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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XVII. What virtues ought to exist in him whom we consult. How Joseph and Paul were equipped with them.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 57

Chapter XVII.

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 opinions seemly.

87. Such was Paul, who gave counsel to virgins, 498 guidance to priests, 499 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 500 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?” 501 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; 502 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. 503 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 mind?

89. Therefore the man of good counsel says: “I have learnt in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” 504 For he knew that the root of all evils is the love of money, 505 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 abased.” 506 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.” 507 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 was justified. 508

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: “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.” 509

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 p. 58 there need of knowledge: “For man lives not by bread alone, but by every word of God.” 510 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. 511 He knew, also, how to abound, and was able to abound, for he had nothing and yet possessed all things. 512


Footnotes

57:498

1 Cor. vii. 25.

57:499

1 Tim. iv. 12 ff.

57:500

propter me.” Cod. Dresd., Ed. Med. have “præter me.

57:501

Gen. 39:8, 9.

57:502

humilitatis, quia domino deferebat; honorificentiæ, quia referebat gratiam.” Others read: “humilitatis…deferebat honorificentiam, quia,” etc.

57:503

Cic. de Off. II, 10, § 36.

57:504

Phil. iv. 11.

57:505

1 Tim. vi. 10.

57:506

Phil. iv. 12.

57:507

Psa. 34.18.

57:508

S. Luke xviii. 11.

57:509

2 Cor. vi. 14.

58:510

Deut. viii. 3.

58:511

S. Matt. v. 6.

58:512

2 Cor. vi. 10.


Next: Chapter XVIII. We learn from the fact of the separation of the ten tribes from King Rehoboam what harm bad counsellors can do.

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