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"Understand thou, therefore, that the city is this vain and deceitful world; that the citizens are the principalities and powers of the devils, the rulers of the darkness of this world, who entice us by the soft bait of pleasure, and counsel us to consider corruptible and perishable things as incorruptible, as though the enjoyment that cometh from them were co-existent with us, and immortal as we. Thus then are we deceived; we have taken no thought concerning the things which are abiding and eternal, and have laid up in store for ourselves no treasure for that life beyond, when of a sudden there standeth over us the doom of death. Then, then at last do those evil and cruel citizens of darkness, that received us, dispatch us stript of all worldly goods, -- for all our time has been wasted on their service -- and carry us off `to a dark land and a gloomy, to a land of eternal darkness, where there is no light, nor can one behold the life of men.' As for that good counsellor, who made known all the truth and taught that sagacious and wise king the way of salvation, understand thou that I, thy poor and humble servant, am he, who am come hither for to shew thee the good and infallible way to lead thee to things eternal and unending, and to counsel thee to lay up all thy treasure there; and I am come to lead thee away from the error of this world, which, to my woe, I also loved, and clave to its pleasures and delights. But, when I perceived, with the unerring eyes of my mind how all human life is wasted in these things that come and go; when I saw that no man hath aught that is stable and steadfast, neither the rich in his wealth, nor the mighty in his strength, nor the wise in his wisdom, nor the prosperous in his prosperity, nor the luxurious in his wantonness, nor he that dreameth of security of life in that vain and feeble security of his dreams, nor any man in any of those things that men on earth commend ('tis like the boundless rush of torrents that discharge themselves into the deep sea, thus fleeting and temporary are all present things); then, I say, I understood that all such things are vanity, and that their enjoyment is naught; and, that even as the past is all buried in oblivion, be it past glory, or past kingship, or the splendour of rank, or amplitude of power, or arrogance of tyranny, or aught else like them, so also present things will vanish in the darkness of the days to come. And, as I am myself of the present, I also shall doubtless be subject to its accustomed change; and, even as my fathers before me were not allowed to take delight for ever in the present world, so also shall it be with me. For I have observed how this tyrannical and troublesome world treateth mankind, shifting men hither and thither, from wealth to poverty, and from poverty to honour, carrying some out of life and bringing others in, rejecting some that are wise and understanding, making the honourable and illustrious dishonoured and despised, but seating others who are unwise and of no understanding upon a throne of honour, and making the dishonoured and obscure to be honoured of all.
"One may see how the race of mankind may never abide before the face of the cruel tyranny of the world. But, as when a dove fleeing from an eagle or a hawk flitteth from place to place, now beating against this tree, now against that bush, and then anon against the clefts of the rocks and all manner of bramble-thorns, and, nowhere finding any safe place of refuge, is wearied with continual tossing and crossing to and fro, so are they which are flustered by the present world. They labour painfully under unreasoning impulse, on no sure or firm bases: they know not to what goal they are driving, nor whither this vain life leadeth them this vain life, whereto they have in miserable folly subjected themselves, choosing evil instead of good, and pursuing vice instead of goodness; and they know not who shall inherit the cold fruits of their many heavy labours, whether it be a kinsman or a stranger, and, as oft times it haps, not even a friend or acquaintance at all, but an enemy and foeman.
"On all these things, and others akin to them, I held judgement in the tribunal of my soul, and I came to hate my whole life that had been wasted in these vanities, while I still lived engrossed in earthly things. But when I had put off from my soul the lust thereof, and cast it from me, then was there revealed unto me the true good, to fear God and do his will; for this I saw to be the sum of all good. This also is called the beginning of wisdom, and perfect wisdom. For life is without pain and reproach to those that hold by her, and safe to those who lean upon her as upon the Lord. So, when I had set my reason on the unerring way of the commandments of the Lord, and had surely learned that there is nothing froward or perverse therein, and that it is not full of chasms and rocks, nor of thorns and thistles, but lieth altogether smooth and even, rejoicing the eyes of the traveller with the brightest sights, making beautiful his feet, and shoeing them with `the preparation of the Gospel of peace,' that he may walk safely and without delay, this way, then, I rightly chose above all others, and began to rebuild my soul's habitation, which had fallen into ruin and decay.
