BARLAAM AND IOASAPH
PARTS XXVI - XXX
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #20
When the king heard these words, and saw the steadfastness, and unbuxomness of his son, who yielded neither to flattery, nor persuasion, nor threat, he marvelled indeed at the persuasiveness of his speech and his irrefutable answers, and was convicted by his own conscience secretly assuring him that Ioasaph spake truly and aright. But he was dragged back by his evil habit and passions, which, from long use, had taken firm grip on him, and held him in as with bit and bridle, and suffered him not to behold the light of truth. So he left no stone unturned, as the saying is, and adhered to his old purpose, determining to put into action the plot which he and Araches had between them devised. Said he to his son, "Although, child, thou oughtest in all points simply to give in to my commands, yet, because thou art stubborn and disobedient, and hast thus stiffly opposed me, insisting that thine own opinion should prevail over all, bid we now farewell to vain insistance, and let persuasion be now our policy. And, forasmuch as Barlaam, thy deceiver, is here, my prisoner in iron chains, I will make a great assembly, and summon all our people and your Galileans, to one place; and I will charge heralds to proclaim expressly that none of the Christians shall fear, but that all shall muster without dread; and we will hold debate together. If your side win, then shall ye and your Barlaam gain your desires; but if ye lose, then shall ye with right good will yield yourselves to my commands."
But this truly wise and prudent youth, forewarned, by the heavenly vision sent him, of his father's mischief, replied, "The Lord's will be done! Be it according to thy command! May our good God and Lord himself vouchsafe that we wander not from the right way, for my soul trusteth in him, and he shall be merciful unto me." There and then did the king command all, whether idolaters or Christians, to assemble. Letters were despatched in all quarters: heralds proclaimed it in every village town that no Christian need fear any secret surprise, but all might come together without fear, as friends and kindred, for the honest and unrestrained enquiry that should be held with their chief and captain, Barlaam. In like manner also he summoned the initiate and the temple-keepers of his idols, and wise men of the Chaldeans and Indians that were in all his kingdom, beside certain augurs, sorcerers and seers, that they might get the better of the Christians.
Then were there gathered together multitudes that held his loathly religion; but of the Christians was there found one only that came to the help of the supposed Barlaam. His name was Barachias. For of the Faithful, some were dead, having fallen victims to the fury of the governors of the cities; and some were hiding in mountains and dens, in dread of the terrors hanging over them; while others had feared the threats of the king, and durst not adventure themselves into the light of day, but were worshippers by night, serving Christ in secret, and in no wise boldly confessing him. So noble-hearted Barachias came alone to the contest, to help and champion the truth.
The king sat down before all on a doom-stool high and exalted, and bade his son sit beside him. He, in reverence and awe of his father, consented not thereto, but sat near him on the ground. There stood the learned in the wisdom which God hath made foolish, whose unwise hearts had gone astray, as saith the Apostle; for, "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." These were assembled for to join argument with the king's son and his fellows, and on them was fulfilled the proverb, "Gazelle against lion." The one made the most High his house of defence, and his hope was under the shadow of his wings; while the others trusted in the princes of this world, who are made of none effect, and in the ruler of the darkness of this world, to whom they have subjected themselves miserably and wretchedly.
Now came on Nachor, in the disguise of Barlaam; and the king's side were like to reach their goal; but, once again, very different was the ordering of the wise providence of God. When all the company was come, thus spake the king to his orators and philosophers, or rather to the deceivers of his people, and fools at heart, "Behold now, there lieth before you a contest, even the mightiest of contests; for one of two things shall befall you. If ye establish our cause, and prove Barlaam and his friends to be in error, ye shall have your fill of glory and honour from us and all the senate, and shall be crowned with crowns of victory. But if ye be worsted, in all ignominy ye shall pitiably perish, and all your goods shall be given to the people, that your memorial may be clean blotted out from off the earth. Your bodies will I give to be devoured by wild beasts and your children will I deliver to perpetual slavery."
When the king had thus spoken, his son said, "A righteous doom hast thou judged this day, O king. The Lord establish this thy mind! I too have the same bidding for my teacher." And, turning round to Nachor, who was supposed to be Barlaam, he said, "Thou knowest, Barlaam, in what splendour and luxury thou foundest me. With many a speech thou persuadedst me to leave my father's laws and customs, and to serve an unknown God, drawn by the promise of some unspeakable and eternal blessings, to follow thy doctrines and to provoke to anger my father and lord. Now therefore consider that thou art weighed in the balance. If thou overcome in the wrestling, and prove that the doctrines, which thou hast taught me, be true, and show that they, that try a fall with us, be in error, thou shalt be magnified as no man heretofore, and shalt be entitled `herald of truth'; and I will abide in thy doctrine and serve Christ, even as thou didst preach, until my dying breath. But if thou be worsted, by foul play or fair, and thus bring shame on me to-day, speedily will I avenge me of mine injury; with mine own hands will I quickly tear out thy heart and thy tongue, and throw them with the residue of thy carcase to be meat for the dogs, that others may be lessoned by thee not to cozen the sons of kings."
When Nachor heard these words, he was exceeding sorrowful and downcast, seeing himself falling into the destruction that he had made for other, and being drawn into the net that he had laid privily, and feeling the sword entering into his own soul. So he took counsel with himself, and determined rather to take the side of the king's son, and make it to prevail, that he might avoid the danger hanging over him, because the prince was doubtless able to requite him, should he be found to provoke him. But this was all the work of divine providence that was wisely establishing our cause by the mouth of our adversaries. For when these idol-priests and Nachor crossed words, like another Barlaam, who, of old in the time of Balak, when purposing to curse Israel, loaded him with manifold blessings, so did Nachor mightily resist these unwise and unlearned wise men.
There sat the king upon his throne, his son beside him, as we have said. There beside him stood these unwise orators who had whetted their tongues like a sharp sword, to destroy truth, and who (as saith Esay) conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. There were gathered innumerable multitudes, come to view the contest and see which side should carry oft the victory. Then one of the orators, the most eminent of all his fellows, said unto Nachor, "Art thou that Barlaam which hath so shamelessly and audaciously blasphemed our gods, and hath enmeshed our king's well beloved son in the net of error, and taught him to serve the Crucified?" Nachor answered, "I am he, I am Barlaam, that, as thou sayest, doth set your gods at nought: but the king's son have I not enmeshed in error; but rather from error have I delivered him, and brought him to the true God." The orator replied, "When the great and marvellous men, who have discovered all knowledge of wisdom, do call them high and immortal gods, and when all the kings and honourable men upon earth do worship and adore them, how waggest thou tongue against them, and, in brief, how durst thou be so mighty brazen-faced? What is the manner of thy proof that the Crucified is God, and these be none?" Then replied Nachor, disdaining even to answer the speaker. He beckoned with his hand to the multitude to keep silence, and opening his mouth, like Balaam's ass, spake that which he had not purposed to say, and thus addressed the king.
