A Story of Early Christian Times
33. Hear another parable. There was an owner of a house, who planted a vineyard, hedged it around, a winepress in it, built a tower, and let it out to workers, and went away.
34. When the time of the fruits came, he sent his servants to the workers to take his fruits.
35. The workers, having captured his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another.
36. Again, he sent other servants, more previous: and they did to them the same.
37. Finally, he sent to them his son, saying: they will revere my son.
38. But the workers, having seen his son, said to each other: this is his heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.
39. And they caught him, cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40. Thus, when the Lord of the vineyard will comes, what will he do to those workers?
41. They tell him: he will put the wicked to death, and will give the vineyard to others tenants, who will give him the fruits in their seasons.
(Matthew XXI, 33-41)
It happened in the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, a hundred years after the birth of Christ, at a time when disciples of Christ’s disciples were still living and Christians held firmly to the teacher’s law, as is told in the Acts: “And the multitude of them that believed were one heart and one soul, and neither called anything of their own; but they had all things in common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Jesus Christ, and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts IV. 32-35)
In those early times there lived in the province of Cilicia, in the city of Tarsus, a rich Syrian merchant, Juvenal by name, who dealt in precious stones. He was of poor and humble origin, but by industry and skill in his business had earned wealth and the respect of his fellow citizens. He had traveled much in foreign countries, and though uneducated he had come to know and understand much, and the townsfolk respected him for his ability and probity. He professed the pagan Roman faith that was held by all respectable citizens of the Roman Empire, the ritual of which had been strictly enforced since the time of the Emperor Augustus and was still adhered to by the present Emperor Trajan. Cilicia was far from Rome, but was ruled by Roman governors, and all that was done in Rome was reflected in Cilicia, whose governors imitated their Emperor.
Juvenal remembered the stories he had heard in childhood of what Nero had done in Rome, and later on he saw how the emperors perished one after another, and being a clever man he understood that there was nothing sacred in the Roman religion but that it was all the work of human hands. But being a smart man he understood that it would not be advantageous to struggle against the existing order of things, and that for his own tranquillity it was better to submit to it. The senselessness of the life all around him, and especially of what went on in Rome, where he repeatedly went on business, often however perplexed him. He had his doubts, he could not grasp it all, and he attributed this to his lack of learning.
He was married and had had four children, but three of them had died young and only one son, Julius, was left.
To him Juvenal devoted all his love and care. He particularly wished to educate his son so that the latter might not be tormented by such doubts about life as perplexed himself. When Julius had passed his fifteenth year his father entrusted him to a philosopher who had settled in their town and who received youths for their instruction. His father gave his son to this philosopher, together with his comrade Pamphilius, the son of a former slave whom Juvenal had freed.
The lads were friends, of the same age, and both handsome fellows. Both studied diligently and both were well conducted. Julius distinguished himself more in the study of the poets and in mathematics, but Pamphilius in the study of philosophy. A year before the completion of their studies, Pamphilius at school one day informed his teacher that his widowed mother was moving to the town of Daphne, and that he would have to abandon his studies.
The teacher was sorry to lose a pupil who was doing him credit, Juvenal too was sorry, but sorriest of all was Julius. But nothing would induce Pamphilius to remain, and after thanking his friends for their love and care, he took his leave.
Two years passed. Julius had finished his studies and during all that time had not once seen his friend.
One day however he met him in the street, invited him to his home, and began asking him how and where he was living. Pamphilius told him that he and his mother were still living in the same place.
“We are not living alone,” said he, “but among many friends with whom we have everything in common.”
“How ‘in common’?” inquired Julius.
“So that none of us considers anything his own.”
“Why do you do that?”
“We are Christians,” said Pamphilius.
“Really?” exclaimed Julius. For to be a Christian in those days was the same thing as in our days to be a conspirator. As soon as a man was revealed to be a Christian he was immediately thrown into prison, was put before court, and if he did not renounce his faith, was executed. And that has horrified Julius. He heard all kind of horrors about the Christians. – “And how come I was told that the Christians kill children and eat them? Is it possible that you take part in that?”
“Come and see,” replied Pamphilius. “We do not do anything strange. We live simply, trying to do nothing bad.”
“But how can you live if you do not consider anything your own?”
“We manage to live. If we work for our brethren they do the same for us.”
“But if your brethren take your labor and do not give you theirs – how then?”
“There are none of that sort,” said Pamphilius. “Such people like to live in luxury and will not come to us. Our life is simple and not luxurious.”
“But there are plenty of lazy people who would be glad to be fed for nothing.”
“There are such, and we receive them gladly. Lately a man of that kind came to us, a runaway slave. At first, it is true, he was lazy and led a bad life, but he soon changed his habits, and has now become a good brother.”
“But suppose he had not improved?”
“There are such, too, and our Elder, Cyril, says that we should treat these as our most valued brethren, and love them even more.”
“How can one love a good-for-nothing fellow?”
“One cannot not to love a man!”
“But how can you give to all whatever they ask?” queried Julius. “If my father gave to all who ask he would very soon have nothing left.”
“I don’t know about that,” replied Pamphilius. “We have enough left for our needs, and if it happens that we have nothing to eat or to wear, we ask of others and they give to us. But that happens rarely. It only once happened to me to go to bed supperless, and then only because I was very tired and did not wish to go to ask for anything.”
“I don’t know how you manage,” said Julius, “but my father says that if you don’t save what you have, and if you give to all who ask, you will yourself die of hunger.”
“We don’t! Come and see. We live, and not only do not suffer want, but even have plenty to spare.”
“How is that?”
“Why, this way. We all profess one and the same faith, but the strength to fulfill it differs in each of us. One has more and another less of it. One has advanced much in the true path of life, while another is only just beginning it. In front of us all stands Christ with his life, and we all try to emulate him and see our welfare in that alone. Some of us, like the Elder Cyril and his wife Pelagia, are leaders, others stand behind them, others again are still farther behind, but we are all following the same path.
Those in front already approach a fulfillment of Christ’s law – self renunciation and readiness to lose their life to save it. These desire nothing. They do not spare themselves, and in accord with Christ’s law are ready to give the last of their possessions to those who ask. Others are feebler, they weaken and are sorry for themselves when they lack their customary clothing and food, and they do not give away everything. There are others who are still weaker – such as have only recently started on the path. These still live in the old way, keeping much for themselves, and only giving away their superfluities. And it is these hindmost people who give the largest material assistance to those in the van. Besides this, we are all of us entangled by our relationships with the pagans. One man’s father is a pagan who has property and gives to his son. The son gives to those who ask, but then the father again gives to him. Another has a pagan mother who is sorry for her son and helps him. A third is the mother of pagan children, who take care of her and give her things, begging her not to give them away, and she takes what they give her out of love for them, but still gives to others. A fourth has a pagan wife and a fifth a pagan husband. So we are all entangled, and the foremost, who would gladly give away their all, are not able to do so. That is how those weak in the faith get support, and that is why we have much that is superfluous.”
