Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

c. 1.

Evil no Substance. A good life proves the power of Grace. 199 sin, do not think of it as a substantial" power, but evil Rom.

7, 13. doing, as it comes upon men and goes from them continually, and which, before it takes place, has no being, and when it has taken place, vanishes again. This then was why the Law was given. Now no law is ever given to put an end to things natural, but in order to correct a way of acting purposely wicked. And this the lawgivers that are without too are aware of, and all mankind in general. For it is the evils from viciousness alone that they are for setting right, and they do not undertake to extirpate those allotted us along with our nature: since this they cannot do. For things natural remain unalterable", as we have told you frequently in other discourses Arist.

Etb.6.2. also. And so let us leave these contests, and again practise So

5 Mss. ourselves in exhortation. Or rather, this last part belongs Sav. 1 I to those contests. For if we cast out wickedness, we should

have bring virtue in also: and by these means we shall clearly teach that wickedness is no natural evil, and shall be able easily to stop the mouths of them that enquire for the origin of evil, not by means of words only, but of actions also, since we share the same nature with them, but are freed from their wickedness. For let us not be looking at the laboriousness of virtue, but at the possibility of succeeding in it. But if we be earnest, it will be at once light and palatable to us. But if you tell me of the pleasure of vice, tell out its end too. For it issueth in death, even as virtue leadeth us to life. Or if you think fit, let us rather scrutinize them both eren before their end; for we shall see that vice has a great deal of pain attached to it, and virtue great pleasure. For what pray

For what pray is so painful as a bad conscience? or what more pleasing than a good hope? For there is nothing, assuredly there is nothing, which is used to cut us so deep, and press so hard on us, as the expectation of evil: nothing that so keeps us up, and all but gives us wings, as a good conscience. And this we may get a

* See Herbert's Poems, 2d on Sin. Aug. Conf. vii. s. 12. (18.) Tr. p. 122.

Oh that I could a sin once see!' &c. and De Civ. Dei, xi. $. 9. xii. $. 2. Also Möbler Symb. I. i. c. 8. also St.

200

A life of sin miserable through fear. Homil. knowledge of by what takes place before our eyes. For XII.

they that dwell in a prison, and are in expectation of sentence against them, let them have never so much food to enjoy, live a more afflicting life than those that go a begging by the by-roads, yet with nothing upon their consciences to trouble them. For the expectation of a dreadful end will not let them perceive those pleasures which they have in their hands. And why do I speak of prisoners ? Why, as for those that are living out of prison, and have a good fortune, yet have a bad conscience about them, handicraftsmen that work for their bread, and spend the whole day amid their labour, are in a far better plight than they! And for this reason too we say, How miserable the gladiators are, (though seeing them as we do in taverns, drunken, luxurious, gormandizing,) and call them the most miserable of men, because the calamity of the end which they must expect is too great to admit of comparison with that pleasure. Now if to them a life of this sort seems to be pleasing, remember what I am continually telling you, that it is no such marvel, that a man who lives in vice should not flee from the misery and pain of vice. For see how a thing so detestable as that, yet seems to be delectable to those who practise it. Yet we do not on this account say, how happy they are, for this is just the very reason why we think them pitiable, because they have no notion of the evils they are amongst. And what would you say of adulterers, who for a little pleasure undergo at once a disgraceful slavery, and a loss of money, and a perpetual fear, and in fact the very life of a Cain, or rather one that is even much worse than his, filled with fears for the present, and trembling for the future, and suspecting alike friend and foe, and those that know about it, and those that know nothing? Neither when they go to sleep are they quit of this struggle, their bad conscience shaping out for them dreams that abound with sundry terrors, and in this way horrifying them. Far otherwise is the chaste man, seeing he passes the present life unshackled and at full liberty. Weigh then against the little pleasure, the sundry fluctuations of these terrors, and with the short labour of continency, the calm of an

Unlimited desire mars the pleasures of sin.

201

entire life; and you will find the latter hath more of Homil.

XII. pleasantness than the former. But as for the man that is set upon plundering and laying hands upon other men's goods, tell me if he has not to undergo countless pains in the way of running about, fawning upon slaves, freemen, door-keepers; alarming and threatening, acting shamelessly, watching, trembling, in agony, suspecting every body. Far otherwise is the man that holds riches in contempt, for he too enjoys pleasure in abundance, and lives with no fear, and in perfect security. And if any one were to go through the other instances of vice, he would find much trouble, and many rocks. But what is of greater importance is, that in the case of virtue the difficulties come first, and the pleasant part afterwards, so the trouble is even thus alleviated. But in the case of vice, the reverse. After the pleasure, the pains and the punishments, so that by these besides the pleasure is done away. For as he who waits for the crown, perceives nothing of present annoyance, so he that has to expect the punishments after the pleasures has no power of gathering in a gladness that is unalloyed, since the fear puts every thing in confusion. Or rather if any one were to scrutinize the thing with care, even before the punishment which follows upon these things, he would find that even at the very moment when vice is boldly entered upon, a great deal of pain is felt. And, if you think fit, let us just examine this in the case of those who plunder other men's goods. Or those who in any way get together money, and setting aside the fears, and dangers, and trembling, and agony, and care, and all these things, let us suppose the case of a man, who has got rich without any annoyance, and feels sure about maintaining his present fortune, (which he has no means of doing, still for all that let it be assumed for argument's sake.) What sort of pleasure then is he to gather in from having so much about him? On the contrary, it is just this very thing that will not let him be glad-hearted. For as long as ever he desires other things besides, he is still upon the rack. Because desire gives pleasure at the time it has come to a stand. If thirsty, for instance, we feel refreshed, when we have

