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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.: Chapter VI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VI.

This, I believe, makes the greatness of the prophet Elias, and of him who afterwards appeared in the spirit and power of Elias, than whom “of those that are born of women there was none greater 1376 .” If their history conveys any other mystic lesson, surely this above all is taught by their special mode of life, that the man whose thoughts are fixed upon the invisible is necessarily separated from all the ordinary events of life; his judgments as to the True Good cannot be confused and led astray by the deceits arising from the senses. Both, from their youth upwards, exiled themselves from human society, and in a way from human nature, in their neglect of the usual kinds of meat and drink, and their sojourn in the desert. The wants of each were satisfied by the nourishment that came in their way, so that their taste might remain simple and unspoilt, as their ears were free from any distracting noise, and their eyes from any wandering look. Thus they attained a cloudless calm of soul, and were raised to that height of Divine favour which Scripture records of each. Elias, for instance, became the dispenser of God’s earthly gifts; he had authority to close at will the uses of the sky against the sinners and to open them to the penitent. John is not said indeed to have done any miracle; but the gift in him was pronounced by Him Who sees the secrets of a man greater than any prophet’s. This was so, we may presume, because both, from beginning to end, so dedicated their hearts to the Lord that they were unsullied by any earthly passion; because the love of wife or child, or any other human call, did not intrude upon them, and they did not even think their daily sustenance worthy of anxious thought; because they showed themselves to be above any magnificence 1377 of dress, and made shift with that which chance offered them, one clothing himself in goat-skins, the other with camel’s hair. It is my belief that they would not have reached to this loftiness of spirit, if marriage had softened them. This is not simple history only; it is “written for our admonition 1378 ,” that we might direct our lives by theirs. What, then, do we learn thereby? This: that the man who longs for union with God must, like those saints, detach his mind from all worldly business. It is impossible for the mind which is poured into many channels to win its way to the knowledge and the love of God.



S. Matt. xii. 11.


σεμνότητος; not as Galesinius renders, “asperitate quadam gravi.”


1 Cor. x. 11.

Next: Chapter VII

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