Gregory, Pastoral 326
326 (Admonition 27). Differently to be admonished are those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters, and those who covet indeed the things that are of this world, but yet are wearied with the labour of adversity. For those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters are to be admonished, when all things answer to their wishes, lest, through fixing their heart on what is given, they neglect to seek the giver; lest they love their pilgrimage instead of their country; lest they turn the supplies for their journey into hindrances to their arrival at its end; lest, delighted with the light of the moon by night, they shrink from beholding the clearness of the sun. They are, therefore, to be admonished to regard whatever things they attain in this world as consolations in calamity, but not as the rewards of retribution; but, on the other hand, to lift their mind against the favours of the world, lest they succumb in the midst of them with entire delight of the heart. For whosoever in the judgment of his heart keeps not down the prosperity he enjoys by love of a better life, turns the favours of this transitory life into an occasion of everlasting death. For hence it is that under the figure of the Idumaeans, who allowed themselves to be vanquished by their own prosperity, those who rejoice in the successes of this world are rebuked, when it is said, They have given my land to themselves for an inheritance with joy, and with their whole heart and mind (Ez 36,5). In which words it is to be observed, that they are smitten with severe rebuke, not merely because they rejoice, but because they rejoice with their whole heart and mind. Hence Solomon says, The turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them (Pr 1,32). Hence Paul admonishes, saying, They that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as though they used it not (1Co 7,30). So may the things that are supplied to us be of service to us outwardly to such extent only as not to turn our minds away from desire of supernal delight; and thus the things that afford us succour in our state of exile may not abate the mourning of our soulís pilgrimage; and we, who see ourselves to be wretched in our severance from the things that are eternal, may not rejoice as though we were happy in the things that are transitory. For hence it is that the Church says by the voice of the elect, His left hand is under my head, and his right hand shall embrace me (Ct 2,6). The left hand of God, to wit prosperity in the present life, she has put under her head, in that she presses it down in the intentness of her highest love. But the right hand of God embraces her, because in her entire devotion she is encompassed with His eternal blessedness. Hence again, it is said through Solomon, Length of days is in her right hand, but in her left hand riches and glory (Pr 3,16). In speaking, then, of riches and glory being placed in her left hand, he shewed after what manner they are to be esteemed. Hence the Psalmist says, Save me with thy right hand (Ps 107,7 14 ). For he says not, with thy hand, but with thy right hand;í in order, that is, to indicate, in saying right hand, that it was eternal salvation that he sought. Hence again it is written, Thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemies (Ex 15,6). For the enemies of God, though they prosper in His left hand, are dashed to pieces with His right; since for the most part the present life elevates the bad, but the coming of eternal blessedness condemns them.
Those who prosper in this world are to be admonished to consider wisely how that prosperity in the present life is sometimes given to provoke people to a better life, but sometimes to condemn them more fully for ever. For hence it is that to the people of Israel the land of Canaan is promised, that they may be provoked at some time or other to hope for eternal things. For that rude nation would not have believed the promises of God afar off, had they not received also something nigh at hand from Him that promised. In order, therefore, that they may be the more surely strengthened unto faith in eternal things, they are drawn on, not only by hope to realities, but also by realities to hope. Which thing the Psalmist clearly testifies, saying, (He gave them the lands of the heathen, and they took the labours of the peoples in possession, that they might keep his statutes and seek after his law (Ps 104,44 1 5). But, when the human mind follows not God in His bountiful gifts with an answer of good deeds, it is the more justly condemned from being accounted to have been kindly nurtured. For hence it is said again by the Psalmist, Thou castedst them down when they were lifted up (Ps 72,18 Ps 1 Ps 6). For in truth when the reprobate render not righteous deeds in return for divine gifts, when they here abandon themselves entirely and sink themselves in their abundant prosperity, then in that whereby they profit outwardly they fall from what is inmost. Hence it is that to the rich man tormented in hell it is said, Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things (Lc 16,25), For on this account, though an evil man, he here received good things, that there he might receive evil things more fully, because here even by good things he had not been converted.