To this Julius said:
“But if that is so, then you fail to observe Christ’s teaching and only pretend to do so. If you do not give up everything then there is no difference between you and us. To my mind if a man is a Christian he ought to fulfill Christ’s whole law – give up everything and become a pauper.”
“That would be best of all,” said Pamphilius. “Why do you not do it?”
“Yes, I will when I see you do it.”
“We don’t want to do anything for show. And I don’t advise you to come to us and renounce your present way of life for the sake of appearances. We act as we do not for appearances, but according to our faith.”
“What does ‘according to our faith’ mean?”
“‘According to our faith’ means that salvation from the evils of the world, from death, is only to be found in a life according to the teaching of Christ. We are indifferent to what people may say of us. We act as we do not for men’s approval, but because in this alone do we see life and welfare.”
“It is impossible not to live for oneself,” said Julius. “The gods themselves have implanted it in us that we love ourselves more than others and seek pleasure for ourselves. And you do the same. You yourself say that some among you have pity on themselves. They will seek pleasures for themselves more and more, and will more and more abandon your faith and behave just as we do.”
“No,” said Pamphilius, “our brethren are traveling another path and never weaken but grow ever stronger, just as a fire will never go out when more wood is laid on it. That is our faith.”
“I don’t understand what this faith of yours is!”
“Our faith consists in this, that we understand life as Christ has explained it to us.”
“How is that?”
“Christ once told this parable. Certain men kept a vineyard and had to pay rent to its owner. That is, we men who live in the world must pay rent to God by doing His will. But these men, in accord with their worldly belief, considered that the vineyard was theirs and that they need pay no rent for it, but had only to enjoy its fruits. The owner sent a messenger to them to collect the rent, but they drove him away. Then the owner sent his son, but him they killed, thinking that after that no one would disturb them. That is the faith of the world by which all worldly people live who do not acknowledge that life is only given us that we may serve God. But Christ has taught us that this worldly belief – that it is better for man if he drives the messenger and the owner’s son out of the vineyard and avoids paying the rent –is a false one, for there is no avoiding the fact that we must either pay the rent or be driven out of the garden. He has taught us that all the things we call pleasures – eating, drinking, and merrymaking – cannot be pleasures if we devote our lives to them, but are pleasures only when we are seeking something else – to live a life in conformity with the will of God. Only then do these pleasures follow as a natural reward of the fulfillment of His will. To wish to take the pleasures without the labor of fulfilling God’s will – to tear the pleasures away from duty – is the same as to tear up a flower and replant it without its roots. We believe this, and so we cannot follow error when we see the truth. Our faith is that the good of life is not in its pleasures but in the fulfillment of God’s will, without any thought of present or future pleasures. And the longer we live the more we see that the pleasures and the good come follow the fulfillment of God’s will, just as a wheel follows the shafts. Our Teacher said: ‘Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'”
So spoke Pamphilius. Julius listened and his heart was touched, but what Pamphilius had said was not clear to him. At first it seemed to him that Pamphilius was deceiving him; but then he looked into his friend’s kindly eyes and remembered his goodness, and it seemed to him that Pamphilius was deceiving himself.
Pamphilius invited Julius to come to see their way of life and, if it pleased him, to remain to live with them.
And Julius promised, but he did not go to see Pamphilius, and being absorbed by his own affairs he forgot about him.
(It’s as he was afraid that their life would attract him to itself. He imagined the life of the Christians the way in which it was necessary to renounce all the joys of life, and he couldn’t abandon them because he assumed his life in them. He condemned Christians and cherished his opinion, was afraid to stop condemning them and therefore looked for an occasion to find something nasty in them. Whenever, wherever he met Christians in the city, he immediately found in them a pretext for condemning. When he saw them at a market, selling fruit and vegetables, he told himself, and sometimes to them: “Here you say you have nothing of your own, but you sell for money rather than giving away for free to everyone who wants to take. You are deceiving yourself and us,” he told, and did not want to enter into discussions with them about why they considered it just to sell at the market rather than giving for free. When he met a Christian in good clothes, he reproached him for still not giving it away. He needed for the Christians to be guilty, and since they have never denied their own guilt, so they were guilty in his eyes. In his eyes they were pretentious, deceivers who spoke but did not do. He told: “I have, at least, do what I say, and you say one thing and do another. And when he assured himself in this, he was calm and remained to live the old way).
(Julius had a kind heart, but, according to the custom of wealthy young people, he had slaves and often severely punished them when they did not follow his orders or when he was not in the spirit. He had a lot of expensive, superfluous things and clothes, and acquired even more of them; loved theatres and spectacles; and even from his young years had mistresses, and, in the society of his friends, indulged in gorging on food and alcoholism. His life, seemed to him, was fun, because he did not see his life – all of it took place in entertainments, so he had no time to think about it. So two years have passed. And Julius thought he will live this way the whole his life. But it was impossible. In such life that Julius led he needed always to reinforce the fun to make it equally enjoyable. If at first it was enough for fun to drink a bowl of wine with his friend, after repeating the same pleasure several times he had to drink two cups of wine and of higher quality to have the same enjoyment. If at first it was fun to chat with a buddy, then often is became boring, and to have the same fun he needed to talk already with a girlfriend; and then this was not enough, still needed more. Later, the same girlfriend became boring, needed to change them. And so on in all the pleasures of the body. In order for a pleasure not to cease, need to constantly reinforce it. And to enhance a pleasure, need to increase it, need to demand more from other people; and to make other people do what I want, ordinary people – not the rulers – have and had one tool – money. So it was with Julius. He indulged in the bodily pleasures, but he was not a ruler, and therefore he constantly needed to increase it – he needed money).
Julius’s father was wealthy, and as he loved his only son and was proud of him, he did not grudge him money. Julius lived the usual life of a rich young man, in idleness, luxury, and dissipated amusements, which have always been and still remain the same: wine, gambling, and loose women.
But the pleasures to which Julius abandoned himself demanded more and more money, and he began to find that he had not enough. On one occasion he asked his father for more than he usually gave him. His father gave what he asked, but reproved his son. Julius, feeling himself to blame, but unwilling to admit it, became angry and was rude to his father, as those who know they are guilty and do not wish to acknowledge it, always do.
