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LETTER VIII. To Demophilus, Therapeutes. About minding ones own business, and kindness.
The histories of the Hebrews say, O noble Demophilus, that, even that holy, distinguished Moses was deemed worthy of the Divine manifestation on account of his great meekness8585Num. xii. 3-8.. And, if at any time they describe him as being excluded from the vision8686Ex. iv. 14. of God, they do not cast him out from God for his meekness. But they say that when speaking very rashly, and opposing the Divine Counsels, Jehovah was angry with him with wrath. But when they make him proclaimed by his God-discerned deserts, he is proclaimed, from his pre-eminent imitation of the Good. For he was very meek, and on this account is called “Servant of God,” and deemed more fit for vision of God than all Prophets. Now, when certain envious8787Num. xvi. 1-11. people were contending with him and Aaron, about the High Priesthood and government of the tribes, he was superior to all love of honour, and love of rule, and referred the presidency over the people to the Divine judgment. And, when they even rose up against him, and reproaching him concerning the precedency, were threatening him, and were already almost upon him, the meek man invoked the Good for preservation, but very suitably asserted that 151 he would be guiltless of all evils to the governed. For he knew that it is necessary, that the familiar with God the Good should be moulded, as far as is attainable, to that which is specially most like the Good, and should be conscious within himself of the performance of deeds of good friendship. And what made David8888Matt. i. 1-16., the father of God, a friend of God? Even for being good and generous towards enemies8989I Sam. xxiv. 7, xiii. 14.. The Super-Good, and the Friend of Good says—“I have found a man after mine own heart.” Further also, a generous injunction was given, to care for even one’s enemy’s beasts of burden9090Ex. xxiii. 4.. And Job9191Job i. 8. was pronounced just, as being free from injury. And Joseph9292Gen. l. 21. did not take revenge upon the brethren who had plotted against him; and Abel, at once, and without suspicion, accompanied the fratricide. And the Word of God proclaims all the good as not devising evil things93931 Cor. xiii. 5., not doing them9494Ps. xv. 3., but neither being changed from the good, by the baseness of others9595Rom. xii. 21., but, on the contrary, after the example of God9696Matt. v. 45., as doing good to, and throwing their shield over the evil; and generously calling them to their own abundant goodness, and to their own similitude. But let us ascend higher, not proclaiming the gentleness of holy men, nor kindness of philanthropic angels, who take compassion upon nations, and invoke good9797Zech. i. 12. on their behalf, and punish the 152 destructive and devastating mobs, and, whilst being grieved over calamities, yet rejoice over the safety of those who are being called back to things good9898Luke xv. 7.; nor whatever else the Word of God teaches concerning the beneficent angels9999Ps. xci. 11.; but, whilst in silence welcoming the beneficent rays of the really good and super-good Christ, by them let us be lighted on our path, to His Divine works of Goodness. For assuredly is it not of a Goodness inexpressible and beyond conception, that He makes all things existing to be, and brought all things themselves to being, and wishes all things ever to become near to Himself, and participants of Himself, according to the aptitude of each? And why? Because He clings lovingly to those who even depart from Him, and strives100100Matt. vi. 19. and beseeches not to be disowned by those beloved who are themselves coy; and He bears with those who heedlessly reproach Him101101Luke xxiii. 34., and Himself makes excuse for them, and further promises to serve them, and runs towards and meets102102Ib. xv. 20. even those who hold themselves aloof, immediately that they approach; and when His entire self has embraced their entire selves, He kisses them, and does not reproach them for former things, but rejoices over the present, and holds a feast, and calls together the friends, that is to say, the good, in order that the household may be altogether rejoicing. (But, Demophilus, of all persons in the world, is at enmity 153 with, and very justly rebukes, and teaches beautiful things to, good men, and rejoices.) “For how,” He says, “ought not the good to rejoice over safety of the lost, and over life of those who are dead.” And, as a matter of course, He raises upon His shoulders that which with difficulty has been turned from error, and summons the good angels to rejoicing, and is generous to the unthankful, and makes His sun to rise upon evil and good, and presents His very soul1031031 John ii. 10. as an offering on behalf of those who are fleeing from Him.
