Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XXXII. After saying what return must be made for the service of the above-mentioned feast, various reasons for repaying kindness are enumerated. Then he speaks in praise of good-will, on its results and its order.
After saying what return must be made for the service of the above-mentioned feast, various reasons for repaying kindness are enumerated. Then he speaks in praise of good-will, on its results and its order.
165. It is therefore a good thing for us to be bedewed with the exhortations of the divine Scriptures, and that the word of God should come down upon us like the dew. When, therefore, thou sittest at the table of that great man, understand who that great man is. Set in the paradise of delight and placed at the feast of wisdom, think of what is put before thee! The divine Scriptures are the feast of wisdom, and the single books the various dishes. Know, first, what dishes the banquet offers, then stretch forth thy hand, that those things which thou readest, or which thou receivest from the Lord thy God, thou mayest carry out in action, and so by thy duties mayest show forth the grace that was granted thee. Such was the case with Peter and Paul, who in preaching the Gospel made some return to Him Who freely gave them all things. So that each of them might say: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace in me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all.” 244
166. One repays the fruit of a service done him, and repays it, gold with gold, silver with silver. Another gives his labour. Another—and I do not know whether he does not do it in fuller measure—gives but the best wishes of his heart. 245 But what if there is no opportunity to make a return at hand? If we wish to return a kindness, more depends on the spirit in which we do it than on the amount of our property, whilst people will think more of our good-will, than of our power to make a full return. For a kindness done is regarded in the light of what one has. A great thing, therefore, is good-will. For even if it has nothing to give, yet it offers the more, and though there is nothing in its own possession, yet it gives largely to many, and does that, too, without loss to itself, and to the gain of the many. Thus good-will is better than liberality itself. It is richer in character than the other is in gifts; for there are more that need a kindness than there are that have abundance.
167. But good-will also goes in conjunction with liberality, for liberality really starts from it, seeing that the habit of giving comes after the desire to give. It exists, however, also separate and distinct. For where liberality is wanting, there good-will abides—the parent as it were of all in common, uniting and binding friendships together. It is faithful in counsel, joyful in times of prosperity, and in times of sorrow sad. So it happens that any one trusts himself to the counsels of a man of good-will rather than to those of a wise one, as David did. For he, though he was the more farseeing, agreed to the counsels of Jonathan, who was the younger. 246 Remove good-will out of the reach of men, and it is as though one had withdrawn the sun from the world. 247 For without it men would no longer care to show the way to the stranger, to recall the p. 29 wanderer, to show hospitality (this latter is no small virtue, for on this point Job praised himself, when he said: “At my doors the stranger dwelt not, my gate was open to every one who came”), 248 nor even to give water from the water that flows at their door, or to light anothers candle at their own. Thus good-will exists in all these, like a fount of waters refreshing the thirsty, and like a light, which, shining forth to others, fails not them who have given a light to others from their own light. 249
168. There is also liberality springing from good-will, that makes one tear up the bond of a debtor which one holds, without demanding any of the debt back from him. Holy Job bids us act thus by his own example. 250 For he that has does not borrow, but he that has not does not put an end to the agreement. Why, then, if thou hast no need, dost thou save up for greedy heirs what thou canst give back immediately, and so get praise for good-will, and that without loss of money?
169. To go to the root of the matter—good-will starts first with those at home, that is with children, parents, brothers, and goes on from one step to another throughout the world. 251 Having started from Paradise, it has filled the world. For God set the feeling of good-will in the man and woman, saying: “They shall be one flesh,” 252 and (one may add) one spirit. Wherefore Eve also believed the serpent; for she who had received the gift of good-will did not think there was ill-will.
1 Cor. xv. 10.28:245
Cic. de Off. II. 20, § 69.28:246
1 Sam. 20.11 ff.28:247
Cic. de Amic. 13, § 47.29:248
Job xxxi. 32.29:249
Cic. de Off. I. 16.29:250
Job xxxi. 35 [LXX.].29:251
Cic. de Off. I. 16, 17.29:252
Gen. ii. 24.
Next: Chapter XXXIII. Good-will exists especially in the Church, and nourishes kindred virtues.
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