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CHAPTER XVI.

How venerable Benedict dispossessed a certain clerk from the Devil.

At that time one of the clergy of the church of Aquin was molested with an evil spirit, whom the venerable man, Constantius, Bishop of that Diocese, had sent to divers martyrs’ shrines to be cured; but the holy martyrs would not cure him, that the gifts of grace in Benedict might be made manifest. He was therefore brought to the servant of Almighty God, Benedict, who, by pouring forth prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ, presently drove out the enemy. Having cured him, he commanded him, saying: “Go! And hereafter never eat flesh, and presume not to take Holy Orders, for what time soever you shall presume to take Holy Orders, you shall again become a slave to the devil.” The Clerk therefore went his way healed, and as present punishments make deep impressions, he carefully for a while observed the man of God’s command. But when, after many years, all his seniors were dead and he saw his juniors preferred before him in Holy Orders, he neglected the words of the man of God, as though forgotten through length of time, and took upon him Holy Orders; whereupon, presently, the devil, who before had left him, took power of him, and never ceased to torment him till he severed his soul from his body.

PETER.

This holy man, I perceive, understood the secret decrees of God, in that he knew this Clerk to be delivered to the power of the devil, lest he should presume to receive Holy Orders.

GREGORY.

Why should not he know the secret decrees of Divine Providence, who kept the commandments of God, whence it is written that “he who adhereth to God is one spirit with Him.”

PETER.

If he who adhereth to our Lord become one spirit with Him, how comes the same excellent Preacher to say: “Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsellor?” For it seems altogether unlikely that he, who is made one with another, should not know his mind.

GREGORY.

Holy men, so far as they are united with God, are not ignorant of His meaning, for the same Apostle saith; “For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also, that are of God, no man knoweth but the spirit of God.” And to shew that he knew things of God, he addeth: “But we have not received the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God.” And again: “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for those that love Him, but to us God hath revealed by His spirit.”

PETER.

If then those things which appertained to God were revealed to the said Apostle by the spirit of God, what meaneth he to make this preamble, saying: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how incomprehensible are His judgments and His ways unsearchable.” But as I am saying this, another question arises: for the Prophet David says to our Lord: “With my lips I have uttered all the judgments of Thy mouth.” And, whereas, it is less to comprehend or know than to pronounce, what is the reason that St. Paul should affirm the judgments of God to be incomprehensible, while David professeth not only to know them but also to pronounce them with his lips?

GREGORY.

To both these difficulties — I briefly answered before, when I said: that holy men, as far as they are one with God, are not ignorant of the mind of our Lord, for all such as do devoutly follow the Lord are also by devotion one with God; and yet, in that they are laden with the burden of this corruptible flesh, they are not with God. Therefore, for as much as they are united with God they know His secret judgments, of which likewise they are ignorant for as much as in respect separated from Him: and so they pronounce His judgments incomprehensible which they cannot as yet thoroughly understand. But they who in spirit adhere to Him, in this adhesion know His judgments, either by the sacred words of Scripture, or by hidden revelations, as far as they are capable; these therefore they know and declare, but they are ignorant of those which God concealeth. Whereupon the prophet David when he had said: “In my lips I will pronounce all Thy judgments,” as if he had said plainly: “Those judgments I could both know and pronounce which Thou didst tell me, for those which Thou speakest not, without doubt Thou concealest from our knowledge. Thus, the saying of the Prophet agreeth with that of the Apostle, for the judgments of God are both incomprehensible, and yet those which proceed from His mouth are uttered with the lips of men, for being so manifested by God they may be conceived by men, nor can they be concealed.

PETER.

By occasion of the difficulty I propounded, I have obtained a clear solution. But if there remain aught concerning the virtue of this man, I pray you declare it.

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