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[1.] They who drink bitter medicines, first submit to some unpleasantness, and afterwards feel the benefit. For such is virtue, such is vice. In the latter there is first the pleasure, then the despondency: in the former first the despondency, and then the pleasure. But there is no equality; for it is not the same, to be first grieved and afterwards pleased, and to be first pleased and afterwards grieved. How so? because in the latter case the expectation of coming despondency makes the present pleasure less: but in the former the expectation of coming pleasure cuts away the violence of present despondency; so that the result is that in the one instance we never have pleasure, in the latter we never have grief. And the difference does not lie in this only, but also in other ways. As how? That the duration is not equal, but far greater and more ample. And here too, it is still more so in things spiritual.
From this [consideration] then Paul undertakes to console them; and again takes up the common judgment of men, which no one is able to stand against, nor to contend with the common decision, when one says what is acknowledged by all.
Ye are suffering, he says. For such is chastisement; such is its beginning. For “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous.” Well said he, “seemeth not.” Chastisement he means is not grievous but “seemeth” so. “All chastisement”: not this and that, but “all,” both human and spiritual. Seest thou that he argues from our common notions? “Seemeth” (he says) “to be grievous,” so that it is not [really so]. For what sort of grief brings forth joy? So neither does pleasure bring forth despondency.
“To them” (he says) “which have been exercised thereby.” What is “to them which have been exercised thereby”? To them that have endured for a long while, and been patient. And he uses an auspicious3398
If then “all chastisement” be such, this also will be such: so that we ought to look for good things, and for a sweet and peaceful end. And do not wonder if, being itself hard, it has sweet fruits; since in trees also the bark is almost destitute of all quality,3399
[2.] Ver. 14. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” What he also said above, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” ( c. x. 25 ), he hints at in this place also. For nothing so especially makes persons easily vanquished and subdued in temptations, as isolation. For, tell me, scatter a phalanx in war, and the enemy will need no trouble, but will take them prisoners, coming on them separately, and thereby the more helpless.
“Without which” (he says) “no man shall see the Lord.” Which he also says in the [Epistle] to the Corinthians. “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor covetous persons, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” ( 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.) For how shall he who has become the body of a harlot, how shall he be able to be the body of Christ?
[4.] Ver. 15. “Looking diligently3403
[5.] If ye be willing, ye will have more success with each other than we can have. For ye both are with one another for a longer time, and ye know more than we of each other’s affairs, and ye are not ignorant of each other’s failings, and ye have more freedom of speech, and love, and intimacy; and these are no small [advantages] for teaching, but great and opportune introductions for it: ye will be more able than we both to reprove and to exhort. And not this only, but because I am but one, whereas ye are many; and ye will be able, however many, to be teachers. Wherefore I entreat you, do not “neglect this gift.” ( 1 Tim. iv. 14.) Each one of you has a wife, has a friend, has a servant, has a neighbor; let him reprove him, let him exhort him.
For how is it not absurd, with regard to [bodily] nourishment, to make associations for messing together, and for drinking together, and to have a set day whereon to club with one another, as they say, and to make up by the association what each person being alone by himself fails short of—as for instance, if it be necessary to go to a funeral, or to a dinner, or to assist a neighbor in any matter—and not to do this for the purpose of instruction in virtue? Yea, I entreat you, let no man neglect it. For great is the reward he receives from God. And that thou mayest understand, he who was entrusted with the five talents is the teacher: and he with the one is the learner. If the learner should say, I am a learner, I run no risk, and should hide the reason,3404
[6.] But I have no [skill of] speech,3405
‘And what advantage is it’ (you say), ‘when he does this for my sake, and because he has been held back by me?’ Do not be too minute in thy calculations. For a while, by whatever means, withdraw him from his evil practice; let him be accustomed not to go off to that pit, whether through thee, or through any means whatever. When thou hast accustomed him not to go, then by taking him after he has gained breath a little thou wilt be able to teach him that he ought to do this for God’s sake, and not for man’s. Do not wish to make all right at once, since you cannot: but do it gently and by degrees.
If thou see him going off to drinking, or to parties where there is nothing but drunkenness, then also do the same; and again on the other hand intreat him, if he observe that thou hast any failing, to help thee and set thee right. For in this way, he will even of himself, bear reproof, when he sees both that thou needest reproofs as well, and that thou helpest him, not as one that had done everything right, nor as a teacher, but as a friend and a brother. Say to him, I have done thee a service, in reminding thee of things expedient: do thou also, whatever failing thou seest me have, hold me back,3406
This is friendship; thus “brother aided by brother becomes a fortified city.” ( Prov. xviii. 19.) For not eating and drinking makes friendship: such friendship even robbers have and murderers. But if we are friends, if we truly care for one another, let us in these respects help one another. This leads us to a profitable friendship: let us hinder those things which lead away to hell.
[7.] Therefore let not him that is reproved be indignant: for we are men and we have failings; neither let him who reproves do it as exulting over him and making a display, but privately, with gentleness. He that reproves has need of greater gentleness, that thus he may persuade [them] to bear the cutting. Do you not see surgeons, when they burn, when they cut, with how great gentleness they apply their treatment? Much more ought those who reprove others to act thus. For reproof is sharper even than fire and knife, and makes [men] start. On this account surgeons take great pains to make them bear the cutting quietly, and apply it as tenderly as possible, even giving in3407
So ought we also to offer reproofs, that the reproved may not start away. Even if therefore, it be necessary to be insulted, yea even to be struck, let us not decline it. For those also who are cut [by the surgeons] utter numberless cries against those who are cutting them; they however heed none of these things, but only the health of the patients. So indeed in this case also we ought to do all things that our reproof may be effectual, to bear all things, looking to the reward which is in store.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens,” saith he, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” ( Gal. vi. 2.) So then, both reproving and bearing with one another, shall we be able to fulfill edification. And thus will ye make the labor light for us, in all things taking a part with us, and stretching out a hand, and becoming sharers and partakers, both in one another’s salvation, and each one in his own. Let us then endure patiently, both bearing “one another’s burdens,” and reproving: that we may attain to the good things promised in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.