Happiness in life is to be gained by living virtuously, inasmuch as
thus a Christian, whilst despising glory and the favour of men, desires to
please God alone in what he does.
I. Is the first book we spoke of the duties1
which we thought befitted a virtuous life, whereon no one has ever doubted
but that a blessed life, which the Scripture calls eternal life, depends.
So great is the splendour of a virtuous life that a peaceful conscience
and a calm innocence work out a happy life. And as the risen sun hides the
globe of the moon and the light of the stars, so the brightness of a
virtuous life, where it glitters in true pure glory, casts into the shade
all other things, which, according to the desires of the body, are
considered to be good, or are reckoned in the eyes of the world to be
great and noble.
2. Blessed, plainly, is that life which is not valued at the estimation
of outsiders, but is known, as judge of itself, by its own inner feelings.
It needs no popular opinion as its reward in any way; nor has it any fear
of punishments. Thus the less it strives for glory, the more it rises
above it. For to those who seek for glory, that reward in the shape of
present things is but a shadow of future ones, and is a hindrance to
eternal life, as it is written in the Scriptures: "Verily, I say unto you,
they have received their reward." This is said of those who, as it were,
with the sound of a trumpet desire to make known to all the world the
liberality they exercise towards the poor. It is the same, too, in the
case of fasting, which is done but for outward show. "They have," he says,
3. It therefore belongs to a virtuous life to show mercy and to fast in
secret; that thou mayest seem to be seeking a reward from thy God alone,
and not from men. For he who seeks it from man has his reward, but he who
seeks it from God has eternal life, which none can give but the Lord of
Eternity, as it is said: "Verily, I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be
with Me in Paradise." Wherefore the Scripture plainly has called that life
which is blessed, eternal life. It has not been left to be appraised
according to man's ideas on the subject, but has been entrusted to the
The different ideas of philosophers on the subject of happiness. He
proves, first, from the Gospel that it rests on the knowledge of God and
the pursuit of good works; next, that it may not be thought that this idea
was adopted from the philosophers, he adds proofs from the witness of the
4. The philosophers have made a happy life to depend, either (as
Hieronymus) on freedom from pain, or (as Herillus) on knowledge. For
Herillus, hearing knowledge very highly praised by Aristotle and
Theophrastus, made it alone to be the chief good, when they really praised
it as a good thing, not as the only good; others, as Epicurus, have called
pleasure such; others, as Callipho, and after him Diodorus, understood it
in such a way as to make a virtuous life go in union, the one with
pleasure, the other with freedom from pain, since a happy life could not
exist without it. Zeno, the Stoic, thought the highest and only good
existed in a virtuous life. But Aristotle and Theophrastus and the other
Peripatetics maintained that a happy life consisted in virtue, that is, in
a virtuous life, but that its happiness was made complete by the
advantages of the body and other external good things.
5. But the sacred Scriptures say that eternal life rests on a knowledge
of divine things and on the fruit of good works. The Gospel bears witness
to both these statements. For the Lord Jesus spoke thus of knowledge:
"This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ
Whom Thou hast sent," About works He gives this answer: "Every one that
hath forsaken house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or
wife, or children, or lands, for My Name's sake, shall receive an
hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
6. Let no one think that this was but lately said, and that it was
spoken of by the philosophers before it was mentioned in the Gospel. For
the philosophers, that is to say, Aristotle and Theophrastus, as also Zeno
and Hieronymus, certainly lived before the time of the Gospel; but they
came after the prophets. Let them rather think how long before even the
names of the philosophers were heard of, both of these seem to have found
open expression through the mouth of the holy David; for it is written:
"Blessed is the man whom Thou instructest, O Lord, and teachest him out of
Thy law." We find elsewhere also: "Blessed is the man that feareth the
Lord, he will rejoice greatly in His commandments," We have proved our
point as regards knowledge, the reward for which the prophet states to be
the fruit of eternity, adding that in the house of the man that feareth
the Lord, or is instructed in His law and rejoices greatly in the divine
commandments, "is glory and riches; and his justice abideth for ever and
ever." He has further also in the same psalm stated of good works, that
they gain for an upright man the gift of eternal life. He speaks thus:
"Blessed is the man that showeth pity and lendeth, he will guide his
affairs with discretion, surely he shall not be moved for ever, the
righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance," And further: "He hath
dispersed, he hath given to the poor, his justice endureth for ever."
7. Faith, then, has [the promise of] eternal life, for it is a good
foundation. Good works, too, have the same, for an upright man is tested
by his words and acts. For if a man is always busy talking and yet is slow
to act, he shows by his acts how worthless his knowledge is: besides it is
much worse to know what one ought to do, and yet not to do what one has
learnt should be done. On the other hand, to be active in good works and
unfaithful at heart is as idle as though one wanted to raise a beautiful
and lofty dome upon a bad foundation. The higher one builds, the greater
is the fall; for without the protection of faith good works cannot stand.
A treacherous anchorage in a harbour perforates a ship, and a sandy bottom
quickly gives way and cannot bear the weight of the building placed upon
it. There then will be found the fulness of reward, where the virtues are
perfect, and where there is a reasonable agreement between words and acts.
The definition of blessedness as drawn from the Scriptures is
considered and proved. It cannot be enhanced by external good fortune, nor
can it be weakened by misfortune.
8. As, then, knowledge, so far as it stands alone, is put aside either
as worthless, according to the superfluous discussions of the
philosophers, or as but an imperfect idea, let us now note how clearly the
divine Scriptures explain a thing about which we see the philosophers held
so many involved and perplexing ideas. For the Scriptures state that
nothing is good but what is virtuous, and declare that virtue is blessed
in every circumstance, and that it is never enhanced by either corporal or
other external good fortune, nor is it weakened by adversity. No state is
so blessed as that wherein one is free from sin, is filled with innocence,
and is fully supplied with the grace of God. For it is written: "Blessed
is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and hath
not stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of
pestilence, but in the law of the Lord was his delight." And again:
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord."
9. Innocence, then, and knowledge make a man blessed. We have also
noted already that the blessedness of eternal life is the reward for good
works. It remains, then, to show that when the patronage of pleasure or
the fear of pain is despised (and the first of these one abhors as poor
and effeminate, and the other as unmanly and weak), that then a blessed
life can rise up in the midst of pain. This can easily be shown when we
read: "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 great is your reward in heaven; for so
persecuted they the prophets which were before you." And again: "He that
will come after Me, let him take up his cross and follow Me."
The same argument, namely, that blessedness is not lessened or added to
by external matters, is illustrated by the example of men of old.
10. There is, then, a blessedness even in pains and griefs. All which
virtue with its sweetness checks and restrains, abounding as it does in
natural resources for either soothing conscience or increasing grace. For
Moses was blessed in no small degree when, surrounded by the Egyptians and
shut in by the sea, he found by his merits a way for himself and the
people to go through the waters. When was he ever braver than at the
moment when, surrounded by the greatest dangers, he gave not up the hope
of safety, but besought a triumph?
11. What of Aaron? When did he ever think himself more blessed than
when he stood between the living and the dead, and by his presence stayed
death from passing from the bodies of the dead to the lines of the living?
What shall I say of the youth Daniel, who was so wise that, when in the
midst of the lions enraged with hunger, he was by no means overcome with
terror at the fierceness of the beasts. So free from fear was he, that he
could eat, and was not afraid he might by his example excite the animals
to feed on him.
12. There is, then, in pain a virtue that can display the sweetness of
a good conscience, and therefore it serves as a proof that pain does not
lessen the pleasure of virtue. As, then, there is no loss of blessedness
to virtue through pain, so also the pleasures of the body and the
enjoyment that benefits give add nothing to it. On this the Apostle says
well: "What things to me were gain, those I counted loss for Christ," and
he added: "Wherefore I count all things but loss, and do count them but
dung, that I may win Christ."
13. Moses, too, thought the treasures of Egypt to be his loss, and thus
showed forth in his life the reproach of the Cross of the Lord. He was not
rich when he had abundance of money, nor was he afterwards poor when he
was in want of food, unless, perchance, there is any one who thinks he was
less happy when daily food was wanting to him and his people in the
wilderness. But yet manna, that is, angels' food, which surely none will
dare deny to be a mark of the greatest good and of blessedness, was given
him from heaven; also the daily shower of meat was sufficient to feed the
14. Bread for food also failed Elijah, that holy man, had he sought for
it; but it seemed not to fail him because he sought it not. Thus by the
daily service of the ravens bread was brought to him in the morning, meat
in the evening. Was he any the less blessed because he was poor to
himself? Certainly not. Nay, he was the more blessed, for he was rich
toward God. It is better to be rich for others than for oneself. He was
so, for in the time of famine he asked a widow for food, intending to
repay it, so that the barrel of meal failed not for three years and six
months, and the oil jar sufficed and served the needy widow for her daily
use all that time also. Rightly did Peter wish to be there where he saw
them. Rightly did they appear in the mount with Christ in glory, for He
Himself became poor when He was rich.
15. Riches, then, give no assistance to living a blessed life, a fact
that the Lord clearly shows in the Gospel, saying: "Blessed are ye poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst
now, for they shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall
laugh." Thus it is stated as plainly as possible that poverty, hunger, and
pain, which are considered to be evils, not only are not hindrances to a
blessed life, but are actually so many helps toward it.
Those things which are generally looked on as good are mostly
hindrances to a blessed life, and those which are looked on as evil are
the materials out of which virtues grow. What belongs to blessedness is
shown by other examples.
16. But those things which seem to be good, as riches, abundance, joy
without pain, are a hindrance to the fruits of blessedness, as is clearly
stated in the Lord's own words, when He said: "Woe to you rich, for ye
have received your consolation! Woe unto you that are full, for ye shall
hunger, and to those who laugh, for they shall mourn!" So, then, corporal
or external good things are not only no assistance to attaining a blessed
life, but are even a hindrance to it.
17. Wherefore Naboth was blessed, even though he was stoned by the
rich; weak and poor, as opposed to the royal resources, he was rich in his
aim and his religion; so rich, indeed, that he would not exchange the
inheritance of the vineyard received from his father for the king's money;
and on this account was he perfect, for he defended the rights of his
forefathers with his own blood. Thus, also, Ahab was wretched on his own
showing, for he caused the poor man to be put to death, so as to take
possession of his vineyard himself.
18. It is quite certain that virtue is the only and the highest good;
that it alone richly abounds in the fruit of a blessed life; that a
blessed life, by means of which eternal life is won, does not depend on
external or corporal benefits, but on virtue only. A blessed life is the
fruit of the present, and eternal life is the hope of the future.
19. Some, however, there are who think a blessed life is impossible in
this body, weak and fragile as it is. For in it one must suffer pain and
grief, one must weep, one must be ill. So I could also say that a blessed
life rests on bodily rejoicing, but not on the heights of wisdom, on the
sweetness of conscience, or on the loftiness of virtue. It is not a
blessed thing to be in the midst of suffering; but it is blessed to be
victorious over it, and not to be cowed by the power of temporal pain.
20. Suppose that things come which are accounted terrible as regards
the grief they cause, such as blindness, exile, hunger, violation of a
daughter, loss of children. Who will deny that Isaac was blessed, who did
not see in his old age, and yet gave blessings with his benediction? Was
not Jacob blessed who, leaving his father's house, endured exile as a
shepherd for pay, and mourned for the violated chastity of his daughter,
and suffered hunger? Were they not blessed on whose good faith God
received witness, as it is written: "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob"? A wretched thing is slavery, but Joseph was not
wretched; nay, clearly he was blessed, when he whilst in slavery checked
the lusts of his mistress. What shall I say of holy David who bewailed the
death of three sons, and, what was even worse than this, his daughter's
incestuous connection? How could he be unblessed from whom the Author of
blessedness Himself sprung, Who has made many blessed? For: "Blessed are
they who have not seen yet have believed." All these felt their own
weakness, but they bravely prevailed over it. What can we think of as more
wretched than holy Job, either in the burning of his house, or the
instantaneous death of his ten sons, or his bodily pains? Was he less
blessed than if he had not endured those things whereby he really showed
21. True it is that in these sufferings there is something bitter, and
that strength of mind cannot hide this pain. I should not deny that the
sea is deep because inshore it is shallow, nor that the sky is clear
because sometimes it is covered with clouds, nor that the earth is
fruitful because in some places there is but barren ground, nor that the
crops are rich and full because they sometimes have wild oats mingled with
them. So, too, count it as true that the harvest of a happy conscience may
be mingled with some bitter feelings of grief. In the sheaves of the whole
of a blessed life, if by chance any misfortune or bitterness has crept in,
is it not as though the wild oats were hidden, or as though the bitterness
of the tares was concealed by the sweet scent of the corn? But let us now
proceed again with our subject.
On what is useful: not that which is advantageous, but that which is
just and virtuous. It is to be found in losses, and is divided into what
is useful for the body, and what is useful unto godliness.
22. Is the first book we made our division in such a way as to set in
the first place what is virtuous and what is seemly; for all duties are
derived from these. In the second place we set what is useful. But as at
the start we said that there was a difference between what is virtuous and
what is seemly which one can comprehend more easily than one can explain
so also when we are thinking of what is useful, we have to give
considerable thought to what is the more useful.
23. But we do not reckon usefulness by the value of any gain in money,
but in acquiring godliness, as the Apostle says: "But godliness is
profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of
that which is to come." Thus in the holy Scriptures, if we look carefully
we shall often find that what is virtuous is called useful: "All things
are lawful unto me, but all things are not profitable" [useful]. Before
that he was speaking of vices, and so means: It is lawful to sin, but it
is not seemly. Sins rest in one's own power, but they are not virtuous. To
live wantonly is easy, but it is not right. For food serves not God but
24. Therefore, because what is useful is also just, it is just to serve
Christ, Who redeemed us. They too are just who for His Name's sake have
given themselves up to death, they are unjust who have avoided it. Of them
it says: What profit is there in my blood? that is: what advance has my
justice made? Wherefore they also say: "Let us bind the just, for he is
useless to us," that is: he is unjust, for he complains of us, condemns
and rebukes us. This could also be referred to the greed of impious men,
which closely resembles treachery; as we read in the case of the traitor
Judas, who in his longing for gain and his desire for money put his head
into the noose of treachery and fell.
25. We have then to speak of that usefulness which is full of what is
virtuous, as the Apostle himself has laid it down in so many words,
saying: "And this I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare
upon you, but for that which is comely." It is plain, then, that what is
virtuous is useful, and what is useful is virtuous; also that what is
useful is just, and what is just is useful. I can say this, for I am
speaking, not to merchants who are covetous from a desire to make gain,
but to my children. And I am speaking of the duties which I wish to
impress upon and impart to you, whom I have chosen for the service of the
Lord; so that those things which have been already implanted and fixed in
your minds and characters by habit and training may now be further
unfolded to you by explanation and instruction.
26. Therefore as I am about to speak of what is useful, I will take up
those words of the Prophet: "Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies and not
to covetousness," that the sound of the word "useful" may not rouse in us
the desire for money. Some indeed put it thus: "Incline my heart unto Thy
testimonies and not to what is useful," that is, that kind of usefulness
which is always on the watch for making gains in business, and has been
bent and diverted by the habits of men to the pursuit of money. For as a
rule most people call that only useful which is profitable, but we are
speaking of that kind of usefulness which is sought in earthly loss "that
we may gain Christ," whose gain is "godliness with contentment." Great,
too, is the gain whereby we attain to godliness, which is rich with God,
not indeed in fleeting wealth, but in eternal gifts, and in which rests no
uncertain trial but grace constant and unending.
27. There is therefore a usefulness connected with the body, and also
one that has to do with godliness, according to the Apostle's division:
"Bodily exercise profiteth a little, but godliness is profitable unto all
things." And what is so virtuous as integrity? what so seemly as to
preserve the body unspotted and undefiled, and its purity unsullied? What,
again, is so seemly as that a widow should keep her plighted troth to her
dead husband? What more useful than this whereby the heavenly kingdom is
attained? For "there are some who have made themselves eunuchs for the
kingdom of heaven's sake."
What is useful is the same as what is virtuous; nothing is more useful
than love, which is gained by gentleness, courtesy, kindness, justice, and
the other virtues, as we are given to understand from the histories of
Moses and David. Lastly, confidence springs from love, and again love from
28. There is therefore not only a close intercourse between what is
virtuous and what is useful, but the same thing is both useful and
virtuous. Therefore He Who willed to open the kingdom of heaven to all
sought not what was useful to Himself, but what was useful for all. Thus
we must have a certain order and proceed step by step from habitual or
common acts to those which are more excellent, so as to show by many
examples the advancement of what is useful.
29. And first we may know there is nothing so useful as to be loved,
nothing so useless as not to be loved; for to be hated in my opinion is
simply fatal and altogether deadly. We speak of this, then, in order that
we may take care to give cause for a good estimate and opinion to be
formed of us, and may try to get a place in others' affections through our
calmness of mind and kindness of soul. For goodness is agreeable and
pleasing to all, and there is nothing that so easily reaches human
feelings. And if that is assisted by gentleness of character and
willingness, as well as by moderation in giving orders and courtesy of
speech, by honour in word, by a ready interchange of conversation and by
the grace of modesty, it is incredible how much all this tends to an
increase of love.
30. We read, not only in the case of private individuals but even of
kings, what is the effect of ready and willing courtesy, and what harm
pride and great swelling words have done, so far as to make even kingdoms
to totter and powers to be destroyed. If any one gains the people's favour
by advice or service, by fulfilling the duties of his ministry or office,
or if he encounters danger for the sake of the whole nation, there is no
doubt but that such love will be shown him by the people that they all
will put his safety and welfare before their own.
31. What reproaches Moses had to bear from his people! But when the
Lord would have avenged him on those who reviled him, he often used to
offer himself for the people that he might save them from the divine
anger. With what gentle words used he to address the people, even after he
was wronged I He comforted them in their labours, consoled them by his
prophetic declarations of the future, and encouraged them by his works.
And though he often spoke with God, yet he was wont to address men gently
and pleasantly. Worthily was he considered to stand above all men. For
they could not even look on his face, and refused to believe that his
sepulchre was found. He had captivated the minds of all the people to such
an extent; that they loved him even more for his gentleness than they
admired him for his deeds.
32. There is David too who followed his steps, who was chosen from
among all to rule the people. How gentle and kindly he was, humble in
spirit too, how diligent and ready to show affection. Before he came to
the throne he offered himself in the stead of all. As king he showed
himself an equal to all in warfare, and shared in their labours. He was
brave in battle, gentle in ruling, patient under abuse, and more ready to
bear than to return wrongs. So dear was he to all, that though a youth, he
was chosen even against his will to rule over them, and was made to
undertake the duty though he withstood it. When old he was asked by his
people not to engage in battle, because they all preferred to incur danger
for his sake rather than that he should undergo it for theirs.
33. He had bound the people to himself freely in doing his duty; first,
when he during the division among the people preferred to live like an
exile at Hebron rather than to reign at Jerusalem; next, when he showed
that he loved valour even in an enemy. He had also thought that justice
should be shown to those who had borne arms against himself the same as to
his own men. Again, he admired Abner, the bravest champion of the opposing
side, whilst he was their leader and was yet waging war. Nor did he
despise him when suing for peace, but honoured him by a banquet. When
killed by treachery, he mourned and wept for him. He followed him and
honoured his obsequies, and evinced his good faith in desiring vengeance
for the murder; for he handed on that duty to his son in the charge that
he gave him, being anxious rather that the death of an innocent man should
not be left unavenged, than that any one should mourn for his own.
34. It is no small thing, especially in the case of a king, so to
perform humble duties as to make oneself like the very lowest. It is noble
not to seek for food at another's risk and to refuse a drink of water, to
confess a sin, and to offer oneself to death for one's people. This latter
David did, so that the divine anger might be turned against himself, when
he offered himself to the destroying angel and said: "Lo I have sinned: I
the shepherd have done wickedly, but this flock, what hath it done? Let
Thy hand be against me."
