer to God we
may believe to be far better than other things. It befits also a woman to
pray in an orderly dress, but it especially beseems her to pray covered,
and to pray giving promise of purity together with a good conversation.
A twofold division of what is seemly is given. Next it is shown that
what is according to nature is virtuous, and what is otherwise must be
looked on as shameful. This division is explained by examples.
231. Seemliness, therefore, which stands conspicuous has a twofold
division. For there is what we may call a general seemliness, which is
diffused through all that is virtuous, and is seen, as one may say, in the
whole body. It is also individual, and shows itself clearly in some
particular part. The first has a consistent form and the perfection of
what is virtuous harmonizing in every action. For all its life is
consistent with itself, and there is no discrepancy in anything. The other
is concerned when there is any special action done in a virtuous course of
232. At the same time let us note that it is seemly to live in
accordance with nature, and to pass our time in accordance with it, and
that whatever is contrary to nature is shameful. For the Apostle asks: "Is
it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered; doth not nature itself
teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? For it is
contrary to nature." And again he says: "If a woman have long hair, it is
a glory unto her." It is according to nature, since her hair is given her
for a veil, for it is a natural veil. Thus nature arranges for us both
character and appearance, and we ought to observe her directions. Would
that we could guard her innocence, and not change what we have received by
233. We have that general seemliness; for God made the beauty of this
world. We have it also in its parts; for when God made the light, and
marked off the day from the night, when He made heaven, and separated land
and seas, when He set the sun and moon and stars to shine on the earth, He
approved of them all one by one. Therefore this comeliness, which shone
forth in each single part of the world, was resplendent in the whole, as
the Book of Wisdom shows, saying: "I existed, in whom He rejoiced when He
was glad at the completion of the world." Likewise also in the building up
of the human body each single member is pleasing, but the right adjustment
of the members all together delights us far more. For thus they seem to be
united and fitted in one harmonious whole.
What is seemly should always shine forth in our life. What passions,
then, ought we to allow to come to a head, and which should we restrain?
234. If any one preserves an even tenor in the whole of life, and
method in all that he does, and sees there is order and consistency in his
words and moderation in his deeds, then what is seemly stands forth
conspicuous in his life and shines forth as in some mirror.
235. There should be besides a pleasant way of speaking, so that we may
win the good-will of those who hear us, and make ourselves agreeable to
all our friends and fellow-citizens, if possible. Let none show himself to
be given to flattery, nor to be desirous of flattery from any one. The one
is a mark of artfulness, the other of vanity.
236. Let no one ever look down on what another, least of all a good
man, thinks of him, for thus he learns to give regard to the good. For to
disregard the judgment of good men is a sign of conceitedness or of
weakness. One of these arises from pride, the other from carelessness.
237. We must also guard against the motions of our soul. The soul must
always watch and look after itself, so as to guard itself against itself.
For there are motions in which there is a kind of passion that breaks
forth as it were in a sort of rush. Wherefore in Greek it is called
hormh', because it comes out suddenly with some force. In these there
lies no slight force of soul or of nature. Its force, however, is twofold:
on the one side it rests on passion, on the other on reason, which checks
passion, and makes it obedient to itself, and leads it whither it will;
and trains it by careful teaching to know what ought to be done, and what
ought to be avoided, so as to make it submit to its kind tamer.
238. For we ought to be careful never to do anything rashly or
carelessly, or anything at all for which we cannot give a reasonable
ground. For though a reason for our action is not given to every one, yet
everybody looks into it. Nor, indeed, have we anything whereby we can
excuse ourselves. For though there is a sort of natural force in every
passion of ours, yet that same passion is subject to reason by the law of
nature itself, and is obedient to it. Wherefore it is the duty of a
careful watchman so to keep a lookout, that passion may not outrun reason
nor utterly forsake it, lest by outstripping it confusion be caused, and
reason be shut out, and come to nothing by such desertion. Disquiet
destroys consistency. Withdrawal shows cowardice and implies indolence.
For when the mind is disquieted passion spreads wide and far, and in a
fierce outburst endures not the reins of reason and feels not the
management of its driver so as to be turned back. Wherefore as a rule not
only is the soul perturbed and reason lost, but one's countenance gets
inflamed by anger or by lust, it grows pale with fear, it contains not
itself in pleasure, and cannot bear joy.
