Concerning perfect faith in God.
1. The Lord in the gospel, wishing to bring His own disciples to a perfect faith, said, He that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he that is unfaithful in little, is unfaithful also in much. What is the little? and what is the much? The little are the promises of this world, which He has undertaken to supply to those who believe Him, such as food, raiment, and the other things which are for the refreshment or health of the body, and so on; enjoining that we should not be anxious at all concerning these, but with confidence in Him to trust that the Lord is always a provider for those who take refuge in Him. The much are the gifts of the eternal and imperishable world, which He has undertaken to supply to those who believe Him, and who are incessantly anxious concerning those things, and who ask Him for them. Because He has given commandment to that effect. Seek ye only, He says, His kingdom and righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you, that in this way each one may be proved by these little and temporal things, whether he believes God; because He has undertaken to supply them, while we are free from anxiety about such things and are only concerned about eternal things to come.
2. Then it is manifest that he believes concerning things imperishable, and is really seeking eternal good things, if he preserves his faith sound concerning the things of which we have spoken. For every one of those who obey the word of truth ought to prove and examine himself, and indeed to let himself be examined and proved by spiritual men, how far he has believed and given himself to God, whether really and truly according to His word, or in fancied justification and faith, imagining that he has faith within him. A man is proved and tested by the question whether he is faithful in the little, that is, concerning temporal things. How that is done, I will show you.
Do you say that you believe the kingdom of heaven to be vouchsafed to you, and that you have been born from above and made a son of God, and a fellow-heir of Christ, to reign with Him through all eternity, and to take pleasure in light unspeakable during endless and innumerable ages like God? No doubt you will say, “Yes; that was why I withdrew from the world and have given myself to God.” 3. Examine yourself, then, whether earthly cares do not still hold you, and much thought concerning the food and clothing of the body, and other attentions and refreshments, as though you came by them of your own power, and were to make provision for yourself, when you were enjoined to have no anxiety at all concerning yourself. If you believe that you will receive things immortal, eternal, abiding, and abounding, how much more do you not berieve that the Lord will supply you with these passing and earthly things, which God has given even to ungodly men, and to beasts and birds, even as He gave you commandment that you should not be anxious at all about them, saying, Take no thought what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed; for after all these things do the Gentiles seek! But if you still have anxiety concerning these things, and have not trusted yourself wholly to His word, know that you have not yet believed that you shall receive the good things eternal, which are the kingdom of heaven, although you imagine that you believe, while you are still found unfaithful in the small things that perish.
And again, as the body is of more value than raiment, so is the soul of more value than the body. Do you believe, then, that your soul is receiving healing at Christ’s hand from the eternal wounds which with men are incurable, the wounds of the passions of sin, for the sake of which healing the Lord also came hither, that He might now cure the souls of the faithful of those incurable wounds, and cleanse them from the foulness of the leprosy of evil,—He, the only true physician and healer? 4. You will say, “Certainly I believe it. For this I stand, and this is my expectation.” Know, then, after searching yourself, whether bodily ailments do not carry you off to earthly physicians, as if Christ, whom you believed, could not heal you! See how you deceive yourself, because you imagine that you believe, when you do not yet believe, as you ought, in truth. For if you believed the eternal, irremediable wounds of the immortal soul, and its disorders of evil, to be cured by Christ, you would have believed Him able to cure also the temporary disorders and maladies of the body, and would have had recourse to Him only, to the neglect of medical attentions and remedies. He who created the soul has made the body also; and He who heals that immortal part, is able to cure the body also of its temporary disorders and maladies.
5. But you will say, no doubt, “God has given to the body for its healing the herbs of the earth and its drugs, and has prepared the appliances of physicians for the disorders of the body, ordaining that the body which is of the earth should be cured by the various specifics of the earth.” I agree with you that this is so. But take heed, and you will know how the matter stands,—to whom these things are given, and for whom God, has ordained them, according to His great and infinite kindness and love towards man. When man fell from the commandment which he had received, and came under the sentence of wrath, and was banished, as it were, into captivity and disgrace, or to toil in some mine, from the pleasure of paradise into this world, and came under the power of darkness, and was reduced to unbelief by the error of the passions, he fell thenceforward under the disorders and maladies of the flesh, instead of being free from disorder and malady, as before. And certainly all that are born of him have fallen under the same disorders. 6. God, therefore, ordained these remedies for the weak and unbelieving, not willing to destroy utterly the sinful race of men, because of His great loving-kindness, but gave medicine to the men of the world, and to all who are without, for solace, and healing, and care of the body, and permitted them to be used by those who could not yet entrust themselves wholly to God. But you, a monk, who have come to Christ, and desire to be a son of God, and to be born from on high of the Spirit, and are expecting promises higher and greater than the first man had, for all his freedom from disorder, even that God should please to give you the presence of the Lord,—you, who are become a stranger to the world, ought to possess a belief, and a conception, and a manner of life, new and strange beyond all the men of the world. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.