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  • To the Virgins of Æmona.

    Letter XI. To the Virgins of Æmona.

    Æmona was a Roman colony not far from Stridon, Jerome’s birthplace. The virgins to whom the note is addressed had omitted to answer his letters, and he now writes to upbraid them for their remissness. The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

    This scanty sheet of paper shows in what a wilderness I live, and because of it I have to say much in few words. For, desirous though I am to speak to you more fully, this miserable scrap compels me to leave much unsaid. Still ingenuity makes up for lack of means, and by writing small I can say a great deal. Observe, I beseech you, how I love you, even in the midst of my difficulties, since even the want of materials does not stop me from writing to you.

    Pardon, I beseech you, an aggrieved man: if I speak in tears and in anger it is because I have been injured. For in return for my regular letters you have not sent me a single syllable. Light, I know, has no communion with darkness,142

    142 2 Cor. vi. 14.

    and God’s handmaidens no fellowship with a sinner, yet a harlot was allowed to wash the Lord’s feet with her tears,143

    143 Luke vii. 37 sqq.

    and dogs are permitted to eat of their masters’ crumbs.144

    144 Matt. xv. 27.

    It was the Saviour’s mission to call sinners and not the righteous; for, as He said Himself, “they that be whole need not a physician.”145

    145 Matt. ix. 12, 13.

    He wills the repentance of a sinner rather than his death,146

    146 Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

    and carries home the poor stray sheep on His own shoulders.147

    147 Luke xv. 5.

    So, too, when the prodigal son returns, his father receives him with joy.148

    148 Luke xv. 20.

    Nay more, the apostle says: “Judge nothing before the time.”149

    149 1 Cor. iv. 5.

    For “who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth.”150

    150 Rom. xiv. 4.

    And “let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.”151

    151 1 Cor. x. 12.

    “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”152

    152 Gal. vi. 2.

    Dear sisters, man’s envy judges in one way, Christ in another; and the whisper of a corner is not the same as the sentence of His tribunal. Many ways seem right to men which are afterwards found to be wrong.153

    153 Cf. Prov. xiv. 12.

    And a treasure is often stowed in earthen vessels.154

    154 2 Cor. iv. 7.

    Peter thrice denied his Lord, yet his bitter tears restored him to his place. “To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much.”155

    155 Luke vii. 47.

    No word is said of the flock as a whole, yet the angels joy in heaven over the safety of one sick ewe.156

    156 Luke xv. 7; 10.

    And if any one demurs to this reasoning, the Lord Himself has said: “Friend, is thine eye evil because I am good?”157

    157 Matt. xx. 15.


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