"By the providence of God, O king, came I into the world; and when I contemplated heaven and earth and sea, the sun and moon, and the other heavenly bodies, I was led to marvel at their fair order. And, when I beheld the world and all that therein is, how it is moved by law, I understood that he who moveth and sustaineth it is God. That which moveth is ever stronger than that which is moved, and that which sustaineth is stronger than that which is sustained. Him therefore I call God, who constructed all things and sustaineth them, without beginning, without end, immortal, without want, above all passions, and failings, such as anger, forgetfulness, ignorance, and the like. By him all things consist. He hath no need of sacrifice, or drink-offering, or of any of the things that we see, but all men have need of him.
"Now that I have said thus much concerning God, according as he hath granted me to speak concerning himself, come we now to the human race, that we may know which of them partake of truth, and which of error. It is manifiest to us, O king, that there are three races of men in this world: those that are worshippers of them whom ye call gods, and Jews, and Christians. And again those who serve many gods are divided into three races, Chaldeans, Greeks and Egyptians, for these are to the other nations the leaders and teachers of the service and worship of the gods whose name is legion. Let us therefore see which of these hold the truth, and which error.
"The Chaldeans, which knew not God, went astray after the elements and began to worship the creature rather than their Creator, and they made figures of these creatures and called them likenesses of heaven, and earth and sea, of sun and moon, and of the other elements or luminaries. And they enclose them in temples, and worship them under the title of gods, and guard them in safety lest they be stolen by robbers. They have not understood how that which guardeth is ever greater than that which is guarded, and that the maker is greater than the thing that is made; for, if the gods be unable to take care of themselves, how can they take care of others? Great then is the error that the Chaldeans have erred in worshipping lifeless and useless images. And I am moved to wonder, O king, how they, who are called philosophers among them, fail to understand that even the very elements are corruptible. But if the elements are corruptible and subject to necessity, how are they gods? And if the elements are not gods, how are the images, created to their honour, gods?
"Come we then, O king, to the elements themselves, that we may prove concerning them, that they are not gods, but corruptible and changeable things, brought out of non-existence by the command of him who is God indeed, who is incorruptible, and unchangeable, and invisible, but yet himself seeth all things, and, as he willeth, changeth and altereth the same. What then must I say about the elements?
"They, who ween that the Heaven is a god, are in error. For we see it turning and mowing by law, and consisting of many parts, whence also it is called Cosmos! Now a `Cosmos' is the handiwork of some artificer; and that which is wrought by handiwork hath beginning and end. And the firmament is moved by law together with its luminaries. The stars are borne from Sign to Sign, each in his order and place: some rise, while others set: and they run their journey according to fixed seasons, to fulfil summer and winter, as it hath been ordained for them by God, nor do they transgress their proper bounds, according to the inexorable law of nature, in common with the heavenly firmament. Whence it is evident that the heaven is not a god, but only a work of God.
"They again that think that the Earth is a goddess have gone astray. We behold it dishonoured, mastered, defiled and rendered useless by mankind. If it be baked by the sun, it becometh dead, for nothing groweth from a potsherd. And again, if it be soaked overmuch, it rotteth, fruit and all. It is trodden under foot of men and the residue of the beasts: it is polluted with the blood of the murdered, it is digged and made a grave for dead bodies. This being so, Earth can in no wise be a goddess, but only the work of God for the use of men.
"They that think that Water is a god have gone astray. It also hath been made for the use of men. It is under their lordship: it is polluted, and perisheth: it is altered by boiling, by dyeing, by congealment, or by being brought to the cleansing of all defilements. Wherefore Water cannot be a god, but only the work of God.
"They that think that Fire is a god are in error. It too was made for the use of men. It is subject to their lordship, being carried about from place to place, for the seething and roasting of all manner of meats, yea, and for the burning of dead corpses. Moreover, it perisheth in divers ways, when it is quenched by mankind. Wherefore Fire cannot be a god, but only the work of God.
"They that think that the breath of the Winds is a goddess are in error. This, as is evident, is subject to another, and hath been prepared by God, for the sake of mankind, for the carriage of ships, and the conveyance of victuals, and for other uses of men, it riseth and falleth according to the ordinance of God. Wherefore it is not to be supposed that the breath of the Winds is a goddess, but only the work of God.
"They that think that the Sun is a god are in error. We see him moving and turning by law, and passing from Sign to Sign, setting and rising, to warm herbs and trees for the use of men, sharing power with the other stars, being much less than the heaven, and falling into eclipse and possessed of no sovranty of his own. Wherefore we may not consider that the Sun is a god, but only the work of God.
"They that think that the Moon is a goddess are in error. We behold her moving and turning by law, and passing from Sign to Sign, setting and rising for the use of men, lesser than the sun, waxing and waning, suffering eclipse. Wherefore we do not consider that the Moon is a goddess, but only the work of God.
"They that think that Man is a god are in error. We see man moving by law, growing up, and waxing old, even against his will. Now he rejoiceth, now he grieveth, requiring meat and drink and raiment. Besides he is passionate, envious, lustful, fickle, and full of failings: and he perisheth in many a way, by the elements, by wild beasts, and by the death that ever awaiteth him. So Man cannot be a god, but only the work of God. Great then is the error that the Chaldeans have erred in following their own lusts; for they worship corruptible elements and dead images, neither do they perceive that they are making gods of these.
"Now come we to the Greeks that we may see whether they have any understanding concerning God. The Greeks, then, professing themselves to be wise, fell into greater folly than the Chaldeans, alleging the existence of many gods, some male, others female, creators of all passions and sins of every kind. Wherefore the Greeks, O king, introduced an absurd, foolish and ungodly fashion of talk, calling them gods that were not, according to their own evil passions; that, having these gods for advocates of their wickedness, they might commit adultery, theft, murder and all manner of iniquity. For if their gods did so, how should they not themselves do the like? Therefore from these practices of error it came to pass that men suffered frequent wars and slaughters and cruel captivities. But if now we choose to pass in review each one of these gods, what a strange sight shalt thou see!
"First and foremost they introduce the god whom they call Kronos, and to him they sacrifice their own children, to him who had many sons by Rhea, and in a fit of madness ate his own children. And they say that Zeus cut off his privy parts, and cast them into the sea, whence, as fable telleth, was born Aphrodite. So Zeus bound his own father, and cast him into Tartarus. Dost thou mark the delusion and lasciviousness that they allege against their gods? Is it possible then that one who was prisoner and mutilated should be a god? What folly? What man in his senses could admit it?