But thou, as thy letters testify, I do not know how, being in thy senses, hast spurned one fallen down before the priest, who, as thou sayest, was unholy and a sinner. Then this one entreated and confessed that he has come for healing of evil deeds, but thou didst not shiver, but even insolently didst cover with abuse the good priest, for shewing compassion to a penitent, and justifying the unholy. And at last, thou saidst to the priest, “Go out with thy like”; and didst burst, contrary to permission, into the sanctuary, and defiledst the Holy of holies, and writest to us, that “I have providentially preserved the things sacred, which were about to be profaned, and am still keeping them undefiled.”
Now, then, hear our view. It is not lawful that a priest should be corrected by the Leitourgoi, who are above thee, or by the Therapeutae, who are of the same rank with thee; even though he should seem to 154 act irreverently towards things Divine, and though he should be convicted of having done some other thing forbidden. For, if want of order, and want of regulation, is a departure from the most Divine institutions and decrees, it is not reasonable that the divinely transmitted order should be changed on God’s behalf. For Almighty God is not divided against Himself, for, “how then shall His kingdom stand104104Matt. xii. 26.?” And if the judgment is of God, as the Oracles affirm105105Is. xxx. 18., and the priests are angels and interpreters, after the hierarchs, of the Divine judgments, learn from them through whom thou wast deemed worthy to be a Therapeutes, through the intermediate Leitourgoi, when opportunity serves, the things Divine suitable for thyself106106Ec. Hier. c. 6. part 2.. And do not the Divine Symbols proclaim this, for is not the Holy of holies altogether simply separated from all, and the order of the consecrators is in closer proximity to it than the rank of the priests, and following these, that of the Leitourgoi. But the gates of the sanctuary are bounded by the appointed Therapeutae, within which they are both ordained, and around which they stand, not to guard them, but for order, and teaching of themselves that they are nearer the people than the priesthood. Whence the holy regulation of the priests orders them to participate in things Divine, enjoining the impartation of these to others, that is to say, the more inward. For even those who always stand 155 around the Divine Altar, for a symbolical purpose, see and hear things Divine revealed to themselves in all clearness; and advancing generously to things outside the Divine Veils, they shew, to the subject Therapeutae, and to the holy people, and to the orders under purification, according to their meetness, things holy which had been beautifully guarded without pollution, until thou didst tyrannically burst into them, and compelledst the Holy of holies, against its will, to be strutted over by thee, and thou sayest, that thou holdest and guardest the sacred things, although thou neither hast known, nor heard, nor possessest any of the things belonging to the priests; as neither hast thou known the truth of the Oracles, whilst cavilling about them each day to subversion of the hearers. And even if same civil Governor undertook what was not commanded him by a King, justly would any one of the subordinates standing by be punished who dared to criticise the Governor, when justifying, or condemning any one; (for I do not go so far as to say to vituperate), and at the same time thought to cast him from his government; but thou, man, art thus rash in what concerns the affairs of the meek and good, and his hierarchical jurisdiction. We are bound to say these things, when any one undertakes what is above his rank, and at the same time thinks that he acts properly. For this is not within the powers of any one. For what was Ozias1071072 Chron. xxvi. 16-19. doing out of place, when offering incense to Almighty God? and what Saul108108I Sam. xiii. 19. in sacrificing? 156
Yea, further, what were those domineering demons109109Mark iii. 11., who were truly proclaiming the Lord Jesus God? But every one who meddles with other people’s business, is outlawed by the Word of God; and each one shall be in the rank of his own service, and alone the High Priest110110Lev. xvi. 2. shall enter into the Holy of holies, and once only throughout the year111111Ex. xxx. 10., and this in the full legal hierarchical purification112112Ib. xix. 21.. And the priests113113Num. iv. 15. encompass the holy things, and the Levites must not touch the holy things, lest they die. And Jehovah was angry with wrath at the rashness of Ozias, and Mariam114114Ib. xii. 10. becomes leprous, because she had presumed to lay down laws for the lawgiver. And the demons fastened on the sons of Sceva, and He says, “I did not send them, yet they ran, and I spake not to them yet they prophesied115115Jer. xxiii. 21..” “And the profane116116Is. xlvi. 3. who sacrifices to me a calf, (is) as he who slays a dog,” and to speak briefly, the all-perfect justice of Almighty God does not tolerate the disregarders of law, but whilst they are saying “in Thy117117Matt. vii. 23. Name, we ourselves did many wonderful works,” He retorts, “And I know you not; go from Me all ye workers of lawlessness.” So that it is not permissible, as the holy Oracles say, even to pursue things that are just, when not according to order118118Deut. xvi. 20., but each must keep to himself1191191 Tim. iv. 16., and not meditate things too high and too deep for him120120Rom. xii. 3-6., but 157 contemplate alone things prescribed for him according to order.
