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Chapter XVII.

To whom the method of perfection should be laid open.

Take care too, when your riper age leads you to teach, lest you be led astray by the love of vainglory, and teach at random to the most impure persons these things which you have learnt not so much by reading as by the effects of experience, and so incur what Solomon, that wisest of men, denounced: “Attach not a wicked man to the pastures of the just, and be not led astray by the fulness of the belly,” for “delicacies are not good for a fool, nor is there room for wisdom where sense is wanting: for folly is the more led on, because a stubborn servant is not improved by words, for even though he understands, he will not obey.” And “Do not say anything in the ears of an imprudent man, lest haply he mock at thy wise speeches.”19261926    Prov. xxiv. 15; xix. 10; xviii. 2; xxix. 19; xxiii. 9 (LXX.). And “give not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest haply they trample them under foot and turn again and rend you.”19271927    S. Matt. vii. 6. It is right then to hide the mysteries of spiritual meanings from men of this sort, that you may effectually sing: “Thy words have I hid within my heart: that I should not sin against Thee.”19281928    Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) 11. But you will perhaps say: And to whom are the mysteries of Holy Scripture to be dispensed? Solomon, the wisest of men, shall teach you: “Give, says he, strong drink to those who are in sorrow, and give wine to drink, to those who are in pain, that they may forget their poverty, and remember their pain no more,”19291929    Prov. xxxi. 6, 7. i.e., to those who in consequence of the punishment of their past actions are oppressed with grief and sorrow, supply richly the joys of spiritual knowledge like “wine that maketh glad the heart of man,”19301930    Ps. ciii. (civ.) 15. and restore them with the strong drink of the word of salvation, lest haply they be plunged in continual sorrow and a despair that brings death, and so those who are of this sort be “swallowed up in overmuch sorrow.”19311931    2 Cor. ii. 7. But of those who remain in coldness and carelessness, and are smitten by no sorrow of heart we read as follows: “For one who is kindly and without sorrow, shall be in want.”19321932    Prov. xiv. 23. With all possible care therefore avoid being puffed up with the love of vainglory, and so failing to become a partaker with him whom the prophet praises, “who hath not given his money upon usury.”19331933    Ps. xiv. (xv.) 5. For every one who, from love of the praise of men dispenses the words of God, of which it is said “the words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried by the fire, purged from the earth, refined seven times,”19341934    Ps. xi. (xii.) 7. puts out his money upon usury, and will deserve for this not merely no reward, but rather punishment. For this reason he chose to use up his Lord’s money that he might be the garner from a temporal profit, and not that the Lord, as it is written, might “when He comes, receive His own with usury.”19351935    S. Matt. xxv. 27.

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