Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourses (1894) pp.247-336. Discourse 9 -- Second Discourse on Poverty
[P. 257] THE NINTH DISCOURSE: WHICH IS UPON THE SUBJECT OF THE PREVIOUS DISCOURSE, POVERTY, AND IS TAKEN FROM THE TESTIMONIES OF THE HOLY BOOKS, AND FROM THE EXAMPLE OF THE EARLY DISCIPLES, AND WHICH TEACHETH THAT, EXCEPT A MAN CASTETH AWAY THE WORLD ENTIRELY, HE IS NEITHER ABLE TO BECOME A PERFECT DISCIPLE OF CHRIST, NOR TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MYSTERY OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE.
Let the going forth of Christ our Lord into the wilderness be an excellent example to us of the doctrine of poverty, and in that same manner in which He departed from dwelling with the children of men to the conflict with the power which was opposed to Him, let us also go forth from the world in the war which is against Satan. Let us take out with us from the world nothing, except our spiritual armour, which is not of the world. Now Jesus went forth immediately after baptism, and He left the world and all that is therein, and the dwelling [p. 258] with mankind, and everything that is therein, and went forth by Himself in His own strength to do battle with the Calumniator. It is written that He also had in Him the Holy Spirit, which brought Him out to the wilderness, but it was not because He, the counterpart of the Spirit, Who had given the Spirit unto others to conquer therewith, needed the |248 power of the Spirit, but it was for the emulation of those who go forth from the world after perfection, that they might learn beforehand that the strengthening power of the Spirit accompanieth their going forth, and that He aideth them in their contest, and crowneth with victory the battle in which they are engaged. For the support of the Spirit straightway cleaveth to the disciples who forsake the company of the world; and when they have despised human helps, they find heavenly helps; and when they reject the strength of the body, there straightway cleaveth unto them the power of the Spirit. In baptism then our Lord fulfilled the way of the righteousness of the law, and from the Jordan He made the beginning of the way of His own rule of life; for until the Jordan it was bondage, that is to say, He was subject unto the law as a servant, but from the Jordan and henceforth His life and conduct were in the freedom which He delivered, and not in the commandments of the law. For Jesus was born again by baptism, and from the womb of the law the spiritual country received Him, even as He Himself said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot [p. 259] see the kingdom of God;" 1 and therefore, after His baptism, He began to preach the kingdom of heaven. And in this manner also, everyone who wisheth to become a perfect disciple of Christ, when he hath left the world and hath come outside himself, is born again out of the world of the body into the world of the Spirit, and from riches into poverty, and from pleasures into afflictions, and from the possession of family into the lack of kith and kin, |249 and from an abundance of friends into the life of a Solitary, and from happiness into trouble, from the life of the body into the life of the Spirit, from converse with men unto converse with God, and from one kind of knowledge unto another, and from one course unto another; and to speak briefly, a man is born from nothing into something when he departeth from worldly life to the discipleship of Christ, and from the state of being master of riches to that poverty which God commandeth. And as when a man is in the world the manner of life in which he standeth requireth him to do everything according to the manner of the world, so also when a man hath departed from the world and hath gone forth after Jesus, he is required to do everything which belongeth to a spiritual life, according to the rule of the country to which he hath come. It is one thing for a man to cast off the world, and to cast off the old man is another; to cast off the thoughts of the soul is one thing, and to cast off error is another, and to cast off ignorance is another.
It is said that a man casteth off the world when he maketh himself remote from everything that therein is, and when he divideth [p. 260] his riches and possessions wholly among the needy, and forsaketh the world, and goeth forth naked in his person, even as he came forth from the womb; for the dwelling in this world is to a man even as the natural womb is to the child which is conceived therein. And as while he is still in the womb he is in darkness, and in a dark and moist place, and he perceiveth not any of the things of this world, and the things which are in creation and in the country of the world which is outside the womb enter not into his mind, even so is the |250 man who is held fast in the bodily life of the world as in a womb, and his intelligence is covered by the darkness of its anxieties, and his understanding is obscured by the night of human care; he is unable to perceive the good things and the riches which exist in the Christian life, and spiritual things are not seen by him so long as his intelligence is obscured by the darkness of bodily things. And as the natural child, unless he be born from the womb, .goeth not unto creation, even so is it in this matter; for unless a man departeth wholly from the world, he cometh not to the life and conversation of the spirit, and as in the one case he leaveth the womb, and cometh into existence outside thereof, so also in this it is meet for him to leave the world and to go forth therefrom. For the world is like the womb, and as the child casteth off the womb, so should a man cast off the world. And as the child when he is born is perfect and complete in his natural frame, and hath all his senses and members, and yet cannot make use of them in their natural service because they have not yet [p. 261] received growth and become strong, but when he hath been born into the world, his body, and the senses and members which are therein receive growth. And as he groweth and progresseth, he acquireth perception in his members and senses, and gaineth experience of everything which is in the world, and all his senses are employed healthily for their natural service, the eye to see, the ear to hear, the palate to taste, the nostrils to breathe, the tongue for speech, the hands for labour, the feet for walking, the whole body for touching, the heart for discernment, the liver for wrath, the gallbladder for enlightenment, the reins for intelligence, |251 the spleen for fear, the brain for knowledge and understanding, and all the other members which are in the world by gradual growth arrive at the measure of their perfect stature, and are perfected in the power of their service in everything; and a son of man is perfected according to the body in the world to which he was born from the womb, and he receiveth and is made perfect in all the knowledge thereof; in like manner is it also wrought for the spiritual man who beginneth with unformed substance, and little by little he is completed, and he becometh a perfect man in the measure of the stature of the completion of Christ, even as it is written that at first the beginning of His conception took place like [that of] a natural child, for as the natural child is formed of seed and blood in the womb, even so was He formed of fire and of. spirit by baptism, And as [p. 262] the natural child is born from non-existence into existence, even so is the child of the Spirit born from the state of not being a son, into that of being a son of God, and a spiritual being. And as the natural child is designed when as yet he existeth not, and is formed little by little, and all his members grow and increase according to the measure which is ordained that they should grow in the womb, even so also the child of man, who is born through baptism the son of God out of the state of being a slave and a creature of the body, beginneth to increase little by little in the world, as in the womb, in all the virtues which befit the believing men who are in the world. And when he hath increased and hath grown to the full, according to the measure of his unformed substance in the world, as in the womb, he becometh born again from the world, outside the |252 world, in the same manner as the child is born from the womb into the world. And when he hath been born, and he hath taken his stand in the country of the life and conduct of Christ as in another world, thenceforth he beginneth to receive other growth and to become full-grown, not with the body of righteousness the growth of which he received in the world, but in the person of the spirit with which he arriveth at the perfection of the completeness of Christ. Now therefore baptism fashioneth even like the womb, and whosoever hath been therein is [made] a son unto God, from the condition of not being a son, even as the natural child, from being uncreate, [is made] to exist. And that baptism giveth birth to a child [p. 263] of the spirit, who from being of the body, hath been made of the spirit, [is like unto the fact] that the [natural] child is made a body from seed and blood, and he receiveth the creation of all his members [therefrom]; in the same manner, in this case, is this child also born of baptism, all his members and senses being created and made of the Spirit. And as the natural child, after he hath been created and formed, groweth little by little in all his members and senses until he hath completed the measure of his unformed substance which hath been defined for his being in the womb, and then cometh to the birth from the womb, even so here also the child of the Spirit groweth in the world after that he hath been born of baptism until he arriveth at that measure which is defined for spiritual children. And as the child who is in the womb cannot receive increase beyond the capacity of the womb, and cannot become a full-grown man in the womb----which is given him to do in the world after he hath been born----even so a man cannot |253 become complete in the perfection of the Spirit, and stand in the stature of a full-grown man, so long as he dwelleth in the world as in the womb; but he must first of all be born, and must cast off the world entirely, as the child casteth off the womb, and then he shall begin to receive fresh increase which will bring [him] unto spirituality and perfection.
Now therefore all the righteousness of a man which is wrought by him m the world, and all the members of fair things which come into existence in him, are like the unformed substance of a child in the womb, and however much he may grow [p. 264] and become strong in this righteousness while he is in the world, he still existeth as unformed substance, because he is shut up in the world like a child in the womb. And as a child is not able to become a man in the womb, even so a man cannot be perfect in the world; and as however much the child may grow in the womb, the measure of his growth is limited there by the capacity of the womb, even so is it in the womb of our nature, for however much a man may be justified in the world, the measure of his righteousness is limited by the capacity of the womb of the world in which he liveth. And as he that is conceived in the natural womb is called "child," and "conceived," so long as he is therein, but when he hath been born from the womb beginneth to receive other names [like] "infant," and "child," and "youth," and "young "man," and "full-grown man," even after this manner the child of the Spirit also, so long as he is in the world, and all the members of righteousness increase in him----however much he may wax strong, and be firmly knit together, and be made solid, and grow----will be called by the names of "righteous," and "just," and |254 "merciful," and "giver," and all those other names which befit a good life in the world. But when he hath been born from the world, after his lineaments have received completion in the former members which we have enumerated, and he hath gone forth to the other country of the rule and conduct of Christ, like the child that is born from the womb, these appellations are bestowed upon him and he is called by the other names which befit that country [p. 265] to which he hath gone forth, and so he is called:----"empty of possessions," "free-man," "ascetic," "labourer," "the carrier of a burden," "crucified to the world," "patient," "longsuffering," "spiritual," "the companion of Christ," "the perfect man," "the man of God," "beloved son," "heir of the possession of his Father," "the associate of Jesus," "the bearer of the cross upon his shoulder," "dead to the world," "living unto God," "the man who hath put on Christ" "the man of the spirit," "the angel of flesh," "the knower of the mysteries of Christ," "the divinely wise;" with these and other similar names it befitteth the man who hath been born from the world to be called that he may grow up in the country of the knowledge of Christ. And as with the natural child, when he hath been born from the womb, although he hath cast off the womb, the covering with which he hath been clothed in the womb cleaveth, and goeth forth with him----now when he hath been born this is cut off and cast away from him, together with the other superfluities which cleave unto him, and he appeareth in the person of a man by himself, being free from everything which is not of himself, and he is of and for himself, so also is it with a man when he goeth forth from the world, for although he casteth off the world like the womb, |255 yet is he clothed with his own passions, and with the appetites of his body, and he goeth forth like a child with the after-birth. For as the after-birth cannot be taken from a child while he is in the womb, even so a man cannot cast away the old passions with which he is clothed [p. 266] as with the after-birth, while he is in the womb of the world. And as in the one case [they wait] until the child is born, and then cast away from him his after-birth, even so is it in the other, for when a man hath been born from the life and conduct which are after the body in the world, and he hath come into existence in the other world of the spirit, outside the world, he is able to throw away and to cast off from him the hateful passions of the old man like the after-birth. And as the child is not able to receive the increase of manhood so long as he is rolled up in his afterbirth, yet when it hath been peeled off him, and he can appear in his own person without impediment, he can then begin to grow into his natural stature: so likewise the man who is still clothed with hateful passions is not able to increase in the stature of the spirit, but when he hath thrown them away and hath cast them from him, and hath cut off all the members of the body of sin, which are the hateful passions, his stature beginneth to receive increase, and other new members of the new man of the Spirit [begin] to spring up in him, in the place of the old members which have been cut off from him; for in the place of the former limbs which have been cut off, other new and spiritual members spring up. And in proportion as the old man cometh to an end, and is destroyed, so is the new man discovered and revealed unto the light. For although in baptism we cast off the old man, according to |256 the teaching of Paul, and put on the new man in his place, yet we do not perceive either when we cast [him] off or when we put [him] on, because Grace worketh both things, and it casteth off [p. 267] from us the old man, and putteth upon us the new man, and we receive the working of the mystery only at that time in the name of faith.
Now when we desire to cast off the old man, by our own labour and weariness we perceive that we are casting him off, not by the hearing of faith only, but also by the experience of works, and by the sufferings, and tears, and the love of God, and by pure prayers, and by constant entreaties, and by admiration of the greatness of the glory of God, and by constant admiration of Him, and by the urgent hastening of the inner man may be with God; with these and such like things, while we labour earnestly, we put on the new man, not by the hearing of the ear, but by the perception of our soul, and by the true experience of the knowledge of the Spirit. Therefore in this country a man beginneth to grow in the knowledge which is above the world, where there is room for the stature to grow, and where he may attain unto the limit of the height of growth. For so long as abominable passions envelop a man like an after-birth, and fetter the limbs of the new man, his growth is impeded, and the man is not able to arrive at that measure of stature which is given by Christ, and concerning which Paul said, "We all grow and become one thing in the knowledge of the Son of God, and one perfect man, in the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."2 Now unless |257 a man hath gone forth from the world he is not able [p. 268] to arrive at this measure, and unless he hath first cast off all the conversation of the body he is not able to arrive at the knowledge by which he will perceive the greatness of these things which are given in a mystery by Christ.
And the forms under which we cast off [the old man], and put on [the new man] are these:----in baptism we cast off the old man, and put on the new man; and [we cast off] bondage, and put on freedom; and [we cast off] corporeality, and put on spirituality; and [we cast off] sin, and put on righteousness; and so forth, but [we do them] all by the hearing of faith. And although they may all be with us in very truth at the birth by baptism, yet are they all strangers to our perception; but when we come to the measure of the stature of the body which is able to distinguish virtues from vices, by the good will and earnestness of our soul we begin to cast off vices and to put on virtues, and [to cast off] iniquity, and to put on righteousness, and [to cast off] oppression, and to become givers, and [to cast off] cruelty, and to become loving, and [to cast off] hardness, and to become gracious, and [to cast off] rapacity, and to become merciful. And all these things, and many others like unto them arise from the will which feareth God; and which fighteth against the world, that little by little the man may grow through these things, until he casteth away the whole world entirely, and maketh himself destitute of everything that is therein, and standeth without impediment in his own person, and appeareth in the other world of the conversation of Christ like the natural child who casteth off the womb, and cometh into being outside |258 thereof. And when a man hath cast off [p. 269] the world in the manner in which I have said, and hath become entirely destitute of everything which is visible, he beginneth to cast off the evil passions which are in him----the love of adultery, of whoredom, gluttony, prodigality, greediness, drunkenness----which are the lusts which destroy spiritual excellence; and when he hath indeed cast all these off from the bodily members, he also beginneth to cast [them] off from the motions of the thoughts, and as these [vices] are alien to the body, to cut them off also from the motions of the soul, so that they shall neither be ministered unto nor stirred up in the external members, nor in the hidden thoughts of the soul. And after he hath cast out from the soul the passions of hateful thoughts also, he beginneth henceforth to cast off ignorance, and error, and suspicion, things which are born of the service of the lusts, that is to say after the heart hath become gross through luxurious and dainty living. For when a man casteth off the lusts of the body with a pure design towards God, he hasteth to diminish his bodily needs also, because the heart is not made gross by the ministration unto the lusts only, but even when the body taketh only that which it needeth in abundance, grossness of heart ariseth [therefrom], and the understanding is neither cleansed nor purified from carnality.
