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Chapter XIX.

The reason why one nation is to be forsaken, while seven are commanded to be destroyed.

But the reason why that nation in which the children of Israel were born, was bidden not to be utterly destroyed but only to have its land forsaken, while it was commanded that these seven nations were to be completely destroyed, is this: because however great may be the ardour of spirit, inspired by which we have entered on the desert of virtues, yet we cannot possibly free ourselves entirely from the neighbourhood of gluttony or from its service and, so to speak, from daily intercourse with it. For the liking for delicacies and dainties will live on as something natural and innate in us, even though we take pains to cut off all superfluous appetites and desires, which, as they cannot be altogether destroyed, ought to be shunned and avoided. For of these we read “Take no care for the flesh with its desires.”13521352    Rom. xiii. 14. While then we still retain the feeling for this care, which we are bidden not altogether to cut off, but to keep without its desires, it is clear that we do not destroy the Egyptian nation but separate ourselves in a sort of way from it, not thinking anything about luxuries and delicate feasts, but, as the Apostle says, being “content with our daily food and clothing.”13531353    Cf. 1 Tim. vi. 8. And this is commanded in a figure in the law, in this way: “Thou shalt not abhor the Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land.”13541354    Deut. xxiii. 7. For necessary food is not refused to the body without danger to it and sinfulness in the soul. But of those seven troublesome faults we must in every possible way root out the affections from the inmost recesses of our souls. For of them we read: “Let all bitterness and anger and indignation and clamour and blasphemy be put away from you with all malice:” and again: “But fornication and all uncleanness and covetousness let it not so much as be named among you, or obscenity or foolish talking or scurrility.”13551355    Eph. iv. 31; v. 3, 4. We can then cut out the roots of these faults which are grafted into our nature from without while we cannot possibly cut off occasions of gluttony. For however far we have advanced, we cannot help being what we were born. And that this is so we can show not only from the lives of little people like ourselves but from the lives and customs of all who have attained perfection, who even when they have 349got rid of incentives to all other passions, and are retiring to the desert with perfect fervour of spirit and bodily abnegation, yet still cannot do without thought for their daily meal and the preparation of their food from year to year.


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