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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

Now about the same time there was in that city a public assembly in honour of the false gods, and the king must needs be present at the feast, and grace it with lavish sacrifices. But the temple-keepers seeing that he was careless and lukewarm with regard to their worship, feared that he might neglect to be present in their temple, and that they might lose the royal largess, and the rest of their revenues. So they arose, and withdrew to a cavern situate in the depth of the desert, where dwelt a man who busied himself with magical arts, and was a fervent champion of the error of idolatry: Theudas was his name. Him the king honoured exceedingly, and counted him his friend and teacher, because, he said, it was by the guidance of his prophecies that his kingdom prospered. So these idol priests, that were no priests, came to him, and appealed to him for help, and made known to him the evil opinion of their gods which was growing on their king, and all that the king’s son had done, and all the eloquent discourse that Nachor had held against them. And they said, ‘Except thou come thyself to our succour, gone is all hope! and lost is all the reverence of the gods. Thou only art left to be our comfort in this misfortune, and upon thee we fix our hopes.’

So forth marched Theudas, in company with his Satanic host; and he armed himself against the truth, invoking many of his evil spirits, who knew how to lend ready aid for evil ends, and whom he alway used for his ministers; and with these allies he came to the king.

When his arrival had been announced to the king, and he had entered in, with a palm-staff in his hand and a sheep-skin girt about his loins, the king arose from his throne, and met and welcomed him; and, fetching a seat, he made him to sit down beside him. Then spake Theudas unto the king, ‘O king, live for ever under the shelter of the favour of the most puissant gods! I have heard that thou hast foughten a mighty fight with the Galileans, and hast been crowned with right glorious diadems of victory. Wherefore I am come, that we may celebrate together a feast of thanksgiving, and sacrifice to the immortal gods young men in the bloom of youth and well-favoured damsels, and eke offer them an hecatomb of bullocks and herds of beasts, that we may have them from henceforth for our allies invincible, making plain our path of life before us.’

Hereto the king made answer, ‘We have not conquered, aged sir, we have not conquered: nay, rather have we been defeated in open fight. They that were for us turned suddenly against us. They found our host a wild, half-drunken, feeble folk, and utterly overthrew it. But now, if there be with thee any power and strength to help our fallen religion and set it up again, declare it.’

Theudas replied in this wise, ‘Dread not, O king, the opposition and vain babblings of the Galileans: for of what worth against reasonable and sensible men are the arguments that they use? These methinks shall be more easily overthrown than a leaf shaken with the wind. They shall not endure to face me, far less join argument, or come to propositions and oppositions with me. But, in order that the coming contest and all our wishes may prosper, and that our matters may run smoothly with the stream, adorn thou with thy presence this public festival, and gird on for thy strong sword the favour of the gods, and well befall thee!’

When the mighty in wickedness had thus boasted himself and thought of mischief all the day long (let David bear his part in our chorus), and when, as saith Esay, he had given his neighbour a drink of turbid dregs, by the help of the evil spirits his comrades he made the king utterly to forget the thoughts that inclined him to salvation, and caused him again to cleave to his wonted ways. Then the king despatched letters hither and thither, that all men should gather together to this loathsome assembly. Then mightest thou have seen multitudes streaming in, and bringing with them sheep and oxen and divers kinds of beasts.

So when all were assembled, the king arose, with that deceiver Theudas, and proceeded to the temple, bringing one hundred and twenty bullocks and many animals for sacrifice. And they celebrated their accursed feast till the city resounded with the cry of the brute beasts and the very air was polluted with the reek of sacrifice. This done, when the spirits of wickedness had greatly vaunted them over Theudas’ victory, and when the temple-keepers had rendered him thanks, the king went up again unto his palace, and said unto Theudas, ‘Behold now, as thou badest us, we have spared no pains over the splendour of this gathering and the lavishness of the sacrifice. Now, therefore, it is time for thee to fulfil thy promises, and to deliver from the error of the Christians my son that hath rebelled against our religion, and to reconcile him to our gracious gods. For though I have left no device and deed untried, yet have I found no remedy for the mischief, but I perceive that his will is stronger than all. When I have dealt gently and kindly with him, I have found that he payeth me no regard whatsoever. When I have treated him harshly and severely, I have seen him driven the quicker to desperation. To thy wisdom for the future I leave the care of this calamity that hath befallen me. If then I be delivered from this trouble by thy means, and once more behold my son worshipping my gods with me, and enjoying the gratification of this life of pleasure, and this royal estate, I will set up unto thee a golden statue, and make thee to receive divine honours from all men for all time to come.’

Hereupon Theudas, bowing an attentive ear to the evil one, and learning from him the secret of his evil and deadly counsel, became himself the devil’s tongue and mouthpiece, and spake unto the king, ‘If thou wilt get the better of thy son, and make his opposition vain, I have discovered a plan, which he shall in no wise be able to resist, but his hard and obdurate mind shall melt quicker than wax before the hottest fire.’ The king, seeing this foolish fellow swelling with empty pride, immediately grew merry and joyful, hoping that the unbridled and boastful tongue would get the mastery of that divinely instructed and philosophic soul. ‘And what is the plan?’ he asked. Then began Theudas to weave his web. He made his villainy sharp as any razor and did cunningly prepare his drugs. Now behold this malicious device and suggestion of the evil one. ‘Remove, O king,’ said he, ‘all thy son’s waiting men and servants far from him, and order that comely damsels, of exceeding beauty, and bedizened to be the more winsome, be continually with him and minister to him, and be his companions day and night. For myself, I will send him one of the spirits told off for such duties, and I will thus kindle all the more fiercely the coals of sensual desire. After that he hath once only had intercourse with but one of these women, if all go not as thou wilt, then disdain me for ever, as unprofitable, and worthy not of honour but of dire punishment. For there is nothing like the sight of women to allure and enchant the minds of men. Listen to a story that beareth witness to my word.’

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