35. What further should I say? He opened not his mouth to those
planning deceit, and, as though hearing not, he thought no word should be
returned, nor did be answer their reproaches. When he was evil spoken of,
he prayed, when he was cursed, he blessed. He walked in simplicity of
heart, and fled from the proud. He was a follower of those unspotted from
the world, one who mixed ashes with his food when bewailing his sins, and
mingled his drink with weeping. Worthily, then, was he called for by all
the people. All the tribes of Israel came to him saying: "Behold, we are
thy bone and thy flesh. Also yesterday and the day before when Saul lived,
and reigned, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel. And
the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people!' And why should I say
more about him of whom the word of the Lord has gone forth to say: "I have
found David according to My heart"? Who ever walked in holiness of heart
and in justice as he did, so as to fulfil the will of God; for whose sake
pardon was granted to his children when they sinned, and their rights were
preserved to his heirs?
36. Who would not have loved him, when they saw how dear he was to his
friends? For as he truly loved his friends, so he thought that he was
loved as much in return by his own friends. Nay, parents put him even
before their own children, and children loved him more than their parents.
Wherefore Saul was very angry and strove to strike Jonathan his son with a
spear because he thought that David's friendship held a higher place in
his esteem than either filial piety or a father's authority.
37. It gives a very great impetus to mutual love if one shows love in
return to those who love us and proves that one does not love them less
than oneself is loved, especially if one shows it by the proofs that a
faithful friendship gives. What is so likely to win favour as gratitude?
What more natural than to love one who loves us? What so implanted and so
impressed on men's feelings as the wish to let another, by whom we want to
be loved, know that we love him? Well does the wise man say: "Lose thy
money for thy brother and thy friend." And again: "I will not be ashamed
to defend a friend, neither will I hide myself from him." If, indeed, the
words in Ecclesiasticus testify that the medicine of life and immortality
is in a friend; yet none has ever doubted that it is in love that our best
defence lies. As the Apostle says: "It beareth all things, believeth all
things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; love never faileth."
38. Thus David failed not, for he was dear to all, and wished to be
loved rather than feared by his subjects. Fear keeps the watch of temporal
protection, but knows not how to keep guard permanently. And so where fear
has departed, boldness often creeps in; for fear does not force confidence
but affection calls it forth.
39. Love, then, is the first thing to give us a recommendation. It is a
good thing therefore to have our witness in the love of many. Then arises
confidence, so that even strangers are not afraid to trust themselves to
thy kindness, when they see thee so dear to many. So likewise one goes
through confidence to love, so that he who has shown good faith to one or
two has an influence as it were on the minds of all, and wins the
good-will of all.
Nothing has greater effect in gaining good-will than giving advice; but
none can trust it unless it rests on justice and prudence. How conspicuous
these two virtues were in Solomon is shown by his well-known judgment.
40. Two things, therefore, love and confidence, are the most
efficacious in commending us to others; also this third quality if thou
hast it, namely, what many consider to be worthy of admiration in thee,
and think to be rightly worthy of honour [the power, in fact, of giving
41. Since the giving of good advice is a great means of gaining men's
affections, prudence and justice are much needed in every case. These are
looked for by most, so that confidence at once is placed in him in whom
they exist, because he can give useful and trustworthy advice to whoever
wants it. Who will put himself into the hands of a man whom he does not
think to be more wise than himself who asks for advice? It is necessary
therefore that he of whom advice is asked should be superior to him who
asks it. For why should we consult a man when we do not think that he can
make anything more plain than we ourselves see it?
42. But if we have found a man that by the vigour of his character, by
his strength of mind and influence, stands forth above all others, and
further, is better fitted by example and experience than others; that can
put an end to immediate dangers, foresee future ones, point out those
close at hand, can explain a subject, bring relief in time, is ready not
only to give advice but also to give help, in such a man confidence is
placed, so that he who seeks advice can say: "Though evil should happen to
me through him, I will bear it."
43. To a man of this sort then we entrust our safety and our
reputation, for he is, as we said before, just and prudent. Justice causes
us to have no fear of deceit, and prudence frees us from having any
suspicions of error. However, we trust ourselves more readily to a just
than to a prudent man, to put it in the way people generally do. But,
according to the definition of the philosophers, where there is one
virtue, others exist too, whilst prudence cannot exist without justice. We
find this stated also in our writers, for David says: "The just showeth
mercy and lendeth." What the just lends, he says elsewhere: "A good man is
he that showeth mercy and lendeth, he will guide his words with
44. Is not that noble judgment of Solomon full of wisdom and justice?
Let us see whether it is so. "Two women," it says, "stood before King
Solomon, and the one said to him, Hear me, my lord, I and this woman dwell
in one house, and before the third day we gave birth and bore a son
apiece, and were together, there was no witness in the house, nor any
other woman with us, only we two alone. And her son died this night,
because she overlaid it, and she arose at midnight, and took my son from
my breast, and laid it in her bosom, and her dead child she laid at my
breast, And I arose in the morning to give my child suck, and found him
dead. And I considered it at dawn, and behold it was not my son. And the
other woman said, Nay, but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son."
45. This was their dispute, in which either tried to claim the living
child for herself, and denied that the dead one was hers. Then the king
commanded a sword to be brought and the infant to be cut in half, and
either piece to be given to one, one half to the one, and one half to the
other. Then the woman whose the child really was, moved by her feelings,
cried out: "Divide not the child, my lord; let it rather be given to her
and live, and do not kill it." But the other answered: "Let it be neither
mine nor hers, divide it." Then the king ordered that the infant should be
given to the woman who had said: Do not kill it, but give it to that
woman; "For," as it says, "her bowels yearned upon her son."
46. It is not wrong to suppose that the mind of God was in him; for
what is hidden from God? What can be more hidden than the witness that
lies deep within; into which the mind of the wise king entered as though
to judge a mother's feelings, and elicited as it were the voice of a
mother's heart. For a mother's feelings were laid bare, when she chose
that her son should live with another, rather than that he should be
killed in his mother's sight.
47. It was therefore a sign of wisdom to distinguish between secret
heart-thoughts, to draw the truth from hidden springs, and to pierce as it
were with the sword of the Spirit not only the inward parts of the body,
but even of the mind and soul. It was the part of justice also that she
who had killed her own child should not take away another's, but that the
real mother should have her own back again. Indeed the Scriptures have
declared this. "All Israel," it says, "heard of the judgment which the
king had judged, and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of
God was in him to do judgment." Solomon also himself had asked for wisdom,
so that a prudent heart might be given him to hear and to judge with
Though justice and prudence are inseparable, we must have respect to
the ideas of people in general, for they make a distinction between the
different cardinal virtues.
48. It is clear also, according to the sacred Scriptures, which are the
older, that wisdom cannot exist without justice, for where one of these
two is, there the other must be also. With what wisdom did Daniel expose
the lie in the false accusation brought against him by his thorough
examination, so that those false informers had no answer ready to hand! It
was a mark of prudence to convict the criminals by the witness of their
own words, and a sign of justice to give over the guilty to punishment,
and to save the innocent from it.
49. There is therefore an inseparable union between wisdom and justice;
but, generally speaking, the one special form of virtue is divided up.
Thus temperance lies in despising pleasures, fortitude may be seen in
undergoing labours and dangers, prudence in the choice of what is good, by
knowing how to distinguish between things useful and the reverse; justice,
in being a good guardian of another's rights and protector of its own,
thus maintaining for each his own. We can make this fourfold division in
deference to commonly received ideas; and so, whilst deviating from those
subtle discussions of philosophic learning which are brought forth as
though from some inner recess for the sake of investigating the truth, can
follow the commonly received use and their ordinary meaning. Keeping,
then, to this division, let us return to our subject.
Men entrust their safety rather to a just than to a prudent man. But
every one is wont to seek out the man who combines in himself the
qualities of justice and prudence. Solomon gives us an example of this.
(The words which the queen of Sheba spoke of him are explained.) Also
Daniel and Joseph.
50. We entrust our case to the most prudent man we can find, and ask
advice from him more readily than we do from others. However, the faithful
counsel of a just man stands first and often has more weight than the
great abilities of the wisest of men: "For better are the wounds of a
friend than the kisses of others." And just because it is the judgment of
a just man, it is also the conclusion of a wise one: in the one lies the
result of the matter in dispute, in the other readiness of invention.
51. And if one connects the two, there will be great soundness in the
advice given, which is regarded by all with admiration for the wisdom
shown, and with love for its justice. And so all will desire to hear the
wisdom of that man in whom those two virtues are found together, as all
the kings of the earth desired to see the face of Solomon and to hear his
wisdom. Nay, even the queen of Sheba came to him and tried him with
questions. She came and spoke of all the things that were in her heart,
and heard all the wisdom of Solomon, nor did any word escape her.
52. Who she was whom nothing escaped, and that there was nothing which
the truth-loving Solomon did not tell her, learn, O man, from this which
thou hearest her saying: "It was a true report that I heard in mine own
land of thy words and of thy prudence, yet I did not believe those that
told it me until I came, and mine eyes had seen it; and behold the half
was not told me. Thou hast added good things over and above all that I
heard in mine own land. Blessed are thy women and blessed thy servants,
which stand before thee, and that hear all thy prudence." Recognize the
feast of the true Solomon, and who are set down at that feast; recognize
it wisely and think in what land all the nations shall hear the fame of
true wisdom and justice, and with what eyes they shall see Him, beholding
those things which are not seen. "For the things that are seen are
temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
53. What women are blessed but those of whom it is said "that many hear
the word of God and bring forth fruit"? And again: "Whosoever doeth the
word of God is My father and sister and mother." And who are those blessed
servants, who stand before Him, but Paul, who said: "Even to this day I
stand witnessing both to great and small;" or Simeon, who was waiting in
the temple to see the consolation of Israel? How could he have asked to be
let depart, except that in standing before the Lord he had not the power
of departing, but only according to the will of God? Solomon is put before
us simply for the sake of example, of whom it was eagerly expected that
his wisdom should be heard.
54. Joseph also when in prison was not free from being consulted about
matters of uncertainty. His counsel was of advantage to the whole of
Egypt, so that it felt not the seven years' famine, and he was able even
to relieve other peoples from their dreadful hunger.
55. Daniel, though one of the captives, was made the head of the royal
counsellors. By his counsels he improved the present and foretold the
future. Confidence was put in him in all things, because he had frequently
interpreted things, and had shown that he had declared the truth.
A third element which tends to gain any one's confidence is shown to
have been conspicuous in Moses, Daniel, and Joseph.
56. But a third point seems also to have been noted in the case of
those who were thought worthy of admiration after the example of Joseph,
Solomon, and Daniel. For what shall I say of Moses whose advice all Israel
always waited for, whose life caused them to trust in his prudence and
increased their esteem for him? Who would not trust to the counsel of
Moses, to whom the elders reserved for decision whatever they thought
beyond their understanding and powers?
57. Who would refuse the counsel of Daniel, of whom God Himself said:
"Who is wiser than Daniel?" How can men doubt about the minds of those to
whom God has given such grace? By the counsel of Moses wars were brought
to an end, and for his merit's sake food came from heaven and drink from
58. How pure must have been the soul of Daniel to soften the character
of barbarians and to tame the lions! What temperance was his, what
self-restraint in soul and body! Not unworthily did he become an object of
admiration to all, when and all men do admire this, though enjoying
royal friendships, he sought not for gold, nor counted the honour given
him as more precious than his faith. For he was willing to endure danger
for the law of God rather than to be turned from his purpose in order to
gain the favour of men.
59. And what, again, shall I say of the chastity and justice of Joseph,
whom I had almost passed by, whereby on the one hand he rejected the
allurements of his mistress and refused rewards, on the other he mocked at
death, repressed his fear, and chose a prison? Who would not consider him
a fit person to give advice in a private case, whose fruitful spirit and
fertile mind enriched the barrenness of the time with the wealth of his
counsels and heart?
No one asks counsel from a man tainted with vice, or from one who is
morose or impracticable, but rather from one of whom we have a pattern in
60. We note therefore that in seeking for counsel, uprightness of life,
excellence in virtues, habits of benevolence, and the charm of good-nature
have very great weight. Who seeks for a spring in the mud? Who wants to
drink from muddy water? So where there is luxurious living, excess, and a
union of vices, who will think that he ought to draw from that source? Who
does not despise a foul life? Who will think a man to be useful to
another's cause whom he sees to be useless in his own life? Who, again,
does not avoid a wicked, ill-disposed, abusive person, who is always ready
to do harm? Who would not be only too eager to avoid him?
61. And who will come to a man however well fitted to give the best of
advice who is nevertheless hard to approach? It goes with him as with a
fountain whose waters are shut off. What is the advantage of having
wisdom, if one refuses to give advice? If one cuts off the opportunities
of giving advice, the source is closed, so as no longer to flow for others
or to be of any good to oneself.
62. Well can we refer this to him who, possessing prudence, has defiled
it with the foulness of a vicious life and so pollutes the water at the
source. His life is a proof of a degenerate spirit. How can one judge him
to be good in counsel whom one sees to be evil in character? He ought to
be superior to me, if I am ready to trust myself to him. Am I to suppose
that he is fit to give me advice who never takes it for himself, or am I
to believe that he has time to give to me when he has none for himself,
when his mind is filled with pleasures, and he is overcome by lust, is the
slave of avarice, is excited by greed, and is terrified with fright? How
is there room for counsel here where there is none for quiet?
63. That man of counsel whom I must admire and look up to, whom the
gracious Lord gave to our fathers, put aside all that was offensive. His
follower he ought to be, who can give counsel and protect another's
prudence from vice; for nothing foul can mingle with that.
The beauty of wisdom is made plain by the divine testimony. From this
he goes on to prove its connection with the other virtues.
64. Is there any one who would like to be beautiful in face and at the
same time to have its charm spoilt by a beast-like body and fearful
talons? Now the form of virtues is so wonderful and glorious, and
especially the beauty of wisdom, as the whole of the Scriptures tell us.
For it is more brilliant than the sun, and when compared with the stars
far outshines any constellation. Night takes their light away in its
train, but wickedness cannot overcome wisdom.
65. We have spoken of its beauty, and proved it by the witness of
Scripture. It remains to show on the authority of Scripture that there can
be no fellowship between it and vice, but that it has an inseparable union
with the rest of the virtues. "It has a spirit sagacious, undefiled, sure,
holy, loving what is good, quick, that never forbids a kindness, kind,
steadfast, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things." And
again: "She teacheth temperance and justice and virtue."
Prudence is combined with all the virtues, especially with contempt of
66. Prudence, herefore, works through all things, she has fellowship
with all that is good. For how can she give good advice unless she have
justice too, so that she may clothe herself in consistency, not fear
death, be held back by no alarm, no fear, nor think it right to be turned
aside from the truth by any flattery, nor shun exile, knowing that the
world is the fatherland of the wise man. She fears not want, for she knows
that nothing is wanting to the wise man, since the whole world of riches
is his. What is greater than the man that knows not how to be excited at
the thought of money, and has a contempt for riches, and looks down as
from some lofty vantage-ground on the desires of men? Men think that one
who acts thus is more than man: "Who is this," it says, "and we will
praise him. For wonderful things hath he done in his life." Surely he
ought to be admired who despises riches, seeing that most place them even
before their own safety.
67. The rule of economy and the authority of self-restraint befits all,
and most of all him who stands highest in honour; so that no love for his
treasures may seize upon such a man, and that he who rules over free men
may never become a slave to money. It is more seemly that in soul he
should be superior to treasures, and in willing service be subject to his
friends. For humility increases the regard in which one is held. It is
praiseworthy and right for the chief of men to have no desire for filthy
lucre in common with Syrian traders and Gilead merchants, nor to place all
their hope of good in money, or to count up their daily gains and to
calculate their savings like a hireling.
Of liberality. To whom it must chiefly be shown, and how men of slender
means may show it by giving their service and counsel.
68. But if it is praiseworthy to have one's soul free from this
failing, how much more glorious is it to gain the love of the people by
liberality which is neither too freely shown to those who are unsuitable,
nor too sparingly bestowed upon the needy.
69. There are many kinds of liberality. Not only can we distribute and
give away food to those who need it from our own daily supply, so that
they may sustain life; but we can also give advice and help to those who
are ashamed to show their want openly, so long as the common supplies of
the needy are not exhausted. I am now speaking of one set over some
office. If he is a priest or almoner, let him inform the bishop of them,
and not withhold the name of any he knows to be in any need, or to have
lost their wealth and to be now reduced to want; especially if they have
not fallen into this trouble owing to wastefulness in youth, but because
of another's theft, or through loss of their inheritance from no fault of
their own, so that they cannot now earn their daily bread.
70. The highest kind of liberality is, to redeem captives, to save them
from the hands of their enemies, to snatch men from death, and, most of
all, women from shame, to restore children to their parents, parents to
their children, and, to give back a citizen to his country. This was
recognized when Thrace and Illyria were so terribly devastated. How many
captives were then for sale all over the world! Could one but call them
together, their number would have surpassed that of a whole province. Yet
there were some who would have sent back into slavery those whom the
Church had redeemed. They themselves were harder than slavery itself to
look askance at another's mercy. If they themselves (they said) had come
to slavery, they would be slaves freely. If they had been sold, they would
not refuse the service of slavery. They wished to undo the freedom of
others, though they could not undo their own slavery, unless perchance it
should please the buyer to receive his price again, whereby, however,
slavery would not be simply undone but redeemed.
71. It is then a special quality of liberality to redeem captives,
especially from barbarian enemies who are moved by no spark of human
feeling to show mercy, except so far as avarice has preserved it with a
view to redemption. It is also a great thing to take upon oneself
another's debt, if the debtor cannot pay and is hard pressed to do so, and
where the money is due by right and is only left unpaid through want. So,
too, it is a sign of great liberality to bring up children, and to take
care of orphans.
72. There are others who place in marriage maidens that have lost their
parents, so as to preserve their chastity, and who help them not only with
good wishes but also by a sum of money. There is also another kind of
liberality which the Apostle teaches: "If any that believeth hath widows
let him relieve them, that the Church be not burdened by supplying them,
that it may have enough for those that are widows indeed."
73. Useful, then, is liberality of this sort; but it is not common to
all. For there are many good men who have but slender means, and are
content with little for their own use, and are not able to give help to
lighten the poverty of others. However, another sort of kindness is ready
to their hand, whereby they can help those poorer still. For there is a
twofold liberality: one that gives actual assistance, that is, in money;
the other, which is busy in offering active help, is often much grander
74. How much grander it was for Abraham to have recovered his captured
son-in-law by his victorious arms, than if he had ransomed him! How much
more usefully did holy Joseph help King Pharaoh by his counsel to provide
for the future. than if he had offered him money! For money would not have
bought back the fruitfulness of any one state; whilst he by his foresight
kept the famine for five years from the whole of Egypt.
75. Money is easily spent; counsels can never be exhausted. They only
grow the stronger by constant use. Money grows less and quickly comes to
an end, and has failed even kindness itself; so that the more there are to
whom one wants to give, the fewer one can help; and often one has not got
what one thinks ought to be given to others. But as regards the offer of
advice and active help, the more there are to spend it on, the more there
seems to be, and the more it returns to its own source. The rich stream of
prudence ever flows back upon itself, and the more it has reached out to,
so much the more active becomes all that remains.
Due measure must be observed in liberality, that it may not be expended
on worthless persons, when it is needed by worthier ones. However, alms
are not to be given in too sparing and hesitating a way. One ought rather
to follow the example of the blessed Joseph, whose prudence is commended
at great length.
76. It is clear, then, that there ought to be due measure in our
liberality, that our gifts may not become useless. Moderation must be
observed, especially by priests, for fear that they should give away for
the sake of ostentation, and not for justice' sake. Never was the greed of
beggars greater than it is now. They come in full vigour, they come with
no reason but that they are on the tramp. They want to empty the purses of
the poor to deprive them of their means of support. Not content with a
little, they ask for more. In the clothes that cover them they seek a
ground to urge their demands, and with lies about their lives they ask for
further sums of money. If any one were to trust their tale too readily, he
would quickly drain the fund which is meant to serve for the sustenance of
the poor. Let there be method in our giving, so that the poor may not go
away empty nor the subsistence of the needy be done away and become the
spoil of the dishonest. Let there be then such due measure that kindness
may never be put aside, and true need never be left neglected.
