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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

IOASAPH said unto him, ‘Great and marvellous, sir, are the things whereof thou tellest me, fearful and terrible, if indeed these things be so, and, if there be after death and dissolution into dust and ashes, a resurrection and re-birth, and rewards and punishments for the deeds done during life. But what is the proof thereof? And how have ye come to learn that which ye have not seen, that ye have so steadfastly and undoubtingly believed it? As for things that have already been done and made manifest in deed, though ye saw them not, yet have ye heard them from the writers of history. But, when it is of the future that ye preach tidings of such vast import, how have ye made your conviction on these matters sure?’

Quoth Barlaam, ‘From the past I gain certainty about the future; for they that preached the Gospel, without erring from the truth, but establishing their sayings by signs and wonders and divers miracles, themselves also spake of the future. So, as in the one case they taught us nothing amiss or false, but made all that they said and did to shine clearer than the sun, so also in the other matter they gave us true doctrine, even that which our Lord and Master Jesus Christ himself confirmed both by word and deed. “Verily,” he spake, “I say unto you, the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live:” and again, “The hour cometh when the dead shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” And again he said concerning the resurrection of the dead, “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” “For as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of God shall send forth his Angels, and they shall gather all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father.” Thus spake he and added this thereto, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

‘In such words and many more did the Lord make manifest the resurrection of our bodies, and confirm his words in deed, by raising many that were dead. And, toward the end of his life upon earth, he called from the grave one Lazarus his friend, that had already been four days dead and stank, and thus he restored the lifeless to life. Moreover, the Lord himself became the first-fruits of that resurrection which is final and no longer subject unto death, after he had in the flesh tasted of death; and on the third day he rose again, and became the first-born from the dead. For other men also were raised from the dead, but died once more, and might not yet attain to the likeness of the future true resurrection. But he alone was the leader of that resurrection, the first to be raised to the resurrection immortal.

‘This was the preaching also of them that from the beginning were eye witnesses and ministers of the word; for thus saith blessed Paul, whose calling was not of men, but from heaven, “Brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And after a little while, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” For then the power of death is utterly annulled and destroyed, no longer working in us, but for the future there is given unto men immortality and incorruption for evermore.

‘Beyond all question, therefore, there shall be a resurrection of the dead, and this we believe undoubtingly. Moreover we know that there shall be rewards and punishments for the deeds done in our life-time, on the dreadful day of Christ’s coming, “wherein the heavens shall be dissolved in fire and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,” as saith one of the inspired clerks of God; “nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.” For that there shall be rewards and punishments for men’s works, and that absolutely nothing, good or bad, shall be overlooked, but that there is reserved a requital for words, deeds and thoughts, is plain. The Lord saith, “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” And again he saith, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy Angels with him, then before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.’ ” Wherefore saith he this, except he count the kind acts we do unto the needy as done unto himself? And in another place he saith, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven.”

‘Lo, by all these examples and many more he proveth that the rewards of good works are certain and sure. Further, that punishments are in store for the bad, he foretold by parables and wondrous miracles, which he, the Well of Wisdom most wisely put forth. At one time he brought into his tale a certain rich man which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, but who was so niggardly and pitiless toward the destitute as to overlook a certain beggar named Lazarus laid at his gate, and not even to give him of the crumbs from his table. So when one and other were dead, the poor man, full of sores, was carried away, he saith, into Abraham’s bosom—for thus he describeth the habitation of the righteous—but the rich man was delivered to the fire of bitter torment in hell. To him said Abraham, “Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus his evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”

‘And otherwhere he likeneth the kingdom of heaven to a certain king which made a marriage feast for his son and thereby he declared future happiness and splendour. For as he was wont to speak to humble and earthly minded men, he would draw his parables from homely and familiar things. Not that he meant that marriages and feasts exist in that world; but in condescension to men’s grossness, he employed these means, when he would make known to them the future. So, as he telleth, the king with high proclamation called all to come to the marriage to take their fill of his wondrous store of good things. But many of them that were bidden made light of it and came not, and busied themselves: some went to their farms, some to their merchandize, and others to their newly wedded wives, and thus deprived themselves of the splendour of the bride chamber. Now when these had, of their own choice, absented themselves from this joyous merriment, others were bidden thereto, and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment, and he said unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Now they who made excuses and paid no heed to the call are they that hasten not to the faith of Christ, but continue in idolatry or heresy. But he that had no wedding garment is he that believeth, but hath soiled his spiritual garment with unclean acts, and was rightly cast forth from the joy of the bride chamber.

‘And he put forth yet another parable, in harmony with this, in his picture of the Ten Virgins, “five of whom were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil.” By the oil he signifieth the acquiring of good works. “And at midnight,” he saith, “there was a cry made, ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.’ ” By midnight he denoteth the uncertainty of that time. Then all those virgins arose. “They that were ready went forth to meet the bridegroom and went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.” But they that were un-ready (whom rightly he calleth foolish), seeing that their lamps were going out, went forth to buy oil. Afterward they drew nigh, the door being now shut, and cried, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But he answered and said, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” Wherefore from all this it is manifest that there is a requital not only for overt acts, but also for words and even secret thoughts; for the Saviour said, “I say unto you, that for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement.” And again he saith, “But the very hairs of your head are numbered,” by the hairs meaning the smallest and slightest phantasy or thought. And in harmony herewith is the teaching of blessed Paul, “For the word of God,” saith he, “is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid bare unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

‘These things also were proclaimed with wondrous clearness by the prophets of old time, illumined by the grace of the Spirit. For Esay saith, “I know their works and their thoughts,” and will repay them. “Behold, I come to gather all nations and all tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And the heaven shall be new, and the earth, which I make before me. And all flesh shall come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be a spectacle unto all flesh,” And again he saith concerning that day, “And the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all the stars shall fall down as leaves from the vine. For behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the whole world desolate and to destroy the sinners out of it. For the stars of heaven and Orion and all the constellations of heaven shall not give their light, and the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not give her light. And I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the proud.” And again he saith, “Wo unto them that draw their iniquities as with a long cord, and their sins as with an heifer’s cart-rope! Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Wo unto those of you that are mighty, that are princes, that mingle strong drink, which justify the wicked for reward, and take justice from the just, and turn aside the judgement from the needy, and take away the right from the poor, that the widow may be their spoil and the fatherless their prey! And what will they do in the day of visitation, and to whom will they flee for help? And where will they leave their glory, that they fall not into arrest? Like as stubble shall be burnt by live coal of fire, and consumed by kindled flame, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust, for they would not the law of the Lord of hosts, and provoked the oracle of the Holy One of Israel.”

‘In tune therewith saith also another prophet, “The great day of the Lord is near, and hasteth greatly. The bitter and austere voice of the day of the Lord hath been appointed. A mighty day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of blackness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm. And I will bring distress upon the wicked, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; for the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy, for he shall make a riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” Moreover David, the king and prophet, crieth thus, “God shall come visibly, even our God, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall be kindled before him, and a mighty tempest round about him. He shall call the heaven from above, and the earth, that he may judge his people.” And again he saith, “Arise, O God, judge thou the earth, because ‘the fierceness of man shall turn to thy praise.’ And thou shalt ‘reward every man according to his works.’ ” And many other such things have been spoken by the Psalmist, and all the Prophets inspired by the Holy Ghost, concerning the judgement and the recompense to come. Their words also have been most surely confirmed by the Saviour who hath taught us to believe the resurrection of the dead, and the recompense of the deeds done in the flesh, and the unending life of the world to come.’

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