1. I was requested by certain of the brethren not long ago to reply to a pamphlet written by one Helvidius. I have deferred doing so, not because it is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scarce known the first glimmer of learning, but because I was afraid my reply might make him appear worth defeating. There was the further consideration that a turbulent fellow, the only individual in the world who thinks himself both priest and layman, one who, as has been said, thinks that eloquence consists in loquacity and considers speaking ill of anyone to be the witness of a good conscience, would begin to blaspheme worse than ever if opportunity of discussion were afforded him. He would stand as it were on a pedestal, and would publish his views far and wide. There was reason also to fear that when truth failed him he would assail his opponents with the weapon of abuse. But all these motives for silence, though just, have more justly ceased to influence me, because of the scandal caused to the brethren who were disgusted at his ravings. The axe of the Gospel must therefore be now laid to the root of the barren tree, and both it and its fruitless foliage cast into the fire, so that Helvidius who has never learnt to speak, may at length learn to hold his tongue.One has to smile a little. Here's Jerome eagerly whipping up emotions against Helvidius as being someone who "considers speaking ill of anyone to be the witness of a good conscience" and "when truth failed him he would assail his opponents with the weapon of abuse." Yet obviously Jerome is intending to speak ill of Helvidius, and is assailing his opponent verbally, rather than beginning with arguments founded in truth.
We certainly agree with Jerome that the Gospel (i.e. the Scriptures) ought to be brought to bear on the matter, and that we ought not to count mere loquacity as eloquence. On the other hand, we will need to examine the arguments before we decide whether it is Jerome's arguments or those of Helvidius that ought properly to be described as ravings (if any!).