77. Many pretend they have debts. Let the truth be looked into. They
bemoan the fact that they have been stripped of everything by robbers. In
such a case give credit only if the misfortune is apparent, or the person
is well known; and then readily give help. To those rejected by the Church
supplies must be granted if they are in want of food. He, then, that
observes method in his giving is hard towards none, but is free towards
all, We ought not only to lend our ears to hear the voices of those who
plead, but also our eyes to look into their needs. Weakness calls more
loudly to the good dispenser than the voice of the poor. It cannot always
be that the cries of an importunate beggar will never extort more, but let
us not always give way to impudence. He must be seen who does not see
thee. He must be sought for who is ashamed to be seen. He also that is in
prison must come to thy thoughts; another seized with sickness must
present himself to thy mind, as he cannot reach thy ears.
78. The more people see thy zeal in showing mercy, the more will they
love thee, I know many priests who had the more, the more they gave, For
they who see a good dispenser give him something to distribute in his
round of duty, sure that the act of mercy will reach the poor. If they see
him giving away either in excess or too sparingly, they contemn either of
these; in the one case because he wastes the fruits of another's labours
by unnecessary payments, on the other hand because he hoards them in his
money bags. As, then, method must be observed in liberality, so also at
times it seems as though the spur must be applied. Method, then, so that
the kindness one shows may be able to be shown day by day, and that we may
not have to withdraw from a needful case what we have freely spent on
waste. A spur, because money is better laid out in food for the poor than
on a purse for the rich. We must take care test in our money chests we
shut up the welfare of the needy, and bury the life of the poor as it were
in a sepulchre.
79. Joseph could have given away all the wealth of Egypt, and have
spent the royal treasures; but he would not even seem to be wasteful of
what was another's. He preferred to sell the corn rather than to give it
to the hungry. For if he had given it to a few there would have been none
for most. He gave good proof of that liberality whereby there was enough
for all. He opened the storehouses that all might buy their corn supply,
lest if they received it for nothing, they should give up cultivating the
ground. For he who has the use of what is another's often neglects his
80. First of all, then, he gathered up their money, then their
implements, last of all he acquired for the king all their rights to the
ground. He did not wish to deprive all of them of their property, but to
support them in it. He also imposed a general tax, that they might hold
their own in safety. So pleasing was this to all from whom he had taken
the land, that they looked on it, not as the selling of their rights, but
as the recovery of their welfare. Thus they spoke: "Thou hast saved our
lives, let us find grace in the sight of our Lord." For they had lost
nothing of their own, but had received a new right. Nothing of what was
useful to them had failed, for they had now gained it in perpetuity.
81. O noble man! who sought not for the fleeting glory of a needless
bounty, but set up as his memorial the lasting benefits of his foresight.
He acted so that the people should help themselves by their payments, and
should not in their time of need seek help from others. For it was surely
better to give up part of their crops than to lose the whole of their
rights. He fixed the impost at a fifth of their whole produce, and thus
showed himself clear-sighted in making provision for the future, and
liberal in the tax he laid upon them. Never after did Egypt suffer from
such a famine.
82. How splendidly he inferred the future. First, how acutely, when
interpreting the royal dream, he stated the truth. This was the king's
first dream. Seven heifers came up out of the river well-favoured and
fat-fleshed, and they fed at the banks of the river. And other bullocks
ill-favoured and lean-fleshed came up out of the river after the heifers,
and fed near them on the very edge of the river. And these thin and
wretched bullocks seemed to devour those others which were so fat and
well-favoured. And this was the second dream. Seven fat ears full and good
came up from the ground. And after them seven wretched ears, blasted with
the wind and withered, endeavoured to take their place. And it seemed that
the barren and thin ears devoured the rich and fruitful ears.
83. This dream Joseph unfolded as follows: that the seven heifers were
seven years, and the seven ears likewise were seven years, interpreting
the times by the produce of cattle and crops. For both the calving of a
heifer takes a year, and the produce of a crop fills out a whole year. And
they came up out of the river just as days, years, and times pass by and
flow along swiftly like the rivers. He therefore states that the seven
earlier years of a rich land will be fertile and fruitful but the latter
seven years will be barren and unfruitful, whose barrenness will eat up
the richness of the former time. Wherefore he warns them to see that
supplies of corn are got together in the fruitful years that they may help
out the needs of the coming scarcity.
84. What shall we admire first? His powers of mind, with which he
descended to the very resting-place of truth? Or his counsel, whereby he
foresaw so great and lasting a need? Or his watchfulness or justice? By
his watchfulness, when so high an office was given him, he gathered
together such vast supplies; and through his justice he treated all alike.
And what am I to say of his greatness of mind? For though sold by his
brothers into slavery, he took no revenge for this wrong, but put an end
to their want. What of his gentleness, whereby by a pious fraud he sought
to gain the presence of his beloved brother whom, under pretence of a
well-planned theft, he declared to have stolen his property, that he might
hold him as a hostage of his love?
85. Whence it was deservedly said to him by his father: "My son Joseph
is enlarged, my son is enlarged, my younger son, my beloved. My God hath
helped thee and blessed thee with the blessing of heaven above and the
blessing of the earth, the earth that hath all things, on account of the
blessings of thy father and thy mother. It hath prevailed over the
blessings of the everlasting hills and the desires of the eternal hills."
And in Deuteronomy: "Thou Who wast seen in the bush, that Thou mayest come
upon the head of Joseph, upon his pate. Honoured among his brethren, his
glory is as the firstling of his bullocks; his horns are like the horns of
unicorns. With his horn he shall push the nations even to the ends of the
earth. They are the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of
What virtues ought to exist in him whom we consult. How Joseph and Paul
were equipped with them.
86. Such, then, ought he to be who gives counsel to another, in order
that he may offer himself as a pattern in all good works, in teaching, in
trueness of character, in seriousness. Thus his words will be wholesome
and irreproachable, his counsel useful, his life virtuous, and his
87. Such was Paul, who gave counsel to virgins, guidance to priests, so
as to offer himself as a pattern for us to copy. Thus he knew how to be
humble, as also Joseph did, who, though sprung from the noble family of
the patriarchs, was not ashamed of his base slavery; rather he adorned it
with his ready service, and made it glorious by his virtues. He knew how
to be humble who had to go through the hands of both buyer and seller, and
called them, Lord. Hear him as he humbles himself: "My lord on my account
knoweth not what is in his house, and he hath committed all that he hath
to my hand, neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because
thou art his wife; how, then, can I do this great wickedness, and sin
against God?" Full of humility are his words, full, too, of chastity. Of
humility, for he was obedient to his Lord; of an honourable spirit, for he
was grateful; full, also, of chastity, for he thought it a terrible sin to
be defiled by so great a crime.
88. Such, then, ought the man of counsel to be. He must have nothing
dark, or deceptive, or false about him, to cast a shadow on his life and
character, nothing wicked or evil to keep back those who want advice. For
there are some things which one flies from, others which one despises. We
fly from those things which can do harm, or can perfidiously and quietly
grow to do us hurt, as when he whose advice we ask is of doubtful honour,
or is desirous of money, so that a certain sum can make him change his
mind. If a man acts unjustly, we fly from him and avoid him. A man that is
a pleasure seeker and extravagant, although he does not act falsely, yet
is avaricious and too fond of filthy lucre; such an one is despised. What
proof of hard work, what fruits of labour, can he give who gives himself
up to a sluggish and idle life, or what cares and anxieties ever enter his
89. Therefore the man of good counsel says: "I have learnt in
whatsoever state I am therewith to be content." For he knew that the root
of all evils is the love of money, and therefore he was content with what
he had, without seeking for what was another's. Sufficient for me, he
says, is what I have; whether I have little or much, to me it is much. It
seems as though he wanted to state it as clearly as possible. He makes use
of these words: "I am content," he says, "with what I have." That means:
"I neither have want, nor have I too much. I have no want, for I seek
nothing more. I have not too much, for I have it not for myself, but for
the many." This is said with reference to money.
90. But he could have said these words about everything, for all that
he had at the moment contented him; that is, he wanted no greater honour,
he sought for no further services, he was not desirous of vainglory, nor
did he look for gratitude where it was not due; but patient in labours,
sure in his merits, he waited for the end of the struggle that he must
needs endure. "I know," he says, "how to be abused." An untaught humility
has no claim to praise, but only that which possesses modesty and a
knowledge of self. For there is a humility that rests on fear, one, too,
that rests on want of skill and ignorance. Therefore the Scripture says:
"He will save the humble in spirit." Gloriously, therefore, does he say:
"I know how to be abased;" that is to say, where, in what moderation, to
what end, in what duty, in which office. The Pharisee knew not how to be
abased, therefore he was cast down. The publican knew, and therefore he
91. Paul knew, too, how to abound, for he had a rich soul, though he
possessed not the treasure of a rich man. He knew how to abound, for he
sought no gift in money, but looked for fruit in grace. We can understand
his words that he knew how to abound also in another way. For he could say
again: "0 ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is
92. In all things he was accustomed both to be full and to be hungry.
Blessed is he that knows how to be full in Christ. Not corporal, but
spiritual, is that satiety which knowledge brings about. And rightly is
there need of knowledge: "For man lives not by bread alone, but by every
word of God." For he who knew how to be full also knew how to be hungry,
so as to be always seeking something new, hungering after God, thirsting
for the Lord. He knew how to hunger, for he knew that the hungry shall
eat. He knew, also, how to abound, and was able to abound, for he had
nothing and yet possessed all things.
We learn from the fact of the separation of the ten tribes from King
Rehoboam what harm bad counsellors can do.
93. Justice, then, especially graces men that are set over any office;
on the other hand, injustice fails them and fights against them. Scripture
itself gives us an example, where it says, that when the people of Israel,
after the death of Solomon, had asked his son Rehoboam to free their neck
from their cruel yoke, and to lighten the harshness of his father's rule,
he, despising the counsel of the old men, gave the following answer at the
suggestion of the young men: "He would add a burden to the yoke of his
father, and change their lighter toils for harder."
94. Angered by this answer, the people said: "We have no portion in
David, nor inheritance in the son of Jesse. Return to your tents, O
Israel. For we will not have this man for a prince or a leader over us."
So, forsaken and deserted by the people, he could keep with him scarce two
of the ten tribes for David's sake.
Many are won by justice and benevolence and courtesy, but all this must
95. It is plain, then, that equity strengthens empires, and injustice
destroys them. How could wickedness hold fast a kingdom when it cannot
even rule over a single family? There is need, therefore, of the greatest
kindness, so that we may preserve not only the government of affairs in
general, but also the rights of individuals. Benevolence is of the
greatest value; for it seeks to embrace all in its favours, to bind them
to itself by fulfilling duties, and to pledge them to itself by its charm.
96. We have also said that courtesy of speech has great effect in
winning favour. But we want it to be sincere and sensible, without
flattery, lest flattery should disgrace the simplicity and purity of our
address. We ought to be a pattern to others not only in act but also in
word, in purity, and in faith. What we wish to be thought, such let us be;
and let us show openly such feelings as we have within us. Let us not say
an unjust word in our heart that we think can be hid in silence, for He
hears things said in secret Who made things secret, and knows the secrets
of the heart, and has implanted feelings within. Therefore as though under
the eyes of the Judge let us consider all we do as set forth in the light,
that it may be manifest to all.
Familiarity with good men is very advantageous to all, especially to
the young, as is shown by the example of Joshua and Moses and others.
Further, those who are unlike in age are often alike in virtues, as Peter
and John prove.
97. It is a very good thing to unite oneself to a good man. It is also
very useful for the young to follow the guidance of great and wise men.
For he who lives in company with wise men is wise himself; but he who
clings to the foolish is looked on as a fool too. This friendship with the
wise is a great help in teaching us, and also as giving a sure proof of
our uprightness. Young men show very soon that they imitate those to whom
they attach themselves. And this idea gains ground from the fact that in
all their daily life they grow to be like those with whom they have
enjoyed intercourse to the full.
98. Joshua the son of Nun became so great, because his union with Moses
was the means not only of instructing him in a knowledge of the law, but
also of sanctifying him to receive grace. When in His tabernacle the
majesty of the Lord was seen to shine forth in its divine Presence, Joshua
alone was in the tabernacle. When Moses spoke with God, Joshua too was
covered by the sacred cloud. The priests and people stood below, and
Joshua and Moses went up the mount to receive the law. All the people were
within the camp; Joshua was without the camp in the tabernacle of witness.
When the pillar of a cloud came down, and God spoke with Moses, he stood
as a trusty servant beside him; and he, a young man, did not go out of the
tabernacle, though the old men who stood afar off trembled at these divine
99. Everywhere, therefore, he alone kept close to holy Moses amid all
these wondrous works and dread secrets. Wherefore it happens that he who
had been his companion in this intercourse with God succeeded to his
power. Worthy surely was he to stand forth as a man who might stay the
course of the river, and who might say: "Sun, stand still," and delay the
night and lengthen the day, as though to witness his victory. Why? a
blessing denied to Moses he alone was chosen to lead the people into the
promised land. A man he was, great in the wonders he wrought by faith,
great in his triumphs. The works of Moses were of a higher type, his
brought greater success. Either of these then aided by divine grace rose
above all human standing. The one ruled the sea, the other heaven.
100. Beautiful, therefore, is the union between old and young. The one
to give witness, the other to give comfort; the one to give guidance, the
other to give pleasure. I pass by Lot, who when young clung to Abraham, as
he was setting out. For some perhaps might say this arose rather owing to
their relationship than from any voluntary action on his part. And what
are we to say of Elijah and Elisha? Though Scripture has not in so many
words stated that Elisha was a young man, yet we gather from it that he
was the younger. In the Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas took Mark with him,
and Paul took Silas and Timothy and Titus.
101. We see also that duties were divided amongst them according to
their superiority in anything. The elders took the lead in giving counsel,
the younger in showing activity. Often, too, those who were alike in
virtue but unlike in years were greatly rejoiced at their union, as Peter
and John were. We read in the Gospel that John was a young man, even in
his own words, though he was behind none of the elders in merits and
wisdom. For in him there was a venerable ripeness of character and the
prudence of the hoarhead. An unspotted life is the due of a good old age.
To defend the weak, or to help strangers, or to perform similar duties,
greatly adds to one's worth, especially in the case of tried men. Whilst
one gets great blame for love of money; wastefulness, also, in the cue of
priests is very much condemned.
102. The regard in which one is held is also very much enhanced when
one rescues a poor man out of the hands of a powerful one, or saves a
condemned criminal from death; so long as it can be done without
disturbance, for fear that we might seem to be doing it rather for the
sake of showing off than for pity's sake, and so might inflict severer
wounds whilst desiring to heal slighter ones. But if one has freed a man
who is crushed down by the resources and faction of a powerful person,
rather than overwhelmed by the deserts of his own wickedness, then the
witness of a great and high opinion grows strong.
103. Hospitality also serves to recommend many. For it is a kind of
open display of kindly feelings: so that the stranger may not want
hospitality, but be courteously received, and that the door may be open to
him when he comes. It is most seemly in the eyes of the whole world that
the stranger should be received with honour; that the charm of hospitality
should not fail at our table; that we should meet a guest with ready and
free service, and look out for his arrival.
104. This especially was Abraham's praise, for he watched at the door.
of his tent, that no stranger by any chance might pass by. He carefully
kept a lookout, so as to meet the stranger, and anticipate him, and ask
him not to pass by, saying: "My lord, if I have found favour in thy sight,
pass not by thy servant." Therefore as a reward for his hospitality, he
received the gift of posterity.
105. Lot also, his nephew, who was near to him not only in relationship
but also in virtue, on account of his readiness to show hospitality,
turned aside the punishment of Sodom from himself and his family.
106. A man ought therefore to be hospitable, kind, upright, not
desirous of what belongs to another, willing to give up some of his own
rights if assailed, rather than to take away another's. He ought to avoid
disputes, to hate quarrels. He ought to restore unity and the grace of
quietness. When a good man gives up any of his own rights, it is not only
a sign of liberality, but is also accompanied by great advantages. To
start with, it is no small gain to be free from the cost of a lawsuit.
Then it also brings in good results, by an increase of friendship, from
which many advantages rise. These become afterwards most useful to the man
that can despise a little something at the time.
107. In all the duties of hospitality kindly feeling must be shown to
all, but greater respect must be given to the upright. For "Whosoever
receiveth a righteous man, in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a
righteous man's reward," as the Lord has said. Such is the favour in which
hospitality stands with God, that not even the draught of cold water shall
fail of getting a reward. Thou seest that Abraham, in looking for guests,
received God Himself to entertain. Thou seest that Lot received the
angels. And how dost thou know that when thou receivest men, thou dost not
receive Christ? Christ may be in the stranger that comes, for Christ is
there in the person of the poor, as He Himself says: "I was in prison and
thou camest to Me, I was naked and thou didst clothe Me.".
108. It is sweet, then, to seek not for money but for grace. It is true
that this evil has long ago entered into human hearts, so that money
stands in the place of honour, and the minds of men are filled with
admiration for wealth. Thus love of money sinks in and as it were dries up
every kindly duty; so that men consider everything a loss which is spent
beyond the usual amount. But even here the holy Scriptures have been on
the watch against love of money, that it might prove no cause of
hindrance, saying: "Better is hospitality, even though it consisteth only
of herbs." And again: "Better is bread in pleasantness with peace." For
the Scriptures teach us not to be wasteful, but liberal.
109. There are two kinds of free-giving, one arising from liberality,
the other from wasteful extravagance. It is a mark of liberality to
receive the stranger, to clothe the naked, to redeem the captives, to help
the needy. It is wasteful to spend money on expensive banquets and much
wine. Wherefore one reads: "Wine is wasteful, drunkenness is abusive." It
is wasteful to spend one's own wealth merely for the sake of gaining the
favour of the people. This they do who spend their inheritance on the
games of the circus, or on theatrical pieces and gladiatorial shows, or
even a combat of wild beasts, just to surpass the fame of their
forefathers for these things. All this that they do is but foolish, for it
is not right to be extravagant in spending money even on good works.
110. It is a right kind of liberality to keep due measure towards the
poor themselves, that one may have enough for more; and not to go beyond
the right limit for the sake of winning favour. Whatever comes forth out
of a pure sincere disposition, that is seemly. It is also seemly not to
enter on unnecessary undertakings, nor to omit those that are needed.
111. But it befits the priest especially to adorn the temple of God
with fitting splendour, so that the court of the Lord may be made glorious
by his endeavours. He ought always to spend money as mercy demands. It
behoves him to give to strangers what is right. This must not be too much,
but enough; not more than, but as much as, kindly feeling demands, so that
he may never seek another's favour at the expense of the poor, nor show
himself as either too stingy or too free to the clergy. The one act is
unkind, the other wasteful. It is unkind if money should be wanting for
the necessities of those whom one ought to win back from their wretched
employments. It is wasteful if there should be too much over for pleasure.
We must observe a right standard between too great mildness and
excessive harshness. They who endeavour to creep into the hearts of others
by a false show of mildness gain nothing substantial or lasting. This the
example of Absalom plainly enough shows.
112. Moreover, due measure befits even our words and instructions, that
it may not seem as though there was either too great mildness or too much
harshness. Many prefer to be too mild, so as to appear to be good. But it
is certain that nothing feigned or false can bear the form of true virtue;
nay, it cannot even last. At first it flourishes, then, as time goes on,
like a floweret it fades and passes away, but what is true and sincere has
a deep root.
113. To prove by examples our assertion that what is reigned cannot
last, but flourishing just for a time quickly fails, we will take one
example of pretence and falsehood from that family, from which we have
already drawn so many examples to show their growth in virtue.
114. Absalom was King David's son, known for his beauty, of splendid
appearance and in the heyday of youth; so that no other such man as he was
found in Israel. He was without a blemish from the sole of his foot to the
crown of his head. He had for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men
to run before him. He rose at early dawn and stood before the gate in the
way, and whoever he knew to be seeking the judgment of the king, he called
to himself, saying: "From what city art thou?" And he answered: "I thy
servant am of one of the tribes of Israel." And Absalom answered: "Thy
words are good and right. Is there none given thee by the king to hear
thee? Who will make me a judge? And whosoever will come unto me, that hath
need of judgment, I will give him justice." With such words he cajoled
them. And when they came to make obeisance to him, stretching forth his
hand he took hold of them and kissed them. So he turned the hearts of all
to himself. For flattery of this sort quickly finds its way to touch the
very depths of the heart.
