But for this once I wish to inquire about men of greater importance than those who have to serve the mighty. I see clearly that those who serve are in duty bound to strive after the best manners, knowledge, wisdom, and righteousness; but it would seem that those, who are chiefs and rulers and whom all others must serve, owe an even greater duty to seek both knowledge and insight; above all it must be their duty to love every form of righteousness, since they have authority to punish all others who are not righteous. Therefore I wish to ask with your permission what customs the king himself should observe which would accord with his regal dignity. Tell me clearly so that I can understand what business or conduct is demanded of him early in the morning and what affairs he is later occupied with throughout the day; for he is so highly honored and exalted upon earth that all must bend and bow before him as before God. So great is his power that he may dispose as he likes of the lives of all who live in his kingdom: he lets him live whom he wills and causes him to be slain whom he wills. But I have observed this, that if a man becomes another's banesman, all upright men from that time on have an aversion for him as for a heathen; since to slay a man is counted a great sin for which the one who commits it must suffer great penance and much trouble before Christian people will again admit him to fellowship. And again, you told me in an earlier speech to shun manslaughter; but you added that all manslaughter committed by royal command or in battle I need shun no more than any other deed which is counted good. Now if the king has received such great authority from God that all slaughter done by his command is without guilt, I should imagine that he must need to be very wise, cautious, and upright in all his doings; and therefore I wish to have you explain fully the things that I have now asked about, unless you feel that my questions are stupid, or that I am presuming too much in showing curiosity about the doings of such great men.
Father. Your questions are not stupid, for we may just as well
talk about how the king has to order his government or his conduct as about
other men. It surely is his bounden duty to seek knowledge and understanding,
and he ought indeed to be well informed as to what has occurred in the
past, for in that way he will gain insight for all the business that pertains
to his kingship. You have stated that he is highly honored and exalted
on earth and that all bow before him as before God; and the reason for
this is that the king represents divine lordship: for he bears God's own
name and sits upon the highest judgment seat upon earth, wherefore it should
be regarded as giving honor to God Himself, when one honors the king, because
of the name which he has from God. The son of God himself, when he was
on earth, taught by his own example that all should honor the king and
show him due obedience; for he commanded his apostle Peter to draw fishes
up from the depth of the sea and to open the mouth of the fish that he
caught first, and said that he would find a penny there, which he ordered
him to pay to Caesar as tribute money for them both. From this you are
to conclude that it is the duty of every one upon earth to respect and
honor the royal title which an earthly man holds from God; for the very
son of God thought it proper to honor the royal dignity so highly that
he, to the glory of kingship, made himself subject to tribute along with
that one of his disciples whom he made chief of all his apostles and gave
all priestly honors.
Son. There remains one thing, which, as usual, I shall need to have explained further, as it is not very clear to me. You stated, and it seems reasonable, that the king holds a title of high honor and dignity from God Himself; but I do not see clearly why God made Himself subject to the tribute of an earthly king; since He must, it seems to me, be above all kings, seeing that He rules the earthly as well as the heavenly kingdom.
Father. That God Himself has honored earthly kings you will observe from the fact that, when He came down to earth from the loftiest pinnacles of heaven, He regarded Himself as having come among men as a guest and did not wish to claim a share in the earthly kingship, though he might have done so. But He fulfilled the words that David had spoken: "The Lord ruleth in the heavens, but verily he hath given an earthly kingdom to the sons of men." Now God, while He was on earth, wished to honor earthly kings and kingdoms rather than disparage them in any way; for He would not deprive the earthly kingship of what He had formerly given into the control of earthly lords; but God showed a perfect obedience to Caesar. You should also observe that, just as God commanded His apostle Peter to examine the first fish that he drew and take a penny from its mouth (and God did not want him to examine the second fish or the third, but the first only), similarly every man should in all things first honor the king and the royal dignity. For God Himself calls the king His anointed, and every king who possesses the full honors of royalty is rightly called the Lord's anointed. In like manner one of God's apostles said in a sermon while instructing the people in the true faith: "Fear God and honor your king," - which is almost as if he had literally said that he who does not show perfect honor to the king does not fear God.
Every king, as you have said, ought, indeed, to be wise, well-informed, and above everything upright, that he may be able to realize fully that he is after all merely a servant of God, though he is honored and exalted so highly in the supreme service of God, that all bow down before him as before God; for in so doing they worship God and the holy name which the king bears but not the king himself. It is, therefore, in the very nature of kingship to inspire all with a great awe and fear of the king, wherefore every one trembles who hears him named. But he ought also to appear gracious and friendly toward all good men, lest any one should fear him so much as to be deterred from presenting any important request to him because of his severity.
In the night, as soon as the king is sated with sleep, it should be his duty and business to center his thoughts upon the kingdom as a whole and to consider how his plans may be formed and carried out in such a way that God will be well pleased with the care that he gives to the realm; also how it may be made most profitable and obedient to himself; further what measure of firmness he must use in restraining the rich lest they become too arrogant toward the poor, and what caution in uplifting the poor, lest they grow too defiant toward the wealthy; wherefore he needs to ponder and plan judiciously how to hold everyone to moderation in the estate in which he is placed. This, too, the king must be sure to keep in his thoughts, that when it becomes necessary to chastise those who are not satisfied with what God has planned for them, he must not be so lenient in his punishment, that this excessive indulgence should lead anyone to consider it safe to transgress what ought to stand as rightfully ordained. Nor must he be so severe in his penalties that God and rightminded men will regard him as punishing more from a cruel disposition than from a sense of justice. These things and many more a king ought to reflect upon at night when he is done with sleep, for then fewer matters will come upon him unawares during the day, when the needs of the land are presented to him.
Father. I repeat what I said then that no man needs to be more learned or better informed in all subjects than a king, for both he and his subjects have great need of this. But one who has a thorough knowledge of past events will meet but few contingencies that are really unexampled. Now the following examples are very ancient, and every king should keep them frequently before his eyes and seek guidance from them for the government of his kingdom.
When God had created the entire world and had beautified it with grass and other herbage, as well as with birds and beasts, He appointed two human beings, a man and a woman, to have dominion over everything. He led the two, Adam and Eve, to the highest point of Paradise and showed them all the birds and beasts and all the flowers and glories of Paradise. Then God said to Adam and Eve: "All these things that you now see I give to you for your maintenance and dominion, if you will keep the covenant which I now establish between ourselves. But these are the laws which you must carefully observe, if you wish to keep the gifts which I have now given you: that beautiful tree which you see standing with lovely apples in the midst of Paradise is called the tree of knowledge, and the fruit which the tree bears is called the apples of knowledge. This tree you must not touch nor may you eat of the apples which it bears, for as soon as you eat of them you shall die; but of everything else that you now see you may freely eat according to desire." Four sisters were called to witness this covenant, divine virgins, who should hear the laws decreed and learn all the terms of the agreement: the first was named Truth, the second, Peace, the third, Justice, and the fourth, Mercy. And God spoke thus to these virgins: "I command you to see to it that Adam does not break this covenant which has been made between Me and him: follow him carefully and protect him as long as he observes these things that are now decreed; but if he transgresses, you shall sit in judgment with your Father, for you are the daughters of the very Judge."
When the speech was ended, God vanished from Adam's sight; and Adam went forth to view the glories of Paradise. But at that time the serpent, which was more subtle and crafty than any other beast, came in the guise of a maiden to Eve, Adam's wife, and addressed her in great friendliness: "Blessed is your husband and you with him, since God has given all things into your power; for it is now the duty of every beast to obey your commands, seeing that Adam is our lord and you are our lady. But now I want to ask you whether God has withheld anything upon earth from your dominion, or whether you may enjoy all things as you wish without hesitation." Eve replied: "God has given us dominion over all things that he has created upon earth except the tree that stands in the midst of Paradise; of this He has forbidden us to eat, having said that we shall die, if we eat thereof." The serpent said to Eve: "Oho, my lady! He does not wish you to become so wise that you know both good and evil; for He knows the difference between good and evil things, while you know good things only. But when you have eaten of the apples of knowledge, you will become like God and will have knowledge of evil things as well as of good." As soon as the serpent had disappeared from Eve's sight, she called Adam her husband and told him all this speech. Then she took two of the apples of knowledge, ate one herself, and gave the other to Adam. But when they had eaten these apples, their knowledge was extended to evil things, as the serpent had said; and they began to observe the shapes of beasts and birds and trees, and finally how they themselves were formed. Then said Adam: "We are shamefully naked, we two, for there is nothing to hide our limbs; beasts are covered with hair and tail, birds with feathers, and trees with branches and leaves; we two alone have shamefully naked limbs." Thereupon they took broad leaves from the trees and covered those of their members which they were most ashamed to have naked. Then Peace came forth and spoke to Adam and Eve: "Now you have broken the law and your covenant with God, and I will no longer give you the security in the open fields that you have thus far enjoyed; but I will keep you safe in a secret hiding place until judgment is pronounced in your case; and I give you this safety that you may have opportunity to present your defense. But you must take good care to make a plea which may profit you, and prove a defense rather than a detriment." Truth came forth and spoke to Adam: "Take heed, when you come to plead your case, that you do not lie, for then I shall testify with you; tell everything just as it happened, for if you lie about anything, I shall testify against you at once." Justice came forth and said: "It is my duty and office to make sure that you are not unjustly condemned; but the more you are found guilty of lies and wrongdoing, the more shall I oppose you." Mercy came forth and said to Adam: "I shall add assistance and mercy to your plea, if you heed carefully all that my sisters have taught." But fear had come upon Adam and he went away to hide among the trees, lest he should be seen naked.
At midday God went forth to view the beauties of Paradise and Adam's stewardship; but as He did not see Adam in the wide fields, He called him, asking where he was. Adam replied: "I hid myself, Lord, because I was ashamed to show myself naked before Thy face." God answered, saying: "Why shouldst thou be more ashamed of thy nakedness now than at our former meeting, unless it be that thou hast broken the law and hast eaten of the apples of knowledge, which I forbade thee to eat." Adam replied as if defending himself: "The woman that Thou gavest me led me into this fault; if I had been alone about my affairs and if Thou hadst not given me this wife to advise with me, I should have kept the appointed law and should not have transgressed Thy command." Then God said to Eve: "Why didst thou give thy husband this evil counsel to break the law ? " Eve replied as if defending her case: " The crafty serpent gave me that evil advice; had he not been created or appeared before me, I should not have come upon this evil design." Then God said: "Since the law has now been broken, I want those virgins whom I appointed keepers of our covenant to sit in judgment with us. Then Truth spoke: "It is my duty and business to show Adam's guilt, inasmuch as he has concealed with a lie what most of all led him to transgress. For this was the chief motive in your case, that the apples were fair and pleasant and sweet to taste, and that you desired greatly to be wiser than was promised you. You committed a theft in planning to take them secretly, covetous robbery in taking them without permission, and an act of insolent pride in wishing to become like unto God in wisdom beyond what was promised you." Then God said to Peace that she should give a brief opinion in the case. Peace answered in this wise: "Whereas Thou didst appoint me to watch over Adam's safety as long as there was no transgression, I now offer to bring him an even greater insecurity, because he did not know how to keep the great freedom which he enjoyed before." Then God said to Justice that she should give judgment; and she answered in this wise: "Since Adam was unable to keep the freedom that Peace had secured for him, let him now suffer misery and distress instead; and because he coveted knowledge of evil things, let him experience evil in place of good; and because he wished to make himself like God in knowledge beyond what was permitted, and blamed God for his transgression with lying excuses, let him suffer the death of which he was warned before he transgressed." Then God said to Mercy that she should pass judgment on this transgression. Mercy replied in these words: "As it is my nature to urge forbearance and clemency to some degree in every case, I request that Adam be not destroyed through a merciless death; but since he now must repent of his error as long as he lives, let him have hope of mercy and help in his death, as long as he does not despair."
Then it was discussed. whether, in case he had sons, they should suffer for his sin, or be allowed to enjoy the gifts and the riches that God had given him at the beginning, but from which he had been ousted like an outlaw. Justice said: "How can his sons, who will be begotten in exile, enjoy those gifts that he forfeited as an outlaw because of transgression ? Let his sons follow him to the death. But whereas he shall have hope of mercy and leniency and of a return to the possessions which he has now forfeited, let his sons be recalled with him through a new covenant." And when sentence had been passed in Adam's case, the sisters all came to a friendly agreement; Mercy and Truth embraced while Justice and Peace kissed each other with loving gestures. Now every king ought to have these two things frequently in mind: how God appeased His anger toward the man and the woman for breaking the law, and what judges He called in, lest His punishment should be too severe and merciless. Moreover, a king does justice to all men when he does justice to any man or woman; but all decisions which imply punishment he must always consider in the presence of these four sisters; and it must be such as will bring them into agreement, so that they can kiss and embrace each other, in which case the judgment will be neither too lenient nor too severe. A king ought to consider very carefully how to bring the minds of the sisters into agreement; for in all trials they are arranged and seated apart in groups; Truth and Justice on one side of the court and Mercy and Peace on the other. They should be agreed and unanimous in every case; but it frequently occurs that Peace and Mercy give the whole suit over to Truth and Justice, though all unite in the verdict none the less. Sometimes it happens that each of the sisters has a full voice in the decision according to right reckoning; but at other times it may be that the larger share falls to Peace and Mercy; but the sisters are unanimous in the verdict none the less. It has also happened at times that, after a verdict has been reached and confirmed, Mercy and Peace have exercised leniency because of the prayers and repentance of him who was in need of it.
Father. The world is now so ancient that, no matter what comes
to pass, one is likely to find that similar events have occurred before;
and nothing is likely to happen of which a learned man can find no examples.
But of the fact that the entire judgment may fall to Truth and Justice,
no mercy being shown, there are cases which occurred so early that I know
of none before them. When Lucifer, an angel in heaven, turned traitor and
committed a base crime against his Lord, Truth and Justice condemned him
to swift downfall without hope of pardon. Into this condemnation all his
comrades and counsellors fell with him. And these were the crimes which
God punished with a merciless doom.
Father. We have had a very lengthy speech before us, and if we were to comment on the whole, it would lengthen very much a discussion that is already long; but certain it is, we have spoken very few words which would not be in need of comment, if a well informed man, who thoroughly understands all these speeches, should come to the task. But I believe it is more advisable for us to continue as we have been doing since we began our conversation, and leave the task of glossing our remarks to others who may hear them later and are willing to do the work with faithful care. Still, inasmuch as every question looks toward some reply or solution, it is proper that I should enlarge somewhat on this speech, so as to make the subject a little clearer to you and to others who do not understand it better than you do. I shall, however, run over it in a few words only, for I do not care much to comment on my own remarks.
You have asked whether serpents and other beasts were created with the power of speech in the days when Adam was appointed keeper of Paradise, and you shall know of a truth that the gift of speech was not given to any bodily creature but man. And since you wish to know why speech was given to the serpent and why it wished to lead the woman into transgression, I shall now proceed to explain. The explanation begins with the fact that God created angels before men. The angels were immortal spirits, free from all corporal weakness, and endowed with great beauty. But though created with perfect beauty, they were held subject to this law, that they must show love and obedience toward their Creator in humility and without deceit. It was promised them that they should keep their beauty and all the other honors that God had given them, as long as they kept this law; at the same time God gave them full freedom to violate the law, if they wished; for He spoke to them in this wise: "Since you were all created at the same moment and none was begotten by another, each one of you shall decide for himself and none for another whether these laws that I have now ordained shall be kept or broken. And if there are those who transgress them, they shall be driven out of this life of bliss; while those who observe the laws shall continue to enjoy unceasing happiness and unending life in my noble service. And I give you all a free choice to keep these laws or to break them as you may prefer, in order that those who observe them may be set apart as my chosen jewels, while those who violate them shall suffer hatred and be driven into cruel thralldom and wretched service."
These angels were all fair, but one was more handsome than all the rest, wherefore he was called Lucifer; he was appointed chief of many angels and a great multitude made obeisance to him in service and friendship. But God having finished his speech, Lucifer turned away from God with all his following as if toward the north and spoke thus: "Why should We suffer threats from God in return for our service, seeing that we have power, beauty and numbers in full measure to maintain our prestige ? Now I intend, like God, to set up a high-seat in the northern part of heaven and to extend a wise control over half of heaven or even more." Then God answered and said to Lucifer: "Since thou hast broken the law by treacherous rebellion, thou canst no longer have habitation with us; and whereas thou wouldst en-joy dominion, depart to the kingdom that is prepared for thee, where thou shalt have suffering instead of freedom, misery instead of bliss, sorrows of every kind but no joy. Let all those go with thee who did not oppose thy design." And as God looked upon them in his wrath, all the heavens trembled before His countenance; and His enemies fled with a terrible downfall, and they suffered a horrible change of countenance in the loss of their beauty. Thereupon they sought out the places that were assigned to them and were scattered about in all the caves of hell, each appointed to a separate service. In this way darkness was separated from light.