The money Julius got from his father was very soon all spent. And just at that time it happened that he and a drunken companion became involved in a brawl and killed a man. The city prefect heard of this and would have had him arrested, but his father intervened and obtained his pardon. Julius now needed still more money for dissipation, and this time he borrowed it from a companion, promising to repay it. Moreover his mistress demanded a present: she had taken a fancy to a pearl necklace, and Julius knew that if he did not gratify her wish she would abandon him and attach herself to a rich man who had long been trying to entice her away.
Julius went to his mother and told her that he must have some money, and that he would kill himself if he could not get what he needed. He placed the blame for his being in such a position not on himself but on his father. He said: “My father accustomed me to a life of luxury and then began to grudge me money. Had he given me at first and without reproaches what he gave me later, I should have arranged my life properly and should not have been in such difficulties, but as he never gave me enough I had to go to the moneylenders and they squeezed everything out of me, and I had nothing left on which to live the life natural to me as a rich young man, and was made to feel ashamed among my companions. But my father does not wish to understand anything of all this. He forgets that he was young once himself. He has brought me to this state, and now if he will not give me what I ask I shall kill myself.” The mother, who spoilt her son, went to his father, and Juvenal called his son and began to upbraid both him and his mother. Julius answered his father rudely and Juvenal struck him. Julius seized his father’s arm, at which Juvenal shouted to his slaves and bade them bind his son and lock him up.
Julius was left alone, and he cursed his father and his own life.
It seemed to him that the only way of escape from his present position was either by his own or his father’s death.
Julius’s mother suffered even more than he did. She did not try to understand who was to blame for all this. She only pitied her adored son. She went again to her husband to implore him to forgive the youth, but he would not listen to her, and reproached her for having spoilt their son. She in turn reproached him, and it ended by Juvenal beating his wife. Disregarding this, however, she went to her son and persuaded him to beg his father’s pardon and yield to his wishes, in return for which she promised to take the money he needed from her husband by stealth, and give it him. Julius agreed, and then his mother again went to Juvenal and urged him to forgive his son.
Juvenal scolded his wife and son for a long time, but at last decided that he would forgive Julius, on condition that he should abandon his dissolute life and marry the daughter of a rich merchant – a match Juvenal was very anxious to arrange.
“He will get money from me and also have his wife’s dowry,” said Juvenal, “and then let him settle down to a decent life. If he promises to obey my wishes, I will forgive him; but I will not give him anything at present, and the first time he transgresses I will hand him over to the prefect.” Julius submitted to his father’s conditions and was released. He promised to marry and to abandon his bad life, but he had no intention of doing so.
Life at home now became a hell for him. His father did not speak to him and quarreled with his mother on his account, and his mother wept.
One day she called him into her apartments and secretly handed him a precious stone which she had taken from her husband’s room.
“Go and sell it,” she said, “not here but in another town, and then do what you have to do. I shall be able to conceal its loss for the present, and if it is discovered I will lay the blame on one of the slaves.” Julius’s heart was pierced by his mother’s words. He was horrified at what she had done, and without taking the precious stone he left the house.
He did not himself know where he was going or with what aim. He walked on and on out of the town, feeling that he needed to be alone, and thinking over all that had happened to him and that awaited him. Going farther and farther away at last he reached the sacred grove of the goddess Diana. Coming to a secluded spot he began to think, and the first thought that occurred to him was to seek the goddess’s aid. But he no longer believed in the gods, and knew that he could not expect aid from them. And if not from them, then from whom? To think out his position for himself seemed to him too strange. All was darkness and confusion in his soul. But there was nothing else to be done. He had to listen to his conscience, and began to consider his life and his actions in the light of it. And both appeared to him bad, and above all stupid. Why had he tormented himself like this? Why had he ruined his young life in such a way? It had brought him little happiness and much sorrow and unhappiness. But chiefly he felt himself alone. Formerly he had had a mother whom he loved, a father, and friends. Now there was no one. Nobody loved him! He was a burden to them all. He had been a cause of suffering to all who knew him. For his mother he was the cause of discord with his father. For his father he was the dissipater of the wealth collected by a lifetime of labor. For his friends he was a dangerous and disagreeable rival. They must all desire his death.
Passing his life in review he remembered Pamphilius and his last meeting with him, and how Pamphilius had invited him to go there, to the Christians.
And it occurred to him not to return home, but to go straight to the Christians and remain with them.
But could his position be so desperate, he wondered. Again he recalled all that had happened to him, and again he was horrified at the idea that nobody loved him and that he loved no one. His mother, father, and friends did not care for him and must wish for his death. But did he himself love anyone? His friends? He felt that he loved none of them: they were all his rivals and would be pitiless to him now that he was in distress. His father? He was seized with horror when he put himself that question. He looked into his heart and found that not only did he not love his father, he even hated him for the restraint and insult he had put upon him. He hated him, and more than that he saw clearly that his father’s death was necessary for his own happiness.
“Yes,” he said to himself. “If I knew that no one would see it or ever know of it, what should I do if I could immediately, at one stroke, deprive him of life and free myself?”
And he answered his own question: “I should kill him!” And he was horrified at that reply.
“My mother? I am sorry for her but I do not love her, either: it is all the same to me what becomes of her. All I need is her help… Yes, I am a beast! And a beast wretched, hunted one at that. I only differ from a beast in that I can by my own will quit this false and evil life. I can do what a beast cannot do – I can kill myself. I hate my father. There is no one I love… neither my mother nor my friends… unless, perhaps, Pamphilius alone?”
And he again thought of him. He recalled their last meeting, their conversation, and Pamphilius’s words that, according to their teaching, Christ had said: “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Could that be true?
He went on thinking, and remembering Pamphilius’s gentle, fearless, and happy face, he wished to believe what Pamphilius had said.
“What indeed am I?” he said to himself. “Who am I? A man seeking happiness. I sought it in my lusts and did not find it. And all who live as I did fail to find it. They are all evil and suffer. But there is a man who is always full of joy because he demands nothing. He says that there are many like him and that all men will be such if they follow their Master’s teaching. What if this be true? True or not it attracts me and I will go there.”
So said Julius to himself, and he left the grove, having decided not to return home but to go to the village where the Christians lived.
Julius went along briskly and joyously, and the farther he went the more vividly did he imagine to himself the life of the Christians, recalling all that Pamphilius had said, and the happier he felt. The sun was already declining towards evening and he wished to rest, when he came upon a man seated by the roadside having a meal. He was a man of middle age with an intelligent face, and was sitting there eating olives and a flat cake. On seeing Julius he smiled and said: “Greeting to you, young man! The way is still long. Sit down and rest.” Julius thanked him and sat down.
“Where are you going?” asked the stranger.
“To the Christians,” said Julius, and by degrees he recounted to the unknown his whole life and his decision.