But, on the other hand, those who covet indeed the things that are of the world, but yet are wearied by the labour of adversity, are to be admonished to consider anxiously with how great favour the Creator and Disposer of all things watches over those whom He gives not up to their own desires. For a sick man whom the physician despairs of he allows to take whatever he longs for: but one of whom it is thought that he can be cured is prohibited from many things that he desires; and we withdraw money from boys, for whom at the same time, as our heirs, we reserve our whole patrimony. Let, then, those whom temporal adversity humiliates take joy from hope of an eternal inheritance, since Divine Providence would not curb them in order to educate them under the rule of discipline, unless it designed them to be saved for ever. Those, therefore, who in respect of the temporal things which they covet, are wearied with the labour of adversity are to be admonished to consider carefully how for the most part even the righteous, when temporal power exalts them, are caught by sin as in a snare. For, as in the former part of this volume we have already said, David, beloved of God, was more upright when in servitude than when he came to the kingdom (1S 24,18). For, when he was a servant, in his love of righteousness he feared to smite his adversary when taken; but, when he wasa king, through the persuasion of lasciviousness, he put to death by a deceitful plan even a devoted soldier (2S 11,17). Who then can without harm seek wealth, or power, or glory, if they proved harmful even to him who had them unsought? Who in the midst of these things shall be saved without the labour of a great contest, if he who had been prepared for them by the choice of God was disturbed among them by the intervention of sin? They are to be admonished to consider that Solomon, who after so great wisdom is described as having fallen even into idolatry, is not said to have had any adversity in this world before his fall; but the wisdom that had been granted him entirely left his heart, because not even the least discipline of tribulation had guarded it.
327 (Admonition 28). Differently to be admonished are those who are bound in wedlock and those who are free from the ties of wedlock. For those who are bound in wedlock are to be admonished that, while they take thought for each otherís good, they study, both of them, so to please their consorts as not to displease their Maker; that they so conduct the things that are of this world as still not to omit desiring the things that are of God; that they so rejoice in present good as still, with earnest solicitude, to tear eternal evil; that they so sorrow for temporal evils as still to fix their hope with entire comfort on everlasting good; to the end that, while they know what they are engaged in to be transitory, but what they desire to be permanent, neither the evils of the world may break their heart while it is strengthened by the hope of heavenly good, nor the good things of the present life deceive them, while they are saddened by the apprehended evils of the judgment to come. Wherefore the mind of married Christians is both weak and stedfast, in that it cannot fully despise all temporal things, and yet can join itself in desire to eternal things. Although it lies low meanwhile in the delights of the flesh, let it grow strong in the refreshment of supernal hope: and, if it has the things that are of the world for the service of its journey, let it hope for the things that are of God for the fruit of its journeyís end: nor let it devote itself entirely to what it is engaged in now, lest it fall utterly from what it ought stedfastly to hope for. Which thing Paul well expresses briefly, saying, They that have wives as though they had none, and they that weep as though they wept not, and they that rejoice as though they rejoiced not (1Co 7,29-30). For he has a wife as though he had none who so enjoys carnal consolation through her as still never to be turned by love of her to evil deeds from the rectitude of a better aim. He has a wife as though he had none who, seeing all things to be transitory, endures of necessity the care of the flesh, but looks forward with longing to the eternal joys of the spirit. Moreover, to weep as though we wept not is so to lament outward adversities as still to know how to rejoice in the consolation of eternal hope. And again, to rejoice as though we rejoiced not is so to take heart from things below as still never to cease from fear concerning the things above. In the same place also a little afterwards he aptly adds, For the fashion of this world passeth away (v. 31); as if he had said plainly, Love not the world abidingly, since the world which ye love not itself abide. In vain ye fix your affections on it as though it were continuing, while that which ye love itself is fleeting. Husbands and wives are to be admonished, that those things wherein they sometimes displease one another they bear with mutual patience, and by mutual exhortations remedy). For it is written, Bear ye one anotherís burdens, and so ye shall fulfil the law of Christ (Ga 6,2). For the law of Christ is Charity; since it has from Him bountifully bestowed on us its good things, and has patiently borne our evil things. We, therefore, then fulfil by imitation the law of Christ, when we both kindly bestow our good things, and piously endure the evil things of our friends. They are also to be admonished to give heed, each of them, not so much to what they have to bear from the other as to what the other has to bear from them. For, if one considers what is barite from oneís self, one bears more lightly what one endures from another.
