BARLAAM AND IOASAPH
PARTS XXXI - XXXV
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #20
Again therefore the king was seized with despondency, and again he was like to abjure his whole way of life; and with strange thoughts he went again unto his own palace. But the evil spirits, that had been sent out by Theudas for to attack the young saint, returned to him, and, lovers of leasing though they were, confessed their shameful defeat, for they bare visible tokens of their defeat, upon their evil countenance. Said Theudas, "And be ye so weak and puny that ye cannot get the better of one young stripling?" Then did the evil spirits, constrained, to their sorrow, by the might of God, bring to light the truth, saying, "We cannot abide even the sight of the might of Christ, and the symbol of his Passion, which they call the Cross. For, when that sign is made, immediately all we, the princes of the air, and the rulers of the darkness of the world, are utterly routed and discomfited, even before the sign is completed. When we first fell upon this youth, we vexed him sore; but when he called on Christ for help, and armed him with the sign of the Cross, he routed us in angry wise, and stablished himself in safety. So incontinent we found a weapon, wherewith our chief did once confront the first-made man and prevailed against him. And verily we should have made this young man's hope vain; but again Christ was called on for help, and he consumed us in the fire of his wrath from above, and put us to flight. We have determined to approach the prince no more." Thus, then, did the evil spirits plainly make known unto Theudas all that was come to pass.
But the king, perplexed on every side, again summoned Theudas, and said, "Most wisest of men, all that seemed good to thee have we fulfilled, but have found no help therein. But now, if thou hast any device left, we will make trial thereof. Peradventure I shall find some escape from this evil."
Then did Theudas ask for a meeting with his son; and on the morrow the king took him and went forth to visit the prince. The king sat down and provoked debate, upbraiding and chiding him for his disobedience and stubbornness of mind. When Ioasaph again maintained his ease, and loudly declared that he valued nothing so much as the love of Christ, Theudas came forward and said, "Wherefore, Ioasaph, dost thou despise our immortal gods, that thou hast departed from their worship, and, thus incensing thy father the king, art become hateful to all the people? Dost thou not owe thy life to the gods? And did they not present thee to the king in answer to his prayer, thus redeeming him from the bondage of childlessness?" While this Theudas, waxen old in wickedness, was putting forth these many vain arguments and useless propositions, and weaving words about the preaching of the Gospel, desiring to turn it into mockery, and magnify idolatry, Ioasaph, the son of the heavenly king, and citizen of that city which the Lord hath builded and not man, waited a while and then said unto him,
"Give ear, thou abyss of error, blacker than the darkness that may be felt, thou seed of Babylon, child of the building of the tower of Chalane, whereby the world was confounded, foolish and pitiable dotard, whose sins out-weigh the iniquity of the five cities that were destroyed by fire and brimstone. Why wouldest thou mock at the preaching of salvation, whereby darkness hath been made light, the wanderers have found the way, they that were lost in dire captivity have been recalled. Tell me whether is better? To worship God Almighty, with the only-begotten Son and the Holy Ghost, God increate and immortal, the beginning and well-spring of good, whose power is beyond compare, and his glory incomprehensible, before whom stand thousand thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand of Angels and heavenly hosts, and heaven and earth are full of his glow, by whom all things were brought into being out of nothing, by whom everything is upheld and sustained and ordered by his providence; or to serve deadly devils and lifeless idols, whose glory and boast is in adultery and the corrupting of boys, and other works of iniquity that have been recorded concerning your gods in the books of your superstition? Have ye no modesty, ye miserable men, fuel for unquenchable fire, true copy of the Chaldean race, have ye no shame to worship dead images, the works of men's hands? Ye have carved stone and graven wood and called it God. Next ye take the best bullock out of your folds, or (may be) some other of your fairest beasts, and in your folly make sacrifice to your dead divinity. Your sacrifice is of more value than your idol; for the image was fashioned by man, but the beast was created by God. How much wiser is the unreasonable beast than thou the reasonable man? For it knoweth the hand that feedeth it, but thou knowest not that God by whom thou wast created out of nothing, by whom thou livest, and art preserved; and thou callest God that which thou sawest, but now, smitten by steel, and burnt and moulded in the fire, and beaten with hammers, which thou hast covered around with silver and gold, and raised from the ground, and set on high. Then, falling upon the earth, thou liest baser than the base stone, worshipping not God but thine own dead and lifeless handiwork. Or rather, the idol hath no right to be called even dead, for how can that have died which never lived? Thou shouldest invent some new name worthy of such madness. Thy stone god is broken asunder; thy potsherd god shattered; thy brazen god rusteth; thy gold or silver god is melted down. Aye, and thy gods are sold, some for a paltry, others for a great price. Not their divinity but their material giveth them value. But who buyeth God? Who offereth God for sale? And how is that god that cannot move called God? Seest thou not that the god that standeth cannot sit, and the god that sitteth cannot stand?