239. When this happens, then that natural judgment and weight of
character is cast aside, and that consistency which alone in deed and
thought can keep up its own authority and what is seemly, can no longer be
240. But fiercer passion springs from excessive anger,' which the pain
of some wrong received kindles within us. The monitions of the psalm which
forms the opening of our subject instruct us on this point. Beautifully,
then, has it come about that, in writing on duties, we used that
declaration of our opening passage which also itself has to do with the
direction of duty.
241. But since (as was but right) we there only touched upon the
matter, as to how each one ought to take care not to be disturbed when
wrong is done him, for fear that our preliminary remarks should run to too
great length, I think that I will now discuss it a little more fully. For
the occasion is opportune, as we are speaking on the different parts of
temperance, to see how anger may be checked.
The argument for restraining anger is given again. Then the three
classes of those who receive wrongs are set forth; to the most perfect of
which the Apostle and David are said to have attained. He takes the
opportunity to state the difference between this and the future life.
242. We wish if we can to point out three classes of men who receive
wrongs in holy Scripture. One of these forms the class of those whom the
sinner reviles, abuses, rides over rough-shod. And just because justice
fails them, shame grows, pain increases. Very many of my own order, of my
own number, are like these. For if any one does me, who am weak, an
injury, perhaps, though I am weak, I may forgive the wrong done me. If he
charges me with an offence I am not such an one as to be content with the
witness of my own conscience, although I know I am clear of what he brings
against me; but I desire, just because I am weak, to wash out the mark of
my inborn shame. Therefore I demand eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, and
repay abuse with abuse.
243. If, however, I am one who is advancing, although not yet perfect,
I do not return the reproaches; and if he breaks out into abuse, and fills
my ears with reproaches, I am silent and do not answer.
244. But if I am perfect (I say this only by way of example, for in
truth I am weak), if, then, I am perfect, I bless him that curses me, as
Paul also blessed, for he says: "Being reviled we bless." He had heard Him
Who says: "Love your enemies, pray for them which despitefully use you and
persecute you." And so Paul suffered persecution and endured it, for he
conquered and calmed his human feelings for the sake of the reward set
before him, namely, that he should become a son of God if he loved his
245. We call show, too, that holy David was like to Paul in this same
class of virtue. When the son of Shimei cursed him, and charged him with
heavy offences, at the first he was silent and humbled himself, and was
silent even about his good deeds, that is, his knowledge of good works.
Then he even asked to be cursed; for when he was cursed he hoped to gain
246. But see how he stored up humility and justice and prudence so as
to merit grace from the Lord! At first he said: "Therefore he cursed me,
because the Lord hath said unto him that he should curse." Here we have
humility; for he thought that those things which are divinely ordered were
to be endured with an even mind, as though he were but some servant lad.
Then he said: "Behold my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my
life." Here we have justice. For if we suffer hard things at the hand of
our own family, why are we angry at what is done to us by strangers?
Lastly he says: "Let him alone that he may curse, for the Lord hath bidden
him. It may be that the Lord will look on my humiliation and requite me
good for this cursing." So he bore not only the abuse, but left the man
unpunished when throwing stones and following him. Nay, more I After his
victory he freely granted him pardon when he asked for it.
247. I have written this to show that holy David, in true evangelical
spirit, was not only not offended, but was even thankful to his abuser,
and was delighted rather than angered by his wrongs, for which he thought
some return would be granted to him. But, though perfect, he sought
something still more perfect. As a man he grew hot at the pain of his
wrongs, but like a good soldier he conquered, he endured like a brave
wrestler. The end and aim of his patience was the expectation of the
fulfilment of the promises, and therefore he said: "Lord, make me to know
mine end and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know what is
wanting to me." He seeks, then, that end of the heavenly promises, when
each one shall arise in his own order: "Christ the firstfruits, then they
that are Christ's who have believed in His coming. Then cometh the end."
For when the kingdom is delivered up to God, even the Father, and all the
powers are put down, as the Apostle says, then perfection begins. Here,
then, is the hindrance, here the weakness of the perfect; there full
perfection. Thus it is he asks for those days of eternal life which are,
and not for those which pass away, so that he may know what is wanting to
him, what is the land of promise that bears everlasting fruits, which is
the first mansion in his Father's house, which the second, which the
third, wherein each one will rest according to his merits.
248. We then must strive for that wherein is perfection and wherein is
truth. Here is the shadow, here the image; there the truth. The shadow is
in the law, the image in the Gospel, the truth in heaven. In old times a
lamb, a Calf was offered; now Christ is offered. But He is offered as man
and as enduring suffering. And He offers Himself as a priest to take away
our sins, here in an image, there in truth, where with the Father He
intercedes for us as our Advocate Here, then, we walk in an image, we see
in an image; there face to face where is full perfection. For all
perfection rests in the truth.
