Gregory, Pastoral 312

Chapter XII. How the Whole and the Sick are to Be Admonished.

312 (Admonition 13). Differently to be admonished are the whole and the sick. For the whole are to be admonished that they employ the health of the body to the health of the soul: lest, if they turn the grace of granted soundness to the use of iniquity, they be made worse by the gift, and afterwards merit the severer punishments, in that they fear not now to use amiss the more bountiful gifts of God. The whole are to be admonished that they despise not the opportunity of winning health for ever. For it is written, Behold now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation (2Co 6,2). They are to be admonished lest, if they will not please God when they may, they may be not able when, too late, they would. For hence it is that Wisdom afterward deserts those whom, too long refusing, she before called, saying, I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I will also laugh at your destruction, and will mock when what you feared cometh (Pr 1,24, seq.). And again, Then shall they call upon me, and I will not hearken; they shall rise early, and shall not find me (Pr 28). And so, when health of body, received for the purpose of doing good, is despised, it is felt, after it is lost, how precious was the gift: and at the last it is fruitlessly sought, having been enjoyed unprofitably when granted at the fit time. Whence it is well said through Solomon, Give not thine honour unto aliens and thy years unto the cruel, test haply strangers be filled with thy wealth, and thy labours be in the house of a stranger, and thou moan at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed (Pr 5,9, seq.). For who are aliens from us but malignant spirits, who are separated from the lot of the heavenly country? And what is our honour but that, though made in bodies of clay, we are yet created after the image and likeness of our Maker? Or who else is cruel but that apostate angel, who has both smitten himself with the pain of death through pride, and has not spared, though lost, to bring death upon the human ace? He therefore gives his honour unto aliens who, being made after the image and likeness of God, devotes the seasons of his life to the pleasures of malignant spirits. He also surrenders his years to the cruel one who spends the space of life accorded him after the will of the ill-domineering adversary. And in the same place it is well added, Lest haply strangers be filled with thy wealth, and labours be in the house of a stranger. For whosoever, through the healthy estate of body received by him, or the wisdom of mind granted to him, labours not in the practice of virtues but in the perpetration of vices, he by no means fills his own house, but the habitations of strangers, with his wealth: that is, he multiplies the deeds of unclean spirits, and indeed so acts, in his luxuriousness or his pride, as even to increase the number of the lost by the addition of himself. Further, it is well added, And thou moan at the best, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed. For, for the most part, the health of the flesh which has been received is spent through vices: but, when it is suddenly withdrawn, when the flesh is worn with afflictions, when the soul is already urged to go forth, then lost health, long enjoyed for ill, is sought again as though for living well. And then men moan for that they would not serve God, when altogether unable to repair the losses of their negligence by serving Him. Whence it is said in another place, When He slew them, then they sought Him (Ps 77,34).

But, on the other hand, the sick are to be admonished that they feel themselves to be sons of God in that the scourge of discipline chastises them. For, unless He purposed to give them an inheritance after correction, He would not have a care to educate them by afflictions. For hence the Lord says to John by the angel, Whom I love I rebuke and chasten (Ap 3,19 Pr 3,11). Hence again it is written, My son despise not thou the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him. For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (He 12,5-6). Hence the Psalmist says, Many are the tribulations of the righteous, and out of all these hath the Lord delivered them (Ps 33,20, also the blessed Job, crying out in his sorrow, says, If l be righteous, I will not lift up my head, being saturated with affliction and misery (Jb 10,15). The sick are to be told that, if they believe the heavenly country to be their own, they must needs endure labours in this as in a strange land. For hence it was that the stones were hammered outside, that they might be laid without sound of hammer in the building of the temple of the Lord; because, that is, we are now hammered with scourges without, that we may be afterwards set in our places within, without stroke of discipline, in the temple of God; to the end that strokes may now cut away whatever is superfluous in us, and then the concord of charity alone bind us together in the building. The sick are to be admonished to consider what severe scourges of discipline chastise our sons after the flesh for attaining earthly inheritances. What pain, then, of divine correction is hard upon us, by which both a never-to-be-lost inheritance is attained, and punishments which shall endure for ever are avoided? For hence Paul says, We have had fathers of our flesh as our educators, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much more be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? And they indeed for a few days educated us after their own will; but He for our profit in the receiving of His sanctification (He 12,9-10).