"Be ashamed, thou fool, and lay thine hand upon thy mouth, thou victim of folly, that commendest such things as these. Estranged from the truth, thou hast been led astray by false images, fashioning statues and attaching to the works of thine own hands the name of God. O wretched man, return to thy senses, and learn that thou art older than the god made by thee. This is downright madness. Being a man, thou hast persuaded thyself that thou canst make God. How can this be? Thou makest not God, but the likeness of a man, or of some beast, sans tongue, sans throat, sans brains, sans inwards, so that it is the similitude neither of a man, nor of a beast, but only a thing of no use and sheer vanity. Why therefore flatterest thou things that cannot feel? Why sittest thou at the feet of things that cannot move and help thee? But for the skill of the mason, or timber-wright, or hammer-smith, thou hadst not had a god. Had there been no warders nigh at hand, thou hadst lost thy god. He, to whom many a populous city of fools prayeth as God to guard it, the same hath suite of guards at hand to save him from being stolen. And if he be of silver or gold, he is carefully guarded; but if of stone or clay or any other less costly ware, he guardeth himself, for with you, no doubt, a god of clay is stronger than one of gold.
"Do we not, then, well to laugh you to scorn, or rather to weep over you, as men blind and without understanding? Your deeds are deeds of madness and not of piety. Your man of war maketh to himself an image after the similitude of a warrior, and calleth it Ares. And the lecher, making a symbol of his own soul, deifieth his vice and calleth it Aphrodite. Another, in honour of his own love of wine, fashioneth an idol which he calleth Dionysus. Likewise lovers of all other evil things set up idols of their own lusts; for they name their lusts their gods. And therefore, before their altars, there are lascivious dances, and strains of lewd songs and mad revelries. Who could recount in order their abominable doings? Who could endure to defile his lips by the repeating of their filthy communications? But these are manifest to all, even if we hold our peace. These be thine objects of worship, O Theudas, who art more senseless than thine idols. Before these thou biddest me fall down and worship. This verily is the counsel of thine iniquity and senseless mind. But thou thyself shalt be like unto them, and all such as put their trust in them.
"As for me, I will serve my God, and to him will I wholly sacrifice myself, to God, the Creator and protector of all things through our Lord Jesus Christ, my hope, by whom we have access unto the Father of lights, in the Holy Ghost: by whom we have been redeemed from bitter slavery by his blood. For if he had not humbled himself so far as to take the form of a servant, we had not received the adoption of sons. But he humbled himself for our sake, not considering the Godhead a thing to be grasped, but he remained that which he was, and took on himself that which he was not, and conversed with men, and mounted the Cross in his flesh, and was laid in the sepulchre by the space of three days; he descended into hell, and brought out from thence them whom the fierce prince of this world held prisoners, sold into bondage by sin. What harm then befell him thereby that thou thinkest to make mock of him? Seest thou not yonder sun, into how many a barren and filthy place he darteth his rays? Upon how many a stinking corpse doth he cast his eye? Hath he therefore any stain of reproach? Doth he not dry and shrivel up filth and rottenness, and give light to dark places, himself the while unharmed and incapable of receiving any defilement? And what of fire? Doth it not take iron, which is black and cold in itself, and work it into white heat and harden it? Doth it receive any of the properties of the iron? When the iron is smitten and beaten with hammers is the fire any the worse, or doth it in any way suffer harm?
"If, then, these created and corruptible things take no hurt from contact with things commoner than themselves, with what reason dost thou, O foolish and stony-hearted man, presume to mock at me for saying that the Son, the Word of God, never departing from the Father's glory, but remaining the same God, for the salvation of men hath taken upon him the flesh of man, to the end that he may make men partakers of his divine and intelligent nature and may lead our substance out of the nether parts of hell, and honour it with heavenly glory; to the end that by taking of our flesh he may ensnare and defeat the ruler of the darkness of this world, and free our race from his tyranny. Wherefore, I tell thee, without suffering he met the suffering of the Cross, presenting therein his two natures. For, as man, he was crucified; but, as God, he darkened the sun, shook the earth, and raised from their graves many bodies that had fallen asleep. Again, as man, he died; but, as God, after that he had harried hell, he rose again. Wherefore also the prophet cried, Hell is in bitterness at having met thee below: for it was put to bitter derision, supposing that it had received a mere man, but finding God, and being made suddenly empty and led captive. Therefore, as God, he rose again, and ascended into heaven, from whence he was never parted. And our nature, so worthless and senseless beyond everything, so graceless and dishonoured, hath he made higher than all things, and established it upon a throne of honour, with immortal honour shining round. What harm therefore came to God, the Word, that thou blasphemest without a blush? Go to! Better were it to make this confession, and to worship such a God, who is good and a lover of mankind, who commandeth righteousness, enjoineth continency, ordaineth chastity, teacheth mercy, giveth faith, preacheth peace; who is called and is himself the very truth, the very love, the very goodness. Him were it not better to worship than thy gods of many evil passions, of shameful names and shameful lives? Woe unto you that are more stony-hearted than the stones, and more senseless than the senseless, sons of perdition, inheritors of darkness! But blessed am I, and all Christian folk, having a good God and a lover of mankind! They that serve him, though, for a season in this life they endure evil, yet shall they reap the immortal harvest of recompense in the kingdom of unending and divine felicity."