But when God had made man and had given him a blissful life in Paradise, Lucifer said to his companions: "It is evidently God's intention to give this one the dominion from which He drove me out, unless he shall act counter to God's will. Even if God should appoint other angels in our stead, we could never allow it, if we could do anything to prevent it; but our disgrace would be too great, if a man formed of clay or the filthy dust of the earth were to enter into the eternal happiness from which we were expelled. Therefore we must fight incessantly against everyone who has such ambitions and revenge our injuries with fierce hatred upon all those whom we can overcome. Now I shall try to gain a victory over the first man that God has created, so that my companions may be able to overcome those who come later." Then he armed himself with seven wiles from which he expected great aid: the first was venomous envy; the second, burning hatred; the third, false cunning; the fourth, specious deception; the fifth, haughty arrogance; the sixth, covetous self-seeking; the seventh, lustful desire. Then he said to himself: "Inasmuch as I am now an invisible spirit, I cannot visibly come to have speech with physical man, unless I adorn my ugly countenance with a certain corporeal beauty. I shall therefore enter this serpent which God has created with the face of a maiden and which most resembles man in beauty; and I shall speak with his tongue to Eve, Adam's wife, and learn from her whether they are created to full freedom without obedience to law, or whether God has given them laws to keep, through which I may be able to ruin their covenant with Him."
Thereupon this envious spirit sought the serpent that is now called the asp, which in those days walked with upright form on two feet like man and had a face like a maiden's, as we have just said. And when the evil minded spirit came to Eve concealed in the body of this serpent, he made use of the artifice that is called specious deception, for he spoke to Eve with seductive sweetness using these words: "Blessed is thy husband and thou likewise." This praise he did not give them out of good will; rather did he praise their happiness in order to drag them into misery through hatred and envy, and he used false cunning when he asked Eve to tell him whether God had given everything to Adam to control and to enjoy without restriction. But when Eve in return for his sweet words had given the desired information, and he heard that death was to be their part if they transgressed, he was glad, and then made use of haughty arrogance in suggesting to Eve that they could become like God in knowledge in this respect, that they might be able to know good from evil. But he used lustful desire when he bade her try how sweet and fragrant was the apple of knowledge which was forbidden her. And he employed covetous self-seeking when he caused Eve to take for her own what God had earlier forbidden her; for God had given everything into the power of Adam and Eve, except this tree; but they longed to have this even without permission, though everything else was in their power. They knew this one difference between good and evil, that good was better than evil; wherefore they feared the death that was assured them. But having never tasted the bitterness of evil, they could not know what great misery they would suffer for transgression; but they thought it would be a great distinction to be like God in knowledge, and to know the difference between good and evil things. But when the serpent urged Eve to eat of the apples of knowledge, she began to fear death, and replied thus to the serpent: "I fear that, if I eat, I shall die, for such is God's threat. Now do you eat first while I look, and if you do not die, I will eat, for if this fruit really does possess death dealing powers, it will surely prove baneful to other living beings besides me." Then the spirit that was concealed in the serpent said to himself: "I may indeed eat the apple, for it will make me no more guilty or mortal, inasmuch as I am already in the full wrath of God." But these words the woman did not hear. Then Eve took an apple and placed it in the serpent's mouth and he ate forthwith. And when she saw that it did him no harm, she immediately picked another apple and ate; and she found it very sweet, just as the serpent had told her.
Thereupon the serpent vanished from Eve's sight; but she called Adam her husband and told him these things. But because he, too, feared the death that God had threatened, he would not eat, unless he should see Eve eat first. So Eve took two more apples and boldly ate the one forthwith, for she had already tasted the sweetness of the fruit, and instead of feeling shame for what she had already done, she longed to taste it oftener. When Adam saw that it did her no harm (and he even observed a pleasurable sweetness upon her lips), he took the apple that she had offered him and ate just as she had done. But when they had eaten the apple, their eyes were opened to a greater knowledge than they had had before, just as the serpent had predicted: for immediately they were ashamed of their naked limbs, since they saw that the bodies of the birds were covered with feathers and those of the beasts with hair, while their own bodies were naked, and they were much ashamed of that. But most of all did it shame them to know that their transgression had made them guilty before God; and they bore their bodies in fear and were ashamed of their naked limbs. Soon they went to hide among the trees, thus giving proof of their shortsightedness, for they did not realize that God had such knowledge of His handiwork and all the things that He had made, that neither bushes nor forests could hide them from His sight, since even the secret hiding places in the caverns of hell lie bare and visible before His eyes at all times.
But while Adam was in hiding, God spoke to the spirit that was concealed in the serpent: "Through pride and evil intent thou didst raise the first rebellion, there being none to ensnare thee, only thine own pride and envy; wherefore Mine anger rages against thee without mercy, and thou has forfeited eternal happiness and all hope of returning to it. Thou hast now a second time stirred My heart to anger because of the sin that has just been committed. Adam will have to suffer punishment for his transgression, but he shall still have hope of return and mercy, because he came into My wrath on account of thy wickedness and seductive guile. And as thou overcamest Adam's wife while she was yet a virgin, so shall one of her daughters, also a virgin, win a triumph over thee. And just as thou seemest now to have led Adam with all his possessions and kinship as spoils into thy dominion, so shall one of his sons search all thy garners and carry all thy treasures away as spoils; and leading forth Adam and all his faithful kinsmen out of thy power in a glorious triumph, he shall appoint him to an honored place among his sons in the kingdom which thou were fittingly deprived of. And as a green tree bore the fruit through which thou hast now won thy victory, so shall a dry tree bear the fruit through which thy victory shall be brought to naught." Then God spoke to the serpent in which the spirit had concealed himself: "Cursed art thou before all the beasts upon earth; because thou hast received Mine enemy and concealed him from the eyes of Eve to the end that, hidden in thee, he might win a victory over mankind. Therefore shalt thou lose the likeness to a maiden's face which thy countenance has borne and shalt henceforth bear a grim and ugly face hateful to mankind; thou shalt lose the feet that bore thy body upright and henceforth crawl upon breast and belly. Bitter and unclean dust shall be thy food, because thou atest of the apple which thou tookest from the hand of Eve. Thou shalt be a self-chosen vessel of venom and death as evidence that thou didst hide venomous envy in thy body. I declare the covenant sundered between thee and all mankind; thy head and neck shall be crushed under the heel and the tread of men in revenge for the treachery which mankind has suffered through thy slippery cunning. And since thou didst cause man to break the law with his mouth and in eating, the spittle that comes forth from the mouth of a fasting man shall prove as dangerous a venom to thy life, if thou taste it, as thy venom is to man, if he taste it."
Then God, calling Adam and Eve, asked where they were. And Adam replied: "We hid ourselves, Lord, being ashamed to appear naked before Thy face." In the first word that Adam answered God, he lied to Him; for they knew themselves guilty of violating the law and hid for that reason; but Adam concealed this in the answer that he gave to God. Then God said to him: "Why should you be more ashamed of your nakedness now than when we last talked together, unless it be that you have increased in knowledge from eating the apples that I forbade you?" But when Adam saw that he could not conceal how they had broken the law, he sought to escape by placing the blame for the act on another rather than on himself, for he answered in these words: "If I had been alone about my affairs and if Thou hadst not given me this woman to advise with me, I should have kept the appointed law and would not have broken Thy commands." These words added greatly to Adam's guilt in God's eyes, for he sought defense rather than mercy. But if he had spoken in this wise: "Remember now, 0 Lord, that I am formed of fragile stuff like a pot of brittle clay, and am in greater need of Thy forbearance and mercy than the merits of my case can demand, for in my weakness I have fallen into great guilt against Thee, 0 Lord, because of my transgression," - then his guilt would at once have been lessened in the sight of God, inasmuch as he would be seeking mercy but not defense. But when God heard Adam replying as if excusing himself, He said as if in wrath: "Thou shalt put no blame upon Me for creating the woman; for I gave her to thee to be a delight and a companion, not that thou shouldst commit law-breaking by her counsel. I even warned thee not to transgress and told thee what guilt threatened if thou didst break the law. Why then didst thou follow thy wife's miserable advice rather than My saving counsel, if thou didst not do it through pride and avarice, wishing to equal Me in knowledge and therefore eager to know what was not promised thee ?"
After that God spoke to Eve: "Why didst thou egg thy husband on to transgress ?" And Eve was anxious that another should bear the blame for her guilt rather than herself, for she spoke in this wise:" This crafty serpent gave me that evil advice; had he not been created or appeared before me, I should not have transgressed or egged on my husband to transgress." When God heard Eve's excuse, He spoke in His wrath: "It looks to Me as if you both wish to blame Me for your lawbreaking: Adam blamed Me for having created thee to advise with him, and now thou findest fault with Me for having created the serpent. I created the serpent as I created all the other beasts of the earth, but I did not give him to you as a counsellor; on the contrary, I made him subject to your dominion like all the other beasts of the earth. I warned you both to commit no sin and told you to look for death, if you did. Now your deed appears no better in your defense than before in the transgression; wherefore you shall suffer the death with which I threatened you. Though you may not immediately fall down dead, you shall, nevertheless, in your death suffer a long punishment for your offence, and all your offspring shall be responsible with you for this transgression. And the while that you live upon earth you shall suffer sorrowful distress instead of enjoying the blissful freedom which you knew not how to keep. And whereas thou didst transgress before Adam, I will increase thy troubles beyond what you are both to suffer: thou shait be subject to the control of thy husband and to all his commands, and shalt therefore seem of lesser importance and lower in the sight of thy sons. The children that thou shalt conceive in lustful passion thou shalt bring forth in pain and imminent peril; it shall also be thy duty to give thy children all forms of service in toil and troublesome care while bringing them up.
Then God said: "Adam has now become as wise as any one of us, knowing good and evil. Have care that he does not eat from the tree of life without permission, as he did of the apples of knowledge, lest he live eternally in his guilt." Thereupon God appointed Cherubim to guard the path leading to the tree of life with a flaming sword which constantly turned its fiery edge in every direction so that none could pass forward without permission. Then God said to Adam: "Because thou didst hearken to thy wife's evil advice rather than to my good counsel and hast eaten of the forbidden fruit, the earth, which gave thee all manner of desirable fruit in her motherly kindness, shall be cursed through thy deed. As if in sorrowful wrath, she shall refuse thee such herbs as thou mayest think suitable for food: thistles and weeds shall she give thee for herbs, unless thou till her soil with labor and drench it with thy sweat; for henceforth thou shalt gain thy food upon earth with toil." Thereafter God gave Adam and Eve coats of skin and said to them: "Since you are ashamed of your naked limbs, cover yourselves now with the garments of travail and sorrow and fare forth into the wide fields to find your food with irksome toil. And finally you shall rest in the deathlike embraces of earth and be changed again naturally into the mortal materials from which you were made in the beginning." Then said Adam: "For justice and mercy I thank Thee, 0 Lord, for I see clearly how greatly I have sinned; likewise do I own Thy grace in that I am not to suffer merciless destruction like Lucifer. Sorrowing shall I descend into the deathlike shadows of hell; yet I shall ever rejoice in the hope of returning; for in this I trust to Thee, 0 Lord, that Thou wilt show me the light of life even in the darkness of death. And I shall ever look forward to the day when he, who is now rejoicing in my misfortune as in a victory won, shall be afflicted by our returning as one who is overcome and deprived of victory." Then Eve said: "Though we now depart in sorrow, Lord, because of our great misdoing, we shall take joy in Thy merciful lenience in our distress." Then God disappeared from their sight; and they began to till the earth as God had commanded.
Now I have done as you requested, having explained briefly why the serpent
sought speech with the woman and what caused him to egg the woman on to
violate the law. Still, I have taken up only what is most easily grasped
in this speech; for the task of glossing our discourse after deep meditation
I prefer to leave to others. But let us continue straight ahead in the
discussion as we have begun, since we do not have time to do both.
Son. I now see clearly why you regard the answers to my last questions as glosses and interpretations of the speeches which you gave earlier rather than a continuation of our original plan; and I fear that, if I should ask you to enlarge further upon this subject, you will consider my questions unwise. But having been granted freedom to ask about whatever I have the curiosity to know, I shall venture another question: and I shall continue to look for good answers as before, even though my questions be childish. Now you have brought out that, when the serpent spoke to the woman as he did, it was the spirit speaking with the serpent's tongue. You have likewise shown me why the woman was led into sin; that Lucifer was inspired by malicious envy to hinder man from coming into the dominion from which he himself had been expelled. And in your discussion of the judgments of God you had something to say both about Lucifer and about Adam, which I am not sure has often been heard before. Now if I should on occasion recall these remarks and repeat them as I have heard you state them, it may be that some one hearing me will say that he has never heard this account before; and therefore I want to ask you to tell me what facts I could state in my reply, so that I shall not seem to withdraw my statements on account of ignorance but rather find such means to support them, that all will think them true rather than false.
Father. The glosses to a speech are like the boughs and branches of a tree. First the roots send up a stem which again branches out into many limbs and boughs. And whatever limb you take, if you examine it with proper care, you will find it joined to the stem which originally sprang up from the roots; and all the boughs and branches draw nourishment from the roots from which the stem grows. But if you hew off a limb and cast it far away from the tree, and one should find it who knows not where it grew, it will look to him like every other branch which he finds on his way, seeing that he does not know where it has grown. But if he carries it back to the stem from which it was cut and fits it there, the branch itself will testify as to what roots it sprang from. It is the same with the interpretation of a sermon; if a man knows how to present a speech properly, he will also know how to interpret it correctly. But as I hear that some things have been introduced into this discussion which have not often been heard, I will now do the questioning for a while, since I have answered more than I have asked. And first I wish to ask whether this speech included anything that you already knew.
Son. There were a few things but not many. I have heard it quoted from Lucifer's words that he intended to set his throne as high as that of God; but the answer that God gave to this I had never heard interpreted before, but now you have explained it.
Father. Let me ask again: who do you suppose it was that, standing by, heard Lucifer's boastful and treacherous words and quoted them afterwards ?
Son. I have never heard his name spoken and I am not sure that they were told by any one who heard them at the beginning.
Father. But this you shall know of a surety, that if Lucifer's words have been quoted by one who heard them in the beginning, he surely must have heard those replies of God also, which I have just given; and he could have reported both speeches, had he wished, since he heard either both or neither. But if he reported Lucifer's treacherous boasting as he divined it, he surely could have thought out God's truthful statement of his vengeance in the same way; for either both or neither would be true. For at the very moment when Lucifer transgressed, whether in thought or in words, God had already purposed all the vengeance that was to befall him from the first hour to the last. So great and all-sufficient are God's thoughts and wisdom, that the vision of the divine foresight sees in the twinkling of an eye all the events that shall come to pass from the first hour to the very last. But He withholds in divine patience all the things that He intends shall come to pass, until suitable times appear; and He will let everything happen as He has purposed it heretofore. Now if God should have endowed any one with such great insight and wisdom that he could know all the thoughts of God and should report them as if God had disclosed them in word or speech, he would by no means be telling falsehoods; for all that God has purposed has been told him in his thoughts, whether his lips have spoken about them or not. The apostle Paul tells us that God has given men his Holy Spirit with a definite office and activity: some receive a spirit of prophecy, some a spirit of knowledge and wisdom, some a spirit of eloquence, some a spirit of understanding, and some a spirit of skill; some have these gifts in large measure, others in less; some enjoy one of these gifts, others two, still others three, while some have all, each one as God wills to endow him.
But those who, like King David, have received both the spirit of understanding
and of eloquence, have ventured to compose speeches and write books in
order that the speeches shall not perish. In some places David has told
of God's purposes, in other places of His deeds, and in still other places
he has reported His words; and those who in times past have written glosses
to the psalms which David composed have had more to say about what was
in David's mind than about the words that he wrote. For to every word they
have added long comments of what David had in thought when he spoke this
word; and in these comments they point out the meaning which he had in
his thoughts at every word that he wrote in the Psalter. In like manner
they have proceeded, who have interpreted the words of the Evangelists,
and they have brought out much that the Evangelists have left unsaid. Thus
they have shown that their comments are on the words of thought which the
lips had left unspoken. And if one has received the God-given spirit of
a perfect understanding, he has a gift of such a nature that, when he hears
a few spoken words, he perceives many words of thought. But David did not
himself gloss the Psalter for the reason that he wished to leave to others
the task of expressing all those thoughts which came up in his mind, while
he continued writing the Psalms as originally planned. Thus all do who
have a speech on the tongue which ought to be interpreted: they proceed
with the discourse as planned and begun, and leave to others the task of
expressing in words what is in their thoughts. Still, you should know that
no one has glossed the sayings of David who sat by him, while he was composing
the Psalter, and asked what was in his mind at the time. And from this
you will perceive that it is the grace of the spirit of insight which guides
such men to examine the foundations of the sermons that they hear. Next
they investigate how widely the roots ramify which lie beneath the speech;
they consider carefully how many limbs grow out of it; and finally they
make a count of the branches that sprout from each limb. They also note
precisely what bough they take for themselves, that they may be able to
trace it correctly back to the roots from which it originally grew. Now
if you understand this thoroughly and if you investigate with care and
precision everything that you hear told, you will not fall into error,
no matter whether the comments that you hear be right or wrong, if God
has given you the spirit that leads to a right understanding. For every
man who is gifted with proper insight and gets into the right path at the
beginning will be able to find the highways of reason and to determine
what expressions are suitable and will best fit the circumstances. Now
gather from these things whatever you can that may give insight; but it
does not seem necessary to discuss them further.