Now the need which is measured keepeth the mean place, and so long as the body standeth in the mean measure of health, it is not [p. 270] made subject wholly to the desires of the soul. And the middle sheweth the equality of that which is on both sides, like the pointer which is placed in the middle of the balance, and which sheweth the equality of the weight of |259 both pans of the scales; and thus when the body standeth in the mean of health, it is of equal weight with the soul, and so long as the body standeth with it in equality of measure, it is not made subject unto the superfluity of its desires. Now therefore it is necessary for a man to break the strength of the body by diminishing the food, in order that it may become subject and obedient unto the soul thereby----but I refrain from the subject of diminution of food because I have planned to speak thereupon in the short Discourse which fol-loweth this----and here it is meet that we should understand that unless a man casteth off, he cannot put on. And let us all earnestly strive to cast off from us the conversation of the body, that we may put on the conversation of the spirit, and let us cast off the world, and all the care thereof, that we may travel along the way of perfection without impediment.
Now poverty is a light thing to those who possess it, and if a man were to call the poverty which is for the sake of God "riches," he would call it rightly, and even as it is. Therefore our Lord also lifted a heavy yoke from His disciples in that He made them destitute of the riches of the world, saying, "Come "unto Me, all ye that are weary and are laden with heavy "burdens, [p. 271] and I will give you rest." 3 And who are these, unless it be those who are wearied by the superfluities of riches, and who bear the heavy yoke of the cares and anxieties of the world? And what weariness is so oppressive as this? for when thou hast come to enjoy thyself, thou art the more tired. The care for human riches is a path which hath no ending in [this] life, for |260 however far a man may travel along it, it lengthened! out before his footsteps, and there is nothing which breaketh it except death. And when a man hath gathered together riches and mammon that he may enjoy himself, and live daintily and luxuriously, his enjoyment is weariness, and if the enjoyment of the world be weariness, what shall. weariness itself be called? And if the enjoyments and luxuries are heavy labours, what shall labour itself be called? For the world is heavy in all its conversation, but because of the love thereof they who carry its burdens perceive them not, and they stumble therein like blind men, but discern it not, and though they carry heavy burdens, they are light unto them, and they weary and exert themselves painfully after the merchandise of loss, but know not [that it is loss]. And because our Lord saw them in this empty labour, He cried unto them, saying, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest, for in your weariness there is no rest. But your weariness begetteth weariness, and your labour bringeth forth labour, and your riches gather together poverty, and your rest is tribulation, and your enjoyment is affliction, and your refreshing is toil; for the path of the desire of riches which ye have trodden of your own freewill hath no end; [p. 272] but if ye will come to Me by My road it will come to an end. And as ye have tasted the weariness of the world, taste ye together therewith also My weariness, and [see] if its freedom is not enjoyable to you. Ye have carried the heavy burdens of the world, and ye have felt how weighty they are; be persuaded then and take My yoke upon you, and learn by experience how pleasant and easy [it is]. I do not make you rich men that ye may feel the need of many things, but I make you indeed |261 rich men who have need of nothing. For it is not the man that hath acquired many possessions who is rich, but he that hath need of nothing. For in the world, however much ye acquire, ye become needy; but with Me, when ye are destitute of everything ye become rich. When a first want is satisfied, the place is prepared for a second want, and when the invention which a man seeketh to find hath been acquired, that very invention also searcheth out the invention of another possession. When the first craving of lust hath been satisfied, a wide void is thereby made for another lust which is greater than the first, because the satiety of the lusts maketh hunger, and however much lust devoureth it hungereth continually. And however wealthy the rich man becometh, he is poor; and how-ever much mammon may be gathered together [by him] he seeketh its fellow; and however much a man may increase his possessions, and become possessed of abundance, he coveteth yet another possession; and if it were possible for a man to possess the half of the world, his lust would not be satisfied therewith, but he would also lust after the possession of it all----if it were possible to have it. And again, when he had acquired the whole of it----which is not [p. 273] possible ----his lust would not be restrained by the possession of the whole world, but he would likewise lust after the possession of another world----which doth not exist, and he would begin to be tortured by the quest of that which hath not yet been made. Who then would not not weep, that is to say, who would not laugh at the man who was fettered by the longing for the quest of the things which do not exist? Come then unto Me, all ye that are wearied with riches, and take your rest in |262 poverty. Come, all ye masters of goods and possessions, and take enjoyment in destitution. Come, all ye that love this temporary world, and receive a taste of the world which is everlasting. Ye have experienced your own world, come and partake also of that of Mine. Ye have received a proof of your riches, come and test also My poverty. Your own riches are riches, but My poverty is riches. That riches should be called riches is not a very great thing, but it is a great and marvellous thing when poverty is riches, for the very opposite is pronounced a great thing. But when ye have experienced the things which are Mine, [and have seen] if they are not pleasanter and lighter than your own, turn ye and carry your former burdens." And behold also, our Lord shewed us by this testimony that unless a man casteth away the burden of the world, he cannot bear the yoke of Christ, for the two yokes are opposed each to the other; for righteousness may be acquired even in wealth, but perfection is [only] to be found in being destitute of possessions. And all those who have earnestly followed after perfection, whether in the New or whether in the Old Testament, have [first] made themselves destitute, [p. 274] and have then begun to walk in the path of perfection; and when the Apostles were called by our Lord, they stripped themselves of all the world, and then went forth after Him Who called them. And our Lord Himself also in His own Person depicted and shewed unto us the end of the path and the beginning thereof, and in the Jordan He laid down the boundary of them both; for He ended that path, which was after the law, in which He was journeying because He kept the law, and from it He began the path of |263 perfection, which He shewed in His own Person, as it were for the teaching of those who love perfection. And after He had overcome the world, and had despised and rejected everything which was therein, He then went forth to fight against the god of the world, that as He had captured the castle of the Enemy, he might also conquer the Enemy himself. And the Jordan became for Him a place of crossing from one world to the other, from the carnal world to the spiritual world, and from the conversation of the law to the conversation of the New Covenant. For what the sea was to the Hebrews, through which they ended the subjection to Egypt, and through which the fear of the Egyptians was removed from them, and through which they went forth to the land of freedom, where the rule of another might not have dominion over them, and where they would not perform the will of others, except of God alone, even so in the Jordan did Jesus accomplish the subjection of the law, and thence He began freedom of conversation. And as the desert received the Jews from the sea, even so did the wilderness receive Him from the Jordan----not henceforth having to fulfil the feeble will of the law, but the complete [p. 275] and perfect will of His Father----that He might give His healthful commandments, and shew forth the perfect and spiritual conversation which was His will. And know that when Jesus went forth to the wilderness, He went forth by Himself, without followers, without helpers, without friends in His train, without beloved friends, without riches, without possessions, without apparel, and without things. And it is written that He went forth, having nothing belonging to the world with Him, entirely by Himself, being accompanied by the Holy Spirit, |264 that from the going forth of thy Lord thou mightest take example for thine own going forth from the world, and that thou mightest also go forth like unto Him, having upon thee nothing belonging to the world, that the Holy Spirit might thereby accompany thee.
And observe also the freedom in which Jesus went forth, and do thou thyself also go forth like Him. Observe also unto what point human conversation came with Him, and at what point He forsook it, and do thou thyself also forsake the conversation of the world where thy Lord forsook the conversation of the law, and go forth with Him to war against the powers of error, that is to say, to the fight against the world. For when thou hast gone forth from the world, inasmuch as it is its custom to pursue after those who forsake it and depart from it, turn thee to fight against it, and be thou crucified to it, remembering that which Paul spake, "I am crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to me".4 Lighten therefore from off thee the weight of the world, that the war which thou art preparing against it may be easy to thee, and instead of the Jordan, go down into the waters of knowledge, and after thy submersion cleave unto the rule of the Spirit. And observe also that [p. 276] that which happened to the Jews is a type of the things which are performed unto thee, for as all the wickedness of the Egyptians towards the Hebrews came to an end, even so here also all the wickedness of the world shall perish and be destroyed from thee, together with its superfluities, and its weight, and its cares, and anxieties. For until [the time of] the sea, the Hebrews were serving the Egyptians, |265 but from the sea and henceforth they were set apart for the service of God by the word of God. The bondage of the Jews in Egypt is a type of the bondage of the world, and the freedom which they obtained in the wilderness is a similitude also of the freedom which thou shalt receive after thou hast come forth from the world. With mud, and bricks, and fatigue, and severe labour Egypt made the Hebrews work, and with anxieties, and cares, and afflictions, and groans, doth the world also make thee work; and the mud of Egypt was washed off the Jews when they had crossed the sea. And thou hast thyself also two baptisms: one is the baptism of grace which ariseth from the water, and the other is the baptism of thine own freewill, for when thou hast been baptized from the world in the love of God, thou hast gone out therefrom. And as after the Hebrews had gone forth from the sea they received another rule, and were accounted worthy of other food, and new waters were made to gush forth to supply them with drink, and other commandments and laws were delivered unto them to keep, and they received heavenly revelations, and were accounted worthy of spiritual visions, and they heard the voice of God [p. 277] close at hand speaking with them, and angels also were mingled with them, and they arrived at connection with and participation in spiritual powers, and the tabernacle was pitched among them, and they were shewn the meaning of the service therein, and the serpent on a pole was lifted up for them in the wilderness for the healing and cure of the bites of poisonous serpents; and as their habitation was already in another world which was free from all the habits of this, so likewise must thou also, when thou hast gone out from this world, |266 as from Egypt, cross over the sea of afflictions, and be in fear and suffering, because they also were filled with fear and trembling at the Egyptians [while they were] by and in the sea, and the terror of the sea tortured them, and until they had gone down into the sea, and had turned and gone up therefrom, and had seen the dead bodies of their enemies floating among the waves, they were not filled with gladness. And thus is it with the disciple, for when he hath gone forth from the world, wishing to be free from the subjection thereof, he doth not immediately receive joy nor is he accounted worthy of the taste of spiritual enjoyments----even as the Hebrews did not receive joy immediately they had gone forth from Egypt, nor were accounted worthy of spiritual enjoyment. On the other hand, there shall meet thee, O disciple, after thy departure [p. 278] from the world, the fear of afflictions, and the oppression of the thoughts, and repentance because thou hast come forth from the world, and because thou hast scattered that which thou hadst, or because thou hast forsaken thine inheritance and hast departed from the dwelling of thy fathers. And devils shall gather themselves together secretly against thee like the Egyptians, with Satan their master like Pharaoh, and as these thoughts move within thee they shall bury thee in the anxieties of care which are wont to make the soul dark, and they shall deprive thee of the sight of the light of the knowledge of Christ. And similarly there shall begin to move in thy mind thoughts as to why thou hast forsaken the world in which it was easy for thee to be justified, and why thou hast scattered thy riches by which, whilst thou hadst them with thee, thou didst appear to be especially benevolent, and moreover, inasmuch as thou didst divide them hastily, perchance they may |267 be given unto those who are not worthy of them. If thou hadst kept them in thine own hands they would have been dispensed by thee wisely, for thou wouldst have relieved the afflicted therewith; and thou wouldst have received strangers therewith; and thou wouldst have clothed the naked therewith; and the solitary dwellers and coenobites would have been visited by thy gifts; and thou wouldst have supported the widows and orphans; and thy dwelling would have been a haven of all fair things; and as long as thy riches were with thee thou wouldst have been longsuffering; and thou wouldst have given both pleasure to thyself and gratification unto many others therewith; and thy righteousness would have been like unto that of Abraham, and Job, [p. 279] and the other believing men who have been justified like unto them. And perhaps thou wouldst have wished that thy righteousness should be greater than theirs, and also that, according to the word of thy Lord, thou shouldst become like even unto God by thy loving kindness; and thou wouldst also have obtained a good name among the children of men, and thou wouldst have been called by every man the "father of the orphans;" and every one who saw or heard of thee would have ascribed blessing to thee because of thy good works. And as thy righteousness triumphed before God, even so would it have become manifest in the sight of the children of men; and moreover thou wouldst have been a pattern of good unto others that they might emulate thee. For when the owners of possessions, like unto thyself, saw thee distributing thy wealth unto the needy, they also would be urged to become like unto thee, and they also would become givers; and thereby thou wouldst have acquired a twofold |268 righteousness; firstly because of thine own gifts, and secondly because thou wast the cause of charity in others, who also became givers like unto thyself. And if thou hadst wished to become one who fasted, it would have been easy for thee to do so whilst thou wast in thé world, even as it is for all the other men who fast whom thbu seest in the world, and the triumph of thy fasting would have been the more increased because that while meats were nigh unto thee, and the foods which the belly eagerly desireth were laid out in thy sight, thou didst conquer them all by the might of thy temperance. And in this thing thou wouldst have excelled more than the solitary dwellers, for the victory of the man, who overcometh [p. 280] the things which he findeth near at hand, of which he may make use if he please, is greater than that of him that is abstemious because he hath nothing, for even if he sought to. take pleasure and to enjoy himself, the materials for his pleasure are not forthcoming. And if thou wert a lover of prayer it would also have been easy for thee to pray secretly in thy house, and to go at all times to the temple of God, and to carry others with thee, and there is not one good thing which it would not have been especially easy for thee to do whilst thou wast in the world if thou hadst wished. For what man rejecteth pleasures with royalty, or who excuseth himself from taking pleasure if he be certain that the pleasure which is about to come be ready for him? And this pleasure would have been found to be thine because of thy loving kindness and alms to the poor.