115. Those spoilt and ambitious men chose what for a time seemed an
honour to them, and was pleasing and enjoyable. But whilst that delay took
place, which the prophet, being prudent above all, thought ought to
intervene, they could no longer hold out or bear it. Then David having no
doubt about the victory commended his son to those who went out to fight,
so that they should spare him. He would not engage in the battle himself
test he should seem to be taking up arms against one who was still his
son, though attempting to destroy his father.
116. It is clear, then, that those things are lasting and sound, which
are true and grow out of a sincere and not a false heart. Those, however,
which are brought about by pretence and adulation can never last for long.
The good faith of those who are easily bought over with money or
flattery is a frail thing to trust to.
117. Who would suppose that those who are bought over to obedience by
money, or those who are allured by adulation, would ever be faithful to
them? For the former are ever ready to sell themselves, whilst the latter
cannot put up with a hard rule. They are easily won with a little
adulation, but if one reproves them by a word, they murmur against it,
they give one up, they go away with hostile feelings, they forsake one in
anger. They prefer to rule rather than to obey. They think that those whom
they ought to have placed over them ought to be subject to themselves, as
though indebted to them by their kindness.
118. What man is there that thinks those will be faithful to himself,
whom he believes he will have to bind to himself by money or flattery? For
he who takes thy money supposes that he is cheaply held, and looked down
upon, unless the money is paid again and again. So he frequently expects
his price; whilst the other, who is met with prayer and flattery, is
always wanting to be asked.
We must strive for preferment only by right means. An office undertaken
must be carded out wisely and with moderation. The inferior clergy should
not detract from the bishop's reputation by reigned virtues; nor again,
should the bishop be jealous of a cleric, but he should be just in all
things and especially in giving judgment.
119. I think, then, that one should strive to win preferment,
especially in the Church, only by good actions and with a right aim; so
that there may be no proud conceit, no idle carelessness, no shameful
disposition of mind, no unseemly ambition. A plain simplicity of mind is
enough for everything, and commends itself quite sufficiently.
120. When in office, again, it is not right to be harsh and severe, nor
may one be too easy; lest on the one hand we should seem to be exercising
a despotic power, and on the other to be by no means filling the office we
had taken up.
121. We must strive also to win many by kindnesses and duties that we
can do, and to preserve the favour already shown us. For they will with
good reason forget the benefits of former times if they are now vexed at
some great wrong. For it often enough happens that those one has shown
favour to and allowed to rise step by step, are driven away, if one
decides in some unworthy way to put another before them. But it is seemly
for a priest to show such favour in his kindnesses and his decisions as to
guard equity, and to show regard to the other clergy as to parents.
122. Those who once stood approved should not now become overbearing,
but rather, as mindful of the grace they have received, stand firm in
their humility. A priest ought not to be offended if either cleric or
attendant or any ecclesiastic should win regard for himself, by showing
mercy, or by fasting, or by uprightness of life, or by teaching and
reading. For the grace of the Church is the praise of the teacher. It is a
good thing that the work of another should be praised, if only it be done
without any desire to boast. For each one should receive praise from the
lips of his neighbour, and not from his own mouth, and each one should be
commended by the work he has done, not merely by the wishes he had.
123. But if any one is disobedient to his bishop and wishes to exalt
and upraise himself, and to overshadow his bishop's merits by a feigned
appearance of learning or humility or mercy, he is wandering from the
truth in his pride; for the rule of truth is, to do nothing to advance
one's own cause whereby another loses ground, nor to use whatever good one
has to the disgrace or blame of another.
124. Never protect a wicked man, nor allow the sacred things to be
given over to an unworthy one; on the other hand, do not harass and press
hard on a man whose fault is not clearly proved. Injustice quickly gives
offence in every case, but especially in the Church, where equity ought to
exist, where like treatment should be given to all, so that a powerful
person may not claim the more, nor a rich man appropriate the more. For
whether we be poor or rich, we are one in Christ. Let him that lives a
holier life claim nothing more thereby for himself; for he ought rather to
be the more humble for it.
125. In giving judgment let us have no respect of persons. Favour must
be put out of sight, and the case be decided on its merits. Nothing is so
great a strain on another's good opinion or confidence, as the fact of our
giving away the cause of the weaker to the more powerful in any case that
comes before us. The same happens if we are hard on the poor, whilst we
make excuses for the rich man when guilty. Men are ready enough to flatter
those in high positions, so as not to let them think themselves injured,
or to feel vexed as though overthrown. But if thou fearest to give offence
then do not undertake to give judgment. If thou art a priest or some
cleric do not urge it. It is allowable for thee to be silent in the
matter, if it be a money affair, though it is always due to consistency to
be on the side of equity. But in the cause of God, where there is danger
to the whole Church, it is no small sin to act as though one saw nothing.
Benefits should be conferred on the poor rather than on the rich, for
these latter either think a return is expected from them, or else they are
angry at seeming to be indebted for such an action. But the poor man makes
God the debtor in his place, and freely owns to the benefits he has
received. To these remarks is added a warning to despise riches.
126. But what advantage is it to thee to show favour to a rich man? Is
it that he is more ready to repay one who loves him? For we generally show
favour to those from whom we expect to receive a return of favour. But we
ought to think far more of the weak and helpless, because we hope to
receive, on behalf of him who has it not, a recompense from the Lord
Jesus, Who in the likeness of a marriage feast has given us a general
representation of virtue. By this He bids us confer benefits rather on
those who cannot give them to us in return, teaching us to bid to our
feasts and meals, not those who are rich, but those that are poor. For the
rich seem to be asked that they may prepare a banquet for us in return;
the poor, as they have nothing wherewith to make return, when they receive
anything, make the Lord to be our recompense Who has offered Himself as
surety for the poor.
127. In the ordinary course of things, too, the conferring of a benefit
on the poor is of more use than when it is conferred on the rich. The rich
man scorns the benefit and is ashamed to feel indebted for a favour. Nay,
moreover, whatever is offered to him he takes as due to his merits, as
though only a just debt were paid him; or else he thinks it was but given
because the giver expected a still greater return to be made him by the
rich man. So. in accepting a kindness, the rich man, on that very ground,
thinks that he has given more than he ever received. The poor man,
however, though he has no money wherewith he can repay, at least shows his
gratitude. And heroin it is certain that he returns more than he received.
For money is paid in coins, but gratitude never fails; money grows less by
payment, but gratitude fails when held back, and is preserved when given
to others. Next a thing the rich man avoids the poor man owns that he
feels bound by the debt. He really thinks help has been given him, not
that it has been offered in return for his honour. He considers that his
children have been again given him, that his life is restored and his
family preserved. How much better, then, is it to confer benefits upon the
good than on the ungrateful.
128. Wherefore the Lord said to His disciples: "Take neither gold nor
silver nor money." Whereby as with a sickle He cuts off the love of money
that is ever growing up in human hearts. Peter also said to the lame man,
who was always carried even from his mother's womb: "Silver and gold have
I none, but what I have give I thee. In the Name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth, arise and walk." So he gave not money, but he gave health. How
much better it is to have health without money, than money without health!
The lame man rose; he had not hoped for that: he received no money; though
he had hoped for that. But riches are hardly to be found among the saints
of the Lord, so as to become objects of contempt to them.
How long standing an evil love of money is, is plain from many examples
in the Old Testament. And yet it is plain, too, how idle a thing the
possession of money is.
129. But man's habits have so long applied themselves to this
admiration of money, that no one is thought worthy of honour unless he is
rich. This is no new habit. Nay, this vice (and that makes the matter
worse) grew long years ago in the hearts of men. When the city of Jericho
fell at the sound of the priests' trumpets, and Joshua the son of Nun
gained the victory, he knew that the valour of the people was weakened
through love of money and desire for gold. For when Achan had taken a
garment of gold and two hundred shekels of silver and a golden ingot from
the spoils of the ruined city, he was brought before the Lord, and could
not deny the theft, but owned it.
130. Love of money, then, is an old, an ancient vice, which showed
itself even at the declaration of the divine law; for a law was given to
check it. On account of love of money Balak thought Balaam could be
tempted by rewards to curse the people of our fathers. Love of money would
have won the day too, had not God bidden him hold back from cursing.
Overcome by love of money Achan led to destruction all the people of the
fathers. So Joshua the son of Nun, who could stay the sun from setting,
could not stay the love of money in man from creeping on. At the sound of
his voice the sun stood still, but love of money stayed not. When the sun
stood still Joshua completed his triumph, but when love of money went on,
he almost lost the victory.
131. Why? Did not the woman Delilah's love of money deceive Samson, the
bravest man of all So he who had torn asunder the roaring lion with his
hands; who, when bound and handed over to his enemies, alone, without
help, burst his bonds and slew a thousand of them; who broke the cords
interwoven with sinews as though they were but the slight threads of a
net; he, I say, having laid his head on the woman's knee, was robbed of
the decoration of his victory-bringing hair, that which gave him his
might. Money flowed into the lap of the woman, and the favour of God
forsook the man.
132. Love of money, then, is deadly. Seductive is money, whilst it also
defiles those who have it, and helps not those who have it not. Supposing
that money sometimes is a help, yet it is only a help to a poor man who
makes his want known. What good is it to him who does not long for it, nor
seek it; who does not need its help and is not turned aside by pursuit of
it? What good is it to others, if he who has it is alone the richer for
it? Is he therefore more honourable because he has that whereby honour is
often lost, because he has what he must guard rather than possess? We
possess what we use, but what is beyond our use brings us no fruit of
possession, but only the danger of watching.
In contempt of money there is the pattern of justice, which virtue
bishops and clerics ought to aim at together with some others. A few words
are added on the duty of not bringing an excommunication too quickly into
133. To come to an end; we know that contempt of riches is a form of
justice, therefore we ought to avoid love of money, and strive with all
our powers never to do anything against justice, but to guard it in all
our deeds and actions.
134. If we would please God, we must have love, we must be of one mind,
we must follow humility, each one thinking the other higher than himself.
This is true humility, when one never claims anything proudly for oneself,
but thinks oneself to be the inferior. The bishop should treat the clerics
and attendants, who are indeed his sons, as members of himself, and give
to each one that duty for which he sees him to be fit.
135. Not without pain is a limb of the body cut off which has become
corrupt. It is treated for a long time, to see if it can be cured with
various remedies. If it cannot be cured, then it is cut off by a good
physician. Thus it is a good bishop's desire to wish to heal the weak, to
remove the spreading ulcers, to burn some parts and not to cut them off;
and lastly, when they cannot be healed, to cut them off with pain to
himself. Wherefore that beautiful rule of the Apostle stands forth
brightly, that we should look each one, not on his own things, but on the
things of others. In this way it will never come about that we shall in
anger give way to our own feelings, or concede more than is right in
favour to our own wishes.
Mercy must be freely shown even though it brings an odium of its own.
With regard to this, reference is made to the well-known story about the
sacred vessels which were broken up by Ambrose to pay for the redemption
of captives; and very beautiful advice is given about the right use of the
gold and silver which the Church possesses. Next, after showing from the
action of holy Lawrence what are the true treasures of the Church, certain
rules are laid down which ought to be observed in melting down and
employing for such uses the consecrated vessels of the Church.
136. It is a very great incentive to mercy to share in others'
misfortunes, to help the needs of others as far as our means allow, and
sometimes even beyond them. For it is better for mercy's sake to take up a
case, or to suffer odium rather than to show hard feeling. So I once
brought odium on myself because I broke up the sacred vessels to redeem
captives a fact that could displease the Arians. Not that it displeased
them as an act, but as being a thing in which they could take hold of
something for which to blame me. Who can be so hard, cruel, iron-hearted,
as to be displeased because a man is redeemed from death, or a woman from
barbarian impurities, things that are worse than death, or boys and girls
and infants from the pollution of idols, whereby through fear of death
they were defiled?
137. Although we did not act thus without good reason, yet we have
followed it up among the people so as to confess and to add again and
again that it was far better to preserve souls than gold for the Lord. For
He Who sent the apostles without gold also brought together the churches
without gold. The Church has gold, not to store up, but to lay out, and to
spend on those who need. What necessity is there to guard what is of no
good? Do we not know how much gold and silver the Assyrians took out of
the temple of the Lord? Is it not much better that the priests should melt
it down for the sustenance of the poor, if other supplies fail, than that
a sacrilegious enemy should carry it off and defile it? Would not the Lord
Himself say: Why didst thou suffer so many needy to die of hunger? Surely
thou hadst gold? Thou shouldst have given them sustenance. Why are so many
captives brought on the slave market, and why are so many unredeemed left
to be slain by the enemy? It had been better to preserve living vessels
than gold ones.
138. To this no answer could be given. For what wouldst thou say: I
feared that the temple of God would need its ornaments? He would answer:
The sacraments need not gold, nor are they proper to gold only for they
are not bought with gold. The glory of the sacraments is the redemption of
captives. Truly they are precious vessels, for they redeem men from death.
That, indeed, is the true treasure of the Lord which effects what His
blood effected. Then, indeed, is the vessel of the Lord's blood
recognized, when one sees in either redemption, so that the chalice
redeems from the enemy those whom His blood redeemed from sin. How
beautifully it is said, when long lines of captives are redeemed by the
Church: These Christ has redeemed. Behold the gold that can be tried,
behold the useful gold, behold the gold of Christ which frees from death,
behold the gold whereby modesty is redeemed and chastity is preserved.
139. These, then, I preferred to hand over to you as free men, rather
than to store up the gold. This crowd of captives, this company surely is
more glorious than the sight of cups. The gold of the Redeemer ought to
contribute to this work so as to redeem those in danger. I recognize the
fact that the blood of Christ not only glows in cups of gold, but also by
the office of redemption has impressed upon them the power of the divine
140. Such gold the holy martyr Lawrence preserved for the Lord. For
when the treasures of the Church were demanded from him, he promised that
he would show them. On the following day he brought the poor together.
When asked where the treasures were which he had promised, he pointed to
the poor, saying: "These are the treasures of the Church." And truly they
were treasures, in whom Christ lives, in whom there is faith in Him. So,
too, the Apostle says: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." What
greater treasures has Christ than those in whom He says He Himself lives?
For thus it is written: "I was hungry and ye gave Me to eat, I was thirsty
and ye gave Me to drink, I was a stranger and ye took Me in." And again:
"What thou didst to one of these, thou didst it unto Me." What better
treasures has Jesus than those in which He loves to be seen?
141. These treasures Lawrence pointed out, and prevailed, for the
persecutors could not take them away. Jehoiachim, who preserved his gold
during the siege and spent it not in providing food, saw his gold carried
off, and himself led into captivity. Lawrence, who preferred to spend the
gold of the Church on the poor, rather than to keep it in hand for the
persecutor, received the sacred crown of martyrdom for the unique and
deep-sighted vigour of his meaning. Or was it perhaps said to holy
Lawrence: "Thou shouldst not spend the treasures of the Church, or sell
the sacred vessels "?
142. It is necessary that every one should fill this office, with
genuine good faith and clear-sighted forethought. If any one derives
profit from it for himself it is a crime, but if he spends the treasures
on the poor, or redeems captives, he shows mercy. For no one can say: Why
does the poor man live? None can complain that captives are redeemed, none
can find fault because a temple of the Lord is built, none can be angry
because a plot of ground has been enlarged for the burial of the bodies of
the faithful, none can be vexed because in the tombs of the Christians
there is rest for the dead. In these three ways it is allowable to break
up, melt down, or sell even the sacred vessels of the Church.
143. It is necessary to see that the mystic cup does not go out of the
Church, lest the service of the sacred chalice should be turned over to
base uses. Therefore vessels were first sought for in the Church which had
not been consecrated to such holy uses. Then broken up and afterwards
melted down, they were given to the poor in small payments, and were also
used for the ransom of captives. But if new vessels fail, or those which
never seem to have been used tot such a holy purpose, then, as I have
already said, I think that all might be put to this use without
The property of widows or of all the faithful, that has been entrusted
to the Church, ought to be defended though it brings danger to oneself.
This is illustrated by the example of Onias the priest, and of Ambrose,
bishop of Ticinum.
144. Great care must be taken that the property entrusted by widows
remains inviolate. It should be guarded without causing complaint, not
only if it belongs to widows, but to any one at all. For good faith must
be shown to all, though the cause of the widow and orphans comes first.
145. So everything entrusted to the temple was preserved in the name of
the widows alone, as we read in the book of the Maccabees. For when
information was given of the money, which Simon treacherously had told
King Antiochus could be found in large quantities in the temple at
Jerusalem, Heliodorus was sent to look into the matter. He came to the
temple, and made known to the high priest his hateful information and the
reason of his coming.
146. Then the priest said that only means for the maintenance of the
widows and orphans was laid up there. And when Heliodorus would have gone
to seize it, and to claim it on the king's behalf, the, priests cast
themselves before the altar, after putting on their priestly robes, and
with tears called on the living God Who had given them the law concerning
trust-money to show Himself as guardian of His own commands. The changed
look and colour of the high priest showed what grief of soul and anxiety
and tension of mind were his. All wept, for the spot would fall into
contempt, if not even in the temple of God safe and faithful guardianship
could be preserved. Women with breasts girded, and virgins who usually
were shut in, knocked at the doors. Some ran to the walls, others looked
out of the windows, all raised their hands to heaven in prayer that God
would stand by His laws.
147. But Heliodorus, undeterred by this, was eager to carry out his
intention, and had already surrounded the treasury with his followers,
when suddenly there appeared to him a dreadful horseman all glorious in
golden armour, his horse also being adorned with costly ornaments. Two
other youths also appeared in glorious might and wondrous beauty, in
splendour and glory and beauteous array. They stood round him, and on
either side beat the sacrilegious wretch, and gave him stroke after stroke
without intermission. What more need I say? Shut in by darkness he fell to
the ground, and lay there nearly dead with fear at this plain proof of
divine power, nor had he any hope of safety left within him. Joy returned
to those who were in fear, fear fell on those who were so proud before.
And some of the friends of Heliodorus in their trouble besought Onias,
asking life for him, since he was almost at his last breath.
148. When, therefore, the high priest asked for this, the same youths
again appeared to Heliodorus, clad in the same garments, and said to him:
Give thanks to Onias the high priest, for whose sake thy life is granted
thee. But do thou, having experienced the scourge of God, go and tell thy
friends how much thou hast learnt of the sanctity of the temple and the
power of God. With these words they passed out of sight. Heliodorus then,
his life having come back to him, offered a sacrifice to the Lord, gave
thanks to the priest Onias, and returned with his army to the king,
saying: "If thou hast an enemy or one who is plotting against thy power,
send him thither and thou wilt receive him back well scourged."
149. Therefore, my sons, good faith must be preserved in the case of
trust-money, and care, too, must be shown. Your service will glow the
brighter if the oppression of a powerful man, which some widow or orphan
cannot withstand, is checked by the assistance of the Church, and if ye
show that the command of the Lord has more weight with you than the favour
of the rich.
150. Ye also remember how often we entered on a contest against the
royal attacks, on behalf of the trust-money belonging to widows, yea, and
to others as well. You and I shared this in common. I will also mention
the late case of the Church at Ticinum, which was in danger of losing the
widow's trust-money that it had received. For when he who wanted to claim
it on some imperial rescript demanded it, the clergy did not maintain
their rights. For they themselves, having once been called to office and
sent to intervene, now supposed that they could not oppose the emperor's
orders. The plain words of the rescript were read, the orders of the chief
officer of the court were there, he who was to act in the matter was at
hand. What more was to be said? It was handed over.
151. However, after taking counsel with me, the holy bishop took
possession of the rooms to which he knew that the widow's property had
been carried. As it could not be carried away, it was all set down in
writing. Later on it was again demanded on proof of the document. The
emperor repeated the order, and would meet us himself in his own person.
