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Chapter XVII.

That no one is dashed to the ground by a sudden fall.

But we must not imagine that anyone slips and comes to grief by a sudden fall, but that he falls by a hopeless collapse either from being deceived by beginning his training badly, or from the good qualities of his soul failing through a long course of carelessness of mind, and so his faults gaining ground upon him little by little. For “loss goeth before destruction, and an evil thought before a fall,”14331433    Prov. xvi. 18 (LXX.). just as no house ever falls to the ground by a sudden collapse, but only when there is some flaw of long standing in the foundation, or when by long continued neglect of its inmates, what was at first only a little drip finds its way through, and so the protecting walls are by degrees ruined, and in consequence of long standing neglect the gap becomes larger, and break away, and in time the drenching storm and rain pours in like a river: for “by slothfulness a building is cast down, and through the weakness of hands the house shall drop through.”14341434    Eccl. x. 18 (LXX.). And that the same thing happens spiritually to the soul the same Solomon thus tells us in other words, when he says: “water dripping drives a man out of the house on a stormy day.”14351435    Prov. xxvii. 15 (LXX.). Elegantly then does he compare carelessness of mind to a roof, and to tiles that have not been looked after, through which in the first instance only very slight drippings (so to speak) of the passions make their way to the soul: but if these are not heeded, as being but small and trifling, then the beams of virtues will decay and be carried away by a great tempest of sins, through which “on a stormy day,” i.e., in the time of temptation, the devil’s attack will assail us, and the soul will be driven forth from the abode of virtue, in which, as long as it preserved all watchful diligence, it had remained as in a house that belonged to it.

And so when we had heard this, we were so immensely delighted with our spiritual repast, that the mental pleasure with which we were filled by this conference outweighed the sorrow which we had experienced before from the death of the saints. For not only were we instructed in things about which we had been puzzled, but we also learnt from the raising of that question some things, which our understanding had been too small for us to ask about.

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