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Chapter III.

What is the usefulness of those vices which are natural to us.

For example, do not we see those natural impulses of the flesh not only in boys in whom innocence still anticipates the discernment of good and evil, but even in little children and infants, who although they have not even the slightest approach to lust within them, yet show that the impulses of the flesh exist in them and are naturally excited? Do not we also see that the deadly pricks of anger already exist in full vigour likewise in little children? and before they have learnt the virtue of patience, we see that they are disturbed by wrongs, and feel affronts offered to them even by way of a joke; and sometimes, although strength is lacking to them, the desire to avenge themselves is not wanting, when anger excites them. Nor do I say this to lay the blame on their natural state, but to point out that of these impulses which proceed from us, some are implanted in us for a useful purpose, while some are introduced from without, through the fault of carelessness and the desire of an evil will. For these carnal impulses, of which we spoke above, were with a useful purpose implanted in our bodies by the providence of the Creator, viz.: for perpetuating the race, and raising up children for posterity: and not for committing adulteries and debaucheries, which the authority of the law also condemns. The pricks of anger too, do we not see that they have been most wisely given to us, that being enraged at our sins and mistakes, we may apply ourselves the rather to virtues and spiritual exercises, showing forth all love towards God, and patience towards our brethren? We know too how great is the use of sorrow, which is reckoned among the other vices, when it is turned to an opposite use. For on the one hand, when it is in accordance with the fear of God it is most needful, and on the other, when it is in accordance with the world, most pernicious; as the Apostle teaches us when he says that “the sorrow which is according to God worketh repentance that is steadfast unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”878878    2 Cor. vii. 10.


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