We refused. And when the force of the divine law, and a long list of
passages and the danger of Heliodorus was explained, at length the emperor
became reasonable. Afterwards, again, an attempt was made to seize it, but
the good bishop anticipated the attempt and restored to the widow all he
had received. So faith was preserved, but the oppression was no longer a
cause for fear; for now it is the matter itself, not good faith, that is
The ending of the book brings an exhortation to avoid ill-will, and to
seek prudence, faith, and the other virtues.
152. My sons, avoid wicked men, guard against the envious. There is
this difference between a wicked and an envious man: the wicked man is
delighted at his own good fortune, but the envious is tortured at the
thought of an other's. The former loves evil, the latter hates good. So he
is almost more bearable who desires good for himself alone, than he who
desires evil for all.
153. My sons, think before you act, and when you have thought long then
do what you consider right. When the opportunity of a praiseworthy death
is given let it be seized at once. Glory that is put off flies away and is
not easily laid hold of again.
154. Love faith. For by his devotion and faith Josiah won great love
for himself from his enemies. For he celebrated the Lord's passover when
he was eighteen years old, as no one had done it before him. As then in
zeal he was superior to those who went before him, so do ye, my sons, show
zeal for God. Let zeal for God search you through, and devour you, so that
each one of you may say: "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." An
apostle of Christ was called the zealot. But why do I speak of an apostle?
The Lord Himself said: "The zeal of thine house hath eaten Me up." Let it
then be real zeal for God, not mean earthy zeal, for that causes jealousy.
155. Let there be peace among you, which passeth all understanding.
Love one another. Nothing is sweeter than charity, nothing more blessed
than peace. Ye yourselves know that I have ever loved you and do now love
you above all others. As the children of one father ye have become united
under the bond of brotherly affection.
156. Whatsoever is good, that hold fast; and the God of peace and love
be with you in the Lord Jesus, to Whom be honour and glory, dominion and
might, together with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
We are taught by David and Solomon how to take counsel with our own
heart. Scipio is not to be accounted prime author of the saying which is
ascribed to him. The writer proves What glorious things the holy prophets
accomplished in their time of quiet, and shows, by examples of their and
others' leisure moments, that a just man is never alone in trouble.
1. The prophet David taught us that we should go about in our heart as
though in a large house; that we should hold converse with it as with some
trusty companion. He spoke to himself, and conversed with himself, as
these words show: "I said, I will take heed to my ways." Solomon his son
also said: "Drink water out of thine own vessels, and out of the springs
of thy wells;" that is: use thine own counsel. For: "Counsel in the heart
of a man is as deep waters." "Let no stranger," it says, "share it with
thee. Let the fountain of thy water be thine own, and rejoice with thy
wife who is thine from thy youth. Let the loving hind and pleasant doe
converse with thee."
2. Scipio, therefore, was not the first to know that he was not alone
when he was alone, or that he was least at leisure when he was at leisure.
For Moses knew it before him, who, when silent, was crying out; who, when
he stood at ease, was fighting, nay, not merely fighting but triumphing
over enemies whom he had not come near. So much was he at ease, that
others held up his hands; yet he was no less active than others, for he
with his hands at ease was overcoming the enemy, whom they that were in
the battle could not conquer. Thus Moses in his silence spoke, and in his
ease laboured hard. And were his labours greater than his times of quiet,
who, being in the mount for forty days, received the whole law? And in
that solitude there was One not far away to speak with him. Whence also
David says: "I will hear what the Lord God will say within me." How much
greater a thing is it for God to speak with any one, than for a man to
speak with himself!
3. The apostles passed by and their shadows cured the sick. Their
garments were touched and health was granted.
4. Elijah spoke the word, and the rain ceased and fell not on the earth
for three years and six months. Again he spoke, and the barrel of meal
failed not, and the cruse of oil wasted not the whole time of that long
5. But as many delight in warfare which is the most glorious, to
bring a battle to an end by the strength of a great army, or, by merits
before God alone? Elisha rested in one place while the king of Syria waged
a great war against the people of our fathers, and was adding to its
terrors by various treacherous plans, and was endeavouring to catch them
in an ambush. But the prophet found out all their preparations, and being
by the grace of God present everywhere in mental vigour, he told the
thoughts of their enemies to his countrymen, and warned them of what
places to beware. And when this was known to the king of Syria, he sent an
army and shut in the prophet. Elisha prayed and caused all of them to be
struck with blindness, and made those who had come to besiege him enter
Samaria as captives.
6. Let us compare this leisure of his with that of others. Other men
for the sake of rest are wont to withdraw their minds from business, and
to retire from the company and companionship of men; to seek the
retirement of the country or the solitude of the fields, or in the city to
give their minds a rest and to enjoy peace and quietness. But Elisha was
ever active. In solitude he divided Jordan on passing over it, so that the
lower part flowed down, whilst the upper returned to its source. On Carmel
he promises the woman, who so far had had no child, that a son now unhoped
for should be born to her. He raises the dead to life, he corrects the
bitterness of the food, and makes it to be sweet by mixing meal with it.
Having distributed ten loaves to the people for food, he gathered up the
fragments that were left after they had been filled. He makes the iron
head of the axe, which had fallen off and was sunk deep in the river
Jordan, to swim by putting the wooden handle in the water. He changes
leprosy for cleanness, drought for rain, famine for plenty.
7. When can the upright man be alone, since he is always with God? When
is he left forsaken who is never separated from Christ? "Who," it says,
"shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am confident that neither
death nor life nor angel shall do so." And when can he be deprived of his
labour who never can be deprived of his merits, wherein his labour
receives its crown? By what places is he limited to whom the whole world
of riches is a possession? By what judgment is he confined who is never
blamed by any one? For he is "as unknown yet well known, as dying and
behold he lives, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making
many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things." For the
upright man regards nothing but what is consistent and virtuous. And so
although he seems poor to another, he is rich to himself, for his worth is
taken not at the value of the things which are temporal, but of the things
which are eternal.
The discussions among philosophers about the comparison between what is
virtuous and what is useful have nothing to do with Christians. For with
them nothing is useful which is not just. What are the duties of
perfection, and what are ordinary duties? The same words often suit
different things in different ways. Lastly, a just man never seeks his own
advantage at the cost of another's disadvantage, but rather is always on
the lookout for what is useful to others.
8. As we have already spoken about the two former subjects, wherein we
discussed what is virtuous and what is useful, there follows now the
question whether we ought to compare what is virtuous and useful together,
and to ask which we must follow. For, as we have already discussed the
matter as to whether a thing is virtuous or wicked, and in another place
whether it is useful or useless, so here some think we ought to find out
whether a thing is virtuous or useful.
9. I am induced to do this, lest I should seem to be allowing that
these two are mutually opposed to one another, when I have already shown
them to be one. For I said that nothing can be virtuous but what is
useful, and nothing can be useful but what is virtuous. For we do not
follow the wisdom of the flesh, whereby the usefulness that consists in an
abundance of money is held to be of most value, but we follow that wisdom
which is of God, whereby those things which are greatly valued in this
world are counted but as loss.
10. For this chato'rthwma [Greek Transliteration],
which is duty carried out entirely and in perfection, starts from the true
source of virtue. On this follows another, or ordinary duty. This shows by
its name that no hard or extraordinary practice of virtue is involved, for
it can be common to very many. The desire to save money is the usual
practice with many. To enjoy a well-prepared banquet and a pleasant meal
is a general habit; but to fast or to use self-restraint is the practice
of but few, and not to be desirous of another's goods is a virtue rarely
found. On the other hand, to wish to deprive another of his property and
not to be content with one's due here one will find many to keep company
with one. Those (the philosopher would say) are primary duties these
ordinary. The primary are found but with few, the ordinary with the many.
11. Again, the same words often have a different meaning. For instance,
we call God good and a man good; but it bears in each case quite a
different meaning. We call God just in one sense, man in another. So, too,
there is a difference in meaning when we call God wise and a man wise.
This we are taught in the Gospel: "Be ye perfect even as your Father Who
is in heaven is perfect." I read again that Paul was perfect and yet not
perfect. For when he said: "Not as though I had already attained, either
were already perfect; but I follow after, if that. I may apprehend it."
Immediately he added: "We, then, that are perfect." There is a twofold
form of perfection, the one having but ordinary, the other the highest
worth. The one availing here, the other hereafter. The one in accordance
with human powers, the other with the perfection of the world to come. But
God is just through all, wise above all, perfect in all.
12. There is also diversity even among men themselves. Daniel, of whom
it was said: "Who is wiser than Daniel?" was wise in a different sense to
what others are. The same may be said of Solomon, who was filled with
wisdom, above all the wisdom of the ancients, and more than all the wise
men of Egypt. To be wise as men are in general is quite a different thing
to being really wise. He who is ordinarily wise is wise for temporal
matters, is wise for himself, so as to deprive another of something and
get it for himself. He who is really wise does not know how to regard his
own advantage, but looks with all his desire to that which is eternal, and
to that which is seemly and virtuous, seeking not what is useful for
himself, but for all.
13. Let this, then, be our rule, so that we may never go wrong between
two things, one virtuous, the other useful. The upright man must never
think of depriving another of anything, nor must he ever wish to increase
his own advantage to the disadvantage of another. This rule the Apostle
gives thee, saying: "All things are lawful, but all things are not
expedient; all things are lawful, but all things edify not. Let no man
seek his own, but each one another's." That is: Let no man seek his own
advantage, but another's; let no man seek his own honour, but another's.
Wherefore he says in another place: "Let each esteem other better than
themselves, looking not each one to his own things, but to the things of
14. And let no one seek his own favour or his own praise, but
another's. This we can plainly see declared in the book of Proverbs, where
the Holy Spirit says through Solomon: "My son, if thou be wise, be wise
for thyself and thy neighbours; but if thou turn out evil, thou alone
shalt bear it." The wise man gives counsel to others, as the upright man
does, and shares with him in wearing the form of either virtue.
The rule given about not seeking one's own gain is established, first
by the examples of Christ, next by the meaning of the word, and lastly by
the very form and uses of our limbs. Wherefore the writer shows what a
crime it is to deprive another of what is useful, since the law of nature
as well as the divine law is broken by such wickedness. Further, by its
means we also lose that gift which makes us superior to other living
creatures; and lastly, through it civil laws are abused and treated with
the greatest contempt.
15. If, then, any one wishes to please all, he must strive in
everything to do, not what is useful for himself, but what is useful for
many, as also Paul strove to do. For this is "to be conformed to the image
of Christ," namely, when one does not strive for what is another's, and
does not deprive another of something so as to gain it for oneself. For
Christ our Lord, though He was in the form of God, emptied Himself so as
to take on Himself the form of man, which He wished to enrich with the
virtue of His works. Wilt thou, then, spoil him whom Christ has put on?
Wilt thou strip him whom Christ has clothed? For this is what thou art
doing when thou dost attempt to increase thine own advantage at another's
16. Think, O man, from whence thou hast received thy name even from
the earth, which takes nothing from any one, but gives freely to all, and
supplies varied produce for the use of all living things. Hence humanity
is called a particular and innate virtue in man, for it assists its
17. The very form of thy body and the uses of thy limbs teach thee
this. Can one limb claim the duties of another? Can the eye claim for
itself the duties of the ear; or the mouth the duties of the eye; or the
hand the service of the feet; or the feet that of the hands? Nay, the
hands themselves, both left and right, have different duties to do, so
that if one were to change the use of either, one would act contrary to
nature. We should have to lay aside the whole man before we could change
the service of the various members: as if, for instance, we were to try to
take food with the left hand, or to perform the duties of the left hand
with the right, so as to remove the remains of food unless, of course,
need demanded it.
18. Imagine for a moment, and give to the eye the power to withdraw the
understanding from the head, the sense of hearing from the ears, the power
of thought from the mind, the sense of smell from the nose, the sense of
taste from the mouth, and then to assume them itself, would it not at once
destroy the whole order of nature? Wherefore the Apostle says well: "If
the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were
hearing, where were the smelling?" So, then, we are all one body, though
with many members, all necessary to the body. For no one member can say of
another: "I have no need of thee." For those members which seem to be more
feeble are much more necessary and require greater care and attention. And
if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.
19. So we see how grave a matter it is to deprive another, with whom we
ought rather to suffer, of anything, or to act unfairly or injuriously
towards one to whom we ought to give a share in our services. This is a
true law of nature, which binds us to show all kindly feeling, so that we
should all of us in turn help one another, as parts of one body, and
should never think of depriving another of anything, seeing it is against
the law of nature even to abstain from giving help. We are born in such a
way that limb combines with limb, and one works with another, and all
assist each other in mutual service. But if one fails in its duty, the
rest are hindered. If, for instance, the hand tears out the eye, has it
not hindered the use, of its work? If it were to wound the foot, how many
actions would it not prevent? But how much worse is it for the whole man
to be drawn aside from his duty than for one of the members only! If the
whole body is injured in one member, so also is the whole community of the
human race disturbed in one man. The nature of mankind is injured, as also
is the society of the holy Church, which rises into one united body, bound
together in oneness of faith and love. Christ the Lord, also, Who died for
all, will grieve that the price of His blood was paid in vain.
20. Why, the very law of the Lord teaches us that this rule must be
observed, so that we may never deprive another of anything for the sake of
our own advantage. For it says: "Remove not the bounds which thy fathers
have set." It bids a neighbour's ox to be brought back if found wandering.
It orders a thief to be put to death. It forbids the labourer to be
deprived of his hire, and orders money to be returned without usury. It is
a mark of kindly feeling to help him who has nothing, but it is a sign of
a hard nature to extort more than one has given. If a man has need of thy
assistance because he has not enough of his own wherewith to repay a debt,
is it not a wicked thing to demand under the guise of kindly feeling a
larger sum from him who has not the means to pay off a less amount? Thou
dost but free him from debt to another, to bring him under thy own hand;
and thou callest that human kindliness which is but a further wickedness.
21. It is in this very matter that we stand before all other living
creatures, for they do not understand how to do good. Wild beasts snatch
away, men share with others. Wherefore the Psalmist says: "The righteous
showeth mercy and giveth." There are some, however, to whom the wild
beasts do good. They feed their young with what they get, and the birds
satisfy their brood with food; but to men alone has it been given to feed
all as though they were their own. That is so in accordance with the
claims of nature. And if it is not lawful to refuse to give, how is it
lawful to deprive another? And do not our very laws teach us the same?
They order those things which have been taken from others with injury to
their persons or property to be restored with additional recompense; so as
to check the thief from stealing by the penalty, and by the fine to recall
him from his ways.
22. Suppose, however, that some one did not fear the penalty, or
laughed at the fine, would that make it a worthy thing to deprive another
of his own? That would be a mean vice and suited only to the lowest of the
low. So contrary to nature is it, that while want might seem to drive one
to it, yet nature could never urge it. And yet we find secret theft among
slaves, open robbery among the rich.
23. But what so contrary to nature as to injure another for our own
benefit? The natural feelings of our own hearts urge us to keep on the
watch for all, to undergo trouble, to do work for all. It is considered
also a glorious thing for each one at risk to himself to seek the quiet of
all, and to think it far more thankworthy to have saved his country from
destruction than to have kept danger from himself. We must think it a far
more noble thing to labour for our country than to pass a quiet life at
ease in the full enjoyment of leisure.
As it has been shown that he who injures another for the sake of his
own advantage will undergo terrible punishment at the hand of his own
conscience, it is referred that nothing is useful to one which is not in
the same way useful to all. Thus there is no place among Christians for
the question propounded by the philosophers about two shipwrecked persons,
for they must show love and humility to all.
24. Hence we infer that a man who guides himself according to the
ruling of nature, so as to be obedient to her, can never injure another.
If he injures another, he violates nature, nor will he think that what he
has gained is so much an advantage as a disadvantage. And what punishment
is worse than the wounds of the conscience within? What judgment harder
than that of our hearts, whereby each one stands convicted and accuses
himself of the injury that he has wrongfully done against his brother?
This the Scriptures speak of very plainly, saying: "Out of the mouth of
fools there is a rod for wrong-doing." Folly, then, is condemned because
it causes wrong-doing. Ought we not rather to avoid this, than death, or
loss, or want, or exile, or sickness? Who would not think some blemish of
body or loss of inheritance far less than some blemish of soul or loss of
25. It is clear, then, that all must consider and hold that the
advantage of the individual is the same as that of all, and that nothing
must be considered advantageous except what is for the general good. For
how can one be benefited alone? That which is useless to all is harmful. I
certainly cannot think that he who is useless to all can be of use to
himself. For if there is one law of nature for all, there is also one
state of usefulness for all. And we are bound by the law of nature to act
for the good of all. It is not, therefore, right for him who wishes the
interests of another to be considered according to nature, to injure him
against the law of nature.
26. For if those who run in a race are, as one hears, instructed and
warned each one to win the race by swiftness of foot and not by any foul
play, and to hasten on to victory by running as hard as they can, but not
to dare to trip up another or push him aside with their hand, how much
more in the course of this life ought the victory to be won by us, without
falseness to another and cheating?
27. Some ask whether a wise man ought in case of a shipwreck to take
away a plank from an ignorant sailor? Although it seems better for the
common good that a wise man rather than a fool should escape from
shipwreck, yet I do not think that a Christian, a just and a wise man,
ought to save his own life by the death of another; just as when he meets
with an armed robber he cannot return his blows, lest in defending his
life he should stain his love toward his neighbour. The verdict on this is
plain and clear in the books of the Gospel. "Put up thy sword, for every
one that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword." What robber is
more hateful than the persecutor who came to kill Christ? But Christ would
not be defended from the wounds of the persecutor, for He willed to heal
all by His wounds.
28. Why dost thou consider thyself greater than another, when a
Christian man ought to put others before himself, to claim nothing for
himself, usurp no honours, claim no reward for his merits? Why, next, art
thou not wont to bear thy own troubles rather than to destroy another's
advantage? For what is so contrary to nature as not to be content with
what one has or to seek what is another's, and to try to get it in
shameful ways. For if a virtuous life is in accordance with nature for
God made all things very good then shameful living must be opposed to it
A virtuous and a shameful life cannot go together, since they are
absolutely severed by the law of nature.
The upright does nothing that is contrary to duty, even though there is
a hope of keeping it secret. To point this out the tale about the ring of
Gyges was invented by the philosophers. Exposing this, he brings forward
known and true examples from the life of David and John the Baptist.
29. To lay down here already the result of our discussion, as though we
had already ended it, we declare it a fixed rule, that we must never aim
at anything hut what is virtuous. The wise man does nothing but what can
be done openly and without falseness, nor does he do anything whereby he
may involve himself in any wrong-doing, even where he may escape notice.
For he is guilty in his own eyes, before being so in the eyes of others;
and the publicity of his crime does not bring him more shame than his own
consciousness of it. This we can show, not by the made-up stories which
philosophers use, but from the true examples of good men.
30. I need not, therefore, imagine a great chasm in the earth, which
had been loosened by heavy rains, and had afterwards burst asunder, as
Plato does. For he makes Gyges descend into that chasm, and to meet there
that iron horse of the fable that had doors in its sides. When these doors
were opened, he found a gold ring on the finger of a dead man, whose
corpse lay there lifeless. He desiring the gold took away the ring. But
when he returned to the king's shepherds, to whose number he belonged, by
chance having turned the stone inwards towards the palms of his hands, he
saw all, yet was seen by none. Then when he turned the ring to its proper
position, he was again seen by all. On becoming conscious of this strange
power, by the use of the ring he committed adultery with the queen, killed
the king, and took possession of the kingdom after slaying all the rest,
who he thought should be put to death, so that they might be no hindrance
31. Give, says Plato, this ring to a wise man, that when he commits a
fault he may by its help remain unnoticed; yet he will be none the more
free from the stain of sin than if he could not be hid. The hiding-place
of the wise lies not in the hope of impunity but in his own innocency.
Lastly, the law is not laid down for the just but for the unjust. For the
just has within himself the law of his mind, and a rule of equity and
justice. Thus he is not recalled from sin by fear of punishment, but by
the rule of a virtuous life.
