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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

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 over-shadow 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 the 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 them 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.








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