Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter XVI. Of the meaning of the seven nations of whose lands Israel took possession, and the reason why they are sometimes spoken of as “seven,” and sometimes as “many.”
Of the meaning of the seven nations of whose lands Israel took possession, and the reason why they are sometimes spoken of as “seven,” and sometimes as “many.”
These are the seven nations whose lands the Lord promised to give to the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt. And everything which, as the Apostle says, happened to them “in a figure” 1344 we ought to take as written for our correction. For so we read: “When the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land, which thou art going in to possess, and shall have destroyed many nations before thee, the Hittite, and the Girgashites, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations much more numerous than thou art and much stronger than thou: and the Lord thy God shall have delivered them to thee, thou shalt utterly destroy them.” 1345 And the reason that they are said to be much more numerous, is that faults are many more in number than virtues and so in the list of them the nations are reckoned as seven in number, but when the attack upon them is spoken of they are set down without their number being given, for thus we read “And shall have destroyed many nations before thee.” For the race of carnal passions which springs from this sevenfold incentive and root of sin, is more numerous than that of Israel. For thence spring up murders, strifes, heresies, thefts, false witness, blasphemy, surfeiting, drunkenness, back-biting, buffoonery, filthy conversation, lies, perjury, foolish talking, scurrility, restlessness, greediness, bitterness, clamour, wrath, contempt, murmuring, temptation, despair, and many other faults, which it would take too long to describe. And if we are inclined to think these small matters, let us hear what the Apostle thought about them, and what was his opinion of them: “Neither murmur ye,” says he, “as some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer:” and of temptation: “Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them tempted and perished by the serpents.” 1346 Of backbiting: “Love not backbiting lest thou be rooted out.” 1347 And of despair: “Who despairing have given themselves up to lasciviousness unto the working of all error, in uncleanness.” 1348 And that clamour is condemned as well as anger and indignation and blasphemy, the words of the same Apostle teach us as clearly as possible when he thus charges us: “Let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamour, and blasphemy be put away from you with all malice,” 1349 and many more things like these. And though these are far more numerous than the virtues are, yet if those eight principal sins, from which we know that these naturally proceed, are first overcome, all these at once sink down, and are destroyed together with them with a lasting destruction. For from gluttony proceed surfeiting and drunkenness. From fornication filthy conversation, scurrility, buffoonery and foolish talking. From covetousness, lying, deceit, theft, perjury, the desire of filthy lucre, false witness, violence, inhumanity, and greed. From anger, murders, clamour and indignation. From dejection, rancor, cowardice, bitterness, despair. From accidie, laziness, sleepiness, rudeness, restlessness, wandering about, instability both of mind and body, chattering, inquisitiveness. From vainglory, contention, heresies, boasting and confidence in novelties. From pride, contempt, envy, disobedience, blasphemy, murmuring, backbiting. And that all these plagues are stronger than we, we can tell very plainly from the way in which they attack us. For the delight in carnal passions wars more powerfully in our members than does the desire for virtue, which is only gained with the greatest contrition of heart and body. But if you will only gaze with the eyes of the spirit on those countless hosts of our foes, which the Apostle enumerates where he says: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places,” 1350 and this which we find of the righteous p. 348 man in the nineteenth Psalm: “A thousand shall fall beside thee and ten thousand at thy right hand,” 1351 then you will clearly see that they are far more numerous and more powerful than are we, carnal and earthly creatures as we are, while to them is given a substance which is spiritual and incorporeal.
Cf. 1 Cor. x. 6.347:1345
Deut. 7:1, 2.347:1346
1 Cor. 10:9, 10.347:1347
Prov. xx. 13 (LXX.).347:1348
Eph. iv. 19.347:1349
Eph. iv. 31.347:1350
Next: Chapter XVII. A question with regard to the comparison of seven nations with eight faults.
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