The stranger listened attentively and asked about some details without himself expressing an opinion, but when Julius had ended he packed the remaining food in his wallet, adjusted his dress, and said: “Young man, do not pursue your intention. You would be making a mistake. I know life; you do not. I know the Christians; you do not. Listen! I will review your life and your thoughts, and when you have heard them from me, you will take what decision seems to you wisest. You are young, rich, handsome, strong, and the passions boil in your veins. You wish to find a quiet refuge where they will not agitate you and you would not suffer from their consequences. And you think that you can find such a shelter among the Christians.
“There is no such refuge, dear young man, because what troubles you does not dwell in Cilicia or in Rome but in yourself. In the quiet solitude of a village the same passions will torment you, only a hundred times more strongly.
The deception of the Christians, or their delusion – for I do not wish to judge them – consists in not wishing to recognize human nature. Only an old man who has outlived all his passions could fully carry out their teaching. But a man in the vigor of life, or a youth like you who has not yet tested life and tried himself, cannot submit to their law, because it is based not on human nature but on idle speculations. If you go to them you will suffer from what makes you suffer now, only to a much greater extent. Now your passions lead you into wrong paths, but having once mistaken your road you can correct it. Now at any rate you have the satisfaction of desires fulfilled – that is life.
But among the Christians, forcibly restraining your passions, you will err yet more and in a similar way, and besides that suffering you will have the incessant suffering of unsatisfied desires. Release the water from a dam and it will irrigate the earth and the meadows and supply drink for the animals, but confine it and it will burst its banks and flow away as mud. So it is with the passions. The teaching of the Christians (besides the belief in another life with which they console themselves and of which I will not speak) – their practical teaching is this: They do not approve of violence, do not recognize wars, or tribunals, or property, or the sciences and arts, or anything that makes life easy and pleasant.
“That might be well enough if all men were such as they describe their Teacher as having been. But that is not and cannot be so. Men are evil and subject to passions.
That play of passions and the conflicts caused by them are what keep men in the social condition in which they live. The barbarians know no restraint, and for the satisfaction of his desires one such man would destroy the whole world if all men submitted as these Christians do. If the gods implanted in men the sentiments of anger, revenge, and even of vindictiveness against the wicked, they did so because these sentiments are necessary for human life. The Christians teach that these feelings are bad, and that without them men would be happy, and there would be no murders, executions, and wars. That is true, but it is like supposing that people would be happy if they did not eat food. There would then indeed be no greed or hunger, or any of the calamities that result from them. But that supposition would not change human nature. And if some two or three dozen people believed in it, and did actually refrain from food and die of hunger, it would still not alter human nature. The same is true of man’s other passions: indignation, anger, revenge, even the love of women, of luxury, or of the pomp and grandeur characteristic of the gods and therefore unalterable characteristics of man too. Abolish man’s nutrition and man will be destroyed. And similarly abolish the passions natural to man and mankind will be unable to exist. It is the same with ownership, which the Christians are supposed to reject. Look around you: every vineyard, every enclosure, every house, every ass, has been produced by man under conditions of ownership. Abandon the rights of property and not one vineyard will be tilled or one animal raised and tended.
The Christians say that they have no property, but they enjoy the fruits of it. They say that they have all things in common and that everything is brought together into a common pool. But what they bring together they have received from people who owned property. They merely deceive others, or at best deceive themselves. You say that they themselves work to support themselves, but what they get by work would not support them if they did not avail themselves of what men who recognize ownership have produced.
Even if they could support themselves it would be a bare subsistence, and there would be no place among them for the sciences or arts. They do not even recognize the use of our sciences and arts. Nor can it be otherwise. Their whole teaching tends to reduce them to a primitive condition of savagery – to an animal existence.
“They cannot serve humanity by our arts and sciences, and being ignorant of them they condemn them. Nor can they serve humanity in any of the ways which constitute man’s peculiar prerogative and ally him to the gods.
They have neither temples nor statues nor theaters nor museums. They say they do not need these things. The easiest way to avoid being ashamed of one’s degradation is to scorn what is lofty, and that is what they do. Their teacher is ignorant and a liar. And they imitate him. Besides, they are the godless. They do not acknowledge gods or their participation in human affairs. To them, there is only the Father of their teacher, whom they also call their Father, and the teacher himself who, according to them, has revealed to them all the mysteries of life. Their teaching is a pitiful fraud! Consider just this. Our religion says: The world depends on the gods, the gods protect people, and in order to live well people must respect the gods, and must themselves search and think. In this way our life is guided on the one hand by the will of the gods, and on the other by the collective wisdom of mankind. We live, think, search, and thus advance towards the truth.
“But these Christians have neither the gods, nor their own will, nor the wisdom of humanity. They have only a blind faith in their crucified teacher and in all that he said to them. Now consider which is the more trustworthy guide – the will of the gods and the free activity of collective human wisdom, or the compulsory, blind belief in the words of one man?” Julius was struck by what the stranger said and particularly by his last words. Not only was his intention of going to the Christians shaken, but it now appeared to him strange that, under the influence of his misfortunes, he could ever have decided on such an insanity. But the question still remained of what he was to do now, and what exit to find from the difficult circumstances in which he was placed, and so, having explained his position, he asked the stranger’s advice.
“It was just of that matter I now wished to speak to you,” replied the stranger. “What are you to do? Your path – in as far as human wisdom is accessible to me – is clear. All your misfortunes have resulted from the passions natural to mankind. Passion has seduced you and led you so far that you have suffered. Such are the ordinary lessons of life. We should avail ourselves of them. You have learned much and know what is bitter and what is sweet, you cannot now repeat those mistakes. Profit by your experience. What distresses you most is your enmity towards your father. That enmity is due to your position. Choose another and it will cease, or at least will not manifest itself so painfully. All your misfortunes are the result of the irregularity of your situation. You gave yourself up to youthful pleasures: that was natural and therefore good. But it was good only as long as it corresponded to your age.
That time passed, but though you had grown to manhood you still devoted yourself to the frivolities of youth, and this was bad. You have reached an age when you should recognize that you are a man, a citizen, and should serve the State and work on its behalf. Your father wishes you to marry. His advice is wise. You have outlived one phase of life –your youth – and have reached another. All your troubles are indications of a period of transition. Recognize that youth has passed, boldly throw aside all that was natural to it but not natural for a man, and enter upon a new path. Marry, give up the amusements of youth, apply yourself to commerce, public affairs, the sciences and arts, and you will not only be reconciled to your father and friends, but will yourself find peace and happiness. You have reached manhood, and should marry and be a husband. So my chief advice is: accede to your father’s wish and marry.
If you are attracted by the seclusion you thought to find among the Christians, if you are inclined to philosophy and not towards an active life, you can with advantage devote yourself to it only after you have experienced the real meaning of life. But you will know that only as an independent citizen and the head of a family. If afterwards you still feel drawn to solitude, yield to that feeling. It will then be a true desire and not a mere flash of vexation such as it is now. Then go!” These last words persuaded Julius more than anything else. He thanked the stranger and returned home.
