St. John Chrysostom

No one of those who are wronged is wronged by another, but experiences this injury at his own hands. Let us first of all inquire what injustice is and also what human virtue is, and what it is that ruins it, and further, what it is that seems to ruin it but really does not. Each of the animals, plants, and other earthly beings and things is subject to one evil that ruins it. Most men think that there are divers things that ruin the human race. Some imagine that it is poverty, others bodily disease, others loss of property, others calumny, others death. Some bewail the inmates of prisons, those who have been exiled, those who are captives of enemies -- but no one mourns those who are living in wickedness. On the contrary, they often congratulate them. But I will demonstrate clearly that no one can bring ruin on us unless we betray ourselves.

What, then, is the virtue of a man? Not riches, nor health, nor public opinion, nor reputation, nor liberty, nor life itself. Instead it is carefulness in holding true doctrine and rectitude of life. Of these things not the devil himself can rob us. For the devil who is full of such great malice, after having set all his instruments in motion, and discharged all his weapons, and poured out all the evils incident to men, in a superlative degree upon the family and the person of the righteous Job, nevertheless did him no injury, but rather profited him.

"What then?" some will say, "did he not inflict injury on Adam, and upset him, and cast him out of Paradise?" No, he did it not, but the cause was the listlessness of him who was injured, and his want of temperance and vigilance.

What harm did it do the Apostles to be continually struggling with hunger and thirst and nakedness? This is the very reason why they were so illustrious and distinguished, and won for themselves much help from God. And what harm Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers and accused of terrible carnal sins? And Abel, whose violent and untimely death was perpetrated by his brother? Is this not the reason why their praise is sounded throughout the world?

Then what is the purpose of penalties and punishments? of hell? if no one is either injured or injures? I did not say that no one injures, but that no one is injured. Cain laid snares for Abel, yet he himself was not injured. God does not abolish penalties on account of the virtue of those who suffer, but He ordains punishments on account of the malice of those who do wickedly. For although they who are treated evilly become more illustrious in consequence of the designs formed against them, this is not due to the intention of those who plan the designs, but to the courage of those who are the victims of them.

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