25. If at the least they once had in this world wherewithal they might easily without handiwork sustain this life, which property, when they were converted unto God, they disparted to the needy, then must we both believe their infirmity, and bear with it. For usually such persons, having been, not better brought up, as many think, but what is the truth, more languidly brought up, are not able to bear the labor of bodily works. Such peradventure were many in Jerusalem. For it is also written, that they sold their houses and lands, and laid the prices of them at the Apostles feet, that distribution might be made to every one as he had need. 2557 Because they were found, being near, and were useful to the Gentiles, who, being afar off, 2558 were thence called from the worship of idols, as it is said, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” 2559 therefore hath the Apostle called the Christians of the Gentiles their debtors: “their debtors,” saith he, “they are:” and hath added the reason why, “For if in their spiritual things the Gentiles have communicated, they ought also in carnal things to minister unto them.” 2560 But now there come into this profession of the service of God, both persons from the condition of slaves, or also freed-men, or persons on this account freed by their masters or about to be freed, likewise from the life of peasants, and from the exercise and plebeian labor of handicraftsmen, persons whose bringing up doubtless has been all the better for them, the harder it has been: whom not to admit, is a heavy sin. For many of that sort have turned out truly great men and meet to be imitated. For on this account also “hath God chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and the foolish things of the world hath He chosen to confound them who are wise; and ignoble things of the world, and things which are not, as though they were, that the things that are may be brought to nought: that no flesh may glory before God.” 2561 This pious and holy thought, accordingly, causeth that even such be admitted as bring no proof of a change of life for the better. For it doth not appear whether they come of purpose for the service of God, or whether running away empty from a poor and laborious life they want to be fed and clothed; yea, moreover, to be honored by them of whom they were wont to be despised and trampled on. Such persons therefore because they cannot excuse themselves from working by pleading infirmity of body, seeing they are convicted by the custom of their past life, do therefore shelter themselves under the screen of an ill scholarship, that from the Gospel badly understood they should essay to pervert precepts apostolical: truly “fowls of the air,” but in lifting themselves on high through pride; and “grass of the field,” but in being carnally minded.
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