The difference between matters of precept and of counsel is treated of, as shown in the case of the young man in the Gospel, and the difference of the rewards set forth both for counsels and precepts is spoken of.
72. Marriage, then, is honourable, but chastity is more honourable, for “he that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well, but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.”79 1 Cor. vii. 28. That, then, which is good need not be avoided, but that which is better should be chosen. And so it is not laid upon any, but set before him. And, therefore, the Apostle said well: “Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my counsel.”80 1 Cor. vii. 25. For a command is issued to those subject, counsel is given to friends. Where there is a commandment, there is a law; where counsel, there is grace. A commandment is given to enforce what is according to nature, a counsel to incite us to follow grace. And, therefore, the Law was given to the Jews, but grace was reserved for the elect. The Law was given that, through fear of punishment, it might recall those who were wandering beyond the limits of nature, to their observance, but grace to incite the elect both by the desire of good things, and also by the promised rewards.
73. You will see the difference between precept and counsel, if you remember the case of him in the Gospel, to whom it is first commanded to do no murder, not to commit adultery, not to bear false witness; for that is a commandment which has a penalty for its transgression. But when he said that he had fulfilled all the commandments of the Law, there is given to him a counsel that he should sell all that he had and follow the Lord,81 S. Matt. xix. 18–21. for these things are not imposed as commands, but are offered as counsels. For there are two ways of commanding things, one by way of precept, the other by way of counsel. And so the Lord in one way says: “Thou shalt not kill,” where He gives a commandment; in the other He says: “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast.” He is, then, not bound by a commandment to whom the choice is left.
74. And so they who have fulfilled the commandments are able to say: “We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do.”82 S. Luke xvii. 10. The virgin does not say this, nor he who sold all his goods, but they rather await the stored-up rewards like the holy Apostle who says: “Behold we have forsaken all and followed Thee, what shall we have therefore?”83 S. Matt. xix. 27. He says not, like the unprofitable servant, that he has done that which was his duty to do, but as being profitable to his Master, because he has multiplied the talents entrusted to him by the increase he has gained, having a good conscience, and without anxiety as to his merits he expects the reward of his faith and virtue. And so it is said to him and the others: “Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, shall also yourselves sit upon twelve thrones, judging the tribes of Israel.”84 S. Matt. xix. 28. And to those who had faithfully preserved their talents He promises rewards indeed, though smaller saying: “Because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”85 S. Matt. xxv. 21. Good faith, then, is due, but mercy is in the rewards. He who has kept good faith has deserved that good faith should be kept with him; he who has made good profit, because he has not sought his own benefit, has gained a claim to a heavenly reward.
205 CAPUT XII.
Nonnulla traduntur praecepti atque consilii discrimina, quae ut adhuc innotescant manifestius, divitis adolescentis, cujus Evangelium meminit, historia: nec non praemiorum consiliis praeceptisque propositorum diversitas enarratur.
0256B 72. Honorabile itaque conjugium, sed honorabilior integritas; nam et qui matrimonio jungit virginem suam, bene facit: et qui non jungit, melius facit (I Cor. VII, 38). Quod igitur bonum est, non vitandum est: quod est melius, eligendum est. Itaque non imponitur, sed praeponitur. Et ideo bene Apostolus dixit: De virginibus praeceptum Domini non habeo, consilium autem do (Ibid., 25). Etenim praeceptum in subditos fertur, consilium amicis datur. Ubi praeceptum est, ibi lex est: ubi consilium, ibi gratia est. Praeceptum, ut ad naturam revocet: consilium, ut ad gratiam provocet. Et ideo lex Judaeis lata est, gratia autem electioribus reservata est. Lex, ut a naturae finibus culpae studio demeantes, ad naturae observantiam poenae terrore revocaret: gratia autem, 0256C ut electos cum studio bonorum, tum propositis etiam praemiis provocaret.
73. En tibi distantia praecepti atque consilii, si illum recorderis, cui in Evangelio (Matth. XIX, 18 et seq.) ante praescribitur, ne homicidium faciat, ne adulterium admittat, ne falsum testimonium dicat; praeceptum etenim ibi est, ubi est poena peccati. At vero cum se praecepta legis memorasset implesse, consilium eidem datur, ut vendat omnia, et sequatur Dominum; haec enim non praecepto imperantur, sed pro consilio deferuntur. Duplex namque forma mandati est: una praeceptiva, altera voluntaria. Unde et Dominus in alia dicit: Non occides, ubi praecepit; in alia: Si vis perfectus esse, vende omnia tua. Ergo hic liber est a praecepto, cui defertur arbitrium.
0256D 74. Itaque qui praeceptum impleverint, possunt dicere: Servi inutiles sumus: quod debuimus facere, fecimus (Luc. XVII, 10). Hoc virgo non dicit, non dicit ille qui bona sua vendidit: sed quasi reposita 0257A exspectat praemia, sicut sanctus Apostolus qui ait: Ecce nos reliquimus omnia, et secuti sumus te, quid ergo nobis erit (Matth. XIX, 27)? Non quasi inutilis servus, quod debuit facere, ea fecisse se dixit: sed quasi utilis domino, qui commissa sibi talenta quaesitis multiplicavit usuris, mercedem fidei atque virtutis bene sibi conscius, meritorumque securus exspectat. Et ideo ei cum caeteris dicitur: 206 Vos qui secuti estis me in regeneratione, cum sederit Filius hominis in sede majestatis suae, sedebitis et ipsi supra duodecim sedes, judicantes tribus Israel (Ibid., 28). At vero illi qui talenta servaverat, etsi praemia, minora tamen pollicetur dicens: Quoniam super pauca fuisti fidelis, supra multa te constituam (Matth. XXV, 21). Fides igitur ex debito, misericordia 0257B in praemio. Qui bene credidit, ut ei credatur, emeruit: qui bene contulit, quoniam suum non quaesivit, quod coeleste est, impetravit.