And also after these things others will gather together and hem in thy soul, and they are the evil devils, together with Satan their master, who depict |269 before thine eyes the labours of the ascetic life, and the cruel pains which befall those who fast, and the grievous sicknesses which are produced from meagreness of food, and which are neither easy of cure, nor will it be easy for thee to heal them because thou mayest not make use of the things which cure and heal them; and if thou submittest to bring human aids to them by reason of the pain [p. 281] of thy sufferings, thou wilt become a cause of stumbling to others who see thee. And moreover, the path of this rule of life is long, and it cannot be brought to an end except by death. And if thou wishest to make an end thereof whilst thou art in this life, and thou ceasest from thy labours, behold thou wilt be made a laughingstock and a mockery by all thine acquaintances: and because thou mayest not cease, behold thou must bear the burden of the afflictions, and thy sufferings will be increased by many things----by the weight of thy labours, and by their length, and by the pains and sicknesses which are produced therefrom, and because it is not easy for thee to bring nigh things which would alleviate thy pains, and because if thou wouldst lighten thine afflictions by means of aids which thou couldst bring unto them, thou wouldst become a laughingstock to those who behold thee, and because thou hast become an alien to thy race and friends, and because the law of thy order of life doth not allow thee to draw nigh to speech and intercourse with them, and because thou, who wast formerly a giver of charity to others, hast become in need of receiving charity from others, and if thou submittest thyself to accept it, behold flattery of those from whom thou acceptest it is demanded of thee, and because thou acceptest it not, behold thou art tortured by the necessity of want. |270
These and such like things will the devils gather together and bring against the mind of the disciple immediately he hath gone forth from the world, and they cast him into a state of fear and trembling, and they disturb the balance of his thoughts, and drive him to smite his hands together, for what to do he knoweth not; [p. 282] and they sink his soul in sorrow and they set him between the things which are in the middle, and those which are at the end, in order that he may remember the things which he hath left behind, and may keep in mind those which are about to come, and he considereth their promises in his mind, as if they carried convincing proof [with them], and especially of those thoughts which move in thee at the beginning, not of wantonness, and of depravity, and of an evil rule of life, but of lovingkindness, and of the love of giving alms, and of all the other good deeds which a man hath power to do while he is in the world. And these things do not rise up in thy soul as the friends of good deeds, but in order that they may bring thee down from the lofty grade of righteousness unto one which is more humble. And when thou hast hearkened unto them, and thou hast gone down with them, they will also bring thee down from that grade to another which is lower, and little by little they will carry and lead thee down until they sweep thee into, and drown thee in the abyss of wickedness. And they are cunning in their promises, for where they see that thou keepest fast hold, there do they multiply thy sufferings. They do not straightway take and bring unto thee that which thou hatest in their promises, but that which is dear to thee, and next they persuade thee to desist only a little from the strictness of thy rule, and |271 next by reason of all these things misery of thought groweth strong in thee, and sadness and outcrying are renewed in thy mind; and joy dwelleth apart from thee away in the distance, [p. 283] both the joy of the world, because thou hast forsaken it, and the joy of Christ, because thou hast not yet arrived thereat. And thy soul remaineth in the middle of these storms, like a ship the steersman of which is asleep, and it is buffeted hither and thither, and it drifteth and is knocked about on all sides, and it is dashed upon every rock, and doubts of all kinds beat upon it, and the course of the way of thy understanding is perturbed, and the sign-posts of the paths for thy footsteps are destroyed, and heaviness crowdeth upon thee, and drowsiness layeth hold upon thy body and upon thy soul, and thou becomest sunk in the heavy sleep of negligence as in the night. And as fear increaseth in the night season in those who are therein, even so in thee fear increaseth, because thou hast thyself darkened thy soul from the light of knowledge; for knowledge in the soul, from which also joy is produced, takes the place of light in the world. And as at the departure of light darkness is produced in creation, even so when the knowledge of the spirit is lacking, the darkness of tribulation is spread abroad in the region of the soul, together with the black night of sorrow. And from this black night fear concerning what is passed and concerning what shall come beginneth to arise in the soul, and tribulation and trembling, and terror and feebleness, and cowardice, and misery of mind, and the perpetual affliction [p. 284] which ariseth thereby and therefrom are renewed therein at all times. And it happeneth that it is afflicted when there is no need for fear of affliction, and its understanding is perturbed, though it |272 knoweth not what is the cause of its perturbation, and no one of its motions is wholly and entirely pleasant unto it.
In this country then, O disciple who goest forth from the world, there is a place whereto thou mayest pass, for, like the people from Egypt, thou also art called to go forth after God. And as the sea stood like a hedge before the Hebrews, and the Egyptians followed after them, even so is placed before thee the fearful abyss of afflictions, and sufferings, and labours, and tribulations, and punishments, and want, and poverty, and pains, and sicknesses, and deprivation from friends, and remoteness from fellow-creatures, and removal from parents, and silence, and contemplation, and close confinement, and a humble garb, and meagre food, and self-abnegation, and asceticism, and reproaches and insults if thou art slack and remiss, and labours and fatigue if thou art strenuous, and vigils which emaciate, and torturing thirst, and protracted bending in double; all these things, and others which are like unto them, stand up like a hedge against thy coming forth, while the devils, like the Egyptians, pursue thee from behind. But fear thou not, neither be thou afraid, for instead of Moses, Jesus is with thee, for like as Moses clave to the congregation, even so also doth Christ cleave to thy soul, [p. 285] and He saith unto thy tortured and afflicted mind that which was said by Moses to the Jews, "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." 5 Therefore thou shalt not be in fear as were the people, but thou shalt rouse up, and watch like Moses, and cry out to the Lord even as he cried out; for it is thus written, "Moses |273 prayed the whole night with much crying out and suffering, and at the morning watch the Lord said to him, Why criest thou before Me? Incline thy hand over the sea, and divide it, and the Hebrews shall pass over it, but the Egyptians shall be drowned therein;" 6 now all the things which happened at that time are a type of those which shall be done unto thee. And enemies, that is, evil devils, shall gather together and crowd against thy soul, even as the Egyptians who pursued after the Jews were gathered together and crowded upon them; but as Moses forsook the fear of the Egyptians and turned himself unto prayer and unto crying out to God, do thou also forsake the anxieties and thoughts which devilish enemies make to rise up in thee. And stand thou up in earnest prayer, and cry out with deep feeling from the heart, and from the depth of the thoughts of the soul let the voice of thy cry rise up, and straightway that answer which was returned unto Moses shall also be spoken unto thee, "Why dost thou cry out before Me? Incline thy hand over the sea, and divide it;" and straightway [thy] afflictions will give way, and the covering which was set before thy face will be rolled up, [p. 286] and the terrible depths of affliction will give way, and the things which thou didst think could not be crossed over with the foot, thou shalt tread upon, and thou shalt pass over the depth thereof. And difficult things shall become easy for thee, and that wall, which is built in such a manner that thou didst think it could not be broken through, shall be immediately swept away from before thee, and thy prayer shall rend and pass over the |274 abyss of all the wickedness which is gathered together and laid before thee. And as the pillar stood in olden time behind the Hebrews, and afterwards came in front of them, and there was darkness between them and the Egyptians, so also here shineth before thee the' light of the Redemption, and darkness is placed between thee and trie devils who are thy enemies. And in that country through which thou art passing, they will be drowned, and the afflictions from which thou hast been freed will turn and fall upon the devils who are thy enemies, and sorrow and tribulation will turn upon them; and the joy which they had when they thought that they were fighting with thee and would overcome thee, like the pillar is taken from before them, and set before thee, like the pillar of light which was taken from the Egyptians, and which came in front of the Hebrews. And as Pharaoh and the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, so also shall Satan and all his devils be drowned in the depths of the tribulation in which thou wast sinking. Therefore do thou in thy thoughts repeat the words of Moses, "The Lord shall fight [p. 287] for you, and ye shall hold your peace;" 7 and as the Hebrews passed over with Moses, even so shall all thy triumphs pass over with thee.
Now in the night-season fear ruled over the Hebrews that it might be an example unto thee of the fear which is with thee when thy life is, as it were, in the night, and far away from the sight of the morning; and as when the night passeth away fear is removed, even so is it with thee, for immediately the light of the Redemption dawneth upon thee, at the end of thy prayer thy |275 tribulations are blotted out, and thy thoughts become light,-like the members of the body in the morning. And the gloomy cloud is scattered, and a bright and glorious sky shineth in thy soul, and the sea of thy afflictions is passed over on foot, and the wall of grief which was built before thee is broken through, and thou walkest in confidence through a terrible country, and thou passest over a depth which was never [before] crossed by thee, and thou treadest with the foot a country which the old nature never trod, and thou art delivered from the yoke of subjection, and thou goest into the land of freedom, and thou forsakest Egypt with all its fatigue, and a desert which is full of heavenly blessings receiveth thee. And thou art conceived and brought forth again into the new world of the conversation of the Spirit, and in the country which conceived and gave thee birth are tied the wheels of thine enemies, and the violence of their onset is broken, and the progress of their advance is slackened, and the uproar of their voices sinketh down and dieth away, and afflictions return upon them like waves, and those who wished to overwhelm thee are themselves overwhelmed in the bottommost part of the abyss.
Do thou, then, when thou standest upon the shore of the sea of afflictions and tribulations after [p. 288] [thy] glorious passage, turn, and thou shalt see thine enemies smitten down therein, and thy passions, together with devils, drowned therein, and all the life of the old man sinking down into it. And when thou seest [this], let thy soul be gratified at the destruction of those who hate thee, and when thou hast also obtained confidence through the death of thine enemies, turn thyself and look upon the holy mountain of God, and begin to |276 walk in a country through which thou hast not passed, and thy journey shall be through the spiritual world of a spiritual rule and conduct of life, through which thou shalt be held worthy to see the things which are above the world. And thou shalt eat spiritual manna which thy fathers ate not, and thou shalt drink the sweet and pleasant waters which flow down to thee from the rock of Christ, and thou shalt sit in a cloud of light, and the pillar of the Spirit shall shine upon thee, and thou shalt see things which thou didst never see before, and shalt hear voices which thou didst never hear before, and in thy journeying day by day thou shalt draw nigh unto Zion the heavenly mountain, where the Shekhinah of the hidden Being dwelleth. And thou shalt be an associate of the knowledge of angels, and thou shalt feel spiritual things which are above the world, and thy clothing and thy sandals shall grow with thy stature ----that is to say with thy new manhood----every day. And the ornaments of thy clothing----which is Christ----shall be revealed unto thee, and thy sandals----which are the preparation of the Gospel of peace----shall grow with thee. And thou shalt enter into the mysteries of the Spirit, [p. 289] and thou shalt participate in the fulness of the knowledge of Christ, moving at all times m the motions of life, and admiration of the unspeakable majesty of God will carry thee away, thou being dead unto all the visible world. And thy habitation shall be completely in the world of the spirit, and thou shalt appear unto those who behold thee as a mere form of the outward appearance of the body, the whole motion of thy inner man dwelling in the heaven of heavens, and thou shalt live gloriously in the countries which have neither bounds nor limits, where there |277 is neither carnal form, nor constitution of body, and where there is no change of natures, and no passing away of elements, and where there is only quietness and tranquillity, and where all the dwellers in the land of spiritual beings cry out with incorporeal voices, "Holy, Holy, Holy", to the adorable Being, and where thou shalt taste what thou hast never tasted with the palate of the body----now thou shalt feel that which never cometh to the senses of the body, and thou shalt know only that thou dost experience happiness, but what thy happiness is thou shalt not be able to explain----and where instead of the converse with man, thy converse will be spiritually with Jesus Christ. And thou shalt bear labours and not perceive the affliction thereof, for the perception of Christ will not allow thee to feel thine own afflictions, and. the plucking away of thy mind towards God will deprive thee of all the feeling which beings in the body have. [And thy habitation shall be] where thou shalt see, and hear, and taste, and breathe, and with all the senses [p. 290] of thy inner man thou shalt receive the taste of the world of God, and according to the nature of [that] world, thy senses shall also spiritually taste it; and where, face to face, as unto Moses, they will give unto thee divine revelations, and within the Holy of Holies, which God, and not man, hath established, visions and wonders will receive thee, and the hiddenness of the glory of God which will live in thy thoughts. And thy life shall be among spiritual powers in the understanding of the spirit, where the ark of spiritual wonders and of divine knowledge is set, not as in a mystery but in the truth of knowledge, which cometh upon thy knowledge without the mediation of any [other] thing. |278 [And thy habitation shall be] not where an altar of gold is established wherefrom there goeth up the incense which can be perceived by the body, but where is another altar of the spirit which receiveth the pure incense of all holy and rational thoughts; and where a chest of manna, wherein the food which was given by angels is preserved, is not placed as a type, but [where] is established a table of life, which is Christ Himself, from Whom all His spiritual members receive the food of the spirit, as do the members of the material body from the body. [And thy habitation shall be] not where the rod, which was the sign of the election of Aaron, is laid up for a memorial, but where Jesus Christ Himself, the Prince of priests, performeth the office of priest before His Father, [and before] living and rational beings. [And thy habitation shall be] where thou art wholly and entirely dead unto the feeling of the things which are visible, and where thou shalt hear nothing of the things which are spoken and perceived at the same time; [p. 291] and all the members of the old man shall die within thee, and thou shalt be clothed with the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the manner of his Creator.
In this conversation shall thy habitation be, O disciple, after thou hast departed from the conversation of the world which is after the flesh, if when thou hast entered into this country according to the law, thou labourest as the law of the country requireth, and thou clost not take with thee into the country of life dead members of the world which is dead; because a man goeth forth from the world in outward appearance he doth not [necessarily] go forth from the world, but he must cast off the world and all its rule and manner of |279 life, inwardly as well as outwardly, and he must make himself a stranger unto all the remembrance thereof, and as he hath cut off and cast from him the life which is carnal, so also must he cut off and cast from him the dead thoughts which meditate upon dead things. Now as is the nature of the body in which the understanding is bound, so also must of necessity be the understanding in its thoughts, for when it meditateth upon the things of the world, its whole motion is dead, but when its objects of thought are the things of the spirit, it is moved with living and spiritual things as [with] life. And apply the example from the similitude of thy body also to the spiritual understanding in which thy thoughts move. For as the body so long as it dwelleth in the carnal world is carnal, together with all its manner of life and deeds, but when the time for it to be removed to the world of the spirit hath come it is made new and becometh spiritual, and then [p. 292] entereth into the world of spiritual beings, even so also so long as the mind dwelleth in the world, and its thought and meditation are fixed thereupon, is it carnal, and is itself like unto the nature of the world in which it liveth. But if its habitation be in that world of the spirit, and it be moved in all its meditations according to that which is in that country, its thought henceforth becometh spiritual according to the ordering of that country in which its motions perform [their] actions.
Now therefore it is seemly that every disciple who goeth forth from the world should follow after this part, for this is our inheritance, and in this country is our conversation also, according to the teaching of Paul, who said, "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence we wait for our Vivifier, our Lord Jesus Christ: Who |280 shall change the body of our humility, [and] Who shall make it a counterpart of His glorious body, according to His great power by which everything hath been made subject unto Him." 8 But as I have said, so long as a man is shut up in the womb of the world he per-ceiveth not this conversation, neither is he able to perceive it if he goeth forth from the world in the things which are manifest, and doeth it not in the things which are hidden; for this conversation cannot be experienced in the body, but the spiritual understanding tasteth it when it hath been purified from the thoughts and from the cares of the body. Now, as I have said, the beginning of this path is the end of the path of the world, for until a man hath ended that path which is carnal he cannot travel in this spiritual path; but the end of the path of the world is absolute poverty of everything which is in this world [p. 293], and it is not being destitute of one thing and not of another, and letting go one thing and clinging fast unto another, but a man must set free and deliver his own members from all the carnal things of the world which lay hold upon a man. One man is held fast by the world in all his members, and another by two thirds of them, and another hath one half a slave, and the other half free. Another hath one third of himself free, and the other two thirds in bondage; and another hath only a small portion of him subjugated, while all his other members are free and unrestrained; and another hath one only of his members held fast and bound, and although all his members can move, his body remaineth in the same place. But whosoever is fettered in one of his members his whole person belongeth unto |281 the world, even as the whole body of the bird, which is held fast in the snare by one foot only, is also held fast in the snare by its foot; and although its other foot and its wings are unfettered, and it setteth them in motion to fly, yet the shackle and fetter which are upon one foot allow it not to mount up into the pure air, but it falleth down again upon the place where it was, and it quivereth spasmodically in death upon the ground, and bedraggleth its wings and whole body with the weight of the dust. And thus also is the man whose every member is unfettered by the shackles of the world save one, for that one member in which he is fettered [p. 294] fettereth his whole body, and although he is bound but a little strong chains are cast over his whole person completely.
