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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

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 much solace to thee 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 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 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.








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