Father. The following instances occurred long after the fall
but had a similar outcome. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, suffered a merciless
doom by the judgment of Truth and Justice. Dathan and Abiram were justly
doomed and destroyed. When Joshua led the people of Israel into the land
that God had promised them God ordered him to punish the people who dwelt
in the city called Jericho with such severity that whatever was living
should perish. Long after that, when King Saul led an invasion into Amalek,
God commanded him to slay everything that was living; but Saul incurred
the anger of God because he did not carry out what was commanded. The case
of Judas, one of the apostles of God, is among the examples that belong
to a much later date: for Truth and Justice condemned him without mercy
for dastardly treachery toward his Lord. There are many similar cases,
though we have given these only; and, inasmuch as our speech would get
too long, we cannot include in a single discourse all the examples that
we know resemble these. But when God decreed all these punishments which
we have now recounted, the sisters were all on the judgment seat with Him,
Truth and Justice, Mercy and Peace, and they all agreed with Him and kissed
and embraced each other.
Father. There are so many cases of either class, that we cannot
include all the verdicts in one discussion; still, we can point out a few
of them, in order that both your questions may be answered. The following
are events which occurred long ago, when Aaron and Ur, the bishops,
committed a great sin against God in that they gave His people two calves
made of molten gold, through which the entire nation was led astray from
the faith; for the people called these calves the gods of Israel and brought
sacrifices to them as to God. But when Moses came down to the people (he
had been up on the mountain where he had spoken to God Himself), the bishops
ran to meet him, deeply repenting their sins; and, falling at Moses' feet,
they begged him to intercede for them with God, lest He be angered with
them according to their deserts. But when God saw how deeply the bishops
repented, He heard Moses' prayer, and the bishops retained the dignities
which they had before, and they did penance for their sin. The instance
that I have now related is one of those in which the greater share in the
decision was assigned to Peace and Mercy, though Truth and Justice also
consented to the doom; for the bishops would have suffered death for this
offence, if Mercy had not been more lenient with them than they deserved.
The following event is like this but happened much later: King David fell
into this great sin, that he committed adultery with Uriah's wife and afterwards
brought about the death of Uriah himself. After Uriah's death David took
his wife and had her for his own, and surely he deserved death for these
sins. But he repented his misdeeds so deeply before God and begged forgiveness
so humbly for the sins confessed, that God heard his prayer and did not
take away his kingship, but even confirmed him in it, though he had committed
these crimes. The following events occurred much later at the time when
our Lord Jesus Christ was on earth among men. The bishops of the Jews and
all their other learned men became very hostile toward him and were constantly
striving to find something for which they might reproach him. So they took
a woman who had openly committed adultery and was worthy of death according
to the law of Moses; this woman they brought before Jesus and told him
of her crimes. They also said that the law condemned her to die and asked
what sentence he would pass in this case. Jesus replied that he who had
never committed a sin should cast the first stone upon her. Then they turned
away quickly, not daring to question him further, for they all knew themselves
to have sinned. But Jesus said to the woman: Woman, since none of those
who accused thee has passed judgment in thy case, neither will I condemn
thee to die; go in peace, but henceforth beware of sin." There is another
instance which is like those that I related earlier, and which happened
in the night when Jesus was seized. His apostle Peter had boastfully protested
that he would never forsake him, though all others should leave him, and
that he would suffer death with Jesus before he would desert him like a
coward. But in the same night when Jesus was seized, Peter denied three
times that he had been with him, and the third time he confirmed the statement
with an oath that he had not been Jesus' man. Then he went away out of
the hall where Jesus was held and immediately began to repent his sin and
all his words and wept bitterly. Nevertheless, after Jesus had risen, Peter's
sins were forgiven, and he retained all the honors that had been promised
him before. There is still another event which came to pass a few days
later when our Lord was crucified. Two thieves were crucified with him,
one on either side; both had been guilty of the same crimes, murder and
robbery. But while they hung on the cross, one of them took thought to
repent and implored mercy of Jesus, though he, too, like the thieves, hung
on a cross. His sins were pardoned and he was given sure promise of paradise
on that very day; but his companion was condemned according to his deeds.
Son. If earthly kings and other chiefs, who are appointed to act as judges, are to adapt their decisions to the examples that you have now given, they must find it very important to learn precisely what each suit is based upon; for in many of these instances, it looks as if the cases were somewhat alike in appearance. Still, all the decisions in the earlier examples led to severe punishments, while in the later ones they all led to mercy and forgiveness. Therefore I now wish to ask you why Pharaoh, Dathan, and Abiram, the people who dwelt in Jericho, and those of Amalek, who were punished by King Saul, were all destroyed without mercy.
Father. These things were all done at the command of Justice
and Truth, though Peace and Mercy consented. For Moses daily performed
many miracles before King Pharaoh and commanded him to release God's people;
and he might have released them, had he wished, without suffering any injury
thereby. He made constant promises that it should be done, but he never
kept either word or promise. Now it was right that he should perish in
his stubborn wickedness and evil-doing, since he would accept neither mercy
nor pardon, though he had the opportunity. Dathan and Abiram, when Moses
told them that they had done evil, became angry and refused to repent;
and they perished without mercy because they sought no mercy. Those who
dwelt in Jericho and Amalek had heard for many days that they had done
evil both to God's people and against His will but they offered no atonement;
on the contrary, they proposed to take up arms in their defense, wherefore
they were overcome by a merciless revenge. But those whom I pointed out
to you in the later accounts, Aaron, Ur, David, and the others who were
mentioned in those examples, did not conceal their wickedness, but confessed
their misdeeds as they were; hoping for pardon, they begged mercy and clemency,
and offered to atone, as He should determine, Who, they knew, had the decision
in His power. And they promised that nevermore would they fall into such
guilt, if they might become fully reconciled.
Son. I now wish to ask you why such a great distinction was made in the cases of Peter and Judas, though their offenses appear similar. Judas returned the money that he had received and repented his evil deed; he confessed that he had sold his innocent Lord, and threw away the silver, saying that he would not keep what had come to him so wrongfully. Now he was destroyed, though he repented; while Peter was forgiven at once, because he repented.
Father. Judas fell in the beginning into sin through avarice and love of wealth and took a bribe to betray his Lord. His repentance was such that he could not hope for pardon, and he asked for no mercy but punished himself with a sudden death. But Peter wept bitterly in his repentance, and, hoping for mercy, implored forgiveness. Furthermore, Judas had the greater guilt, for he sold his Lord; and though he repented, he craved no pardon; and he did not abide the judgment of God, but condemned himself forthwith. But Peter denied his Lord through sudden fear and repented immediately in great sorrow; he submitted to the judgment of God and abided it, and did not condemn himself as Judas did. There was a similar outcome in the case of the crucified thieves. Though both acknowledged the sins that they had committed, one prayed for mercy and pardon, while the other asked no mercy but spoke in contempt and derision rather than in prayer or serious thought. Therefore these whom we have now named were saved through the merciful judgments of Mercy and Peace, though Truth and Justice agreed to the verdicts.
Son. I am beginning to see these things more clearly now and to understand why it is that the larger share in a verdict is sometimes assigned to Justice and Truth and at other times to Peace and Mercy. And now I want to ask you to discuss those cases which you mentioned earlier in which God modified the sentence agreed upon, and to state the causes that led to this.
Father. To this class belong certain events which occurred a long time ago in the days when Moses was upon the mountain called Sinai. In those days the great mass of the people sinned grievously and even fell into whoredom, cohabiting with women of the heathen race. But so strictly had God forbidden this, that everyone who fell into that sin was held worthy of death. Then God said to Moses: "Now shalt thou cease speaking with Me that My wrath may have time to wax hot against this people which I gave into thy charge. For they have fallen into such grievous sins against My commandments that I intend to consume them all in My fierce wrath; and I will give thee another people, far better and stronger and more numerous than this one." At this point it would almost seem as if a definite sentence had been passed in the case of this nation. Moses, however, asked permission to intercede briefly in behalf of the people of Israel and, this being granted, he spoke these words. "I pray Thee, 0 Lord, to turn from Thy wrath and do not destroy Thy people, though they have done ill. Let not the Egyptians have this to say, that Thou didst lead Thy people out of Egypt and out of their dominion to consume them in the mountains and the desert; or that Thou wert unable to lead Thy people into the land which Thou hadst promised them from the beginning. Remember, 0 Lord, Thy servants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and do not destroy the generations that have sprung from Israel's kin which Thou hast Thyself promised to multiply upon earth and to lead securely into the land that is now controlled by Thine enemies." God heard the prayer of Moses; His wrath was appeased, and He did not slay the people as He had threatened; but He gave their punishment into the hands of Moses, instructing him that they must not wholly escape chastisement, though it should not be so severe as God had threatened earlier. Moses returned hastily to the camp and coming upon the people in a tempestuous spirit and in fierce wrath, he slew many thousand men in that day, and in this way pacified the wrath of God. Now this example shows how God lessened a penalty imposed, in that He appeased His wrath before Moses' prayer. And it shows that neither of the sisters, Truth or Justice, suffered in her rights by this judgment, inasmuch as Moses slew a great host to pacify the wrath of God. But Peace and Mercy also had their rights, seeing that less was done than had been decreed at first. This is another instance that shows how God has modified a judgment already passed. He sent Jonah the prophet to Niniveh with orders to tell the king and all the people of the city that within thirty days Niniveh should be destroyed with all that was therein. Jonah did as God commanded and told these things as true tidings. But when the king understood that the people were of a truth in danger of divine wrath (for the nation was full of whoredoms and wickedness of every form) he descended from his throne, laid aside his royal robes, and did penance and fasted; and he bade all men in the city do likewise, both young and old. And when God saw that they repented of their wickedness with sorrow and penance in many forms, He extended mercy and destroyed neither the city nor the people within it.
Here is still another instance that points to the same result. Hezekiah was the name of a good king in the land of Israel; he fell ill and meditated deeply about his case, whether God intended to bring him through this illness or to let him die. Then God sent Isaiah His prophet to him; and God said to the prophet that Hezekiah should die of this malady. Isaiah went to the king and said to him: "Take good heed and set your house in order and all your affairs, for God has said that you shall die of this illness and not live." As soon as Isaiah had spoken these words to the king, he departed; but the king turned his face to the wall and prayed for deliverance in these words: "Remember, 0 Lord, how steadfast I have been in Thy service, for I have always opposed Thine enemies, and this people that Thou hast given into my keeping have I turned from much wickedness which many of them practiced before I came to the kingship. And there are three reasons why I am loath to die so suddenly now of this illness. The first, which I fear the, most, is that I may not have kept Thy commandments fully, and if I die in a state of sin I may look for Thy vengeance in my death. The second is that I have not yet turned all Thy people wholly away from their evil ways; and I fear, if I die suddenly now, that they will soon return to their old abominations. The third, which I fear much, is the victory of Thine enemies over Thy people, seeing that my son is a child; and his power to defend the people against Thine enemies may prove less than is required. But if Thou wilt hear my prayer, 0 Lord, and add a few days to my life, all these things may be brought into a better state than they are at present." God heard Hezekiah's prayer and said to Isaiah the prophet: "Return quickly to King Hezekiah and tell him different tidings now from what thou toldest before; for I have heard his prayer, and I will add unto the days of his life fifteen years beyond what I had intended for him, and I will deliver all his realm from the attack of his adversaries."
Here is another instance which belongs to a much later time. In the
days when Jesus Christ was here upon earth among men, one of his friends,
Lazarus by name, fell ill and died of the illness. Bethany was the name
of the town where Lazarus was buried. But when he had lain four days in
the grave, Jesus came to Bethany. Now it would seem in Lazarus' case, as
in that of all others who have departed from this world, that an irrevocable
sentence had been passed, seeing that he had lain four days a dead man
in the. earth, death having even appointed him a place in his kingdom.
Jesus ordered Lazarus' grave to be opened, and calling him he commanded
him to tear himself away from the hands of his dead companions. Thereupon
Lazarus rose from the dead, and he lived many days after that. There are
many other examples of this kind, but these are the ones which we have
preferred to bring to light; and since our talk has been quite long, it
seems unnecessary to recount others, though they are plentiful.
Son. The more examples I hear, the more evident is the truth of what you stated earlier in your remarks, namely that it is very necessary for kings and other rulers who are in charge of justice to be widely informed, if they are to adapt their verdicts to the examples that we have now heard.
Father. You should understand this clearly that, since the king holds his title from God, it is surely his duty to suit his decisions to divine examples; and the same is true of all who are appointed to pass judgment, both clerks and laymen. For we no longer have opportunity to ask counsel on any point from God's own lips, as Moses could; wherefore men should live according to the examples that were set in those days when it was possible to inquire of God Himself what His will was on any matter. Therefore, a king ought to keep these examples frequently upon his lips and before his eyes, and such other examples, too, as may give insight for his own decisions. The most favorable time for such meditation is at night or in the early morning when he is sated with sleep. But when the hour to rise comes and it is time for the king to hear the hours, it is his duty to go to church and listen attentively to the mass and to join in the prayers and in chanting the psalms if he knows them. Like every other Christian man who is at prayers, the king ought to attend with as much devotion as if he stood in the presence of God and spoke to God Himself. He should call to mind the words that David uttered when he spoke in this wise: "I shall ever see the Lord before my face, for He is always at my right hand."
A king should begin his prayer by showing God that he holds the true faith. Next he should make clear that he gives thought to his earthly dominion and the divine power of God. Thereupon he must confess his sins and misdeeds to God, making clear to Him that he does not consider himself as having come without guilt or as if defending his cause. Next he must beg mercy and forgiveness for the transgressions that he has confessed. He must also show God humbly that he regards himself as coming before His knees as a thrall or a servant, though God has exalted him to power among men. He must not fail to remember others besides himself in prayer: his queen, if he has one, who is appointed to rule and defend the land with him; his bishops and all other learned men who are to aid him in maintaining Christianity, and, therefore, owe the duty to offer prayers for him and for all the other people of the kingdom. He ought also to remember all his other lords and knights in his prayer and all the warriors who assist him in the government. Likewise he must remember the husbandmen, the householders, and all his other subjects who maintain his kingdom by labor or other gainful effort. He should, therefore, remember all, men and women, for it is their duty to offer up holy prayers for him every day. And, if he likes, he may use daily the following prayer, which is in the form that I have given, but he must pray as devoutly as if he were speaking to God Himself; and these are the words of the prayer.
