The things that make up countless evils are these: being a slave to the appetite, doing anything for vainglory, being a slave to the madness of riches, and, most powerful of all, desiring more… How can we have victory over the enemy? By running to God for shelter the way Christ taught us. We must not be depressed in times of famine but believe that God can feed us without a word. We must not tempt Him who gives good gifts with the good things we receive from Him. But we should be content with heavenly glory, disregard human things, and always despise excess. For nothing makes us fall under the devil’s power as surely as longing for more and loving covetousness. We can see this even now. For even now some say, “All these things will we give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship.” They are human by nature, but have become the devil’s instruments…. For as much as God has blessed you, follow Christ’s example and imitate His victory.
Those who fight with nature for the sake of what is reasonable are righteous. For example, it is natural for people to love those who love them. But the righteous also try to love their enemies and to bless those who defame them. They even pray for their enemies and are compassionate toward those who do wrong to them. Therefore they refrain from doing wrong and bless those who curse them, pardon those who strike them, and submit to those who persecute them. They salute those who do not salute them, share things they have with those who don’t have, and persuade those that are angry with them. They pacify their enemies, warn the disobedient, instruct the unbelieving, and comfort the mourners. In distress, they endure being ungratefully treated and don’t become angry. Having devoted themselves to love their neighbors as themselves, they aren’t afraid of poverty but become poor by sharing their possessions with those who have none. They don’t exclude sinners. As they want to be praised, blessed, and honored, and to have all their sins forgiven, so they do the same to their neighbors. They love others like themselves. In summary, what they wish for themselves, they wish for their neighbors. For this is the law of God and of the prophets. This is the doctrine of truth.
If some students can’t learn through more difficult subjects, a kind, caring teacher will come on to their level and teach them by simpler means. Christ, the Word of God, did this. Paul said, “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the word preached to save them that believe.” Christ saw that people wouldn’t think about God. Instead, with downcast eyes, they sought the knowledge of God in nature and in the sensory world. They imagined that mortal humans and demons were their gods. Therefore, the loving Savior of all, the Word of God, took on a body and walked among people like a human being. He met the mental capacity of all people halfway. That is to say, those who think God is physical can see the truth and recognize the Father through the Lord’s physical works. Therefore, the people were drawn to Christ through whatever objects they fixed their minds on and learned the truth from all angles.
Compassion is closely connected to harmlessness. For although the latter doesn’t hurt anyone, the former works good. The latter begins justice, the former completes it. …God has given us the affection of compassion so that we can protect lives by helping one another. If we are created by one God, descended from one man, and, therefore, are thus connected by the law of kinship, we should love everyone. As a result, we are bound not only to abstain from hurting others, but even not to take revenge when we are hurt. Then we will be completely harmless. Regarding this, God commands us always to pray for our enemies. We should be animals fitted for companionship and society so that we will protect ourselves by giving and receiving assistance. For our frailty is prone to many accidents and inconveniences. Expect that what you see happening to someone else may also happen to you. You will be stirred to help someone if you shall assume the mind of those who, being placed in danger, beg for your help.
God has placed older believers as a lighthouse for those of us who live around them. Many of them were youths in their prime, but have grown gray by their consistent practice of self-control and restraint…. The only love they tasted was that of wisdom. This isn’t because their natural instincts were different from everyone else’s, for all “flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” But they listened to those who said self-control “is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her.” They sailed across the swelling storms of life, as though on a boat, and anchored themselves in the haven of God’s will. After such a fortunate voyage they are enviable as they rest their souls in sunny, cloudless calm. They now ride safely, anchored by a good hope and far out of reach of the storm’s tumult. And for others who follow, they radiate the splendor of their lives like fires on a high watchtower. Indeed, we have a signal to guide us safely over the ocean of temptations. Why ask the too curious question whether or not such people have fallen? Why despair as if the achievement was beyond your reach? Look at the one who has succeeded and boldly launch out on your voyage with confidence that it will be prosperous. Sail on under the breeze of the Holy Spirit with Christ your Pilot and with oars of good cheer.