The sick are to be admonished to consider how great health of the heart is in bodily affliction, which recalls the mind to knowledge of itself, and renews the memory of infirmity which health for the most part casts away, so that the spirit, which is carried out of itself into elation, may be reminded by the smitten flesh from which it suffers to what condition it is subject. Which thing is rightly signified to Balaam (had he but been willing to follow obediently the voice of God) in the very retardation of his journey (Nb 22,23, seq.). For Balaam is on his way to attain his purpose; but the animal which is under him thwarts his desire. The ass, stopped by the prohibition, sees an angel which the human mind sees not; because for the most part the flesh, slow through afflictions, indicates to the mind from the scourge which it endures the God whom the mind itself which has the flesh under it did not see, in such sort as to impede the eagerness of the spirit which desires to advance in this world as though proceeding on a journey, until it makes known to it the invisible one who stands in its way. Whence also it is well said through Peter, (He had the dumb beast of burden for a rebuke of his madness, which speaking with a manís voice forbade the foolishness of the prophet (2P 2,16). For indeed a man is rebuked as mad by a dumb beast of burden, when an elated mind is reminded by the afflicted flesh of the good of humility which it ought to retain. But Balaam did not obtain the benefit of this rebuke for this reason, that, going to curse, he changed his voice, but not his mind. The sick are to be admonished to consider how great a boon is bodily affliction, which both washes away committed sins and restrains those which might have been committed, which inflicts on the troubled mind wounds of penitence derived from outward stripes. Whence it is written, The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil, and stripes in the secret parts of the belly (Pr 20,30). For the blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil, because the pain of scourges cleanses iniquities, whether meditated or perpetrated. But by the appellation of belly the mind is wont to be understood. For that the mind is called the belly is taught by that sentence in which it is written, The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, which searcheth all the secret parts of the belly (Pr 27). As if to say, The illumination of Divine inspiration, when it comes into a manís mind, shews it to itself by illuminating it, whereas before the coming of the Holy Spirit it both could entertain bad thoughts and knew not how to estimate them. Then, the blueness of a wound cleanses away evil, and stripes in the secret parts of the belly, because when we are smitten outwardly, we are recalled, silent and afflicted, to memory of our sins, and bring back before our eyes all our past evil deeds, and through what we suffer outwardly we grieve inwardly the more for what we have done. Whence it comes to pass that in the midst of open wounds of the body the secret stripe in the belly cleanses us more fully, because a hidden wound of sorrow heals the iniquities of evil-doing.

The sick are to be admonished, to the end that they may keep the virtue of patience, to consider incessantly how great evils our Redeemer endured from those whom He had created; that He bore so many vile insults of reproach; that, while daily snatching the souls of captives from the hand of the old enemy, He took blows on the face from insulting men; that, while washing us with the water of salvation, He hid not His face from the spittings of the faithless; that, while delivering us by His advocacy from eternal punishments, He bore scourges in silence; that, while giving to us everlasting honours among the choirs of angels, He endured buffets; that, while saving us from the prickings of our sins, He refused not to submit His head to thorns; that, while inebriating us with eternal sweetness, He accepted in His thirst the bitterness of gall; that He Who for us adored the Father though equal to Him in Godhead, when adored in mockery held His peace: that, while preparing life for the dead, He Who was Himself the life came even unto death. Why, then, is it thought hard that man should endure scourges from God for evil-doing, if God underwent so great evils for well-doing? Or who with sound understanding can be ungrateful for being himself smitten, when even He Who lived here without sin went not hence withouta scourge?

Chapter XIII. How Those Who Fear Scourges and Those Who Contemn Them are to Be Admonished.

313 (Admonition 14). Differently to be admonished are those who fear scourges, and on that account live innocently, and those who have grown so hard in wickedness as not to be corrected even by scourges. For those who fear scourges are to be told by no means to desire temporal goods as being of great account, seeing that bad men also have them, and by no means to shun present evils as intolerable, seeing they are not ignorant how for the most part good men also are touched by them. They are to be admonished that, if they desire to be truly free from evils, they should dread eternal punishments; nor yet continue in this fear of punishments, but grow up by the nursing of charity to the grace of love. For it is written, Perfect charity casteth out fear (1Jn 4,18) And again it is written, Ye have not received the spirit of bandage again in fear, but the spirit of adoption of sons, wherein we cry, Abba, Father (Rm 8,15). Whence the same teacher says again, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2Co 3,17). If, then, the fear of punishment still restrains from evil-doing, truly no liberty of spirit possesses the soul of him that so fears. For, were he not afraid of the punishment, he would doubtless commit the sin. The mind, therefore, that is bound by the bondage of fear knows not the grace of liberty. For good should be loved for itself, not pursued because of the compulsion of penalties. For he that does what is good for this reason, that he is afraid of the evil of torments, wishes that what he fears were not, that so he might commit what is unlawful boldly. Whence it appears clearer than the light that innocence is thus lost before God, in whose eyes evil desire is sin.

