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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: That sometimes some laudably desire the office of preaching, while others, as laudably, are drawn to it by compulsion.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.

That sometimes some laudably desire the office of preaching, while others, as laudably, are drawn to it by compulsion.

Although sometimes some laudably desire the office of preaching, yet others are as laudably drawn to it by compulsion; as we plainly perceive, if we consider the conduct of two prophets, one of whom offered himself of his own accord to be sent to preach, yet the other in fear refused to go.  For Isaiah, when the Lord asked whom He should send, offered himself of his own accord, saying, Here I am; send me (Isa. 1:0, Isa. 6:8).  But Jeremiah is sent, yet humbly pleads that he should not be sent, saying, Ah, Lord God! behold I cannot speak:  for I am a child (Jer. i. 6).  Lo, from these two men different voices proceeded outwardly, but they flowed from the same fountain of love.  For there are two precepts of charity; the love of God and of our neighbour.  Wherefore Isaiah, eager to profit his neighbours through an active life, desires the office of preaching; but Jeremiah, longing to cleave sedulously to the love of his Creator through a contemplative life, remonstrates against being sent to preach.  Thus what the one laudably desired the other laudably shrunk from; the latter, lest by speaking he should lose the gains of silent contemplation; the former, lest by keeping silence he should suffer loss for lack of diligent work.  But this in both cases is to be nicely observed, that he who refused did not persist in his refusal, and he who wished to be sent saw himself previously cleansed by a coal of the altar; lest any one who has not been purged should dare to approach sacred ministries, or any whom supernal grace has chosen should proudly gainsay it under a show of humility.  Wherefore, since it is very difficult for any one to be sure that he has been cleansed, it is safer to decline the office of preaching, though (as we have said) it should not be declined pertinaciously when the Supernal Will that it should be undertaken is recognized.  Both requirements Moses marvellously fulfilled, who was unwilling to be set over so great a multitude, and yet obeyed.  For peradventure he were proud, were he to undertake without trepidation the leadership of that innumerable people; and, again, proud he would plainly be were he to refuse to obey his Lord’s command.  Thus in both ways humble, in both ways submissive, he was unwilling, as measuring himself, to be set over the people; and yet, as presuming on the might of Him who commanded him, he consented.  Hence, then, hence let all rash ones infer how great guilt is theirs, if they fear not to be preferred to others by their own seeking, when holy men, even when God commanded, feared to undertake the leadership of peoples.  Moses trembles though God persuades him; and yet every weak one pants to assume the burden of dignity; and one who can hardly bear his own load without falling, gladly puts his shoulders under the pressure of others not his own:  his own deeds are too heavy for him to carry, and he augments his burden.

Next: Of those who covet pre-eminence, and seize on the language of the Apostle to serve the purpose of their own cupidity.

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