"Next they introduce Zeus, who, they say, became king of the gods, and would take the shape of animals, that he might defile mortal women. They show him transformed into a bull, for Europa; into gold, for Danae; into a swan, for Leda; into a satyr, for Antiope; and into a thunder-bolt, for Semele. Then of these were born many children, Dionysus, Zethus, Amphion, Herakles, Apollo, Artemis, Perseus, Castor, Helen, Polydeukes, Minos, Rhadamanthos, Sarpedon, and the nine daughters whom they call the Muses.
"In like manner they introduce the story of Ganymede. And so befel it, O king, that men imitated all these things, and became adulterers, and defilers of themselves with mankind, and doers of other monstrous deeds, in imitation of their god. How then can an adulterer, one that defileth himself by unnatural lust, a slayer of his father be a god?
"With Zeus also they represent one Hephaestus as a god, and him lame, holding hammer and fire-tongs, and working as a copper- smith for hire. So it appeareth that he is needy. But it is impossible for one who is lame and wanteth men's aid to be a God.
"After him, they represent as a god Hermes, a lusty fellow, a thief, and a covetous, a sorcerer, bowlegged, and an interpreter of speech. It is impossible for such an one to be a God.
"They also exhibit Asklepius as god, a physician, a maker of medicines, a compounder of plasters for his livelihood (for he is a needy wight), and in the end, they say that he was struck by Zeus with a thunder-bolt, because of Tyndareus, son of Lakedaemon, and thus perished. Now if Asklepius, though a god, when struck by a thunder-bolt, could not help himself, how can he help others?
"Ares is represented as a warlike god, emulous, and covetous of sheep and other things. But in the end they say he was taken in adultery with Aphrodite by the child Eros and Hephaestus and was bound by them. How then can the covetous, the warrior, the bondman and adulterer be a god?
"Dionysus they show as a god, who leadeth nightly orgies, and teacheth drunkenness, and carrieth off his neighbours' wives, a madman and an exile, finally slain by the Titans. If then Dionysus was slain and unable to help himself, nay, further was a madman, a drunkard, and vagabond, how could he be a god?
"Herakles, too, is represented as drunken and mad, as slaying his own children, then consuming with fire and thus dying. How then could a drunkard and slayer of his own children, burnt to death by fire, be a god? Or how can he help others who could not help himself?
"Apollo they represent as an emulous god, holding bow and quiver, and, at times, harp and flute, and prophesying to men for pay. Soothly he is needy: but one that is needy and emulous and a minstrel cannot be a god.
"Artemis, his sister, they represent as an huntress, with bow and quiver, ranging the mountains alone, with her hounds, in chase of stag or boar. How can such an one, that is an huntress and a ranger with hounds, be a goddess?
"Of Aphrodite, adulteress though she be, they say that she is herself a goddess. Once she had for leman Ares, once Anchises, once Adonis, whose death she lamenteth, seeking her lost lover. They say that she even descended into Hades to ransom Adonis from Persephone. Didst thou, O king, ever see madness greater than this? They represent this weeping and wailing adulteress as a goddess.
"Adonis they show as an hunter-god, violently killed by a boar- tusk, and unable to help his own distress. How then shall he take thought for mankind, he the adulterer, the hunter who died a violent death?
"All such tales, and many like them, and many wicked tales more shameful still, have the Greeks introduced, O king, concerning their gods; tales, whereof it is unlawful to speak, or even to have them in remembrance. Hence men, taking occasion from their gods, wrought all lawlessness, lasciviousness and ungodliness, polluting earth and air with their horrible deeds.
"But the Egyptians, more fatuous and foolish than they, have erred worse than any other nation. They were not satisfied with the idols worshipped by the Chaldeans and Greeks, but further introduced as gods brute beasts of land and water, and herbs and trees, and were defiled in all madness and lasciviousness worse than all people upon earth. From the beginning they worshipped Isis, which had for her brother and husband that Osiris which was slain by his brother Typhon. And for this reason Isis fled with Horus her son to Byblos in Syria, seeking Osiris and bitterly wailing, until Horus was grown up and killed Typhon. Isis then was not able to help her own brother and husband; nor had Osiris, who was slain by Typhon, power to succour himself; nor had Typhon, who killed his brother and was himself destroyed by Horus and Isis, any resource to save himself from death. And yet, although famous for all these misadventures, these be they that were considered gods by the senseless Egyptians.
"The same people, not content therewith, nor with the rest of the idols of the heathen, also introduced brute beasts as gods. Some of them worshipped the sheep, some the goat, and others the calf and the hog; while certain of them worshipped the raven, the kite, the vulture, and the eagle. Others again worshipped the crocodile, and some the cat and dog, the wolf and ape, the dragon and serpent, and others the onion, garlic and thorns, and every other creature. And the poor fools do not perceive, concerning these things, that they have no power at all. Though they see their gods being devoured, burnt and killed by other men, and rotting away, they cannot grasp the fact that they are no gods.
"Great, then, is the error that the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and the Greeks have erred in introducing such gods as these, and making images thereof, and deifying dumb and senseless idols. I marvel how, when they behold their gods being sawn and chiselled by workmen's axes, growing old and dissolving through lapse of time, and molten in the pot, they never reflected concerning them that they are no gods. For when these skill not to work their own salvation, how can they take care of mankind? Nay, even the poets and philosophers among the Chaldeans, Greeks and Egyptians, although by their poems and histories they desired to glorify their people's gods, yet they rather revealed and exposed their shame before all men. If the body of a man, consisting of many parts, loseth not any of its proper members, but, having an unbroken union with all its members, is in harmony with itself, how in the nature of God shall there be such warfare and discord? For if the nature of the gods were one, then ought not one god to persecute, slay or injure another. But if the gods were persecuted by other gods, and slain and plundered and killed with thunder-stones, then is their nature no longer one, but their wills are divided, and are all mischievous, so that not one among them is God. So it is manifest, O king, that all this history of the nature of the gods is error.
"Furthermore, how do the wise and eloquent among the Greeks fail to perceive that law-givers themselves are judged by their own laws? For if their laws are just, then are their gods assuredly unjust, in that they have offended against law by murders, sorceries, adulteries, thefts and unnatural crimes. But, if they did well in so doing, then are their laws unjust, seeing that they have been framed in condemnation of the gods. But now the laws are good and just, because they encourage good and forbid evil; whereas the deeds of their gods offend against law. Their gods then are offenders against law; and all that introduce such gods as these are worthy of death and are ungodly. If the stories of the gods be myths, then are the gods mere words: but if the stories be natural, then are they that wrought or endured such things no longer gods: if the stories be allegorical, then are the gods myths and nothing else. Therefore it hath been proven, O king, that all these idols, belonging to many gods, are works of error and destruction. So it is not meet to call those gods that are seen, but cannot see: but it is right to worship as God him who is unseen and is the Maker of all mankind.
