To the Presbyter John.
A saying of one of the men who used to be called wise was,
Live unseen. I applaud the sentiment, and have determined to confirm the word by deed, for I see no impropriety in gathering what is good from others, just as bees, it is said, gather their honey and draw forth the sweet dew from bitter herbs as well as from them that are good to eat, and I myself have seen them settling on a barren rock and sucking up its scanty moisture. Far more reasonable is it for them that are credited with reason to harvest what is good from every source; so, as I said, I try to live unseen, and above all men am I a lover of peace and quiet. On his recent return from your part of the world the very pious presbyter Eusebius announced that you had held a certain meeting, and that in the course of conversation mention had been made of me, and that your piety spoke with praise of my insignificant self. I have therefore deemed it ungrateful, and indeed unfair, that he who spoke thus well and kindly of me should fail to be paid in like coin; for although we have done nothing worthy of praise still we admire the intention of them that thus praise us, for such praise is the off-spring of affection. Wherefore I salute your reverence, using as a means of conveyance of my letter him who has brought to me the unwritten words which you have spoken about me. When, most pious sir, you have received my letter, write in reply. You were first in speech; I in writing; and I answer speech by letter. It remains now to you to answer letter for letter.
Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2707062.htm>.
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