A very powerful statement by the great St Philoxenus of Mabug (sixth century)--well worth being read at least seven times:
Now many have, for sundry and diverse reasons, forsaken the life of the world, and have drawn nigh to the discipleship of Christ, but not by reason of the one true cause, and in consequence their discipleship hath not prospered.
And they have become like sick members in the healthy body of the discipleship of Christ, and they also prevent healthy members from the performance of the service of the spirit and from the doing of all the commands of our Lord; it would have been better had they remained in the world and not made an exhibition of slackness in the land of spiritual beings.
The whole life and conduct of the world is sick and infirm in respect of spiritual things, but the body of the discipleship of Christ is sound and healthy. And whosoever would cut off his own members from that sick body, and come to be absorbed in this living body, it is the love of the Christian life and rule alone which can bring him into union with [this] body. And it is not meet that there should be [any] other cause for his drawing nigh thereto, as it is in the case of many men, for by compulsion, and from obligation, and from the forcing of parents, and by the irritation of a woman, and from many other unsound reasons, many men are driven perforce to come and be disciples to Christ.
And when they have come they are only [His disciples] in name, while in truth they belong to the world; to the Christian life [they belong] falsely and according to the sight of the eye only, and to the world in thought and deed; to the Christian life for custom's sake only, and to the world for their will's sake; to the Christian life by forcible consent, and to the world by the intelligence of their own freewill. And to speak briefly, in the Christian life is their shadow, and in the world is their body; in the Christian life they exist in form and appearance only, and in the world in [their] true person, being made the cause of stumbling to themselves and also to their brethren.
And they eat the bread of Christ by theft, and not by right; and although they are hired by Him they labour for another, and are not ashamed. When He calleth them, they obey another who is His opponent, and when any man taketh and bringeth them as his own property, they abuse His goodness, and despise His commandments. And they are made a stumbling-block in the place of the building, and a vision of detriment in the region of excellent things, and an occasion of falling in the land of truth, and a form of iniquity among helpful appearances.
And for those who are thus, it would have been better, according to the word of Christ if they had never been born, or if they were born that they had remained in the infirm country of the life of [this] world in which they were, and had not come to make others sick with themselves, or to make living limbs die, being themselves dead before God.
Do thou then, O disciple of God, flee from such things as these, and let faith itself alone be the cause of thy going forth from the world, that as thou hast laid the foundation, so also the whole building of thy works may ascend. For when thy works have received strength from thy faith which is [laid down] first, and which hath brought thee forth from the world, all things will be completed and preserved by faith in sound condition, and they will abide in integrity, and they will advance towards the secret eye of God, and will be completed and perfected by the exhortation of faith itself.