Husbands and wives are to be admonished to remember that they are joined together for the sake of producing offspring; and, when, giving themselves to immoderate intercourse, they transfer the occasion of procreation to the service of pleasure, to consider that, though they go not outside wedlock yet in wedlock itself they exceed the just dues of wedlock. Whence it is needful that by frequent supplications they do away their having fouled with the admixture of pleasure the fair form of conjugal union. For hence it is that the Apostle, skilled in heavenly medicine, did not so much lay down a course of life for the whole as point out remedies to the weak when he said, It is good for a man not to touch a woman: but on account of fornication let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband (1Co 7,1-2). For in that he premised the fear of fornication, he surely did not give a precept to such as were standing, but pointed out the bed to such as were falling, lest haply they should tumble to the ground. Whence to such as were still weak he added, Let the husband render unto the wife her due; and likewise also the wife unto the husband (v. 3). And, while in the most honourable estate of matrimony allowing to them something of pleasure, he added, But this I say by way of indulgence, not by way of command (v. 6). Now where indulgence is spoken of, a fault is implied; but one that is the more readily remitted in that it consists, not in doing what is unlawful, but in not keeping what is lawful under control. Which thing Lot expresses well in his own person, when he flies from burning Sodom, and yet, finding Zoar, does not still ascend the maintain heights. For to fly from burning Sodom is to avoid the unlawful fires of the flesh. But the height of the mountains is the purity of the continent. Or, at any rate, they are as it were upon the mountain, who, though cleaving to carnal intercourse, still, beyond the due association for the production of offspring, are not loosely lost in pleasure of the flesh. For to stand on the mountain is to seek nothing in the flesh except the fruit of procreation. To stand on the mountain is not to cleave to the flesh in a fleshly way. But, since there are many who relinquish indeed the sins of the flesh, and yet, when placed in the state of wedlock, do not observe solely the claims of due intercourse, Lot went indeed out of Sodom, but yet did not at once reach the mountain heights; because a damnable life is already relinquished, but still the loftiness of conjugal continence is not thoroughly attained. But there is midway the city of Zoar, to save the weak fugitive; because, to wit, when the married have intercourse with each other even incontinently, they still avoid lapse into sin, and are still saved through mercy. For they find as it were a little city, wherein to be protected from the fire; since this married life is not indeed marvellous for virtue, but yet is secure from punishment. Whence the same Lot says to the angel, This city is near to flee unto, and it is small, and I shall be saved therein. Is it not a little one, and my soul shall live in it (Gn 19,20)? So then it is said to be near, and yet is spoken of as a refuge of safety, since married life is neither far separated from the world, nor yet alien from the joy of safety. But the married, in this course of conduct, then preserve their lives as it were in a small city, when they intercede for each other by continual supplications. Whence it is also rightly said by the Angel to the same Lot, See I have accepted thy prayers concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow the city for the which thou hast spoken (v. 21). For in truth, when supplication is poured out to God, such married life is by no means condemned. Concerning which supplication Paul also admonishes, saying, Defraud ye not one the other except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer (1Co 7,5).
But, on the other hand, those who are not bound by wedlock are to be admonished that they observe heavenly precepts all the more closely in that no yoke of carnal union bows them down to worldly cares; that, as they are free from the lawful burden of wedlock, the unlawful weight of earthly anxiety by no means press them down; that the last day find them all the more prepared, as it finds them less encumbered; lest from being free and able, and yet neglecting, to do better things, they therefore be found deserving of worse punishment. Let them hear how the Apostle, when he would train certain persons for the grace of celibacy, did not contemn wedlock, but guarded against the worldly cares that are burn of wedlock, saying, This I say for your profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without hindrance (1Co 7,3-5). For from wedlock proceed earthly anxieties; and therefore the teacher of the Gentiles persuaded his bearers to better things, lest they should be bound by earthly anxiety. The man, then, whom, being single, the hindrance of secular cares impedes, though he has not subjected himself to wedlock, has still not escaped the burdens of wedlock. The single are to be admonished not to think that they can have intercourse with disengaged women without incurring the judgment of condemnation. For, when Paul inserted the vice of fornication among so many execrable crimes, he indicated the guilt of it, saying, Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God (1Co 6,9-10). And again, But fornicators and adulterers God will judge (He 13,4). They are therefore to be admonished that, if they suffer from the storms of temptation with risk to their safety, they should seek the port of wedlock. For it is written, It is better to marry than to burn (1Co 7,9). They come, in fact, to marriage without blame, if only they have not vowed better things. For whosoever has proposed to himself the attainment of a greater good has made unlawful the less good which before was lawful. For it is written, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Lc 9,62). He therefore who has been intent on a more resolute purpose is convicted of looking back, if, leaving the larger good, he reverts to the least.