"0 Thou most merciful God, eternal Father! 0 Thou most honored Conqueror, Jesus Christ, the oily begotten Son of God! 0 Thou most gentle Comforter, Holy Spirit! 0 Thou perpetual fount of wisdom and complete and unshaken faith, Holy Trinity! 0 Thou indivisible Unity, one omnipotent, unchangeable God: Thou Who sittest above the highest summits of heaven and lookest into the hidden depths below! For no creature can escape Thy dominion, though it should wish to flee from Thy wrath. Even though I should mount to heaven, Thou art there before me; and though I crawl down into the lowest hiding places of hell, Thy spiritual dominion is there; and though I were to fly upon the wings of the winds and hide beyond the uttermost boundaries of the ocean solitudes, even there Thy right hand would seize me and lead me back into Thy control. For Thy mind has numbered the sands driven by the winds and by the power of the ocean about all the earth, and Thine eye knows all the drops of the dewy rain. Therefore, I implore Thee, 0 my Lord, do not enter into the seat of judgment with me, Thy servant, to search out my righteousness; and do not number the multitude of my sins, but turn Thy face away from mine iniquities and cleanse me from my secret faults and wash away all my guilt. For my sins are great and lie heavy upon my head; they are so many that they seem numberless to me in their multitude, - sins that I have committed in vain thinking, in foolish words, in neglecting Thy commandments and forgetting Thy holy law in every way, in indiscreet testimony and thoughtless oaths, in judging unjustly between men, in excessive avarice, and in all manner of useless and evil works. I acknowledge and confess to Thee, 0 Lord, calling all Thy saints to witness, that I am so guilty of misdeeds and evil works, that I am already condemned by the multitude of my transgressions, unless I may share in the benefits of the exceeding abundance of Thy mercy and of the good and meritorious intercessions of my Lady, the holy Virgin Mary, and of all the saints in whom Thou hast been well pleased since the world began. For the misdeeds and all the iniquity that I have committed from my childhood to this day are uncovered and revealed unto Thee, even though I might wish to conceal and not confess them; for short-sighted frailty was not ashamed to pursue its evil desires before Thy face. But, 0 Lord, inasmuch as Thou dost not delight in them who are destroyed in sin, but wouldst rather that they should live and be led aright, and because Thou knowest that man is frail and without strength like the dust of the earth or the crumbling leaf, unless Thou strengthen him with the power of Thy mercy, therefore, I implore Thee, do not punish me with the swift judgment of Thy wrath; but let Thy divine patience give me time and will to repent and ability to do penance. Take away from me, 0 Lord, envy and pride, despair and stubbornness, injustice and violence, and detestable gluttony; cleanse me from the seven cardinal sins and the cursed vices which spring from them. Give me, 0 Lord, love and constant hope, true faith and humility, wisdom and justice, and ample strength to do Thy will at all times. Give me the seven cardinal gifts of the Holy Spirit with all the blessed fruitage that grows out of these; for I am Thy handiwork, created in Thine image, Thy thrall begotten in sin by Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaiden. But Thy mercy has appointed me to Thine office and has exalted me, though unworthy, to the royal dignity and the sacred chieftainship; and Thou hast appointed me to judge and to govern Thy holy people. Therefore, I pray Thee, give more heed to the needs of Thy holy people, which Thou hast appointed me to rule over, than to my merits; but give me the right understanding, self-control and sense of justice, eloquence, purpose, and good intentions, so that I may be able to judge and determine the causes of rich and poor in such a way that Thou wilt be pleased, while they rejoice that justice is done among them. And I pray Thee, 0 Lord! to pour out Thy spirit of upright understanding upon all my councillors and helpers who assist me in maintaining the government. To my queen, whom Thou hast joined to me with the bonds of marriage, and above all to the hallowed stewards and servants of holy church, the most eminent priest, the bishop of Rome, and all our bishops, abbots, and rulers, to our priests and to all the learned men who are in their charge, to all these, 0 Lord, give a chaste and upright spirit, so that they may show their good works and set Thy people good examples and give them right instruction. To the governors and to all those who assist me in guiding and defending the realm, give rightmindedness, abhorrence of evil ways, and the appreciation and love of good morals. Make mine enemies truly repentant of their evil and wickedness, cause them to desist from their ferocity, and turn them to a true friendship. To Thy people and all the commonalty give knowledge and a will to love Thee, the true God, a right obedience to their superiors, good peace and rich harvests, and security from enemies. Remember, 0 Lord, in Thy holy mercy, all the races of mankind for whom our Lord Jesus Christ, Thine only begotten son, shed his blood in redemption, whether they be still living in this world or called home in holy patience by Thy commands. To those, 0 Lord, who are blinded by error and ignorance and therefore cannot discern Thy Holy Trinity, send Thy spirit of insight, that they may know and understand that Thou art the true God and none other; for no one may approach Thee except Thy holy compassion draws him to Thy love. And be not wroth with me, Thy servant, 0 Lord, because I have dared to speak with Thee at this time, even though I continue in prayer, but incline Thy compassionate ear and hear and grant what I pray for in Thine abundant kindness. I pray Thee, 0 Lord, never to give me into the hands of mine enemies because of my misdeeds, or to let me become their victim or captive, and never to let mine enemies rejoice in my misfortunes, whether in body or in spirit, visible or invisible; but if I do aught against Thy holy will and commandments, take me in Thy right hand and chastise me, though not according to my deserts but according to the lenient judgment of Thy mercy; and give me abundant power and resolute strength to oppose all antagonism and all deception. Let me suffer no greater temptations than my weakness can resist; let me not end my days in a sudden death; and do not call me out of this world before I shall have repented and rightly atoned for all my sins; and when the strivings of this world have ceased, let me rest eternally with Thee and Thy saints. And from my heart I pray Thee, 0 Lord, to give me a lawful heir begotten of my loins, whom it may please Thee in Thy mercy to set after my time in the seat of honor where Thou hast placed me; and let my high-seat never pass into the power of other dynasties, but only to such as shall spring from me, the son inheriting from the father in every case. And grant, 0 Lord, I pray Thee, that no branches that have sprung from me shall wither or decay; and let them not follow after foolish men into error and neglect, but give them insight and wisdom to understand and to know Thy sacred law, and power and a good purpose to love Thee and Thy commands. For Thou only art the true God, Who liveth and reigneth forever, world without end. Amen."
Now this prayer that you have just heard is one which the king may offer
up, if he wishes, with such other psalms and prayers as he knows. And though
he may not always repeat this prayer, he should, nevertheless, pray according
to the plan that is outlined in this prayer. And this I verily believe
to be his duty every day, until he has heard the hours and the mass, if
he means to observe what belongs to his dignity and to his official duties.
Son. I believe you have now cleared up for me what you think ought to be a king's business, at night after the season for sleep is past while he is meditating upon the needs of his realm and subjects, and in the morning when he goes to church or to devotional services; and it seems to me that these occupations are both useful and important, so much so that they are indispensable. Now that you have shown me what he should be employed with in the night and early in the morning, I wish to ask you to continue and to point out what he should be occupied with during the day: whether it is your opinion that he should ponder the needs of his kingdom while awake at night in order that he may be able to spend the day with greater freedom, after the custom which I hear that kings now follow in most places, either in riding out with hawks or in joining the chase with dogs, or in some other form of diversion, as I hear that kings are in the habit of doing in most countries; or whether you think that he should be otherwise employed, if he does as he ought to do, and that kings seek these diversions more for the sake of recreation than because their rank demand it.
Father. I surely do believe, with respect to what you have just asked about, that kingship was established and appointed to look after the needs of the whole realm and people rather than for sport and vain amusements. Nevertheless, a king must be allowed to seek diversion now and then, either with hawks, hounds, horses, or weapons, so that his health and agility at arms or in any form of warfare may be preserved. His chief business, however, is to maintain an intelligent government and to seek good solutions for all the difficult problems and demands which come before him. And you shall know of a truth that it is just as much the king's duty to observe daily the rules of the sacred law and to preserve justice in holy judgments as it is the bishop's duty to preserve the order of the sacred mass and all the canonical hours.
Son. I am inquiring so closely into these things for the reason that many believe the royal dignity to have been founded for such pleasure-giving splendor and unrestrained amusement as kings may desire. But now I see clearly from your remarks that a king ought constantly to labor in the yoke of God; wherefore it seems to me that he must have a great burden to support every day in the serious interest that he must show when the needs of his subjects are presented to him. Therefore I wish to ask you once more to show me clearly what should be a king's duty after the hours have been observed.
Father. It was the custom of old at the time when the royal office
was established and enjoyed its greatest splendor, that, when a king no
longer stood in fear of his enemies but sat in complete security among
his henchmen, he selected a splendid house where he could set up his high-seat,
which was also to serve as his judgment seat; and this throne he adorned
with every form of royal decoration. Then the king sat down upon it and
observed in what glory and splendor he sat. Next he began to ponder in
what way he must occupy this glorious high-seat, so as not to be driven
from it with dishonor in spite of his exalted position either because of
injustice or malice, indiscretion or folly, inordinate ambition, arrogance,
or excessive timidity. Now it looks most reasonable to me that, whereas
kingship was originally established in this way as we have just pointed
out, a king should continue to maintain the arrangement which was made
in the beginning. And as soon as the king comes into this seat which we
have just mentioned and has reflected upon all those things which we have
just told about, it becomes his duty to pass judgment in the suits and
on the needs of his people, if they are presented to him. But when there
is no official business brought before him, he should meditate on the source
of holy wisdom and study with attentive care all its ways and paths.
Son. I beg you, sire, not to be displeased with me, though I ask thoughtless and stupid questions; but it looks to me like a difficult task to search out the very sources of wisdom and learn its ways and paths. And therefore I wish to ask you to tell me something about this form of study, so that I may, if possible, derive some insight from it.
Father. It ought not to cause displeasure to have one inquire closely into subjects which one is not likely to understand without some direction. But God's mercy reveals and makes known many things to mankind which would be largely hidden from them, if He were unwilling to have them revealed. And many things which were formerly concealed in His own knowledge He has made known to us, because He wishes man to take a profitable interest in the wealth of knowledge which he draws from the divine treasures. But as a guide toward this interest which we have just mentioned one should take special note of the words that Wisdom used concerning herself when she spoke in these terms:
"I am begotten of God's own heart; I have proceeded from the mouth of the Highest; and I have ordered all things. The spirit of God moved over empty space, and we separated light from darkness; we appointed hours and times, days and nights, years and winters and everlasting summer. We built a star-lit throne for the King of heaven; yea, God did nothing except in my far-seeing presence. Together we weighed the lightness of the air and the gravity of the earth; we hung the ponderous sphere of earth in the thin air and strengthened the firmament of heaven with mighty forces. We commanded the blazing sun to adorn the brow of day with shining beams; but the inconstant moon we bade illumine the darkness of night with its pale sheen. We created a comely man in our image. God also beautified the face of the earth with trees and herbs yielding manifold fruits; He called forth the beauties of the sky in the form of birds of many kinds; and he concealed multitudes of fishes of many sorts in the depths of the waters. He also commanded the four-footed beasts to multiply upon earth into many and divers species. He girded the entire circle of the earth with a roaring ocean and briny streams. He commanded fresh waters to flow forth in steep cascades over the face of the land, and built the foundations of the earth with numerous passages, that the flowing waters might always be able to fulfil the duties assigned them; and He commanded the light vapors to carry heavy waters through the heights of the air by means of enticing warmth. Further He bade the wind-swollen clouds pour forth cool showers over the face of the earth. And the Maker of all things bade me oversee the whole artifice of the divine handiwork. Then I moved briskly with treading foot over the mountain top; I fared lightly over smooth vales and level fields; I strode with toilsome and heavy step over the rough billows; and I measured the width of the level ocean with gentle tread. Pressing forward with stiffened knee, I walked upon the wings of the stormy winds. With gentle speech I taught the silent calm its pleasing manner. I traced my path through the heights of heaven and the expanse of the air; I scanned the curved circle of the restless ocean; and I paced and measured the entire globe of the sphere-shaped earth. I traveled over hills and mountains; I ran over fields and meadows and level valleys; and I gave honey-like dew to all the blossoming herbs. I passed among thorns and bushes and through forests of every kind and gave sweet blossoms to the fruit-bearing trees. I pitched my tent in a shadowless beam of light and went forth from this fair shelter arrayed like a bridegroom and glad like a mighty giant rejoicing in the race. But mortal idols envied me, found me guilty, and condemned me to die. In wrath I descended to the lowest valleys and overturned the strongholds of the mighty ones in mine anger. With violence I shattered the metal gates of the strong castles and broke the firm iron pillars and the thick bars of iron. I took gold and gems and jewels, the plunder of warfare, and then journeyed gladly to the higher abodes with priceless booty. I traveled through farms and villages and parishes offering the poor a share in my wealth. I offered the husbandman fruitful corn and partnership with me. I comfort the sorrowing; I give rest to the weary, drink to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. Happy is he who drinks from my cup, for my beverage has an unfailing sweetness. I journey through castles and cities and marts; I run over houses, markets, and streets; I call with a clear and friendly voice, offering food, entertainment, and harmless amusement. Happy is he who goes to my table, for my meat has a more pleasing savour than the sweetest perfume; my drink is sweeter than honey and clearer than any wine; tuneful music is heard at my table in sweet and beautiful melody; there are songs and poems such as rarely are heard, merriment and gladness, and pure joy unmixed with grief. Happy is he who shall live in my house, for in my house are seven great pillars which join together the entire vault under a good roof; they stand upon a floor placed on immovable foundations and they fortify all the walls with great strength. In each of these pillars may be found the seven liberal arts of study. Furthermore, my house is strewn with fragrant grasses and lovely herbs; it is hung with beauty and elegance, and splendor in every form. Among the humble I am a pleasant companion, but toward the proud I am stern and haughty. In every school I am the principal teacher and I am the highest form of eloquence in every law court. I am the wisest among lawyers and the chief justice on every bench. Happy is he who is found to be a sincere companion of mine; for I am constantly with my companions guarding them from all perils. Happy is he who suffers no disgrace from me, for my wrath kindles a fire in its passion which burns even to the lowest depths; some day it will consume the foundations of the hills and swallow up the earth with its teeming life. Where can he hide who seeks to escape from me ? The spirit of God fills the entire home-circle and searches out the meaning and the interpretation of all knowledge."
The speech that you have now heard is one which Wisdom has spoken about
herself; there are others like it, but loftier, which are not repeated
here. For King Solomon and Jesus the son of Sirach have written with much
skill a great many sermons of the kind that Wisdom has spoken about herself
in divers ways. But if we were to mention all the speeches that can be
found in their writings, our conversation would suffer a great delay; and
it seems unnecessary at this time to bring into our talk any lengthy discussion
of those things that Wisdom has said about herself. However, it is the
duty of every king to know thoroughly all the accounts that Wisdom has
given of herself or wise men like those just mentioned have written, and
each day to ponder some part of those speeches, if the duties of his office
leave him any time for that.
Son. Since it clearly is the official duty of a king to be well informed in all science, it is quite evident that to acquire the knowledge which you have just now discussed must be of the highest importance; for it seems likely that he will be able to gather much insight from it, whether he wishes to meditate on the greatness of divine power or on the needs of men. Now since you do not care to discuss these matters further, I will ask you to continue your remarks with a few words about what a king ought to consider before passing judgments, when he comes into the judgment seat to determine the causes of men.
Father. It is indeed his duty, as you have remarked, to look carefully into all those speeches that we have now spoken and to study them thoroughly, for this reason, that if he unravels them with care in his thoughts, he will surely find in them, if he has understanding, nearly all those things which pertain to divine power and which show how God has distributed his gifts among men and other created beings. For every king and every other discreet man can learn in this way what he actually is, and what he ought to be, if he wishes to achieve what God has intended for him. You also ask how a king should weigh the judgments that he renders in the disputes of men; but I have given a brief reply to that question in an earlier talk, when I told how God passed judgment after His covenant with Adam was broken, and what judges He brought with Him to the judgment seat. I also gave many examples to show how God ordered His verdicts in certain cases of a later time, those of King Pharaoh and all the others who were named later in that conversation; and every king ought surely to weigh what is found in those examples. He must also consider with care whether a case calls for severity and punishment or whether the doom should be tempered; for the judgments ought not to be equally severe in all cases. And every sentence should be kept within the bounds of justice and fairness; and here I may cite another example, if you like.
There is something told of a certain king, which I find most fitting to illustrate this point. This king was a man of fame and power, thoroughly learned in all knowledge and just in all his decisions. Every day there came before him a large number of men whose difficulties he had to settle; and every day he sat a long time on the judgment seat to determine the suits of his people, and with him sat the wise men, whom he had found to be the most discreet and best prepared for such duties. But whenever the king sat in this assembly with the wise men whom he had summoned to serve with him, armed knights stood about the house to make sure that he could sit in perfect security. The king had many sons, one of whom, however, was the dearest of all; for this son loved especially to be near his father whenever possible, and he frequently sat on the judgment seat with him. It was in the king's nature to be slow in reaching decisions; and it was said among men of quick minds that he would surely be able to settle the law suits and speak his verdicts more promptly, if he were truly wise. This remark was approved by the king's son and by many others among the wise men; and so often was the saying repeated that the king himself got news of it. Now it happened at one time that the king was indisposed after a bleeding; and just then a number of men came to bring their disputes before the king. He then sent for his son, the one who was in the habit of sitting in judgment with him, and said to him: "Summon the wise men who are accustomed to sit in judgment with me and go into my judgment hall and take my seat for to-day, and determine as many of the law suits as you possibly can get over." It was done as the king commanded. And when the cases were presented to those men, it looked to them as if they could decide the suits in a hurry. But when the king's son was ready to determine the disputes which had been brought before him, he thought he saw three young men coming forward, handsome yet terrible in appearance. Two of them sat down at his feet, one on either side. One was occupied with a set of writings in which were written out all the cases that were to be settled that day, one case in each document. The other was busy with balances; and these appeared so delicate that, if a little hair was laid upon them, they would be disturbed. The one who had the balances held them up, while the other, who had the documents, laid the writings which favored him who had brought the suit into one scale and the writing in his behalf who was to reply in the other; but it looked as if the scales would never balance. Then the king's son thought he saw that certain documents were brought out in which the decisions and formal verdicts were drawn up, just as he had intended to render judgment and all the wise men had advised. But even after these writings had been laid in the scales, they were as far from balancing as before. When the king's son saw these things, he looked to see what the third young man was doing, and saw that he stood near with a drawn sword as if ready to strike. The sword was keen-edged and terrible, and the edges looked to him as if they were both on fire. Then he saw clearly that, if he passed judgment before the scales balanced, the sword of the young man would immediately smite his neck. Just then he glanced down before his feet, and there he saw the earth open downwards; underneath he saw the gaping jaws of hell, as if waiting for him to come there. But when he saw these things, he ceased speaking and rendering judgments. When the wise men reminded him that there were suits to be settled, he called them to him, and everyone who came saw all these things that we have now described. After that none dared to pronounce judgment, for the scales of the young man never balanced, and no suit was settled on that day. But thereafter no man thought it strange if the king was slow in pronouncing his decisions.
