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17. A time to flee and a time to stay.

And if ever in their flight they came unto those that sought after them, they did not do so without reason: but when the Spirit spoke unto them, then as righteous men they went and met their enemies; by which they also shewed their obedience and zeal towards God. Such was the conduct of Elijah, when, being commanded by the Spirit, he shewed himself unto Ahab 1467 ; and of Micaiah the prophet when he came to the same Ahab; and of the prophet who cried against the altar in Samaria, and rebuked Rehoboam 1468 ; and of Paul when he appealed unto Cæsar. It was not certainly through cowardice that they fled: God forbid. The flight to which they submitted was rather a conflict and war against death. For with wise caution they guarded against these two things; either that they should offer themselves up without reason (for this would have been to kill themselves, and to become guilty of death, and to transgress the saying of the Lord, ‘What God hath joined let not man put asunder 1469 ’), or that they should willingly subject themselves to the reproach of negligence, as if they were unmoved by the tribulations which they met with in their flight, and which brought with them sufferings greater and more terrible than death. For he that dies, ceases to suffer; but he that flies, while he expects daily the assaults of his enemies, esteems death lighter. They therefore whose course was consummated in their flight did not perish dishonourably, but attained as well as others the glory of martyrdom. Therefore it is that Job was accounted a man of mighty fortitude, because he endured to live under so many and such severe sufferings, of which he would have had no sense, had he come to his end. Wherefore the blessed Fathers thus regulated their conduct also; they shewed no cowardice in fleeing from the persecutor, but rather manifested their fortitude of soul in shutting themselves up in close and dark places, and living a hard life. Yet did they not desire to avoid the time of death when it arrived; for their concern was neither to shrink from it when it came, nor to forestall the sentence determined by Providence, nor to resist His dispensation, for which they knew themselves to be preserved; lest by acting hastily, they should become to themselves the cause of terror: for thus it is written, ‘He that is hasty, with his lips, shall bring terror upon himself 1470 .’



1 Kings xxi. 18.


i.e. Jeroboam, 1 Kings xiii. 2.


Matt. xix. 6.


Prov. xiii. 3, LXX.

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