Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: How the slothful and the hasty are to be admonished.
How the slothful and the hasty are to be admonished.
(Admonition 16.) Differently to be admonished are the slothful and the hasty. For the p. 39b former are to be persuaded not to lose, by putting it off, the good they have to do; but the latter are to be admonished lest, while they forestall the time of good deeds by inconsiderate haste, they change their meritorious character. To the slothful therefore it is to be intimated, that often, when we will not do at the right time what we can, before long, when we will, we cannot. For the very indolence of the mind, when it is not kindled with befitting fervour, gets cut off by a torpor that stealthily grows upon it from all desire of good things. Whence it is plainly said through Solomon, Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep (Prov. xix. 15). For the slothful one is as it were awake in that he feels aright, though he grows torpid by doing nothing: but slothfulness is said to cast into a deep sleep, because by degrees even the wakefulness of right feeling is lost, when zeal for well-doing is discontinued. And in the same place it is rightly added, And a dissolute soul shall suffer hunger (Prov. 19.15.). For, because it braces not itself towards higher things, it lets itself run loose uncared for in lower desires; and, while not braced with the vigour of lofty aims, suffers the pangs of the hunger of low concupiscence, and, in that it neglects to bind itself up by discipline, it scatters itself the more abroad hungry in its craving after pleasures. Hence it is written again by the same Solomon, The idle man is wholly in desires (Prov. xxi. 26). Hence in the preaching of the Truth Himself (Matt. 12:44, 45) the house is said indeed to be clean when one spirit has gone out; but, when empty, it is taken possession of by his returning with many more. For the most part the slothful, while he neglects to do things that are necessary, sets before him some that are difficult, but is inconsiderately afraid of others; and so, as though finding something that he may reasonably fear, he satisfies himself that he has good reason for remaining torpid. To him it is rightly said through Solomon, The sluggard would not plough by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in summer, and it shall not be given unto him (Prov. xx. 4). For indeed the sluggard ploughs not by reason of the cold, when he finds an excuse for not doing the good things which he ought to do. The sluggard ploughs not by reason of the cold, when he is afraid of small evils that are against him, and leaves undone things of the greatest importance. Further it is well said, He shall beg in summer, and it shall not be given unto him. For whoso toils not now in good works will beg in summer and receive nothing, because, when the burning sun of judgment shall appear, he will then sue in vain for entrance into the kingdom. To him it is well said again through the same Solomon, He that observeth the wind doth not sow: and he that regardeth the clouds never reapeth (Eccles. xi. 4). For what is expressed by the wind but the temptation of malignant spirits? And what are denoted by the clouds which are moved of the wind but the oppositions of bad men? The clouds, that is to say, are driven by the winds, because bad men are excited by the blasts of unclean spirits. He, then, that observeth the wind soweth not, and he that regardeth the clouds reapeth not, because whosoever fears the temptation of malignant spirits, whosoever the persecution of bad men, and does not sow the seed of good work now, neither doth he then reap handfuls of holy recompense.
But on the other hand the hasty, while they forestall the time of good deeds, pervert their merit, and often fall into what is evil, while failing altogether to discern what is good. Such persons look not at all to see what things they are doing when they do them, but for the most part, when they are done, become aware that they ought not to have done them. To such, under the guise of a learner, it is well said in Solomon, My son, do nothing without counsel, and after it is done thou shalt not repent (Ecclesiasticus 32.24). And again, Let thine eyelids go before thy steps (Prov. iv. 25). For indeed our eyelids go before our steps, when right counsels prevent our doings. For he who neglects to look forward by consideration to what he is about to do advances his steps with his eyes closed; proceeds on and accomplishes his journey, but goes not in advance of himself by looking forward; and therefore the sooner falls, because he gives no heed through the eyelid of counsel to where he should set the foot of action.
Next: How the meek and the passionate are to be admonished.
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