Theudas said unto him, "Behold, it is evident that our religion was instituted by many mighty wise men, and interpreters, marvellous in virtue and learning; and all the kings and rulers of the earth have received it as good and sure in every point. But that of the Galileans was preached by some country peasants, poor and common men, a mere handful, not exceeding twelve in number. How then should one prefer the preaching of these few obscure countrymen to the ordinance of the many that are mighty and brilliantly wise? What is the proof that your teachers be right and the others wrong?"
Again the king's son made answer, "Belike, Theudas, thou art the ass of the proverb, that heard but heeded not the harp; or rather the adder that stoppeth her ears, that she may not hear the voice of the charmers. Well, therefore, spake the prophet concerning thee, If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots, then mayest thou also do good, that hast been taught to do evil. Thou fool and blind, why doth not the force of truth bring thee to thy senses? The very fact that your foul idols are commended by many men of marvellous wisdom, and established by kings, while the Gospel is preached by a few men of no mark, sheweth the might of our religion and the weakness and deadliness of your wicked doctrines. Because your side, despite its having wise advocates and mighty champions, is dying down, and waxing weak, whilst our religion, though possessed of no human help, shineth from afar brighter than the sun, and hath won the fulness of the world. If it had been set up by orators and philosophers, and had had kings for its succour, thou that art evil wouldst have found occasion to declare that it was wholly of human power. But now, seeing, as thou dost, that the holy Gospel, though composed but by common fishermen, and persecuted by every tyrant, hath after this won the whole world for its sound hath gone out into all lands, and its words into the ends of the world -- what canst thou say but that it is a divine and unconquerable power establishing its own cause for the salvation of mankind? But what proof seekest thou, O fool, that thy prophets are liars and ours true, better than the truths I have told thee? Except thy cause had been vain talk and falsehood, it could not, possessing such human support as it did, have suffered loss and decline. For he saith, `I have seen the ungodly in great power, and exalted like the cedars of Libanus: and I went by and lo, he was gone: and I sought him but his place could nowhere be found.'
"Concerning you, the defenders of idolatry, were these words spoken by the prophet. For a very, very little while and your place shall not be found: but, like as the smoke vanisheth, and like as wax melteth in face of the fire, so shall ye fail. But, as touching the divine wisdom of the Gospel, thus saith the Lord, `Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.' And again the Psalmist saith, `Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou endurest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed, but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail!' And those divine preachers of the coming of Christ, those wise fishers of the world, whose nets drew all men from the depths of deceit, whom thou, in thy vileness and bondage to sin, dost vilify, did by signs and wonders and manifold powers shine as the sun in the world, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, motion to the lame, and life to the dead. Their shadows alone healed all the ailments of men. The devils, whom ye dread as gods, they not only cast forth from men's bodies, but even drave out of the world itself by the sign of the cross, whereby they destroyed all sorcery, and rendered witchcraft powerless. And these men, by curing every disease of man by the power of Christ, and renewing all creation, are rightly admired as preachers of truth by all men of sound mind. But what hast thou thyself to say of thy wise men and orators, whose wisdom God hath made foolish, the advocates of the devil? What worthy memorial have they bequeathed to the world? Tell me. And what canst thou tell of them but unreason and shamefulness, and vain craft that with glosing words concealeth the mire of their unsavoury worship?
"Moreover such of your poets as have been able to soar a little above this great madness have said, with more truth, that they, which are called gods, were men; and because certain of them had been rulers of regions and cities, and others had done something of no great account in their lifetime, men were so deceived as to call them gods. It standeth on record that the man Seruch was the first to bring in the use of images. For it is said that in the old times he honoured those who had achieved some memorable deed of courage, friendship, or any other such virtue with statues and pillars. But after generations forgat the intention of their ancestors: and, whereas it was only for remembrance sake that they had set up statues and pillars to the doers of noble deeds, now they were, little by little, led astray through the working of the prince of evil, the devil, and treated as immortal gods men of like passions and corruptible as themselves and further devised sacrifices and drink-offerings for them, -- the devils, thou mayest know, taking up their abode in these images and diverting to themselves these honours and sacrifices. Accordingly these devils persuade men, who refuse to have God in their knowledge, to consider them as gods for two reasons: first, that they may be glorified by this title (for they are puffed up with arrogance, and delight to be honoured as gods) next, that they may drag their poor dupes into the unquenchable fire prepared for themselves. Hence they teach men all iniquity and filthiness, seeing that they have once subjected themselves to their deceit. So when men had arrived at this pinnacle of evil, they, being darkened, set up every man an idol of his own vice and his own lust, and call it a god. They were abominable in their error, more abominable in the absurdity of the objects that they chose to worship, until the Lord came, and of his tender mercy redeemed us that trust in him from this wicked and deadly error, and taught men the true knowledge of God. For there is no salvation except in him, and there is none other God, neither in heaven, nor in earth, except him only, the Maker of all, who moveth all things by the word of his power: for he saith, `By the word of the Lord were the heavens made stedfast, and all the power of them by the breath of his mouth,' and, `All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.'"