“ What then,” thou sayest, “is it not necessary to correct the priests who are acting irreverently, or convicted of something else out of place, but to those only, who glory in law, shall it be permitted to dishonour Almighty God121121Rom. ii. 23., through the transgression of the Law? “And how are the priests interpreters122122Mal. ii. 7. of Almighty God? For, how do they announce to the people the Divine virtues, who do not know the power of them? or how do they, who are in darkness123123Eph. iv. 18., communicate light? Further, how do they impart the Divine Spirit, who, by habit and truth do not believe whether there is a Holy Spirit124124Acts xix. 2.? Now I will give thee an answer to these things. For truly my Demophilus is not an enemy, nor will I tolerate that thou shouldst be overreached by Satan.
For each rank of those about God, is more godlike than that which stands further away. And those which are somewhat nearer to the true light, are at once more luminous, and more illuminating; and do not understand the nearness topically, but according to God-receptive aptitude. If, then, the order of the priests is the illuminating, entirely has he fallen from the priestly rank and power, who does not illuminate, or perhaps rather (he becomes) the unilluminated. 158 And he seems, to me at least, rash who, being such, undertakes the priestly functions, and has no fear, and does not blush, when performing things Divine, contrary to propriety, and fancying that God does not know the very things of which he is conscious in himself, and thinks to mislead Him Who is falsely called by him Father, and presumes to repeat his cursed blasphemies (for I would not say prayers) over the Divine symbols, after the example of Christ. This one is not a priest,—No!—but devilish—crafty —a deceiver of himself—and a wolf to the people of God, clothed in sheep’s clothing.
But, it is not to Demophilus that it is permitted to put these things straight. For, if the Word of God commands to pursue just things justly125125Deut. xvi. 20. (but to pursue just things is, when any one wishes to distribute to each one things that are meet), this must be pursued by all justly, not beyond their own meetness or rank1261262 Cor. xiii. 10.; since even to angels it is just that things meet be assigned and apportioned, but not from us, O Demophilus, but through them to us, of God, and to them through the angels who are still more pre-eminent. And to speak shortly, amongst all existing things their due is assigned through the first to the second, by the well-ordered and most just forethought of all. Let those, then, who have been ordered by God to superintend others, 159 distribute after themselves their due to their inferiors. But, let Demophilus apportion their due to reason and anger and passion; and let him not maltreat the regulation of himself, but let the superior reason bear rule over things inferior. For, if one were to see, in the market-place, a servant abusing a master, and a younger man, an elder; or also a son, a father; and in addition attacking and inflicting wounds, we should seem even to fail in reverence if we did not run and succour the superior, even though perhaps they were first guilty of injustice; how then shall we not blush, when we see reason maltreated by anger and passion, and cast out of the sovereignty given by God; and when we raise in our own selves an irreverent and unjust disorder, and insurrection and confusion? Naturally, our blessed Law-giver from God does not deem right that one should preside over the Church of God, who has not already well presided over his own house1271271 Tim. iii. 5.. For, he who has governed himself will also govern another; and who, another, will also govern a house; and who, a house, also a city; and who, a city, also a nation. And to speak briefly as the Oracles affirm, “he who is faithful in little, is faithful also in much,” and “he who is unfaithful in little, is unfaithful also in much.”