Another and similar example is found in what I told you earlier in our
conversation, when we spoke about a city in Ireland called Themar; and
I shall repeat that story in part, if you wish. This was the leading city
in Ireland and the king had his chief residence there; and no one knew
of a finer city on earth. Though the inhabitants were heathen at that time
and did not know the true faith about God, they were firm in the belief
that there could be no deviation from righteousness in judgment on the
part of the king who dwelt in Themar; for no decision was pronounced in
Ireland which they could consider just before the king at The-mar had passed
upon it. Now at one time it came to pass that a case was brought before
the king who sat in Themar in which his friends and kinsmen were interested
on the one side, while men whom the king disliked had a part on the other
side; and the king shaped the verdict more according to his own will than
to justice. And this soon became evident, for three days later the royal
hall and all the other houses that the king occupied were overturned, so
that the foundations pointed upward, while the walls and the battlements
pointed down into the earth; and the inhabitants immediately began to desert
the city and it was never occupied after that. Now from these accounts
you are to conclude that God permits such things to be revealed to men,
because He wishes them to understand that such an outcome is daily prepared
in a spiritual and invisible manner for men who refuse to render just and
right judgments, if they are appointed to determine the suits of men.
Son. These examples apply very well to such men as are avaricious or obstinate or both.
Father. You shall know of a truth, that wherever justice is sold for money or is stricken down by arrogance, divine revenge and punishment, physical or spiritual, will surely come; and an instance of this can be cited, if it is desired. There was a prominent citizen in Athens named Stephen; he was judge in all those cases that arose within the city; he was not known as an unjust man. Now it came to pass that Stephen departed this life, and two groups of angels came to meet him, the one wishing to support his cause, the other charging him with much and heavy guilt and wishing to lead him with them to death. But whereas a dispute arose between them and neither side would yield, one of the angels proposed that they should lead Stephen before the Judge and let the dispute be settled by His judgment. When they came into court, the accusing lawyers cried out saying that they had a grave charge against Stephen, namely, that he had taken a plot of ground from the church of Saint Lawrence by an unjust decree. But the judge said that the saint should decide that case, seeing that he was the one robbed. Now just as Saint Lawrence came up to hear how the suit was going forward, one of the angels said to Stephen: "Why do you not call the holy priest Justin, whom you honored so highly as to have a chapel built for him near your hall and whom you have served in many things? He surely will be able to assist you somewhat in these your troubles." Justin came at the moment when the suit was being brought up before Saint Lawrence; and after the case had been stated, the saint asked why Stephen had plundered him and deprived his church of land. Stephen replied that he did not render that unjust decision purposely, but really thought it was a just decision. Then Saint Lawrence gripped Stephen in the side and pinched him very hard. But Justin interceded for him, begging the saint to show mercy in this cause, both because of his intercession and because Stephen did not know that he had given an unjust decision. While Saint Lawrence was pinching his side, Stephen had a feeling that even if he were to suffer torture for a similar space of time in hell, he would find it no more painful than the clutching of Saint Lawrence. But as soon as Justin interceded for Stephen, the saint released him and forgave the offence.
When the prosecutors heard that this indictment had failed, they shouted even more loudly, saying that they had still greater charges against Stephen. So they set forth that a Roman whose name was Tarquin had come to Athens, and since he was an alien and had no kindred there, he thought that he might need help from Stephen in his important affairs, seeing that Stephen was judge and ruler over the whole city; and he gave Stephen a fine horse on condition that he was to have justice and equity. Then the Judge decreed that, if Stephen had sold justice for money, he should follow that profit to destruction. But when Stephen was questioned whether this charge was true or not, he denied the accusation and declared that he could not remember ever having taken fee or gift for justice. Now since Stephen had denied the charge, it was ordered that Tarquin himself should be called to straighten the matter. When Tarquin came, he declared that this was not a true charge against Stephen; for he asserted that Stephen had never taken fees for justice so far as he knew. "But having come there a stranger," said Tarquin, "I thought that I might need the good will of such a man and gave him the horse on my own volition and not at his request." When the accusers heard that they would surely fail in this indictment too, they cried even more loudly, saying that they had a new charge against Stephen, much greater than either of the others. They asserted that he had arbitrarily and illegally saved three men from the death penalty, whom both law and equity and a just sentence would have condemned. When Stephen was asked whether he was guilty of this charge, he admitted that he had saved the men from death, but declared that he had always regretted having saved them by arbitrary and illegal means. Then the Judge decreed that, if he had rescued men from death by violence whom justice had condemned to die, he must suffer death for it, unless he would do penance where the offence was committed. Then the priest Justin asked Saint Lawrence to help in Stephen's defense, seeing that he had forgiven him the matter that he had against him and no indictment had been found true except the one that was now being considered. So Lawrence and Justin went in haste to the queen and, falling at her feet, begged her to request this favor, that the verdict be modified so that Stephen might be allowed to do penance in the place where he had offended. When the queen interceded for Stephen, her request was granted. Thereupon he was brought back to Athens, and he arose at the moment when his body was to be carried to the grave. He lived three winters after that and did penance for his guilt according to the instruction of the bishop who was in charge of that city.
There are many such examples that could be brought up in this talk,
if it were thought necessary; and you should now conclude from what I set
forth in my last speech that the judgments passed here must be carefully
scrutinized, and that it is very important for those who are appointed
to be judges to make sure whether the decisions are properly stated and
the findings correct. For you heard how precisely the decrees were weighed
before the king's son, when the scales were held up before him but would
never balance; and how he was threatened with death, if he should pronounce
a different judgment from the one that would balance the scales. You also
heard how God punished the king and the city of Themar, because the king
had distorted a just decision. Though the people did not hold the true
faith about God, He punished the deed nevertheless, because they believed
that a wrong decision could never come from Themar. And in the last example
you heard how Stephen was held to account for all the dooms that he had
pronounced, and suffered a reprimand for having taken a gift from a friend;
and he was condemned to die for having saved men from death, though many
would regard that as a good rather than an evil deed.
Father. It is difficult to state that in definite terms: still, all causes that are brought before the men who have authority to judge will be decided in some way. But I believe that a purpose to judge as they think is right will do the most to keep them from falling into guilt before God. For Stephen was acquitted of the charge that he had caused the church of Saint Lawrence to forfeit land by the fact that he did not know that his decision was wrong; and yet he did not wholly escape punishment, though in some respects he was punished less than he would have been, if he had known that his verdict was wrong. Now there are four things which he who goes into the judgment hall must leave outside and never allow to come into the judgment seat with him or even inside the door. The first is avarice; the second, enmity; the third obstinacy; the fourth, friendship. For you heard that Stephen was ordered to disclose whether he had accepted a gift from Tarquin and had promised to secure justice for him in return for the fee. And the judgment was, that if he had sold justice for money, he should follow the fee to destruction. You heard this, too, that he was condemned to die for having saved men from death by force and in defiance of law. You also heard in the earlier account how the king and the city of Themar perished because the king, being friendly to one side and very hostile to the other, had distorted a just decision. Now for such reasons those four things must be excluded, lest any one of them should cause a righteous doom to be distorted.
You have also asked when the sentence should be lenient and when severe, and that question can now be answered in a few words. Careful account should be taken of the circumstances of the man s case who is accused. If a charge is brought against one who is anxious to keep the peace but is driven to violence by the selfishness and arrogance of another, and, regretting his guilt, is anxious to atone for it, - if such are the circumstances, there should be lenient judgment in his case. Likewise, if a man breaks the law who is ignorant and does not know that he is transgressing, and would not have done the deed had he known it to be contrary to law, his case, too, calls for a lenient sentence. Even when the ugliest cases that are known among men, such as theft and robbery, come up, one should investigate how the crime came about. If a man is so hard bestead that he can get no food either by begging or buying and cannot get work, while hunger and his physical nature drive him beyond endurance, the judge should be lenient with him, even though he be taken in guilt; and whenever necessity drives a man into crime and law-breaking, the judgment should be tempered.
However, if the accused are men who have been led into crime by insolence,
ambition, avarice, or selfishness, the dooms ought to be severe, though
justice and the law of the land must be observed in every instance. And
in cases like those to which we have just referred the sentence should
be as severe as the law permits; while in the cases mentioned earlier the
law should be applied with due allowance for the difficulties that were
at hand. If the distress that led to the trouble is considered great, the
judgment should be tempered accordingly. But if a king or any ruler who
is a judge and has power to punish, takes life as a punishment, he should
always do it with great reluctance, in his heart lamenting the death and
ill-fortune of the offender. He must take heed, however, lest he slay out
of his own cruelty or in anger and hatred for the one who is to die. Let
him slay him in just punishment and out of love for those who live after;
because he believes that they will live in greater security and lead better
lives after having seen the death and troubles of such a one; and because
he intends that the fear and terror which the misfortunes of another have
brought upon him shall guide those to rectitude and good morals, whom nature
is unable to guide because of their excessive ambition or stupidity. A
famous man, an upright and excellent emperor, once ordained respecting
the decrees of kings, that if a king should become so angry with any one
that he planned his death, and if his guilt were not so evident that he
could with justice be condemned at once to an immediate death, that man
should be kept in the king's garth or in custody forty days before his
case should be finally determined. And it would be well if every king would
observe this enactment, in order that he might frame his decisions with
regard for reason and justice and not in sudden anger. If a man is convicted
of an offence for which law and justice impose a fine but not death, the
king, or the lord who governs the land, shall seize his wealth, not because
he loves and covets the money, but because a just penalty and the laws
of the land demand it. If all these things which we have now set forth
are carefully observed, I believe that those who are appointed to be judges
will suffer no great reproaches from God.
Father. Remember what I called to your attention in an earlier
remark, namely, that these laws are in-tended for men who do not fall into
such evident transgressions that a rightful verdict can condemn them to
immediate death. But when Moses came away from God, he knew God's wrath
toward all the people of Israel, and consequently did a deed of kindness
and not of hatred when by this chastisement he turned them from error and
evil ways; just as I have told you that a king in punishing should be moved
by kindness and not by hatred. For all penalties that are inflicted because
of hatred are murder; while punishment inflicted for the sake of love and
justice is a holy deed and not murder.
Son. Now, if you permit, I wish to ask more fully about penalties; for few men, indeed, are able to comprehend how it can be a good, holy, and loving deed to take a man's life; wherefore I with many others on the outside should like to have you explain briefly how it can be a good and proper deed to slay men in righteous punishment; inasmuch as all gentle and peaceful persons have a great aversion to manslaughter, regarding it as evil and sinful.
Father. The subjects that we are now discussing are clearly illustrated in the case of Moses. Holy man as he was and meek and right-minded in every way, had he known that his act of punishment was sinful like any other slaughter, he would not have ordered it. But if he had been so zealous in his obstinate wrath that he had done this deed in anger rather than for the sake of justice, God's righteousness would surely have punished him with a severe chastisement and stern revenge for the great slaughter that he committed. For Moses commanded every man who took up arms with him to spare none, neither father nor brother nor other kinsmen, if they had been guilty of the deed that had called God's anger down upon them. Moses showed a threefold righteousness in this chastisement: for those who were with him in the slaughter sanctified their hands in the blood of those whom they slew, since in their deed they rendered obedience to their leader and fulfilled the sacred laws. Those who survived regretted their sins and turned their hearts to penitence for having broken the law, while those who were slain were cleansed in their penance and in the pangs which they suffered when they died. And it was much better for them to suffer a brief pain in death than a long torture in hell. Of the same character are the penalties that kings impose; for a king cleanses himself in the blood of the unjust, if he slays them as a rightful punishment to fulfil the sacred laws. Moreover, there are many capable men who fear punishment alone, and would commit crimes if they were not in terror of the king's revenge. But one who is to suffer punishment will confess his sins and repent of his misdeeds; though if he did not see a sudden death prepared for him, he would show no repentance. He is, therefore, saved by his repentance and the pangs which he suffers in his death. And it is better for him to suffer a brief punishment here than endless agony and torture; for God never punishes the same sin twice. Consequently the king's punishment becomes a good and kind deed toward all those who are subject to him, for he would rather have the one who is to be punished suffer a brief pain here for his wickedness than to be lost forever, in the world to come. Through this kindness he also saves the righteous and peaceable from the avarice and the wickedness of the violent. We may, therefore, conclude that punishment is a good deed, if it is exacted according to a righteous verdict; for King Saul was deposed from his kingship because he failed to punish according to God's orders at the time when he invaded the kingdoms of Amalek and the Amorites.
Son. Now I wish to ask you why David slew the man of whom we spoke earlier, him who brought the tidings that Saul had fallen, and whether he slew him justly or did it from sudden anger.
Father. When the man had told these tidings, David asked how
he knew them. And he said that he had lifted up weapons against Saul at
the king's own request. When David heard this, he spoke thus: "A wretched
creature you are, who dared to lay hands on the Lord's anointed; and it
is better for you to suffer a swift punishment here than to have this crime
pursue you into everlasting hell." Thereupon David ordered him to be slain.
But when he who had hoped to receive a joyous welcome and good gifts for
his tidings, saw that death was to be his reward, he repented that he had
falsely imputed this crime to himself and would gladly have withdrawn his
words, if he had been permitted to do so. But David spoke thus: "Your own
testimony condemns you and not I; for you have charged yourself with this
murder of the Lord's anointed." We have other and similar instances in
the case of the men who slew Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, hoping thereby
to win David's friendship; and they fared to David with the news that they
had slain his enemy who had planned to rise up against him and his kingship.
But when David heard these tidings he answered in this wise; " Wretches
you are for this deed, having slain your lord, though you were Ishbosheth's
own men; you have committed a vile and treacherous crime in laying hands
upon your lord, and you have not acted as if you were my men and did this
out of loyalty to me. Now it will be necessary for you to suffer a swift
revenge and a prompt punishment, lest this deed draw you into everlasting
torment." Then David ordered his men to cut off their hands and feet and
afterwards to hang them beside a pool in a city called Hebron.
Father. This question is of such a character that it will demand an extended answer, if it is to be fully understood. But since it has been brought up, I shall be glad to answer it as far as I can and as briefly as I can. First it is necessary to recall what I said in an earlier speech when we talked about dooms, - when they should be severe and when lenient: I then brought out the fact that if a good and peace-loving man should fall into sin and his deed should seem evil to him and he were anxious to do penance, then the judgment ought to be merciful in his case on account of human nature; for human nature is so frail that no one can be so careful as never to fall into sin. But some add to their offence by taking pride in it, and they are not careful to avoid falling into another sin. Now David was of all men the most adroit in the use of weapons in warfare and he was by nature quite severe in righteous chastisement; but he was a kind-hearted man, friendly toward everyone, and sympathetic toward all who suffered misfortunes. He was also trustworthy in every respect, honest and faithful in friendship and in all his promises, and so virtuous that he would allow nothing vicious about his person, - indeed his like was not found among all the people of Israel; for when God chose David to be king, He testified in these words, saying that He had found a man after His own heart. But human frailty caused him to fall in the matter that we mentioned earlier: he violated Uriah's wife. But after he had fallen into this transgression and when he was once more alone, he repented deeply, sighing and weeping. Inasmuch as the rules of the law would condemn this crime as a shameful reproach, if it were rumored among the people, David planned to keep the matter quiet, letting God see his repentance but keeping the people in ignorance of his offence, lest they should take his misdeed as an example and regard it as less serious to fall into sin and transgression if they knew of his guilt. So David sought to hide his guilt by a crafty design: for as soon as he learned that Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, was pregnant, he sent for Uriah, and hoping to avoid taking his life, he ordered him to lie with his wife so that the offspring might be known as his, while David would atone in secret for the sin of his whoredom and never afterward come near Uriah's wife. But when he found that Uriah happened to be unwilling to lie with his wife, he contrived to conceal his sin from men, though he increased it in the sight of God. Later, when Nathan the prophet charged David with all this guilt, he answered as if condemning himself, speaking these words: "So heavy and evil is my transgression that I am worthy of death because of this thing; a wretch am I to have set such an example before God's people, over whom He has appointed me ruler and judge; rather would I now suffer a speedy death than have this misdeed pursue me to hell. Now since I have set an evil example before the people of God by my sin, I am ready to suffer punishment according to the Lord's will as a warning to the people not to fall into such transgression." But when Truth and Justice saw David's penitence, they permitted Mercy to pass the judgment; for the prophet Nathan replied in this wise:" God sees your repentance, and He does not desire you to suffer death for your sin, but He will punish you with an endurable chastisement for this deed before you die." Now you must know that God did not forgive David's crime so completely as to excuse him from just punishment; for this was the first penalty that the king suffered from God: the child which he had begotten with Bathsheba was a man child and very lovely, wherefore David much desired that it might live; but it did not please God to let him enjoy the child which he had begotten in such a sinful way. Nevertheless, David lay seven days upon the earth in the raiment of mourning, fasting and imploring God to let the child live. But God would not hear his prayer, and the child expired on the seventh day. And this was the second punishment, that God refused to let David build him a temple; God even called him a murderer, because he had deprived Uriah of life. But for the adultery which he had committed with Uriah's wife, he had to suffer this disgrace, that his son Absalom, in the sight of all the people, went in unto David's concubines and thus dishonored his father before all the people.