But, on the other hand, those whom not even scourges restrain from iniquities are to be smitten with sharper rebuke in proportion as they have grown hard with greater insensibility. For generally they are to be disdained without disdain, and despaired of without despair, so, to wit, that the despair exhibited may strike them with dread, and admonition following may bring them back to hope. Sternly, therefore, against them should the Divine judgments be set forth, that they may be recalled by consideration of eternal retribution to knowledge of themselves. For let them hear that in them is fulfilled that which is written, If thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar, as if with a pestle pounding barley, his foolishness will not be taken away from him (Pr 27,22). Against these the prophet complains to the Lord, saying, Thou hast bruised them, and they have refused to receive discipline (Jr 5,3). Hence it is that the Lord says, I have slain and destroyed this people, and yet they have not returned from their ways (Is 9,13). Hence He says again, The people hath not returned to Him that smiteth them (Jr 15,6). Hence the prophet complains by the voice of the scourgers, saying, We have taken care for Babylon, and she is not healed (Jr 51,9). For Babylon is taken care for, yet still not restored to health, when the mind, confused in evil-doing, hears the words of rebuke, feels the scourges of rebuke, and yet scorns to return to the straight paths of salvation. Hence the Lord reproaches the children of Israel, captive, but yet not converted from their iniquity, saying, The house of Israel is to Me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace (Ez 22,18); as if to say plainly, I would have purified them by the fire of tribulation, and I sought that they should become silver or gold; but they have been turned before me in the furnace into brass, tin, iron, and lead, because even in tribulation they have broken forth, not to virtue but to vices. For indeed brass, when it is struck, returns a sound more than all other metals. He, therefore, who, when subjected to strokes, breaks out into a sound of murmuring is turned into brass in the midst of the furnace. But tin, when it is dressed with art, has a false show of silver. He, then, who is not free from the vice of pretence in the midst of tribulation becomes tin in the furnace. Moreover, he who plots against the life of his neighbour uses iron. Wherefore iron in the furnace is he who in tribulation loses not the malice that would do hurt. Lead, also, is the heaviest of metals. He, then, is found as lead in the furnace who, even when placed in the midst of tribulation, is not raised above earthly desires. Hence, again, it is written, She hath wearied herself with much labour,and her exceeding rust went not out from her, not even by fire (Ez 24,12). For He brings upon us the fire of tribulation, that He may purge us from the rust of vices; but we lose not our rust even by fire, when even amid scourges we lack not vice. Hence the Prophet says again, The founder hath melted in vain; their wickednesses are not consumed (Jr 6,29).


It is, however, to be known that sometimes when they remain uncorrected amid the hardness of scourges, they are to be soothed by sweet admonition. For those who are not corrected by torments are sometimes restrained from unrighteous deeds by gentle blandishments. For commonly the sick too, whom a strong potion of medicine has not availed to cure, have been restored to their former health by tepid water; and some sores which cannot be cured by incision are healed by fomentations of oil; and hard adamant admits not at all of incision by steel, but is softened by the mild blood of goats.

Chapter XIV. How the Silent and the Talkative are to Be Admonished.

314 Admonition 15). Differently to be admonished are the over-silent, and those who spend time in much speaking. For it ought to be insinuated to the over-silent that while they shun some vices unadvisedly, they are, without its being perceived, implicated in worse. For often from bridling the tongue overmuch they suffer from more grievous quacity in the heart; so that thoughts seethe the more in the mind from being straitened by the violent guard of indiscreet silence. Arid for the most part they overflow all the more widely as they count themselves the more secure because of not being seen by fault-finders without.Whence sometimes a manís mind is exalted into pride, and he despises as weak those whom he hears speaking. And, when he shuts the mouth of his body, he is not aware to what extent through his pride he lays himself open to vices. For his tongue he represses, his mind he exalts; and, little considering his own wickedness, accuses all in his own mind by so much the more freely as he does it also the more secretly. The over-silent are therefore to be admonished that they study anxiously to know, not only what manner of men they ought to exhibit themselves outwardly, but also what manner of men they ought to shew themselves inwardly; that they fear more a hidden judgment in respect of their thoughts than the reproof of their neighbours in respect of their speeches. For it is written, My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my prudence, that thou mayest guard thy thoughts (Pr 5,1). For, indeed, nothing is more fugitive than the heart, which deserts us as often as it slips away through bad thoughts. For hence the Psalmist says, My heart hath failed me (Ps 39,13 Ps 1). Hence, when he returns to himself, be says, Thy servant hath found his heart to pray to Thee (2S 7,27). When, therefore, thought is kept under guard, the heart which was wont to fly away is found. Moreover, the over-silent for the most part, when they suffer some injustices, come to have a keener sense of pain from not speaking of what they endure. For, were the tongue to tell calmly the annoyances that have been caused, the pain would flow away from the consciousness. For closed sores torment the more; since, when the corruption that is hot within is cast out, the pain is opened out for healing. They, therefore, who are silent more than is expedient, ought to know this, lest, amid the annoyances which they endure while they hold their tongue, they aggravate the violence of their pain. For they are to be admonished that, if they love their neighbours as themselves, they should by no means keep from them the grounds on which they justly blame them. For from the medicine of the voice there is a concurrent effect for the health of both parties, while on the side of him who inflicts the injury his bad conduct is checked, and on the side of him who sustains it the violent heat of pain is allayed by opening out the sore. For those who take notice of what is evil in their neighbours, and yet refrain their tongue in silence, withdraw, as it were, the aid of medicine from observed sores, and become the causers of death, in that they would not cure the venom which they could have cured. The tongue, therefore, should be discreetly curbed, not tied up fast. For it is written, A wise man will hold his tongue until the time (Qo 20,7); in order, assuredly, that, when he considers it opportune, he may relinquish the censorship of silence, and apply himself to the service of utility by speaking such things as are fit. And again it is written, A time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Qo 3,7). For, indeed, the times for changes should be discreetly weighed, lest either, when the tongue ought to be restrained, it run loose to no profit in words, or, when it might speak with profit, it slothfully restrain itself. Considering which thing well, the Psalmist says, Set a watch, O Lord, on my mouth, and a door round about my lips (Ps 140,3 2). For he seeks not that a wall should be set on his lips, but a door: that is, what is opened and shut. Whence we, too, ought to learn warily, to the end that the voice discreetly and at the fitting time may open the mouth, and at the fitting time silence close it.

But, on the other hand, those who spend time in much speaking are to be admonished that they vigilantly note froth what a state of rectitude they fall away when they flow abroad in a multitude of words. For the human mind, after the manner of water, when closed in, is collected unto higher levels, in that it seeks again the height from which it descended; and, when let loose, it falls away in that it disperses itself unprofitably through the lowest places. For by as many superfluous words as it is dissipated from the censorship of its silence, by so many streams, as it were, is it drawn away out of itself. Whence also it is unable to return inwardly to knowledge of itself, because, being scattered by much speaking, it excludes itself from the secret place of inmost consideration. But it uncovers its whole self to the wounds of the enemy who lies in want, because it surrounds itself with no defence of watchfulness. Hence it is written, As a city that lieth open and without environment of walls,so is a man that cannot keep in his spirit in speaking (Pr 25,28). For, because it has not the wall of silence, the city of the mind lies open to the darts of the foe; and, when by words it casts itself out of itself, it shews itself exposed to the adversary. And he overcomes it with so much the less labour as with the more labour tile mind itself, which is conquered, fights against itself by much speaking.

Moreover, since the indolent mind for the most part lapses by degrees into downfall, while we neglect to guard against idle words we go on to hurtful ones; so that at first it pleases us to talk of other menís affairs; afterwards the tongue gnaws with detraction the lives of those of whom we talk; but at last breaks out even into open slanders. Hence are sown pricking thorns, quarrels arise, the torches of enmities are kindled, the peace of hearts is extinguished. Whence it is well said through Solomon, (He that letteth out water is a well-spring of strifes (Pr 17,14). For to let out water is to let loose the tongue to a flux of speech. Wherefore, on the other hand, in a good sense it is said again, The words of a manís mouth are as deep water (Pr 18,4). He therefore who letteth out water is the wellspring of strifes, because he who curbs not his tongue dissipates concord. Hence on the other hand it is written, (He that imposes silence on a foal allays enmities (He 26,10). Moreover, that any one who gives himself to much speaking cannot keep the straight way of righteousness is testified by theProphet, who says, A man full of words shall not be guided aright upon the earth (Ps 139,123). Hence also Solomon says again, In the multitude of words there shall not want sin (Pr 10,19). Hence Isaiah says, The culture of righteousness is silence (Is 32,17), indicating, to wit, that the righteousness of the mind is desolated when there is no stint of immoderate speaking. Hence James says, If any man thinketh himself to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this manís religion is vain (Jc 1,26). Hence again he says, Let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak (Pr 19). Hence again, defining the power of the tongue, he adds, An unruly evil, full of deadly poison (Pr 3,8). Hence the Truth in person admonishes us, saying, Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Mt 12,36). For indeed every word is idle that lacks either a reason of just necessity or an intention of pious usefulness. If then an account is required of idle discourse, let us weigh well what punishment awaits much speaking, in which there is also the sin of hurtful words.

Chapter XV How the Slothful and the Hasty are to Be Admonished.

315 (Admonition 16). Differently to be admonished are the slothful and the hasty. For the former are to be persuaded not to lose, by putting it off, the good they have to do; but the latter are to be admonished lest, while they forestall the time of good deeds by inconsiderate haste, they change their meritorious character. To the slothful therefore it is to be intimated, that often, when we will not do at the right time what we can, before long, when we will, we cannot. For the very indolence of the mind, when it is not kindled with befitting fervour, gets cut off by a torpor that stealthily grows upon it from all desire of good things. Whence it is plainly said through Solomon, Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep (Pr 19,15). For the slothful one is as it were awake in that he feels aright, though he grows torpid by doing nothing: but slothfulness is said to cast into a deep sleep,because by degrees even the wakefulness of right feeling is lost, when zeal for well-doing is discontinued. And in the same place it is rightly added, And a dissolute soul shall suffer hunger (Ibid). For, because it braces not itself towards higher things, it lets itself run loose uncared for in lower desires; and, while not braced with the vigour of lofty aims, suffers the pangs of the hunger of low concupiscence, and, in that it neglects to bind itself up by discipline, it scatters itself the more abroad hungry in its craving after pleasures. Hence it is written again by the same Solomon, The idle man is wholly in desires (Pr 21,26). Hence in the preaching of the Truth Himself (Mt 12,44-45) the house is said indeed to be clean when one spirit has gone out; but, when empty, it is taken possession of by his returning with many more. For the most part the slothful, while he neglects to do things that are necessary, sets heron him some that are difficult, but is inconsiderately afraid of others; and so, as though finding something that he may reasonably fear, he satisfies himself that he has good reason for remaining torpid. To him it is rightly said through Solomon, The sluggard would not plough by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in summer, and it shall not be given unto him (Pr 20,4). For indeed the sluggard ploughs not by reason of the cold, when he finds an excuse for not doing the good things which he ought to do. The sluggard ploughs not by reason of the cold, when he is afraid of small evils that are against him, and leaves undone things of the greatest importance. Further it is well said, (He shall beg in summer, and it shall not be given unto him. For whoso toils not now in good works will beg in summer and receive nothing, because, when the burning sun of judgment shall appear, he will then sue in vain for entrance into the kingdom. To him it is well said again through the same Solomon, (He that observeth the wind doth not sow: and he that regardeth the clouds never reapeth (Qo 11,4). For what is expressed by the wind but the temptation of malignant spirits? And what are denoted by the clouds which are moved of the wind but the oppositions of bad men? The clouds, that is to say, are driven by the winds, because bad men are excited by the blasts of unclean spirits. He, then, that observeth the wind soweth not, and he that regardeth the clouds reapeth not, because whosoever fears the temptation of malignant spirits, whosoever the persecution of bad men, and does not sow the seed of good work now, neither doth he then reap handfuls of holy recompense.

But on the other hand the hasty, while they forestall the time of good deeds, l pervert their merit, and often fall into what is evil, while failing altogether to discern what is good. Such persons look not at all to see what things they are doing when they do them, but for the most part, when they are done, become aware that they ought not to have done them. To such, under the guise of a learner, it is well said in Solomon, My son, do nothing without counsel, and after it is done thou shalt not repent (Si xxxii. 24). And again, Let thine eyelids go before thy steps (Pr 4,25). For indeed our eyelids go before our steps, when right counsels prevent our doings. For he who neglects to look forward by consideration to what he is about to do advances his steps with his eyes closed; proceeds on and accomplishes his journey, but goes not in advance of himself by looking forward; and therefore the sooner falls, because he gives no heed through the eyelid of counsel to where he should set the foot of action.

Chapter XVI. How the Meek and the Passionate are to Be Admonished.

316 (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 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 (
2Tm 4,2). Titus also he admonishes, saying, These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority (Tt 2,15). 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 overabudant. 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 (1S 25,37). 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, an 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 (2S 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 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.


Gregory, Pastoral 312