When Theudas had heard these sayings, and seen that the word was full of divine wisdom, like one thunder-struck, he was smitten dumb. Now late in time, and with difficulty, came he to understand his own misery, for the word of salvation had touched the darkened vision of his heart, and there fell upon him deep remorse for his past sins. He renounced the error of his idols, and ran towards the light of godliness, and from henceforth departed from his miserable life, and made himself as bitter an enemy of vile affections and sorceries as he before had pledged himself their devoted friend, For at this season he stood up in the midst of the assembly, and cried with a loud voice, saying, "Verily, O king, the Spirit of God dwelleth in thy son. Verily, we are defeated, and have no further apology, and have no strength to face the words that he hath uttered. Mighty therefore, in sooth, is the God of the Christians: mighty is their faith: mighty are their mysteries."
Then he turned him round toward the king's son and said, "Tell me now, thou man, whose soul is enlightened, will Christ accept me, if I forsake my evil deeds and turn to him?" "Yea," said that preacher of truth; "Yea, he receiveth thee and all that turn to him. And he not only receiveth thee, but he goeth out to meet thee returning out of the way of iniquity, as though it were a son returning from a far country. And he falleth on his neck and kisseth him, and he strippeth him of the shameful robe of sin, and putteth on him a cloak of brightest glory, making mystic gladness for the powers on high, keeping feast for the return of the lost sheep. The Lord himself saith, `There is exceeding great joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth': and again, `I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.' And he saith also by the Prophet, `As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, and the ungodly, but that he should turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil way. And why will ye die, O house of Israel?' For the wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him in the day that he turneth from his wickedness, if he do righteousness and walk in the statutes of life, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins which he hath committed shall be remembered against him. Because he hath done the decree of righteousness, he shall live thereby. And again he crieth by the mouth of another prophet, `Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil: learn to do well. Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, I will make them white as wool.' Such therefore being the promises made by God to them that turn to him, tarry not, O thou man, nor make delay: but draw nigh to Christ, our loving God, and be enlightened, and thy face shall not be ashamed. For as soon as thou goest down into the laver of Holy Baptism, all the defilement of the old man, and all the burden of thy many sins, is buried in the water, and passeth into nothingness, and thou comest up from thence a new man, pure from all pollution, with no spot or wrinkle of sin upon thee; and thenceforward it is in thy power ever to keep for thyself the purity that thou gainest hereby through the tender mercy of our God."
When Theudas had been thus instructed, he went out immediately and gat him to his evil den, and took his magical books, and, because they were the beginnings of all evil, and the store- houses of devilish mysteries, burnt them with fire. And he betook himself to the cave of that same holy man, to whom Nachor also had resorted, and told him that which had befallen him, casting dust upon his head, and groaning deeply, and watering himself with his tears, and telling the aged man the full tale of his loathly deeds. He, well skilled in the saving of a soul and the snatching it from the jaw of the wily serpent, charmed away his sorrow with words of salvation, and pledged him forgiveness and promised him a merciful Judge. Then, after he had instructed and charged him to fast many days, he cleansed him in Holy Baptism. And all the days of his life Theudas heartily repented him of his misdeeds, with tears and sighs seeking the favour of God.
As for the king, when things fortuned thus, he was completely bewildered, and plainly showed his sore vexation and tumult of soul. So again he called all his senators together, and considered what means were still his to deal with his son. Many men put forward many counsels, but that Araches, of whom we have spoken, the most famous in his office, and first of his councillors, spake unto the king, saying, "What was there to be done with thy son, O king, that we have not done, to induce him to follow our doctrines and serve our gods? But, as I perceive, we aim at the impossible. By nature, or, it may be, by chance, he is contentious and implacable. Now, if it be thy purpose to deliver him to torture and punishment, thou shalt do contrary to nature, and be no more called a father; and thou shalt lose thy son, willing, as he is, to lay down his life for Christ his sake. This, then, alone remaineth: to divide thy kingdom with him, and entrust him with the dominion of that part which falleth to his lot; and if the course of events, and the care of the business of life, draw him to embrace our aim and way, then the thing shall be according to our purpose; for habits, firmly established in the soul, are difficult to obliterate, and yield quicker to persuasion than to violence. But if he shall continue in the Christian religion, yet shall it be some solace to time in thy distress, that thou hast not lost thy son." Thus spake Araches, and all bare witness that they welcomed his proposal. Therefore also the king agreed that this matter should thus be settled. So at day-break he called his son, and said unto him, "This is now my latest word with thee, my son. Unless thou be obedient thereto, and in this way heal my heart, know thou well, that I shall no longer spare thee." When his son enquired the meaning of his word, he said, "Since, after all my labours, I find thee in all points unyielding to the persuasion of my words, come now; I will divide with thee my kingdom, and make thee king over the half-part thereof; and thou shalt be free, from now, to go whatsoever way thou wilt without fear." He, though his saintly soul perceived that the king was casting yet another snare to trip his purpose, resolved to obey, in order that he might escape his hands, and take the journey that he desired. So he answered and said, "I have indeed been longing to go in quest of that man of God that pointed out to me the way of salvation, and, bidding farewell to everything, to pass the rest of my life in his company. But, father, since thou sufferest me not to fulfil my heart's desire, I will obey thee herein: for where there is no clear danger of perdition and estrangement from God, it is right to obey one's father."
