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 meek and the passionate are to be admonished.
How the meek and the passionate are to be admonished.
(Admonition 17.) Differently to be admonished are the meek and the passionate. For sometimes the meek, when they are in authority, suffer from the torpor of sloth, which is a kindred disposition, and as it were placed hard by. And for the most part from the laxity of too great gentleness they soften the force of strictness beyond need. But on the other hand the passionate, in that they are swept on into frenzy of mind by the impulse of anger, break up the calm of quietness, and so throw into confusion the life of those that are put under them. For, when rage drives them headlong, they know not what p. 40b they do in their anger, they know not what in their anger they suffer from themselves. But sometimes, what is more serious, they think the goad of their anger to be the zeal of righteousness. And, when vice is believed to be virtue, guilt is piled up without fear. Often, then, the meek grow torpid in the laziness of inactivity; often the passionate are deceived by the zeal of uprightness. Thus to the virtue of the former a vice is unawares adjoined, but to the latter their vice appears as though it were fervent virtue. Those, therefore, are to be admonished to fly what is close beside themselves, these to take heed to what is in themselves; those to discern what they have not, these what they have. Let the meek embrace solicitude; let the passionate ban perturbation. The meek are to be admonished that they study to have also the zeal of righteousness: the passionate are to be admonished that to the zeal which they think they have they add meekness. For on this account the Holy Spirit has been manifested to us in a dove and in fire; because, to wit, all whom He fills He causes to shew themselves as meek with the simplicity of the dove, and burning with the fire of zeal.
He then is in no wise full of the Holy Spirit, who either in the calm of meekness forsakes the fervour of zeal, or again in the ardour of zeal loses the virtue of meekness. Which thing we shall perhaps better shew, if we bring forward the authority of Paul, who to two who were his disciples, and endowed with a like charity, supplies nevertheless different aids for preaching. For in admonishing Timothy he says, Reprove, entreat, rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine (2 Tim. iv. 2). Titus also he admonishes, saying, These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority (Tit. ii. 15). What is the reason that he dispenses his teaching with so great art as, in exhibiting it, to recommend authority to the one, and long-suffering to the other, except that he saw Titus to be of a meeker spirit, and Timothy of one a little more fervid? The former he inflames with the earnestness of zeal; the latter he moderates by the gentleness of long-suffering. To the one he adds what is wanting, from the other he subtracts what is overabundant. The one he endeavours to push on with a spur, the other to keep back with a bridle. For the great husbandman who has the Church in charge waters some shoots that they may grow, but prunes others when he sees that they grow too much; lest either by not growing they should bear no fruit, or by growing over much they should lose the fruits they may put forth. But far different is the anger that creeps in under the guise of zeal from that which confounds the perturbed heart without pretext of righteousness. For the former is extended inordinately in that wherein it ought to be, but the latter is ever kindled in that wherein it ought not to be. It should indeed be known that in this the passionate differ from the impatient, that the latter bear not with things brought upon them by others, but the former themselves bring on things to be borne with. For the passionate often follow after those who shun them, stir up occasion of strife, rejoice in the toil of contention; and yet such we better correct, if in the midst of the commotion of their anger we do shun them. For, while they are perturbed, they do not know what we say to them; but, when brought back to themselves, they receive words of exhortation the more freely in proportion as they blush at having been the more calmly borne with. But to a mind that is drunk with fury every right thing that is said appears wrong. Whence to Nabal when he was drunk Abigail laudably kept silence about his fault, but, when he had digested his wine, as laudably told him of it (1 Sam. xxv. 37). For he could for this reason perceive the evil he had done, that he did not hear of it when drunk.
But when the passionate so attack others that they cannot be altogether shunned, they should be smitten, not with open rebuke, but sparingly with a certain respectful cautiousness. And this we shall shew better if we bring forward what was done by Abner. For, when Asahel attacked him with the violence of inconsiderate haste, it is written, Abner spake unto Asahel, saying. Turn thee aside from following me, lest I be driven to smite thee to the ground. Howbeit he scorned to listen, and refused to turn aside. Whereupon Abner smote him with the hinder end of the spear in the groin, and thrust him through, and he died (2 Sam. 2:22, 23). For of whom did Asahel present a type but of those whom fury violently seizes and carries headlong? And such, in this same attack of fury, are to be shunned cautiously in proportion as they are madly hurried on. Whence also Abner, who in our speech is called the lantern of the father, fled; because when the tongue of teachers, which indicates the supernal light of God, sees the mind of any one borne along over the steeps of rage, and refrains from casting back darts of words against the angry person, it is as though it were unwilling to smite one that is pursuing. But, when the passionate will not pacify themselves by any consideration, and, like Asahel, cease not to pursue and to be mad, it is necessary that those who endeavour p. 41b to repress these furious ones should by no means lift themselves up in fury, but exhibit all possible calmness; and yet adroitly bring something to bear whereby they may by a side thrust prick the heart of the furious one. Whence also Abner, when he made a stand against his pursuer, pierced him, not with a direct stroke, but with the hinder end of his spear. For to strike with the point is to oppose with an onset of open rebuke: but to smite the pursuer with the hinder end of the spear is calmly to touch the furious one with certain hits, and, as it were, by sparing him overcome him. Asahel moreover straightway fell, because agitated minds, when they feel themselves to be spared, and yet are touched inwardly by the answers given in calmness, fall at once from the elevation to which they had raised themselves. Those, then, who rebound from the onset of their heat under the stroke of gentleness die, as it were, without steel.
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