We must reserve the likeness of the virtues in ourselves. The likeness
of the devil and of vice must be got rid of, and especially that of
avarice; for this deprives us of liberty, and despoils those who are in
the midst of vanities of the image of God.
249. Whilst, then, we are here let us preserve the likeness, that there
we may attain to the truth. Let the likeness of justice exist in us,
likewise that of wisdom, for we shall come to that day and shall be
rewarded according to our likeness.
250. Let not the adversary find his image in thee, let him not find
fury nor rage; for in these exists the likeness of wickedness. "Our
adversary the devil as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may kill, whom he
may devour." Let him not find desire for gold, nor heaps of money, nor the
appearance of vices, lest he take from thee the voice of liberty. For the
voice of true liberty is heard, when thou canst say: "The prince of this
world shall come, and shall find no part in me." Therefore, if thou art
sure that he will find nothing in thee, when he comes to search through
thee, thou wilt say, as the patriarch Jacob did to Laban: "Know now if
there is aught of thine with me." Rightly do we account Jacob blessed with
whom Laban could find naught of his. For Rachel had hidden the gold and
silver images of his gods.
251. If, then, wisdom, and faith, and contempt of the world, and
spiritual grace, exclude all faithlessness, thou wilt be blessed; for thou
regardest not vanity and folly and lying. Is it a light thing to take away
from thy adversary the opportunity to speak, so that he can have no ground
to make his complaint against thee? Thus he who looks not on vanity is not
perturbed; but he who looks upon it is perturbed, and that, too, all to no
purpose. Is it not a vain thing to heap up riches? for surely to seek for
fleeting things is vain enough. And when thou hast gathered them, how dost
thou know that thou shall have them in possession?
252. Is it not vain for a merchant to journey by night and by day, that
he may be able to heap up treasures? Is it not vain for him to gather
merchandise, and to be much perturbed about its price, for fear he might
sell it for less than he gave? that he should strive everywhere for high
prices, and thus unexpectedly call up robbers against himself through
their envy at his much-vaunted business; or that, without waiting for
calmer winds, impatient of delays, he should meet with shipwreck whilst
seeking for gain?
253. And is not he, too, perturbed in vain who with great toil amasses
wealth, though he knows not what heir to leave it to? Often and often all
that an avaricious man has got together with the greatest care, his
spendthrift heir scatters abroad with headlong prodigality. The shameless
prodigal, blind to the present, heedless of the future, swallows up as in
an abyss what took so long to gather. Often, too, the desired successor
gains but envy for his share of the inheritance, and by his sudden death
hands over the whole amount of the succession, which he has hardly entered
upon, to strangers.
254. Why, then, dost thou idly spin a web which is worthless and
fruitless? And why dost thou build up useless heaps of treasures like
spiders' webs? For though they overflow, they are no good; nay, they
denude thee of the likeness of God, and put on thee the likeness of the
earthy. If any one has the likeness of the tyrant, is he not liable to
condemnation? Thou layest aside the likeness of the Eternal King, and
raisest in thyself the image of death. Rather cast out of the kingdom of
thy soul the likeness of the devil, and raise up the likeness of Christ.
Let this shine forth in thee; let this glow brightly in thy kingdom, that
is, thy soul, for it destroys the likeness of all vices. David says of
this: "O Lord, in Thy kingdom thou bringest their images to nothing." For
when the Lord has adorned Jerusalem according to His own likeness, then
every likeness of the adversary is destroyed.
The Levites ought to be utterly free from all earthly desires. What
their virtues should be on the Apostle's own showing, and how great their
purity must be. Also what their dignity and duty is, for the carrying out
of which the chief virtues are necessary. He states that these were not
unknown to the philosophers, but that they erred in their order. Some are
by their nature in accordance with duty, which yet on account of what
accompanies them become contrary to duty. From whence he gathers what
gifts the office of the Levites demands. To conclude, he adds an
exposition of Moses' words when blessing the tribe of Levi.
255. If, then, in the Gospel of the Lord the people themselves were
taught and led to despise riches, how much more ought ye Levites no longer
to be bound down by earthly desires. For your portion is God. For when
their earthly possessions were portioned out by Moses to the people of our
fathers, the Lord suffered not the Levites to have a share in that earthly
possession, for He Himself would be the strength of their inheritance.