Thyself, then, assign their due limit to passion and anger and reason. And to thyself, let the divine 160 Leitourgoi assign the due limit, and to these, the priests, and to the priests, hierarchs, and to the hierarchs, the Apostles and the successors of the Apostles. And if, perchance, any, even among these, should have failed in what is becoming, he shall be put right by the holy men of the same rank; and rank shall not be turned against rank, but each shall be in his own rank, and in his own service. So much for thee, from us, on behalf of knowing and doing one’s own business. But, concerning the inhuman treatment towards that man, whom thou callest “irreverent and sinner,” I know not how I shall bewail the scandal of my beloved. For, of whom dost thou suppose thou wast ordained Therapeutes by us? For if it were not of the Good, it is necessary that thou shouldst be altogether alien from Him and from us, and from our whole religion, and it is time for thee both to seek a God, and other priests, and amongst them to become brutal rather than perfected, and to be a cruel minister of thine own fierceness. For, have we ourselves, forsooth, been perfected to the altogether Good, and have no need of the divine compassion for ourselves128128Luke xvi. 10., or do we commit the double sin129129Jer. ii. 13-35., as the Oracles say, after the example of the unholy, not knowing in what we offend, but even justifying ourselves and supposing we see, whilst really not seeing130130Rom. i. 27.? Heaven was startled at this, and I shivered, and I distrust myself. And 161 unless I had met with thy letters (as know well I would I had not), they would not have persuaded me if indeed any other had thought good to persuade me concerning thee, that Demophilus supposes, that Almighty God, Who is good to all, is not also compassionate towards men, and that he himself has no need of the Merciful or the Saviour; yea further, he deposes those priests who are deemed worthy, through clemency, to bear the ignorances of the people, and who well know, that they also are compassed with infirmity. But, the supremely Divine Priest pursued a different (course), and that as the Oracles say, from being separate of sinners, and makes the most gentle tending of the sheep a proof of the love towards Himself; and He stigmatizes as wicked, him who did not forgive his fellow-servant the debt, nor impart a portion of that manifold goodness, graciously given to himself; and He condemns him to enjoy his own deserts, which both myself and Demophilus must take care to avoid. For, even for those who were treating Him impiously, at the very time of His suffering, He invokes remission from the Father; and He rebukes even the disciples, because without mercy they thought it right to convict of impiety the Samaritans who drove Him away. This, indeed, is the thousand times repeated theme of thy impudent letter (for thou repeatest the same from beginning to end), that thou hast avenged, 162 not thyself, but Almighty God. Tell me (dost thou avenge) the Good by means of evil?
Avaunt! We have not a High Priest, “Who cannot be touched with our infirmities, but is both without sin and merciful.” “He shall not strive nor cry, and is Himself meek, and Himself propitiatory for our sins; so that we will not approve your unenviable attacks, not if you should allege a thousand times your Phineas and your Elias. For, when the Lord Jesus heard these things, He was displeased with the disciples, who at that time lacked the meek and good spirit. For, even our most divine preceptor teaches in meekness those who opposed themselves to the teaching of Almighty God. For, we must teach, not avenge ourselves upon, the ignorant, as we do not punish the blind, but rather lead them by the hand. But thou, after striking him on the cheek, rustiest upon that man, who is beginning to rise to the truth, and when he is approaching with much modesty, thou insolently kickest him away (certainly, this is enough to make one shudder), whom the Lord Christ, as being good, seeks, when wandering upon the mountains, and calls to Him, when fleeing from Him, and when, with difficulty, found, places upon His shoulders. Do not, I pray, do not let us thus injuriously counsel for ourselves, nor drive the sword against ourselves. For they, who undertake to injure any one, or on 163 the contrary to do them good, do not always effect what they wish, but for themselves, when they have brought into their house vice or virtue, will be filled either with Divine virtues, or ungovernable passions. And these indeed, as followers and companions of good angels, both here and there, with all peace and freedom from all evil, will inherit the most blessed inheritances for the ever-continuing age, and will be ever with God, the greatest of all blessings; but, the other will fall both from the divine and their own peace, and here, and after death, will be companions with cruel demons. For which reason, we have an earnest desire to become companions of God, the Good, and to be ever with the Lord, and not to be separated, along with the evil, from the most Just One, whilst undergoing that which is due from ourselves, which I fear most of all, and pray to have no share in anything evil. And, with your permission, I will mention a divine vision of a certain holy man, and do not laugh, for I am speaking true.