328 (Admonition 29). Differently to be admonished are those who are conscious of sins ofthe flesh, and those who know them not. For those who have had experience of the sins of the flesh are to be admonished that, at any rare after shipwreck, they should fear the sea, and feel horror at their risk of perdition at least when it has become known to them; lest, having been mercifully preserved after evil deeds committed, by wickedly repeating the same they die. Whence to the soul that sins and never ceases from sin it is said, There is come unto thee a whoreís forehead; thou refuseth to be ashamed (Jr 3,3). They are therefore to be admonished to take heed, to the end that, if they have refused to keep whole the good things of nature which they have received, they at least mend them after theyhave been rent asunder. And they are surely bound to consider, how many in so great a number of the faithful both keep themselves undefiled and also convert others from the error of their way. What, then, will they be able to say, if, while others are standing in integrity, they themselves, even after loss, come not to a better mind? What will they be able to say, if, when many bring others also with themselves to the kingdom, they bring not back even themselves to the Lord who is waiting for them? They are to be admonished to consider past transgressions, and to shun such as are impending. Whence, under the figure of Judaea, the Lord through the prophet recalls past sins to the memory of souls corrupted in this world, to the end that they may be ashamed to be polluted in sins to come, saying, They committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: then were their breasts pressed, and the teats of their virginity were bruised (Ez 23,3). For indeed breasts are pressed in Egypt, when the will of the human soul is prostituted to the base desire of this world. Teats of virginity are bruised in Egypt, when the natural senses, still whole in themselves, are vitiated by the corruption of assailing concupiscence.
Those who have had experience of the sins of the flesh are to be admonished to observe vigilantly with how great benevolence God opens the bosom of His pity to us, if after transgressions we return to Him, when He says through the prophet, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him and become another manís, shall he return to her again? Shall not that woman be polluted and contaminated? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord (Jr 3,1). So, concerning the wife who has played the harlot and is deserted, the argument of justice is put forward: and yet to us returning after fall not justice, but pity is displayed. Whence we are surely meant to gather how great is our wickedness, if we return not, even after transgression, seeing that, when transgressing, we are spared with so great pity: or what pardon for the wicked there will be from Him who, after our sin, ceases not to call us. And indeed this mercifulness, in calling after transgression, is well expressed through the Prophet, when to man turned away from God it is said, Thine eyes shall see thy teacher, and thine ears shall hear the word of one behind thy back admonishing thee (Is 30,20-21). For indeed the Lord admonished the human race to theirface, when to man, created in Paradise, andstanding in free will, He declared what Heought to do or not to do. But man turned his back on the face of God, when in his pride he despised His commands. Yet still God deserted him not in his pride, in that He gave the Law for the purpose of recalling man, and sent exhorting angels, and Himself appeared in the flesh of our mortality. Therefore, standing behind our back, He admonished us, in that, even though despised, He called us to the recovery of grace. What, therefore could be said generally of all alike must needs be felt specially with regard to each. For every man hears the words of Godís admonition set as it were before him, when, before he commits sin, he knows the precepts of His will. For still to stand before His face is not yet to despise Him by sinning. But, when a man forsakes the good of innocence, and of choice desires iniquity, he then turns his back on the face of God. But lo, even behind his back God follows and admonishes him, in that even after sin He persuades him to return to Himself. He recalls him that is turned away, He regards not past transgressions, He opens the bosom of pity to the returning one.We hearken, then, to the voice of one behind our back admonishing us, if at least after sins we return to the Lord inviting us. We ought therefore to feel ashamed for the pity of Him Who calls us, if we will not fear His justice: since there is the more grievous wickedness in despising Him in that, though despised, He disdains not to call us still.
But, on the other hand, those that are unacquainted with the sins of the flesh are to be admonished to fear headlong ruin the more anxiously, as they stand upon a higher eminence. They are to be admonished to be aware that the more prominent be the place they stand on, so much the more frequent are the arrows of the lier-in-wait by which they are assailed. For he is wont to rouse himself the more ardently, the more stoutly he sees himself to be vanquished: and ∑ so much the more he scorns and feels it intolerable to be vanquished, as he perceives the unbroken camp of weak flesh to be set in array against him. They are to be admonished to look up incessantly to the rewards, and then undoubtedly they will gladly tread under foot the labours of temptation which they endure. For, if attention be fixed on the attained felicity apart from the passage to it, the toil of the passage becomes light. Let them hear what is said through the Prophet; Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs, Whoso shall have kept my sabbaths, and chosen the things that l would, and kept my covenant, I will give unto them in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters (Is 56,4-5). For they indeed are eunuchs, who, suppressing the motions of the flesh, cut offwithin themselves affection for wrong-doing. Moreover, in what place they are held with the Father is shewn, forasmuch as in the Fatherís house, that is in His eternal mansion, they are preferred even before sons. Let them hear what is said through John; These are they which have not been defiled with women; for they are virgins, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (Ap 14,4); and how they sing a song which no one can utter but those hundred and forty four thousand. For indeed to sing a song to the Lamb singularly is to rejoice with Him for ever beyond all the faithful, even for incorruption of the flesh. Yet the rest of the elect can hear this song, although they cannot utter it, because, through charity, they are joyful in the exaltation of those others, though they rise not to their rewards. Let those who are unacquainted with the sins of the flesh hear what the Truth in person says concerning this purity; Not all receive this word (Mt 19,11). Which thing He denoted asthe highest, in that He spoke of it as not belonging to all: and, in foretelling that it would be difficult to receive it, He signifies to his hearers with what caution it should be kept when received.