Wherefore David says: "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of
my cup." Whence we get the name "Levite," which means: "Himself is mine,"
or "Himself for me." Great, then, is his honour, that God should say of
him: Himself is Mine. Or, as was said to Peter about the piece of money
found in the fish's mouth: "Give to them for Me and for thee." Wherefore
the Apostle, when he said: "A bishop should be sober, modest, of good
behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not covetous, nor a
brawler, one that rules well his own house," also added: "Likewise must
the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not
greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure
conscience. And let them also first be proved, and so let them serve,
being found blameless. "
256. We note how much is required of us. The minister of the Lord
should abstain from wine, so that he may be upheld by the good witness not
only of the faithful but also by those who are without. For it is right
that the witness to our acts and works should be the opinion of the public
at large, that the office be not disgraced. Thus he who sees the minister
of the altar adorned with suitable virtues may praise their Author, and
reverence the Lord Who has such servants. The praise of the Lord sounds
forth where there is a pure possession and an innocent rule at home.
257. But what shall I say about chastity, when only one and no second
union is allowed? As regards marriage, the law is, not to marry again, nor
to seek union with another wife. It seems strange to many why impediment
should be caused by a second marriage entered on before baptism, so as to
prevent election to the clerical office, and to the reception of the gift
of ordination; seeing that even crimes are not wont to stand in the way,
if they have been put away in the sacrament of baptism. But we must learn,
that in baptism sin can be forgiven, but law cannot be abolished. In the
case of marriage there is no sin, but there is a law. Whatever sin there
is can be put away, whatever law there is cannot be laid aside in
marriage. How could he exhort to widowhood who himself had married more
258. But ye know that the ministerial office must be kept pure and
unspotted, and must not be defiled by conjugal intercourse; ye know this,
I say, who have received the gifts of the sacred ministry, with pure
bodies, and unspoilt modesty, and without ever having enjoyed conjugal
intercourse. I am mentioning this, because in some out-of-the-way places,
when they enter on the ministry, or even when they become priests, they
have begotten children. They defend this on the ground of old custom,
when, as it happened, the sacrifice was offered up at long intervals.
However, even the people had to be purified two or three days beforehand,
so as to come clean to the sacrifice, as we read in the Old Testament.
They even used to wash their clothes. If such regard was paid in what was
only the figure, how much ought it to be shown in the reality! Learn then,
Priest and Levite, what it means to wash thy clothes. Thou must have a
pure body wherewith to offer up the sacraments. If the people were
forbidden to approach their victim unless they washed their clothes, dost
thou, while foul in heart and body, dare to make supplication for others?
Dost thou dare to make an offering for them?
259. The duty of the Levites is no light one, for the Lord says of
them: "Behold I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel,
instead of every first-born that openeth the matrix among the children of
Israel. These shall be their redemption, and the Levites shall be Mine.
For I hallowed unto Me all the first-born in the land of Egypt." We know
that the Levites are not reckoned among the rest, but are preferred before
all, for they are chosen out of all, and are sanctified like the
firstfruits and the firstlings which belong to the Lord, since the payment
of vows and redemption for sin are offered by them. "Thou shalt not
receive them," He says, "among the children of Israel, but thou shalt
appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the
vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it. They shall bear
the tabernacle and all the vessels thereof, and they shall minister in it,
and shall encamp round about the tabernacle. And when the tabernacle
setteth forward the Levites shall take it down, and when the camp is
pitched they shall set up the tabernacle again. And the stranger that
cometh nigh shall surely be put to death."
260. Thou, then, art chosen out of the whole number of the children of
Israel, regarded as the firstfruits of the sacred offerings, set over the
tabernacle so as to keep guard in the camp of holiness and faith, to which
if a stranger approach, he shall surely die. Thou art placed there to
watch over the ark of the covenant. All do not see the depths of the
mysteries, for they are hid from the Levites, lest they should see who
ought not to see, and they who cannot serve should take it up. Moses,
indeed, saw the circumcision of the Spirit, but veiled it, so as to give
circumcision only in an outward sign. He saw the unleavened bread of
sincerity and truth; he saw the sufferings of the Lord, but he veiled the
unleavened bread of truth in the material unleavened bread, he veiled the
sufferings of the Lord in the sacrifice of a lamb or a calf. Good Levites
have ever preserved the mystery entrusted to them under the protection of
their own faith, and yet dost thou think little of what is entrusted to
thee? First, thou shalt see the deep things of God, which needs wisdom.
