The case of Job who was tempted by the devil and of the Lord who was betrayed by Judas: and how prosperity as well as adversity is advantageous to a good man.
For the patience of Job did not bring any gain to the devil, through making him a better man by his temptations, but only to Job himself who endured them bravely; nor was Judas granted freedom from eternal punishment, because his act of betrayal contributed to the salvation of mankind. For we must not regard the result of the deed, but the purpose of the doer. Wherefore we should always cling to this assertion; viz., that evil cannot be brought upon a man by another, unless a man has admitted it by his sloth or feebleness of heart: as the blessed Apostle confirms this opinion of ours in a verse of Scripture: “But we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” 1387 But by saying “All things work together for good,” he includes everything alike, not only things fortunate, but also those which seem to be misfortunes: through which the Apostle tells us in another place that he himself has passed, when he says: “By the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” i.e., “Through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true, as sorrowful but always rejoicing, as needy and yet enriching many:” 1388 All those things then which are considered fortunate, and are called those “on the right hand,” which the holy Apostle designates by the terms honour and good report; and those too which are counted misfortunes, which he clearly means by dishonour and evil report, and which he describes as “on the left hand,” become to the perfect man “the armour of righteousness,” if when they are brought upon him, he bears them bravely: because, as he fights with these, and uses those very weapons with which he seems to be attacked, and is protected by them as by bow and sword and stout shield against those who bring these things upon him, he secures the advantage of his patience and goodness, and obtains a grand triumph of steadfastness by means of those very weapons of his enemies which are hurled against him to kill him; and if only he is not elated by success or cast down by failure, but ever marches straightforward on the kings highway, and does not swerve from that state of tranquillity as it were to the right hand, when joy overcomes him, nor let himself be driven so to speak to the left hand, when misfortunes overwhelm him, and sorrow holds sway. For “Much peace have they that love Thy law, and to them there is no stumbling block.” 1389 But of those who shift about according to the character and changes of the several chances which happen to them, we read: “But a fool will change like the moon.” 1390 For just as it is said of men who are perfect and wise: “To them that love God all things work together for good,” 1391 so of those who are weak and foolish it is declared that “everything is against a foolish man,” 1392 for he gets no profit out of prosperity, nor does adversity make him any better. For it requires as much goodness to bear sorrows bravely, as to be moderate in prosperity: and it is quite certain that one who fails in one of these, will not bear up under the other. But a man can be more easily overcome by prosperity than by misfortunes: for these sometimes restrain men against their will and make them humble and through most salutary sorrow cause them to sin less, and make them better: while prosperity puffs up the mind with soothing but most pernicious flatteries and when men are secure in the prospect of their happiness dashes them to the ground with a still greater destruction.
Rom. viii. 28.355:1388
2 Cor. vi. 7-10.355:1389
Rom. viii. 28.355:1392
Prov. xiv. 7 (LXX.).