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 obstinate and the fickle are to be admonished.
How the obstinate and the fickle are to be admonished.
(Admonition 19.) Differently to be admonished are the obstinate and the fickle. The former are to be told that they think more of themselves than they are, and therefore do not acquiesce in the counsels of others: but the latter are to be given to understand that they undervalue and disregard themselves too much, and so are turned aside from their own judgment in successive moments of time. Those are to be told that, unless they esteemed themselves better than the rest of men, they would by no means set less value on the counsels of all than on their own deliberation: these are to be told that, if they at all gave heed to what they are, the breeze of mutability would by no means turn them about through so many sides of variableness. To the former it is said through Paul, Be not wise in your own conceits (Rom. xii. 16): but the latter on the other hand should hear this; Let us not be carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephes. iv. 14). Concerning the former it is said through Solomon, They shall eat of the fruits of their own way, and be filled with their own devices (Prov. i. 31); but concerning the latter it is written by him again, The heart of the foolish will be unlike (Prov. 15.7). For the heart of the wise is always like itself, because, while it rests in good persuasions, it directs itself constantly in good performance. But the heart of the foolish is unlike, because, while it shews itself various through mutability, it never remains what it was. And since some vices, as out of themselves they generate others, so themselves spring from others, it ought by all means to be understood that we then better wipe these away by our reproofs, when we dry them up from the very fountain of their bitterness. For obstinacy is engendered of pride, and fickleness of levity.
The obstinate are therefore to be admonished, that they acknowledge the haughtiness of their thoughts, and study to vanquish themselves; lest, while they scorn to be overcome by the right advice of others outside themselves, they be held captive within themselves to pride. They are to be admonished to observe wisely how the Son of Man, Whose will is always one with the Fathers, that He may afford us an example of subduing our own will, says, I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me (Joh. v. 30). And, still more to commend the grace of this virtue, He declared beforehand that He would retain the same in the last judgment, p. 43b saying, I can of myself do nothing, but as I hear I judge (John 5.30.). With what conscience, then, can a man disdain to acquiesce in the will of another, seeing that the Son of God and of Man, when He comes to shew forth the glory of his power, testifies that of his own self he does not judge?
But, on the other hand, the fickle are to be admonished to strengthen their mind with gravity. For they then dry up the germs of mutability in themselves when they first cut off from their heart the root of levity; since also a strong fabric is built up when a solid place is first provided whereon to lay the foundation. Unless, then, levity of mind be previously guarded against, inconstancy of the thoughts is by no means conquered. From this Paul declared himself to be free, when he said, Did I use levity? or the things that I purpose do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea and nay (2 Cor. i. 17)? As if to say plainly, For this reason I am moved by no breeze of mutability, that I yield not to the vice of levity.
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