Now therefore it is meet for those who desire to be freed from the fetters of the world to release themselves completely, and to put off and to cast away their old clothes and to put on new, which is the rule and conduct of Christ. And this apparel is the apparel of the kingdom, and it is meet that all the ornaments of an excellent rule and conduct of life should be found therein. It is meet that whosoever wisheth to change his apparel should put off wholly [the old], and put on completely [the new], and these similitudes are placed for thee as an example concerning that about which I am giving thee counsel, and from things which relate to the body thou must gain understanding concerning those of the spirit For behold, whosoever wisheth to pour anything into a vessel, until he hath emptied it of what there is already in it cannot pour therein that which he wisheth to pour; now if that which is emptied from the vessel, and that which is poured |282 therein [in its place] be not similar, although the vessel be washed and scoured, the sweetness of the taste of that which is newly poured therein [is not able] to change the former smell and taste. And again, when the husbandman wisheth to cast into his ground good seed, and he seeth that there are therein brambles and briars, he uprooteth and hoeth them up first of all, and then he casteth the good seed into his field. [p. 295] And again, whosoever wisheth to put on a new garment first of all casteth away the old one which is upon his body, and then he putteth on the new one. And thus also doth the physician, for he deviseth means and removeth skilfully the putrefaction which is upon the boil by means of acid and astringent medicines, and then he layeth on the bandage which buildeth up the new flesh. And like unto these many things are performed in nature, for except the old things be cut off and cast away, men cannot bring those which are new, especially if they are the opposites of each other, and thus, in this case also, the disciple of Christ----if he wisheth to draw nigh to the perfect rule of the life of Christ----is bound to cut off and to cast from him all the life and conduct of the old world, and then he must draw near to the new life, and cast off ignorance, and put on the knowledge of the spirit; for the fettering which is in the things which abide not ariseth from ignorance, and the unloosing of them cometh from knowledge. Whosoever casteth off the world, casteth off ignorance, and whoso putteth on the world putteth on folly, for true knowledge is that which forgetteth not that which is not and which thinketh of it as if it existed; and ignorance is known by being fettered, and it thinketh that which abideth not is something which |283 is true and enduring. So therefore those who put on [p. 296] the world put it on as something which endureth, and it is justly said of those who are ignorant, "They have mistaken the shadow for the substance", and rightly have been called "wise" those who have made themselves strangers to the world, and have cast off early the old rag before it hath cast them off. Whosoever the world casteth off hath no happiness therewith, for the world hath fled from him, and hath rejected him, and thrown him away as something which is superfluous; but those are worthy of blessing and praise who of their own good freewill make themselves strangers to the world, and who go out from it that it may not be an impediment to their course. For as is a covering before the sight, even so is the care of the world before the Divine vision, and as our sight is not able to pierce and to pass through any dense body which may be before it, whether it be a mountain, or a building, or some other such like thing, and until a man cometh to the top of the mountain, or walketh over it, he is unable to see the things which are thereupon, even so our thought is unable to consider the things which are outside the world so long as the wall of the world is built before our vision, and its heavy shadows and the mountains and hills of its cares and anxieties hem us in on every side. If then a man wisheth to see the spiritual rule which is outside the world, and to look closely at the heavenly things which are above it, let him go outside [p. 297] the world, or ascend above it, and behold two things will appear to him:----the spiritual rule of life which is established by the motion of living thoughts, and the kingdom of heaven which is above the world; for when |284 a man is freed from the passions of the world, his habitation is, as it were, in the kingdom of heaven. And what is the happiness of the kingdom of heaven? Is it not the abrogation of afflictions, and the ministration of all things new, and is it not that misery and troubles shall be dissolved and flee away even as it is written, "We shall rejoice in the varieties of spiritual beings, and in the glorious life, and in the pleasures of the happiness which is sealed and laid up [for us], and we shall have neither expectation of grief, nor fear and terror of calamities which are to come, for that world consisteth wholly of new things; for the inhabitants thereof rejoice always in things which are new, and these are the joy which is laid up, and the happiness which is perpetual, and in these also is life found by the soul which is freed from passions, and which hath destroyed from itself the glooms of suspicion." And well hath one of the spiritual teachers said, "The kingdom of heaven is the soul which is without passions, and which hath the knowledge of the things which exist in very truth, that is to say, words and motions which are not of. the body. For when the soul is freed from the passions of wickedness from which are produced fear, and trouble, and care, and want of confidence, it is immediately filled with the opposites of these things, that is hope, and courage, [p. 298] and gladness, and happiness of thought. For what is there that can trouble, or of whom shall be afraid the man who hath cut off and cast from him all the causes of trouble and of fear? For trouble ariseth by reason [of fear] lest he be deprived of the world, and of its pleasures, and of its delights, and fear ariseth [from the fear] lest he become a stranger to the life in the body |285 which belongeth to time. And when a man by the philosophy of Christ casteth off these two things, that is, the love of the world and the love of life, he is freed from trouble and fear, in the front of which are the Gehenna of the future, and the judgment which is prepared; these things are the Gehenna which giveth torment." And if freedom from passions be the kingdom of heaven, according to the word of that spiritually wise man, then the bondage of the passions must also be the Gehenna which giveth torture, and the outer darkness and the worm which gnaweth into the heart and the thoughts. For the taste of both things is given therefrom because the kingdom of the thoughts is a sign of that kingdom which is to come, and the Gehenna of the torture of fear and tribulation is a pledge of the Gehenna which is for ever, because that pledge also which is given for [both these] things hath an affinity with that thing for which it is given, as in this world everything which is given in advance as a pledge for something hath an affinity with that for which it is given as a pledge. And so also the spiritual mysteries, which [p. 299] here in this world have been delivered unto us in the place of a pledge, have a great affinity with that true incarnation of Christ, for here in this world we receive the Body and Blood of Christ that they may be unto us a pledge of that of which we shall eat spiritually in the next world from the Person of Christ, and from them, like the members from the body, we receive strength and sustenance, and this pledge, through spiritual interchange, hath an affinity with the Person; and thus also the Body and Blood are called [the affinity] of the Person.
And again we receive the Holy Spirit by baptism, |286 that it may be unto us the first-fruits of the perfect intercourse which is about to come unto us in the Mysteries of the Spirit, and how great is the affinity of the pledge with that which maketh it perfect the very name itself testifieth; for two spirits are mentioned by the word of the Book. And again, concerning Christ it is written, "He was to us the first-fruits of the good things "which are to come",9 and Christ the first-fruits hath an affinity with us, and with the good things which are to come unto us, for He became man, and with the good things which are about to be unto us, which by the fore-knowledge of the Father were prepared aforetime for us, for He was God, and He Himself together with God, by His will, which nothing preceded, prepared aforetime these good things for us. So likewise the joy of this world which is born of the freedom from passions hath an affinity with that joy which is about to be given unto those who are worthy [p. 300] thereof, and again the Gehenna of tribulation and sorrow which is born in this world of the ministration of the evil passions is akin unto that Gehenna which is to come. Let us then be earnest to put off the world, and to put off therewith also the passions which spring up in us therefrom, and let us put off also the evil passions, and let us clothe ourselves after them with the living motions of joy and love. And if thou wishest to know, O disciple, that without the going forth from the world thou art not able to draw nigh unto the rule and life of perfection, thou mayest learn it from the things which are written in the Holy Books, and thou mayest be mindful also of the lives of the spiritual men which |287 are written in the Holy Books. And who of all the ancients, who were accounted worthy of the sublime and wonderful gift, was like unto John the Baptist? According to the testimony, which Christ spake concerning him, "He was the greatest of all the Prophets"; and again He said, "Verily I say unto you, among those born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist." 10 Now let us understand and [see how and what was the rule and conduct of life of this marvellous man who arrived at such greatness as this, and why he was accounted worthy of all this gift, and with what increase and with how great labours, and after what asceticism, and for how long a time he lived a solitary life away from human intercourse; and when we have seen and have understood these matters of his life, let us consider the greatness [p. 301] of the things which, were unto him, and let us understand first of all the things which concern the will, and afterwards the things which concern grace, for until the will shewed its fruits the Spirit gave not its gift.
Observe then the life of this marvellous man, who from the time of his childhood was set apart from dwelling in the world, and from intercourse with the children of men; and he was not first of all denied and polluted, and afterwards cleansed and purified, but his youth passed in purity before it arrived at the motions of nature which distinguish between good and evil things. And he was brought up in the wilderness, and he had not in him any worldly care whatsoever; and he did not taste by experience the wickedness of the children of men, and then cast it away, neither |288 was he first moved by lusts and by passions, and afterwards came to peace of the thoughts by the labours of his freewill. Now that a man, who would stand in this rule of life, should depart from his own wickedness before he receiveth the taste of the wickedness of the world helpeth the purity of the soul of those who are worthy thereof in no slight degree, even as Adam remained for a very short time in purity of soul before he transgressed the commandment. And John, because he was about to be set apart for the ministration of Divine mysteries, and because a gift which had not been [hitherto] given to the children of men was about to come unto him, separated himself from his childhood and went forth into the desert, that being untempted by evil things, and his mind receiving not the impress of the likeness of the remembrances of the body, and being neither disturbed nor troubled by the cares and anxieties of the world, he might receive spiritual revelations and the doctrines of Divine mysteries in purity of spirit, and might feel that to which the whole race of mortal beings arriveth not; [p. 302] and for this reason he received also the Holy Spirit while he was in his mother's womb, in order that the thoughts of his soul, by the instigation of the Spirit, might be stirred up in a spiritual manner. That he should be born without the union of his parents was not right, for this belonged to Jesus God alone, but because he was about to receive visions and revelations which were above the old nature, he received the Spirit while he was in the womb, after he had been conceived by the union of his parents. That it would have been easy for God to have created him newly, like Adam and Eve, there can be no doubt, but by this [act] He |289 would have made him a stranger to the old creation, and the Creator did not desire to do this, lest it might be thought that He was rejecting the former creation. And it hath been said that it befitted Christ only to be conceived out of the old nature without carnal union, and that being brought up moreover in the world, and receiving experience of the wickedness thereof, He might be suddenly worthy of the grace which is above the world, by election after the manner of the Apostles, which was to be given after the Crucifixion, when the old nature was dead, and sin also and all the evil passions had died therewith.
Now because John was to be worthy of the knowledge of the Apostles before the dissolution of the curse, and the abrogation of sin, and the matter of the Cross, he rightly received the Spirit in the womb, and he had the growth which was outside the world in order that by these means [p. 303] he might attain unto the natural innocency which the first man possessed before he transgressed the commandment, and that by this innocency of soul he might receive the knowledge of Divine mysteries; for where through grace these marvellous things took place, by these marks and means sufferings took place. And when in the unspeakable depth of the love of God the Redemption was completed, the Person of God Himself stood in the midst like a freeman with power, and with His own hand He annulled the things which were old, and inaugurated those which were new, and the old man died upon the Cross, according to that which is written by Paul, "Our old man "was crucified with Him",11 and the new man was revealed, |290 and made known, and became visible, and not only that which was worthy of the dwelling of Paradise, after the manner of the first Adam, but that which was worthy to dwell also in heaven, and to go round about among spiritual beings, and to be like unto them in every thing. And therefore after this those who are experienced in all wicknessess, and tax-gatherers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and thieves, and worshippers of creatures, Grace seizeth suddenly, and without either plans or preparations maketh them worthy of the wealth of its mysteries, as in a new nature, it work-eth in whomsoever it pleaseth, because the old man hath been crucified, and is dead, according to the word of Paul.12 And again that Apostle saith from the whole person of his human nature, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death"? 13 And after he has asked questioningly who is able to deliver him, [p. 304] he revealeth, and confesseth and teacheth by his word Who He is that shall deliver him from the old and mortal nature, saying, "I thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ Who hath delivered me from this body of death".
And after these things then in which it hath been made known unto us that there are the death, and dissolution, and abrogation, and destruction of the old man, and the vivification, and the renewal, and the appearance, and the revelation of the new man, Divine Grace worketh mightily all things which are efficacious, and all powers, and all knowledge, and all mysteries and revelations, and all the dispensation of the spirit, and the work which is above nature, in whomsoever it pleaseth. |291 These things which have been spoken by us briefly are [intended] to shew the cause of the going forth of John as a preacher in the wilderness, and why he received the Spirit from the womb, and why he was brought up in the desert from his childhood. Do thou then, O disciple, at the hearing of these things be strenuous to cast off the world, and draw nigh unto the freedom of a pure rule and conduct of life; and love perpetual converse with God, and flee earnestly from all human speech, and take heed unto the good things of this rule of life through that which happened unto John the Baptist. For if some time before the Crucifixion He, through Whom old things were dissolved and abrogated, and new things were made to appear, and [Who] discovered the solitary life, and the freedom and alienation from the world, gave unto John the Baptist the knowledge of the Apostles, through which things he possessed the wisdom which is above human nature, how much more now can this [p. 365] spiritual life stablish thee in the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ, and render thee unspeakably happy in the feeling of spiritual revelations! Accept thou as a proof [of this] the life of this righteous man, and learn also therefrom that a man cannot become a perfect disciple of Christ unless he make himself a stranger to the whole world after the manner of this righteous man, even as the word of Christ also hath taught us openly, "Except a man renounce the whole world, and his brethren, and his kinsfolk, and his family, and his father, and his mother, and everything that he hath, and that which is greater than them all, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple".14 And again in another |292 place He restrained that man who wished to perform two things in one, that is, honour to [his] parents and discipleship to Himself, and told him that it was impossible that two things which were the opposites of each other could happen at the same time: "Teacher, suffer me to go and bury my father and my mother, and I will come after Thee",15 that is to say, "I will keep the first commandment which God commanded me, Honour thy parents and be obedient unto them, and then I will come after Thee and minister unto Thee". And what answer did Jesus return to this? "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; and go thou and preach the kingdom of God.16 It is not necessary [p. 306] for thee to keep the law, for it hath been kept and is dissolved, neither hast thou any need to minister unto natural parents, because I have been obedient unto parents according to the body, and I have ministered unto them on behalf of everyone. The yoke of the law and nature is henceforth lifted from off thee, and thou art left a free man unto thyself, there being no worldly power that can subdue thee, for thou art dead unto the world, and thou art dead unto it. Dead bodies have not service paid unto them, they are only wrapped in shrouds and buried; leave the dead then to bury their dead, and do thou go and preach the kingdom of God".
