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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

SAID Ioasaph unto Barlaam, ‘This story also fitly setteth forth mine own estate. Whence also me thinketh that thou hadst me in mind when thou spakest it. But what is the proof whereby thou seekest to know the steadfastness of my purpose?’

Said the elder, ‘I have already proved thee, and known how wise and steadfast is thy purpose, and how truly upright is thine heart. But the end of thy fortune shall confirm it. For this cause I bow my knees unto our God glorified in Three Persons, the Maker of all things visible and invisible, who verily is, and is for ever, that never had beginning of his glorious being, nor hath end, the terrible and almighty, the good and pitiful, that he may enlighten the eyes of thine heart, and give thee the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, that thou mayest know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the Saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe; that thou mayest be no more a stranger and sojourner, but a fellow-citizen with the Saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ our Lord himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.’

Ioasaph, keenly pricked at the heart, said, ‘All this I too long to learn: and I beseech thee make known to me the riches of the glory of God, and the exceeding greatness of his power.’

Barlaam said unto him, ‘I pray God to teach thee this, and to plant in thy soul the knowledge of the same; since with men it is impossible that his glory and power be told; yea, even if the tongues of all men that now are were combined in one. For, as saith the Evangelist and Divine, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” But the glory and majesty of the invisible and infinite God, what son of earth shall skill to comprehend it, save he to whom he himself shall reveal it, in so far as he will, as he hath revealed it to his Prophets and Apostles? But we learn it, so far as in us lieth, by their teaching, and from the very nature of the world. For the Scripture saith, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork”; and, “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”

‘Even as a man, beholding an house splendidly and skilfully builded, or a vessel fairly framed, taketh note of the builder or workman and marvelleth thereat, even so I that was fashioned out of nothing and brought into being, though I cannot see the maker and provider, yet from his harmonious and marvellous fashioning of me have come to the knowledge of his wisdom, not to the full measure of that wisdom, but to the full compass of my powers; yea I have seen that I was not brought forth by chance, nor made of myself, but that he fashioned me, as it pleased him, and set me to have dominion over his creatures, howbeit making me lower than some; that, when I was broken, he re-created me with a better renewal; and that he shall draw me by his divine will from this world and place me in that other life that is endless and eternal; and that in nothing I could withstand the might of his providence, nor add anything to myself nor take anything away, whether in stature or bodily form, and that I shall not be able to renew for myself that which is waxen old, nor raise that which hath been destroyed. For never was man able to accomplish aught of these things, neither king, nor wise man, nor rich man, nor ruler, nor any other that pursueth the tasks of men. For he saith, “There is no king, or mighty man, that had any other beginning of birth. For all men have one entrance into life, and the like going out.”

So from mine own nature I was led by the hand to the knowledge of the mighty working of the Creator; and at the same time I thought upon the well-ordered structure and preservation of the whole creation, how that in itself it is subject everywhere to variableness and change, in the world of thought by choice, whether by advance in the good, or departure from it, in the world of sense by birth and decay, increase and decrease, and change in quality and motion in space. And thus all things proclaim, by voices that cannot be heard, that they were created, and are held together, and preserved, and ever watched over by the providence of the uncreate, unturning and unchanging God. Else how could diverse elements have met, for the consummation of a single world, one with another, and remained inseparable, unless some almighty power had knit them together, and still were keeping them from dissolution? “For how could anything have endured, if it had not been his will? or been preserved, if not called by him?” as saith the Scripture.

‘A ship holdeth not together without a steersman, but easily foundereth; and a small house shall not stand without a protector. How then hath the world subsisted for long ages,—a work so great, and so fair and wondrous,—without some glorious mighty and marvellous steersmanship and all-wise providence? Behold the heavens, how long they have stood, and have not been darkened: and the earth hath not been exhausted, though she hath been bearing offspring so long. The water-springs have not failed to gush out since they were made. The sea, that receiveth so many rivers, hath not exceeded her measure. The courses of Sun and Moon have not varied: the order of day and night hath not changed. From all these objects is declared unto us the unspeakable power and magnificence of God, witnessed by Prophets and Apostles. But no man can fitly conceive or sound forth his glory. For the holy Apostle, that had Christ speaking within him, after perceiving all objects of thought and sense, still said, “We know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Wherefore also, astonied at the infinite riches of his wisdom and knowledge, he cried for all to understand, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

‘Now, if he, that attained unto the third heaven and heard such unspeakable words, uttered such sentences, what man of my sort shall have strength to look eye to eye upon the abysses of such mysteries, or speak rightly thereof, or think meetly of the things whereof we speak, unless the very leader of wisdom, and the amender of the unwise, vouchsafe that power? For in his hand are we and our words, and all prudence and knowledge of wisdom is with him. And he himself hath given us the true understanding of the things that are; to know the structure of the world, the working of the elements, the beginning, end and middle of times, the changes of the solstices, the succession of seasons, and how he hath ordered all things by measure and weight. For he can shew his great strength at all times, and who may withstand the power of his arm? For the whole world before him is as a little grain of the balance, yea, as a drop of the morning dew that falleth down upon the earth. But he hath mercy upon all; for he can do all things, and winketh at the sins of men, because they should amend. For he abhorreth nothing, nor turneth away from them that run unto him, he, the only good Lord and lover of souls. Blessed be the holy name of his glory, praised and exalted above all for ever! Amen.’








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