You have also asked which crime was the worse, that David caused Uriah to be slain without guilt and seduced his wife, or that Saul refused to kill so many people of Amalek; and you shall know of a truth that Saul's crime was the greater; for no offence is graver than to be disobedient toward one's superiors, as Saul was. And you may observe even at this day among cloister folk, that if a monk is disobedient toward his abbot, where an abbot rules the cloister, or toward the prior, where such a one controls, he is forthwith expelled from the holy order and from the monastery and is thenceforth regarded as a layman. Likewise, if a priest refuses to obey his superior the bishop, he is at once deprived of clerical honors, and the right to say mass is taken from him as well as all other official duties. In the same way, if a bishop, be he humble or powerful, refuses to obey his superior, he is immediately shorn of his dignity and all his office; and after that he is regarded among learned men as any other layman unworthy of any distinction. And it ought to be even more evident that it could not prosper Saul to be disobedient to such a lord as God Himself, when he was ordered to invade Amalek and the land of the Amorites and to slay all that was living. God took His rod of punishment and placed it in Saul's hands, bidding him execute His wrath and spare nothing that was living; to burn fortified cities, farmsteads, clothing, and whatever else there was; to lay the entire land in ruins and thus cleanse it with sword and ax and fire. Saul, however, carried out the vengeance that he was charged with in another way, by destroying everything that was lacking in beauty or value; but whatever seemed to him to be beautiful, valuable, and worth possessing he spared, brought home to his country, and distributed among his men. But when Samuel came to Saul and showed him the wrath of God, Saul spoke as if excusing himself: " Praise be to God, for I have fulfilled His command: I invaded Amalek and visited the entire kingdom with fire and sword; but King Agag I have brought with me, wishing to honor God's command by slaying him here, if He wills that he die. Fat oxen and fine sheep I have brought hither to sacrifice such to God as are acceptable to Him; and the children of the chief men I have brought hither to be kept in bondage and distress, doing fitting service for ourselves."
Then Samuel replied: "How can God now accept that as a sacrifice which He has Himself cursed in His anger? For God demands a blessed and not an accursed sacrifice; and you shall know of a surety that obedience is more pleasing to God than any sacrifice." Truth stood by and said: "What need is there to conceal the motive that induced Saul to neglect doing as God commanded him? Saul imagined himself so firmly established in his kingship that he could order these things more according to his own liking than to God's command; he showed excessive pride in failing to remember who had given him the power. And this is the reason why he took good horses, oxen, sheep, and much else of value, that he might satisfy the greed of his knights and the rapacity of his other warriors rather than carry out the commands of God. And he spoke falsely when he said that he had brought horses and sheep and other things of value into his kingdom to sacrifice them to God; for he knew that a cursed sacrifice was not acceptable to God." Then the decision was left to Justice and she decreed in this wise: "Whereas God took His rod of punishment, and placing it in Saul's hands bade him execute the divine wrath upon a cursed people, let that punishment now come upon Saul and his family which he failed to visit upon those whom God had commanded him to carry it out upon. But the same rod of punishment that was given to Saul to shake over others, another shall now hold and shake over Saul and all his kin. And because he wished in his avarice to possess the riches that were forbidden him, let him now forfeit those riches that were given to him before." But the reason why Justice passed such a severe judgment upon Saul was that God knew his disposition thoroughly. For it was in Saul's nature to be proud and stubborn in the face of God; and as soon as he thought himself firmly established in his kingdom, he became greedy and avaricious, as is evident from this account.
Now there was this difference between the tempers of David and Saul: when Nathan the prophet charged David with sin, he spoke reproachfully of his fault, almost as if condemning himself, and implored mercy, though willing to suffer punishment, as if prepared to accept with gratitude any terms which God might impose for his misdeed; therefore he won favor through the lenient judgment of Mercy. Yet, his son died because of Uriah's death, though David himself did not die; and for violating Uriah's wife he suffered a great disgrace in that his son dishonored him in the sight of all the people.
But when Samuel accused Saul of his crime, he replied as if defending his cause and praised himself for having done so well and spoke in this wise: "Praise be to God, for I have done what He commanded; "though he knew in his own mind that anything else was nearer the truth. Therefore he was stricken by the sentence of Justice, God seeing his arrogant boasting and lying excuses. But his arrogance and envy became even more evident after he discovered that God was angry with him; for Saul fell ill; and now and then madness came upon him, so that he had to be watched when the malady troubled him. Then it was learned that if a man could be found who could play the harp well before him, he would find relief and the illness would afflict him less. So they found a lovely youth whose name was David, the son of Jesse in Bethlehem, who knew how to strike the harp skillfully; he came to the king, and whenever the malady came upon Saul, David, standing before him, struck the harp and the illness departed immediately. But when Saul discovered that the malady was less severe, he loved David highly and made him his shield bearer. Samuel, however, had already anointed him king in secret, no one knowing it but his father and his brothers. David remained with Saul many days and served him faithfully; and all men perceived that God was with him in all his doings. Saul, too, was well disposed toward him at first: he gave him his daughter and assigned him a troop to command. But after Saul had won his great victory over the Philistines and David had slain the giant Goliath and they were returning from the warfare, women came forth from cities and fortresses, dancing toward them and singing praises to them for their victory. And the burden of their song was this, that Saul had conquered a thousand but David ten thousand. When Saul heard this he was seized with wrath and envy toward David and said in his own thoughts: "Now I perceive that God has chosen this man to take the kingdom after me instead of my sons; but I shall try to upset this plan if I can, though so cleverly that no one shall perceive that I kill him intentionally." A few days later Saul's habitual illness came upon him; but David took his harp and, standing before him, played as was his wont to relieve the king's illness. Saul had a javelin in his hand which he threw at David, aiming to drive it through him and pin him to the wall of the room. Thus he had planned to avoid responsibility for the murder by leading the people to think he had done it in frenzy and not with evil intent. David escaped and found security from that peril. But when Saul saw that David had escaped and he had not caught him, he sent him on frequent forays among heathen people in the hope that he would be slain in warfare. But the more frequently David went out into battle, the more frequent victories and the greater honors did he win; and God magnified him before the eyes of all the people. And the more Saul saw him prosper, the more he envied him.
Now you can imagine the state of King Saul's mind: he could say nothing against David, only what was good. But since he perceived that God loved David much because of his humility and loyalty, he envied him as Cain envied his brother Abel because God loved him. Indeed, Saul's enmity toward David became so evident that he could not conceal his intentions to kill him. Then Jonathan, Saul's son, reminded the king that it would be a sin to slay an innocent man, speaking in this wise: "My lord, why are you angry with your servant David ? If there is any guilt on his part that may be injurious to your kingdom or dignity, every man who is with you here will seek his life; and we can seize him whenever we like, for he is not on his guard against us, knowing himself to be guiltless. He has served you long and has been faithful in all things; he fought against great odds when he slew Goliath, and God rescued your entire kingdom through David's wonderful victory, which he won fighting unarmed against a giant. He has waited upon you in your distressing illness; and wherever you have placed him at the head of the host, he has brought a vigorous defense to your kingdom, and no one knows that he has been anything but loyal. Therefore conquer your wrath, sire, and do not fall into such an evident sin of murder before God as to slay an innocent man." Saul, however, became only the more wrathful and charged with treason his son and everyone else who spoke a good word for David.
David fled from King Saul's wrath with a few men, but provided with neither clothes nor weapons. He came to the City called Nob, the bishop of which was Ahimelech, a son of Ahitub the bishop; but Ahitub was the son of Ichabod, the son of Phineas, the son of Eli the bishop. When David came to the bishop Ahimelech, he pretended to be traveling on an important mission for King Saul, and asked him to give him and his men something to eat and to furnish him with weapons. The bishop Ahimelech gave him such victuals as he had, but weapons he had none to give him except the sword that had belonged to Goliath; and this he gave him, for he did not know that he was a fugitive, but believed he was traveling on the king's errand, as he had said. But so fierce was Saul's hatred toward David, that as soon as he learned that the bishop Ahimelech had given him food, he seized the bishop and all his kinsmen and charged them with treason. The bishop replied to the charge in this wise: "My lord, I confess that I gave David what food I had and the weapon that I had, for he said he was traveling on an important errand on your behalf. Why should I not give hospitality to a man like David, who is the best and the most highly esteemed of all the men that you have about you except your sons, and who is furthermore your own son in law and has been faithful to you in all things ? Never have I had any design against you or your honor. Do not think, my lord, that I, your servant, have plotted with David against your will; I could not know why David traveled in such distress, for he told me that you had sent him with important errands; nor did I know that he had fallen into any guilt against you. Then Saul replied in fierce anger: "This I swear that you shall perish to-day, you and all your kin." Thereupon he caused the bishop to be slain along with eighty-five other men, all of whom were robed in the priestly dignity. After that he ordered all who dwelt in the city of Nob to be slain, even women and children, and had the city burned.
Now I have revealed to you the ferocity which God found in Saul's heart when he removed him from the kingship, and which later became evident in what you have now heard and in much else of like import, though I have told this only. The displeasure which the king incurred from God fell so heavily upon him, for the reason that God saw in his heart the fierce avarice which later began to appear. Now he wanted to kill David, though innocent, because he found that God loved him; and he slew the bishop, though guiltless, and so fierce was he that he slew everything in the city that had life and afterward burned the city. But where God had commanded him to use severity of this sort, there he had spared; here, however, he slew God's servants in defiance of God's command. But in David's case God passed a more lenient judgment for the reason that, just as he perceived the ferocity in Saul's heart, he found true repentance and clemency in David's heart, as I shall now show you.
There was a son of the bishop Ahimelech, Abiathar by name, who was hid in a cave when all those were slain of whom I have just spoken. Abiathar fled to David and told him all these happenings. But when David heard these tidings, he sighed and spoke thus in deep sorrow: "May God in His mercy forgive me for this slaughter, for I have too great a share in it, having eaten your father's bread. And now since you have come hither, abide with me; and if God permits me to live, He will also protect you with me, and let whatever God wishes happen to us both." Thereupon David elevated him to the bishop's office which his father had held. But when David's kinsmen learned that he was abiding in the forest, they joined him with a large force counting not fewer than four hundred men; and from that time on David grew in strength as God willed. He camped among the hills with this force and made repeated attacks on Saul's enemies, but never on the king himself or his men. But whenever Saul learned where David lay concealed, he marched out to seek him, intending to slay him.
Then it happened once, when David and his men were hiding in a large cave, that Saul entered this alone on a necessary errand. Then said David's companions: "Now God has fulfilled what He has promised you and has delivered your enemy into your hands; be sure to secure this quarry." David stole up and cut a piece off Saul's mantle, though the king was not aware of it, and returned to his comrades. Then David's companions said to him: "If you are unwilling to lay your own hand upon him, let us kill him." David replied: "My crime would be as great before God, whether I do it myself or bid others do it. God keep me and all our companions from such a sin as to lay hands upon the Lord's anointed. He is my master and I served him long; he is also the Lord's anointed and it would be a great crime, if I were to lay hands upon him, for I have no revenge to take either for father or brother or any other kinsman; nor is it as if he had taken the throne which he sits upon from my kinsmen with violence or deceit; but God chose him to it and sanctified him to His service, honoring him with His own name. Wherefore it is right that He Who appointed him to the kingship should deprive him of it according to His will, but not I in vengeful audacity. And I swear this day that God alone shall call him, whether by demanding his soul or by causing him to fall in battle before his enemies; but as for my hands, they shall let him live many days. But I regret deeply that I injured his garment if he shall feel hurt or dishonored because of it."
When Saul had departed and returned to his host, David ran up on a hill and cried: "My lord, King Saul! can you hear?" But when Saul turned to hear what this man said, David bent both knees to the earth and bowing before the king said to him: "Those men do ill who tell you, my lord, that I mean to be your enemy; for now I have evidence here in my hand that your life was in my power to-day, when you left all your host and entered the cave alone; and it was no less in my power to injure your life than your clothes, for here I have in my hand a large piece of the skirt of your mantle. Now let God judge between us. You see how they have told lying tales, who say that I have striven after your life." Saul appreciated these facts fully, for David spoke the truth; and he promised that he would nevermore hate David. But not many days passed before Saul went out again to seek David, as he did constantly after that. Now it came to pass another time, when Saul had made a wearisome journey in search of David, that sleep came upon the king and all his host. And David went into the camp where Saul lay, but none was aware of it. The man who accompanied him was named Abishai and he said to David: "Now you can see that God surely intends to deliver your enemy into your hands, and it is not advisable to refuse what God Himself offers you. I will thrust my spear through him, if you will permit me, and then we shall return to our men." David answered: "God has done this to tempt me and to see whether I would lay my hands on His anointed. Now I must answer as before, that God shall tear the kingship from him, either by demanding his soul or by causing him to fall before his enemies; but as for my hands, they shall let him live many days; for I have no revenge to cherish against him, either for plunder or for the loss of kinsmen, except such as was incurred while he was cleansing the land with righteous punishment; and it is neither my proper business nor that of anyone else to take revenge for such; for it is a more serious matter than even a wise man can conceive to lay hands on the Lord's anointed, who is dedicated and hallowed to God. Let us take his saddle-cup and his spear for a proof, and then let us return to our forces."
Now you will understand the character of both King Saul and David from what I have just told you. David knew that he was chosen of God to govern, that he was the Lord's anointed, consecrated and hallowed to God no less than Saul was. He also knew that God had rejected Saul. And God delivered Saul into David's hands, so that he could have taken Saul's life at any time, if he had wished. David showed great faithfulness and humility in this, that every time he saw Saul, he bowed before him and saluted him as any other unhallowed layman would, who had not been set apart for chieftainship. Although Saul lay in wait for his life, David continued to serve him, and worried the king's enemies as much as he could. On the other hand, Saul had nothing against David except that he knew God had chosen him to be king; and he showed great wickedness and fierce hatred in striving to slay an innocent man, one who served him faithfully. He likewise displayed an inordinate vanity in wishing to make away with a man whom God Himself had chosen to rule after him. For these reasons God passed a severe judgment in Saul's case; for He saw in Saul's heart what men could not perceive, though subsequently God made this fact evident to the sight of men. But in David's case God was more lenient, for the reason that He found him always humble and faithful in everything, as He made clear to men later on. There is further evidence of this in the fact, that as soon as David learned that Saul and his son Jonathan had fallen, he and all his host lamented in great sorrow, and David spoke these words: "Be ye cursed, ye mountains of Gilboa! May God nevermore send rain or dew or growing grass upon you, for you led King Saul and his son Jonathan along treacherous paths in their flight across your summits and refused to show them serviceable highways, whereby they could save their lives from the hands of the foeman; nor did you provide them with sheltering ramparts upon your heights. It is a bitter sorrow for all the people of Israel, that splendid chieftains like Saul and Jonathan should pass away from council and government. Great strength and power have perished this day, when such excellent princes are fallen as Saul and Jonathan were, and the many good knights with many good weapons and much good armor who have perished with them. Let the lesser men beware of God's wrath, since He has allowed the heathen to lay hands on His anointed. Let the multitude bewail a loss like this, that such excellent rulers should fall before the heathen." Such words and many more like them David spoke that day, and thus he lamented their death rather than rejoiced in the fact that the realm had fallen to him and into his keeping. From this you will observe how upright he was, how honest and free from faults. But whenever human nature caused him to fall into sin, he forthwith showed keen repentance, imploring God's mercy and compassion; and God gave heed at once to his honest regret.
