17. The Little Ones and Their Stumbling-Blocks.
But it is a hard task to expound what follows in logical harmony with what has already been said; for one might say, how is it that he who is converted and has become as the little children, is a little one among such as believe in Jesus, and is capable p. 485 of being caused to stumble? And likewise let us attempt to explain this coherently. Every one that gives his adherence to Jesus as the Son of God according to the true history concerning Him, and by deeds done according to the Gospel, is on the way to living the life which is according to virtue, is converted and is on the way towards becoming as the little children; and it is impossible for him not to enter into the kingdom of heaven. There are, indeed, many such; but not all, who are converted with a view to becoming like the little children, have reached the point of being made like unto little children; but each wants so much of the likeness to the little children, as he falls short of the disposition of little children towards the passions, of which we have spoken. In the whole multitude, then, of believers, are also those who, having been, as it were, just converted in regard to their becoming as the little children, at the very point of their conversion that they may become as the little children, are called little; and those of them, who are converted that they may become as the little children, but fall far short of having truly become as the little children, are capable of being caused to stumble; each of whom falls so far short of the likeness to them, as he falls short of the disposition of children towards the passions, of which we have spoken, to whom we ought not to give occasions of stumbling-block; but, if it be otherwise, he who has caused him to stumble will require, as contributing towards his cure, to have “an asss millstone hanged about his neck, and be sunk into the depths of the sea.” 5930 For, in this way, when he has paid the due penalty in the sea, where is “the dragon which God formed to play in it,” 5931 and, so far as is expedient for the end in view, has been punished and undergone suffering, he shall then 5932 have his part in those troubles which belong to the depths of the sea, which he endured when he was dragged down by the asss millstone. For there are also differences of millstones, so that one of them may be, so to call it, the millstone of a man, and another that of an ass; and that is human, about which it is written, “Two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left;” 5933 but the millstone of the ass is that which shall be put round him who has given occasion of stumbling-block. But some one might say—I know not whether he would speak soundly or erroneously—that the asss millstone is the heavy body of the wicked man, which is sunken downwards, and which he will receive at the resurrection that he may be sunk in the abyss which is called the depth of the sea, where “is the dragon which God formed to play therein.” 5934 But another will refer the creating of a stumbling-block to one of the little ones to the powers that are unseen by men; for from these arise many stumbling-blocks to the little ones pointed out by Jesus. But when they cause to stumble one of the little ones pointed out by Jesus, who are believers in Him, he shall assume an asss millstone, the corruptible body which presses heavily on the soul, which is itself hung from the neck, which is dragged down to the affairs in this life, that by means of these their conceit may be taken away, and having paid the penalty, they shall come, through means of the asss millstone, to the condition expedient for them.
Matt. xviii. 6.485:5931
Ps. civ. 26.485:5932
Or, be free from. The Vetus Inter. has “extra dolores.” It has had ἔξω instead of ἑξῆς.485:5933
Matt. xxiv. 41.485:5934
Ps. civ. 26.