Those who are unacquainted with the sins of the flesh are therefore to be admonished both to know that virginity surpasses wedlock, and yet not to exalt themselves above the wedded: to the end that, while they put virginity first, and themselves last, they may both keep to that which they esteem as best, and also keep guard over themselves in not vainly exalting themselves.
They are to be admonished to consider that commonly the life of the continent is put to shame by the action of secular persons, when the latter take on themselves works beyond their condition, and the former do not stir up their hearts to the mark of their own order. Whence it is well said through the Prophet, Be thou ashamed, O Sidon, saith the sea (Is 23,4). For Sidon is as it were brought to shame by the voice of the sea, when the life of him who is fortified, and as it were stedfast, is reproved by comparison with the life at those who are secular and fluctuating in this world. For often there are some who, returning to the Lord after sins of the flesh, shew themselves the more ardent in good works as they see themselves the more liable to condemnation for bad ones: and often certain of those who persevere in purity of the flesh seeing that they have less in the past to deplore, think that the innocency of their life is fully sufficient for them, and inflame themselves with no incitements of ardour to fervour of spirit. And for the most part a life burning with love after sin becomes more pleasing to God than innocence growing torpid in security. Whence also it is said by the voice of the Judge, Her sins which are many are forgiven, for she loved much (Lc 7,47); and, Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance (xv. 7). Which thing we the sooner gather from experience itself, if we weigh the judgments of our own mind. For we love the land which produces abundant fruit after thorns have been ploughed out of it more than that which has had no thorns, but which, when cultivated, yields a barren harvest. Those who know not the sins of the flesh are to be admonished not to prefer themselves to others for the loftiness of their superior order, while they know not how great things are done by their inferiors better than by themselves. For in the inquisition of the righteous judge the quality of actions changes the merits of orders. For who, considering the very outward appearance of things, can be ignorant that in the nature of gems the carbuncle is preferred to the jacinth? But still a jacinth of cerulean colour is preferred to a pale carbuncle; because to the former its show of beauty supplies what the order of nature denied it, and the latter, which natural order had preferred, is debased by the quality of its colour. Thus, then, in l the human race both some in the better order are the worse, and some in the worse order are the better; since these by good living transcend the lot oft their lower state, and those lessen the merit of their higher place by not coming up to it in their behaviour.
329 (Admonition 30). Differently to be admonished are those who deplore sins of deed, and those who deplore sins of thought. For those who deplore sins of deed are to be admonished that perfected lamentations should wash out consummated evils, lest they be bound by a greater debt of perpetrated deed than they pay in tears of satisfaction for it. For it is written, (He hath given us drink in tears by measure (Ps 79,6): which means that each personís soul should in its penitence drink the tears of compunction to such extent as it remembers itself to have been dried up from God through sins. They are to be admonished to bring back their past offences incessantly before their eyes, and so to live that these may not have to be viewed by the strict judge.
Hence David, when he prayed, saying, Turn away thine eyes from my sins (Ps 1,11 Ps 1,17), had said also a little before, My fault is ever before me (v. 5); as if to say, I beseech thee not to regard my sin, since I myself cease not to regard it. Whence also the Lord says through the prophet, And I will not be mindful of thy sins, but be than mindful of them (Is 43,25-26). They are to be admonished to consider singly all their past offences, and, in bewailing thedefilements of their former wandering one byone, to cleanse at the same time even theirwhole selves with tears. Whence it is wellsaid through Jeremiah, when the several transgressions of Judaea were being considered, Mine eye hath shed divisions of waters (Lm 3,48). For indeed we shed divided waters from our eyes, when to our several sins we give separate tears. For the mind does not sorrow at one and the same time alike for all things; but, while it is more sharply touched by memory now of this fault and now of that, being moved concerning all in each, it is purged at once from all.