32. Therefore, to return to our subject, I will now bring forward, not
false examples for true, but true examples in place of false. For why need
I imagine a chasm in the earth, and an iron horse and a gold ring found on
the fingers of a dead man; and say that such was the power of this ring,
that he who wore it could appear at his own will, but if he did not wish
to be seen, he could remove himself out of the sight of those who stood
by, so as to seem to be away. This story, of course, is meant to answer
the question whether a wise man, on getting the opportunity of using that
ring so as to be able to hide his crimes, and to obtain a kingdom,
whether, I say, a wise man would be unwilling to sin and would consider
the stain of sin far worse than the pains of punishment, or whether he
would use it for doing wickedness in the hope of not being found out? Why,
I say, should I need the pretence of a ring, when I can show from what has
been done that a wise man, on seeing he would not only be undetected in
his sin, but would also gain a kingdom if he gave way to it, and who, on
the other hand, noted danger to his own safety if he did not commit the
crime, yet chose to risk his own safety so as to be free from crime,
rather than to commit the crime and so gain the kingdom.
33. When David fled from the face of King Saul, because the king was
seeking him in the desert with three thousand chosen men to put him to
death, he entered the king's camp and found him sleeping. There he not
only did him no injury, but actually guarded him from being slain by any
who had entered with him. For when Abishai said to him: "The Lord hath
delivered thine: enemy into thine hand this day, 'now therefore I will
slay him," he answered: "Destroy him not, for who can stretch forth his
hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?" And he added: "As the
Lore liveth, unless the Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to
die, or he shall die in battle, and it be laid to me, the Lord forbid that
I should stretch out my hand against the Lord's anointed."
34. Therefore he did not suffer him to be slain, but removed only his
spear, which stood by his head, and his cruse of water. Then, whilst all
were sleeping, he left the camp and went across to the top of the hill,
and began to reproach the royal attendants, and especially their general
Abner, for not keeping faithful watch over their lord and king. Next, he
showed them where the king's spear and cruse were which had stood at his
head. And when the king called to him, he restored the spear, and said:
"The Lord render to every man his righteousness and faithfulness, for the
Lord delivered thee into my hand, but I would not avenge myself on the
Lord's anointed." Even whilst he said this, he feared his plots and fled,
changing his place in exile. However, he never put safety before innocency,
seeing that when a second opportunity was given him of killing the king,
he would not use the chance that came to him, and which put in his reach
certain safety instead of fear, and a kingdom instead of exile.
35. Where was the use of the ring in John's case, who would not have
been put to death by Herod if he had kept silence? He could have kept
silence before him so as to be both seen and yet not killed. But because
he not only could not endure to sin himself to protect his own safety, but
could not bear and endure even another's sin, he brought about the cause
of his own death. Certainly none can deny that he might have kept silence,
who in the case of Gyges deny that he could have remained invisible by the
help of the ring.
36. But although that fable has not the force of truth, yet it has this
much to go upon, that if an upright man could hide himself, yet he would
avoid sin just as though he could not conceal himself; and that he would
not hide his person by putting on a ring, but his life by putting on
Christ. As the Apostle says: "Our life is hid with Christ in God." Let,
then, no one here strive to shine, let none show pride, let none boast.
Christ willed not to be known here, He would not that His Name should be
preached in the Gospel whilst He lived on earth. He came to lie hid from
this world. Let us therefore likewise hide our life after the example of
Christ, let us shun boast-fulness, let us not desire to be made known. It
is better to live here in humility, and there in glory. "When Christ," it
says, '' shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory."
We ought not to allow the idea of profit to get hold of us. What
excuses they make who get their gains by selling corn, and what answer
ought to be made to them. In connection with this certain parables from
the Gospels and some of the sayings of Solomon are set before our eyes.
37. Let not, therefore, expediency get the better of virtue, but virtue
of expediency. By expediency here I mean what is accounted so by people
generally. Let love of money be destroyed, let lust die. The holy man says
that he has never been engaged in business. For to get an increase in
price is a sign not of simplicity but of cunning. Elsewhere it says: "He
that seeketh a high price for his corn is cursed among the people."
38. Plain and definite is the statement, leaving no room for debate,
such as a disputatious kind of speaking is wont to give, when one
maintains that agriculture is considered praiseworthy by all; that the
fruits of the earth are easily grown; that the more a man has sown, the
greater will be his meed of praise; further, that the richer returns of
his active labours are not gained by fraud, and that carelessness and
disregard for an uncultivated soil are wont to be blamed.
39. I have ploughed, he says, carefully. I have sown freely. I have
tilled actively. I have gathered good increase. I have stored it
anxiously, saved it faithfully, and guarded it with care. Now in a time of
famine I sell it, and come to the help of the hungry. I sell my own corn,
not another's. And for no more than others, nay, even at a less price.
What fraud is there here, when many would come to great danger if they had
nothing to buy? Is industry to be made a crime? Or diligence to be blamed?
Or foresight to be abused? Perhaps he may even say: Joseph collected corn
in a time of abundance, and sold it when it was dear. Is any one forced to
buy it at too dear a price? Is force employed against the buyer? The
opportunity to buy is afforded to all, injury is inflicted on none.
40. When this has been said, and one man's ideas have carried him so
far, another rises and says: Agriculture is good indeed, for it supplies
fruits for all, and by simple industry adds to the richness of the earth
without any cheating or fraud. If there is any error, the loss is the
greater, for the better a man sows, the better he will reap. If he has
sown the pure grain of wheat, he gathers a purer and cleaner harvest. The
fruitful earth returns what she has received in manifold measure. A good
field returns its produce with interest.
41. Thou must expect payment for thy labour from the crops of the
fruitful land, and must hope for a just return from the fruitfulness of
the rich earth. Why dost thou use the industry of nature and make a cheat
of it? Why dost thou grudge for the use of men what is grown for all? Why
lessen the abundance for the people? Why make want thy aim? Why make the
poor long for a barren season? For when they do not feel the benefits of a
fruitful season, because thou art putting up the price, and art storing up
the corn, they would far rather that nothing should be produced, than that
thou shouldst do business at the expense of other people's hunger. Thou
makest much of the want of corn, the small supply of food. Thou groanest
over the rich crops of the soil; thou mournest the general plenty, and
bewailest the garners full of corn; thou art on the lookout to see when
the crop is poor and the harvest fails. Thou rejoicest that a curse has
smiled upon thy wishes, so that none should have their produce. Then thou
rejoicest that thy harvest has come. Then thou collectest wealth from the
misery of all, and callest this industry and diligence, when it is but
cunning shrewdness and an adroit trick of the trade. Thou callest it a
remedy, when it is but a wicked contrivance. Shall I call this robbery or
only gain? These opportunities are seized as though seasons for plunder,
wherein, like some cruel waylayer, thou mayest fall upon the stomachs of
men. The price rises higher as though by the mere addition of interest,
but the danger to life is increased too. For then the interest of the
stored-up crops grows higher. As a usurer thou hidest up thy corn, as a
seller thou puttest it up for auction. Why dost thou wish evil to all,
because the famine will grow worse, as though no corn should be left, as
though a more unfruitful year should follow? Thy gain is the public loss.
42. Holy Joseph opened the garners to all; he did not shut them up. He
did not try to get the full price of the year's produce, but assigned it
for a yearly payment. He took nothing for himself, but, so far as famine
could be checked for the future, he made his arrangements with careful
43. Thou hast read how the Lord Jesus in the Gospel speaks of that
corn-dealer who was looking out for a high price, whose possessions
brought him in rich fruits, but who, as though still in need, said: "What
shall I do? I have no room where to bestow my goods. I will pull down my
barns and build greater," though he could not know whether in the
following night his soul would not be demanded of him. He knew not what to
do, he seemed to be in doubt, just as though he were in want of food. His
barns could not take in the year's supply, and yet he thought he was in
44. Rightly, therefore, Solomon says: "He that withholdeth corn shall
leave it for the nations," not for his heirs, for the gains of avarice
have nothing to do with the rights of succession. That which is not
rightfully got together is scattered as though by a wind by outsiders that
seize it. And he added: "He who graspeth at the year's produce is cursed
among the people, but blessing shall be his that imparteth it." Thou seest,
then, what is said of him who distributes the corn, but not of him that
seeks for a high price. True expediency does not therefore exist where
virtue loses more than expediency gains.
Strangers must never be expelled the city in a time of famine. In this
matter the noble advice of a Christian sage is adduced, in contrast to
which the shameful deed committed at Rome is given. By comparing the two
it is shown that the former is combined with what is virtuous and useful,
but the latter with neither.
45. But they, too, who would forbid the city to strangers cannot have
our approval. They would expel them at the very time when they ought to
help, and separate them from the trade of their common parent. They would
refuse them a share in the produce meant for all, and avert the
intercourse that has already begun; and they are unwilling, in a time of
necessity, to give those with whom they have enjoyed their rights in
common, a share in what they themselves have. Beasts do not drive out
beasts, yet man shuts out man. Wild beasts and animals consider food which
the earth supplies to be common to all. They all give assistance to those
like themselves; and man, who ought to think nothing human foreign to
himself, fights against his own.
46. How much better did he act who, having already reached an advanced
age, when the city was suffering from famine, and, as is common in such
cases, the people demanded that strangers should be forbidden the city,
having the office of the prefectship of the city, which is higher than the
rest, called together the officials and richer men, and demanded that they
should take counsel for the public welfare. He said that it was as cruel a
thing for the strangers to be expelled as for one man to be cast off by
another, and to be refused food when dying. We do not allow our dogs to
come to our table and leave them unfed, yet we shut out a man. How
unprofitable, again, it is for the world that so many people perish, whom
some deadly plague carries off. How unprofitable for their city that so
large a number should perish, who were wont to be helpful either in paying
contributions or in carrying on business. Another's hunger is profitable
to no man, nor to put off the day of help as long as possible and to do
nothing to check the want. Nay more, when so many of the cultivators of
the soil are gone, when so many labourers are dying, the corn supplies
will fail for the future. Shall we then expel those who are wont to supply
us with food, are we unwilling to feed in a time of need those who have
fed us all along? How great is the assistance which they supply even at
this time. "Not by bread alone does man live." They are even our own
family; many of them even are our own kindred. Let us make some return for
what we have received.
47. But perhaps we fear that want may increase. First of all, I answer,
mercy never fails, but always finds means of help. Next, let us make up
for the corn supplies which are to be granted to them, by a subscription.
Let us put that right with our gold. And, again, must we not buy other
cultivators of the soil if we lose these? How much cheaper is it to feed
than to buy a working-man. Where, too, can one obtain, where find a man to
take the place of the former? And suppose one finds him, do not forget
that, with an ignorant man used to different ways, one may fill up the
place in point of numbers, but not as regards the work to be done.
48. Why need I say more? When the money was supplied corn was brought
in. So the city's abundance was not diminished, and yet assistance was
given to the strangers. What praise this act won that holy man from God!
What glory among men! He, indeed, had won an honoured name, who, pointing
to the people of a whole province, could truly say to the emperor: All
these I have preserved for thee; these live owing to the kindness of the
senate; these thy council has snatched from death!
49. How much more expedient was this than that which was done lately at
Rome. There from that widely extended city were those expelled who had
already passed most of their life in it. In tears they went forth with
their children, for whom as being citizens they bewailed the exile, which,
as they said, ought to be averted; no less did they grieve over the broken
bonds of union, the severed ties of relationship. And yet a fruitful year
had smiled upon us. The city alone needed corn to be brought into it. It
could have got help, if it had sought corn from the Italians whose
children they were driving out. Nothing is more shameful than to expel a
man as a foreigner, and yet to claim his services as though he belonged to
us. How canst thou expel a man who lives on his own produce? How canst
thou expel him who supplies thee with food? Thou retainest thy servant,
and thrustest out thy kindred! Thou takest the corn, but showest no good
feeling! Thou takest food by force, but dost not show gratitude!
50. How wretched this is, how useless! For how can that be expedient
which is not seemly. Of what great supplies from her corporations has Rome
at times been deprived, yet she could not dismiss them and yet escape a
famine, while waiting for a favourable breeze, and the provisions in the
51. How far more virtuous and expedient was that first-mentioned
management! For what is so seemly or virtuous as when the needy are
assisted by the gifts of the rich, when food is supplied to the hungry,
when daily bread fails none? What so advantageous as when the cultivators
are kept for the land, and the country people do not perish?
52. What is virtuous, then, is also expedient, and what is expedient is
virtuous. On the other hand, what is not expedient is unseemly, and what
is unseemly is also not expedient.
That those who put what is virtuous before what is useful are
acceptable to God is shown by the example of Joshua, Caleb, and the other
53. When could our fathers ever have thrown off their servitude, unless
they had believed that it was not only shameful but even useless to serve
the king of Egypt?
54. Joshua, also, and Caleb, when sent to spy out the land, brought
back the news that the land was indeed rich, but that it was inhabited by
very fierce nations. The people, terrified at the thought of war, refused
to take possession of their land. Joshua and Caleb, who had been sent as
spies, tried to persuade them that the land was fruitful. They thought it
unseemly to give way before the heathen; they chose rather to be stoned,
which is what the people threatened, than to recede from their virtuous
standpoint. The others kept dissuading, the people exclaimed against it.
saying they would have to fight against cruel and terrible nations; that
they would fall in battle, and their wives and children would be left for
55. The anger of the Lord burst forth, so that He would kill all, but
at the prayer of Moses He softened His judgment and put off His vengeance,
knowing that He had already sufficiently punished those who were
faithless, even if He spared them meanwhile and did not slay the
unbelievers. However, He said they should not come to that land which they
had refused, as a penalty for their unbelief; but their children and
wives, who had not murmured, and who, owing to their sex and age, were
guiltless, should receive the promised inheritance of that land. So the
bodies of those of twenty years old and upwards fell in the desert. The
punishment of the rest was put aside. But they who had gone up with
Joshua, and had thought fit to dissuade the people, died forthwith of a
great plague. Joshua and Caleb entered the land of promise together with
those who were innocent by reason of age or sex.
56. The better part, therefore, preferred glory to safety; the worse
part safety to virtue. But the divine judgment approved those who thought
virtue was above what is useful, whilst it condemned those who preferred
what seemed more in accordance with safety than with what is virtuous.
Cheating and dishonest ways of making money are utterly unfit for
clerics whose duty is to serve all. They ought never to be involved in a
money affair, unless it is one affecting a man's life. For them the
example of David is given, that they should injure none, even when
provoked; also the death of Naboth, to keep them from preferring life to
57. Nothing is more odious than for a man to have no love for a
virtuous life, but instead to be kept excited by an unworthy business in
following out a low line of trade, or to be inflamed by an avaricious
heart, and by day and by night to be eager to damage another's property,
not to raise the soul to the splendour of a virtuous life, and not to
regard the beauty of true praise.
58. Hence rise inheritances sought by cunning words and gained under
pretence of being self-restrained and serious. But this is absolutely
abhorrent to the idea of a Christian man. For everything gained by craft
and got together by cheating loses the merit of openness. Even amongst
those who have undertaken no duty in the ranks of the clergy it is
considered unfitting to seek for the inheritance of another. Let those who
are reaching the end of their life use their own judgment, so that they
may freely make their wills as they think best, since they will not be
able to amend them later. For it is not honourable to divert the savings
that belong to others or have been got together for them. It is further
the duty of the priest or the cleric to be of use if possible to all and
to be harmful to none.
59. If it is not possible to help one without injuring another, it is
better to help neither than to press hard upon one. Therefore it is not a
priest's duty to interfere in money affairs. For here it must often happen
that he who loses his case receives harm; and then he considers that he
has been worsted through the action of the intervener. It is a priest's
duty to hurt no one, to be ready to help all. To be able to do this is in
God's power alone. In a case of life and death, without doubt it is a
grave sin to injure him whom one ought to help when in danger. But it is
foolish to gain others' hate in taking up money matters, though for the
sake of a man's safety great trouble and toil may often be undertaken. It
is glorious in such a case to run risks. Let, then, this be firmly held to
in the priestly duties, namely, to injure none, not even when provoked and
embittered by some injury. Good was the man who said: "If I have rewarded
evil to those who did me good." For what glory is it if we do not injure
him who has not injured us? But it is true virtue to forgive when injured.
60. What a virtuous action was that, when David wished rather to spare
the king his enemy, though he could have injured him! How useful, too, it
was, for it helped him when he succeeded to the throne. For all learnt to
observe faith to their king and not to seize the kingdom, but to fear and
reverence him. Thus what is virtuous was preferred to what was useful, and
then usefulness followed on what was virtuous.
61. But that he spared him was a small matter; he also grieved for him
when slain in war, and mourned for him with tears, saying: "Ye mountains
of Gilboa, let neither dew nor rain fall upon you; ye mountains of death,
for there the shield of the mighty is cast away, the shield of Saul. It is
not anointed with oil, but with the blood of the wounded and the fat of
the warriors. The bow of Jonathan turned not back and the sword of Saul
returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and very dear,
inseparable in life, and in death they were not divided. They were swifter
than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep
over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet with your ornaments, who put on gold
upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan was wounded even to death. I am distressed for thee, my brother
Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou been unto me. Thy love came to me like
the love of women. How have the mighty fallen and the longed-for weapons
62. What mother could weep thus for her only son as he wept here for
his enemy? Who could follow his benefactor with such praise as that with
which he followed the man who plotted against his life? How affectionately
he grieved, with what deep feeling he bewailed him! The mountains dried up
at the prophet's curse, and a divine power filled the judgment of him who
spoke it. Therefore the elements themselves paid the penalty for
witnessing the king's death.
63. And what, in the case of holy Naboth, was the cause of his death,
except his regard for a virtuous life? For when the king demanded the
vineyard from him, promising to give him money, he refused the price for
his father's heritage as unseemly, and preferred to shun such shame by
dying. "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my
fathers unto thee;" that is, that such reproach may not fall on me, that
God may not allow such wickedness to be attained by force. He is not
speaking about the vines nor has God care for vines or plots of ground
but he says it of his fathers' rights. He could have received another or
the king's vineyards and been his friend, wherein men think there is no
small usefulness so far as this world is concerned. But because it was
base he thought it could not be useful, and so he preferred to endure
danger with honour intact, rather than gain what was useful to his own
disgrace. I am here again speaking of what is commonly understood as
useful, not that in which there is the grace of virtuous life.
64. The king could himself have taken it by force, but that he thought
too shameless; then when Naboth was dead he grieved. The Lord also
declared that the woman's cruelty should be punished by a fitting penalty,
because she was unmindful of virtue and preferred a shameful gain.
65. Every kind of unfair action is shameful. Even in common things,
false weights and unjust measures are accursed. And if fraud in the market
or in business is punished, can it seem free from reproach if found in the
midst of the performance of the duties of virtue? Solomon says: "A great
and a little weight and divers measures are an abomination before the
Lord." Before that it also says: "A false balance is abomination to the
Lord, but a just weight is acceptable to Him. "
We are warned not only in civil law, but also in the holy Scriptures,
to avoid fraud in every agreement, as is clear from the example of Joshua
and the Gibeonites.
66. In everything, therefore, good faith is seemly, justice is
pleasing, due measure in equity is delightful. But what shall I say about
contracts, and especially about the sale of land, or agreements, or
covenants? Are there not rules just for the purpose of shutting out all
false deceit, and to make him whose deceit is found out liable to double
punishment? Everywhere, then, does regard for what is virtuous take the
lead; it shuts out deceit, it expels fraud. Wherefore the prophet David
has rightly stated his judgment in general, saying: "He hath done no evil
to his neighbour." Fraud, then, ought to be wanting not only in contracts,
in which the defects of those things which are for sale are ordered to be
recorded (which contracts, unless the vendor has mentioned the defects,
are rendered void by an action for fraud, although he has conveyed them
fully to the purchaser), but it ought also to be absent in all else.
Can-dour must be shown, the truth must be made known.
67. The divine Scriptures have plainly stated (not indeed a legal rule
of the lawyers but) the ancient judgment of the patriarchs on deceit, in
that book of the Old Testament which is ascribed to Joshua the son of Nun.