The king was filled with exceeding great joy, and divided all the country under his sovranty into two parts, and appointed his son king, and adorned him with the diadem, and arrayed him in all the splendour of kingship, and sent him forth with a magnificent body-guard into the kingdom set apart for him. And he bade his rulers and governors and satraps, every one that would, to depart together with his son the king. And he set apart a mighty and populous city for his kingdom, and gave him everything that befitted a king. Thus then did Ioasaph receive the power of kingship; and when he had reached that city, where royal state had been prepared for him, on every tower of his city he set up the sign of his Lord's passion, the venerable Cross of Christ. And in person he besieged the idolatrous temples and altars, and razed them to the ground, and uncovered their foundations, leaving no trace of their ungodliness.
And in the middle of the city he upreared for Christ, his Lord, a temple mighty and passing fair, and he bade the people there often to resort thither, and offer their worship to God by the veneration of the Cross, himself standing in the midst in the presence of all, and earnestly giving himself unto prayer. And as many as were under his hand he admonished and exhorted, and did everything to tear them away from superstitious error, and to unite them to Christ; and he pointed out the deceits of idolatry, and proclaimed the preaching of the Gospel, and recounted the things concerning the condescension of God, the Word, and preached the marvels of his coming, and made known his sufferings on the Cross whereby we were saved, and the power of his Resurrection, and his Ascension into heaven. Moreover he declared the terrible day of his dreadful second coming, and the bliss laid up for the righteous, and the punishments awaiting sinners. All these truths he expounded with kindly mien and gentle words. For he was not minded to be reverenced and feared for the grandeur of his power and kingly magnificence, but rather for his humility and meekness. Hereby also he more easily drew all men unto himself, being verily marvellous in his acts, and equitable and modest in spirit. Wherefore his power, being strongly reinforced by his gentleness and equity, caused all men to yield themselves to his words.
What wonder, then, if, in a little while, all his subjects, in city or country, were so well initiated into his inspired teachings, that they renounced the errors of their many gods, and broke away from idolatrous drink-offerings and abominations, and were joined to the true faith and were created anew by his doctrine, and added to the household of Christ? And all, who for fear of Ioasaph's father had been shut up in mountains and dens, priests and monks, and some few bishops, came forth from their hiding places and resorted to him gladly. He himself would meet and receive with honour those who had fallen upon such tribulation and distress, for Christ his sake, and bring them to his own palace, washing their feet, and cleansing their matted hair, and ministering to them in every way. Then he dedicated his newly built church, and therein appointed for chief-priest one of the bishops that had suffered much, and had lost his own see, on account of his faith in Christ, an holy man, and learned in the canons of the Church, whose heart was fulfilled with heavenly zeal. And forthwith, when he had made ready a rude font, he bade baptize them that were turning to Christ. And so they were baptized, first the rulers and the men in authority; next, the soldiers on service and the rest of the multitude. And they that were baptized not only received health in their souls, but indeed as many as were afflicted with bodily ailments and imperfections cast off all their trouble, and came up from the holy font pure in soul, and sound in body, reaping an harvest of health for soul and body alike.
Wherefore also from all quarters multitudes flocked to King Ioasaph, desirous to be instructed by him in godliness. And all idolatrous images were utterly demolished, and all their wealth and temple treasure was taken from them, and in their stead holy courts were built for God. For these King Ioasaph dedicated the riches and costly vestments and treasures of the idolatrous temples, thereby making this worthless and superfluous material fit for service, and profitable. And the foul fiends that dwelt in their altars and temples were rigorously chased away and put to flight; and these, in the hearing of many, loudly lamented the misfortune that had overtaken them. And all the region round about was freed from their dark deceit, and illuminated with the light of the blameless Christian faith.
