32. Some man will say: “What then does it profit a servant of God, that, having left the former doings which he had in the world he is converted unto the spiritual life and warfare, if it still behove him to do business as of a common workman?” As if truly it could be easily unfolded in words, how greatly profiteth what the Lord, in answer to that rich man who was seeking counsel of laying hold on eternal life, told him to do if he would fain be perfect: sell that he had, distribute all to the indigence of the poor, and follow Him?100 Matt. xix. 21 Or who with so unimpeded course hath followed the Lord, as he who saith, “Not in vain have I run, nor in vain labored?”101 Phil. ii. 16 who yet both enjoined these works, and did them. This unto us, being by so great authority taught and informed, ought to suffice for a pattern of relinquishing our old resources, and of working with our hands. But we too, aided by the Lord Himself, are able perchance in some sort to apprehend what it doth still profit the servants of God to have left their former businesses, while they do yet thus work. For if a person from being rich is converted to this mode of life, and is hindered by no infirmity of body, are we so without taste of the savor of Christ, as not to understand what an healing it is to the swelling of the old pride, when, having pared off the superfluities by which erewhile the mind was deadly inflamed, he refuses not, for the procuring of that little which is still naturally necessary for this present life, even a common workman’s lowly toil? If however he be from a poor estate converted unto this manner of life, let him not account himself to be doing that which he was doing aforetime, if foregoing the love of even increasing his ever so small matter of private substance, and now no more seeking his own but the things which be Jesu Christ’s,102 Phil. ii. 21 he hath translated himself into the charity of a life in common, to live in fellowship of them who have one soul and one heart to Godward, so that no man saith that any thing is his own, but they have all things common.103 Acts iv. 32 For if in this earthly commonwealth its chief men in the old times did, as their own men of letters are wont in their most glowing phrase to tell of them, to that degree prefer the common weal of the whole people of their city and country to their own private affairs, that one of them,104 Scipio ap. Val. iv. 4. for subduing of Africa honored with a triumph, would have had nothing to give to his daughter on her marriage, unless by decree of the senate she had been dowered from the public treasury: of what mind ought he to be towards his commonwealth, who is a citizen of that eternal City, the heavenly Jerusalem, but that even what with labor of his own hands he earns, he should have in common with his brother, and if the same lack any thing, supply it from the common store; saying with him whose precept and example he hath followed, “As having nothing, and possessing all things?”105 2 Cor. vi. 10
32. Negotia priora reliquisse quid prosit, si adhuc laborandum. Communis vitae charitas. Operari decet etiam qui ex vita excelsiore convertuntur, sed multo magis qui ex vita humiliore. Dicet aliquis: Quid ergo prodest servo Dei, quod prioribus actibus quos in saeculo habebat relictis, ad hanc spiritualem 0572 vitam militiamque convertitur, si eum adhuc oportet, tanquam opificis , exercere negotia? Quasi vero facile possit verbis explicari, quantum prosit quod Dominus diviti consilium capiendae vitae aeternae requirenti ait ut faceret , si vellet esse perfectus; ut venditis quae habebat, et indigentiae pauperum distributis, eum sequeretur (Matth. XIX, 21). Aut quis tam expedito cursu secutus est Dominum, quam ille qui ait, Non in vacuum cucurri, nec in vacuum laboravi (Philipp. II, 16)? qui tamen opera ista et praecepit, et fecit. Hoc nobis tanta auctoritate doctis et informatis sufficere debuit ad exemplum derelinquendi pristinas facultates, et manibus operandi. Sed et nos ab ipso Domino adjuti, possumus fortasse utcumque cognoscere, etiam sic operantibus servis Dei, priora tamen negotia reliquisse quid prosit. Si enim ad hanc vitam ex divite quisquam convertitur, et nulla infirmitate corporis impeditur, itane desipimus a sapore Christi, ut non intelligamus quantus superbiae prioris tumor sanetur, cum circumcisis superfluis, quibus ante animus exitiabiliter inflammabatur , ad modica quae restant huic vitae naturaliter necessaria etiam opificis humilitas minime recusetur? Si autem ad hanc vitam ex paupertate convertitur, non putet se id agere quod agebat, si ab amore vel augendae quantulaecumque rei privatae, jam non quaerens quae sua sunt, sed quae Jesu Christi (Ibid. 21), ad communis vitae se transtulit charitatem, in eorum societate victurus, quibus est anima una et cor unum in Deum, ita ut nemo dicat aliquid proprium, sed sint illis omnia communia (Act. IV, 32). Si enim hujus terrenae reipublicae antiqui principes praeclarissimo litteratorum suorum eloquio praedicari solent, quod rem communem universi populi suae civitatis privatis suis rebus sic anteponebant, ut quidam eorum Africa edomita triumphator, quid nubenti filiae daret non habuerit, nisi ex senatusconsulto de publico dotaretur : quo animo debet esse in rempublicam suam civis aeternae illius civitatis Jerusalem coelestis, nisi ut illud ipsum quod propriis manibus elaborat, in commune habeat cum fratre, et si quid ei defuerit, de communi suppleat; dicens cum illo cujus praeceptum exemplumque secutus est, Quasi nihil habentes et omnia possidentes (II Cor. VI, 10)?