"Come we now, O king, to the Jews, that we may see what they also think concerning God. The Jews are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and went once to sojourn in Egypt. From thence God brought them out with a mighty hand and stretched out arm by Moses their lawgiver; and with many miracles and signs made he known unto them his power. But, like the rest, these proved ungrateful and unprofitable, and often worshipped images of the heathen, and killed the prophets and righteous men that were sent unto them. Then, when it pleased the Son of God to come on earth, they did shamefully entreat him and deliver him to Pilate the Roman governor, and condemn him to the Cross, regardless of his benefits and the countless miracles that he had worked amongst them. Wherefore by their own lawlessness they perished. For though to this day they worship the One Omnipotent God, yet it is not according unto knowledge; for they deny Christ the Son of God, and are like the heathen, although they seem to approach the truth from which they have estranged themselves. So much for the Jews.
"As for the Christians, they trace their line from the Lord Jesus Christ. He is confessed to be the Son of the most high God, who came down from heaven, by the Holy Ghost, for the salvation of mankind, and was born of a pure Virgin, without seed of man, and without defilement, and took flesh, and appeared among men, that he might recall them from the error of worshipping many gods. When he had accomplished his marvellous dispensation, of his own free will by a mighty dispensation he tasted of death upon the Cross. But after three days he came to life again, and ascended into the heavens, the glory of whose coming thou mayest learn, O king, by the reading of the holy Scripture, which the Christians call the Gospel, shouldst thou meet therewith. This Jesus had twelve disciples, who, after his ascent into the heavens, went out into all the kingdoms of the world, telling of his greatness. Even so one of them visited our coasts, preaching the doctrine of truth; whence they who still serve the righteousness of his preaching are called Christians. And these are they who, above all the nations of the earth, have found the truth: for they acknowledge God the Creator and Maker of all things in the only begotten Son, and in the Holy Ghost, and other God than him they worship none. They have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself engraven on their hearts, and these they observe, looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. They neither commit adultery nor fornication; nor do they bear false witness, nor covet other men's goods: they honour father and mother, and love their neighbours: they give right judgement. They do not unto other that which they would not have done unto themselves. They comfort such as wrong them, and make friends of them: they labour to do good to their enemies: they are meek and gentle. They refrain themselves from all unlawful intercourse and all uncleanness. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him, as it were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For Christ his sake they are ready to lay down their lives: they keep his commandments faithfully, living righteous and holy lives, as the Lord their God commanded them, giving him thanks every hour, for meat and drink and every blessing. Verily, then, this is the way of truth which leadeth its wayfarers unto the eternal kingdom promised by Christ in the life to come.
"And that thou mayest know, O king, that I speak nought of myself, look thou into the writings of the Christians, and thou shalt find that I speak nothing but the truth. Well, therefore, hath thy son understood it, and rightly hath he been taught to serve the living God, and to be saved for the world to come. Great and marvellous are the things spoken and wrought by the Christians, because they speak not the words of men but the words of God. But all other nations are deceived, and deceive themselves. Walking in darkness they stagger one against another like drunken men. This is the end of my speech spoken unto thee, O king, prompted by the truth that is in my mind. Wherefore let thy foolish wise-acres refrain from babbling idly against the Lord; for it is profitable to you to worship God the Creator, and hearken to his incorruptible sayings, in order that ye may escape judgement and punishment, and be found partakers of deathless life."
When Nachor had fully delivered this oration, the king changed countenance for very anger, but his orators and temple-keepers stood speechless, having nothing but a few weak and rotten shreds of argument in reply. But the king's son rejoiced in spirit and with glad countenance magnified the Lord, who had made a path, where no path was, for them tat trusted in him, who by the mouth of a foeman and enemy was establishing the truth; and the leader of error had proved a defender of the right cause.
But the king, although furiously enraged with Nachor, was nevertheless unable to do him any mischief, because of the proclamation already read before all, wherein he urged him to plead without fear in behalf of the Christians. So he himself made answer in many words, and by dark speeches hinted that Nachor should relax his resistance, and be worsted by the argument of the orators. But Nachor the more mightily prevailed, tearing to pieces all their propositions and conclusions and exposing the fallacy of their error. After the debate had been prolonged till well-nigh eventide, the king dismissed the assembly, making as though he would renew the discussion on the morrow.
Then said Ioasaph to the king his father, "As at the beginning, Sir, thou commandedst that the trial should be just, so too crown the end thereof with justice, by doing one or other of these two things. Either allow my teacher to tarry with me to-night, that we may take counsel together as touching those things which we must say unto our adversaries tomorrow: and do thou in turn take thine advisers unto thee, and duly practise yourselves as ye will. Or else deliver thy counsellors to me this night, and take mine to thyself. But if both sides be with thee, mine advocate in tribulation and fear, but thine in joy and refreshment, me thinketh it is not a fair trial, but a tyrannical misuse of power, and a breaking of the covenants." The king, compelled to yield by the gracefulness of this speech took his wise men and priests to himself, and delivered Nachor to his son, still having hopes of him and thinking fit to keep his agreement.
The king's son, therefore, departed unto his own palace, like a conqueror in the Olympic games, and with him went Nachor. When alone, the prince called him and said, "Think not that I am ignorant of thy tale, for I wot, of a surety, that thou art not saintly Barlaam, but Nachor the astrologer; and I marvel how it seemed thee good to act this play, and to think that thou couldst so dull my sight at mid-day, that I should mistake a wolf for a sheep. But well sung is the proverb, `The heart of a fool will conceive folly.' So this your device and counsel was stale and utterly senseless; but the work that thou hast accomplished is full of wisdom. Wherefore, rejoice, Nachor, and be exceeding glad. I render thee many thanks, that thou hast been to-day advocate of the truth, and hast not polluted thy lips with foul words and crafty simulation, but hast rather cleansed them from many defilements, and thoroughly proven the error of the gods, as they be wrongly called, and hast established the truth of the Christian faith. I have been zealous to bring thee hither with me for two reasons; that the king might not privily seize and punish thee, because thou spakest not after his heart, and next that I might recompense thee for the favour that thou hast done me to-day. And what is my recompense for thee? To show thee how to turn from the evil and slippery road which thou hast trodden until now, and to journey along the straight and saving pathway which thou hast avoided, not in ignorance, but by wilful wrongdoing, throwing thyself into depths and precipices of iniquity. Understand then, Nachor, man of understanding as thou art, and be thou zealous to gain Christ only, and the life that is hid with him, and despise this fleeting and corruptible world. Thou shalt not live for ever, but, being mortal, shalt depart hence ere long, even as all that have been before thee. And wo betide thee, if, with the heavy load of sin on thy shoulders, thou depart thither where there is righteous judgement and recompense for thy works, and cast it not off, while it is easy to rid thyself thereof!"