And, soothly, the king was a good example to all; and he inflamed and kindled the hearts of many to be of the same mind with himself. For such is the nature of authority. Its subjects alway conform to its likeness, and are wont to love the same objects, and to practise the pursuits which they perceive to be pleasing to their governor. Hence, God helping, religion grew and increased amongst them. The king was wholly dependent on the commandments of Christ and on his love, being a steward of the word of grace, and pilot to the souls of many, bringing them to safe anchorage in the haven of God. For he knew that this, afore all things, is the work of a king, to teach men to fear God and keep righteousness. Thus did he, training himself to be king over his own passions, and, like a good pilot, keeping a firm hold of the helm of good government for his subjects. For this is the end of good kingship, to be king and lord over pleasure -- which end also he achieved. Of the nobility of his ancestors, or the royal splendour around him, he was in no wise proud, knowing that we all have one common forefather, made of clay, and that, whether rich or poor, we are all of the same moulding. He ever abased his soul in deepest humility, and thought on the blessedness of the world to come, and considered himself a stranger and pilgrim in this world, but realised that that was his real treasure which he should win after his departure hence. Now, since all went well with him, and since he had delivered all the people from their ancient and ancestral error, and made them servants of him who redeemed us from evil servitude by his own precious blood, he turned his thoughts to his next task, the virtue of almsgiving. Temperance and righteousness he had already attained; he wore on his brow the crown of temperance, and wrapped about him the purple of righteousness. He called to mind the uncertainty of earthly riches, how they resemble the running of river waters. Therefore made he haste to lay up his treasure where neither `moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal.' So he began to distribute all his money to the poor, sparing naught thereof. He knew that the possessor of great authority is bound to imitate the giver of that authority, according to his ability; and herein he shall best imitate God, if he hold nothing in higher honour than mercy. Before all gold and precious stone he stored up for himself the treasure of almsgiving; treasure, which here gladdeneth the heart by the hope of enjoyment to come, and there delighteth it with the taste of the hoped-for bliss. After this he searched the prisons, and sought out the captives in mines, or debtors in the grip of their creditors; and by generous largesses to all he proved a father to all, orphans, and widows, and beggars, a loving and good father, for he deemed that by bestowing blessings on these he won a blessing for himself. Being endowed with spiritual riches, and, in sooth, a perfect king, he gave liberally to all that were in need, for he hoped to receive infinitely more, when the time should come for the recompense of his works.
Now, in little while, the fame of Ioasaph was blazoned abroad; and led, as it were by the scent of sweet ointment, all men flocked to him daily, casting off their poverty of soul and body: and his name was on every man's lips. It was not fear and oppression that drew the people to him, but desire and heart-felt love, which by God's blessing and the king's fair life had been planted in their hearts.
Then, too, did his father's subjects begin to come to him, and, laying aside all error, received the Gospel of truth. And the house of Ioasaph grew and waxed strong, but the house of Abenner waned and grew weak, even as the Book of the Kings declareth concerning David and Saul.
When king Abenner saw this, though late and loth, he came to his senses, and renounced his false gods with all their impotence and vain deceit. Again he called an assembly of his chief counsellors, and brought to light the thoughts of his heart. As they confirmed his words (for the day-spring from on high had visited them, the Saviour who had heard the prayer of his servant Ioasaph), it pleased the king to signify the same to his son. Therefore on the morrow he wrote a letter to Ioasaph, running thus:
"King Abenner to his well-beloved son Ioasaph, greeting. Dearest son, many thoughts have been stealing into my soul, and rule it with a rod of iron. I see our state vanishing, like as smoke vanisheth, but thy religion shining brighter than the sun; and I have come to my senses, and know that the words which thou hast ever spoken unto me are true, and that a thick cloud of sin and wickedness did then cover us, so that we were unable to discern the truth, and recognize the Creator of all. Nay, but we shut our eyes, and would not behold the light which thou didst enkindle more brightly for us. Much evil did we do unto thee, and many of the Christians, alas! did we destroy; who, strengthened by the power that aided them, finally triumphed over our cruelty. But now we have removed that dense mist from our eyes, and see some small ray of truth, and there cometh on us repentance of our misdeeds. But a new cloud of despair would overshadow it; despair at the multitude of mine offences, because I am now abominable and unacceptable to Christ, being a rebel and a foeman unto him. What, then, sayest thou, dearest son, hereto? Make known to me thine answer, and teach me that am thy father what I should do, and lead me to the knowledge of my true weal."
When Ioasaph had received this letter, and read the words therein, his soul was filled with mingled joy and amazement. Forthwith he entered his closet, and falling on his face before the image of his Master, watered the ground with his tears, giving thanks to his Lord and confessing him, and tuning lips of exultation to sing an hymn of praise, saying:
"I will magnify thee, O God, my King, and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. Great art thou O Lord, and marvellous-worthy to be praised, and of thy greatness there is no end. Who can express thy noble acts, or show forth all thy praise, who hast turned the hard rock into a standing water and the flint-stone into a springing well? For behold this my father's flinty and more than granite heart is at thy will melted as wax; because thou art able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. I thank thee, Lord, thou lover of men, and God of pity, that thou hast been, and art, long-suffering towards our offences, and hast suffered us until now to go unpunished. Long have we deserved to be cast away from thy face, and made a by-word on earth, as were the sinful inhabiters of the five cities, consumed with fire and brimstone; but thy marvellous long-suffering hath dealt graciously with us. I give thanks unto thee, vile and unworthy though I be, and insufficient of myself to glorify thy greatness. And, by thine infinite compassions, I pray thee, Lord Jesu Christ, Son and Word of the invisible Father, who madest all things by thy word, and sustainest them by thy will; who hast delivered us thine unworthy servants from the bondage of the arch-fiend our foe: thou that wast stretched upon the Rood, and didst bind the strong man, and award everlasting freedom to them that lay bound in his fetters: do thou now also stretch forth thine invisible and almighty hand, and, at the last, free thy servant my father from that cruel bondage of the devil. Show him full clearly that thou art the ever living true God, and only King, eternal and immortal. Behold, O Lord, with favourable and kindly eye, the contrition of my heart; and, according to thine unerring promise, be with me that acknowledge and confess thee the Maker and protector of all creation. Let there be a well of water within me springing up, and let utterance be given unto me that I may open my mouth, and a mind well fixed in thee, the chief corner-stone, that I, thine unprofitable servant, may be enabled to preach to my father, as is right, the mystery of thine Incarnation, and by thy power deliver him from the vain deceit of wicked devils, and bring him unto thee his God and Lord, who willest not the death of us sinners, but waitest for us to return and repent, because thou art glorified for ever and ever. Amen."
