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Of the election of the Abbot.
In the election of an Abbot let the following method always be observed; that he be constituted Abbot whom either the whole Community by common consent shall elect in the fear of God, or whom a small part of the same, shall choose with greater wisdom. Let him who is to be raised to this dignity be chosen on account of his virtuous life, his learning, and his wisdom; even though he be the last in the Community. But although the entire Community (which God forbid) shall with one accord choose a man who supports them in their evil practices, and these, by some means become known to the Bishop in whose diocese that place is situated, or to the Abbots, or to the neighbouring Christians; let them nullify the election of these wicked men, and appoint a worthy steward over the House of God; knowing that for this they shall receive a good reward, if they do it with a pure intention, and through zeal for God; and, on the contrary, that they sin if the neglect to do so.
When once established in his office, let the Abbot always reflect how weighty a burthen he hath received, and unto Whom he must give an account of his stewardship. Let him also know that it is more becoming in him to do good unto others, than to hold sway over them. He must therefore be learned in the Divine Law, that he may know whence to “bring forth new things and old;”198198Matt. xiii. 52. he must be chaste, sober, and merciful, and always prefer mercy to justice, that he himself may obtain mercy. He shall hate vice, and love the Brethren. Even in his corrections he shall act with prudence, and be guilty of no excess, lest, while too eagerly scouring off the rust, the vessel itself be broken. Let him bear in mind his own frailty, and remember that “the bruised reed must not be broken.”199199Isai. xlii. 3..
By this, we do not mean that he should allow vices to grow up, but, as we have said before, with prudence and charity, seek to root them out in such a way as shall be expedient for each case; and let his aim be rather to excite love, than to inspire fear. He must not be truculent and anxious; neither let him be over exacting, not headstrong, nor jealous, nor over suspicious, for then he will never be at rest. Even in what he orders, whether it pertain to God or to temporal matters, let him be prudent and considerate. Let him be discreet and moderate in the works which he enjoins, bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob who said; “If I shall cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all die in one day.”200200Genesis. xxxiii. 13. Therefore adopting these and the like principles of discretion, which is the mother of all virtues, let him so temper all things that the strong may have somewhat to strive after, and the weak, nought from which they may flee away. Especially let him observe this present Rule in all things, that after having ministered well, he may hear from the Lord what the good servant heard, who gave corn to his fellow servants in due time; “Amen, I say unto you, over all his goods will he place him.”201201Matth. xxiv. 47.
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