His mother welcomed him with joy. His father too, on hearing of his intention to submit to his will and marry the girl he had chosen for him, was reconciled to his son.
Three months later the marriage of Julius with the beautiful Eulampia was celebrated. The young couple lived in a separate house belonging to Julius, and he took over a branch of his father’s business which was transferred to him. He had now changed his way of life entirely. One day he went on business to a neighboring town, and there, while sitting in a shop, he saw Pamphilius passing by with a girl whom Julius did not know. They both carried heavy baskets of grapes which they were selling. On seeing his friend, Julius went out to him and asked him into the shop to have a talk.
The girl, seeing that Pamphilius wished to go with his friend but hesitated to leave her alone, hastened to assure him that she did not need his help, but would sit down with the grapes and wait for customers. Pamphilius thanked her, and he and Julius went into the shop.
Julius asked the shopkeeper, whom he knew, to let him take his friend into a private room at the back of the shop, and having received permission they went there.
The two friends questioned each other about their lives. Pamphilius was still living as before in the Christian community and had not married, and he assured his friend that his life had been growing happier and happier each year, each day, and each hour.
Julius told his friend what had happened to himself, and how he had actually been on his way to join the Christians when an encounter with a stranger cleared up for him the mistakes of the Christians and showed him what he ought to do, and how he had followed that advice and had married.
“Well, and are you happy now?” inquired Pamphilius. “Have you found in marriage what the stranger promised you?”
“Happy?” said Julius. “What is happiness? If you mean the complete satisfaction of my desires, then of course I am not happy. I am at present managing my business successfully, people begin to respect me, and in both these things I find some satisfaction. Though I see many men richer and more highly regarded than myself, I foresee the possibility of equaling or even surpassing them. That side of my life is full, but marriage, I will say frankly, does not satisfy me. More than that, I feel that it is just my marriage – which should have given me happiness – that has failed. The joy I at first experienced gradually diminished and at last vanished, and instead of happiness came sorrow. My wife is beautiful, clever, well-educated, and kind. At first I was perfectly happy. But now – not having a wife you will not have experienced this – differences arise, sometimes because she desires my attentions when I am indifferent to her, and sometimes for the contrary reason. Besides this, for passion novelty is essential. A woman less fascinating than my wife attracts me more when I first know her, but afterwards becomes still less attractive than my wife: I have experienced that. No, I have not found satisfaction in marriage. Yes, my friend,” Julius concluded, “the philosophers are right. Life does not afford us what the soul desires. I have now experienced that in marriage. But the fact that life does not give the happiness that the soul desires does not prove that your deception can give it,” he added with a smile.
“In what do you see our ‘deception’?” asked Pamphilius.
“Your deception consists in this: that to deliver man from the evils connected with life, you reject all life – repudiate life itself. To avoid disenchantment you reject enchantment. You reject marriage itself.”
“We do not reject marriage,” said Pamphilius.
“Well, if you don’t reject marriage, at any rate you reject love.”
“On the contrary, we reject everything except love. For us it is the basis of everything.”
“I do not understand you,” said Julius. “As far as I have heard from others and from yourself, and judging by the fact that you are not yet married though you are the same age as myself, I conclude that your people do not marry. Those who are already married continue to be so, but the others do not form fresh marriages. You do not concern yourself about continuing the human race. And if you were the only people the human race would long ago have died out,” he concluded, repeating what he had often heard said.
“That is unjust,” replied Pamphilius. “It is true that we do not set ourselves the aim of continuing the human race, and do not make it our concern in the way I have often heard your philosophers speak of it. We suppose that our Father has already provided for that. Our aim is simply to live in accord with His will. If it is His will that the human race should continue, it will do so, if not it will end. That is not our affair, nor our care. Our care is to live in accord with His will. And His will is expressed both in our teaching and in our revelation, in which it is said that a husband shall cleave unto his wife and they twain shall be one flesh.
“Marriage among us is not only not forbidden, but it is encouraged by our elders and teachers. The difference between marriage among us and marriage among you consists only in the fact that our law reveals to us that every lustful look at a woman is a sin, and so we and our women, instead of adorning ourselves to stimulate desire, try so to avoid it that the feeling of love between us as between brothers and sisters, may be stronger than the feeling of desire for a woman which you call love.”
“But all the same you cannot suppress admiration for beauty,” said Julius. “I feel sure, for instance, that the beautiful girl with whom you were bringing the grapes evokes in you the feeling of desire – in spite of the dress which hides her charms.”
“I do not yet know,” said Pamphilius, blushing. “I have not thought about her beauty. You are the first to speak to me of it. To me she is as a sister. But to continue what I was saying about the difference between our marriages and yours, that difference arises from the fact that among you lust, under the name of beauty and love, and the worship of the goddess Venus, is evoked and developed in people. With us on the contrary lust is considered, not as an evil – for God did not create evil – but as a good which begets evil when it is out of place: a temptation as we call it. And we try by all means to avoid it. And that is why I am not yet married, though very possibly I may marry tomorrow.”
“But what will decide that?”
“The will of God.”
“How will you know it?”
“If you never seek its indications you will never discern it, but if you constantly seek them they become clear, as divinations from sacrifices and birds are for you. And as you have your wise men who interpret for you the will of the gods by their wisdom and from the entrails of their sacrificed animals and by the flight of birds, so we too have our wise men who explain to us the will of the Father according to Christ’s revelation and the promptings of their hearts and the thoughts of others, and chiefly by their love of men.”
“But all this is very indefinite,” retorted Julius. “Who will indicate to you, for instance, when and whom to marry? When I was about to marry I had the choice of three girls. Those three were chosen from among others because they were beautiful and rich, and my father was agreeable to my marrying any one of them. Of the three I chose Eulampia because she was the most beautiful, and more attractive to me than the others. That is easily understood. But what will guide you in your choice?”
“To answer you,” said Pamphilius, “I must first tell you that as by our teaching all men are equal in our Father’s eyes, therefore they are also equal in our eyes both in their station and in their spiritual and bodily qualities, and consequently our choice (to use a word we consider meaningless) cannot in any way be limited. Anyone in the whole world may be the husband or wife of a Christian.”
“That makes it still more impossible to decide.” said Julius.
“I will tell you what our Elder said to me about the difference between the marriage of a Christian and a pagan. A pagan, such as yourself, chooses the wife who in his opinion will give him the greatest amount of personal enjoyment. In such circumstances the eye wanders and it is difficult to decide, especially as the enjoyment is to be in the future. But a Christian has no such choice to make, or rather, when choosing, his personal enjoyment occupies not the first but a secondary place. For a Christian the question is how not to infringe the will of God by his marriage.”
