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Letter XI. To the Virgins of Æmona.

Æmona was a Roman colony not far from Stridon, Jerome’s birthplace. The virgins to whom the note is addressed had omitted to answer his letters, and he now writes to upbraid them for their remissness. The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

This scanty sheet of paper shows in what a wilderness I live, and because of it I have to say much in few words. For, desirous though I am to speak to you more fully, this miserable scrap compels me to leave much unsaid. Still ingenuity makes up for lack of means, and by writing small I can say a great deal. Observe, I beseech you, how I love you, even in the midst of my difficulties, since even the want of materials does not stop me from writing to you.

Pardon, I beseech you, an aggrieved man: if I speak in tears and in anger it is because I have been injured. For in return for my regular letters you have not sent me a single syllable. Light, I know, has no communion with darkness,142142    2 Cor. vi. 14. and God’s handmaidens no fellowship with a sinner, yet a harlot was allowed to wash the Lord’s feet with her tears,143143    Luke vii. 37 sqq. and dogs are permitted to eat of their masters’ crumbs.144144    Matt. xv. 27. It was the Saviour’s mission to call sinners and not the righteous; for, as He said Himself, “they that be whole need not a physician.”145145    Matt. ix. 12, 13. He wills the repentance of a sinner rather than his death,146146    Ezek. xxxiii. 11. and carries home the poor stray sheep on His own shoulders.147147    Luke xv. 5. So, too, when the prodigal son returns, his father receives him with joy.148148    Luke xv. 20. Nay more, the apostle says: “Judge nothing before the time.”149149    1 Cor. iv. 5. For “who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth.”150150    Rom. xiv. 4. And “let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.”151151    1 Cor. x. 12. “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”152152    Gal. vi. 2.

Dear sisters, man’s envy judges in one way, Christ in another; and the whisper of a corner is not the same as the sentence of His tribunal. Many ways seem right to men which are afterwards found to be wrong.153153    Cf. Prov. xiv. 12. And a treasure is often stowed in earthen vessels.154154    2 Cor. iv. 7. Peter thrice denied his Lord, yet his bitter tears restored him to his place. “To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much.”155155    Luke vii. 47. No word is said of the flock as a whole, yet the angels joy in heaven over the safety of one sick ewe.156156    Luke xv. 7, 10. And if any one demurs to this reasoning, the Lord Himself has said: “Friend, is thine eye evil because I am good?”157157    Matt. xx. 15.

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