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.: How the poor and the rich should be admonished.
How the poor and the rich should be admonished.
(Admonition 3.) Differently to be admonished are the poor and the rich: for to the former we ought to offer the solace of comfort against tribulation, but in the latter to induce fear as against elation. For to the poor one it is said by the Lord through the prophet, Fear not, for thou shalt not be confounded (Isa. 1:0, Isa. 54:4). And not long after, soothing her, He says, O thou poor little one, tossed with tempest (Isa. 54.11). And again He comforts her, saying, I have chosen thee in the furnace of poverty (Isa. 48.10). But, on the other hand, Paul says to his disciple concerning the rich, Charge the rich of this world, that they be not high-minded nor trust in the uncertainty of their riches (1 Tim. vi. 17); where it is to be particularly noted that the teacher of humility in making mention of the rich, says not Entreat, but Charge; because, though pity is to be bestowed on infirmity, yet to elation no honour is due. To such, therefore, the right thing that is said is the more rightly commanded, according as they are puffed up with loftiness of thought in transitory things. Of them the Lord says in the Gospel, Woe unto you that are rich, which have your consolation (Luke vi. 24). For, since they know not what eternal joys are, they are consoled out of the abundance of the present life. Therefore consolation is to be offered to those who are tried in the furnace of poverty; and fear is to be induced in those whom the consolation of temporal glory lifts up; that both those may learn that they possess riches which they see not, and these become aware that they can by no means keep the riches that they see. Yet for the most part the character of persons changes the order in which they stand; so that the rich man may be humble and the poor man proud. Hence the tongue of the preacher ought soon to be adapted to the life of the hearer, so as to smite elation in a poor man all the more sharply as not even the poverty that has come upon him brings it down, and to cheer all the more gently the humility of the rich as even the abundance which elevates them does not elate them.
Sometimes, however, even a proud rich man is to be propitiated by blandishment in exhortation, since hard sores also are usually softened by soothing fomentations, and the rage of the insane is often restored to health by the bland words of the physician, and, when they are pleasantly humoured, the disease of their insanity is mitigated. For neither is this to be lightly regarded, that, when an adverse spirit entered into Saul, David took his harp and assuaged his madness (1 Sam. xviii. 10). For what is intimated by Saul but the elation of men in power, and what by David but the humble life of the holy? When, then, Saul is seized by the unclean spirit, his madness is appeased by Davids singing; since, when the senses of men in power are turned to frenzy by elation, it is meet that they should be recalled to a healthy state by the calmness of our speech, as by the sweetness of a harp. But sometimes, when the powerful of this world are taken to task, they are first to be searched by certain similitudes, as on a matter not concerning them; and, when they have pronounced a right sentence as against another man, then in fitting ways they are to be smitten with regard to their own guilt; so that the mind puffed up with temporal power may in no wise lift itself up against the reprover, having by its own judgment trodden on the neck of pride, and may not try to defend itself, being bound by the sentence of its own mouth. For hence it was that Nathan the prophet, having come to take the king to task, asked his judgment as if concerning the cause of a poor man against a rich one (2 Sam. 12:4, 5, seq.), that the king might first pronounce sentence, and afterwards hear of his own guilt, to the end that he might by no means contradict the righteous doom that he had uttered against p. 26b himself. Thus the holy man, considering both the sinner and the king, studied in a wonderful order first to bind the daring culprit by confession, and afterwards to cut him to the heart by rebuke. He concealed for a while whom he aimed at, but smote him suddenly when he had him. For the blow would perchance have fallen with less force had he purposed to smite the sin openly from the beginning of his discourse; but by first introducing the similitude he sharpened the rebuke which he concealed. He had come as a physician to a sick man; he saw that the sore must be cut; but he doubted of the sick mans patience. Therefore he hid the medicinal steel under his robe, which he suddenly drew out and plunged into the sore, that the patient might feel the cutting blade before he saw it, lest, seeing it first, he should refuse to feel it.
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