17. But the devil was to be overcome, not by the power of God, but by His righteousness. For what is more powerful than the Omnipotent? Or what creature is there of which the power can be compared to the power of the Creator? But since the devil, by the fault of his own perversity, was made a lover of power, and a forsaker and assailant of righteousness,—for thus also men imitate him so much the more in proportion as they set their hearts on power, to the neglect or even hatred of righteousness, and as they either rejoice in the attainment of power, or are inflamed by the lust of it,—it pleased God, that in order to the rescuing of man from the grasp of the devil, the devil should be conquered, not by power, but by righteousness; and that so also men, imitating Christ, should seek to conquer the devil by righteousness, not by power. Not that power is to be shunned as as though it were something evil; but the order must be preserved, whereby righteousness is before it. For how great can be the power of mortals? Therefore let mortals cleave to righteousness; power will be given to immortals. And compared to this, the power, how great soever, of those men who are called powerful on earth, is found to be ridiculous weakness, and a pitfall is dug there for the sinner, where the wicked seem to be most powerful. And the righteous man says in his song, “Blessed is the man whom Thou chasteneth, O Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law: that Thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. For the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance, until righteousness return unto judgment, and all who follow it are upright in heart.” 818 At this present time, then, in which the might of the people of God is delayed, “the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance,” how bitter and unworthy things soever it may suffer in its humility and weakness; “until the righteousness,” which the weakness of the pious now possesses, “shall return to judgment,” that is, shall receive the power of judging; which is preserved in the end for the righteous when power in its due order shall have followed after righteousness going before. For power joined to righteousness, or righteousness added to power, constitutes a judicial authority. But righteousness belongs to a good will; whence it was said by the angels when Christ was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” 819 But power ought to follow righteousness, not to go before it; and accordingly it is placed in “second,” that is, prosperous fortune; and this is called “second,” 820 from “following.” For whereas two things make a man blessed, as we have argued above, to will well, and to be able to do what one wills, people ought not to be so perverse, as has been noted in the same discussion, as that a man should choose from the two things which make him blessed, the being able to do what he wills, and should neglect to will what he ought; whereas he ought first to have a good will, but great power afterwards. Further, a good will must be purged from vices, by which if a man is overcome, he is in such wise overcome as that he wills evil; and then how will his will be still good? It is to be wished, then, that power may now be given, but power against vices, to conquer which men do not wish to be powerful, while they wish to be so in order to conquer men; and why is this, unless that, being in truth conquered, they feignedly conquer, and are conquerors not in truth, but in opinion? Let a man will to be prudent, will to be strong, will to be temperate, will to be just; and that he may be able to have these things truly, let him certainly desire power, and seek to be powerful in himself, and (strange though it be) against himself for himself. But all the other things which he wills rightly, and yet is not able to have, as, for instance, immortality and true and full felicity, let him not cease to long for, and let him patiently expect.
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