Next, thou must keep watch for the people; this requires justice. Thou
must defend the camp and guard the tabernacle, which needs fortitude. Thou
must show thyself continent and sober, and this needs temperance.
261. These chief virtues, they who are without have recognized, but
they considered that the order resting on society was higher than that
resting on wisdom; though wisdom is the foundation, and justice the
building which cannot stand unless it have a foundation. The foundation is
262. First stands faith, which is a sign of wisdom, as Solomon says, in
following his father: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
And the law says: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, thou shalt love thy
neighbour." It is a noble thing to do one's kindnesses and duties towards
the whole of the human race. But it is ever most seemly that thou shouldst
give to God the most precious thing thou hast, that is, thy mind, for thou
hast nothing better than that. When thou hast paid thy debt to thy
Creator, then thou mayest labour for men, to show them kindness, and to
give help; then thou mayest assist the needy with money, or by some duty,
or some service that lies in the way of thy ministry; by money to support
him; by paying a debt, so as to free him that is bound; by undertaking a
duty, so as to take charge of a trust, which he fears to lose, who has put
it by in trust.
263. It is a duty, then, to take care of and to restore what has been
entrusted to us. But meanwhile a change comes, either in time or
circumstances, so that it is no longer a duty to restore what one has
received. As, for instance, when a man demands back his money as an open
enemy, to use it against his country, and to offer his wealth to
barbarians. Or, if thou shouldst have to restore it, whilst another stood
by to extort it from him by force. If thou restore money to a raving
lunatic when he cannot keep it; if thou give up to a madman a sword once
put by with thee, whereby he may kill himself, is it not an act contrary
to duty to pay the debt? Is it not contrary to duty to take knowingly what
has been got by a thief, so that he who has lost it is cheated out of it?
264. It is also sometimes contrary to duty to fulfil a promise, or to
keep an oath. As was the case with Herod, who swore that whatever was
asked he would give to the daughter of Herodies, and so allowed the death
of John, that he might not break his word. And what shall I say of
Jephthah, who offered up his daughter in sacrifice, she having been the
first to meet him as he returned home victorious; whereby he fulfilled the
vow which he had made that he would offer to God whatever should meet him
first. It would have been better to make no promise at all, than to fulfil
it in the death of his daughter.
265. Ye are not ignorant how important it is to look to this. And so a
Levite is chosen to guard the sanctuary, one who shall never fail in
counsel, nor forsake the faith, nor fear death, nor do anything
extravagant, so that in his whole appearance he may give proof of his
earnestness. For he ought to have not only his soul but even his eyes in
restraint, so that no chance mishap may bring a blush to his forehead. For
"whosoever looketh on a woman to desire her hath already committed
adultery with her in his heart." Thus adultery is committed not only by
actual committal of the foul deed, but even by the desire of the ardent
266. This seems high and somewhat severe, but in a high office it is
not out of place. For the grace of the Levites is such that Moses spoke of
them as follows in his blessing: "Give to Levi his men, give Levi his
trusted ones, give Levi the lot of his inheritance, and his truth to the
holy men whom they tempted in temptation, and reviled at the waters of
contradiction. Who said to his father and mother, I know thee not, and
knew not his brethren, and renounced his children. He guarded Thy word and
kept Thy testimony."
267. They, then, are His men, His trusty ones, who have no deceit in
their hearts, hide no treachery within them, but guard His words and
ponder them in their heart, as Mary pondered them; who know not their
parents so as to put them before their duty; who hate the violators of
chastity, and avenge the injury done to purity; and know the times for the
fulfilling of their duty, as also which duty is the greater, which the
lesser, and to what occasion each is suited. In all this they follow that
alone which is virtuous. And who, where there are two virtuous duties,
think that which is the more virtuous must come first. These are in truth
268. If any one makes known the just works of the Lord, and offers Him
incense, then: "Bless, O Lord, his strength; accept the work of his
hands," that he may find the grace of the prophetic blessing with Him Who
liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.
Footnotes were not included in the transcription.
Go to On the Duties of the Clergy,
Translated by the Rev. H. de Romestin, M.A., of St. John's College,
Oxford, and Rector of Tiptree, Essex, with the assistance of the Rev. E.
de Romestin, M.A., of New College, Oxford, and the Rev. H. T. F.
Duckworth, M.A., of Merton College, Oxford.