Behold also we learn from this testimony that the man who becometh a disciple of Jesus hath not even power to minister unto [his] natural parents, because he hath a true Father, Who by His grace hath enrolled him for Himself [as] a son, and Who hath set |293 him apart for the ministration of His will. Hear also again another proof, which like the preceding will bring instruction nigh unto thee, and the example of the testimony of which will urge thee to deny thyself everything, and to go forth after Jesus. "And one of His disciples drew nigh and said unto Jesus, Suffer me to bid farewell to them that are at my house, and I will come after Thee".17 Hear also in this case what the Master answered the disciple, and receive it as if it had been spoken unto thee by that disciple: "No man, having put his hand upon the ploughshare, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God",18 [that is to say]," Whosoever fulfilleth this work in nature, and who guideth the plough with oxen according to the custom [p. 307] of man, and who suffereth himself to look behind him instead of in front----now in this manner the work would never be completed----is not able to advance, nor are his furrows cut straight, and the oxen also do not travel forwards; and although this work be visible, and one which can be seen, and it taketh place in the very earth itself, yet if the ploughman look behind him, his labour is spoiled. Now as concerning My own discipleship, one labour differeth from another, even as world differeth from world, and life from life, and immortal from mortal beings, and God from the children of men; if then thou takest the yoke of My discipleship upon thy soul and body, thou must perform the service of My commandments, and thou must turn thyself back to the world, and it must not be a care to thee to make peace with thy kinsfolk, and thou must not be anxious to pay unto them the |294 obligation of honour according to the body, and to fulfil unto them the law of the fulness of the world, and then to come after Me. For if thou wouldest pay the obligations of the world, those which are due unto Me cannot be paid; and if thou art anxious not to offend the world in anything, why then shouldst thou set thyself to provoke Me? Let there be no peace between thee and the world, in order that thou thyself mayest have peace with Me; thou hast neither house nor household, why then shouldst thou hasten to bid them farewell? For enmity is set between thee and them, why then shouldst thou be anxious to be a friend unto them? I have not come to cast peace upon the earth,19 [p. 308] why then dost thou hasten to have peace with the children of the earth? I cry War, and yet thou hastenest to peace; I preach Division, and thou hastenest to strengthen concord. I have come to set a man against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the bridegroom against the bride, and thou hastenest to salute the children of thy house, and to sew together with thy folly the rent which I have made in the world. I have rent this garment of concord because it was woven wholly of error, and in its place I have woven another garment of heavenly peace; do thou also weave this garment, and hasten not to sew an old garment. I have put an end to the world which was wont to increase wickedness in every man, and I have scattered that brotherhood which was assembled for the gathering together of sins; hasten thou not to become a companion of those who work iniquity". [The disciple said], "I will go and bid |295 farewell to the children of my house," but Christ said unto him, "Thou hast no peace with them", [for] "Ye shall salute no man by the way";20 and the meaning of this speech is that Christ thereby denied His disciples also that salutation of the peace of the world. These things were said in the person of one disciple unto every man, that is to say, unto [all] those who have dedicated themselves unto discipleship, for it is better that a man should not be a disciple unto God in name, being in truth a disciple of the world, and that he should not hire himself unto One, and serve the other.
It is not necessary that the world should arrive at perfection, because its habit [p. 309] and its life are not dedicated unto perfection; but the disciple by the very mark of his garb preacheth perfection concerning himself, and in the things according to which he appeareth openly unto the children of men he hath given the promise concerning himself to appear also inwardly unto God. The marks of discipleship which are inscribed upon thee outwardly urge that all virtues should be written for thee upon thy soul, and in the manner in which thou appearest unto the children of men outwardly is it necessary for thee to appear also unto God inwardly. Thou hast put off the care for the apparel of the world, put off also the love of adornment inwardly from thy soul. Thou art remote from the marriage which is manifest, make thyself to be remote also from the secret lust of the thoughts. Thou abstainest from the eating of flesh, and from the pleasures and rewards which are visible, abstain thou also in thy soul from the wish that would desire meats. Thou |296 hast removed the hair of the secular life of the world from off thy head, and this is a proof that thou shalt neither be fettered by the cares thereof, nor bound in its anxieties, and that thou shalt not be held fast by any of its passions, which are many and without number. Thou hast gone out from the world, and thou hast made thyself a stranger unto it by [thy] outward garb, go forth then from it, and be unto it a stranger also in thy innermost thoughts. Thou hast in outward appearance made thyself destitute of riches, be thou also destitute of the love of riches in thy innermost mind. Thou hast rejected the sounds of song and the pleasures of the world, delight thyself then diligently, and with all [p. 310] thy soul in the sounds of the psalms of the Spirit of God. Let thy discipleship be known more from within than without, and as the children of men discern that thou art a disciple of Christ by thy outward appearance, even so let Christ know thee to be His disciple from thy inward appearance.
Take heed that thy discipleship be not be unto thee for trafficking and for buying and selling, and do not place upon thyself the noble garb of discipleship, neither for vainglory, nor for the pleasures which pass away. Thou shalt not sell spiritual for carnal things, and thou shalt not exchange heavenly things for the corruptible treasures which are laid up on earth; to Him only to Whom thou wast promised [by] thy covenant be thou a disciple. For God taught thee of old, and He removed from before thy sight this deceitful expectation, [say ing], "A servant cannot serve two masters",21 and again by another testimony He warned thee if thou couldst |297 not become a perfect disciple to remain in the life of the world, and it is better for thee, lest when thou hast begin to build, thou art not able to finish, and thou becomest a mockery unto every man. "What man beginneth to build a tower, and doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have [wherewith] to finish it? Lest haply, having begun to build, and being unable to finish, every man who passeth by and seeth him shall laugh and mock at him, saying, This man began [to build], but was not able to finish. Or what king who goeth to war to fight [p. 311] with a fellow king, [doth not sit down first and take counsel whether] he can meet with ten thousand [men] him that cometh against him with twenty thousand, or who doth not send ambassadors and seek for peace if he be unable to meet in war the multitude of his forces?" 22
And behold, by these things He Who called thee to be His disciple hath taught thee that thou shouldst not begin in this path unless thou art determined to finish in it, and that thou shouldst not lay the foundations to build a tower, if thou hast it not in thy mind to finish it, and that thou shouldst not go forth to war against Satan, unless the hosts of mighty thoughts be gathered together about thee, lest having gone forth to war the Enemy overcome thee, and [thy] discipleship be blasphemed. Whosoever hath not made a promise is not required by the word of rectitude to do the things which he hath not promised [to do]; for until the promise [hath been made, the matter] is voluntary, but from [the time of] the promise and onwards [the matter] becometh a law. So long as the yoke of |298 promise hath not been laid upon the freewill of thy soul, thy service is voluntary, but if thou takest the sign of discipleship, and the promise of the . covenant of Christ, thy life is no longer according to thine own will, but it must be according as the law demandeth, which of thine own freewill thou hast laid upon thyself. Now if whilst thou wast in the world thou didst the things which belong unto a disciple, this is a matter for praise in thee, but if [being] in discipleship thou doest the things which befit it, thou only payest [thy] obligation, and thou only fulfillest that which is incumbent upon thee. And observe unto what height the tower shall rise, and of what stones and slabs [p. 312] its building shall be composed when thou layest the foundation. Thou shalt not begin a building which will make thee the laughingstock of those who see thee, and thou shalt not construct for thyself a mark of contempt and of mockery in the sight of many, and thou shalt not give a cause for those who pass by to speak against thee, if thou hast determined to become a disciple according to what the will of thy Lord demandeth; and if not, remain in the world. Seek not to be honoured by a name of which thou art not worthy, and lay not hold upon the pure pearl with unclean hands; and put not on the purple of discipleship so long as thou possessest not the knowledge which will keep it [unspotted]. Consider in thy soul what things discipleship requireth thee to do, and then lay the yoke thereof upon thyself. Many become disciples that they may be honoured by the name of Christ, and not that they may honour Him. and that they may enjoy carnal pleasures they hire themselves unto Him, and not that they may bear the afflictions of His commandments. And others [have |299 become disciples] because of their lust for mammon, and they have drawn nigh unto this life which demandeth poverty, in order that that which they have not been able to acquire from the world, they may go forth and acquire outside the world. And by the hand of that one feeble disciple, [concerning whom] it is written in the Gospel of our Redeemer, Jesus hath rebuked this wicked thought in all [His] foot-soldiers. "And one came and drew nigh and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever thou goest. Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of heaven have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.23 Depart thou from me, O disciple of iniquity, for I have not that to give [p. 313] unto thee which thou desirest, and that which I can give thee thou dost not wish to receive. I know that which thy desire asketh, and that which thou seekest, but I will not give [them unto thee], for through the love of the thought of riches thou hast been pleased to come after Me, and [being] in the light thou hast come forth to seek darkness, and having the true possession [to seek] poverty, and having life [to seek] death. That which I command every man, to forsake [the world] and to cleave unto Me, I desire that thou shouldst possess in thy coming unto Me. By the door through which I desire to bring thee out, by that same door thou pressest to come in unto Me, and therefore I will not receive thee. For in My outward appearance I am poor, and for this reason I have not things which are manifest to give in the world into which I have come. I am in appearance |300 a stranger, for I have neither house nor roof, and whosoever seeketh to be My disciple must inherit poverty from Me. Why dost thou wish to inherit from Me that of the possession of which I have made thee destitute?"
Now therefore, many go forth after Jesus with thoughts of the love of mammon, and they put on the honourable garb of His discipleship like a profession. And He hath exposed of old this deceitful thought in His word, and by the hand of that one hath rebuked all the disciples of falsehood, and prevented them from being His disciples by His saying, "I possess nothing, but I will give unto you that which ye desire," and "I have not even [p. 314] a house or a roof." And those who were slack, and slothful, and feeble, either through the love of pleasure, or through the labour of the building, He kept back by saying, "If thou hast money sufficient for [building] the tower, [build it], but if not, it is better that thou shouldst not begin, than that thou shouldst begin and not finish."
And the perfection which Jesus demandeth He shewed us here by all the disciples who went forth after Him, because this tower which mounteth up to heaven is completed by perfection, and it is finished by the gathering together [into it] of all virtues. And Jesus Himself said, "If thou canst finish it, begin [to build], and if not, do not begin," which is as if a man were to say, "If thou canst be a perfect disciple, and complete in all triumphs, [well]; but if not, remain in the world, and work that other righteousness of justice which is inferior to spirituality."
Now each of those who did not seek [Him] with noble purpose He kept back by an answer which |301 befitted them. To the man who had compunction about grieving his folk, and who, wishing to pay unto them human love, asked Him that he might go and bid farewell unto his household, and [then] follow Him, He said, "No man, putting his hand upon the ploughshare, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." 24 And unto the man who sought to honour his parents according to the body, so long as they were alive, and after their death to become His disciple, He said, "Let the dead bury their dead." 25 And unto another, who by the perfection of the doctrine of Christ wished to satisfy his lust for oppression [p. 315], He answered, "Who hath made Me a judge and a ruler over you?" 26 And unto another who, in His name, wished to gather together riches, and who was scheming that by the mighty deeds, and the signs, and the wonders, which he wrought by His power, he might become the owner of possessions, He said, "I am poor, and I have not where to lay my head." And unto another, who sought to draw nigh to this service with the skin of outward appearance only, He said, "Do not begin the tower if thou hast not the money to finish it." And unto yet another who was weak and feeble, who, though he had not yet gained purity of thoughts and innocency of soul, wished to fight against the powers which opposed him, He said, "No king goeth forth to war against a fellow king unless he hath gathered together hosts which will be sufficient to meet the enemy which opposeth him."
Now therefore by these Jesus rebuked all diseased |302 thoughts, and He made the disciple to lay hold upon the true healing of discipleship, and upon the body of the spiritual life. And as in worldly matters, if a man cannot perform properly the piece of work which he wisheth to do without setting himself free from all other work, and occupying himself with that alone, how much less can a man finish this spiritual labour [p. 316] unless he set himself free from the service of everything which is visible? even as the blessed Paul also saith, "Every man who maketh a contest, keepeth his mind from everything;" 27 and of what contest did he speak except the exercising of the body in the world? And if to a contest in which the body is engaged the service of carnal things is a hindrance, how much more will it be so to a spiritual contest? For in the one case, as regards the contest of the world, the contest, and the struggling therein, and the conquest therein, and also the things which retard the conquest therein, are one in nature, and they are all the children of one country, and although all these things are related to each other, the world with its cares and anxieties becometh an obstacle unto those who maintain, the strife, How can a man fulfil the life here, then, which is a spiritual contest, and a service, and a life which is above the world, if he be tied unto and held fast by the things of the world? And again Paul himself saith, "No soldier on service who entangleth himself in the affairs of the world is able to please Him Who elected him. And if he contendeth, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully." 28 What then? If the soldiers of the kingdom of the world empty |303 themselves of everything that they may learn the arts of their service, and may thereby please the king who elected them, what disciple who hath been elected to the [p. 317] spiritual service, is able to become captain if he be bound by the things of the world?
And, moreover, let us also see from the speech of Simon to our Lord, and let us also learn from the first disciple how it is meet for us to become disciples. "Behold we have left everything, and have come after thee." 29 What then shall we have? Thou hast heard what this disciple said, and how he hath revealed unto thee the truth of his absolute poverty, and that they (i.e., the disciples) possessed nothing besides Jesus. "We have left everything, and have come after thee." Behold the definite law of discipleship. They did not have one thing and not the other, and they did not renounce one thing and hold fast to the other; but they left everything, and followed Jesus. Do thou then forsake everything and go forth after Him, and observe, immediately the might of the Apostles clotheth thee, that thou wilt feel and know in very deed that the Word is not a lie; for thou canst not ask Him to make thee worthy of the sight of His hidden and spiritual riches whilst thou hast not made thyself destitute of everything which is visible. So long as thou boldest fast that which is thine own, He will not shew thee the things which are His. Give everything that thou hast for the love of Him only, being in thy gift watchful against the thought that seeketh human praise, and go forth and travel along the road a little, bearing afflictions and labours with purity of the thoughts; and observe, |304 immediately His glory riseth in thy soul, and He mingleth the spirit in thee, how thy whole being will be smitten with the love of Him, and thou wilt also forget the weight of thy afflictions, and He will suddenly change thee from one being into another, that is to say, from the old into the new. And if [p. 318] [thou wilt] not [do this], what dost thou desire? Thy purse being full perhaps it may happen that thou demandest also discount and interest, and thou wouldst spare that which is thine own, and wouldst eat of His bounty. Or perhaps thou wishest to become a disciple unto Him that He may place thee in authority over the treasures of His wealth; far be it from Him to cast the knowledge of His revelations into the soul which is not worthy thereof! What then? Since those who are held fast by the trafficking and cares of human riches are retarded in many things by the knowledge of the world, wouldst thou desire to possess the knowledge of the spirit, together with the cares of riches in the worn out vessel of thyself which is pierced with passions and lusts? Wouldst thou desire to pour in the new wine of the wisdom of His mysteries, and wouldst thou not pour upon the ground this knowledge if it had come into thee? I mean, thy old vessel is unable to receive it.