1

202 Covetousness. Fatal effects of despising little sins. Rom. drunk as much as we wish; but so long as we keep 7, 13. thirsty, even if we were to have exhausted all the fountains

in the world, our torment were but growing greater, even if we were to drink up ten thousand rivers, our state of punishment were more distressing. And thou also, if thou wert to receive the goods of the whole world, and still to covet, wouldest make thy punishment the greater, the more things thou hadst tasted of. Fancy not then, that from having gathered a great sum together thou shalt have ought of pleasure, but rather by declining to be rich. But if thou covetest to be rich thou wilt be always under the scourge. For this is a kind of love that does not reach its aim; and the longer journey thou hast gone, the further off thou keepest from the end. Is not this a paradox then, a derangement, a madness in the extreme? Let us then forsake this first of evils, or rather let us

not even touch this covetousness at all. Yet, if we have rpoos touched it, let us spring away from its first motions ?. For píme

this is the advice the writer of the Proverbs gives us, when Prov. 5, he speaks about the harlot: Spring away, he says, tarry 8.

not, neither go thou near to the door of her house : this same thing I would say to you about the love of money. For if by entering gradually you fall into this ocean of madness, you will not be able to get up out of it with ease, and as if you were in whirlpools °, struggle as often as ever you may, it will not be easy for you to get clear; so

after falling into this far worse abyss of covetousness, you Acts 8, will destroy your own self, with all that belongs to you.

And so my advice is that we be on our watch against the beginning, and avoid little evils, for the great ones are gendered by these. For he who gets into a way of saying at every sin, It is but this! will by little and little ruin himself entirely. At all events it is

this which has introduced vice, which has opened the 25 Mss, doors to the robber, which has thrown down the walls

of cities, this saying at each sin, “It is but this! Thus in the case of the body too, the greatest of diseases grow up, when trifling ones are made light of.

20.

devil

onart Pierson ad Mærin. p. 181-197.

Best to abstain from the occasions of Evil. 203 If Esau had not first been a traitor to his birthright, he Rom. would not have become unworthy of the blessings. If he 7, 13. had not rendered himself unworthy of the blessings, he would not have had the desire of going on to fratricide. If Cain had not fallen in love with the first place, but had left that to God, he would not have had the second place. Again, when he had the second place, if he had listened to the advice, he would not have travailed with the murder. Again, if after doing the murder he had come to repentance, when God called him, and had not answered in an irreverent way, he would not have had to suffer the subsequent evils. But if those before the Law did owing to this listlessness come to the very bottom of misery, only consider what is to become of us, who are called to a greater contest, unless we take strict heed unto ourselves, and make speed to quench the sparks of evil deeds before the whole pile is kindled. Take an instance of my meaning. Are you in the habit of false swearing? do not stop at this only, but away with all swearing, and you will have no further need of trouble. For it is far harder for a man that swears to keep from false swearing, than to abstain from swearing altogether P. Are you an insulting and abusive person? a striker too? Lay down as a law for yourself not to be angry or brawl in the least, and with the root the fruit also will be gotten rid of. Are you lustful and dissipated? Make it your rule again Job 31,

1. not even to look at a woman, or to go up into the theatre, or to trouble yourself with the beauty of other people whom you see about.

For it is far easier not even to look at a woman of good figure, than after looking and taking in the lust, to thrust out the perturbation that comes thereof, the struggle being easier in the preliminaries?. Or rather we have' qcoou. no need of a struggle at all, if we do not throw the gates'

μίοις open to the enemy, or take in the seeds of mischief?. And’ xoxías

P See St. Chrys.on Eph. 1, 14. Hom. against swearing generally, de Pass. et ii. Mor. (Tr. p. 119.) also Hom. x. ad Cruc. g. 4, 5, 6. t. 2. p. 82—4. and Pop. Ant. and St. Gr. Naz. Jamb. xx. seems to allow it on Ps. Ixii. 12. (Eng. (Ben. xxiv.) The practice of swearing Ixiii. 11.) t. 1. 1107.b. In A pol. ad Imp. seems to have prevailed to such an Const. he wishes someone present, extent, as to call for the utmost exer- • that he might question him by the tions to put it down. St. Jerome on Jer. very Truth.' (ig' avrñs tās ángesías) 'for 4,2. Ez. 17, 19. seems bowever to allow what we say as in the presence of God, oaths. St. Athanasius speaks strongly we Christians hold for an oath.'

« ElőzőTovább »