Earlier in our conversation we have told how Absalom, King David's son, raised the whole land in revolt against his father. But when David's captains happened to meet Absalom in battle and David learned of his death, he cried out in these words: "What shall it profit me to live, an aged man who grows weaker day by day, now that you, my son Absalom, are dead in the flowertime of youth? Would to God that I could die now and that you my son might live!" David was never so bitter against other men but that he would rather suffer death himself than see another's death, except where he saw that punishment was inflicted on the demand of justice. This was shown again at one time when David's entire kingdom incurred the wrath of God, and a pestilence came upon the realm, so violent that people perished by thousands. When the plague approached the city of Jerusalem, David beheld the angel, who was smiting the people, standing between heaven and earth with a blazing sword. And when he saw the angel with the sword lifted as if ready to strike, he placed his neck under the edge and said: "I beg thee, 0 Lord, that this sword be rather turned against my neck than that more of God's people shall now be slain, and that my Lord's wrath may fall upon me, who am guilty and worthy of punishment, and upon my family rather than that God's people shall be rooted out on my account." As soon as God saw David's regret and heard his very acceptable prayer, He commanded the angel to desist from slaying the people, and forthwith the plague ceased everywhere in the kingdom.
From these and many other similar instances you will now observe how
full of grace and goodness David was toward all men. And just as God saw
kindliness, mercy, and humility in his heart, He saw avarice, ferocity,
and unmeasured pride in Saul's heart; consequently every fault was graver
before God in Saul's case than in David's; for the men were unlike. David
was the meekest and the most merciful of men, and whenever he fell into
any fault he implored God to spare him; but Saul grew fiercer and more
envious the more sins he fell into and the nearer he saw God's wrath approaching.
Now if you think that these answers have led you to a clearer understanding
of the matters that you have asked about, I believe it will not be necessary
to discuss these subjects any further.
Son. I see clearly now from what you told in your last speech that the judgments were lenient in David's case, because he regretted the sins into which he fell, but more severe in Saul's case, because he was less disposed to do penance for his misdeeds. Now there are certain other matters which I am much interested in and which I shall ask about with your permission, namely those events that occurred after David's death. Once when two women came before King Solomon, quarreling about a child, the king ordered the child to be hewn in pieces and half given to each of them: now I wish to ask whether, if neither of the women had spoken up, the king would have hewn the child asunder or not.
Father. The king ordered the child to be divided because he knew of a surety that the one who was the mother would not be willing to have the child divided.
Son. I asked whether the king would have divided the child if the mother had kept silence.
Father. If the mother had been so void of mercy that she would not ask him to spare the child, the king would have divided it between them.
Son. Would it not look to you like plain murder, if he had slain an innocent child, seeing that it was not for punishment?
Father. It would indeed have been murder if he had killed the child; still, the guilt would not have been with the king but with the mother, if she had failed to beg mercy for her child, when she heard the king render a fair judgment in their case, which she realized would mean the child's death; therefore the guilt would be hers if she withheld the motherly pity which could save the child.
Son. What do you think about the death of Joab and Adonijah, whom King Solomon slew ? Was that a righteous judgment or not? And why did King Solomon cause Shimei to be slain for cursing his father David, seeing that David had already forgiven Shimei this offence?
Father. If King Solomon had done this except as lawful punishment,
God would have visited him with a worthy penalty as for murder. But after
he had done all this, God revealed Himself to him in a dream and bade him
choose whatever gift he might wish. But Solomon asked God to give him wisdom
and insight into righteous judgments. Then God answered him in this wise:
"If this choice were given to the multitude, there would be many who would
choose riches and power, or a long life, or peace, or success in warfare.
But because thou hast chosen this thing, thou shalt receive what thou hast
chosen and likewise all the other gifts that I have enumerated." From this
you will observe how well God is pleased with righteousness in judgments;
for God gave Solomon all the supreme gifts, because he chose equity as
his part. And you will understand that, if he had slain those others unjustly,
God would not have given him such excellent gifts as He did give him.
Son. What you have just said does indeed seem reasonable. If Solomon had been led to execute these men through selfishness and injustice, he would not have received such excellent gifts from God, as were given to him after that deed was done. Still, if I may, I should like to ask you to point out how righteous dooms are worked out, in order that I may understand more clearly, and others too who may hear it, how Solomon could execute Shimei by righteous decree, when his father David had already forgiven him the offence.
Father. Solomon did this out of regard for justice rather than
from cruelty, and for the following reasons. When Shimei cursed David,
he did it out of impudence and malice, and for no just cause; but when
he begged David for mercy, he asked it more because of fear than of repentance,
for he was afraid that David would take his life as the sacred law demanded.
But when he implored mercy David replied in these words: "I shall not slay
you this time, since you implore my grace; but keep in mind that you will
be punished for this deed, unless you atone in true repentance." In these
words David pointed out to Shimei that he ought to atone with loving friendship
for the words that he had spoken in sheer hatred. Shimei, however, lived
the rest of his days in such a manner that, while no one found him to cherish
enmity toward David, it never appeared that he made returns in friendship
for David's mercy in permitting him to live when the law demanded his death.
But when he came before Solomon after David's death, the king said to him:
"Remember, Shimei, that you cursed the Lord's anointed; and it has not
appeared that you have truly regretted it since. But this shall be a covenant
between us as a reminder to repentance on your part, that you shall not
enjoy such complete freedom as one who has never fallen into this sin.
Now you have large and beautiful dwellings and many houses here in Jerusalem
and you may live in peace within the city, enjoying all your possessions
according to your desire; but if you ever go outside the city, the punishment
of tile law shall come upon your head, since you did not take thought to
repent before I reminded you." When the king had ceased speaking, Shimei
expressed himself as thankful for this agreement and said that he should
find but little inconvenience in being forbidden to leave the city, if
he might remain secure in the king's friendship within the city and enjoy
all his possessions. Three years later, however, Shimei forgot this agreement
and went outside the city to seek diversion, as if proud of his audacity
in violating the covenant. But as soon as these tidings were told to the
king, he ordered Shimei to be seized and brought before him, and he said
to him: "You have forgotten to be ashamed of having broken the agreement
which we two made as a reminder that you owe repentance for having cursed
the Lord's anointed. There is, therefore, a double guilt upon your head
now; and it will be better for you to suffer a brief punishment here, so
that others may be warned by your misfortune, than that this crime should
follow you into eternal death, and others become bolder in such evil, if
you die unpunished. Then the king ordered him to be killed and buried outside
the city as a reminder and warning to others never to break a covenant.
Son. Now I wish to ask you why Solomon caused his brother Adonijah to be put to death for requesting Abishag to be his wife.
Father. Adonijah had earlier, as you may have heard, led an uprising against his father. When David had become an aged man and was very decrepit because of his many years, Adonijah appointed himself to be king without his father's knowledge, and made a festive banquet as newly consecrated king. He sent heralds running through the streets with pipes and drums to proclaim throughout the city that Adonijah was now the king. The chief men who were with him in this plot were Joab, David's chief captain and his kinsman, and Abiathar the bishop, and many other lords. But when Zadoc the bishop, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the captain, and Bathsheba the queen came as if in deep sorrow to tell David what great undertakings were hidden from him, he remained silent for some time but sighed heavily. At last he spoke as from a heart full of grief and said: "My sons are not minded like me, for I served King Saul many days, though he sought after my life. And yet God had chosen me to be king, for He was angry with King Saul; but I awaited the judgment of God by which he would be deprived of his kingdom; but I would not condemn him, though he was mine adversary. Now my son has done that to me which I would not do to mine enemy. But because Adonijail has taken the kingship to which God Himself appointed me, even before I had renounced it or He Who had chosen me had removed me, he shall fall in disgrace from this dignity, as that one fell who in arrogant pride raised the first rebellion against his Lord."
Then David said to Zadoc the bishop: "Take my mule and harness him with all the accouterments with which he was arrayed when I rode him in all my glory and set my son Solomon upon him; and taking Nathan the prophet with you and Benaiah the captain and all my most loyal chiefs and knights, ride to the tabernacle of the Lord in Zion and there anoint my son Solomon king. Then take my own trumpet and let it be sounded throughout the city with a festive sound to proclaim that Solomon is king by the will of God and David's choice. After that you shall bring my son Solomon to me that I may welcome the newly appointed king to my throne." When David had ceased speaking, Zadoc the bishop did all those things that the king had commanded. And when Solomon returned arrayed in all the tokens of royalty, David rose to receive him, bowed before him, and blessed him in these words: "Praise be to Thee, 0 God, that Thou wert pleased to exalt me from my low estate to such high honors as I now enjoy, and hast helped me in many perils, and now after much trouble and long toil hast brought me the consolation that mine eyes should behold the one sprung from my loins whom Thou hast Thyself chosen to sit in the seat of honor to which Thou didst formerly appoint me, according to Thy promises, 0 Lord. Now I pray Thee, 0 Lord, give this young man David's glory and understanding in double and threefold measure, make him a perfect ruler to govern Thy holy people according to Thy will." Then David kissed Solomon and said to him: "The God Who rules the heavens multiply peace to you above all the kings upon earth and give you blessings and the fruits of earth and perfect happiness." When he had ended this speech and benediction, David said to Solomon: "Because I find that God has given you wisdom and understanding, I charge you to govern wisely and justly, though somewhat severely, lest the kingdom should seem to be lacking in government because of your faint-heartedness. But temper the severity of punishment, lest you be thought too stern and merciless. Remember your kinsman Joab, however, who has served me long and with much labor; but it is not fitting that the sinful deeds which he has committed should follow him to hell: for he slew two excellent captains who were in my peace, Abner and Amasa, who had served King Saul with great fidelity. And there are many others whom he slew in his overweening pride, but not in lawful chastisement. And it is better to let him suffer a brief punishment here than that he should be lost eternally because of these crimes. Keep also my promise to Shimei, though he cursed me when I fled from the violence of your brother Absalom; but keep it in such a way that he will be reminded to do penance for his misdeeds, lest the curse be forever upon his head which he incurred when he cursed me an innocent man. Let kinship temper your wrath against your brother Adonijail, if you see that he regrets his treasonable uprising against his father. Remember that the bishop Abiathar lost his father and all his kinsmen, because he gave me food, when I came to Nob a fugitive from the face of King Saul. Abiathar deserves well for this, too, that he followed me and bore the ark of God before me, when I fled from the face of your brother Absalom. But do not forget to give him a reminder to repentance for joining your brother Adonijah in treasonable designs against me, lest this offence should follow him to his death. Be manly, strong, and severe, but with moderation. Do the will of God in all things, and both temporal and eternal joys shall be added to you."
Then said David to Zadoc the bishop and Nathan the prophet: "Go now and prepare a banquet and lead King Solomon into my hall and let him sit in my high-seat amid festive joys." And they did everything as David bade them. But when Adonijah's feast was ended, the guests heard singing and piping and all forms of merriment, as if a new joy had come into the city. When Adonijah asked what the merry-making signified, whether the rejoicing was in his honor or new tidings had come, it was told him that David had himself given Solomon his title and all the royal honors and had chosen him to be king; and that Solomon was already hallowed as king and sitting upon David's throne in festive raiment; and that all the people rejoiced in the news as on a merry holiday. When Adonijah heard this report, great terror came upon him and all those who were with him in this conspiracy, and they fled every man to his house. But Adonijah fled to the tabernacle of the Lord and laid his hand upon the sacred altar, as if taking vows of chastity and service in God's holy tabernacle. Thereupon he sent a man to the king, saying: "Here shall I die, unless my lord King Solomon will promise and assure me that he will not slay me, his servant, for the evil that I have done." Then King Solomon replied: "Adonijah is my brother by kinship; therefore I will gladly spare him, if he will show true repentance for stirring up treason and rebellion against his father David; and I will bear this burden with him before God on the condition that he must always continue loyal, humble, and free from deceit. But if any treasonable ambitions be found in him, he may expect a swift revenge to come upon his head. Let him now go home to his possessions and enjoy them as long as he keeps what is now decreed."
When the hour of David's death was approaching, Solomon frequently visited his father; and when the king had departed this life, he mourned for him many days, he and all the lords in the kingdom; and he buried him with every form of royal pomp and at a vast outlay. But after David's death, Adonijah begged Bathsheba the queen to ask King Solomon to give him Abishag to wife. The facts respecting Abishag were these: when King David grew old, chills entered into his flesh, so that clothes were not sufficient to keep him warm; Abishag was a young virgin, the fairest maid in the kingdom and of the best and noblest family; she was brought to King David's bed to lie close to him and warm him and cherish him, in the hope that the king might draw warmth from her soft and blossoming form and from his desire for the fair virgin. David loved her highly with a perfect affection, but as a fostermother, not as a wife. And for this reason Abishag won such great honor that she came to be regarded as the first queen and she ranked above all the other queens in the eyes of the people; and thus her dignity was sanctified by David's embraces. But Adonijah had a purpose in seeking this marriage after David's decease, for he hoped in this way to obtain the kingship by deceitful intrigue; inasmuch as all the people would say, if he married Abishag, that he was most worthy to sit on David's throne who was most worthy to mount his bed and lie in the arms which David had hallowed with his very self. He also presumed, as seemed reasonable, that the brothers and all the kinsmen of Abishag would rather have him as king, if she were his, than a man who was not bound to them in this way. Queen Bathsheba undertook Adonijah's errand and afterwards went to seek an interview with her son King Solomon. As soon as she had entered the royal hall, the king rose to meet his mother and led her to a seat at his side. Then the queen revealed her errand, speaking thus: "I have a little favor to ask of you, but I will not reveal the request before you promise to grant it." The king replied: "You are my mother, and I cannot refuse what you wish to ask; and I surely intend that you shall have what you have come to ask for. But it surely behooves you to keep in mind that you should ask only for what I may freely grant." Then said Bathsheba the queen to the king: "I have come to ask you to give your brother Adonijah Abishag to wife."
Then King Solomon replied in great wrath: "What is at the bottom of this request that Abishag be given to Adonijah.? If you prefer that he should have the kingship rather than I, then ask the kingdom for him; for you know that my brother Adonijah is older than I and once assumed the royal title, being chosen by the chief lords before my father had appointed me to be ruler in obedience to the will of God. Joab the most powerful of the lords and captains and Abiathar the bishop have evidently continued plotting with him even to this day. Abishag is of the noblest kinship in the city and the whole realm; furthermore, she is honored by all as the first queen because of the care that she gave my father in his old age. If she is given to Adonijah to be his wife, the people will regard him as most worthy to sit in David's seat, since he is thought worthy to lie in the bed and in the arms in which David himself lay. Now when Adonijah had committed treason against his father, I offered to share the responsibility for his sin before God because of our kinship. But now he has repeated and trebled the treason against me, his brother, which he first committed against his father. Therefore I swear by the God Who has placed me on David's throne that Adonijah shall suffer for his guilt, as shall every one of the others who are with him in this traitorous project." Then King Solomon said to Benaiah the captain: "Go and slay my brother Adonijah, for I would rather have him suffer a swift penalty here, such as the rules of the holy law provide for treason against one's lord, than to have him carry a traitor's guilt to hell. Slay also Joab my kinsman, for twice he committed vile offences against King David, when he slew Abner and Amasa, two renowned captains, though they were in David's peace and protection. But his third and greatest crime is this, that he was traitor to David when he gave Adonijah the royal title; surely he will be lost forever in the world to come, unless he shall do penance in this world by suffering a lawful punishment."
In this case King Solomon gives clear proof that it is quite permissible to break vows and promises, if what has been asked or granted is contrary to what is right. He granted what his mother Bathsheba the queen had come to request before he knew what it was; but as soon as he was aware that the prayer was a perilous one, he slew the man who had originally made the request. Benaiah did as King Solomon commanded and slew Adonijah. But just as Joab the captain and Abiathar the bishop had shared in the plans to give Adonijah the royal title, they also had a share in his plan to ask for Abishag to wife; and when they heard of Adonijah's death, they foresaw their own destruction. Benaiah seized Abiathar the bishop and led him before King Solomon; but Joab fled to God's tabernacle and laid his hand upon the sacred horn of the altar, as if taking vows of chastity and service in God's holy tabernacle. Benaiah came to God's sanctuary and said: "Come forth, Joab, the king commands you to come forth out of God's tabernacle." But Joab replied: "I have come hither into God's protection, and I will suffer death here, if I cannot remain in security." Then Benaiah reported his answer to the king through his messenger; and when the messenger came before the king bringing the bishop Abiathar and related all these things, King Solomon said to him: "Give my command to Benaiah to slay Joab wherever he be found, for his deeds and the decrees of the sacred law slay him and not we." Benaiah did as King Solomon commanded and slew Joab where he then stood.