Now this our Redeemer Himself shewed aforetime in His luminous teaching, saying, "No man poureth new wine into old bottles, lest the wine burst the skins, and the wine be poured out, and the skins be destroyed; but they pour new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." 30 So long as sin liveth or is wrought in thee by deed or in thought, or a carnal |305 wish belonging to the world ariseth in thee, thou art still an old vessel, and thou art not able to receive the new wine of the wisdom of Christ. Make new thyself then by the dismissal of thy passions, and thou shalt be able to take within thee immediately the new wine of the doctrine of Christ. Forsake everything, even as the Apostles forsook everything, [p. 319] and then thou mayest seek boldly to be set to rule over the treasures of the spirit. Turn not thy face backwards, and behold the furrows shall be straight before thee, and let thy hand be put upon the ploughshare of the service of difficult and laborious commandments. Turn not thy face backwards to the sight of pleasures, [and] if thou hast [once] denied a thing, do not again confess that which thou hast denied. And again, do not look before thee at one time, and behind thee at another, but let there be unto thee one straight look before thee; for the man who looketh behind and in front of him is like unto a man who steppeth forwards and backwards, and he returneth to the same place, and departeth not from the place upon which he standeth; and no man can say concerning this man either that he travelleth along the road, or that he completeth his journey by his steps. And thus also is the disciple who at one time looketh in front of him, and at another turneth his face backwards; who is at one time filled with suffering, and at another with laughter; who at one time cleanseth his thoughts, and at another fouleth them with the cares of iniquity; who at one time beareth the weight of affliction, and at another enjoyeth pleasures; who at one time fasteth much, and at another eateth immoderately; who at one time occupieth himself with the conversation ot prayer, and at another |306 with the speech which breaketh forth in empty things; who at one time hath in him the remembrance of God, and at another hath his soul dead unto the memorial of Him; who at one time desireth to put off his life and to be with Christ, and at another is clothed with carnal delights, and they are pleasant unto him; whose whole mind at one time is moved by the Spirit, and at another he quaketh with empty cares; who at one time is filled with admiration of God, [p. 320] and at another maketh dark his mind with carnal meditation; who at one time purifieth his thoughts from the motion of lust, and at another lusteth for the act of adultery; who at one time fasteth without measure, and at another eateth immoderately; who at one time scattereth his possessions in the love of God, and at another is held fast by grief because he hath scattered them; who at one time is filled with the love of man, and at another burneth because he is not able to take vengeance upon his enemies; in whom at one time the light of knowledge dawneth, and at another his thoughts are dark through the error of the world; who at one time travelleth onwards uprightly: and at another walketh backwards; who at one time is mingled wholly and entirely with the spirit, and at another wholly and entirely with the body. Now therefore if a man in this manner goeth, and then cometh; and travelleth on, and then turneth back; and marcheth forward, and then cometh back; and goeth up, and then cometh down; and groweth meagre, and then becometh gross; and becometh clean, and then defileth himself; and purifieth himself, and then becometh polluted; and washeth himself white, and then becometh covered with dust and ashes; and maketh himself chaste, and then becometh wanton; and maketh |307 himself destitute, and then waxeth greedy; and denieth, and then confesseth; and embraceth abstinence, and then lusteth; through these and such like things the path of discipleship is not perfected; but whosoever liveth in these things remaineth in his place and he advanceth not from the spot on which he standeth, and by reason of this also he doth not attain unto that after which he hasteneth, for how can he attain unto it since he runneth not? And even though this man who set out to go forward may travel on and march forward, and may have spent the half of his life, so to say, in the rule and conduct of discipleship, since he served hath two things he is not [p. 321] able to lay hold upon one; and how can the man who hath not wholly and entirely sought after good, except in name, find it? and how can the man who hath not experienced, even for a short time, the love of Christ, obtain the mastery over the limit of love? If then the man who walketh as a living man is found to be dead, what shall become of the man who is absolutely dead?
Thou hast gone forth after Jesus, follow Him then and turn not back, and remember Lot's wife,31 who, because the love of her kinsfolk and the outcries of her beloved ones constrained her, turned and looked back behind her, and became a pillar of salt, even as is written concerning her;32 and because her soul had not been salted with the fear of the Highest she became a destructible salted thing. Remember then this woman who was in doubt, and who perished, and be thou not in doubt like unto her, and turn not thyself backwards, lest thou remain in the place where thou art, |308 and thou wilt arrive at this condition, although not in thy body, yet in thy soul. For the soul that turneth and looketh backward after it hath gone forth on the journey in this path becometh a senseless pillar, and as in the case above, the wife of Lot ceased from bodily feeling, and thereby became a pillar of salt, even so also here the mind, which looketh behind it always at corruptible things, ceaseth to feel, and becometh stupefied at spiritual things; because the remembrance of the world maketh us to possess dulness of heart, and it defileth the purity and innocency of the soul, and this carnal mind blackeneth and [p. 322] darkeneth that pure sight which worked for the understanding by the constant vision of God. And if the thought which is [set] upon carnal things removeth us from the sight of spiritual things, how much more will the possession of them absolutely remove us? And if, in looking upon them whilst they are in the hands of others, they bind us to them, how much more shall we be bound so long as they are found in our hands?
Go forth then from the world, O disciple, in the manner in which the Apostles went forth, in deed, and not in word; in thought, and not in borrowed guise; in will, and not in form (or garb); with desire, and not delay; with discretion, and not through tradition; in freedom, and not in the law. Renew in thee from day to day the desire of this spiritual life, and taste life, all deadness being dead unto thee. Be of good courage and pass over this terrible country which is set in the midst, for it is fearful and deep, and it is a ravine which is filled with evil beasts, and noxious and murderous reptiles. And if thou hast determined in thy mind to pass over this terrible country, and thy desire be wholly |309 ready, straightway grace will receive thee, and will accompany thee. Thou must not consider that the soul and body are linked together, and that the one is mingled with the other by nature, [p. 323] for there is much room between them, and it is a terrible depth which not every man is able to search out and to pass over; but if thou wilt constrain the body with its lusts, and suffering, and prayer, and lovingkindness accompany thee, thou wilt be able to pass over this terrible country. But since our discourse is upon the going forth from the world, and not upon the going forth from indwelling passions, we will not speak upon this subject. "We have left everything, and have followed Thee;" 33 behold the words which are the instruction common unto all disciples! Take them perpetually into the remembrance of thy soul, and at the beginning of thy discipleship let them be the subject of thy meditation, and in remembrance of their exhortation go forth from the world; and when thou travellest along the path of the going forth, they shall accompany thee. And meditate upon them at all times, and if anything of riches entice thee to let it abide with thee, or the love of friends and family bind thee thereunto, remember the word of Simon, who forsook everything, and do thou also like him forsake everything; for Jesus is as near to thee as to Simon, and nearer to thee than to him when He spake the word, because they had not as yet received the power to be mingled spiritually with the love of Jesus, but in the simplicity of their faith they went forth after the sight of His works, and after the sweetness of His speech. And while He linked them unto Himself by word, they clung |310 fast unto Him in very deed, for [His] words were, [p. 324] "Follow Me," and immediately they heard the word they began to do so in very deed. Now thy own union with Jesus to-day is in deed, because He hath mingled thee in the life of the spirit by baptism; and while He brought the Apostles unto Him at that time by word, He hath to-day mingled thee with Himself in deed, because He hath made thee a spiritual limb through baptism. And however much thou wouldst cleave unto Him in thy works, He hath already cleaved unto thee; and if thou wouldst hasten unto Him, He hath already been dwelling in thee; and if thou wouldst go unto Him in thy prudence, He first cometh unto thee. And however earnestly thou rnayest work, and run, and although thy love and service should surpass the love and service of the Apostles----which is not possible----thou wouldst fall behind them in many things, and thou couldst not attain unto the measure of the mingling of their love with Jesus; but although thine own works cannot attain thereunto, He by His grace will make thee to attain unto it. The love of the Apostles was a wonderful thing, for while as yet the Holy Spirit was not mingled in their nature, they accompanied Jesus in all fervour, and without His stimulating or flattering them---- as He to-day flattereth thee with all manner of entreaties----but He spake unto them haughtily, and from outward signs it might be thought that He was driving them away from Him. "If ye wish to go away, depart", He once said unto them, and by reason of the hardness of His word many left him and departed. Simon saith unto Him, "Unto whom shall we go?" 34 We have once and for all gone forth after |311 Thee, [p. 325] and we have no place to go away from following Thee. "For Thou hast the words of eternal life," 35 that is to say, "Thy words are life, and how shall we forsake life and go after death? For we have forsaken everything and come after Thee, because we believe and know that Thou art the Son of the Living God." Therefore then, O disciple, if thou believest as Simon believed, go thou also forth even as Simon went forth; forsake everything and follow after thy rich Lord. He Himself lacketh nothing, therefore thou needest not provisions from the riches of a strange country, and His riches are not by measure that thou shouldst support Him by the superfluities of thy wealth lest He should want; for this reason be thou strenuous to leave everything. For it belongeth unto Him to give thee everything, even as He promised thee by the hand of Simon. What then? Perhaps Simon became a disciple to one Lord, and thou to another, that thou dost not go forth after thy Lord as he went forth? If now thou dost not go forth like him, it is evident that thou hast become a disciple to another Lord, although thou imaginest concerning thyself that thou art a disciple unto Jesus. And behold both the manner of thy going forth, and the wages thereof are inscribed in one place; and as to how thou shouldst go forth, thou mayest learn from the words, "We have left everything, and come after Thee." And what the wages of this going forth are the word of our Lord sheweth thee, saying, "Verily I say unto you, that in the new world, when the Son of Man sitteth upon the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, [p. 326] and judge the twelve tribes of Israel." 36 Behold the wages of going forth is participation with |312 Jesus in sublime honour! For He will set the thrones for the disciples opposite to His own throne; and that which with nature is impossible He shewed by His word that it cometh to pass. For He did not promise those disciples who loved His word to honour them like servants and like men who were in subjection, but to make them worthy of the majesty of thrones like unto friends and like unto those who were similar unto Him in His glory. And this which is written concerning the angels also is a marvel of unspeakable love: "A thousand thousand stand before Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand minister unto Him;" 37 now this concerneth the Seraphim who stand above Him, having their wings spread out to fly, and this one crieth to this, saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy."38 And concerning the Cherubim it is written that they were yoked unto a chariot, and while their faces looked downwards, the motions of their spiritual natures were directed whither was the Most High, and they likewise were crying out, "Blessed be the honour of the Lord from His country."39 And spiritual beings stand in this service, and the hosts and ranks of heaven are obedient unto the word of Jesus, even as Paul said, "They are ministering spirits, who are sent to minister unto those who are about to inherit life."40
And concerning the Apostles it is written, "They shall sit upon thrones", and this indicateth to us the greatness of their honour, [p. 327] and [their] equality with Him in inheritance, even as Paul saith, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with |313 Him."41 And again he saith, "Heirs of God, and children of the inheritance of Jesus Christ."42 And again he saith, "If we endure with Him, we shall reign with Him." 43 And again he saith, "He shall change the body of our humility, and shall make it like unto His glorious body, according to His great power through which all things are subject unto Him."44 Now therefore unto this greatness will the disciple attain if he travelleth completely in his Master's footsteps, but in order that thou mayest not think that this portion of honour came only to the Apostles, Paul said, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him, and if we endure we shall also reign with Him." And our Lord Himself said unto the Apostles, "Not ye only, but every man who leaveth houses, or family, or brethren, or sisters, or children, for My sake, and for My Gospel's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting."45
What sleeper would not wake up at the sound of these promises? What dead man would not come to life at this breath of spiritual life? And what sluggard would not be quickened at the pointing out of this path which goeth up to heaven? And who would not wish to despise himself and to make himself of no account at the hearing of His incomparable promise? Who would not deny the whole world----[p. 328] even if it happened that he possessed it----to become a consort of God upon the throne? And who would not be willing to exchange the things of time for those of eternity? For |314 even if the things which we leave were equal in value unto those which shall be given unto us, since it is God who commandeth, it is right that we should leave them. Leave then the things which should be rejected and despised, and though we renounce them not through the word of Christ, it is for us to make ourselves strangers by nature unto them, and to be beyond them, and to exchange the things which are useless for that which is of value. Who would not hasten to the fair at which this exchange is to be made? For behold rags are exchanged for purple, and worthless pebbles for pearls, and common stones for beryls, and unending poverty for immeasurable riches, and the dross which is rejected for fine gold, and darkness for light, and death for life, and bitter for sweet, and sickness for health, and the place of the despised one for power, and a lowly condition for dominion, and the things which are corruptible for those which are beyond corruption, and that which is transitory for that which passeth not away, and shadows for the substance, and hunger for fulness, and error for knowledge, and the life of beasts for the life of angels, and the things of the body for the things of the spirit, and unending misery for happiness without measure. And moreover, if we had the words wherewith to describe these things as they deserve, [p. 329] who would not exchange the things which are here for those which are there, and who would not give all the neediness of this world for that kingdom? For the word of the Spirit, even when it speaketh in a simple way, is exalted above all the wisdom of the world, and Paul revealed unto us the greatness of this exchange in one little word, and shewed us how inferior are the things which |315 we have, and how great are those of God in one short verse, saying. "The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal."46 Who then would not exchange the things of time for those of eternity, except ourselves, and fools like unto us?
Do not thou then, O thou who hast denied the things which are seen, ask what kind of riches thou wilt receive in exchange for thy poverty, but be thou in earnest only to forsake thy poverty, and to hasten to possess them. Now what these riches are, and unto what they are like, Paul explaineth not unto thee, nor of what kind they are, for there is nothing which can be compared with them, nor how much they are, because they cannot be measured. ''That which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and what hath not gone up in the heart of man, [is] what God hath prepared for them that love Him;"47 and the greatness of the reward is made manifest by these and such like words.
