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Chapter XI.

The answer stating what Saint Antony laid down on this matter.

Abraham: I will not give you my own opinion against this, but that of the blessed Antony, whereby he confounded the laziness of a certain brother (overcome by this luke-warmness which you describe) in such a way as also to cut the knot of your subject. For when one came as I said to the aforesaid old man, and said that the Anchorite system was not at all to be admired, declaring that it required greater virtue for a man to practise what belongs to perfection living among men rather than in the desert, the blessed Antony asked where he lived himself, and when he said that he lived close to his relations, and boasted that by their provision he was set free from all care and anxiety of daily work, and gave himself up ceaselessly and solely to reading and prayer without any distraction of spirit, once more the blessed Antony said: “Tell me, my good friend, whether you grieve with their griefs and misfortunes, and in the same way rejoice in their good fortune?” He confessed that he shared in them both. To whom the old man: “You should know,” said he, “that in the world to come also you will be judged in the lot of those with whom in this life you have been affected by sharing in their gain or loss, or joy or sorrow.” And not satisfied with this statement the blessed Antony entered on a still wider field of discussion, saying: “This mode of life and this most lukewarm condition not only strike you with that damage of which I spoke (though you do not feel it now, when somehow you say in accordance with that saying in Proverbs: ‘They strike me but I am not grieved: and they mocked me but I knew it not;’ or this that is said in the Prophet: ‘And strangers have devoured his strength, but he himself knew it not’23092309    Prov. xxiii. 35 (LXX.); Hos. vii. 9.), because day after day they ceaselessly drag down your mind to earthly things, and change it in accordance with the variations of chance; but also because they defraud you of the fruits of your hands and the due reward of your own exertions, as they do not suffer you to be supported by what these supply, or to procure your daily food for yourself with your own hands, according to the rule of the blessed Apostle, as he when giving his last charge to the heads of the Church of Ephesus, asserts that though he was occupied with the sacred duties of preaching the gospel yet he provided not only for himself, but also for those who were prevented by necessary duties with regard to his ministry, saying: ‘Ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered to my necessities and to the necessities of those who were with me.’ But to show that he did this as a pattern to be useful to us he says elsewhere: ‘We were not idle among you; neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing, but in labour and in toil we worked night and day lest we should be chargeable to any of you. Not as if we had not power; but that we might give ourselves a pattern unto you, to imitate us.”23102310    Acts xx. 34; 2 Thess. iii. 7, 9.


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