Pricked at heart by these words, spake Nachor, "Well said! Sir prince, well said! I do know the true and very God, by whom all things were made, and I wot of the judgement to come, having heard thereof from many texts of the Scriptures. But evil habit and the insolence of the ancient supplanter hath blinded the eyes of my heart, and shed a thick darkness over my reason. But now, at thy word, I will cast away the veil of gloom, and run unto the light of the countenance of the Lord. May be, he will have mercy on me, and will open a door of repentance to his wicked and rebellious servant, even if it seem impossible to me that my sins, which are heavier than the sand, be forgiven; sins, which, wittingly or unwittingly, I have sinned from childhood upwards to this my hoary age."
When the king's son heard these words, immediately he arose, and his heart waxed warm, and he began to try to raise Nachor's courage which was drooping to despair, and to confirm it in the faith of Christ, saying, "Let no doubt about this, Nachor, find place in thy mind. For it is written, God is able of these very stones to raise up children unto Abraham. What meaneth this (as father Barlaam said) except that men beyond hope, stained with all manner of wickedness, can be saved, and become servants of Christ, who, in the exceeding greatness of his love toward mankind, hath opened the gates of heaven to all that turn, barring the way of salvation to none, and receiving with compassion them that repent? Wherefore to all that have entered the vineyard at the first, third, sixth, ninth or eleventh hour there is apportioned equal pay, as saith the holy Gospel: so that even if, until this present time, thou hast waxen old in thy sins, yet if thou draw nigh with a fervent heart, thou shalt gain the same rewards as they who have laboured from their youth upwards."
With these and many other words did that saintly youth speak of repentance to that aged sinner Nachor, promising him that Christ was merciful, and pledging him forgiveness, and satisfying him that the good God is alway ready to receive the penitent, and with these words, as it were with ointments, did he mollify that ailing soul and give it perfect health. Nachor at once said unto him, "O prince, more noble in soul even than in outward show, well instructed in these marvellous mysteries, mayst thou continue in thy good confession until the end, and may neither time nor tide ever pluck it out of thine heart! For myself, I will depart straightway in search of my salvation, and will by penance pacify that God whom I have angered: for, except thou will it, I shall see the king's face no more." Then was the prince exceeding glad, and joyfully heard his saying. And he embraced and kissed him affectionately; and, when he had prayed earnestly to God, he sent him forth from the palace.
So Nachor stepped forth with a contrite heart, and went bounding into the depths of the desert, like as doth an hart, and came to a den belonging to a monk that had attained to the dignity of the priesthood, and was hiding there for fear of the pressing danger. With a right warm heart knelt Nachor down before him, and washed his feet with his tears, like the harlot of old, and craved holy Baptism. The priest, full of heavenly grace, was passing glad, and did at once begin to instruct him, as the custom is, and after many days, perfected him with baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And Nachor abode with him, always repentant of his sins, and blessing that God who never willeth that ally should perish, but receiveth all that turn again unto him, and lovingly accepteth the penitent.
Now on the morrow when the king heard what had befallen Nachor, he despaired of the hopes that he once had in him: and, seeing those wise and foolish orators of his mightily discomfited, he was at his wits' end. Them he visited with terrible outrage and dishonour, scourging some severely with whips of oxhide, besmearing their eyes with soot, and casting them away from his presence. He himself began to condemn the impotence of the gods falsely so called, although as yet he refused to look fully at the light of Christ, for the dense cloud of darkness, that enveloped him, still bound the eyes of his heart. Howbeit he no longer honoured his temple-keepers, nor would he keep feasts, nor make drink offerings to his idols, but his mind was tossed between two opinions. On the one hand, he poured scorn on the impotence of his gods; on the other, he dreaded the strictness of the profession of the Gospel, and was hardly to be torn from his evil ways, being completely in slavery to the pleasures of the body, and like a captive drawn towards sinful lusts, and being drunken, as saith Esay, but not with wine, and led as it were with the bridle of evil habit.
While the king was thus wrestling with two opinions, his noble and truly royal-hearted son dwelt at peace in his palace, proving to all men by his deeds the nobility, order and steadfastness of his nature. Theatres, horse-races, riding to hounds, and all the vain pleasures of youth, the baits that take foolish souls, were reckoned by him as nothing worth. But he hung wholly on the commands of Christ for whom he yearned, his heart being wounded with love divine. For him he longed, who alone is to be longed for, who is all sweetness and desire and aspiration insatiable.
Now, when he came to think upon his teacher Barlaam, and as in a mirror saw his life, his soul was enchanted with love, and he much occupied himself a-thinking how he might see him; and ever carrying his sayings in his heart, he was like the tree in the Psalms planted by the river side, unceasingly watered, and bringing forth unto the Lords his fruits in due season. Many were the souls that he delivered from the snares of the devil, and brought safely unto Christ; for many resorted unto him, and profited by his wholesome words. And not a few left the way of error, and ran toward the word of salvation; while others bade a long farewell to the concerns of the world, and came to the wrestling-school of the monastic life. He himself spent his time in prayers and fastings, and would often offer up this prayer, "O Lord, my Lord and King, in whom I have trusted, to whom I have fled and been delivered from my error, render thou due recompense to Barlaam thy servant, because when I was in error he pointed thee to me, who art the way of truth and life. Forbid me not to behold once more that angel in bodily shape, of whom the world is not worthy, but grant me in his company to finish the residue of my life, that, treading in the footsteps of his conversation, I may be well-pleasing to thee my God and Lord."
Now about the same time there was in that city a public assembly in honour of the false gods, and the king must needs be present at the feast, and grace it with lavish sacrifices. But the temple-keepers, seeing that he was careless and lukewarm with regard to their worship, feared that he might neglect to be present in their temple, and that they might lose the royal largess, and the rest of their revenues. So they arose, and withdrew to a cavern situate in the depth of the desert, where dwelt a man who busied himself with magical arts, and was a fervent champion of the error of idolatry. Theudas was his name. Him the king honoured exceedingly, and counted him his friend and teacher, because, he said, it was by the guidance of his prophecies that his kingdom ever prospered. So these idol- priests, that were no priests, came to him, and appealed to him for help, and made known to him the evil opinion of their gods which was growing on their king, and all that the king's son had done, and all the eloquent discourse that Nachor had held against them. And they said, "Except thou come thyself to our succour, gone is all hope! and lost is all the reverence of the gods. Thou only art left to be our comfort in this misfortune, and upon thee we fix our hopes."