“But in what way can there be an infringement of God’s will by marriage?”
“I might have forgotten the Iliad which we used to read and study together, but you who live among sages and poets cannot have forgotten it. What is the whole Iliad? It is a story of the infringement of God’s will in relation to marriage. Menelaus and Paris and Helen; Achilles and Agamemnon and Chryseis – it is all a description of the terrible ills that flowed and still flow from such infringements.”
“But in what does the infringement consist?”
“In this: that a man loves a woman for the enjoyment he can get by connection with her and not because she is a human being like himself. He marries her solely for his own enjoyment. Christian marriage is possible only when a man loves his fellow men, and when the object of his carnal love is first of all an object of this brotherly love. As a house can only be built rationally and durably when there is a foundation, and a picture can be painted only when something has been prepared on which to paint it, so carnal love is only legitimate, reasonable, and permanent when it is based on the respect and love of one human being for another. Only on that foundation can a reasonable Christian family life be established.”
“But still,” said Julius, “I do not see why such a Christian marriage, as you call it, excludes the kind of love for a woman that Paris experienced…” “I do not say that Christian marriage does not admit of any exclusive feeling for one woman: on the contrary, only then is it reasonable and holy. But an exclusive love for one woman can arise only when the previously existent love for all men is not infringed.
“The exclusive love for one woman which the poets sing, considering it as good in itself without being based on the general love of man, has no right to be called love. It is animal lust and very often changes into hatred. The best examples of how such so-called love (eros) becomes bestial when it is not based on brotherly love for all men are cases like this: the very woman the man is supposed to love is violated by him; he causes her to suffer and ruins her. In such violence there is evidently no brotherly love, for the man torments the one he loves. In unchristian marriage there is often a concealed violence – as when a man who marries a girl who does not love him, or who loves another, compels her to suffer, and has no compassion for her, using her merely to satisfy his ‘love.'”
“Granted that that is so,” said Julius, “but if the maiden loves him there is no injustice and I don’t see the difference between Christian and pagan marriage.”
“I do not know the details of your marriage,” replied Pamphilius, “but I know that every marriage based on nothing but personal happiness cannot but result in discord, just as among animals, or men differing little from animals, the simple act of taking food cannot occur without quarreling and strife. Each wants a nice morsel, and as there are not enough choice morsels for all, discord results. Even if it is not expressed openly it is still there secretly. The weak man desires a dainty morsel but knows that the strong man will not give it to him, and though he knows it is impossible to take it away directly from the strong man, he watches him with secret and envious malice and avails himself of the first opportunity to take it from him by guile. The same is true of pagan marriage, but there it is twice as bad because the object of desire is a human being, so that the enmity arises between husband and wife.”
“But how can married couples possibly love no one but each other? There will always be some man or woman who loves the one or the other, and then, in your opinion, marriage is impossible. So I see the justice of what is said of you – that you deny marriage. That is why you are not married and probably will not marry. It is not possible for a man to marry a woman without ever having aroused the feeling of love in some other woman, or for a girl to reach maturity without having aroused any man’s feeling for herself. What ought Helen to have done?”
“Our Elder Cyril speaks thus about it: In the pagan world men, without thinking of loving their brethren – without cultivating that sentiment – think only of arousing in themselves passionate love for a woman, and they foster that passion in themselves. And so in their world Helen, and every woman like her, arouses the love of many men. Rivals fight one another and strive to surpass one another, as animals do to possess a female. And to a greater or lesser extent their marriage is an act of violence. In our community we not only do not think about the personal enjoyment a woman’s beauty may afford, but we avoid all temptations which lead to this – which in the pagan world is regarded as a merit and an object of worship. We, on the contrary, think of those obligations of respect and love of our neighbor which we feel for all men, for the greatest beauty and the greatest deformity. We cultivate them with all our might, and so the feeling of brotherly love supplants the seduction of beauty, vanquishes it, and eliminates the discords arising from sexual intercourse. A Christian marries only when he knows that his union with the woman will not cause pain to anyone.”
“But is that possible?” rejoined Julius. “Can men control their passions?”
“It is impossible if they are allowed free play, but we can pre- vent their awakening and being aroused. Take, for example, the relations of a father and his daughter, a mother and her son, or of brothers and sisters. However beautiful she may be, the mother is for her son an object of pure love and not of personal enjoyment. And it is the same with a daughter and her father, and a sister and her brother. Feelings of desire are not awakened. They would awaken only if the father learned that she whom he considered to be his daughter was not his daughter, and similarly in the relation of a mother and son, and a brother and sister. But even then the sensation would be very feeble and easily suppressed, and it would be in the man’s power to restrain it. The feeling of desire would be feeble because at its base would lie the sentiment of maternal, paternal, or fraternal love. Why do you not wish to believe that such a feeling towards all women – as mothers, sisters, and daughters – may be cultivated and confirmed in men, and that the feeling of conjugal love could grow up on the basis of that feeling? As the brother will only allow a feeling of love for her as a woman to arise in himself after he has learned that she is not his sister, so also a Christian will only allow that feeling to arise in his soul when he feels that his love will cause pain to no one.”
“But suppose two men love the same girl?”
“Then one will sacrifice his happiness for that of the other.”
“But how if she loves one of them?”
“Then the one whom she loves less will sacrifice his feeling for her happiness.”
“And if she loves both of them and they both sacrifice themselves, she will not marry at all?”
“No, in that case the elders will look into the matter and advise so that there may be the greatest good for all with the greatest amount of love.” “But you know that is not done! It is not done because it would be contrary to human nature.”
“Contrary to human nature? What human nature? A man is a human being besides being an animal, and while it is true that such a relation to a woman is not consonant with man’s animal nature, it is consonant with his rational nature. When man uses his reason to serve his animal nature he becomes worse than an animal, and descends to violence and incest and to things no animal would do. But when he uses his reason to restrain his animal nature, then that animal nature serves his reason, and only then does he attain a happiness that satisfies him.”
“But tell me about yourself,” said Julius. “I see you with that lovely girl, it seems that you live near her and help her. Is it possible that you do not wish to become her husband?”
“I do not think about it,” said Pamphilius. “She is the daughter of a Christian widow. I serve them as others do. You ask whether I love her so that I wish to unite my life with hers? That question is hard for me to answer, but I will do so frankly. That thought has occurred to me but I dare not as yet entertain it, for there is another young man who loves her. That young man is a Christian and loves us both, and so I cannot do anything that would cause him pain. I live without thinking of it. I seek only one thing: to fulfill the law of love of man. That is the one thing needful. I shall marry when I see that it is necessary.”
