Now I pray to God that you do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that you should do that which is honest, though we be as failures.
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5. What can be equal to this soul? He was despised, he was spit upon, he was ridiculed, he was mocked, as mean, as contemptible, as a braggart, as boastful in his words but in his deeds unable to make even a little show; and although seeing so great a necessity for showing his own power, he not only puts off, not only shrinks back, but even prays that he may not fall into such a position. For he says, I pray that you do no evil, not that we may appear approved, but that you may do that which is honorable, though we be as reprobate. What is it he says? 'I entreat God. I beseech Him,' he says, 'that I may find no one unreformed, may find no one' that has not repented? Yea, rather, not this alone, but that none may have sinned at all. For,' he says, 'that you have done no [evil], but if you have perchance sinned, then that you may have changed your conduct, and been beforehand with me in reforming, and arresting all wrath. For this is not what I am eager about, that we should be approved in this way, but clean the contrary, that we should not appear approved. For if you should continue,' he says, 'sinning and not repenting, it will be necessary for us to chastise, to punish, to maim your bodies; (as happened in the case of Sapphira and of Magus;) and we have given proof of our power. But we pray not for this, but the contrary, that we may not be shown to be approved in this way, that we may not in this way exhibit the proof of the power which is in us, by chastising you and punishing you as sinning and as incurably diseased, but what? That ye should do that which is honorable, we pray for this, that you should ever live in virtue, ever in amendment; and we should be as reprobate, not displaying our power of punishing.' And he said not, reprobate for he would not be reprobate, even though he did not punish, nay rather for this very reason he would be approved; 'but even if some suspect us,' he says, 'on account of our not displaying our power, to be contemptible and cast away, we care nothing for this. Better we should be so deemed of by those, than display the power which God has given to us in those stripes, and in that unreformedness of heart.'
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For that he may not seem [merely] to be gratifying them, (for this is what one who was void of vain-glory might do,) but to be doing what the nature of the thing demanded, he added this, for we can do nothing against the truth. 'For if we find you,' he says, 'in good repute, having driven away your sins by repentance and having boldness towards God; we shall not be able thereafter, were we never so willing, to punish you, but should we attempt it even, God will not work with us. For to this end gave He us our power that the judgment we give should be true and righteous, not contrary to the truth.' Do you see how in every way he can, he makes what he says void of offensiveness, and softens the harshness of his menace? Moreover as he has eagerly endeavored this, so is he desirous also to show that his mind was quite joined to them; wherefore also he added, For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong, and this also we pray for even your perfecting. 'For most certainly,' he says, 'we cannot do any thing against the truth, that is, punish you if you are well pleasing [to God]; besides, because we cannot, we therefore do not wish it, and even desire the contrary. Nay, we are particularly glad of this very thing, when we find you giving us no occasion to show that power of ours for punishment. For even if the doing of such things shows men glorious and approved and strong; still we desire the contrary, that you should be approved and unblamable, and that we should never at any time reap the glory thence arising.' Wherefore he says, For we are glad when we are weak. What is, are weak? 'When we may be thought weak.' Not when we are weak, but when we are thought weak; for they were thought so by their enemies, because they displayed not their power of punishing. 'But still we are glad, when your behavior is of such a sort as to give us no pretence for punishing you. And it is a pleasure to us to be in this way considered weak, so that only ye be blameless;' wherefore he adds, and you are strong, that is, 'are approved, are virtuous. And we do not only wish for this, but we pray for this, that you may be blameless, perfect, and afford us no handle.'
