Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: Of those who covet pre-eminence, and seize on the language of the Apostle to serve the purpose of their own cupidity.
Of those who covet pre-eminence, and seize on the language of the Apostle to serve the purpose of their own cupidity.
But for the most part those who covet pre-eminence seize on the language of the Apostle to serve the purpose of their own cupidity, where he says, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work (1 Tim. iii. 1). p. 6b But, while praising the desire, he forthwith turns what he has praised to fear when at once he adds, but a bishop must be blameless (1 Tim. iii. 2). And, when he subsequently enumerates the necessary virtues, he makes manifest what this blamelessness consists in. And so, with regard to their desire, he approves them, but by his precept he alarms them; as if saying plainly, I praise what ye seek; but first learn what it is ye seek; lest, while ye neglect to measure yourselves, your blamefulness appear all the fouler for its haste to be seen by all in the highest place of honour. For the great master in the art of ruling impels by approval and checks by alarms; so that, by describing the height of blamelessness, he may restrain his hearers from pride, and, by praising the office which is sought, dispose them to the life required. Nevertheless it is to be noted that this was said at a time when whosoever was set over people was usually the first to be led to the torments of martyrdom. At that time, therefore, it was laudable to seek the office of a bishop, since through it there was no doubt that a man would come in the end to heavier pains. Hence even the office of a bishop itself is defined as a good work, when it is said, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work (1 Tim. iii. 1). Wherefore he that seeks, not this ministry of a good work, but the glory of distinction, is himself a witness against himself that he does not desire the office of a bishop; inasmuch as that man not only does not love at all the sacred office, but even knows not what it is, who, panting after supreme rule, is fed by the subjection of others in the hidden meditation of his thought, rejoices in his own praises, lifts up his heart to honour, exults in abundant affluence. Thus worldly gain is sought under colour of that honour by which worldly gains should have been destroyed; and, when the mind thinks to seize on the highest post of humility for its own elation, it inwardly changes what it outwardly desires.
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