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Letter CXXXIX. To Apronius.

Of Apronius nothing is known; but from the mention of Innocent (for whom see Letter CXLIII.) it seems a fair inference that he lived in the West. Jerome here congratulates him on his steadfastness in the faith and exhorts him to come to Bethlehem. He then touches on the mischief done by Pelagius and complains that his own monastery has been destroyed by him or by his partisans. The date of the letter is a.d. 417.

I know not by what wiles of the devil it has come to pass that all your toil and the efforts of the reverend presbyter Innocent38913891    At this time in Palestine whither he had come as the bearer of letters from Augustine to Jerome and others. and my own prayers and wishes seem for the moment to produce no effect. God be thanked that you are well and that the fire of faith glows in you even when you are in the midst of the devil’s wiles. My greatest joy is to hear that my spiritual sons are fighting in the cause of Christ; and assuredly He in whom we believe will so quicken this zeal of ours that we shall be glad freely to shed our blood in defence of His faith.

I grieve to hear that a noble family has been subverted,38923892    The family meant is probably the one warned by Jerome in his letter to Ctesiphon (CXXXIII, § 13). In that case the troubler of its peace is of course Pelagius. for what reason I cannot learn; for the bearer of the letter could give me no information. We may well grieve over the loss of our common friends and ask Christ the only potentate and Lord38933893    1 Tim. vi. 15. to have mercy upon them. At the same time we have deserved to receive punishment at God’s hand for we38943894    It would seem as if Jerome, like Augustine, had at first thought favourably of Pelagius. have harboured the enemies of the Lord.

The best course you can take is to leave everything and to come to the East, before all to the holy places; for everything is now quiet here. The heretics have not, it is true, purged the venom from their breasts, but they do not venture to open their impious mouths. They are “like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear.”38953895    Ps. lviii. 4. Salute your reverend brothers on my behalf.

As for our house,38963896    i.e. the monastic establishment under Jerome’s guidance at Bethlehem. See Letters CXXXV.–CXXXVII. so far as fleshly wealth is concerned, it has been completely destroyed by the onslaughts of the heretics; but by the mercy of Christ it is still filled with spiritual riches. To live on bread is better than to lose the faith.

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