Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
That Real Wealth Is from Within
By Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347–407)
From the ‘Treatise to prove that no one can harm the man who does not injure himself’

WHAT I undertake is to prove (only make no commotion) that no one of those who are wronged is wronged by another, but experiences this injury at his own hands.  1
  But in order to make my argument plainer, let us first of all inquire what injustice is, and of what kind of things the material of it is wont to be composed; also what human virtue is, and what it is which ruins it; and further, what it is which seems to ruin it but really does not. For instance (for I must complete my argument by means of examples), each thing is subject to one evil which ruins it: iron to rust, wool to moth, flocks of sheep to wolves. The virtue of wine is injured when it ferments and turns sour; of honey when it loses its natural sweetness and is reduced to a bitter juice. Ears of corn are ruined by mildew and drought, the fruit and leaves and branches of vines by the mischievous host of locusts, other trees by the caterpillar, and irrational creatures by diseases of various kinds; and not to lengthen the list by going through all possible examples, our own flesh is subject to fevers and palsies and a crowd of other maladies. As then each one of these things is liable to that which ruins its virtue, let us now consider what it is which injures the human race, and what it is which ruins the virtue of a human being. Most men think that there are divers things which have this effect; for I must mention the erroneous opinions on the subject, and after confuting them, proceed to exhibit that which really does ruin our virtue, and to demonstrate clearly that no one could inflict this injury or bring this ruin upon us unless we betrayed ourselves. The multitude then, having erroneous opinions, imagine that there are many different things which ruin our virtue; some say it is poverty, others bodily disease, others loss of property, others calumny, others death, and they are perpetually bewailing and lamenting these things: and whilst they are commiserating the sufferers and shedding tears, they excitedly exclaim to one another, “What a calamity has befallen such and such a man! he has been deprived of all his fortune at a blow.” Of another again one will say, “Such and such a man has been attacked by severe sickness and is despaired of by the physicians in attendance.” Some bewail and lament the inmates of the prison, some those who have been expelled from their country and transported to the land of exile, others those who have been deprived of their freedom, others those who have been seized and made captives by enemies, others those who have been drowned, or burnt, or buried by the fall of a house, but no one mourns those who are living in wickedness; on the contrary, which is worse than all, they often congratulate them, a practice which is the cause of all manner of evils. Come then (only, as I exhorted you at the outset, do not make a commotion), let me prove that none of the things which have been mentioned injure the man who lives soberly, nor can ruin his virtue. For tell me, if a man has lost his all either at the hands of calumniators or of robbers, or has been stripped of his goods by knavish servants, what harm has the loss done to the virtue of the man?  2
  But if it seems well, let me rather indicate in the first place what is the virtue of a man, beginning by dealing with the subject in the case of existences of another kind, so as to make it more intelligible and plain to the majority of readers.  3
  What then is the virtue of a horse? is it to have a bridle studded with gold and girths to match, and a band of silken threads to fasten the housing, and clothes wrought in divers colors and gold tissue, and head-gear studded with jewels, and locks of hair plaited with gold cord? or is it to be swift and strong in its legs, and even in its paces, and to have hoofs suitable to a well-bred horse, and courage fitted for long journeys and warfare, and to be able to behave with calmness in the battle-field, and if a rout takes place, to save its rider? Is it not manifest that these are the things which constitute the virtue of the horse, not the others? Again, what should you say was the virtue of asses and mules? is it not the power of carrying burdens with contentment, and accomplishing journeys with ease, and having hoofs like rock? Shall we say that their outside trappings contribute anything to their own proper virtue? By no means. And what kind of vine shall we admire? one which abounds in leaves and branches, or one which is laden with fruit? Or what kind of virtue do we predicate of an olive? is it to have large boughs and great luxuriance of leaves, or to exhibit an abundance of its proper fruit dispersed over all parts of the tree? Well, let us act in the same way in the case of human beings also: let us determine what is the virtue of man, and let us regard that alone as an injury, which is destructive to it. What then is the virtue of man? Not riches, that thou shouldst fear poverty; nor health of body, that thou shouldst dread sickness; nor the opinion of the public, that thou shouldst view an evil reputation with alarm, nor life simply for its own sake, that death should be terrible to thee; nor liberty that thou shouldst avoid servitude: but carefulness in holding true doctrine, and rectitude in life. Of these things not even the devil himself will be able to rob a man, if he who possesses them guards them with the needful carefulness, and that most malicious and ferocious demon is aware of this.  4
  Thus in no case will any one be able to injure a man who does not choose to injure himself; but if a man is not willing to be temperate, and to aid himself from his own resources, no one will ever be able to profit him. Therefore also that wonderful history of the Holy Scriptures, as in some lofty, large, and broad picture, has portrayed the lives of the men of old time, extending the narrative from Adam to the coming of Christ: and it exhibits to you both those who are vanquished and those who are crowned with victory in the contest, in order that it may instruct you by means of all examples that no one will be able to injure one who is not injured by himself, even if all the world were to kindle a fierce war against him. For it is not stress of circumstances, nor variation of seasons, nor insults of men in power, nor intrigues besetting thee like snow-storms, nor a crowd of calamities, nor a promiscuous collection of all the ills to which mankind is subject, which can disturb even slightly the man who is brave and temperate and watchful; just as on the contrary the indolent and supine man who is his own betrayer cannot be made better, even with the aid of innumerable ministrations.  5

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.