>   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   205  >   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   205

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.: Chapter XVI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 362 Chapter XVI.

There is only one right path. It is narrow and contracted. It has no turnings either on the one side or the other. No matter how we leave it, there is the same danger of straying hopelessly away. This being so, the habit which many have got into must be as far as possible corrected; those, I mean, who while they fight strenuously against the baser pleasures, yet still go on hunting for pleasure in the shape of worldly honour and positions which will gratify their love of power. They act like some domestic who longed for liberty, but instead of exerting himself to get away from slavery proceeded only to change his masters, and thought liberty consisted in that change. But all alike are slaves, even though they should not all go on being ruled by the same masters, as long as a dominion of any sort, with power to enforce it, is set over them. There are others again who after a long battle against all the pleasures 1451 , yield themselves easily on another field, where feelings of an opposite kind come in; and in the intense exactitude of their lives fall a ready prey to melancholy and irritation, and to brooding over injuries, and to everything that is the direct opposite of pleasurable feelings; from which they are very reluctant to extricate themselves. This is always happening, whenever any emotion, instead of virtuous reason, controls the course of a life. For the commandment of the Lord is exceedingly far-shining, so as to “enlighten the eyes” even of “the simple 1452 ,” declaring that good cleaveth only unto God. But God is not pain any more than He is pleasure; He is not cowardice any more than boldness; He is not fear, nor anger, nor any other emotion which sways the untutored soul, but, as the Apostle says, He is Very Wisdom and Sanctification, Truth and Joy and Peace, and everything like that. If He is such, how can any one be said to cleave to Him, who is mastered by the very opposite? Is it not want of reason in any one to suppose that when he has striven successfully to escape the dominion of one particular passion, he will find virtue in its opposite? For instance, to suppose that when he has escaped pleasure, he will find virtue in letting pain have possession of him; or when he has by an effort remained proof against anger, in crouching with fear. It matters not whether we miss virtue, or rather God Himself Who is the Sum of virtue, in this way, or in that. Take the case of great bodily prostration; one would say that the sadness of this failure was just the same, whether the cause has been excessive under-feeding, or immoderate eating; both failures to stop in time end in the same result. He therefore who watches over the life and the sanity of the soul will confine himself to the moderation of the truth; he will continue without touching either of those opposite states which run along-side virtue. This teaching is not mine; it comes from the Divine lips. It is clearly contained in that passage where our Lord says to His disciples, that they are as sheep wandering amongst wolves 1453 , yet are not to be as doves only, but are to have something of the serpent too in their disposition; and that means that they should neither carry to excess the practice of that which seems praiseworthy in simplicity 1454 , as such a habit would come very near to downright madness, nor on the other hand should deem the cleverness which most admire to be a virtue, while unsoftened by any mixture with its opposite; they were in fact to form another disposition, by a compound of these two seeming opposites, cutting off its silliness from the one, its evil cunning from the other; so that one single beautiful character should be created from the two, a union of simplicity of purpose with shrewdness. “Be ye,” He says, “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”



τὰς ἡδονὰς i.e.the whole class.


Ps. 19:6, 7, 8.


S. Matt. x. 16


According to the emendation of Livineius: μήτε τὸ κατὰ τὴν ἁπλότητα δοκοῦν ἐπαινετὸν

Next: Chapter XVII

Bible | Daily Readings | Agbeya | Books | Lyrics | Gallery | Media | Links

Short URL (link):