When he had thus prayed, and received fulness of assurance that he should not miscarry in his desire, he took courage by the tender mercy of Christ, and arose thence, with his royal body- guard, and arrived at his father's palace. When it was told unto his father, "Thy son is come," he went forth straightway for to meet him, and embraced and kissed him lovingly, and made exceeding great joy, and held a general feast in honour of the coming of his son. And afterward, they two were closeted together.
But how tell of all that the son spake with his father, and of all the wisdom of his speech? And what was that speech but the words put into his mouth by the Holy Ghost, by whom the fishermen enclosed the whole world in their nets for Christ and the unlearned are found wiser than the wise. This Holy Spirit's grace and wisdom taught Ioasaph to speak with the king his father, enlightening him with the light of knowledge. Before now he had bestowed much labour to drag his father from superstitious error, leaving nothing unsaid and nothing undone to win him over, but he seemed to be twanging on a broken string, and speaking to deaf ears. But when the Lord looked upon the lowliness of his servant Ioasaph, and, in answer to his prayer, opened the closed gates of his father's heart (for it is said, he will fulfil the desire of them that fear him, and will hear their cry), then the king easily understood the things that were spoken; so that, when a convenient season came, through the grace of Christ, this son triumphed over those evil spirits that had lorded it over the soul of his father, and clean freed him from their error, and made the word of salvation clearly known unto him, and joined him to the living God on high.
Ioasaph took up his tale from the beginning, and expounded to his father great and marvellous things which he knew not, which he had never heard with the ears of his heart; and he told him many weighty sayings concerning God, and showed him righteousness: to wit that there is no other God in heaven above, nor in the earth beneath, except the one God, revealed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And he made known unto him many mysteries of divine knowledge; and amongst them he told him the history of creation, visible and invisible, how the Creator brought every thing out of nothing, and how he formed man after his own image and likeness and endowed him with power of free-will, and gave him Paradise to his enjoyment, charging him only to abstain from one thing, the tree of knowledge; and how, when man had broken his commandment, he banished him out of Paradise; and how man, fallen from union with God, stumbled into these manifold errors, becoming the slave of sins, and subject unto death through the tyranny of the devil, who, having once taken men captive, hath made them utterly forget their Lord and God, and hath persuaded them to serve him instead, by the abominable worshipping of idols. So our Maker, moved with compassion, through the good- will of the Father, and the co-operation of the Holy Ghost, was pleased, for our sakes, to be born of an holy Virgin, Mary, the mother of God, and he, that cannot suffer, was acquainted with sufferings. On the third day he rose again from the dead, and redeemed us from our first penalty, and restored to us our first glory. When he ascended into the heavens, from whence he had descended, he raised us up together with him; and thence, we believe that he shall come again, to raise up his own handiwork; and he will recompense every man according to his works. Moreover Ioasaph instructed his father concerning the kingdom of heaven that awaiteth them that are worthy thereof, and the joy unspeakable. Thereto he added the torment in store for the wicked, the unquenchable fire, the outer darkness, the undying worm and whatsoever other punishment the servants of sin have laid up in store for themselves.
All these things set he forth in many words, which bore witness that the grace of the Spirit was dwelling richly within him. Then he described the uncharted sea of the love of God towards mankind, and how he is ready to accept the repentance of them that turn to him; and how there is no sin too great for his tender mercy, if we will but repent. And when he had confirmed these truths by many an example, and testimony of Scripture, he made an end of speaking.
King Abenner was pricked to the heart by this inspired wisdom and with loud voice and fervent heart confessed Christ his Saviour, and forthwith forsook all superstitious error. He venerated the sign of the life-giving Cross in the sight of all and, in the hearing of all, proclaimed our Lord Jesus Christ to be God. By telling in full the tale of his former ungodliness, and of his own cruelty and blood-thirstiness toward the Christians, he proved himself a great power for religion. So here was proved in fact, the saying of Paul; that where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound.
While then the learned Ioasaph was speaking of God, and of piety towards him, to the dukes and satraps and all the people there assembled, and was as it were with a tongue of fire piping unto them a goodly ode, the grace of the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and moved them to give glory to God, so that all the multitude cried aloud with one voice, "Great is the God of the Christians, and there is none other God but our Lord Jesus Christ, who, together with the Father and Holy Ghost, is glorified."
