If, then, we have shown that the plan of dealing stringently with humanity is good and salutary, and necessarily adopted by the Word, and conducive to repentance and the prevention of sins; we shall have now to look in order at the mildness of the Word. For He has been demonstrated to be just. He sets before us His own inclinations which invite to salvation; by which, in accordance with the Father's will, He wishes to make known to us the good and the useful. Consider these. The good (to kalon) belongs to the panegyrical form of speech, the useful to the persuasive. For the hortatory and the dehortatory are a form of the persuasive, and the laudatory and inculpatory of the panegyrical.
For the persuasive style of sentence in one form becomes hortatory, and in another dehortatory. So also the panegyrical in one form becomes inculpatory, and in another laudatory. And in these exercises the Instructor, the Just One, who has proposed our advantage as His aim, is chiefly occupied. But the inculpatory and dehortatory forms of speech have been already shown us; and we must now handle the persuasive and the laudatory, and, as on a beam, balance the equal scales of justice. The exhortation to what is useful, the Instructor employs by Solomon, to the following effect: |I exhort you, O men; and I utter my voice to the sons of men. Hear me; for I will speak of excellent things;| and so on. And He counsels what is salutary: for counsel has for its end, choosing or refusing a certain course; as He does by David, when He says, |Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsels of the ungodly, and standeth not in the way of sinners, and sitteth not in the chair of pestilences; but his will is in the law of the Lord.| And there are three departments of counsel: That which takes examples from past times; as what the Hebrews suffered when they worshipped the golden calf, and what they suffered when they committed fornication, and the like. The second, whose meaning is understood from the present times, as being apprehended by perception; as it was said to those who asked the Lord, |If He was the Christ, or shall we wait for another? Go and tell John, the blind receive their sight, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised up; and blessed is he who shall not be offended in Me.| Such was that which David said when he prophesied, |As we have heard, so have we seen.| And the third department of counsel consists of what is future, by which we are bidden guard against what is to happen; as also that was said, |They that fall into sins shall be cast into outer darkness, where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth,| and the like. So that from these things it is clear that the Lord, going the round of all the methods of curative treatment, calls humanity to salvation.
By encouragement He assuages sins, reducing lust, and at the same time inspiring hope for salvation. For He says by Ezekiel, |If ye return with your whole heart, and say, Father, I will hear you, as a holy people.| And again He says, |Come all to Me, who labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;| and that which is added the Lord speaks in His own person. And very clearly He calls to goodness by Solomon, when He says, |Blessed is the man who hath found wisdom, and the mortal who hath found understanding.| |For the good is found by him who seeks it, and is wont to be seen by him who has found it.| By Jeremiah, too, He sets forth prudence, when he says, |Blessed are we, Israel; for what is pleasing to God is known by us; -- and it is known by the Word, by whom we are blessed and wise. For wisdom and knowledge are mentioned by the same prophet, when he says, |Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life, and give ear to know understanding.| By Moses, too, by reason of the love He has to man, He promises a gift to those who hasten to salvation. For He says, |And I will bring you into the good land, which the Lord sware to your fathers.| And further, |And I will bring you into the holy mountain, and make you glad,| He says by Isaiah. And still another form of instruction is benediction. |And blessed is he,| He saith by David, |who has not sinned; and he shall be as the tree planted near the channels of the waters, which will yield its fruit in its season, and his leaf shall not wither| (by this He made an allusion to the resurrection); |and whatsoever he shall do shall prosper with him.| Such He wishes us to be, that we may be blessed. Again, showing the opposite scale of the balance of justice, He says, |But not so the ungodly -- not so; but as the dust which the wind sweeps away from the face of the earth.| By showing the punishment of sinners, and their easy dispersion, and carrying off by the wind, the Instructor dissuades from crime by means of punishment; and by holding up the merited penalty, shows the benignity of His beneficence in the most skilful way, in order that we may possess and enjoy its blessings. He invites us to knowledge also, when He says by Jeremiah, |Hadst thou walked in the way of God, thou wouldst have dwelt for ever in peace;| for, exhibiting there the reward of knowledge, He calls the wise to the love of it. And, granting pardon to him who has erred, He says, |Turn, turn, as a grape-gatherer to his basket.| Do you see the goodness of justice, in that it counsels to repentance? And still further, by Jeremiah, He enlightens in the truth those who have erred. |Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the ways, and look, and ask for the eternal paths of the Lord, what is the good path, and walk in it, and ye shall find purification for your souls.| And in order to promote our salvation, He leads us to repentance. Wherefore He says, |If thou repent, the Lord will purify thy heart, and the heart of thy seed.| We might have adduced, as supporters on this question, the philosophers who say that only the perfect man is worthy of praise, and the bad man of blame. But since some slander beatitude, as neither itself taking any trouble, nor giving any to any one else, thus not understanding its love to man; on their account, and on account of those who do not associate justice with goodness, the following remarks are added. For it were a legitimate inference to say, that rebuke and censure are suitable to men, since they say that all men are bad; but God alone is wise, from whom cometh wisdom, and alone perfect, and therefore alone worthy of praise. But I do not employ such language. I say, then, that praise or blame, or whatever resembles praise or blame, are medicines most essential of all to men. Some are ill to cure, and, like iron, are wrought into shape with fire, and hammer, and anvil, that is, with threatening, and reproof, and chastisement; while others, cleaving to faith itself, as self-taught, and as acting of their own free-will, grow by praise: --
|For virtue that is praised
Grows like a tree.|
And comprehending this, as it seems to me, the Samian Pythagoras gives the injunction: --
|When you have done base things, rebuke yourself;
But when you have done good things, be glad.|
Chiding is also called admonishing; and the etymology of admonishing (nouthetesis) is (nou enthematismos) putting of understanding into one; so that rebuking is bringing one to one's senses.
But there are myriads of injunctions to be found, whose aim is the attainment of what is good, and the avoidance of what is evil. |For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.| Wherefore by Solomon He commands the children to beware: |My son, let not sinners deceive thee, and go not after their ways; and go not, if they entice thee, saying, Come with us, share with us in innocent blood, and let us hide unjustly the righteous man in the earth; let us put him out of sight, all alive as he is into Hades.| This is accordingly likewise a prediction concerning the Lord's passion. And by Ezekiel, the life supplies commandments: |The soul that sinneth shall die; but he that doeth righteousness shall be righteous. He eateth not upon the mountains, and hath not set his eyes on the devices of the house of Israel, and will not defile his neighbour's wife, and will not approach to a woman in her separation, and will not oppress a man, and will restore the debtor's pledge, and will not take plunder: he will give his bread to the hungry, and clothe the naked. His money he will not give on usury, and will not take interest; and he will turn away his hand from wrong, and will execute righteous judgment between a man and his neighbour. He has walked in my statutes, and kept my judgments to do them. This is a righteous man. He shall surely live, saith the Lord.| These words contain a description of the conduct of Christians, a notable exhortation to the blessed life, which is the reward of a life of goodness -- everlasting life.