The argument for restraining anger is given again. Then the three classes of those who receive wrongs are set forth; to the most perfect of which the Apostle and David are said to have attained. He takes the opportunity to state the difference between this and the future life.
242. We wish if we can to point out three classes of men who receive wrongs in holy Scripture. One of these forms the class of those whom the sinner reviles, abuses, rides over rough-shod. 332 And just because justice fails them, shame grows, pain increases. Very many of my own order, of my own number, are like these. For if any one does me, who am weak, an injury, perhaps, though I am weak, I may forgive the wrong done me. If he charges me with an offence I am not such an one as to be content with the witness of my own conscience, although I know I am clear of what he brings against me; but I desire, just because I am weak, to wash out the mark of my inborn shame. Therefore I demand eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, and repay abuse with abuse.
243. If, however, I am one who is advancing, although not yet perfect, I do not return the reproaches; and if he breaks out into abuse, and fills my ears with reproaches, I am silent and do not answer.
244. But if I am perfect (I say this only by way of example, for in truth I am weak), if, then, I am perfect, I bless him that curses me, as Paul also blessed, for he says: “Being reviled we bless.” 333 He had heard Him Who says: “Love your enemies, pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” 334 And so Paul suffered persecution and endured it, for he conquered and calmed his human feelings for the sake of the reward set before him, namely, that he should become a son of God if he loved his enemies.
245. We call show, too, that holy David was like to Paul in this same class of virtue. When the son of Shimei cursed him, and charged him with heavy offences, at the first he was silent and humbled himself, and was silent even about his good deeds, that is, his knowledge of good works. Then he even asked to be cursed; for when he was cursed he hoped to gain divine pity. 335
246. But see how he stored up humility and justice and prudence so as to merit grace from the Lord! At first he said: “Therefore he cursed me, because the Lord hath said unto him that he should curse.” 336 Here we have humility; for he thought that those things which are divinely ordered were to be endured with an even mind, as though he were but some servant lad. Then he said: “Behold my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life.” 337 Here we have justice. For if we suffer hard things at the hand of our own family, why are we angry at what is done to us by strangers? Lastly he says: “Let him alone that he may curse, for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on my humiliation and requite me good for this cursing.” 338 So he bore not only the abuse, but left the man unpunished when throwing stones and following him. Nay, more, after his victory he freely granted him pardon when he asked for it.
247. I have written this to show that holy David, in true evangelical spirit, was not only not offended, but was even thankful to his abuser, and was delighted rather than angered by his wrongs, for which he thought some return would be granted to him. But, though perfect, he sought something still more perfect. As a man he grew hot at the pain of his wrongs, but like a good soldier he conquered, he endured like a brave wrestler. The end and aim of his patience was the expectation of the fulfilment of the promises, and therefore he said: “Lord, make me to know mine end and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know what is wanting to me.” 339 He seeks, then, that end of the heavenly promises, when each one shall arise in his own order: “Christ the firstfruits, then they that are Christs who have believed in His coming. Then cometh the end.” 340 For when the kingdom is delivered up to God, even the Father, and all the powers are put down, as the Apostle says, then perfection begins. Here, then, is the hindrance, here the weakness of the perfect; there full perfection. Thus it is he asks for those days of eternal life which are, and not for those which pass away, so that he may know what is wanting to p. 40 him, what is the land of promise that bears everlasting fruits, which is the first mansion in his Fathers house, which the second, which the third, wherein each one will rest according to his merits.
248. We then must strive for that wherein is perfection and wherein is truth. Here is the shadow, here the image; 341 there the truth. The shadow is in the law, the image in the Gospel, the truth in heaven. In old times a lamb, a Calf was offered; now Christ is offered. But He is offered as man and as enduring suffering. And He offers Himself as a priest to take away our sins, here in an image, there in truth, 342 where with the Father He intercedes for us as our Advocate. Here, then, we walk in an image, we see in an image; there face to face where is full perfection. For all perfection rests in the truth.
S. Matt. v. 44.39:335 39:336 39:337 39:338 39:339 39:340 40:341 40:342