But the king spoke in this wise to the bishop Abiathar: "You know that
you have deserved death according to the rules of the holy law; but whereas
you lost your father and all your kinsmen in Nob in a single day, because
your father had given my father David food, and whereas you also bore the
ark of God before my father when he fled before the face of my brother
Absalom, therefore it is right that for once you should profit from this
and not suffer a sudden death. And for this once you shall purchase your
life on the following terms, which you must keep as a constant reminder
that you owe penance for the treason which you committed against David:
go now to your own fields and abide there as a husbandman and enjoy all
your possessions, on the condition, however, that you remain a tiller of
the soil. But if you ever stretch forth your hand to perform any priestly
service or office, the righteous penalty of the sacred law shall surely
come upon your head." Abiathar went home and did as the king commanded
and lived many days; but Shimei died three years later, because he failed
to keep what had been commanded, as we have already told.
Son. There are still a few points which, it seems to me, I have not examined sufficiently. How did it occur to Solomon to break peace with Joab, seeing that he had fled into God's protection and into the house, the only one in all the world, that was dedicated to God ? Churches have now been built in almost every part of the world, and it is considered an evil deed to slay a man who has sought sanctuary. But I have thought that the honor of God's holy house would be the more zealously guarded the fewer such houses were. Another matter which I wish to ask about is this: how did it occur to Solomon to promise what his mother might request and then to break his promise ? I should have thought that a wise man like Solomon would have ascertained what the request was likely to be before he gave his promise, and thus avoid recalling his promise, if the request were not to his liking.
Father. I stated in an earlier speech that he who makes a request
should be discreet and ask such things only as are proper and may be freely
granted; and all those favors that are wisely asked and granted in like
manner ought to remain valid and undisturbed. But Solomon set a good and
profitable example in this case, when he wisely withdrew the gift that
his mother had indiscreetly requested, though he had already granted it.
The following example which is evil and belongs to a much later date was
set by Herod: once when he was feasting in Galilee he promised to give
his step-daughter whatever she might ask; and on her mother's advice she
demanded the head of John the Baptist. Herod knew that John was an innocent
and holy man and deeply regretted that he had made this promise. But his
repentance bore no fruit, inasmuch as he was not careful to withdraw the
gift wisely which she had requested foolishly; nay more, he did the evil
deed that she had suggested. Consequently all were destroyed, the women
because of their request and Herod because of his gift. King Solomon, however,
thought it better to face his mother's wrathful temper for refusing wisely
what he had promised hastily, than to suffer the injury that follows the
great crime of allowing foolish and sinful petitions. On the other hand,
you should understand clearly that it is never proper for a man to be fickle
in promises, and the greater the man, the less fitting it is. But no man
is allowed to grant anything that may give rise to crime and sin, even
though he has already promised to do so.
Son. Now I wish to ask you to tell me somewhat more clearly how far one should keep what he has pledged and how far he may refuse to carry out what he has Promised.
Father. When a lord is asked to grant a favor and the meaning of the request is made clear to him, he ought to ponder carefully what it is that he is asked to do and whether it will bring him injury or honor. If he sees that he can grant it without damage to himself, he ought next to consider the person to whom he is to give what has been asked, and how much may be given in each case, lest he should have an experience like that of Herod, which has already been related. For Herod did not consider fully the merits of the one who made the request, or the occasion, or how much he ought to give. There was this difficulty, too, in Herod's case, that he was drunk when he made the promise; he had made a great banquet for all his lords, and he failed to consider the occasion; for it was not proper for him to make gifts while drunk, since one who is drunk will rarely be moderate in making gifts. lie also failed to observe moderation in this, that he gave such an unusual gift to his step-daughter, a woman who was not of his kin, for he spoke in these terms: "Whatsoever you ask I will give you, though you ask half of my kingdom." You will observe from this that he was half-mad from drink when he spoke, for his stepdaughter had honored him merely by beating the drum before him, and her music was entitled to a much smaller reward than the one promised. Nor was it fitting for him to leave the form of the request as well as of the gift to the tongues of others, as he did when he spoke as follows: "Whatsoever you ask you shall have, though you ask half of my kingdom." But if he had spoken in this wise: "Whatever you ask with discretion and in moderation you shall receive, if I can give it," then he would have spoken wisely and well, and it would have remained with him whether to grant or to refuse.
It now remains to point out what sort of gifts a ruler may properly
give, when he is asked to do so. Any request may be granted which will
bring honor and help to him who asks and will bring no damage to the lord
who gives or to any one else. Thus if a lord is asked to give assistance
or money, he may well give it, unless his honor should be discredited by
the gift; and he may properly give both the labor and the money so long
as he gives them to such as are worthy of great honors. But when one is
asked to grant a request that would debase or dishonor him, he must refuse
it; and even though he should make a promise thoughtlessly, it is to be
wisely withdrawn. And if a man bestows a generous gift on one who shows
little appreciation of it and is in no wise worthy to have a long and continued
possession of an important gift, inasmuch as he does not show proper appreciation,
this gift, too, should be withdrawn; for in this case the man's own thoughtlessness
and lack of discernment take the gift from him and not the fickleness of
him who gave. And if one who desired a gift has obtained it through falsehood
and deceitful pretense, that gift is also to be withdrawn, even though
it has been granted; and in this case the man's own fraud and deceit take
the gift from him and not the fickleness of him who promised and gave it.
But a prince who means to be cautious in making gifts must consider carefully
what is requested, and what sort of man has made the request. And since
all do not deserve equally great gifts, one must consider how great a gift
each one deserves and on what occasion a gift may be given. Then it shall
be said but very seldom that he who gave has withdrawn his gift or that
he has been found to be fickle-minded.
Son. Now I wish to ask what good reasons there are which would justify King Solomon's act in causing Joab to be slain in God's holy tabernacle while he was clinging to God's sacred altar. Why did he not order him to be brought away first and slain afterwards?
Father. The matter about which you have now inquired cannot be made clear without a lengthy explanation, which will seem more like a comment than a proper continuation of the conversation in which we are now engaged. When Solomon concluded that it was better to slay Joab where he then was than to bring him away, he was not without good grounds for his decision; for he did not wish to fall into such a sin as King Saul fell into when he brought sacrifices to God's holy altar. Now Solomon did not wish to make this a pretext that he intended to bring gifts or sacrifices to God's holy altar, as if he were carrying out episcopal functions; nor did he wish to take away by force or violence anything that had come so near God's holy altar as Joab then was, inasmuch as he was clinging to the sacred altar. But Solomon pondered the whole matter in his own mind: "It is my duty to carry out the provisions of the sacred law, no matter where the man happens to be whose case is to be determined; but it is not my duty to remove a man by force or violence who has fled to the holy place; for all just decisions are in truth God's decisions and not mine. And I know of a surety that God's holy altar will not be defiled or desecrated by Joab's blood, for it will be shed in righteous punishment and as a penance for him, but not in hatred as in the case of an unjust verdict." In this decision King Solomon illustrated the division of duties that God made between Moses and Aaron; and he did not wish to disturb this arrangement, lest he should fall into disfavor with God. For God had marked out their duties in such a way that Moses was to watch over the rules of the holy law, while Aaron was to care for the sacrifices that might come to the sacred altar. And you shall know of a truth that this arrangement ought by right to stand even at this day; and you may be able to see this more clearly, if I add a few words in explanation. For the reason is this, that God has established two houses upon earth, each chosen for a definite service. The one is the church; in fact we may give this name to both, if we like, for the word church means the same as judgment hall, because there the people meet and assemble. These two houses are the halls of God, and He has appointed two men to keep watch over them. In one of these halls He has placed His table, and this is called the house of bread; for there God's people gather to receive spiritual food. But in the other hall He has placed His holy judgment seat; and there the people assemble to hear the interpretation of God's holy verdicts. And God has appointed two keepers to guard these houses: the one is the king, the other the bishop.
Now the king is appointed to keep watch over the sacred house in which the holy seat is placed and to keep the holy verdicts of God. In temporal matters he is to judge between men and in such a way that the reward of eternal salvation may be given to him and to all others who after his day uphold the decisions that have been justly rendered. Into his hands God has also committed the sword of punishment with which to strike when the need arises, just as King Solomon did when he laid Joab under the sword of chastisement, with many others whom he subjected to righteous penalties, as we have already told. The king, then, must always strike, not in hatred but for righteous punishment. But if he slay any one out of hatred, it is murder, and he will have to answer for it as murder before God. You shall also know of a truth that no one is allowed to pluck away any of those things that God from the beginning has assigned to His hall and high-seat; for that would be to rob God Himself and His holy judgment seat and to disturb arrogantly the arrangement which God has made. And every one who is assigned to this seat should ponder in deep thought what plea he shall have to present when he comes before his own Judge; for every man who comes in his turn before the Highest Judge, having been steward in His hall, may confidently expect Him to employ some mode of address like the following: "Thou bearest Mine own name, for thou art both king and judge as I am; therefore I demand that thou render account for thy stewardship, inasmuch as thou art the appointed judge and leader of My people." Wherefore each one will need to prepare after long reflection and with great care what he is to reply when he comes before the Judge. If the archangel, in whom there is no sign of weakness, gives his answer with fear and trembling, when he is called upon to render account for his services to our Lord and King, one can imagine what fear and trembling will come upon a frail and sinful man, when he is asked to render account for his stewardship in the presence of God. But he who has had this hall in his keeping will first of all be asked how he has dealt out justice among men; and if he is unable to give a satisfactory account, he may expect to hear this sentence: "Thou wicked thrall, since thou hast not observed justice in thy verdicts, thou shalt fare thither where all verdicts are evil; for thine own mouth has assigned thee to this place, inasmuch as it was not ashamed to deliver dishonest judgments." But if he can defend the justice of his decisions with good reasons, he shall find joy in his stewardship and hear these words: "Inasmuch as thou hast always observed equity as a judge, it is fitting that thou shouldst enjoy a righteous verdict on every count." He will then be asked further on what some of his actions were based; and after that he will have to show how discreetly and carefully he has kept all those things which God in the beginning committed to this judgment seat. But if he has not kept all those things which God in the beginning assigned to the holy seat of judgment, he will be brought face to face with those who have done their duty well, such as Melchisedek or Moses or David or others who have observed these things as faithfully as those named. Then he will hear these words spoken: "If thou hadst been as thoughtful and solicitous as these were in maintaining the honors which I joined in the beginning to My holy judgment seat, thou wouldst have received the same rewards as these enjoy. But now thou shalt be deprived of an honor here as great as the honor which thou didst take without right from My judgment seat; and to that degree shalt thou be regarded less in worth and merit than those who have kept these honors unimpaired which I entrusted to them. When thou wert given charge of My judgment seat, it was not intended that thou shouldst have power to dispose of services, honors, and holy dignities in a manner different from the one that I established in the beginning. For this office was not given thee as an everlasting inheritance, but it was committed to thee for a time only, that thou mightest obtain an eternal reward, if thou didst guard it faithfully. Thou wert given power to distribute worldly riches, gold and silver, though with discretion, but not to dispose of the honors and glories of My holy judgment seat."
But if it is found that he has been discreet in his charge, he shall
have cause to rejoice in his stewardship; he will, however, be examined
in various lines. He will be asked how he has used the rod of punishment
which was given into his hands; and it is very important that justice shall
have been strictly observed in penalties, lest it go so ill with him as
with King Saul, who failed to inflict a just penalty which God had commanded
him to execute on the people who dwelt in Amalek, but slew unjustly the
bishop Ahimelech and all the priests in Nob. But if it should go so ill
with him who is thus called to account for penalties inflicted, that he
is found to have stumbled in matters like those just mentioned and in which
King Saul fell, he will soon hear these words: "Lead him yonder where King
Saul and Herod and Nero and others like them abide, and let him dwell there
with them, seeing that he wished to be like them in cruelty." Still, if
in some cases he has been merciful in sentence and punishment and if there
is good reason why he should escape the reproaches that we have just mentioned,
those facts will not be forgotten. For then he shall find happiness in
all his stewardship and very soon shall hear this greeting: "Thou art welcome,
thou faithful servant and good friend, for thou hast loyally kept a slight
temporal dignity; now thou shalt come into joyful possession of a great
honor, constant and everlasting, wholly free from sorrow and danger." Happy
is he who is permitted to hear these words; but wretched is he who shall
hear those words of wrath which we quoted earlier. But no one needs to
doubt that everyone who shall be called to account for his office and stewardship
will be addressed in one of these two ways.
Son. I see clearly that one who is to watch over the rules of the sacred law and deal out justice in all cases is surely assigned a very difficult task. It is also evident that King Solomon could not be called to account for having Joab slain in God's tabernacle, inasmuch as he slew him for a just punishment, not out of enmity or in hatred, as Cain slew his brother Abel. God's tabernacle was not defiled by Joab's blood, seeing that it was not shed in hatred; but the earth was defiled by Abel's blood, because it was shed in hatred. And I understand fully that the sin and the desecration are caused by the hatred and not by the punishment. But now you have spoken of two halls which God has dedicated to His service upon earth, and there are certain things that concern these about which I wish to inquire. You have stated that in one of them God has placed His judgment seat; you have discussed that and also the office of him who is in charge of it. You have also said that in the other hall is God's table, from which all God's people shall take spiritual food; and you added that the bishop has been appointed keeper of this hall. Now I wish to ask you why King Solomon removed Abiathar the bishop from the office that had been assigned to him, namely that of keeper of the hall to which I have just referred, and removed him so completely that he was never afterwards allowed to put forth his hand to the episcopal office, but was to live from that time on as a churl or a plowboy. But I have thought that neither of these two keepers can have authority to remove the other from the office which has been committed to him. Therefore I should like to have you point out a few considerations which will make clear how King Solomon could remove the bishop Abiathar from his office without incurring reproof from God.
Father. I called your attention to these facts to remind you that both these halls are God's houses and both king and bishop the servants of God and keepers of these houses; but they do not own them in the sense that they can take anything away from them that was assigned to them in the beginning. Therefore the king must not pluck anything away from the house which the bishop has in his keeping, for neither should rob the other. And there should be no plundering of one by the other, but each ought to support the other for the same One owns both houses, namely God. I have also told you that God has given the rod of punishment into the hands of both the king and the bishop. The rod of punishment that has been committed to the king is a two-edged sword: with this sword it is his duty to smite to the death everyone who tries to take anything away from the sacred hall of which he is the guardian. But the king's sword is two-edged for the reason that it is also his duty to guard the house which is in the bishop's keeping, if the bishop is unable to defend it with his own rod of punishment. The bishop shall have his rod of punishment in his mouth, and he shall smite with words but not with hands like the king. And the bishop shall strike his blow in the following manner: if any one attempt to dishonor the sacred hall that is in his care, he shall refuse him the table which is placed in this holy house and the holy sustenance which is taken from this table. But when King Solomon deprived Abiathar the bishop of the episcopal office and dignity, he said that Abiathar's own guilt deprived him and not he. Since he had decreed that David should forfeit his throne before God had ordered it, and had chosen another king to replace David, while he was still living, it was right to deprive him of the episcopal office, seeing that he wanted to rob David of the royal office. Saul's guilt, on the other hand, when he had slain the bishop Abimelech and all the priests in the city of Nob, was a grievous burden, because he had done this without just cause. But even if King Solomon should have killed the bishop Abiathar, he would have been without guilt; for the bishop had deprived the house of God of the lord whom God Himself had appointed keeper of the holy judgment seat. The bishop Abiathar had no right either to appoint or to remove any one, as was later made evident; for David chose the one whom he wished to be king in his stead, and the choice which Abiathar had made was of no effect. Abiathar the bishop obtained the episcopal office through the will of David who appointed him to it. Now you are to understand that there is this difference between the business of a king and the duties of a bishop: the bishop is appointed to be the king's teacher, counselor, and guide, while the king is appointed to be a judge and a man of severity in matters of punishment, to the great terror of all who are subject to him. Nevertheless, the bishop wields a rod of punishment as well as the king. There is this difference, however, between the king's sword and that of the bishop, that the king's sword always bites when one strikes with it, and bites to great injury when it is used without right, while it serves him well whom it may strike when it is rightfully used. But the bishop's sword bites only when it is used rightfully; when it is wrongfully used, it injures him who smites with it, not him who is stricken. When the bishop strikes rightfully, however, his sword wounds even more deeply than the king's. But this subject we shall discuss more fully at some other time, if it is thought advisable.