And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? why then speak you so to me?
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I will give you a proof of what I maintain, from the case of a kingdom, which does not weigh as heavily with God as the priesthood. Saul, that son of Kish, was not himself at all ambitious of becoming a king but was going in quest of his asses and came to ask the prophet about them. The prophet, however, proceeded to speak to him of the kingdom, but not even then did he run greedily after it, though he heard about it from a prophet, but drew back and deprecated it, saying, “Who am I, and what is my father’s house?” What then? When he made a bad use of the honor which had been given him by God, were those words of his able to rescue him from the wrath of him who had made him king? And was he able to say to Samuel, when rebuked by him: “Did I greedily run and rush after the kingdom and sovereign power? I wished to lead the undisturbed and peaceful life of ordinary men, but you dragged me to this post of honor. Had I remained in my low estate, I should easily have escaped all these stumbling blocks, for if I were one of the obscure multitude, I should never have been set forth on this expedition, nor would God have committed to my hands the war against the Amalekites, and if I had not had it committed to me, I should not have sinned this sin.” But all such arguments are weak as excuses, and not only weak but perilous, inasmuch as they rather kindle the wrath of God. For he who has been promoted to great honor by God must not advance the greatness of his honor as an excuse for his errors but should make God’s special favor toward him the motive for further improvement; whereas he who thinks himself at liberty to sin because he has obtained some uncommon dignity, what does he but study to show that the lovingkindness of God is the cause of his personal transgression, which is always the argument of those who lead godless and careless lives. But we ought to be on no account thus minded, nor to fall away into the insane folly of such people, but be ambitious at all times to make the most of such powers as we have, and to be reverent both in speech and thought. - "On the Priesthood 4.1"