Delicacies spent on pleasures become a dangerous shipwreck to men; for this voluptuous and ignoble life of the many is alien to true love for the beautiful and to refined pleasures. For man is by nature an erect and majestic being, aspiring after the good as becomes the creature of the One. But the life which crawls on its belly is destitute of dignity, is scandalous, hateful, ridiculous. And to the divine nature voluptuousness is a thing most alien; for this is for a man to be like sparrows in feeding, and swine and goats in lechery. For to regard pleasure as a good thing, is the sign of utter ignorance of what is excellent. Love of wealth displaces a man from the right mode of life, and induces him to cease from feeling shame at what is shameful; if only, like a beast, he has power to eat all sorts of things, and to drink in like manner, and to satiate in every way his lewd desires. And so very rarely does he inherit the kingdom of God. For what end, then, are such dainty dishes prepared, but to fill one belly? The filthiness of gluttony is proved by the sewers into which our bellies discharge the refuse of our food. For what end do they collect so many cupbearers, when they might satisfy themselves with one cup? For what the chests of clothes? and the gold ornaments for what? Those things are prepared for clothes-stealers, and scoundrels, and for greedy eyes. “But let alms and faith not fail thee,” 1638 says the Scripture.p. 281
Look, for instance, to Elias the Thesbite, in whom we have a beautiful example of frugality, when he sat down beneath the thorn, and the angel brought him food. “It was a cake of barley and a jar of water.” 1639 Such the Lord sent as best for him. We, then, on our journey to the truth, must be unencumbered. “Carry not,” said the Lord, “purse, nor scrip, nor shoes;” 1640 that is, possess not wealth, which is only treasured up in a purse; fill not your own stores, as if laying up produce in a bag, but communicate to those who have need. Do not trouble yourselves about horses and servants, who, as bearing burdens when the rich are travelling, are allegorically called shoes.
We must, then, cast away the multitude of vessels, silver and gold drinking cups, and the crowd of domestics, receiving as we have done from the Instructor the fair and grave attendants, Self-help and Simplicity. And we must walk suitably to the Word; and if there be a wife and children, the house is not a burden, having learned to change its place along with the sound-minded traveller. The wife who loves her husband must be furnished for travel similarly to her husband. A fair provision for the journey to heaven is theirs who bear frugality with chaste gravity. And as the foot is the measure of the shoe, so also is the body of what each individual possesses. But that which is superfluous, what they call ornaments and the furniture of the rich, is a burden, not an ornament to the body. He who climbs to the heavens by force, must carry with him the fair staff of beneficence, and attain to the true rest by communicating to those who are in distress. For the Scripture avouches, “that the true riches of the soul are a mans ransom,” 1641 that is, if he is rich, he will be saved by distributing it. For as gushing wells, when pumped out, rise again to their former measure, 1642 so giving away, being the benignant spring of love, by communicating of its drink to the thirsty, again increases and is replenished, just as the milk is wont to flow into the breasts that are sucked or milked. For he who has the almighty God, the Word, is in want of nothing, and never is in straits for what he needs. For the Word is a possession that wants nothing, and is the cause of all abundance. If one say that he has often seen the righteous man in need of food, this is rare, and happens only where there is not another righteous man. 1643 Notwithstanding let him read what follows: “For the righteous man shall not live by bread alone, but by the word of the Lord,” 1644 who is the true bread, the bread of the heavens. The good man, then, can never be in difficulties so long as he keeps intact his confession towards God. For it appertains to him to ask and to receive whatever he requires from the Father of all; and to enjoy what is his own, if he keep the Son. And this also appertains to him, to feel no want.
This Word, who trains us, confers on us the true riches. Nor is the growing rich an object of envy to those who possess through Him the privilege of wanting nothing. He that has this wealth shall inherit the kingdom of God.
[A beautiful apophthegm, and admirably interpretative of Ps. xxxvii. 25.]281:1644
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