Section III

XLIII

THE DUTIES AND THE EXALTED POSITION OF THE KING

Son. God reward you, sire, for taking so much time to hear all my
questions and for giving such very patient and useful answers: for these
talks will surely lead me to think and observe more accurately than I did
before. It may also be that others will study these learned discourses
in the future and derive knowledge, good insight, and profitable manners
from them. There are, however, several other things which I have in mind
to investigate and wish very much to ask about. And therefore I beg you
not yet to grow weary of teaching me; for your permission gives me courage
to confide so fully in you that I am not likely to overlook anything that
my mind is eager to know. Indeed, it seems to me that this subject opens
up such a wide field, that there must be many things left which one needs
to know and discern fully, if one wishes to be rated a worthy man by kings
or other great lords; and I am eager to hear you talk further about these
matters.

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.

 

XLIV

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED

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.

XLV

CONCERNING THE MODERATION WHICH A KING MUST OBSERVE IN HIS JUDICIAL
SENTENCES AND PENALTIES, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS DRAWN FROM THE STORY OF GOD'S
JUDGMENT IN THE CASE OF ADAM AND EVE, IN WHICH CASE TRUTH AND JUSTICE WERE
ASSOCIATED WITH PEACE AND MERCY

Son. It is evident that a king must possess great constraint and
an even greater sense of justice, as you remarked earlier, if he is to
find the true mean in meting out punishment so as to be neither too lenient
nor too severe. And now I wish to ask whether there are any examples which
may guide him toward this moderation, inasmuch as you have stated that
every king should have knowledge of all the examples that are to be found.

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.

XLVI

AN EXAMPLE OF RIGHTEOUS SEVERITY IN JUDGMENT

DRAWN FROM THE STORY OF GOD'S

CONDEMNATION OF LUCIFER

Son. It looks to me now as if this is a more intricate matter than
I thought earlier; for it must require great understanding and insight
to harmonize the opinions of these sisters so that they will always be
unanimous, seeing that the verdict sometimes leans more to one side than
to the other. For you remarked that at times the whole verdict falls to
Truth and Justice and no leniency is shown, while at other times the larger
share may fall to Peace and Mercy; and you also stated that sometimes a
sentence has been modified after it was agreed to and confirmed. Now you
have stated that one can find examples of most things, if one looks for
for them; and if there are any instances of such proceedings, I should
like to hear about them, so that the subject may look clearer to me and
also to others who may hear about it. And it must surely be the highest
duty of kings to be well informed on such things, as on all other subjects,
since they will need them very frequently.

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.

 

XLVII

A FURTHER DISCUSSION OF VERDICTS AND PENALTIES

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM THE STORY OF

LUCIFER'S REBELLION AND DOWNFALL AND OF THE SIN

AND PUNISHMENT OF THE FIRST MAN AND WOMAN

Son. I must ask you not to take offence if the questions which I
wish to bring up should seem childish and ill advised; but since I do not
fully understand the subject that I intend to ask about next, it may also
be that there are others who do not understand it any better than I. And
it is that matter about the serpent, which, you said, came to Eve, and
speaking to her like a man egged her on to transgress the law. Now I wish
to ask whether the serpent, unlike other beasts, was created with power
of speech; or whether other animals could speak in those days, though now
they are all dumb; and for what reason the serpent wished to lead the woman
into transgression.

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.

 

XLVIII

A COMMENTARY ON THE STORY OF LUCIFER

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.

 

XLIX

INSTANCES IN WHICH GOD HAS ALLOWED THE DECISION

TO BE FRAMED ACCORDING TO THE STERN

DEMANDS OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE

 

Son. God reward you, sire, for being so patient in answering
all the questions that I am asking. I find, however, that you think my
queries wander about in a childish way, but as I cannot keep to the subject
of the conversation that we have begun, my questions will come down here
and there, as one might expect of youthful ignorance. Still, it seems that
it is better to have asked than not about the matter that I brought up
last, namely, how one is to determine whether the glosses are correct or
not. Now I understand perfectly your statement that a man does not tell
a lie about God, if he tells God's purposes as if they were His own words;
for whatever God has determined in His own soul, He has already spoken
to Himself in His thoughts, whether He has uttered them with His lips or
not; wherefore those things may be interpreted as if spoken, because in
His mind He has spoken all that to Himself. This, too, is clear to me,
that, although no one is able to divine what God had in mind at the beginning,
He has Himself revealed it in letting those things come to pass which He
had thought and purposed; for it seems very evident that all those things
which God has allowed to occur, He had thought upon and wisely planned
in his own mind, before they came to pass. It is also quite clear to me
that those who have added explanatory glosses to the writings of David,
or other men who have written sermons and set them in books, have developed
their interpretations by studying out what fundamental thought or purpose
had since the beginning lain underneath the words. Afterwards they wisely
considered this, too, with what truth probability might be able to account
for every branch and twig of that discourse, so that the contents might
be revealed. Now since these things begin to look somewhat clearer to me,
it may be that I shall continue to reflect upon them, if God gives me the
necessary insight. But since I realize that you feel it would be a large
and tedious task both to continue the discourse already begun and to make
suitable comments, I will now ask you to return to the subject before us
and to continue setting forth the judgment of God, giving cases in which
He allowed the sentence to be carried out with severity according to the
verdict of Justice and Truth, and others in which He showed greater leniency.

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.

