The Conferences Of John Cassian by John Cassian
Chapter IX. That love not only makes sons out of servants, but also bestows the image and likeness of God.
And if to anyone relying on the help of God and not on his own efforts, it has been vouchsafed to acquire this state, from the condition of a servant, wherein is fear, and from a mercenary greed of hope, whereby there is sought not so much the good of the donor as the recompense of reward, he will begin to pass on to the adoption of sons, where there is no longer fear, nor greed, but that love which never faileth continually endures. Of which fear and love the Lord in chiding some shows what is befitting for each one: |A son knoweth his own father, and a servant feareth his lord: And if I be a Father, where is My honour: and if I be a Lord, where is my fear?| For one who is a servant must needs fear because |if knowing his lord's will he has done things worthy of stripes, he shall be beaten with many stripes.| Whoever then by this love has attained the image and likeness of God, will now delight in goodness for the pleasure of goodness itself, and having somehow a like feeling of patience and gentleness will henceforth be angered by no faults of sinners, but in his compassion and sympathy will rather ask for pardon for their infirmities, and, remembering that for so long he himself was tried by the stings of similar passions till by the Lord's mercy he was saved, will feel that, as he was saved from carnal attacks not by the teaching of his own exertions but by God's protection, not anger but pity ought to be shown to those who go astray; and with full peace of mind will he sing to God the following verse: |Thou hast broken my chains. I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of praise;| and: |except the Lord had helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in hell.| And while he continues in this humility of mind he will be able even to fulfil this Evangelic command of perfection: |Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you and slander you.| And so it will be vouchsafed to us to attain that reward which is subjoined, whereby we shall not only bear the image and likeness of God, but shall even be called sons: |that ye may be,| says He |sons of your Father which is in heaven, Who maketh His sun to rise on the good and evil, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust:| and this feeling the blessed John knew that he had attained when he said: |that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as He is so are we also in this world.| For in what can a weak and fragile human nature be like Him, except in always showing a calm love in its heart towards the good and evil, the just and the unjust, in imitation of God, and by doing good for the love of goodness itself, arriving at that true adoption of the sons of God, of which also the blessed Apostle speaks as follows: |Every one that is born of God doeth not sin, for His seed is in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God;| and again: |We know that every one who is born of God sinneth not, but his birth of God preserves him, and the wicked one toucheth him not?| And this must be understood not of all kinds of sins, but only of mortal sins: and if any one will not extricate and cleanse himself from these, for him the aforesaid Apostle tells us in another place that we ought not even to pray, saying: |If a man knows his brother to be sinning a sin not unto death, let him ask, and He will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he should ask for it.| But of those which he says are not unto death, from which even those who serve Christ faithfully cannot, with whatever care they keep themselves, be free, of these he says: |If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us;| and again: |If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.| For it is an impossibility for any one of the saints not to fall into those trivial faults which are committed by word, and thought, and ignorance, and forgetfulness, and necessity, and will, and surprise: which though quite different from that sin which is said to be unto death, still cannot be free from fault and blame.