Do thou then, O disciple, hearken unto the divine voices which exhort thee to go forth after Jesus, and to become [p. 330] absolutely destitute, and then thou wilt become a perfect disciple: "Whosoever denieth not everything that he hath cannot be My disciple."48 After this what hast thou to say or to answer? for behold with one word all thy doubts and all thy obscure ideas are destroyed; and the word of truth is a sublime path for thee in which to tread. And again in another place He said, "Whosoever doth not forsake |316 everything that he hath, and doth not take up his cross and follow Me, cannot be My disciple." 49 And again, teaching [us] that we should not only forsake our possessions for the sake of His glory, and deny the world for the sake of confessing Him, but also our transitory life, He said, "Except a man deny himself he cannot be My disciple." 50 And again He saith, "Whosoever wisheth to save his soul shall destroy it; and whosoever [wisheth] to destroy his soul for My sake shall make it to live."51 And again He saith, "Whosoever destroyeth his soul shall preserve it unto everlasting life; and whosoever ministereth unto Me the Father shall honour."52 And again He said unto His disciples, "Arise, let us go hence,"53 and by this [speech] He shewed that this world was not the country either of Himself or of His disciples. Whither shall we go, O Lord? "Where I am there also shall My servant be."54 If Jesus crieth unto us, "Arise, let us go hence," what fool would be persuaded to dwell with corpses in [p. 331] the graves, or to become a sojourner with the dead? Whensoever, therefore, the world wisheth to hold thee fast, or family, or kinsfolk, or friends, remember the word of Christ which said, "Arise, let us go hence," for this voice is sufficient to rouse thee up if thou art alive. Whensoever, therefore, thou wishest to sit down to rest thyself, or to delight thyself in the love of the country in which thou art, remember this word of exhortation, and say unto thyself, "Arise, let us go hence;" thou must go at all cost, only go as |317 Jesus went. Go because He hath told thee [to go], and not because it is nature which carrieth thee, whether thou wilt or no, being thyself unwilling. Thou standest on the path of travellers, set out on the way then because of thy Lord's word, and not by the force of necessity. "Arise, let us go hence," is a voice which will wake those buried in slumber; it is a horn the winding of which will drive away the sleep of slothfulness; it is a power and not a word; and whosoever perceiveth it, suddenly it clotheth him with new power, and with the swiftness of the twinkling of the eye it plucketh him away from thing to thing, and these words of God, "Arise, let us go hence," make the disciple to leap up, and he is not stupefied at the pleasure of the place wherein he dwelleth. And behold He also goeth with thee to prevent thee from being stupefied, for He did not say unto thee, "Arise, go thou," but, "Arise, let us go, thou and I together;" God calleth unto thee to go in company with Him, and who would not burn within himself, [p. 332] and be troubled lest he should be dazed at the company of his God Who called him? And in the way there is no fright, and no fear, neither injuries nor losses, nor plunderers, nor thieves, and if those who would restrain thee stand therein, so long as the Lord accompanieth thee they shall all flee before thee. For what robber will dare to shew himself in the garb of a robber in the way along which the king passeth? but when the workers of wickedness hear the rumour of him they either flee or hide themselves. And behold from this also thou mayest learn concerning the departure from the life of the world if thou wilt understand, and wilt attend with discretion unto the power of the word. |318
And to another, a teacher, who wished to follow Jesus, having the desire of a perfect rule of life and conduct in the manner of which He was worthy, He shewed this path of perfection, "And one drew nigh unto Him while He was teaching in the temple, and said unto Him, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit life?" Now what did Jesus say unto this man? "Why callest thou me 'Good'? There is none Good save One, [even] God. Thou knowest the commandments, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Behold I have taught thee restraint from wickedness, and to remove thy desire from the paths of sin; but if after this thou wishest to go forward, and also in addition to [the command] not to do [p. 333] wickedness thou wouldst come to the doing of good, and wouldst keep the commandments of the law, honour thy father and thy mother, and thou shalt keep all those which appertain unto this. But if also above the power of the law thou wishest to be in the dominion of thy righteousness, and of thy freewill to be led into fair deeds above the fear of the judgment, then love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and that which is hateful unto thee, do not unto thy neighbour. This is the rule of conduct of the righteous, which is above the power of the law, and Moses and the Prophets taught this righteousness. Whosoever observeth this [rule], the law by [its] threat hath no power over his righteousness. Go and keep these things which are written, and lift thyself up above them also unto the love of God, and unto the love of thy neighbour, which is above the fear of the law, |319 because it is of love. When thou hast kept these things, thou shalt inherit eternal life." 55
These things Jesus taught that proud doctor to do, although he did not wish to be held in restraint by them, for with a boastful mind he sought things which were greater than these, but things which Jesus did not teach him. Now for us disciples it is right that we should possess true doctrine, and that we should know from the Word how we must depart from wickedness, and how, little by little, we must march on and grow in the service of the things which are good. The commandments which Jesus spake unto him, "Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not [p. 334] steal, and Thou shalt not bear false witness", agree with the words of David, who said, "Depart from evil, and do good;" 56 and with those which Paul spake, "Let not wickedness overcome you."57 And the commandments, "Honour thy father and thy mother", and, "That which is hateful unto thee, do not unto thy neighbour," agree with, "Do ye good,"58 and, "Overcome evil with good;" 59 and that commandment, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself,"60 is like unto the words, "The law is not ordained for the righteous," 61 because these commandments are above the fear of the law.
Now therefore Jesus laid down in these commandments the restrictions for conduct in life: firstly, a man must depart from evil, and restrain himself from |320 the service of all abominable things; and secondly, he must do the things which are laid down under the fear of the law; and thirdly, the service of good things, which is above the fear of the law; and fourthly, he must set out on the path of the discipleship of Christ, which is the perfect going forth from the world; and fifthly, he must bear labours and sufferings, with which we may make the old man sick; and sixthly, we must bear the cross upon our shoulders, and we shall arrive at the fulness of the perfection of Christ. Now in these, two rules of life have been distinguished for us, and we learn therefrom two kinds of righteousness, each of which con-sisteth of three degrees. We must restrain ourselves from [p. 335] wickedness, that we may obey and fear the law, and work the things which are good, in order that we may be above the law in the voluntary service of what is good, concerning which Paul taught us, saying, "The law is not ordained for the righteous," 62 and for this reason he exalted the doers thereof above the power of the law. Now the three degrees of righteousness are wrought in the world, and those who perform them are just and righteous, and are neither spiritual beings nor perfect; two degrees are set above the fear of the law, but the third is above both the power and the fear of the law, because it is fulfilled within the heart and inner mind, where the law can neither look nor see; for the eye of the law seeth matters which are external, and not the thoughts which are internal. Whosoever, then, loveth God with all his heart, and mind, and soul, his love is internal. He said particularly, "Love thy God"----which is above |321 the law----and not, "Thou shalt fear God ," for the law hath dominion over fear, and not over love. Love is above the commandment of the law, and over those who are ruled thereby the law hath no power. Now the third degree [of righteousness], which is superior to the law, and inferior to the rule of Christ, occupieth a middle place, and thou must see from this how perfect is the doctrine of our Life-giver, for that [p. 336] which is above the law is the end of His teaching.
And our Lord taught the righteous children of men who are in the world to do these three things, in which are gathered together all the fair things which are wrought by lovingkindness, and which are done unto the needy by those who have possessions by means of their wealth, and in them is laid the whole force of that commandment. "That which is hateful unto thee thou shalt not do unto thy neighbour; this," even as the Teacher Himself explained, "is the law and the prophets." Now His own righteousness is that which is above the law, [and concerning it] He said, "Enter in at the narrow gate." 63 In the one case, with the law, sometimes thou art afflicted, and sometimes thou hast ease, sometimes thou labourest, and sometimes thou restest, and by these and such like things all thy life of righteousness is woven; but as concerning the rule of Christ it is written, "Enter in at the narrow gate." For well did our Lord go step by step, and like a wise and good Teacher did He bring things from the Old Testament and things from the New Testament unto His disciples, that He might shew, firstly, that He was the Giver of that which was at the beginning and of that which was at the end, and secondly, that He might |322 make His disciples go step by step from lesser unto greater things, and from the command, "Thou shalt love [thy God] as thyself," unto the command, "Thou shalt love [Him] more than thyself;" and from the command, "Give of what thou hast," unto the command, "Give away everything that thou hast;" and from the command, "[Give] a little of thy possessions," unto the command, "Give away all thy possessions."
Now the easiest commandment of all, that a man should not do evil, He made the first, for to him [p. 337] that is not kept back from the service of evil things merely by the penalties of the law it is easy to draw nigh unto the service of fair deeds which the law commandeth because of the fear of the law itself; and whosoever restraineth his outward man and doeth that which is good, he also draweth nigh unto loving God and his neighbour with all his heart, not for appearance's sake, and not to boast thereof, and not through fear, but because it is seemly for a man to love God and his fellow man. And after He had laid down these limitations for us, and had explained unto us the various grades in the righteousness of the just, Jesus continued in His speech to teach us perfection, and said unto that learned man who asked Him, that is to say, in teaching him He taught all His disciples, "If thou wishest to be perfect, go, sell all thy possessions, and give [them] to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." 64 And here even we have not as yet begun to walk in the path of righteousness, for that a man should take up his cross and go forth after Jesus is one rule of life----for as the dwelling in the womb is one thing, and the going forth of the child from the belly is another, and |323 the existence of a man in the world, after being born from the womb, is another, even so is it another thing for a man in the womb to gain form, and members and body, with all his senses and limbs, and it is another [p. 338] for him to be born, and it is another for him to exist in the world, for the righteousness which is in the world is like unto the substance of the child within the womb, and the commandment, "Go and sell all thy possessions, and give to the poor, and there shall be treasure for thee in heaven 65," is the belly from which is born out of the old womb the new creation, and it is that door through which he goeth forth from one world to the other----but that commandment, "Take up thy cross and come after Me," belongs to the perfect rule and conduct, and it is the path of spiritual life.
Now it may be thought that it is a great thing for a man to sell everything that he hath, and to give it to the poor, and to go forth from the world like an apostle, and yet it is natural, and it is that creation into which we enter at our first birth, and the first man also was thus created. And for this reason Job also, when everything that he had was taken away from him, and he was stripped of possessions and heirs----now it was thought that something new, and which was above nature, had happened unto him----mitigated the violence of his suffering by his speech, saying, "Naked came I forth from my mother's womb, and naked will I return.66 What hath come upon me except that condition in which I came forth from the womb?" For that a man should deny himself of everything that he hath, |324 and should appear in the world in his own person only, is still a natural thing, but it is exalted above nature if it come to pass through good will for God's sake, just as when we die in the ordinary way it is [a matter] of nature, but if we die for God's sake it is martyrdom. So likewise [p. 339] also is it a natural thing that a man should appear by himself in the world and possess nothing, because Adam was thus created, and Eve was thus formed, and they were not only destitute of the riches of the world, but also of the clothing and raiment of the world, and they were like unto the child who goeth forth naked from the womb into creation, even as Job said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked will I return;" and as Paul also spake, "We brought nothing into the world, and it is evident that we are not able to take anything out from it." 67 And as the after-birth in the womb envelopeth the child after he hath been fashioned and hath taken form to keep him alive, and when he is born from the womb it is cut off and cast away from him, because it belongeth not unto his person, nor is reckoned with the man, so also do riches, and possessions, and all other human things cling unto a man after he hath been born like the after-birth, but when he cometh to be born from this world into the next by the hand of death, his possessions are cut off and cast away from him like the after-birth which is cut off from the body, and as the child appeareth in his own person without the after-birth, even so also man goeth forth from life, having cast off all his possessions. And as a man when he is born is wrapped round in his after-birth, and the |325 casting it off from him when he entereth the world, [p. 340] is natural, even so is it natural that a man should go forth naked from the world, and that he should become a stranger unto his possessions while he is in the world; and a man gaineth grace when he strippeth himself early of his riches, and before nature casteth them off, and when he forestalleth the time of his departure from this world by his own freewill.
What difficulty then existeth in the commandment that a man should renounce all his possessions? for behold it is a natural commandment. For let a man consider his beginning and his end, and let the time which is between these be taken [into consideration], that as he came in naked, and must go forth naked, even so let him strip himself of his riches the whole of the time of his sojourning in the world, and let him praise Him who decreed that that which was natural should be a matter of freewill. So, therefore, our Lord wisely did not make the renunciation of riches the beginning of the way of His discipleship, because it is a matter of nature, and His rule is above nature, even as our human death is not the beginning of the world which is to come, but the end of [our] path in [this] world, and our resurrection from the dead is the beginning of the path of the kingdom of heaven. And thus also being destitute of riches and of the possessions which are visible is the end of the path of the world, and likewise the casting away of the strange apparel which we put on in the world after we had entered therein. And if it be thought that [this] is difficult, it is not because it is above nature, for behold it is easy unto those [p. 341] who stand in the freewill of nature, but it is difficult unto those who are in subjection unto |326 passions, and who labour in bondage unto the lusts. And those who serve mammon as a lord are afraid to deny it, because of their own freewill they have already made it their god, and the children of men who have become subject unto this passion are not only afraid of it, but every passion under the power of which freewill is subdued is its master, and the strength of fear is cast over it and it is not able easily to cast it off. And from this thou mayest receive testimony that the passions do not of necessity bring us into subjection, but our freedom is brought into subjection under the passions, and they become masters thereof, for behold those, who stand in their own freedom and who cast off the garment of the care for wealth, if a man constrained them to be subject unto riches, would be more afraid of becoming its masters, than those who have possessions would be afraid to leave them. And if the being destitute of riches were a thing to be afraid of, or difficult, every man would fear it, and its power would naturally rule over everything, but behold the children of freedom are above its subjection, and it is esteemed by their dominant freedom to be bitter bondage.
Now therefore all. the commandments of righteousness and lovingkindness, which a man doeth while he is in the world, are still on this side of the border of nature, and therefore the whole old law and the commandments thereof are laid under nature, [p. 342] because it is imposible that the law should be above nature. And our Lord, when He was asked by Nicodemus, a man learned in the law, "What is thy doctrine?" 68 said, "I preach a new birth unto the children |327 of men." And although by those words He referred to that birth which is of baptism, yet they shew mightily that a man is born by the power of the grace of God, and also by the power of his will, from one world into the other, and that absolute poverty of everything which the eye can see becometh the womb which giveth him birth.