An old saying says to make ourselves habitually consistent. Then our lives can be like pictures, preserving the same representation they first received. How can one be consistent who is inflamed by anger one minute and the next blazes up with fierce resentment? Or what about one whose face bums at first, but, in an instant, is changed to paleness— varying and changing its color every minute? It is natural for one to be angry because generally there is good reason. However, it is our duty to restrain anger. We must not be carried away by fury like a lion, unable to settle down. We must not spread tales or make family quarrels worse, for it is written, “A wrathful man diggeth up sin.” One who is double-minded won’t be consistent. Those who can’t restrain themselves when they’re angry can’t be consistent. David says it well, “Be ye angry and sin not.” He doesn’t condemn his anger, but indulges his natural tendency. One can’t prevent these tendencies but can moderate them. Therefore, even though we are angry, we must only admit that our emotion is natural and must not sin.
There are two kinds of blessings: temporal and eternal. Temporal blessings are health, honor, friends, wealth, children, a home, a wife, and other things from our journey in life. But we reside in the hotel of life as travelers moving on, not as owners intending to remain. For eternal blessings are eternal life, the body and soul’s incorruption and immortality, the allegiance of angels, the heavenly city, unfailing glory and the Father— the former without death, the latter without an enemy. These blessings make us desire them with eagerness and ask for them with perseverance. We don’t ask with lengthy words, but with groans. A longing desire is always praying even though the tongue is silent. For if you ever long for these things, you are praying. When does prayer sleep? When desire grows cold. So then, let us beg for these eternal blessings with eager desire. Let us seek these good things with entire earnestness. Let us ask for them with assurance…. Beloved, ask also for temporal blessings, but in moderation. Be sure that if we do receive them, He who knows what is beneficial for us gives them to us. You have asked. Hasn’t He given you what you asked for? Trust your Father. He would give it to you if it was beneficial for you.
All things originate from one God. Since created things are various and numerous, they are well fitted and adapted to the whole creation. However, when viewed individually, they are mutually opposite and inharmonious like the sound of the lyre, which consists of many and opposite notes but gives rise to one unbroken melody through the intervals that separate each one from the others. The lover of truth, therefore, should not be deceived by the interval between the notes or imagine that one was due to one artist and author and another to someone else. He should not think that one person fitted the treble, another the bass, and yet another the tenor strings. But he should hold that one person formed the whole, so as to prove the soundness, goodness, and skill exhibited in the whole work. Those, too, who listen to the melody ought to praise and exalt the artist, to admire the tension of some notes, to attend to the softness of others, to catch the sound of others between both these extremes, and to consider the special character of others. Then they can inquire at what each one aims and what is the cause of the variety, never failing to apply our rule, neither giving up the one artist, nor casting off faith in the one God who formed all things, nor blaspheming our Creator.
Beloved, how should we regard the loving-kindness of our Savior? We should cry out and praise His goodness with power and with trumpets! Not only should we appear like Him, but should follow Christ’s example for heavenly conversation. We should carry on what He began. In suffering, we shouldn’t threaten. When we are verbally abused, we shouldn’t berate in return. Instead, we should bless those that curse us and commit ourselves to God in everything. For He judges righteously. Those who do this adapt themselves to the Gospel. They will have a part with Christ, and, as imitators of apostolic conversation, He considers them worthy of praise. They will receive the praise Paul gave to the Corinthians when he said, “I praise you that in everything ye are mindful of me.” Afterwards, because some people perverted Paul’s words according to their own lusts, …he proceeded to say, “And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast.” Of course that means that we shouldn’t think things other than what the Teacher has delivered.
Perfection in this life, Paul tells us, is to forget the things behind us and to reach forward and press on toward the things ahead of us. Those who seek until they reach the goal have the most secure direction. For the right goal starts from faith. True faith is, in some way, the starting point of knowledge. But true knowledge won’t be perfected until after this life when we will see Christ face-to-face. Therefore, know that seeking the truth is safer than presuming that unknown things can be known. So seek as if you will find, and, as a result, find as if you were about to seek. For “when a man hath done, then he beginneth.” …Try to understand this. Pray for help from the One we want to understand. And, as much as He allows, religiously and anxiously seek to explain what you have come to understand to others.