When the report had gone forth among the various peoples that the sea was
dried up at the crossing of the Hebrews; that water had flowed from the
rock; that food was supplied daily from heaven in quantities large enough
for so many thousands of the people; that the walls of Jericho had fallen
at the sound of the holy trumpets, being overthrown by the noise of the
shouts of the people; also, that the king of Ai was conquered and had been
hung on a tree until the evening; then the Gibeonites, fearing his strong
hand, came with guile, pretending that they were from a land very far
away, and by travelling so long had rent their shoes and worn out their
clothing, of which they showed proofs that it was growing old. They said,
too, that their reason for undergoing so much labour was their desire to
obtain peace and to form friendship with the Hebrews, and began to ask
Joshua to form an alliance with them. And he, being as yet ignorant of
localities, and not knowing anything of the inhabitants, did not see
through their deceit, nor did he enquire of God, but readily believed
68. So sacred was one's plighted word held in those days that no one
would believe that others could try to deceive. Who could find fault with
the saints in this, namely, that they should consider others to have the
same feelings as themselves, and suppose no one would lie because truth
was their own companion? They know not what deceit is, they gladly believe
of others what they themselves are, whilst they cannot suspect others to
be what they themselves are not. Hence Solomon says: "An innocent man
believeth every word." We must not blame his readiness to believe, but
should rather praise his goodness. To know nothing of aught that may
injure another, this is to be innocent. And although he is cheated by
another, still he thinks well of all, for he thinks there is good faith in
69. Induced, therefore, by such considerations to believe them, he made
an agreement, he gave them peace, and formed a union with them. But when
he came to their country and the deceit was found out, for though they
lived quite close they pretended to be strangers, the people of our
fathers began to be angry at having been deceived. Joshua, however,
thought the peace they had made could not be broken (for it had been
confirmed by an oath), for fear that, in punishing the treachery of
others, he should. be breaking his own pledge. He made them pay the
penalty, however, by forcing them to undertake the lowest kind of work.
The judgment was mild indeed, but it was a lasting one, for in their
duties there abides the punishment of their ancient cunning, handed down
to this day in their hereditary service.
Having adduced examples of certain frauds found in a few passages of
the rhetoricians, he shows that these and all others are more fully and
plainly condemned in Scripture.
70. I shall say nothing of the snapping of fingers, or the naked
dancing of the heir, at entering on an inheritance. These are well-known
things. Nor will I speak of the mass of fishes gathered up at a pretended
fishing expedition to excite the buyer's desires. For why did he show
himself so eager for luxuries and delicacies as to allow a fraud of this
71. What need is there for me to speak of that well-known story of the
pleasant and quiet retreat at Syracuse and of the cunning of a Sicilian?
For he having found a stranger, and knowing that he was anxious to buy an
estate, asked him to his grounds for a meal. He accepted, and on the
following day he came. There the sight of a great number of fishermen met
his eyes, and a banquet laid out in the most splendid profusion. In the
sight of the guests, fishers were placed in the garden-grounds, where no
net had ever been laid before. Each one in turn presented to the guests
what he had taken, the fish were placed upon the table, and caught the
glance of those who sat there. The stranger wondered at the large quantity
of fish and the number of boats there were. The answer given was, that
this was the great water supply, and that great numbers of fish came there
because of the sweetness of the water. To be brief, he drew on the
stranger to be urgent in getting the grounds, he willingly allows himself
to be induced to sell them, and seemingly with a heavy heart he receives
72. On the next day the purchaser comes to the grounds with his
friends, but finds no boat there. On asking whether perhaps the fishermen
were observing a festival on that day, he is told that, with the exception
of yesterday, they were never wont to fish there; but what power had he to
proceed against such a fraud, who had so shamefully grasped at such
luxuries? For he who convicts another of a fault ought himself to be free
from it. I will not therefore include such trifles as these under the
power of ecclesiastical censure, for that altogether condemns every desire
for dishonourable gain, and briefly, with few words, forbids every sharp
and cunning action.
73. And what shall I say of him who claims to be the heir or legatee,
on the proof of a will which, though falsified by others, yet was known to
be so by him, and who tries to make again through another's crime, though
even the laws of the state convict him who knowingly makes use of a false
will, as guilty of a wrong action. But the law of justice is plain,
namely, that a good man ought not to go aside from the truth, nor to
inflict an unjust loss on any one, nor to act at all deceitfully or to
take part in any fraud.
74. What is clearer, however, on this point than the case of Ananias?
He acted falsely as regards the price he got for his land, for he sold it
and laid at the apostles' feet part of the price, pretending it was the
whole amount. For this he perished as guilty of fraud. He might have
offered nothing and have acted so without committing a fraud. But as
deceit entered into his action, he gained no favour for his liberality,
but paid the penalty for his artifice.
75. The Lord also in the Gospel rejected those coming to Him with
guile, saying: "The foxes have holes," for He bids us live in simplicity
and innocency of heart. David also says: "Thou hast used deceit as a sharp
razor," pointing out by this the treacherous man, just as an implement of
this kind is used to help adorn a man, yet often wounds him. If any one
makes a show of favour and yet plans deceit after the example of the
traitor, so as to give up to death him whom he ought to guard, let him be
looked on in the light of that instrument which is wont to wound owing to
the vice of a drunken mind and a trembling hand. Thus that man drunk with
the wine of wickedness brought death on the high priest Ahimelech, through
a terrible act of treachery, because he had received the prophet with
hospitality when the king, roused by the stings of envy, was following
We may make no promise that is wrong, and if we have made an unjust
oath, we may not keep it. It is shown that Herod sinned in this respect.
The vow taken by Jephtha is condemned, and so are all others which God
does not desire to have paid to Him. Lastly, the daughter of Jephtha is
compared with the two Pythagoreans and is placed before them.
76. A man's disposition ought to be undefiled and sound, so that he may
utter words without dissimulation and possess his vessel in
sanctification; that he may not delude his brother with false words nor
promise aught dishonourable. If he has made such a promise it is far
better for him not to fulfil it, rather than to fulfil what is shameful.
77. Often people bind themselves by a solemn oath, and, though they
come to know that they ought not to have made the promise, fulfil it in
consideration of their oath. This is what Herod did, as we mentioned
before. For he made a shameful promise of reward to a dancer and cruelly
performed it. It was shameful, for a kingdom was promised for a dance; and
it was cruel, for the death of a prophet is sacrificed for the sake of an
oath. How much better perjury would have been than the keeping of such an
oath, if indeed that could be called perjury which a drunkard had sworn to
in his wine-cups, or an effeminate profligate had promised whilst the
dance was going on. The prophet's head was brought in on a dish, and this
was considered an act of good faith when it really was an act of madness!
78. Never shall I be led to believe that the leader Jephtha made his
vow otherwise than without thought, when he promised to offer to God
whatever should meet him at the threshold of his house on his return. For
he repented of his vow, as afterwards his daughter came to meet him. He
rent his clothes and said: "Alas, my daughter, thou hast entangled me,
thou art become a source of trouble unto me." And though with pious fear
and reverence he took upon himself the bitter fulfilment of his cruel
task, yet he ordered and left to be observed an annual period of grief and
mourning for future times. It was a hard vow, but far more bitter was its
fulfilment, whilst he who carried it out had the greatest cause to mourn.
Thus it became a rule and a law in Israel from year to year, as it says:
"that the daughters of Israel went to lament the daughter of Jephtha the
Gileadite four days in a year." I cannot blame the man for holding it
necessary to fulfil his vow, but yet it was a wretched necessity which
could only be solved by the death of his child.
79. It is better to make no vow than to vow what God does not wish to
be paid to Him to Whom the promise was made. In the case of Isaac we have
an example, for the Lord appointed a ram to be offered up instead of him.
Therefore it is not always every promise that is to be fulfilled. Nay, the
Lord Himself often alters His determination, as the Scriptures point out.
For in the book called Numbers He had declared that He would punish the
people with death and destroy them, but afterwards, when besought by
Moses, He was reconciled again to them. And again, He said to Moses and
Aaron: "Separate yourselves from among this congregation that I may
consume them in a moment." And when they separated from the assembly the
earth suddenly clave asunder and opened her mouth and swallowed up Dathan
80. That example of Jephtha's daughter is far more glorious and ancient
than that of the two Pythagoreans, which is accounted so notable among the
philosophers. One of these, when condemned to death by the tyrant
Dionysius, and when the day of his death was fixed, asked for leave to be
granted him to go home, so as to provide for his family. But for fear that
he might break his faith and not return, he offered a surety for his own
death, on condition that if he himself were absent on the appointed day,
his surety would be ready to die in his stead. The other did not refuse
the conditions of suretyship which were proposed and awaited the day of
death with a calm mind. So the one did not withdraw himself and the other
returned on the day appointed. This all seemed so wonderful that the
tyrant sought their friendship whose destruction he had been anxious for.
81. What, then, in the case of esteemed and learned men is full of
marvel, that in the case of a virgin is found to be far more splendid, far
more glorious, as she says to her sorrowing father: "Do to me according to
that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth." But she asked for a delay of
two months in order that she might go about with her companions upon the
mountains to bewail fitly and dutifully her virginity now given up to
death. The weeping of her companions did not move her, their grief
prevailed not upon her, nor did their lamentations hold her back. She
allowed not the day to pass, nor did the hour escape her notice. She
returned to her father as though returning according to her own desire,
and of her own will urged him on when he was hesitating, and acted thus of
her own free choice, so that what was at first an awful chance became a
Judith, after enduring many dangers for virtue's sake, gained very many
and great benefits.
82. See! Judith presents herself to thee as worthy of admiration. She
approaches Holophernes, a man feared by the people, and surrounded by the
victorious troops of the Assyrians. At first she makes an impression on
him by the grace of her form and the beauty of her countenance. Then she
entraps him by the refinement of her speech. Her first triumph was that
she returned from the tent of the enemy with her purity unspotted. Her
second, that she gained a victory over a man, and put to flight the people
by her counsel.
83. The Persians were terrified at her daring. And so what is admired
in the case of those two Pythagoreans deserves also in her case our
admiration, for she trembled not at the danger of death, nor even at the
danger her modesty was in, which is a matter of greater concern to good
women. She feared not the blow of one scoundrel, nor even the weapons of a
whole army. She, a woman, stood between the lines of the combatants
right amidst victorious arms heedless of death. As one looks at her
overwhelming danger, one would say she went out to die; as one looks at
her faith, one says she went but out to fight.
84. Judith then followed the call of virtue, and as she follows that,
she wins great benefits. It was virtuous to prevent the people of the Lord
from giving themselves up to the heathen; to prevent them from betraying
their native rites and mysteries, or from yielding up their consecrated
virgins, their venerable widows, and modest matrons to barbarian impurity,
or from ending the siege by a surrender. It was virtuous for her to be
willing to encounter danger on behalf of all, so as to deliver all from
85. How great must have been the power of her virtue, that she, a
woman, should claim to give counsel on the chiefest matters and not leave
it in the hands of the leaders of the people! How great, again, the power
of her virtue to reckon for certain upon God to help her! How great her
grace to find His help!
How virtuous and useful was that which Elisha did. This is compared
with that oft-recounted act of the Greeks. John gave up his life for
virtue's sake, and Susanna for the same reason exposed herself to the
danger of death.
86. What did Elisha follow but virtue, when he brought the army of
Syria who had come to take him as captive into Samaria, after having
covered their eyes with blindness? Then he said: "O Lord, open their eyes
that they may see." And they saw. But when the king of Israel wished to
slay those that had entered and asked the prophet to give him leave to do
so, he answered that they whose captivity was not brought about by
strength of hand or weapons of war must not be slain, but that rather he
should help them by supplying food. Then they were refreshed with plenty
of food. And after that those Syrian robbers thought they must never again
return to the land of Israel.
87. How much nobler was this than that which the Greeks once did! For
when two nations strove one with the other to gain glory and supreme
power, and one of them had the opportunity to burn the ships of the other
secretly, they thought it a shameful thing to do so, and preferred to gain
a less advantage honourably than a greater one in shameful wise. They,
indeed, could not act thus without disgrace to themselves, and entrap by
this plot those who had banded together for the sake of ending the Persian
war. Though they could deny it in word, yet they could never but blush at
the thought of it. Elisha, however, wished to save, not destroy, those who
were deceived indeed, though not by some foul act, and had been struck
blind by the power of the Lord. For it was seemly to spare an enemy, and
to grant his life to an adversary when indeed he could have taken it, had
he not spared it.
88. It is plain, then, that whatever is seemly is always useful. For
holy Judith by seemly disregard for her own safety put an end to the
dangers of the siege, and by her own virtue won what was useful to all in
common. And Elisha gained more renown by pardoning than he would have done
by slaying, and preserved those enemies whom he had taken for greater
89. And what else did John have in mind but what is virtuous, so that
he could not endure a wicked union even in the king's case, saying: "It is
not lawful for thee to have her to wife." He could have been silent, had
he not thought it unseemly for himself not to speak the truth for fear of
death, or to make the prophetic office yield to the king, or to indulge in
flattery. He knew well that he would die as he was against the king, but
he preferred virtue to safety. Yet what is more expedient than the
suffering which brought glory to the saint.
90. Holy Susanna, too, when threatened with the fear of false witness,
seeing herself hard pressed on one side by danger, on the other by
disgrace, preferred to avoid disgrace by a virtuous death rather than to
endure and live a shameful life in the desire to save herself. So while
she fixed her mind on virtue, she also preserved her life. But if she had
preferred what seemed to her to be useful to preserve life, she would
never have gained such great renown, nay, perhaps-and that would have been
not only useless but even dangerous she might even not have escaped the
penalty for her crime. We note, therefore, that whatsoever is shameful
cannot be useful, nor, again, can that which is virtuous be useless. For
usefulness is ever the double of virtue, and virtue of usefulness.
After mentioning a noble action of the Romans, the writer shows from
the deeds of Moses that he had the greatest regard for what is virtuous.
91. IT is related as a memorable deed of a Roman general, that when the
physician of a hostile king came to him and promised to give him poison,
he sent him back bound to the enemy. In truth, it is a noble thing for a
man to refuse to gain the victory by foul acts, after he has entered on
the struggle for power. He did not consider virtue to lie in victory, but
declared that to be a shameful victory unless it was gained with honour.
92. Let us return to our hero Moses, and to loftier deeds, to show they
were both superior as well as earlier. The king of Egypt would not let the
people of our fathers go, Then Moses bade the priest Aaron to stretch his
rod over all the waters of Egypt. Aaron stretched it out, and the water of
the river was turned into blood. None could drink the water, and all the
Egyptians were perishing with thirst; but there was pure water flowing in
abundance for the fathers. They sprinkled ashes toward heaven, and sores
and burning boils came upon man and beast. They brought down hail mingled
with flaming fire, and all things were destroyed upon the land. Moses
prayed, and all things were restored to their former beauty. The hail
ceased, the sores were healed, the rivers gave their wonted draught.
93. Then, again, the land was covered with thick darkness for the space
of three days, because Moses had raised his hand and spread out the
darkness. All the first-born of Egypt died, whilst all the offspring of
the Hebrews was left unharmed. Moses was asked to put an end to these
horrors, and he prayed and obtained his request. In the one case it was a
fact worthy of praise that he checked himself from joining in deceit; in
the other it was noteworthy how, by his innate goodness, he turned aside
from the foe those divinely ordered punishments. He was indeed, as it is
written, gentle and meek. He knew that the king would not keep true to his
promises, yet he thought it right and good to pray when asked to do so, to
bless when wronged, to forgive when besought.
94. He cast down his rod and it became a serpent which devoured the
serpents of Egypt; this signifying that the Word should become Flesh to
destroy the poison of the dread serpent by the forgiveness and pardon of
sins. For the rod stands for the Word that is true royal filled with
power and glorious in ruling. The rod became a serpent; so He Who was
the Son of God begotten of the Father became the Son of man born of a
woman, and lifted, like the serpent, on the cross, poured His healing
medicine on the wounds of man. Wherefore the Lord Himself says: "As Moses
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted
95. Again, another sign which Moses gave points to our Lord Jesus
Christ. He put his hand into his bosom, and drew it out again, and his
hand was become as snow. A second time he put it in and drew it out, and
it was again like the appearance of human flesh. This signified first the
original glory of the Godhead of the Lord Jesus, and then the assumption
of our flesh, in which truth all nations and peoples must believe. So he
put in his hand, for Christ is the right hand of God; and whosoever does
not believe in His Godhead and Incarnation is punished as a sinner; like
that king who, whilst not believing open and plain signs, yet afterwards,
when punished, prayed that he might find mercy. How great, then, Moses'
regard for virtue must have been is shown by these proofs, and especially
by the fact that he offered himself on behalf of the people, praying that
God would either forgive the people or blot him out of the book of the
After saying a few words about Tobit he demonstrates that Raguel
surpassed the philosophers in virtue.
96. Tobit also clearly portrayed in his life true virtue, when he left
the feast and buried the dead, and invited the needy to the meals at his
own poor table. And Raguel is a still brighter example. For he, in his
regard for virtue, when asked to give his daughter in marriage, was not
silent regarding his daughter's faults, for fear of seeming to get the
better of the suitor by silence. So when Tobit the son of Tobias asked
that his daughter might be given him, he answered that, according to the
law, she ought to be given him as near of kin, but that he had already
given her to six men, and all of them were dead. This just man, then,
feared more for others than for himself, and wished rather that his
daughter should remain unmarried than that others should run risks in
consequence of their union with her.
97. How simply he settled all the questions of the philosophers! They
talk about the defects of a house, whether they ought to be concealed or
made known by the vendor. Raguel was quite certain that his daughter's
faults ought not to be kept secret. And, indeed, he had not been eager to
give her up he was asked for her. We can have no doubt how much more
nobly he acted than those philosophers, when we consider how much more
important a daughter's future is than some mere money affair.
With what virtuous feelings the fathers of old hid the sacred fires
when on the point of going into captivity.
98. Let us consider, again, that deed done at the time of the
captivity, which has attained the highest degree of virtue and glory.
Virtue is checked by no adversities, for it rises up among them, and
prevails here rather than in prosperity. 'Mid chains or arms, 'mid flames
or slavery (which is harder for freemen to bear than any punishment),
'midst the pains of the dying, the destruction of their country, the fears
of the living, or the blood of the slain, amidst all this our
forefathers failed not in their care and thought for what is virtuous.
Amidst the ashes and dust of their fallen country it glowed and shone
forth brightly in pious efforts.
99. For when our fathers were carried away into Persia, certain
priests, who then were in the service of Almighty God, secretly buried in
the valley the fire taken from the altar of the Lord. There was there an
open pit, with no water in it, and not accessible for the wants of the
people, in a spot unknown and free from intruders. There they sealed the
hidden fire with the sacred mark and in secret. They were not anxious to
bury gold or to hide up silver to preserve it for their children, but in
their own great peril, thinking of all that was virtuous, they thought the
sacred fire ought to be preserved so that impure men might not defile it,
nor the blood of the slain extinguish it, nor the heaps of miserable ruins
100. So they went to Persia, free only in their religion; for that
alone could not be torn from them by their captivity. After a length of
time, indeed, according to God's good pleasure, He put it into the Persian
king's heart to order the temple in Judea to be restored, and the regular
customs to be again rebuilt at Jerusalem. To carry out this work of his
the Persian king appointed the priest Nehemiah. He took with him the
grandchildren of those priests who on leaving their native soil had hidden
the sacred fire to save it from perishing. But on arriving, as we are told
in the history of the fathers, they found not fire but water. And when
fire was wanting to burn upon the altars, the priest Nehemiah bade them
draw the water, to bring it to him, and to sprinkle it upon the wood.
Then, O wondrous sight! though the sky had been overcast with clouds,
suddenly the sun shone forth, a great fire flamed forth, so that all,
wonder-stricken at such a clear sign of the favour of the Lord, were
filled with joy. Nehemiah prayed; the priests sang a hymn of praise to
God, when the sacrifice was completed. Nehemiah again bade the remainder
of the water to be poured upon the larger stones. And when this was done a
flame burst forth whilst the light shining from off the altar shone more
101. When this sign became known, the king of Persia ordered a temple
to be built on that spot where the fire had been hidden and the water
afterwards found, to which many gifts were made. They who were with holy
Nehemiah called it Naphthar, which means cleansing by many it is
called Nephi. It is to be found also in the history of the prophet
Jeremiah, that he bade those who should come after him to take of the
fire. That is the fire which fell on Moses' sacrifice and consumed it, as
it is written: "There came a fire out from the Lord and consumed upon the
altar all the whole burnt-offering." The sacrifice must be hallowed with
this fire only. Therefore, also, fire went out from the Lord upon the sons
of Aaron who wished to offer strange fire, and consumed them, so that
their dead bodies were cast forth without the camp.