Now therefore it appeareth that the man of God is born three times; the first is the birth from the womb into creation, the second is from bondage into freedom, and from the condition of being a man into that of becoming a son unto God----now this taketh place through grace by baptism---- and the third is that a man himself is born of his own will from the carnal into the spiritual life; and utter poverty of everything becometh the womb which giveth him birth. And moreover, after this birth of poverty, a man is born by other births when he hath gone forth from the world, as, for example, from carnal mindedness into spiritual mindedness, and from suffering into impassibility, and from the going forth wholly and entirely from all the tremblings of the motion of the old man into the living motions of the man of the spirit; for these grades, and measures, and births exist in this rule of life. And however far a man may desire to walk on in front of him, [p. 343] there is room for his footsteps, for the country of spiritual mindedness is a wide country and without limit. What then? Now if in this world, which is carnal, however far a man may walk there is still room for him to walk, for if a man travelleth the whole period of his life's duration he will not be able to walk over the whole world, even so in that world of the spirit we cannot journey too much because our journey |328 therein is without end, and however much a man may penetrate therein, and ascend therein and enter therein, place after place, and step after step receive him, because it is a world which hath no limit. Now this world, however great it may be, is set within limits and boundaries, but that world is above a boundary, and beyond a limit, and blessed is he who is accounted worthy thereof, and hath entered therein by the change from the old man into the new, all carnal movement being dead in him, and the new living and spiritual motions welling up within him. And well did [our Lord] say, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God," 69 for except a man becometh destitute of everything which is in the world, and casteth off from him the carnal rule both outwardly and inwardly----after the manner that a child casteth off the natural womb, and is born into this world----he cannot see the kingdom of God, that is to say, he must feel the living motions of the spirit which are in the power of the body to perceive. [p. 344] And let this be an example unto thee: as the child is shut up in the womb's belly, even so the man who is in the world is shut in by the carnal rule of the world, with all its heaviness, and darkness, and density, and cares, and anxieties. And as the child is born from the womb by the door of the belly into the light of creation, and when he is born into the light, which he findeth before him, he seeth all things, the beauty of the world, and all the variety of created objects, and the diversity of natural things in this composite creation, and he receiveth this sight, and he feeleth the experiences thereof by the |329 gradual growth of his bodily stature, even so he that is born again from the rule of the world, and who goeth forth to the other world of the spirit by the door of poverty, immediately he is born receiveth that world, and the light of knowledge beginneth to appear unto him; and as the things of this world are seen by the light of nature, and each object is distinguished from its fellow thereby, even so also by that knowledge of the spirit which a man beginneth to receive, he seeth all spiritual things, and boundaries, and countries, and grades, and orders, and everything which is above the perception of the body, for as the body perceiveth the things of nature, because the perception of its senses is too weak for the things of the world, even so [p. 345] also by the mediation of the spirit doth the soul perceive all the things which are akin unto its nature, and which are above the world. This, then, is the new birth, which cometh from the baptism of which our Lord spake to Nicodemus.
Let us now consider the answer of our Lord unto that young man who drew nigh unto Him, and who asked Him to teach [him] the doctrine of perfection, from which he might also receive perfect knowledge, and be born from one rule of life into another. Now when in order to learn he asked, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life," Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness"----which things constitute remoteness from wickedness; and [He taught] after these the working of good by the word which He spake, saying, "Honour thy father and thy mother, and that which is hateful unto thee, thou shalt not do unto thy neighbour," and He said, "If a man keep these things, he |330 shall inherit life everlasting." 70 Now the inheritance of everlasting life was unto all the righteous, and just, and merciful, and doers of good works while they were in [this] world, and these are they who were also called "blessed" by the living word of our Lord, in the words which He spake unto them, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from before the foundations of the world. I was an hungered, and ye gave me to eat; I was athirst, and ye gave me to drink," 71 together with the rest of the things which were spoken unto them by our Lord, for they all are applicable unto the righteous men of olden time, and unto the just who [p. 346] were also owners of possessions. And it is well known that clothing the naked, and receiving strangers, and setting a table for the hungry, and providing the needy with all things for their bodily wants, belong unto the owner of possessions, for without riches these things cannot be; the men who have embraced poverty have not riches wherewith they may do good works, how much less then have spiritual and perfect men [wherewith to do them].
Now therefore this promise which is here given by our Lord befitteth not only those who are spiritual and perfect, but also those who have embraced poverty, because with them also the riches wherewith they might do these good things are not found; and however exalted above the righteous may be the grade of those who have embraced poverty it is well known from the admission of every man, that the man who hath absolutely nothing at all, and who hath |331 entirely stripped himself of his riches for the love of God, is superior unto him that keepeth them and doeth good works with them. And, moreover, spiritually minded men are exalted above those who embrace poverty, and those who are perfect above those who are spiritually minded, for spiritual mindedness is an example in respect of spiritual powers, but perfection is a type of the fulness of Christ by which are perfected, in the spirit, all things which arrive at the stature of the knowledge of the fulness of Christ, even as Paul saith 72; and how superior is the grade of perfect and spiritual men to that of the righteous and the merciful who are in the world the words of our Redeemer, which were spoken unto the lords of wealth in this world, are sufficient [to shew]: "Be strenuous to make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when it hath come to an end, they may receive you into their everlasting habitations." 73 [p. 347]
Behold, therefore, the perfect, like the lords of the country and citizens, receive the righteous strangers who go into their world, because they are sons of the inheritance of Christ, and heirs of the Father Who is in heaven, even as Paul said concerning them, "Heirs of God, and joint heirs of Jesus Christ;"74 and making known why those who bore the cross of Christ have arrived at this measure, he saith, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him."75 And the participation in the sufferings of Christ [consisteth] not in a man giving alms, and in shewing his lovingkindness unto those who are needy, but in his dying wholly and |332 entirely to the world, and to the body, and to the lusts, and to the passions, and in a man crucifying his old man with all the lusts thereof, even as Paul also spake concerning himself, "I am crucified unto the world." 76 And the whole feeling of the world was annulled in him, after the manner in which it is annulled in those who are dead in nature, for as the dead body feeleth not any one thing which is brought high unto it, even so in that man, who hath been crucified with Christ, and who hath put to death in himself all the old man, is there no perception of anything which is in the world; and for this reason also Paul calleth "dead" those who stand in this rule of perfection. For the righteous man who dwelleth in the world, and who hath a wife, and children, and riches, and possessions, [p. 348] cannot be called dead, because all his life is like unto that of a living man; for the dead man is not married, and he begetteth not, while the righteous are united unto their wives, and beget children, and [do] other things which follow in their train. "Ye are dead," crieth Paul unto the perfect, "and your lives are hid with Christ in God." 77 And again he said, "Ye are dead unto the world, but alive unto God, in our Lord Jesus Christ." 78 And again he said, "If ye died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as if ye were living in the world, do ye receive the commandments?" 79 Now a man arriveth at this rule of life after he hath stripped himself of his possessions, and beginneth to work good deeds in the members of his person, for so long as he hath riches, he justifieth |333 himself by riches, and he emptieth not himself from the cares of riches which he serveth in himself. And if it be imagined that he will also do these things while he liveth in riches, [he will not,] for his service will be confounded, that is to say, he advanceth, and turneth backwards, and in addition thereunto, although this man may labour in the world of the body, yet it is impossible for him to stand in the purity of the soul, from which a man entereth into spiritual love, from which is born knowledge, the mirror of everything, and from which [p. 349] the understanding riseth step by step unto divine conversation.
Now therefore for this reason those who desire perfection strip themselves of their riches, in order that they may be able to do their own labours, and that, being free from everything in the world, they may wage war with the lusts of the body; and a man should labour in his inner man, and not in his outer man, and when he hath rooted up the lusts of the body, and the passions of the soul, he should begin to sow in his own person the seed of living knowledge. Therefore whosoever wisheth to draw nigh unto this rule of life must be destitute of riches, and having been born again, he may enter therein, and the man who is not thus cannot enter therein, according to the testimony of Christ: "If thou wishest to be perfect, go and sell thy possessions, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and take up thy cross, and follow Me." 80 Observe, then, how perfect is the doctrine of Christ, for not even when a man hath stripped himself of everything that he hath, hath he yet begun to |334 walk in the way of His doctrine, for poverty is the end of the path of the righteousness which can be wrought in this world; but the words, "Take thy cross, and "follow Me," are the beginning of the path of the spiritual life. Now the reward hath Jesus set in the midst between the righteous and the perfect, "Go, sell thy possessions, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven;" 81 behold the reward for righteousness! And He calleth this reward "treasure," because the men who hasten after the righteousness of the world [p. 350] do good works on the condition that there is a reward, and well did Jesus in His words place the treasure at the end of the way of the righteousness which is in the world, that their wages being set before them they may run direct to where they are, even as do those who contend in a game, and before whom is set the crown which will make them to gain the victory. Into the land of the perfect our Lord did not make a reward to enter, because it would be a disgrace unto the perfect to labour in the rule of the spirit for wages; for behold the spiritual mindedness in which the perfect stand is the wages of the just and righteous, because they have wrought good things in the world on the condition that they should be changed and become spiritual beings, and be freed from all the carnal mindedness, and the passions, and the subjection of the world. This is the life of the perfect, for they are moved by the spirit, and they labour in the spirit, and they became changed from carnal mindedness unto spiritual mindedness already while they were in the world which is seen. How then can they expect to receive |335 wages, the thing for which they toiled when they lived in the world? For as an angel doth not expect the spirituality of his nature to be his wages, or that he is sent to perform the will of Him that existeth, because he also existeth therein and doeth it naturally, even so also the perfect man doth not look for wages in the change of the spirit, because he standeth in that spiritual change, and all his motion is like that of the powers of heaven. [p. 351] And all his life is like unto theirs, and like unto them he crieth "Holy" in the spirit, and he singeth in the spirit, and he serveth God in spirit and in truth, even as it hath been said by the word of God concerning the perfect, "A Spirit is God, and those who serve Him in spirit and in truth serve Him;" 82 "A Spirit is God, and the service of the perfect is of the Spirit." Behold, then, they serve in a divine manner, and they are also exalted by the degree of spiritual beings, that, in the likeness of God, they also may serve in power and in the freedom which is not made subject, and which is above laws and commandments even as is God. And to recount with our speech the service of the living motions of the perfect is impossible for us, because if a man were to arrive at the measure of them, he would be unable to speak concerning the perfection of their service. And, moreover, if they themselves wished to speak, and their living motions, and their divine service were sufficient therefor----for this service is not of the body----how could it be described by the tongue of the body? for they feel it only, and they serve in a divine manner with their inner man; and their service cometh not unto speech, nor their motions, |336 nor their feeling, nor their constant admiration, nor the visions and revelations which they have. This is the end of the path to Christ, O disciple, and on this vision resteth thy journeying if thou wilt run therein, [p. 352] and this is the rule which was delivered unto us by Christ. Go forth then from the world, and make thyself destitute of everything which is therein, both in thy body and in thy soul, that thou mayest find the things which are above speech, and that thou mayest have pleasure thyself therein together with all the hosts of light, in the world of truth, in Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory from all generations of the world for ever and ever, Amen.
Here endeth the Second Discourse on Poverty and on the service of the spiritual commandments.83
[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end. Page numbers in brackets refer to the Syriac text in vol. 1 of the printed edition.]
1. 1 St John iii. 3.
2. 1 Ephesians iv. 13.
3. 1 St. Matthew xi. 28.
4. 1 Galatians vi. 14.
5. 1 Exodus xiv. 14.
6. 1 Exodus xiv. 15.
7. 1 Exodus xiv. 14.
8. 1 Philippians iii. 20.
9. 1 Compare Hebrews ix. 11.
10. 1 St. Matthew xi. ii; St. Luke vii. 28.
11. 1 Romans vi. 6.
12. 1 Romans vi. 6.
13. 2 Romans vii. 24.
14. 1 Compare St. Matthew xvi. 24; St. Luke xiv. 26.
15. 1 St. Luke ix. 59.
16. 2 St. Luke ix. 60.
17. 1 St. Luke ix. 61.
18. 2 St. Luke ix. 62.
19. 1 St. Matthew x. 34.
20. 1 St. Luke x. 4.
21. 1 St. Matthew vi. 24.
22. 1 St. Luke xiv. 28 ff.
23. 1 St. Luke ix. 58.
24. 1 St. Luke ix. 62.
25. 2 St. Matthew viii. 22.
26. 3 St. Luke xii. 14.
27. 1 1 Corinthians ix. 25.
28. 2 2 Timothy ii. 4.
29. 1 St. Matthew xix. 27.
30. 1 St. Matthew ix. 17; St. Mark ii. 22; St. Luke v. 37.
31. 1 St. Luke xvii. 32.
32. 2 Genesis xix. 26; and compare Ezekiel xvi. 4.
33. 1 St. Matthew xix. 27.
34. 1 St. John vi. 67.
35. 1 St. John vi. 68.
36. 2 St. Matthew xix. 28.
37. 1 Daniel vii. 10; Revelation v. 11.
38. 2 Isaiah vi. 3.
39. 3 Ezekiel x. 18; iii, 12.
40. 4 Hebrews i. 14.
41. 1 Romans viii. 17.
42. 2 Romans viii. 17.
43. 3 2 Timothy ii. 12.
44. 4 Philippians iii. 21.
45. 5 St. Matthew xix. 29.
46. 1 2 Corinthians iv. 18.
47. 2 Isaiah lxiv. 4; 1 Corinthians ii. 9.
48. 3 St. Luke xiv. 33.
49. 1 Compare St. Matthew x. 38; xvi. 24; St. Mark xiii. 34; St. Luke ix. 23; xiv. 33.
50. 2 St. Luke ix. 23.
51. 3 St. Luke xvii. 33; St. Matthew xvi. 25.
52. 4 St. John xii. 25, 26.
53. 5 St. John xiv. 31.
54. 6 St. John xii. 26.
55. 1 St. Mark x. 17 ff.
56. 2 Psalm xxxiv. 14; I St. Peter iii, 11.
57. 3 Romans xii. 21.
58. 4 Romans xiii. 3.
59. 5 Romans xii. 21.
60. 6 St. Mark xii. 30, 31.
61. 7 1 Timothy i. 9.
62. 1 1 Timothy i. 9.
63. 1 St. Matthew vii. 13.
64. 1 St. Matthew xix. 21.
65. 1 St. Matthew xix. 21.
66. 2 Job i. 21.
67. 1 1 Timothy vi. 7.
68. 1 St. John iii. 1-7.
69. 1 St. John iii. 3.
70. 1 St. Matthew xix. 16.
71. 2 St. Matthew xxv. 34, 35.
72. 1 Ephesians iv. 13.
73. 2 St. Luke xvi. 9.
74. 3 Romans viii. 17.
75. 4 Romans viii. 17.
76. 1 Galatians vi. 14.
77. 2 Colossians iii. 3.
78. 3 Romans vi. 11.
79. 4 Colossians ii. 20.
80. 1 St. Matthew xix. 21.
81. 1 St. Matthew xix. 21.
82. 1 St. John iv. 24.
83. 1 A reads----"of the commandments of the holy Mar Philoxenus," and C adds, "Here endeth the writing of this volume, "[and] the nine Discourses upon the Christian life and character, "which were said by the blessed Mar Philoxenus, Bishop of "Mabbôgh. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to "the Holy Ghost, now, and always, and for ever and ever; "yea, Amen, Amen."
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts