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Jer. ix. 1; Matt. ix. 36; Luke xix. 41; 2 Cor. xi 29. Hence that saying of the Poet, The good are tear-abounding men.
3. We have, lastly, the conformity of nature, and the possibility of suffering similar things. For nothing is more agreeable to nature, than to be touched with the evils and misfortunes of those who are partakers of the same nature with us. This the Apostle points out, Heb. ii. 17, where he says of Christ, that it behoved him to be made like his brethren that he might be a merciful and faithful High priest. The possibility of suffering similar evils, when seriously considered, forces mercy from any man that is not destitute of feeling: For what has happened to some one may happen to any one; which even Aristotle acknowledges, Rhet. 2. cap. 18.
Hence we conclude,
1. The apathy (årádela) of the Stoics must be exploded by a Christian; as not agreeing either with our natural condition or our supernatural regeneration. Prosper, De vit. contempl. 30, 31, well remarks, We are not in fault for having affections, but for making a bad use of them.
2. Bowels of mercy are found in every regenerate person : he is therefore moved at the very first view of another's misery.
3. They who, ere they can be excited to mercy, must have much solicitation, bewailing, and clamour from the afficted, can lay claim to little or nothing of the spiritual man : they who are not moved by these, have nothing human in them.
Kindness.] From the affection, the Apostle passes to the act; because the pity of the rich without kindness is but the illusion of the wretched. Augustine properly defines true pity to be, compassion in our heart for another's distress, such as will lead us to assist where we are able. Thus by compassion the mind grieves, says Gregory, as the liberal hand shews this affection of grief. Consequently, these two, mercy and kindness, must always be joined together, as James recommends, Chap. ii. 16, and John, 1 Epis. iii. 17. Whatever they pretend, they who have their hands closed, have their bowels of mercy closed too, or rather they have none. But we shall also adduce some motives for this kindness or liberality.
The first shall be what ought to prompt us to all good works, the command of God and our Lord. For it is not the case (as the vulgar vainly imagine) that works of justice alone fall under the precept, and works of mercy are left to our own will. God distinctly requires of us works of beneficence, and severely punishes their omission. Break thy bread wilh the hungry, Isa. lviii. 7. See Matt. xxv. 41, 42, &c.
Secondly, the duty of dispensing their wealth is imposed upon all the rich. Hence benevolence towards the poor is called righteousness, Prov. xi. 18. And they are reproached with theft by the Fathers, who, when they might, assist not the poor. Hence that charge of Basil: The bread which you withhold is the bread of your servant; the garment which you keep is the garment of the naked ; and the money you lay up is the money of the poor. And Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. 16, says, May it not be my unhappy lot to grow rich while the poor are in want, and I not succour them in their distress, &c.
Thirdly, A reward is promised by God to those who are beneficent towards the poor: A reward, I say, both in this life and in the life which is to come. That it is in this life see Ps. cxii, 5, &c. Prov. xi. 25, and xxviii. 27. For that which is to come, see Matt. xxv. 34, Luke xiv. 14, Gal. vi. 9. The testimonies of the Fathers to this are very numerous; and hence the exhortations to benevolence. We lose all earthly things by keeping them; we preserve them by giveng, says Greg. Hom. 17. in Evang. It is gain to give to the poor, says Basil, Serm. 1, in Avaros. Why fearest thou to render everlasting thy frail and transitory goods, or to entrust thy treasures to God's safe keeping ? asks Lactantius, lib. 6. cap. 12. And Jerom, ad Nepotian says, I do not remember to have read of an unhappy death of any one who had liberally exer cised the works of charily; for such an one has many intercessors.
Humbleness of mind.] The Apostle well joins this to mercy and kindness ; since, as Augustine observes, there are many who would more readily give all they have to feed the poor, than become beggars themselves before God. Indeed it often happens, that works of charity and mercy give occasion for pomp and pride. In whatever condition we are, then, we have need to put on humility: In prosperity (that is, when we abound in temporal or spiritual riches), lest we become insolent towards God, as in the case of Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxvi. 16, and of the Israelites, Hosea xiii. 6; lest we despise and oppress our neighbour as did Haman, in Esther iii.6; or the Pharisee, in Luke xviii. 11. For, as Gregory has remarked, It is a rare thing for a person who is preeminent in many respects not to despise any one. In adversity too ; lest we murmur against God, as the Israelites did; or despond in mind under our afflictions.
The following reflections will engender humbleness of mind in us :
1. If we consider that whatever good thing we have, it does not come from ourselves, but from God; that it is small, in comparison of the virtues we are without, and the sins with which we are beset; and that we have abused this little good in many ways.
