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Letter CXLV. To Exuperantius.
Jerome advises Exuperantius, a Roman soldier, to come to Bethlehem and with his brother Quintilian to become a monk. According to Palladius (H. L. c. lxxx.) Exuperantius came to Jerome but went away again ‘unable to endure his violence and ill-will.’ The date of the letter is unknown.
Among all the favours that my friendship with the reverend brother Quintilian has conferred upon me the greatest is this that he has introduced me in the spirit to you whom I do not know personally. Who can fail to love a man who, while he wears the cloak and uniform of a soldier does the work of a prophet, and while his outer man gives promise of quite a different character, overcomes this by the inner man which is formed after the image of the creator. I come forward therefore to challenge you to an interchange of letters and beg that you will often give me occasion to reply to you that I may for the future feel less constraint in writing.
For the present I will content myself by suggesting to your discretion that you should bear in mind the apostle’s words: “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife;”39173917 1 Cor. vii. 27. that is, seek not that binding which is contrary to loosing. He who has contracted the obligations of marriage, is bound, and he who is bound is a slave; on the other hand he who is loosed is free. Since therefore you rejoice in the freedom of Christ, since your life is better than your profession, since you are all but on the housetop of which the Saviour speaks; you ought not to come down to take your clothes,39183918 Matt. xxiv. 17, 18. you ought not to look behind you, you ought not having put your hand to the plough, then to let it go.39193919 Luke ix. 62. Rather, if you can, imitate Joseph and leave your garment in the hand of your Egyptian mistress,39203920 Gen. xxxix. 12. that naked you may follow your Lord and Saviour. For in the gospel He says: “Whosoever doth not leave all that he hath and bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”39213921 Luke xiv. 26, 27. Cast from you the burthen of the things of this world, and seek not those riches which in the gospel are compared to the humps39223922 Pravitates, deformities. Matt. xix. 24. of camels. Naked and unencumbered fly up to heaven; masses of gold will but impede the wings of your virtue. I do not speak thus because I know you to be covetous, but because I have a notion that your object in remaining so long in the army is to fill that purse which the Lord has commanded you to empty. For they who have possessions and riches are bidden to sell all that they have and to give to the poor and then to follow the Saviour.39233923 Matt. xix. 21. Thus if your worship is rich already you ought to fulfil the command and sell your riches; or if you are still poor you ought not to amass what you will have to pay away. Christ accepts the sacrifices made for him39243924 2 Cor. viii. 12. according as he who makes them has a willing mind. Never were any men poorer than the apostles; yet never any left more for the Lord than they. The poor widow in the gospel who cast but two mites into the treasury was set before all the men of wealth because she gave all that she had.39253925 Luke xxi. 1–4. So it should be with you. Seek not for wealth which you will have to pay away; but rather give up that which you have already acquired that Christ may know his new recruit to be brave and resolute, and then when you are a great way off His Father will run with joy to meet you. He will give you a robe, will put a ring upon your finger, and will kill for you the fatted calf.39263926 Luke xv. 20–23. Then when you are freed from all encumbrances God will soon make a way for you to cross the sea to me with your reverend brother Quintilian. I have now knocked at the door of friendship: if you open it to me you will find me a frequent visitor.
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