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Argument XII.—Gregory Disallows Any Attainment of the Virtues on His Part. Piety is Both the Beginning and the End, and Thus It is the Parent of All the Virtues.

It is true, indeed that in consequence of our dull and sluggish nature, he has not yet succeeded in making us righteous, and prudent, and temperate, or manly, although he has laboured zealously on us. For we are neither in real possession of any virtue whatsoever, either human or divine, nor have we ever made any near approach to it, but we are still far from it. And these are very great and lofty virtues, and none of them may be assumed by any common person,234234    The text is, οὐδὲ τῷ τυχεῖν. Migne suggests οὐδέ τῷ θέμις τυχεῖν = nor is it legitimate for any one to attain them. but only by one whom God inspires with the power. We are also by no means so favourably constituted for them by nature, neither do we yet profess ourselves to be worthy of reaching them; for through our listlessness and feebleness we have not done all these things which ought to be done by those who aspire after what is noblest, and aim at what is perfect. We are not yet therefore either righteous or temperate, or endowed with any of the other virtues. But this admirable man, this friend and advocate of the virtues, has long ago done for us perhaps all that it lay in his power to do for us, in making us lovers of virtue, who should love it with the most ardent affection. And by his own virtue he created in us a love at once for the beauty of righteousness, the golden face of which in truth was shown to us by him; and for prudence, which is worthy of being sought by all; and for the true wisdom, which is most delectable; and for temperance, the heavenly virtue which forms the sound constitution of the soul, and brings peace to all who possess it; and for manliness, that most admirable grace; and for patience, that virtue peculiarly ours;235235    The text is, ὑπομονῆς ἡμῶν. Vossius and others omit the ἡμῶν. The Stuttgart editor gives this note: “It does not appear that this should be connected by apposition with ἀνδρείας (manliness). But Gregory, after the four virtues which philosophers define as cardinal, adds two which are properly Christian, viz., patience, and that which is the hinge of all—piety. and, above all, for piety, which men rightly designate when they call it the mother of the virtues. For this is the beginning and the end of all the virtues. And beginning with this one, we shall find all the other virtues grow upon us most readily: if, while for ourselves we earnestly aspire after this grace, which every man, be he only not absolutely impious, or a mere pleasure-seeker, ought to acquire for himself, in order to his being a friend of God and a maintainer236236    The word is προήγορον. It may be, as the Latin version puts it, familiaris, one in fellowship with God. of His truth, and while we diligently pursue this virtue, we also give heed to the other virtues, in order that we may not approach our God in unworthiness and impurity, but with all virtue and wisdom as our best conductors and most sagacious priests. And the end of all I consider to be nothing but this: By the pure mind make thyself like237237    ἐξομοιώθητι προσελθεῖν. Others read ἐξομοιωθέντα προσελθεῖν. to God, that thou mayest draw near to Him, and abide in Him.


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