So forth marched Theudas, in company with his Satanic host; and he armed himself against the truth, invoking many of his evil spirits, who knew how to lend ready aid for evil ends, and whom he alway used for his ministers; and with these allies he came to the king. When his arrival had been announced to the king, and he had entered in, with a palm-staff in his hand and a sheep-skin girt about his loins, the king arose from his throne, and met and welcomed him; and, fetching a seat, he made him to sit down beside him. Then spake Theudas unto the king, "O king, live for ever under the shelter of the favour of the most puissant gods! I have heard that thou hast foughten a mighty fight with the Galileans, and hast been crowned with right glorious diadems of victory. Wherefore I am come, that we may celebrate together a feast of thanksgiving, and sacrifice to the immortal gods young men in the bloom of youth and well-favoured damsels, and eke offer them an hecatomb of bullocks and herds of beasts, that we may have them from henceforth for our allies invincible, making plain our path of life before us."
Hereto the king made answer, "We have not conquered, aged sir, we have not conquered: nay, rather have we been defeated in open fight. They that were for us turned suddenly against us. They found our host a wild, half-drunken, feeble folk, and utterly overthrew it. But now, if there be with thee any power and strength to help our fallen religion and set it up again, declare it."
Theudas replied in this wise, "Dread not, O king, the oppositions and vain babblings of the Galileans: for of what worth against reasonable and sensible men are the arguments that they use? These methinks shall be more easily overthrown than a leaf shaken with the wind. They shall not endure to face me, far less join argument, or come to propositions and oppositions with me. But, in order that the coming contest and all our wishes may prosper, and that our matters may run smoothly with the stream, adorn thou with thy presence this public festival, and gird on for thy strong sword the favour of the gods, and well befall thee!"
When the mighty in wickedness had thus boasted himself and thought of mischief all the day long (let David bear his part in our chorus), and when, as saith Esay, he had given his neighbour a drink of turbid dregs, by the help of the evil spirits his comrades he made the king utterly to forget the thoughts that inclined him to salvation, and caused him again to cleave to his wonted ways. Then the king despatched letters hither and thither, that all men should gather together to this loathsome assembly. Then mightest thou have seen multitudes streaming in, and bringing with them sheep and oxen and divers kinds of beasts.
So when all were assembled, the king arose, with that deceiver Theudas, and proceeded to the temple, bringing one hundred and twenty bullocks and many animals for sacrifice. And they celebrated their accursed feast till the city resounded with the cry of the brute beasts and the very air was polluted with the reek of sacrifice. This done, when the spirits of wickedness had greatly vaunted them over Theudas' victory, and when the temple- keepers had rendered him thanks, the king went up again unto his palace, and said milo Theudas, "Behold now, as thou badest us, we have spared no pains over the splendour of this gathering and the lavishness of the sacrifice. Now, therefore, it is time for thee to fulfil thy promises, and to deliver from the error of the Christians my son that hath rebelled against our religion, and to reconcile him to our gracious gods. For, though I have left no device and deed untried, yet have I found no remedy for the mischief, but I perceive that his will is stronger than all. When I have dealt gently and kindly with him, I have found that he payeth me no regard whatsoever. When I have treated him harshly and severely, I have seen him driven the quicker to desperation. To thy wisdom for the future I leave the care of this calamity that hath befallen me. If then I be delivered from this trouble by thy means, and once more behold my son worshipping my gods with me, and enjoying the gratification of this life of pleasure, and this royal estate, I will set up unto thee a golden statue, and make thee to receive divine honours from all men for all time to come."
Hereupon Theudas, bowing an attentive ear to the evil one, and learning from him the secret of his evil and deadly counsel, became himself the devil's tongue and mouthpiece, and spake unto the king, "If thou wilt get the better of thy son, and make his opposition vain, I have discovered a plan, which he shall in no wise be able to resist, but his hard and obdurate mind shall melt quicker than wax before the hottest fire." The king, seeing this foolish fellow swelling with empty pride, immediately grew merry and joyful, hoping that the unbridled and boastful tongue would get the mastery of that divinely instructed and philosophic soul. "And what is the plan?" he asked. Then began Theudas to weave his web. He made his villainy sharp as any razor and did cunningly prepare his drugs. Now behold this malicious device and suggestion of the evil one. "Remove, O king," said he, "all thy son's waiting men and servants far from him, and order that comely damsels, of exceeding beauty, and bedizened to be the more winsome, be continually with him and minister to him, and be his companions day and night. For myself, I will send him one of the spirits told off for such duties, and I will thus kindle all the more fiercely the coals of sensual desire. After that he hath once only had intercourse with but one of these women, if all go not as thou wilt, then disdain me for ever, as unprofitable, and worthy not of honour but of dire punishment. For there is nothing like the sight of women to allure and enchant the minds of men. Listen to a story that beareth witness to my word."
"A certain king was grieved and exceeding sad at heart, because that he had no male issue, deeming this no small misfortune. While he was in this condition, there was born to him a son, and the king's soul was filled with joy thereat. Then they that were learned amongst his physicians told him that, if for the first twelve years the boy saw the sun or fire, he should entirely lose his sight, for this was proved by the condition of his eyes. Hearing this, the king, they say, caused a little house, full of dark chambers, to be hewn out of the rock, and therein enclosed his child together with the men that nursed him, and, until the twelve years were past, never suffered him to see the least ray of light. After the fulfilment of the twelve years, the king brought forth from his little house his son that had never seen a single object, and ordered his waiting men to show the boy everything after his kind; men in one place, women in another; elsewhere gold and silver; in another place, pearls and precious stones, fine and ornamental vestments, splendid chariots with horses from the royal stables, with golden bridles and purple caparisons, mounted by armed soldiers; also droves of oxen and flocks of sheep. In brief, row after row, they showed the boy everything. Now, as he asked what each ox these was called, the king's esquires and guards made known unto him each by name: but, when he desired to learn what women were called, the king's spearman, they say, wittily replied that they were called, "Devils that deceive men." But the boy's heart was smitten with the love of these above all the rest. So, when they had gone round everywhere and brought him again unto the king, the king asked, which of all these sights had pleased him most. "What," answered the boy, "but the Devils that deceive men? Nothing that I have seen to-day hath fired my heart with such love as these." The king was astonished at the saying of the boy, to think how masterful a thing the love of women is. Therefore think not to subdue thy son in any other way than this."
