Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XII/Gregory the Great/The Book of Pastoral Rule/Part III/Chapter 22
How those that are at variance and those that are at peace are to be admonished.
(Admonition 23.) Differently to be admonished are those that are at variance and those that are at peace. For those that are at variance are to be admonished to know most certainly that, in whatever virtues they may abound, they can by no means become spiritual if they neglect becoming united to their neighbours by concord. For it is written, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (Gal. v. 22). He then that has no care to keep peace refuses to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Hence Paul says, Whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal (1 Cor. iii. 3)? Hence again he says also, Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. xii. 14). Hence again he admonishes, saying, Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: there is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (Eph. iv. 3, 4). The one hope of our calling, therefore, is never reached, if we run not to it with a mind at one with our neighbours. But it is often the case that some, by being proud of some gifts that they especially partake of, lose the greater gift of concord; as it may be if one who subdues the flesh more than others by bridling of his appetite should scorn to be in concord with those whom he surpasses in abstinence. But whoso separates abstinence from concord, let him consider the admonition of the Psalmist, Praise him with timbrel and chorus (Ps. cl. 4). For in the timbrel a dry and beaten skin resounds, but in the chorus voices are associated in concord. Whosoever then afflicts his body, but forsakes concord, praises God indeed with timbrel, but praises Him not with chorus. Often, however, when superior knowledge lifts up some, it disjoins them from the society of other men; and it is as though the more wise they are, the less wise are they as to the virtue of concord. Let these therefore hear what the Truth in person says, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mark ix. 50). For indeed salt without peace is not a gift of virtue, but an argument for condemnation. For the better any man is in wisdom, the worse is his delinquency, and he will deserve punishment inexcusably for this very reason, that, if he had been so minded, he might in his prudence have avoided sin. To such it is rightly said through James, But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable (James iii. 14, 15, 17). Pure, that is to say, because its ideas are chaste; and also peaceable, because it in no wise through elation disjoins itself from the society of neighbours. Those who are at variance are to be admonished to take note that they offer to God no sacrifice of good work so long as they are not in charity with their neighbours. For it is written, If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then thou shalt come and offer thy gift (Matth. v. 23, 24). Now by this precept we are led to consider how intolerable the guilt of men is shewn to be when their
sacrifice is rejected. For, whereas all evils are washed away when followed by what is good, let us consider how great must be the evils of discord, seeing that, unless they are utterly extinguished, they allow no good to follow. Those who are at variance are to be admonished that, if they incline not their ears to heavenly commands, they should open the eyes of the mind to consider the ways of creatures of the lowest order; how that often birds of one and the same kind desert not one another in their social flight, and that brute beasts feed in herds together. Thus, if we observe wisely, irrational nature shews by agreeing together how great evil rational nature commits by disagreement; when the latter has lost by the exercise of reason what the former by natural instinct keeps. But, on the other hand, those that are at peace are to be admonished to take heed lest, while they love more than they need do the peace which they enjoy, they have no longing to reach that which is perpetual. For commonly tranquil circumstances more sorely try the bent of minds, so that, in proportion as the things which occupy them are not troublesome, the things which invite them come to appear less lovely, and the more present things delight, eternal things are the less sought after. Whence also the Truth speaking in person, when He would distinguish earthly from supernal peace, and provoke His disciples from that which now is to that which is to come, said, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (Joh. xiv. 27). That is, I leave a transitory, I give a lasting peace. If then the heart is fixed on that which is left, that which is to be given is never reached. Present peace, therefore, is to be held as something to be both loved and thought little of, lest, if it is loved immoderately, the mind of him that loves be taken in a fault. Whence also those who are at peace should be admonished lest, while too desirous of human peace, they fail entirely to reprove men’s evil ways, and, in consenting to the froward, disjoin themselves from the peace of their Maker; lest, while they dread human quarrels without, they be smitten by breach of their inward covenant. For what is transitory peace but a certain footprint of peace eternal? What, then, can be more mad than to love footprints impressed on dust, but not to love him by whom they have been impressed? Hence David, when he would bind himself entirely to the covenants of inward peace, testifies that he held no agreement with the wicked, saying, Did not I hate them, O God, that hate thee, and waste away on account of thine enemies? I hated them with perfect hatred, they became enemies to me (Ps. cxxxviii. 21, 22). For to hate God’s enemies with perfect hatred is both to love what they were made, and to chide what they do, to be severe on the manners of the wicked, and to profit their life. It is therefore to be well weighed, when there is rest from chiding, how culpably peace is kept with the worst of men, if so great a prophet offered this as a sacrifice to God, that he excited the enmities of the wicked against himself for the Lord. Hence it is that the tribe of Levi, when they took their swords and passed through the midst of the camp because they would not spare the sinners who were to be smitten, are said to have consecrated their hands to God (Exod. xxxii. 27, seq.). Hence Phinehas, spurning the favour of his fellow-countrymen when they sinned, smote those who came together with the Midianites, and in his wrath appeased the wrath of God (Num. xxv. 9). Hence in person the Truth says, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword (Matth. x. 34). For, when we are unwarily joined in friendship with the wicked, we are bound in their sins. Whence Jehoshaphat, who is extolled by so many praises of his previous life, is rebuked for his friendship with King Ahab as though nigh unto destruction, when it is said to him through the prophet, Thou givest help to the ungodly, and art joined in friendship with them that hate the Lord; and therefore thou didst deserve indeed the wrath of the Lord: nevertheless there are good works found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the graves out of the land of Judah (2 Chron. xix. 2, 3). For our life is already at variance with Him who is supremely righteous by the very fact of agreement in the friendships of the froward. Those who are at peace are to be admonished not to be afraid of disturbing their temporal peace, if they break forth into words of rebuke. And again they are to be admonished to keep inwardly with undiminished love the same peace which in their external relations they disturb by their reproving voice. Both which things David declares that he had prudently observed, saying, With them that hate peace I was peaceable; when I spake unto them, they fought against me without a cause (Ps. cxix. 7). Lo, when he spoke, he was fought against; and yet, when fought against, he was peaceable, because he neither ceased to reprove those that were mad against him, nor forgot to love those who were reproved. Hence also Paul says, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, have peace with all men (Rom. xii. 18).
For, being about to exhort his disciples to have peace with all, he said first, If it be possible, and added, As much as lieth in you. For indeed it was difficult for them, if they rebuked evil deeds, to be able to have peace with all. But, when temporal peace is disturbed in the hearts of bad men through our rebuke, it is necessary that it should be kept inviolate in our own heart. Rightly, therefore, says he, As much as lieth in you. It is indeed as though he said, Since peace stands in the consent of two parties, if it is driven out by those who are reproved, let it nevertheless be retained undiminished in the mind of you who reprove. Whence the same apostle again admonishes his disciples, saying, If any man obey not our word, note that man by this epistle; and have no company with him, that he may be confounded (2 Thess. iii. 14). And straightway he added, Yet count him not as an enemy, but reprove him as a brother (Ibid. 15). As if to say, Break ye outward peace with him, but guard in your heart’s core internal peace concerning him; that your discord with him may so smite the mind of the sinner that peace depart not from your hearts even though denied to him.
- In English Bible, Ps. cxxxiv.
- Ibid., Ps. cxx.