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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter VIII. That those who put what is virtuous before what is useful are acceptable to Godà

Works And Letters Of St Ambrose by St. Ambrose

Chapter VIII. That those who put what is virtuous before what is useful are acceptable to Godà

That those who put what is virtuous before what is useful are acceptable to God is shown by the example of Joshua, Caleb, and the other spies.

53. When could our fathers ever have thrown off their servitude, unless they had believed that it was not only shameful but even useless to serve the king of Egypt?

54. Joshua, also, and Caleb, when sent to spy out the land, brought back the news that the land was indeed rich, but that it was inhabited by very fierce nations. The people, terrified at the thought of war, refused to take possession of their land. Joshua and Caleb, who had been sent as spies, tried to persuade them that the land was fruitful. They thought it unseemly to give way before the heathen; they chose rather to be stoned, which is what the people threatened, than to recede from their virtuous standpoint. The others kept dissuading, the people exclaimed against it, saying they would have to fight against cruel and terrible nations; that they would fall in battle, and their wives and children would be left for a prey.

55. The anger of the Lord burst forth, so that He would kill all, but at the prayer of Moses He softened His judgment and put off His vengeance, knowing that He had already sufficiently punished those who were faithless, even if He spared them meanwhile and did not slay the unbelievers. However, He said they should not come to that land which they had refused, as a penalty for their unbelief; but their children and wives, who had not murmured, and who, owing to their sex and age, were guiltless, should receive the promised inheritance of that land. So the bodies of those of twenty years old and upwards fell in the desert. The punishment of the rest was put aside. But they who had gone up with Joshua, and had thought fit to dissuade the people, died forthwith of a great plague. Joshua and Caleb entered the land of promise together with those who were innocent by reason of age or sex.

56. The better part, therefore, preferred glory to safety; the worse part safety to virtue. But the divine judgment approved those who thought virtue was above what is useful, whilst it condemned those who preferred what seemed more in accordance with safety than with what is virtuous.

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