 

L

OTHER INSTANCES IN WHICH THE ARGUMENTS

OF PEACE AND MERCY HAVE HAD GREATER WEIGHT

Son. It is quite evident that in the cases which you have now recounted,
Truth and Justice had a larger part in the verdict than Peace and Mercy.
But no one can doubt that the sisters were all agreed in these decisions,
for we may be sure that God never passes a merciless judgment. One will
consequently need to ponder these things with careful attention and close
thinking; for the judgments of God are largely concealed from men. Therefore
I wish to ask you to point out those cases in which Mercy and Peace have
chiefly dictated the verdict, so that I may get insight into dooms of both
kinds, seeing that examples of both are to be found.

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.

 

LI

THE REASONS FOR THIS DIVERSITY IN

THE VERDICTS OF GOD

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.

 

LII

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED

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.

LIII

INSTANCES IN WHICH GOD HAS MODIFIED HIS SENTENCES AND THE REASONS
FOR SUCH MODIFICATIONS

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.

 

 

LIV

THE KING'S PRAYER

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.

 

LV

A FURTHER DISCUSSION OF THE KING'S BUSINESS

ESPECIALLY HIS JUDICIAL 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.

 

 

LVI

THE SPEECH OF WISDOM

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.

 

LVII

DIFFICULT DUTIES OF THE KING'S JUDICIAL

OFFICE WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

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.

 

LVIII

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED

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.

 

LIX

WHEN JUDGMENTS SHOULD BE SEVERE AND WHEN

THEY SHOULD BE MERCIFUL

 

Son. The more examples of this sort I hear, the more difficult
seems the position of those who are appointed to judge. I will ask you,
therefore, to indicate some test by which I can know when the judgments
ought to be severe and when they should be more lenient.

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.

 

LX

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED

 

Son. It seems reasonable that a land, which is placed in charge
of a ruler who attends carefully to these things, will be well governed;
and the people ought to show proper appreciation of his government. Still
with your permission I shall now ask about certain matters that interest
me concerning rightful verdicts. You referred to an order given by an emperor
as to punishments decreed by a king (which looks to me like good law),
that a man who had incurred the king's wrath should be given a reprieve
of forty days in the king's custody, lest a verdict be rendered too quickly
in his case and in violent anger; and it seems to me that a king will need
to possess much good nature, if he is to spare a man in his anger. But
even so righteous and holy a man as Moses was could not control his wrath
on that day, when he came in anger to the people of Israel; for I am told
that his wrath rose to such violence that he dashed the two tables of stone,
which he bore in his arms and upon which God Himself had written the ten
commandments of His law with His own fingers, against a rock and broke
them into fragments in his fury; and rushing at once to arms, he and the
men who were with him slew many hundred persons that day. I have also heard
that David in sudden wrath ordered the man, who came from the battle in
which Saul fell, bringing the tidings that Saul was dead, to be slain immediately;
and he did not order him to be kept for further inquiry.

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.

 

LXI

CONCERNING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

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.

LXII

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED

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.

 

LXIII

THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD ILLUSTRATED BY THE STORY OF DAVID AND SAUL

 

Son. I will venture to ask one more question about those cases
in which it seems to me that God has passed rather strange sentences. I
am asking chiefly because I find it hard to understand what reason or circumstance
can have caused the difference in these decrees which I now intend to bring
up. You stated earlier in your speech that God deprived Saul of his kingdom
because he was too lenient in cases of homicide, though a man will think
that this was no great offence, as it is easy enough to slay multitudes
if that be regarded a better deed than to let them live. Still, this leniency
proved such a grievous fault that God said He regretted having chosen Saul
king over his people, and immediately threatened  what He later carried
out - that the kingship should never be transmitted to his descendants;
and immediately, though Saul was still living, He appointed another to
b~ king after his days. But after David had become king, he committed a
crime which will scarcely seem less when reflected upon; for he committed
adultery with the wife of Uriah his knight, a good and faithful man, and
afterwards contrived his death, not as a just penalty but because he wanted
his wife. But later, when Nathan the prophet pointed out the sin to David
and he confessed, he was forgiven at once; indeed, it seemed as if his
kingship was more stable after that time than before. Now I do not know
which is the worse crime, to kill an innocent man and violate his wife,
or to let the guilty have their lives. Many a man, who is ignorant as to
the reason why, may indeed imagine that God loved David more than Saul,
and that David's crime was counted less for that reason. But inasmuch as
God always judges according to justice and without regard to persons, it
would be sinful to hold wrong ideas about this; and it would be well if
you could add a few words in explanation, unless you think that my questions
are stupid. It may also be that great lords who are chosen to be judges
will get a better insight into these things, if they are clearly expressed.

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.

 

LXIV

ILLUSTRATIONS FROM THE JUDGMENTS OF SOLOMON

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.

 

 

LXV

SOLOMON'S DECISION IN THE CASE OF SHIMEI

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.

 

 

LXVI

SOLOMON'S JUDGMENT IN THE CASE OF ADONIJAR

AND HIS FOLLOWERS

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.

 

LXVII

WHY SOLOMON BROKE HIS PROMISE OF PEACE

AND SECURITY TO JOAB

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.

 

LXVIII

A DISCUSSION OF PROMiSES: WHEN THEY MUST BE KEPT

AND WHEN THEY SHOULD BE WITHDRAWN

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.

 

LXIX

CONCERNING THE KINGSHIP AND THE CHURCH AND

THE KING S RESPONSIBILITY TO GOD

 

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.

 

LXX

THE AUTHORITY OF KINGS AND BISHOPS.

END OF THE SECOND PART

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.