The king heard this tale gladly; and there were brought before him some chosen damsels, young and exceeding beautiful. These he bedizened with dazzling ornaments and trained in all winsome ways: and then he turned out of the palace all his son's squires and serving men, and set these women in their stead. These flocked around the prince, embraced him, and provoked him to filthy wantonness, by their walk and talk inviting him to dalliaunce. Besides these, he had no man at whom to look, or with whom to converse or break his fast, for these damsels were his all. Thus did the king. But Theudas went home to his evil den, and, dipping into his books that had virtue to work such magic, he called up one of his wicked spirits and sent him forth, for to battle with the soldier of the army of Christ. But the wretch little knew what laughter he should create against himself, and to what shame he should be put, with the whole devilish troop under him. So the evil spirit, taking to him other spirits more wicked than himself, entered the bed-chamber of this noble youth, and attacked him by kindling right furiously the furnace of his flesh. The evil one plied the bellows from within, while the damsels, fair of face, but uncomely of soul, supplied the evil fuel from without.
But Ioasaph's pure soul was disturbed to feel the touch of evil, and to see the warlike host of strange thoughts that was charging down upon him. And he sought to find deliverance from this great mischief, and to present himself pure unto Christ, and not defile in the mire of sinful lust that holy apparel, wherein the grace of holy Baptism had clothed him. Immediately he set love against love, the divine against the lascivious; and he called to remembrance the beauty and unspeakable glory of Christ, the immortal bridegroom of virgin souls, and of that bride chamber and marriage, from whence they that have stained their wedding- garment are piteously cast out, bound hand and foot, into outer darkness. When he had thought thereon, and shed bitter tears, he smote upon his breast, driving out evil thoughts, as good-for- nothing drones from the hive. When he rose, and spread out his hands unto heaven, with fervent tears and groans calling upon God to help him, and he said, "Lord Almighty, who alone art powerful and merciful, the hope of the hopeless, and the help of the helpless, remember me thine unprofitable servant at this hour, and look upon me with a gracious countenance, and deliver my soul from the sword of the devil, and my darling from the paw of the dog: suffer me not to fall into the hands of mine enemies, and let not them that hate me triumph over me. Leave me not to be destroyed in iniquities, and to dishonour my body which I swore to present unto thee chaste. For for thee I yearn; thee I worship, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, now and for evermore, and world without end." When he had added the Amen, he felt heavenly comfort stealing over him from above, and the evil thoughts withdrew, and he continued in prayer until early morn. Being ware of the devices of the crafty foe, he began more and more to afflict his body by abstinence from meat and drink, and by other severities, standing in prayer all the night long, and reminding himself of his covenants made with God, and picturing in his mind the glory of the righteous yonder, and recounting to himself the full terrors of the Gehenna wherewith the wicked are threatened; all this, that the enemy might not find his soul lying fallow and untilled, and thus easily sow therein the seeds of evil thoughts, and befoul the cleanness of his mind. So, when the enemy was in great straits on every side, and altogether in despair of taking this noble youth, like a cunning knave, he proceeded to another more subtil device, he that is for ever wicked, and never stinteth to contrive mischief and hurt. For he made furious endeavour to carry out the orders that Theudas had given him, and once more prepared his drugs, and on this wise.
The devil entered into the heart of one of the young damsels. Of all she was the most seemly, a king's daughter, carried away captive from her own country, given to king Abenner as a great prize, and sent by him, being of ripe beauty, to his own son, for to cause him to slip or to trip. Of her the deceiver took possession, and whispered in her ear suggestions that plainly showed the wisdom and understanding of her mind; for the evil one easily pursueth all devices that make for wickedness. Then the evil spirit attacked the king's son on the right hand, and gave him a potion to make him love the maiden, by reason -- so he pretended -- of her prudence and discretion and of her nobility and royal blood that yet had not saved her from banishment and loss of glory. Moreover the devil secretly sowed in Ioasaph's heart thoughts that he might recover her from idolatry, and make her a Christian.
But these were all stratagems of the wily serpent. For the king's son, being in this frame of mind, could see in himself no unclean thought or passionate affection for the damsel, but only sympathy and pity for her misfortune, and the ruin of her soul, and knew not that this matter was a device of the devil; for verily he is darkness, and feigneth to be light. So he began to commune with the damsel, and talk with her over the oracles of the knowledge of God, and said, "Lady, be thou acquainted with the ever-living God, and perish not in the error of these idols; but know thy Lord, and the Maker of all this world, and thou shalt be happy, the bride of the immortal bridegroom." While he exhorted her with many such-like words, immediately the evil spirit whispered to the girl that she should spread under his feet the nets of deceit to drag his blessed soul into the pit of lust, as he once did to our first parent by means of Eve, thus miserably banishing him, alas! from Paradise and God, and making him to become subject to death in lieu of bliss and everlasting life.
When the damsel heard Ioasaph's words fulfilled with all wisdom, being without understanding, she understood them not, but made answer thus, becoming the tongue and mouth-piece of the evil one: "If, sir, thou takest thought for my salvation, and desirest to bring me to thy God, and to save my poor soul, do thou also thyself grant me one request, and straightway I will bid good-bye to my fathers' gods, and join thy God, serving him until my last breath; and thou shalt receive recompense for my salvation, and for my turning to God-ward."
"Lady, and what is thy request?" said he. But she, setting her whole self, figure, look and voice in a fashion to charm him, answered, "Be thou joined with me in the bonds of wedlock, and I will joyfully follow out thy behests."
"In vain, O Lady," said he, "hast thou made this hard request. For though I earnestly care for thy salvation, and long to heave thee from the depth of perdition, yet to pollute my body through unclean union is grievous for me, and utterly impossible."
She, seeking to make the way straight and smooth for him, cried, "Why dost thou, who are so wise, talk thus? Wherefore speakest thou of it as of defilement and shameful intercourse? I am not unacquainted with the Christian books: nay, I have met with many volumes in mine own country, and have heard the discourses of many Christians. What, is it not written in one of your books, `Marriage is honourable, and the bed undefiled'? and, `It is better to marry than to burn'? and again, `What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder'? Do not your Scriptures teach that all the righteous men of old, patriarchs and prophets, were wedded? Is it not written that the mighty Peter, whom ye call Prince of the Apostles, was a married man? Who, then, hath persuaded thee to call this defilement? Methink, sir, thou strayest utterly away from the truth of your doctrines."
"Yea, Lady," said he, "all this is even as thou sayest. It is permitted to all who will to live in wedlock, but not to them that have once made promise to Christ to be virgins. For myself, ever since I was cleansed in the laver of Holy Baptism from the sins of my youth and ignorance, I have resolved to present myself pure to Christ, and how shall I dare break my covenants with God?"
