Those upon whom the divine law is written, not with ink and letters, but implanted in hearts of flesh, these, having the eyes of their mind enlightened, and reaching after a hope, not tangible and seen, but invisible and immaterial, have power to get the better of the stumbling- blocks of the evil one, not by themselves, but from the power that never can be defeated.
But those who have not been honoured with God’s word, nor instructed by divine law…fancy that by their own free will they can bring to nought the resources of sin, which is only condemned through the mystery contained in the Cross.
It lies in the power of man’s free will to resist the devil, but it does not extend to an absolute command over the passions. Except the Lord build the house…and keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain, and the builder laboureth in vain (Ps. 126:1).
You cannot go upon the asp and basilisk and tread under your feet the lion and the dragon [cf Ps. 90:13] without first purging yourself as far as human ability goes, and being strengthened by Him who said to the apostles, Behold, I have given you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.
If human nature had had force, without the whole armour of the Holy Ghost, to stand against the wiles of the devil, St Paul would not have said, The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, and again, Whom the Lord shall destroy with the Spirit of His mouth.
That is why we are bidden of the Lord to pray, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. If we are not delivered by the superior power from the fiery darts of the wicked one and admitted to the adoption of sons, our social existence is in vain; we are far from the power of God.
Accordingly, one who wishes to be a partaker of the divine glory, and to see as in a glass the form of Christ in the ruling faculty of his own soul, ought with insatiable affection and an inclination which is never filled, with all his heart and all his might, by night and when it is day, to seek the help which comes mightily from God.
Of this help, as I have said before, it is impossible to partake, unless a man first abstains from the luxury of the world, from the desires of the opposing power, which is alien to the light, and is an activity of wickedness with no kinship to a good activity, but wholly estranged from it.
Macarius the Egyptian (c. 300-391) [attributed]; Fifty Spiritual Homilies, 25,1-3, trans. by A.J. Mason DD.