"In such wise was I devising mine estate, and establishing mine unstable mind, when I heard the words of a wise teacher calling loudly to me thus, `Come ye out,' said he, `all ye that will to be saved. Be ye separate from the vanity of the world, for the fashion thereof quickly passeth away, and behold it shall not be. Come ye out, without turning back, not for nothing and without reward, but winning supplies for travelling to life eternal, for ye are like to journey a long road, needing much supplies from hence, and ye shall arrive at the place eternal that hath two regions, wherein are many mansions; one of which places God hath prepared for them that love him and keep his commandments, full of all manner of good things; and they that attain thereto shall live for ever in incorruption, enjoying immortality without death, where pain and sorrow and sighing are fled away. But the other place is full of darkness and tribulation and pain, prepared for the devil and his angels, wherein also shall be cast they who by evil deeds have deserved it, who have bartered the incorruptible and eternal for the present world, and have made themselves fuel for eternal fire.'
"When I heard this voice, and recognized the truth, I did my diligence to attain to that abode, that is free from all pain and sorrow, and full of security and all good things, whereof I have knowledge now only in part, being but a babe in my spiritual life, and seeing the sights yonder as through mirrors and riddles; but when that which is perfect is come, and I shall see face to face, then that which is in part shall be done away. Wherefore I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and of death, and hath opened mine eyes to see clearly that the will of the flesh is death, but the will of the Spirit is life and peace. And even as I did discern the vanity of present things and hate them with a perfect hatred, so likewise I counsel thee to decide thereon, that thou mayest treat them as something alien and quickly passing away, and mayest remove all thy store from earth and lay up for thyself in the incorruptible world a treasure that can not be stolen, wealth inexhaustible, in that place whither thou must shortly fare, that when thou comest thither thou mayest not be destitute, but be laden with riches, after the manner of that aptest of parables that I lately showed thee."
Said Ioasaph unto the elder, "How then shall I be able to send before me thither treasures of money and riches, that, when I depart hence, I may find these unharmed and unwasted for my enjoyment? How must I show my hatred for things present and lay hold on things eternal? This make thou right plain unto me." Quoth Barlaam, "The sending before thee of money to that eternal home is wrought by the hands of the poor. For thus saith one of the prophets, Daniel the wise, unto the king of Babylon, 'Wherefore, O Prince, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and redeem thy sins by almsgiving, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.' The Saviour also saith, `Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.' And, in divers places, the Master maketh much mention of almsgiving and liberality to the poor, as we learn in the Gospel. Thus shalt thou most surely send all thy treasure before thee by the hands of the needy, for whatsoever thou shalt do unto these the Master counteth done unto himself, and will reward thee manifold; for, in the recompense of benefits, he ever surpasseth them that love him. So in this manner by seizing for awhile the treasures of the darkness of this world, in whose slavery for a long time past thou hast been miserable, thou shalt by these means make good provision for thy journey, and by plundering another's goods thou shalt store all up for thyself, with things fleeting and transient purchasing for thyself things that are stable and enduring. Afterwards, God working with thee, thou shalt perceive the uncertainty and inconstancy of the world, and saying farewell to all, shalt remove thy barque to anchor in the future, and, passing by the things that pass away, thou shalt hold to the things that we look for, the things that abide. Thou shalt depart from darkness and the shadow of death, and hate the world and the ruler of the world; and, counting thy perishable flesh thine enemy, thou shalt run toward the light that is unapproachable, and taking the Cross on thy shoulders, shalt follow Christ without looking back, that thou mayest also be glorified with him, and be made inheritor of the life that never changeth nor deceiveth."
Ioasaph said, "When thou spakest a minute past of despising all things, and taking up such a life of toil, was that an old tradition handed down from the teaching of the Apostles, or is this a late invention of your wits, which ye have chosen for yourselves as a more excellent way?"
The elder answered and said, "I teach thee no law introduced but yesterday, God forbid! but one given unto us of old. For when a certain rich young man asked the Lord, `What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' and boasted that he had observed all that was written in the Law, Jesus said unto him, `One thing thou lackest yet. Go sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, take up thy cross and follow me. But when the young man heard this he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, `How hardly shall they which have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!' So, when all the Saints heard this command, they thought fit by all means to withdraw from this hardness of riches. They parted with all their goods, and by this distribution of their riches to the poor laid up for themselves eternal riches; and they took up their Cross and followed Christ, some being made perfect by martyrdom, even as I have already told thee; and some by the practice of self-denial falling not a whit short of those others in the life of the true philosophy. Know thou, then, that this is a command of Christ our King and God, which leadeth us from things corruptible and maketh us partakers of things everlasting."