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Chapter III.

Abbot John’s answer why he had left the desert.

The system of the anchorites, which you are surprised at my leaving, I not only neither reject nor refuse, but rather embrace and regard with the utmost veneration: in which system, and after I had passed thirty years living in a Cœnobium, I rejoice that I have also spent twenty more, so that I can never be accused of sloth among those who tried it in a half-hearted way. But because its purity, of which I had had some slight experience, was sometimes soiled by the presence of anxiety about carnal matters, it seemed better to return to the Cœnobium to secure a readier attainment of an easier aim undertaken, and less danger from venturing on the higher life of the humble solitary.21072107    The true reading, as given by Petschenig, appears to be the following: Et minus de præsumptæ sublimioris professionis humilitate periculum. It is probably on account of its difficulty that humilitate has been altered into difficultate, as in the text of Gazet (the two humilitate difficultate are found together in some mss.). But the fact appears to be that humilitas is here used for the life of an anchorite, as in Conference XXIV. ix., where Abbot Abraham uses the expression districtionem hujus humilitatis. The word is also used in a similar sense in Conf. I. xx. and XI. ii. For it is better to seem earnest with smaller promises than careless in larger ones. And therefore if possibly I bring forward anything somewhat arrogantly and indeed somewhat too freely, I beg that you will not think it due to the sin of boasting but rather to my desire for your edification; and that, as I think that, when you ask so earnestly, nothing of the truth should be kept back from you, you will set it down to love rather than to boasting. For I think that some instruction may be given to you if I lay aside my humility, and simply lay bare the whole truth about my aim. For I trust that I shall not incur any reproach of vainglory from you because of the freedom of my words, nor any charge of falsehood from my conscience because of any suppression of the truth.

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