Waxen full of heavenly zeal, King Abenner made a sturdy assault on the idols, wrought of silver and gold, that were within his palace, and tore them down to the ground. Then he brake them into small pieces, and distributed them to the poor, thus making that which had been useless useful. Furthermore he and his son besieged the idols' temples and altars and levelled them even to the ground, and in their stead, and to the honour of God, built holy courts. And not only in the city but throughout all the country also, thus did they in their zeal. And the evil spirits that dwelt in those altars were driven forth with shrieks, and cried out in terror at the invincible power of our God. And all the region round about, and the greater part of the neighbour nations, were led, as by the hand, to the true Faith. Then came the holy Bishop, of whom we have spoken, and King Abenner was instructed, and made perfect with Holy Baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And Ioasaph received him as he came up from the Holy Font, in this strange way appearing as the begetter of his own father, and proving the spiritual father to him that begat him in the flesh: for he was the son of his heavenly Father, and verily divine fruit of that divine Branch, which saith, "I am the vine, ye are the branches."
Thus King Abenner, being born again of water and of the spirit, rejoiced with joy unspeakable, and with him all the city and the region round about received Holy Baptism, and they that were before darkness now became children of light. And every disease, and every assault of evil spirits was driven far from the believers, and all were sane and sound in body and in soul. And many other miracles were wrought for the confirmation of the Faith. Churches too were built, and the bishops, that had been hiding for fear, discovered themselves, and received again their own churches, whilst others were chosen from the priests and monks, to shepherd the flock of Christ. But King Abenner, having thus forsaken his former disgraceful life, and repented of his evil deeds, handed over to his son the rule of all his kingdom. He himself dwelt in solitude, continually casting dust on his head, and groaning for very heaviness, and watering his face with his tears, being alone, communing with him who is everywhere present and imploring him to forgive his sins. And he abased himself to such a depth of contrition and humility, that he refused to name the name of God with his own lips, and was scarce brought by his son's admonitions to make so bold. Thus the king passed through the good change and entered the road that leadeth to virtue, so that his righteousness now surpassed his former sins of ignorance. For four years did he live thus in repentance and tears and virtuous acts, and then fell into the sickness whereof he died. But when the end drew nigh, he began to fear and to be dismayed, calling to remembrance the evil that he had wrought. But with comfortable words Ioasaph sought to ease the distress that had fallen on him, saying, "Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my father, and wily art thou so disquieted within time? Set thy hope on God, and give him thanks, who is the hope of all the ends of the earth, and of them that remain in the sea afar, who crieth by the mouth of his prophet, `Wash you, make you clean: put away from before mine eyes the wickedness of your souls; learn to do well'; and `Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, I will make them as wool.' Fear not, therefore, O my father, neither be of doubtful mind: for the sins of them that turn to God prevail not against his infinite goodness. For these, however many, are subject to measure and number: but measure and number cannot limit his goodness. It is impossible then for that which is subject to measure to exceed the unmeasurable."
With such comfortable words did Ioasaph cheer his soul, and bring him to a good courage. Then his father stretched out his hands, and gave him thanks and prayed for him, blessing the day whereon Ioasaph was born, and said "Dearest child, yet not child of me, but of mine heavenly Father, with what gratitude can I repay thee? With what words of blessings may I bless thee? What thanks shall I offer God for thee? I was lost, and was found through thee: I was dead in sin and am alive again: an enemy, and rebel against God, and am reconciled with him. What reward therefore shall I give thee for all these benefits? God is he that shall make the due recompense." Thus saying, he pressed many kisses on his beloved son; then, when he had prayed, and said, "Into thy hands, O God, thou lover of men, do I commit my spirit," he committed his soul unto the Lord in penitence and peace.
Now, when Ioasaph had honoured with his tears his father that was dead, and had reverently cared for his body, he buried him in a sepulchre wherein devout men lay; not indeed clad in royal raiment, but robed in the garment of penitence. Standing on the sepulchre, and lifting up his hands to heaven, the tears streaming in floods from his eyes, he cried aloud unto God saying,
"O God, I thank thee, King of glory, alone mighty and immortal, that thou hast not despised my petition, and hast not held thy peace at my tears, but hast been pleased to turn this thy servant, my father, from the way of wickedness, and to draw him to thyself, the Saviour of all, departing him from the deceitfulness of idolatry, and granting him to acknowledge thee, who art the very God and lover of souls. And now, O my Lord and God, whose ocean of goodness is uncharted, set him in that place where much grass is, in a place of refreshment, where shineth the light of thy countenance. Remember not his old offences; but, according to the multitude of thy mercies, blot out the hand- writing of his sins, and destroy the tablets of his debts, and set him at peace with thy Saints whom he slew with fire and sword. Charge them not to be bitter against him. For all things are possible with thee, the Lord of all, save only to withhold pity from them that turn not unto thee; this is impossible. For thy pity is poured out upon all men, and thou savest them that call upon thee, Lord Jesu Christ, because glory becometh thee for ever and ever. Amen."
Such were the prayers and intercessions that he made unto God, by the space of seven full days, never leaving the grave, and never thinking of meat or drink, and taking no refreshment of sleep: but he watered the ground with his tears, and continued praying and moaning unceasingly. But, on the eighth day, he went back to his palace and distributed amongst the poor all his wealth and riches, so that not one person was left in want.
Go to Parts XXXVI - XL