“But it cannot be a matter of indifference to her mother to get a good industrious son-in-law. She will want you and not someone else.”
“No, it is a matter of indifference to her, because she knows that we are all ready to serve her, as we would anyone else, and that I should serve her neither more nor less whether I became her son-in-law or not. If it comes about that I marry her daughter, I shall accept it gladly, as I should do her marriage with someone else.”
“That is impossible!” exclaimed Julius. “What is so terrible about you is that you deceive yourselves and so deceive others. What that stranger told me about you was correct. When I listen to you I involuntarily yield to the beauty of the life you describe, but when I reflect I see that it is all a deception leading to savagery, to a coarseness of life resembling that of the animals.”
“In what do you see this savagery?”
“In this, that supporting yourselves by labor, you can have neither leisure nor opportunity to occupy yourselves with the sciences and arts. Here you are in ragged garments, with coarsened hands and feet; and your companion, who could be a goddess of beauty, resembles a slave. You have neither songs to Apollo, nor temples, nor poetry, nor games – none of the things the gods have given for the adornment of man’s life. To work, to work like slaves or like oxen, merely to feed coarsely – is not this a voluntary and impious renunciation of man’s will and of human nature?”
“Again ‘human nature’!” said Pamphilius. “But in what does this nature consist? In tormenting slaves to work beyond their strength, in killing one’s brother-men and enslaving them, and making women into instruments of pleasure? All this is needed for that beauty of life which you consider natural for human beings. Is that man’s nature? Or is it to live in love and concord with all men, feeling oneself a member of one universal brotherhood?
“You are much mistaken, too, if you think that we do not recognize the arts and sciences. We value highly all the capacities with which human nature is endowed, but we regard all man’s inherent capacities as means for the attainment of one and the same end, to which we consecrate our lives, namely the fulfillment of God’s will. We do not regard art and science as an amusement, of use only to while away the time of idle people. We demand of science and art, as of all human occupations, that in them should be realized that activity of love of God and of our neighbors which should be the aim of all Christian activities. We regard as true science only such knowledge as helps us to live a better life, and we esteem as art only what purifies our thoughts, elevates our souls, and strengthens the powers we need for a life of labor and love. Such knowledge we do not fail to develop in ourselves and in our children as far as we can, and to such art we willingly devote our leisure time. We read and study the works bequeathed to us by the wisdom of those who lived before us. We sing songs and paint pictures, and our poems and pictures brace our spirit and console us in moments of grief. That is why we cannot approve of the applications you make of the arts and sciences. Your learned men employ their mental capacities to devise new means of injuring men. They perfect methods of warfare, that is of murder. They contrive new methods of gain, by getting rich at the expense of others. Your art serves for the construction and adornment of temples in honor of gods in whom the more educated among you have long ceased to believe, but whom you encourage others to believe in, in order by such deception the better to keep them in your power. You erect statues in honor of the most powerful and cruel of your tyrants, whom none respect but all fear. In your theaters performances are given extolling guilty love. Music serves for the delectation of your rich, who glut themselves with food and drink at their luxurious feasts. Painting is employed in houses of debauchery to depict scenes such as no sober man, or man not stupefied by animal passion, could look at without blushing. No, not for such ends have those higher capacities which distinguish him from the animals been given to man. They must not be employed for bodily gratification. Devoting our whole lives to the fulfillment of God’s will, we employ our highest faculties especially in that service.”
“Yes,” said Julius. “All that would be excellent if life were possible under such conditions, but one cannot live so. You deceive yourselves. You condemn our laws, our institutions, and our armies. You do not recognize the protection we afford. If it were not for the Roman legions could you live at peace? You profit by the protection of the State without acknowledging it. Some of your people, as you told me yourself, have even defended themselves. You do not recognize the right of private property, but you make use of it. Our people have it and give to you. You yourself do not give away your grapes, but sell them and buy other things. It is all a deception! If you did what you say that would be all right, but as it is you deceive yourselves and others!” He spoke heatedly and said all that he had in his mind. Pamphilius waited in silence, and when Julius had finished, he said: “You are wrong in thinking that we do not acknowledge your protection yet use it. We do not need the Roman legions, because we do not value anything that requires protection by violence, our well-being in that which requires no protection, and this no one can take from us. Even if material things which in your eyes constitute property pass through our hands, we do not regard them as our own, and we give them to anyone who needs them for their sustenance. We sell the grapes to those who wish to buy them, not for the sake of personal gain, but solely to acquire necessities for those who need them. If someone wished to take those grapes from us we should give them up without resistance. For the same reason we are not afraid of an incursion of the barbarians. If they began to take from us the product of our toil we should let them have it, and if they demanded that we should work for them, we should also do that gladly; and they would not merely have no reason to kill or ill-treat us, but it would conflict with their own interests to do so. They would soon understand and learn to love us, and we should have less to suffer from them than from the civilized people who now surround us and persecute us.
“People say that the things necessary for existence can only be produced under a system of private property. But consider who really produces the necessaries of life. To whose labor do we owe all these riches of which you are so proud? Were they produced by those who issued orders to their slaves and workmen without themselves moving a finger, and who now possess all the property; or were they produced by the poor slaves who carried out their masters’ orders for their daily bread, and who now possess no property and have barely enough to supply their daily needs? And do you suppose that these slaves, who expend all their strength in executing orders often quite incomprehensible to them, would not work for themselves and for those they love and care for if they were allowed to do so – that is to say, if they might work for aims they clearly understood and approved of?
“You accuse us of not completely achieving what we strive for, and for taking advantage of violence and property even while we do not recognize them. If we are cheats, it is no use talking to us and we are worthy neither of anger nor of exposure, but only of contempt. And we willingly accept your contempt, for one of our precepts is the recognition of our insignificance. But if we sincerely strive towards what we profess, then your accusation of fraud is unjust. If we strive, as I and my brethren do, to fulfill our Master’s law and to live without violence and without private property – which is the result of violence – we do so not for external ends, riches or honors – we account these as nothing – but for something else. We seek happiness just as you do, only we have a different conception of what it is. You believe that happiness is to be found in wealth and honors, but we believe it is found in something else. Our belief shows us that happiness lies not in violence, but in submissiveness; not in wealth, but in giving everything up. And we, like plants striving towards the light, cannot help but press forward in the direction of our happiness. We do not accomplish all that we desire for our own welfare. That is true. But can it be otherwise? You strive to have the most beautiful wife and the largest fortune. But have you, or has anyone else, ever attained them? If an archer does not hit the mark will he cease to aim at it because he often fails? So it is with us. Our happiness, according to Christ’s teaching, lies in love. We seek our happiness, but attain it far from fully and each in his own way.”