6. This is paternal affection, to prefer the salvation of the disciples before his own good name. This is the part of a soul free from vainglory; this best releases from the bonds of the body and makes one to rise aloft from earth to heaven, the being pure from vain-glory; just as therefore the contrary leads unto many sins. For it is impossible that one who is not pure from vain-glory, should be lofty and great and noble; but he must needs grovel on the ground, and do much damage, while the slave of a polluted mistress, more cruel than any barbarian. For what can be fiercer than she who, when most courted, is then most savage? Even wild beasts are not this, but are tamed by much attention. But vain-glory is quite the contrary, by being contemned she is made tame, by being honored she is made savage and is armed against her honorer. The Jews honored her and were punished with exceeding severity; the disciples slighted her and were crowned. And why speak I of punishment and crowns? For to this very point of being seen to be glorious, it contributes more than any thing, to spit upon vainglory. And you shall see even in this world that they who honor it are damaged, while those who slight it are benefited. For the disciples who slighted it, (for there is no obstacle to our using the same example again,) and preferred the things of God, outshine the sun, having gained themselves an immortal memory even after their death; while the Jews who crouched to it have become cityless, heartless, degraded, fugitives, exiles, mean, contemptible. Do thou, therefore, if you desire to receive glory, repel glory; but if you pursue glory, you shall miss glory. And, if you will, let us also try this doctrine in worldly matters. For whom do we make sport of in our jests? Is it not of those whose minds are set upon it? Certainly then, these men are the most entirely destitute of it, having countless accusers and being slighted by all. And whom do we admire, tell me; is it not those who despise it? Certainly then, these are they that are glorified. For as he is rich, not who is in need of many things, but who is in need of nothing; so he is glorious, not who loves glory, but who despises it; for this glory is but a shadow of glory. No one having seen a loaf painted, though he should be pressed with hunger ever so much, will attack the picture. Neither then do thou pursue these shadows, for this is a shadow of glory, not glory. And that you may know that this is the manner of it and that it is a shadow, consider this that it must be so, when the thing has a bad name among men, when all consider it a thing to be avoided, they even who desire it; and when he who has it and he covets it are ashamed to be called after it. 'Whence then is this desire,' says one, 'and how is the passion engendered?' By littleness of soul, (for one ought not only to accuse it, but also to correct it,) by an imperfect mind, by a childish judgment. Let us then cease to be children, and let us become men: and let us every where pursue the reality, not the shadows, both in wealth, and in pleasure, and in luxury, and in glory, and in power; and this disease will cease, and many others also. For to pursue shadows is a madman's part. Wherefore also Paul said, Awake up righteously and sin not. 1 Corinthians 15:34 For there is yet another madness, sorer than that caused by devils, than that from frenzy. For that admits of forgiveness, but this is destitute of excuse, seeing the soul itself is corrupted and its right judgment lost; and that of frenzy indeed is an affection of the body, but this madness has its seat in the artificer mind. As then of fevers those are sorer, yea incurable, which seize upon firm bodies and lurk in the recesses of the nerves and are hidden away in the veins, so truly is this madness also, seeing it lurks in the recesses of the mind itself, perverting and destroying it. For how is it not clear and evident madness, yea, a distemper sorer than any madness, to despise the things which abide forever, and to cling with great eagerness to those which perish? For, tell me, if one were to chase the wind or try to hold it, should we not say that he was mad? And what? If one should grasp a shadow and neglect the reality; if one should hate his own wife and embrace her shadow; or loathe his son and again love his shadow, would you seek any other clearer sign in proof of madness? Such are they also who greedily follow the present things. For they are all shadow, yea, whether thou mention glory, or power, or good report, or wealth, or luxury, or any other thing of this life. And therefore truly it is that the prophet said, Surely man walks in a shadow, yea, he disquiets himself in vain; Psalm 39:6 and again, Our days decline like a shadow. Psalm 102:11 And in another place, he calls human things smoke and the flower of grass. But it is not only his good things which are shadow, but his evils also, whether it be death thou mention, or poverty, or disease, or any other thing. What then are those things which abide, both good and evil? The eternal kingdom and the everlasting hell. For neither shall the worm die, nor shall the fire be quenched: Mark 9:44 and these shall rise again to everlasting life: and these to everlasting punishment. Mark 25:46 That then we may escape the one and enjoy the other, letting go the shadow, let us cling to the real things with all earnestness, for so shall we obtain the kingdom of heaven, which may we all obtain though the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.