2. If we reflect that it is an especial part of the image of the devil, to admire one's self; but a part of the image of Christ to be humble and lowly, Matt. xi. 29. . Whence Augustine says, de Trinit. 4. 10, The prince of pride brings to death the man who indulges pride ; Christ the Lord of humility brings to life the man who obeys.
3. If we observe how God is affected towards the humble; viz. in that he has respect to them before others, Isa. Ixvi. 2; and beyond all others he adorns and enriches them more and more with his gifts, Matt. xi. 25; Psal. xviii. 27; Luke i. 52, 53. Parisiensis not unaptly calls the human heart a spiritual vacuum. And as nature does not suffer a corporeal vacuum, but rather impels some bodies into places not suited to their nature; so the grace of God does not allow of a spiritual vacuum in the heart of the humble, but sends streams of heavenly blessings to fill it.
4. If we remark what mind God bears towards the
proud : viz. that he accounts them his greatest enemies, and pursues them with his wrath even to destruction. He destroys the house of the proud, Prov. xv. 25; God resisteth the proud, &c. 1 Pet. v.5. From which Gregory, on that passage 1 Sam. xv. 17, When THOU WAST LITTLE IN THINE OWN EYES, says, Thou wast great in mine eyes, because lowly in thine own : now art thou abased before me, because great in thine own sight. Therefore how much any one is precious in his own eyes, by so much he becomes more base before God.
Lastly, if we bear in mind that pride is the poison of all virtues, and of all good deeds. Whence Augustine (on Ps. xciii.) concludes, Humility in evil deeds is more pleasing to God, than pride in good ones. He, therefore, who combines other virtues without humility, does but bear chaff against the wind. On this account God determined that it was better for his holy Apostle to be buffetted by Satan, than to be inflated by the sin of pride, 2 Cor. xii. 7.
Meekness, long-suffering.] These two virtues are the daughters of humility, of which we have the greatest need in adversity, and when we have business with morose, reproachful, and wicked men ; for they become as a shield to us. As to meekness; it is that virtue which renders a man manageable in common intercourse, and prevents him from being exasperated beyond measure and justice at the follies, stubbornness, and lighter faults of others, even when they tend to his own injury or disadvantage. It is such a moderator of passion, that it absolutely restrains what is unjust, and so tempers and softens what is just, that it is neither rashly excited, nor borne headlong beyond its proper limits. A humble-minded man (apaos) is not badly described by Aristotle, Ethic. 4, 5, when he says that he is not driven headlong by unbridled passion, but is angry so far, so long, and against the person right reason enjoins ; and, in a word, is not given to revenge, but rather easy to be appeased. We must strive after this virtue on many accounts.
1. Because it resides not with the good and perfect, hut among those who often sin, from infirmity and ignorance; which even we ourselves do. It is but just, therefore, that one requiring pardon for his offences should in his turn grant it. Which also the Apostle advises, Gal. vi. 1, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2. Because it brings the greatest utility to us, in rendering life pleasant and tranquil : while the passionate and angry are daily driven to madness, by the injuries they give and receive on every side. The mcek, says the Psalmist, shall inherit the earth ; they shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Ps. xxxvii. 11.
3. Because it is a sign and an essential mark of the sons of God, and of those destined to eternal happiness. Blessed are the peace-makers ; for they shall be called the children of God, Matt. v. 9.
4. Because we have exhibited to us a living model of meekness in God himself (Jonah iv. 2; Joel ji. 13); the Son of God (1 Pet. ii. 23); and, in fine, in all the servants of God; as Moses (Num. xii. 3); David (2 Saml. xvi. 10, 11); Paul (1 Thess. ii. 7), We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her own children.
Long-suffering, Man poduplav.] This is not very different from the preceding virtue, unless that it seems to refer to injuries of a more grievous nature done to us by men, and severer calamities sent by God himself. Therefore we should not only bear with calmness and meekness, the follies, infirmities, and daily and customary injuries of men ; but even if we should be annoyed and oppressed, however bitterly and maliciously, we must bear it with a great and generous mind.
1. On account of the Divine Providence which orders and disposes all these things, and to which it is right for a servant of God to submit. This we find to have been done by Job, David, and Christ himself; who, when evil entreated by the wicked, patiently obeyed the will of God.
2. On account of the advantage derived therefrom. For griefs and injuries greatly conduce to cure the diseases of the soul; to beat down pride, to extinguish the love of the