Again quoth the damsel, "Let this also be thy pleasure, as thou wilt. But fulfil me one other small and trivial desire of mine, if thou art in very truth minded for to save my soul. Keep company with me this one night only, and grant me to revel in thy beauty, and do thou in turn take thy fill of my comeliness. And I give thee my word, that, with daybreak, I will become a Christian, and forsake all the worship of my gods. Not only shalt thou be pardoned for this dealing, but thou shalt receive recompense from thy God because of my salvation, for thy Scripture saith, `There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.' If, therefore, there is joy in heaven over the conversion of a sinner, shall not great recompense be due to the causer of that conversion? Yea, so it is: and dispute it not. Did not even the Apostles, the leaders of your religion, do many a thing by dispensation, at times transgressing a commandment on account of a greater one? Is not Paul said to have circumcised Timothy on account of a greater dispensation? And yet circumcision hath been reckoned by Christians as unlawful, but yet he did not decline so to do. And many other such things shalt thou find in thy Scriptures. If then in very sooth, as thou sayest, thou seekest to save my soul, fulfil me this my small desire. And although I seek to be joined with thee in the full estate of matrimony, yet, sith this is contrary to thy mind, I will never constrain thee again, but will do everything that liketh thee. For the rest, do not thou utterly abhor me; but hearken to me for the nonce, and thou shalt deliver me from superstitious error, and thou shalt do whatever seemeth thee good hereafter all the days of thy life."
Thus spake she; for indeed she had, for her adviser, one to whom she lent a privy ear, and the pirate was well versed in Scripture, being verily the creator and teacher of iniquity. Thus then she spake with fawning words entangling him, right and left, around with her toils and meshes, and she began to shake the citadel of his soul, and to slacken his tension of purpose, and to soften the temper of his mind. Then the sower of these evil tares, and enemy of the righteous, when he saw the young man's heart wavering, was full of joy, and straightway called to the evil spirits that were with him, crying, "Look you how yond damsel hasteth to bring to pass all that we were unable to accomplish! Hither! fall we now furiously upon him: for we shall find none other season so favourable to perform the will of him that sent us." Thus spake this crafty spirit to his hounds: and straightway they lept on that soldier of Christ, disquieting all the powers of his soul, inspiring him with vehement love for the damsel, and kindling within him the fiercest fire of lust.
When Ioasaph saw that he was greatly inflamed, and was being led captive into sin, and perceived that his thoughts about the salvation of the damsel and her conversion to God had been set like bait on hook to hide the deed which she purposed, and were troubling him with the suggestion of the enemy, that, for the salvation of a soul, it was not sin for once to lie with a woman, then in the agony of his soul he drew a deep and lamentable groan, and nerved himself to pray, and, with streams of tears running down his cheeks, he cried aloud to him that is able to save them that trust in him, saying, "On thee, O Lord, have I set my trust: let me not be confounded for ever; neither let mine enemies triumph over me, that hold by thy right hand. But stand thou by me at this hour, and according to thy will make straight my path, that thy glorious and dreadful name may be glorified in me thy servant, because thou art blessed for ever. Amen."
Now when he had prayed in tears for many hours, and often bent the knee, he sunk down upon the pavement. After he had slumbered awhile, he saw himself carried off by certain dread men, and passing through places which he had never heretofore beheld. He stood in a mighty plain, all a-bloom with fresh and fragrant flowers, where he descried all manner of plants of divers colours, charged with strange and marvellous fruits, pleasant to the eye and inviting to the touch. The leaves of the trees rustled clearly in a gentle breeze, and, as they shook, sent forth a gracious perfume that cloyed not the sense. Thrones were set there, fashioned of the purest gold and costly stones, throwing out never so bright a lustre, and radiant settles among wondrous couches too beautiful to be described. And beside them there were running waters exceeding clear, and delightful to the eye. When these dread men had led him through this great and wondrous plain, they brought him to a city that glistered with light unspeakable, whose walls were of dazzling gold, with high uprear'd parapets, built of gems such as man hath never seen. Ah! who could describe the beauty and brightness of that city? Light, ever shooting from above, filled all her streets with bright rays; and winged squadrons, each of them itself a light, dwelt in this city, making such melody as mortal ear ne'er heard. And Ioasaph heard a voice crying, "This is the rest of the righteous: this the gladness of them that have pleased the Lord." When these dread men had carried him out from thence, they spake of taking him back to earth. But he, that had lost his heart to that scene of joyaunce and heartsease, exclaimed, "Reave me not, reave me not, I pray you, of this unspeakable joy, but grant me also to dwell in one corner of this mighty city." But they said, "It is impossible for thee to be there now; but, with much toil and sweat, thou shalt come hither, if thou constrain thyself."
Thus spake they; and again they crossed that mighty plain, and bare him to regions of darkness and utter woe, where sorrow matched the brightness which he had seen above. There was darkness without a ray of light, and utter gloom, and the whole place was full of tribulation and trouble. There blazed a glowing furnace of fire, and there crept the worm of torment. Revengeful powers were set over the furnace, and there were some that were burning piteously in the fire, and a voice was heard, saying, "This is the place of sinners; this the punishment for them that have defiled themselves by foul practices." Hereupon Ioasaph was carried thence by his guides; and, when he came to himself, immediately he trembled from head to foot, and, like a river, his eyes dropped tears, and all the comeliness of that wanton damsel and her fellows was grown more loathsome to him than filth and rottenness. And as he mused in his heart on the memory of the visions, in longing for the good and in terror of the evil, he lay on his bed utterly unable to arise.
Then was the king informed of his son's sickness; and he came and asked what ailed him. And Ioasaph told him his vision, and said, "Wherefore hast thou laid a net for my feet, and bowed down my soul? If the Lord had not helped me, my soul had well nigh dwelt in hell. But how loving is God unto Israel, even unto such as are of a true heart! He hath delivered me that am lowly from the midst of the dogs. For I was sore troubled and I fell on sleep: but God my Saviour from on high hath visited me, and showed me what joy they lose that provoke him and to what punishments they subject themselves. And now, O my father, since thou hast stopped thine ears not to hear the voice that will charm thee to good, at least forbid me not to walk the straight road. For this I desire, this I long for, to forsake all, and reach that place, where Barlaam the servant of Christ hath his dwelling, and with him to finish what remaineth of my life. But if thou keep me back by force, thou shalt quickly see me die of grief and despair, and thou shalt be no more called father, nor have me to thy son."
Go to Parts XXXI - XXXV