When I was once in Crete, the holy Carpus1311312 Tim. iv. 13. entertained me,—a man, of all others, most fitted, on account of great purity of mind, for Divine Vision. Now, he never undertook the holy celebrations of the Mysteries, unless a propitious vision were first manifested to him during his preparatory devout 164 prayers. He said then, when some one of the unbelievers had at one time grieved him (and his grief was, that he had led astray to ungodliness a certain member of the Church, whilst the days of rejoicing were still being celebrated for him); that he ought compassionately to have prayed on behalf of both, and taking God, the Saviour, as his fellow-helper, to convert the one, and to overcome the other by goodness132132Rom. xi. 21., and not to have ceased warning them so long as he lived until this day; and thus to lead them to the knowledge of God, so that the things disputed by them might be clearly determined, and those, who were irrationally bold, might be compelled to be wiser by a judgment according to law. Now, as he had never before experienced this, I do not know how he then went to bed with such a surfeit of ill-will and bitterness. In this evil condition he went to sleep, for it was evening, and at midnight (for he was accustomed at that appointed hour to rise, of his own accord, for the Divine melodies) he arose, not having enjoyed, undisturbed, his slumbers, which were many and continually broken; and, when he stood collected for the, Divine Converse, he was guiltily vexed and displeased, saying, that it was not just that godless men, who pervert the straight ways of the Lord, should live. And, whilst saying this, he besought Almighty God, by some stroke of lightning, suddenly, without mercy, to cut short the lives of them both. But, whilst saying this, he declared, 165 that he seemed to see suddenly the house in which he stood, first torn asunder, and from the roof divided into two in the midst, and a sort of gleaming fire before his eyes (for the place seemed now under the open sky) borne down from the heavenly region close to him; and, the heaven itself giving way, and upon the back of the heaven, Jesus, with innumerable angels, in the form of men, standing around Him. This indeed, he saw, above, and himself marvelled; but below, when Carpus had bent down, he affirmed that he saw the very foundation ripped in two, to a sort of yawning and dark chasm, and those very men, upon whom he had invoked a curse, standing before his eyes, within the mouth of the chasm, trembling, pitiful, only just not yet carried down by the mere slipping of their feet; and from below the chasm, serpents, creeping up and gliding from underneath, around their feet, now contriving to drag them away, and weighing them down, and lifting them up, and again inflaming or irritating with their teeth or their tails, and all the time endeavouring to pull them down into the yawning gulf; and that certain men also were in the midst, co-operating with the serpents against these men, at once tearing and pushing and beating them down. And they seemed to be on the point of falling, partly against their will, partly by their will; almost overcome by the calamity, and at the same time resigned. And Carpus said, that he himself was glad, whilst looking below, and that he was forgetful of the things 166 above; further, that he was vexed and made light of it, because they had not already fallen, and that he often attempted to accomplish the fact, and that, when he did not succeed, he was both irritated and cursed. And, when with difficulty he raised himself, he saw the heaven again, as he saw it before, and Jesus, moved with pity at what was taking place, standing up from His supercelestial throne, and descending to them, and stretching a helping hand, and the angels, co-operating with Him, taking hold of the two men, one from one place and another from, another, and the Lord Jesus said to Carpus, whilst His hand was yet extended, “Strike against Me in future, for I am ready, even again, to suffer for the salvation of men; and this is pleasing to Me, provided that other men do not commit sin. But see, whether it is well for thee to exchange the dwelling in the chasm, and with serpents, for that with God, and the good and philanthropic angels.” These are the things which I heard myself, and believe to be true.
ZENAS, one of the seventy-two disciples, who was versed in the science of law, wrote a life of Titus, and says that he was descended from the family of Minos, King of Crete. Titus gave himself to the study of Homer and Philosophy till his twentieth year, when he heard a voice from heaven, which told him to quit this place and save his soul. He 167 waited one year, to test the truth of the voice, and then had a revelation which bade him read the Hebrew Scriptures. Opening Isaiah, his eye fell on chapter xli. vv 1-5. He was then sent to Jerusalem by the pro-consul of Crete to report upon the reality of the miracles said to be performed by Jesus Christ. He saw our Saviour, and His miracles, and believed; and became one of the seventy-two. He witnessed the Passion and Ascension; the Apostles consecrated him, and sent him with Paul, whom he attended to Antioch, to Seleucia and to Crete, where Rutilus, pro-consul, was baptized, and Titus appointed Bishop. In A.D. 64, St. Paul addressed his Epistle to Titus, and about the same time Dionysius also, this letter. Dexter records that Titus visited Spain, and that Pliny, the younger, was converted to the Faith by Titus. He consecrated the second Bishop of Alexandria, and died at the age of 94.
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