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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

Now on his son’s birth-day feast there came unto the king some five and fifty chosen men, schooled in the star-lore of the Chaldæans. These the king called into his presence, and asked them, severally, to tell him the future of the new-born babe. After long counsel held, they said that he should be mighty in riches and power, and should surpass all that had reigned before him. But one of the astrologers, the most learned of all his fellows, spake thus:—‘From that which I learn from the courses of the stars, O king, the advancement of the child, now born unto thee, will not be in thy kingdom, but in another, a better and a greater one beyond compare. Methinketh also that he will embrace the Christian religion, which thou persecutest, and I trow that he will not be disappointed of his aim and hope.’ Thus spake the astrologer, like Balaam of old, not that his star-lore told him true, but because God signifieth the truth by the mouth of his enemies, that all excuse may be taken from the ungodly.

But when the king heard thereof, he received the tidings with a heavy heart, and sorrow cut short his joy. Howsomever he built, in a city set apart, an exceeding beautiful palace, with cunningly devised gorgeous chambers, and there set his son to dwell, after he had ended his first infancy; and he forbade any to approach him, appointing, for instructors and servants, youths right seemly to behold. These he charged to reveal to him none of the annoys of life, neither death, nor old age, nor disease, nor poverty, nor anything else grievous that might break his happiness: but to place before him everything pleasant and enjoyable, that his heart, revelling in these delights, might not gain strength to consider the future, nor ever hear the bare mention of the tale of Christ and his doctrines. For he was heedful of the astrologer’s warning, and it was this most that he was minded to conceal from his son. And if any of the attendants chanced to fall sick, he commanded to have him speedily removed, and put another plump and well-favoured servant in his place, that the boy’s eyes might never once behold anything to disquiet them. Such then was the intent and doing of the king, for, ‘seeing, he did not see, and hearing, he did not understand.’

But, learning that some monks still remained, of whom he fondly imagined that not a trace was left, he became angry above measure, and his fury was hotly kindled against them. And he commanded heralds to scour all the city and all the country, proclaiming that after three days no monk whatsoever should be found therein. But and if any were discovered after the set time, they should be delivered to destruction by fire or by the sword. ‘For,’ said he, ‘these be they that persuade the people to worship the Crucified as God.’ Meanwhile a thing befell, that made the king still more angry and bitter against the monks.

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