101. Jeremiah coming to a spot found there a house like a cave, and
brought into it the tabernacle, the ark, and the altar of incense, and
closed up the entrance. And when those who had come with him examined it
rather closely to mark the spot, they could not discover nor find it. When
Jeremiah understood what they wanted he said: "The spot will remain
unknown until God shall gather His people together and be gracious to
them. Then God shall reveal these things and the majesty of the Lord shall
In the narration of that event already mentioned, and especially of the
sacrifice offered by Nehemiah, is typified the Holy Spirit and Christian
baptism. The sacrifice of Moses and Elijah and the history of Noah are
also referred to the same.
102. We form the congregation of the Lord. We recognize the
propitiation of our Lord God, which our Propitiator wrought in His
passion. I think, too, we cannot leave out of sight that fire when we read
that the Lord Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, as John
said in his Gospel. Rightly was the sacrifice consumed, for it was for
sin. But that fire was a type of the Holy Spirit Who was to come down
after the Lord's ascension, and forgive the sins of all, and Who like fire
inflames the mind and faithful heart. Wherefore Jeremiah, after receiving
the Spirit, says: "It became in my heart as a burning fire flaming in my
bones, and I am vile and cannot bear it." In the Acts of the Apostles,
also, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and those others
who were waiting for the Promise of the Father, we read that tongues as of
fire were distributed among them. The soul of each one was so uplifted by
His influence that they were supposed to be full of new wine, who instead
had received the gift of a diversity of tongues.
103. What else can this mean namely, that fire became water and water
called forth fire but that spiritual grace burns out our sins through
fire, and through water cleanses them? For sin is washed away and it is
burnt away. Wherefore the Apostle says: "The fire shall try every man's
work of what sort it is." And further on: "If any man's work shall be
burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by
104. This, then, we have stated, so as to prove that sins are burnt out
by means of fire. We know now that this is in truth the sacred fire which
then, as a type of the future remission of sins, came down upon the
105. This fire is hidden in the time of captivity, during which sin
reigns, but in the time of liberty it is brought forth. And though it is
changed into the appearance of water, yet it preserves its nature as fire
so as to consume the sacrifice. Do not wonder when thou readest that God
the Father said: "I am a consuming fire." And again: "They have forsaken
Me, the fountain of living water." The Lord Jesus, too, like a fire
inflamed the hearts of those who heard Him, and like a fount of waters
cooled them. For He Himself said in His Gospel that He came to send fire
on the earth and to supply a draught of living waters to those who thirst.
106. In the time of Elijah, also, fire came down when he challenged the
prophets of the heathen to light up the altar without fire. When they
could not do so, he poured water thrice over his victim, so that the water
ran round about the altar; then he cried out and the fire fell from the
Lord from heaven and consumed the burnt-offering.
107. Thou art that victim. Contemplate in silence each single point.
The breath of the Holy Spirit descends on thee, He seems to burn thee when
He consumes thy sins. The sacrifice which was consumed in the time of
Moses was a sacrifice for sin, wherefore Moses said, as is written in the
book of the Maccabees: "Because the sacrifice for sin was not to be eaten,
it was consumed." Does it not seem to be consumed for thee when in the
sacrament of baptism the whole outer man perishes? "Our old man is
crucified," the Apostle exclaims. Herein, as the example of the fathers
teaches us, the Egyptian is swallowed up the Hebrew arises renewed by
the Holy Spirit, as he also crossed the Red Sea dryshod where our
fathers were baptized in the cloud and in the sea.
108. In the flood, too, in Noah's time all flesh died, though just Noah
was preserved together with his family. Is not a man consumed when all
that is mortal is cut off from life? The outer man is destroyed, but the
inner is renewed. Not in baptism alone but also in repentance does this
destruction of the flesh tend to the growth of the spirit, as we are
taught on the Apostle's authority, when holy Paul says: "I have judged as
though I were present him that hath so done this deed, to deliver him unto
Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in
the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
109. We seem to have made a somewhat lengthy digression for the sake of
regarding this wonderful mystery, in desiring to unfold more fully this
sacrament which has been revealed to us, and which, indeed, is as full of
virtue as it is full of religious awe.
The crime committed by the inhabitants of Gibeah against the wife of a
certain Levite is related, and from the vengeance taken it is inferred how
the idea of virtue must have filled the heart of those people of old.
110. WHAT regard for virtue our forefathers had to avenge by a war the
wrongs of one woman which had been brought on her by her violation at the
hands of profligate men! Nay, when the people were conquered, they vowed
that they would not give their daughters in marriage to the tribe of
Benjamin! That tribe had remained without hope of posterity, had they not
received leave of necessity to use deceit. And this permission does not
seem to fail in giving fitting punishment for violation, since they were
only allowed to enter on a union by a rape, and not through the sacrament
of marriage. And indeed it was right that they who had broken another's
intercourse should themselves lose their marriage rites.
111. How full of pitiful traits is this story! A man, it says, a
Levite, had taken to himself a wife, who I suppose was called a concubine
from the word "concubitus." She some time afterwards, as is wont to
happen, offended at certain things, betook herself to her father, and was
with him four months. Then her husband arose and went to the house of his
father-in-law, to reconcile himself with his wife, to win her back and
take her home again. The woman ran to meet him and brought her husband
into her father's house.
112. The maiden's father rejoiced and went to meet him, and the man
stayed with him three days, and they ate and rested. On the next day the
Levite arose at daybreak, but was detained by his father-in-law, that he
might not so quickly lose the pleasure of his company. Again on the next
and the third day the maiden's father did not suffer his son-in-law to
start, until their joy and mutual regard was complete. But on the seventh
day, when it was already drawing to a close, after a pleasant meal, having
urged the approach of the coming night, so as to make him think he ought
to sleep amongst friends rather than strangers, he was unable to keep him,
and so let him go together with his daughter.
113. When some little progress was made, though night was threatening
to come on, and they were close by the town of the Jebusites, on the
slave's request that his lord should turn aside there, he refused, because
it was not a city of the children of Israel. He meant to get as far as
Gibeah, which was inhabited by the people of the tribe of Benjamin. But
when they arrived there was no one to receive them with hospitality,
except a stranger of advanced age When he had looked upon them he asked
the Levite: Whither goest thou and whence dost thou come? On his answering
that he was travelling and was making for Mount Ephraim and that there was
no one to take him in, the old man offered him hospitality and prepared a
114. And when they were satisfied and the tables were removed, vile men
rushed up and surrounded the house. Then the old man offered these wicked
men his daughter, a virgin, and the concubine with whom she shared her
bed, only that violence might not be inflicted on his guest. But when
reason did no good and violence prevailed, the Levite parted from his
wife, and they knew her and abused her all that night. Overcome by this
cruelty or by grief at her wrong, she fell at the door of their host where
her husband had entered, and gave up the ghost, with the last effort of
her life guarding the feelings of a good wife so as to preserve for her
husband at least her mortal remains.
115. When this became known (to be brief) almost all the people of
Israel broke out into war. The war remained doubtful with an uncertain
issue, but in the third engagement the people of Benjamin were delivered
to the people of Israel, and being condemned by the divine judgment paid
the penalty for their profligacy. The sentence, further, was that none of
the people of the fathers should give his daughter in marriage to them.
This was confirmed by a solemn oath. But relenting at having laid so hard
a sentence on their brethren, they moderated their severity so as to give
them in marriage those maidens that had lost their parents, whose fathers
had been slain for their sins, or to give them the means of finding a wife
by a raid. Because of the villainy of so foul a deed, they who have
violated another's marriage rights were shown to be unworthy to ask for
marriage. But for fear that one tribe might perish from the people, they
connived at the deceit.
116. What great regard our forefathers had for virtue is shown by the
fact that forty thousand men drew the sword against their brethren of the
tribe of Benjamin in their desire to avenge the wrong done to modesty, for
they would not endure the violation of chastity. And so in that war on
both sides there fell sixty-five thousand warriors, whilst their cities
were burnt. And when at first the people of Israel were defeated, yet
unmoved by fear at the reverses of the war, they disregarded the sorrow
the avenging of chastity cost them. They rushed into the battle ready to
wash out with their own blood the stains of the crime that had been
After the terrible siege of Samaria was ended in accordance with
Elisha's prophecy, he relates what regard the four lepers showed for what
117. WHY need we wonder that the people of the Lord had regard for what
was seemly and virtuous when even the lepers as we read in the books of
the Kings showed concern for what is virtuous?
118. There was a great famine in Samaria, for the army of the Syrians
was besieging it. The king in his anxiety was making the round of the
guards on the wails when a woman addressed him, saying: This woman
persuaded me to give up my son and I gave him up, and we boiled him and
did eat him. And she promised that she would afterwards bring her son and
that we should eat his flesh together, but now she hath hidden her son and
will not bring him. The king was troubled because these women seemed to
have fed not merely on human bodies, but on the bodies of their own
children; and being moved by an example of such awful misery, threatened
the prophet Elisha with death. For he believed it was in his power to
break up the siege and to avert the famine; or else he was angry because
the prophet had not allowed the king to smite the Syrians whom he had
struck with blindness.
119. Elisha sat with the elders at Bethel, and before the king's
messenger came to him he said to the elders: "See ye how the son of that
murderess hath sent to take away mine head?" Then the messenger entered
and brought the king's command threatening instant danger to his life. Him
the prophet answered: "To-morrow about this time shall a measure of fine
flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel in the
gate of Samaria." Then when the messenger sent by the king would not
believe it, saying: "If the Lord would rain abundance of corn from heaven,
not even so would that come about," Elisha said to him: "Because thou hast
not believed, thou shall see it with thine eyes, but shall not eat of it."
120. And suddenly in the camp of Syria was there heard, as it were, a
sound of chariots and a loud noise of horses and the noise of a great
host, and the tumult of some vast battle. And the Syrians thought that the
king of Israel had called to his help in the battle the king of Egypt and
the king of the Amorites, and they fled at dawn leaving their tents, for
they feared that they might be crushed by the sudden arrival of fresh
foes, and would not be able to withstand the united forces of the kings.
This was unknown in Samaria, for they dared not go out of the town, being
overcome with fear and also being weak through hunger.
121. But there were four lepers at the gate of the city to whom life
was a misery, and to die would be gain. And they said one to another:
"Behold we sit here and die. If we enter into the city, we shall die with
hunger; if we remain here, there are no means of living at hand for us.
Let us go to the Syrian camp, either they will quickly kill us or grant us
the means of safety." So they went and entered into the camp, and behold,
all was forsaken by the enemy. Entering the tents, first of all on finding
food they satisfied their hunger, then they laid hold of as much gold and
silver as they could. But whilst they were intent on the booty alone, they
arranged to announce to the king that the Syrians had fled, for they
thought this more virtuous than to withhold the information and keep for
themselves the plunder gained by deceit.
122. At this information the peoples went forth and plundered the
Syrian camp. The supplies of the enemy produced an abundance, and brought
about cheapness of corn according to the prophet's word: "A measure of
fine flour for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel." In this
rejoicing of the people, that officer on whose hand the king leaned died,
being crushed and trodden under foot by the people as the crowds kept
hurrying to go out or returned with great rejoicing.
Esther in danger of her life followed the grace of virtue; nay, even a
heathen king did so, when death was threatened to a man most friendly to
him, For friendship must ever be combined with virtue, as the examples of
Jonathan and Ahimelech show.
123. Why did Queen Esther expose herself to death and not fear the
wrath of a fierce king? Was it not to save her people from death, an act
both seemly and virtuous? The king of Persia himself also, though fierce
and proud, yet thought it seemly to show honour to the man who had given
information about a plot which had been laid against himself, to save a
free people from slavery, to snatch them from death, and not to spare him
who had pressed on such unseemly plans. So finally he handed over to the
gallows the man that stood second to himself, and whom he counted chief
among all his friends, because he considered that he had dishonoured him
by his false counsels.
124. For that commendable friendship which maintains virtue is to be
preferred most certainly to wealth, or honours, or power. It is not wont
to be preferred to virtue indeed, but to follow after it. So it was with
Jonathan, s who for his affection's sake avoided not his father's
displeasure nor the danger to his own safety. So, too, it was with
Ahimelech, who, to preserve the duties of hospitality, thought he must
endure death rather than betray his friend when fleeing.
Virtue must never be given up for the sake of a friend. If, however,
one has to bear witness against a friend, it must be done with caution.
Between friends what candour is needed in opening the heart, what
magnanimity in suffering, what freedom in finding fault! Friendship is the
guardian of virtues, which are not to be found but in men of like
character. It must be mild in rebuking and averse to seeking its own
advantage; whence it happens that true friends are scarce among the rich.
What is the dignity of friendship? The treachery of a friend, as it is
worse, so it is also more hateful than another's, as is recognized from
the example of Judas and of Job's friends.
125. Nothing, then, must be set before virtue; and that it may never be
set aside by the desire for friendship, Scripture also gives us a warning
on the subject of friendship. There are, indeed various questions raised
among philosophers; for instance whether a man ought for the sake of a
friend to plot against his country or not, so as to serve his friend?
Whether it is right to break one's faith, and so aid and maintain a
126. And Scripture also says: "A maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow,
so is a man that beareth false witness against his friend." But note what
it adds. It blames not witness given against a friend, but false witness.
For what if the cause of God or of one's country compels one to give
witness? Ought friendship to take a higher place than our religion, or our
love for our fellow-citizens? In these matters, however, true witness is
required so that a friend may not be assailed by the treachery of a
friend, by whose good faith he ought to be acquitted. A man, then, ought
never to please a friend who desires evil, or to plot against one who is
127. Certainly, if it is necessary to give witness, then, when one
knows of any fault in a friend, one ought to rebuke him secretly if he
does not listen, one must do it openly. For rebukes are good, and often
better than a silent friendship. Even if a friend thinks himself hurt,
still rebuke him; and if the bitterness of the correction wounds his mind,
still rebuke him and fear not. "The wounds of a friend are better than the
kisses of flatterers:" Rebuke, then, thy erring friend; forsake not an
innocent one. For friendship ought to be steadfast s and to rest firm in
true affection. We ought not to change our friends in childish fashion at
some idle fancy.
128. Open thy breast to a friend that he may be faithful to thee, and
that thou mayest receive from him the delight of thy life. "For a faithful
friend is the medicine of life and the grace of immortality." Give way to
a friend as to an equal, and be not ashamed to be beforehand with thy
friend in doing kindly duties. For friendship knows nothing of pride. So
the wise man says: "Do not blush to greet a friend." Do not desert a
friend in time of need, nor forsake him nor fail him, for friendship is
the support of life. Let us then bear our burdens as the Apostle has
taught: for he spoke to those whom the charity of the same one body had
embraced together. If friends in prosperity help friends, why do they not
also in times of adversity offer their support? Let us aid by giving
counsel, let us offer our best endeavours, let us sympathize with them
with all our heart.
129. If necessary, let us endure for a friend even hardship. Often
enmity has to be borne for the sake of a friend's innocence; oftentimes
revilings, if one defends and answers for a friend who is found fault with
and accused. Do not be afraid of such displeasure, for the voice of the
just says: "Though evil come upon me, I will endure it for a friend's
sake." In adversity, too, a friend is proved, for in prosperity all seem
to be friends. But as in adversity patience and endurance are needed, so
in prosperity strong influence is wanted to check and confute the
arrogance of a friend who becomes overbearing.
130. How nobly Job when he was in adversity said: "Pity me, my friends,
pity me." That is not a cry as it were of misery, but rather one of blame.
For when he was unjustly reproached by his friends, he answered: "Pity me,
my friends," that is, ye ought to show pity, but instead ye assail and
overwhelm a man with whose sufferings ye ought to show sympathy for
131. Preserve, then, my sons, that friendship ye have begun with your
brethren, for nothing in the world is more beautiful than that. It is
indeed a comfort in this life to have one to whom thou canst open thy
heart, with whom thou canst share confidences, and to whom thou canst
entrust the secrets of thy heart. It is a comfort to have a trusty man by
thy side, who will rejoice with thee in prosperity, sympathize in
troubles, encourage in persecution. What good friends those Hebrew
children were whom the flames of the fiery furnace did not separate from
their love of each other! Of them we have already spoken. Holy David says
well: "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant, inseparable in their
life, in death they were not divided."
132. This is the fruit of friendship; and so faith may not be put aside
for the sake of friendship. He cannot be a friend to a man who has been
unfaithful to God. Friendship is the guardian of pity and the teacher of
equality, so as to make the superior equal to the inferior, and the
inferior to the superior. For there can be no friendship between diverse
characters, and so the good-will of either ought to be mutually suited to
the other. Let not authority be wanting to the inferior if the matter
demands it, nor humility to the superior. Let him listen to the other as
though he were of like position an equal, and let the other warn and
reprove like a friend, not from a desire to show off, but with a deep
feeling of love.
134. Let not thy warning be harsh, nor thy rebuke bitter, for as
friendship ought to avoid flattery, so, too, ought it to be free from
arrogance. For what is a friend but a partner in love, to whom thou
unitest and attachest thy soul, and with whom thou blendest so as to
desire from being two to become one; to whom thou entrustest thyself as to
a second self, from whom thou fearest nothing, and from whom thou
demandest nothing dishonourable for the sake of thine own advantage.
Friendship is not meant as a source of revenue, but is full of seemliness,
full of grace. Friendship is a virtue, not a way of making money. It is
produced, not by money, but by esteem; not by the offer of rewards, but by
a mutual rivalry in doing kindnesses.
134. Lastly, the friendships of the poor are generally better than
those of the rich, and often the rich are without friends, whilst the poor
have many. For true friendship cannot exist where there is lying flattery.
Many try fawningly to please the rich, but no one cares to make pretence
to a poor man. Whatsoever is stated to a poor man is true, his friendship
is free from envy.
135. What is more precious than friendship which is shared alike by
angels and by men? Wherefore the Lord Jesus says: "Make to yourselves
friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they may receive you into
eternal habitations." God Himself makes us friends instead of servants, as
He Himself says: "Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you." He
gave us a pattern of friendship to follow. We are to fulfil the wish of a
friend, to unfold to him our secrets which we hold in our own hearts, and
are not to disregard his confidences. Let us show him our heart and he
will open his to us. Therefore He says: "I have called you friends, for I
have made known unto you all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father."
A friend, then, if he is a true one, hides nothing; he pours forth his
soul as the Lord Jesus poured forth the mysteries of His Father.
136. So he who does the will of God is His friend and is honoured with
this name. He who is of one mind with Him, he too is His friend. For there
is unity of mind in friends, and no one is more hateful than the man that
injures friendship. Hence in the traitor the Lord found this the worst
point on which to condemn his treachery, namely, that he gave no sign of
gratitude and had mingled the poison of malice at the table of friendship.
So He says: "It was thou, a man of like mind, My guide and Mine
acquaintance, who ever didst take pleasant meals with Me." That is: it
could not be endured, for thou didst fall upon Him Who granted grace to
thee. "For if My enemy had reproached Me I could have borne it, and I
would have hid Myself from him who hated Me." An enemy can be avoided; a
friend cannot, if he desires to lay a plot. Let us guard against him to
whom we do not entrust our plans; we cannot guard against him to whom we
have already entrusted them. And so to show up all the hatefulness of the
sin He did not say: Thou, My servant, My apostle; but thou, a man of like
mind with Me; that is: thou art not My but thy own betrayer, for thou
didst betray a man of like mind with thyself.
137. The Lord Himself, when He was displeased with the three princes
who had not deferred to holy Job, wished to pardon them through their
friend, so that the prayer of friendship might win remission of sins.
Therefore Job asked and God pardoned. Friendship helped them whom
arrogance had harmed.
138. These things I have left with you, my children, that you may guard
them in your minds you yourselves will prove whether they will be of any
advantage. Meanwhile they offer you a large number of examples, for almost
all the examples drawn from our forefathers, and also many a word of
theirs, are included within these three books; so that, although the
language may not be graceful, yet a succession of old-time examples set
down in such small compass may offer much instruction.
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.