They are to be admonished to build upon the mercy which they crave, lest they perish through the force of immoderate affliction. For the Lord would not set sins to be deplored before the eyes of offenders, were it His will to smite them with strict severity Himself. For it is evident that it has been His will to hide from His own judgment those whom in anticipation He has made judges of themselves. For hence it is written, Let us come beforehand before the face of the Lord in confession (Ps 94,2 18). Hence through Paul it is said, If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (1Co 11,31). And again, they are to be admonished so to be confident in hope as not to grow torpid in careless security. For commonly the crafty foe, when he sees the soul which he trips up by sin to be afflicted for its fall, seduces it by the blandishments of baneful security. Which thing is figuratively expressed in the history of Dinah. For it is written, Dinah went out to see the women of that land; and when Sichem, the son of Hemor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he loved her, and seized her, and lay with her, and defiled her by force; and his soul clave unto her, and he soothed her with kind blandishments when she was sad (). For indeed Dinah goes out to see the women of a foreign land, when any soul, neglecting its own concerns, and giving heed to the actions of others, wanders forth out of its own proper condition and order. And Sichem, prince of the country, overpowers it inasmuch as the devil corrupts it, when found occupied in external cares). And his soul clave unto her, because he regards it as united to himself through iniquity. And because, when the soul comes to a sense of its sin, it stands condemned, and would fain deplore its transgression, but the corrupter recalls before its eyes empty hopes and grounds of security to the end that he may withdraw from it the benefit of sorrow, therefore it is rightly added in the text, And soothed her with blandishments when she was sad. For he tells now of the heavier offences of others, now of what has been perpetrated being nothing, now of God being merciful; or again he promises time hereafter for repentance; so that the soul, seduced by these deceptions, may be suspended from its purpose of penitence, to the end that it may receive no good hereafter, being saddened by no evil now, and that it may then be more fully overwhelmed with punishment, in that now it even rejoices in its transgressions.
But, on the other hand, those who bewail sins of thought are to be admonished to consider anxiously within the recesses of their soul whether they have sinned in delight only, or also in consent. For commonly the heart is tempted, and in the sinfulness of the flesh experiences delight, and yet in its judgment resists this same sinfulness; so that in the secrets of thought it is both saddened by what pleases it and pleased by what saddens it. But sometimes the soul is so whelmed in a gulph of temptation as not to resist at all, but follows of set purpose that whereby it is assailed through delight; and, if outward opportunity be at hand, it soon consummates in effect its inward wishes. And certainly, if this is regarded according to the just animadversion of a strict judge, the sin is one, not of thought, but of deed; since, though the tardiness of circumstances has deferred the sin outwardly, the will has accomplished it inwardly by the act of consent.
Moreover, we have learnt in the case of our first parent that we perpetrate the iniquity of every sin in three ways; that is to say, in suggestion, delight, and consent. Thus the first is perpetrated through the enemy, the second through the flesh, the third through the spirit. For the lier-in-wait suggests wrong things; the flesh submits itself to delight; and at last the spirit, vanquished by delight, consents. Whence also that serpent suggested wrong things; then Eve, as though she had been the flesh, submitted herself to delight; but Adam, as the spirit, overcome by the suggestion and the delight, assented. Thus by suggestion we have knowledge of sin, by delight we are vanquished, by consent we are also bound. Those, therefore, who bewail iniquities of thought are to be admonished to consider anxiously in what measure they have fallen into sin, to the end that they may be lifted up by a measure of lamentation corresponding to the degree of the downfall of which they are inwardly conscious; lest, if meditated evils torment them too little, they lead them on even to the perpetration of deeds. But in all this they should be alarmed in such wise that they still be by no means broken down. For often merciful God absolves sins of the heart the more speedily in that He allows them not to issue in deeds; and meditated iniquity is the more Speedily loosed from not being too tightly bound by effected deed. Whence it is rightly said by the Psalmist, I said I will declare against myself my iniquities to the Lord, and thou forgavest the impiety of my heart (Ps 31,5). For in that he added impiety of heart, he indicated that it was iniquities of thought that he would declare: and in saying, I said I will declare, and straightway subjoining, And thou forgavest, he shewed how easy in such a case pardon was. For, while but promising that he would ask, he obtained what he promised to ask for; so that, since his sin had not advanced to deed, neither should his penitence go so far as to be torment; and that meditated affliction should cleanse the soul which in truth no more than meditated iniquity had defiled.
Gregory, Pastoral 326