“Yes, but why do you disbelieve all human wisdom? Why have you turned away from it? Why do you believe only in your crucified teacher? Your slavish submission to him – that is what repels me.”
“There again you are mistaken, and so is anyone who thinks that we hold our faith because we were bidden to do so by the man in whom we believe. On the contrary, those who with their whole soul seek a knowledge of the truth and communion with the Father – all those who seek for the good – involuntarily come to the path which Christ followed, and so by standing after him, see him before them! All who love God will meet on that path, and you will, too! Our master is the son of God and a mediator between God and people, not because someone has said so and we blindly believe it, but because all who seek God find His son before themselves, and involuntarily only through him come to understand, to see, and to know God.”
Julius did not reply, and they sat in silence for a long time.
“Are you happy?” he asked.
“I wish for nothing better. More than that, I generally experience a feeling of perplexity and am conscious of a kind of injustice that I am so tremendously happy,” said Pamphilius with a smile.
“Yes,” said Julius, “perhaps I should be happier if I had not met that stranger and had come to you.”
“If you think so, what keeps you back?”
“How about my wife?”
“You say that she is inclined towards Christianity – so she might come with you.”
“Yes, but we have already begun a different kind of life. How can we break it up? As it has been begun we must live it out,” said Julius, picturing to himself the dissatisfaction of his father, his mother, his friends, and above all the effort that would have to be made to effect the change.
Just then the maiden, Pamphilius’s companion, came to the door accompanied by a young man. Pamphilius went out to them, and in Julius’s presence the young man explained that he had been sent by Cyril to buy some hides. The grapes were already sold and some wheat purchased. Pamphilius proposed that the young man should go with Magdalene and take the wheat home, while he would himself buy and bring home the hides. “It will be better for you,” he said.
“No, Magdalene had better go with you,” said the young man, and went away.
Julius took Pamphilius into the shop of a tradesman he knew, and Pamphilius poured the wheat into bags, and having given Magdalene a small share to carry, took up his own heavy load, bid farewell to Julius, and left the town with the maiden. At the turning of the street he looked round and nodded to Julius with a smile. Then, with a still more joyous smile, he said something to Magdalene and they disappeared from view.
“Yes, I should have done better had I then gone to them,” thought Julius. And in his imagination two pictures alternated: strong Pamphilius with the tall strong maiden as they carried the baskets on their heads, and their kind and bright faces; and then the domestic hearth from which he had come that morning and to which he must soon return, where his beautiful, but pampered and wearisome wife, who had become repulsive to him, would be lying on rugs and cushions, wearing bracelets and rich attire.
But Julius had no time to think of this. Some merchant companions of his came up to him, and they began their usual occupations, finishing up with dinner and drinking, and night – with wives…
Ten years passed. Julius had not met Pamphilius again, and the meeting with him had slowly passed from his memory, and the impression of him and of the Christian life wore off.
Julius’s life ran its usual course. During these ten years his father had died and he had taken over the management of his whole business, which was a complicated one. There were the regular customers, salesmen in Africa, clerks, and debts to be collected and paid. Julius found himself involuntarily absorbed in it all and gave his whole time to it. Besides this, new cares presented themselves. He was elected to a public office, and this new occupation, which flattered his vanity, attracted him. In addition to his business affairs he now attended to public matters also, and being capable and a good speaker he began to distinguish himself among his fellows, and appeared likely to reach high public office. In his family life a considerable and unpleasant change had occurred during these ten years.
Three children had been born to him, and this had separated him from his wife. In the first place she had lost much of her beauty and freshness, and in the second place she paid less attention to her husband. All her tenderness and endearments were devoted to her children. Though according to the pagan custom the children were handed over to wet-nurses and attendants, Julius often found them with their mother, or found her with them instead of in her own apartments. For the most part Julius found the children a burden, affording him more annoyance than pleasure.
Occupied with business and public affairs he had abandoned his former dissipated life, but considered that he needed some refined recreation after his labors. This, however, he did not find with his wife, the more so as during this time she had cultivated an acquaintance with her Christian slave girl, had become more and more attracted by the new teaching, and had discarded from her life all the external, pagan things that had attracted Julius. Not finding what he wanted in his wife, Julius formed an intimacy with a woman of light conduct, and passed with her the leisure that remained after his business.
Had he been asked whether he was happy or unhappy during those years he would have been unable to answer.
He was so busy! From one affair or pleasure he passed to another affair or pleasure, but not one of them was such as fully to satisfy him or make him wish it to continue. Everything he did was of such a nature that the quicker he could free himself from it the better he was pleased, and his pleasures were all poisoned in some way, or the tedium of satiety mingled with them.
In this way he was living when something happened that came near to altering his whole manner of life. He took part in the races at the Olympic Games, and was driving his chariot successfully to the end of the course when he suddenly collided with another which was overtaking him. His wheel broke, and he was thrown out and broke his arm and two ribs. His injuries were serious, though they did not endanger his life, and he was taken home and had to keep to his bed for three months.
During these three months of severe physical suffering his mind worked, and he had leisure to think about his life as if it were someone else’s. And his life presented itself to him in a gloomy light, the more so as during that time three unpleasant events occurred which much distressed him.
The first was that a slave, who had been his father’s trusted servant, decamped with some precious jewels he had received in Africa, thus causing a heavy loss and a disorganization of Julius’s affairs.
The second was that his mistress deserted him and found herself another protector.
The third and most unpleasant event for him, was that during his illness there was an election, and his opponent secured the position he had hoped to obtain.
All this, it seemed to Julius, came about because his chariot wheel had swerved a finger-breadth to the left.
Lying alone on his couch he began involuntarily to reflect on the fact that his happiness depended on such insignificant happenings, and these thoughts led him on to others, and to the recollection of his former misfortunes, of his attempt to go to the Christians, and of Pamphilius, whom he had now not seen for ten years. These recollections were strengthened by conversations with his wife, who was often with him during his illness and told him everything she had learned about Christianity from her slave girl.
This slave girl had at one time been in the same community with Pamphilius, and knew him. Julius wished to see her, and when she came to his couch questioned her about everything in detail, and especially about Pamphilius.
Pamphilius, the slave girl said, was one of the best of the brethren, and was loved and esteemed by them all. He had married that same Magdalene whom Julius had seen ten years ago, and they already had several children.
“Yes, any man who does not believe that God has created men for happiness should go to see their life,” concluded the slave girl.
Julius let the slave girl go, and remained alone, thinking of what he had heard. It made him envious to compare Pamphilius’s life with his own, and he did not wish to think about it.
To distract himself he took up a Greek manuscript which his wife had left by his couch, and began to read as follows: There are two ways: one of life and the other of death. The way of life is this: First, thou shalt love God who has created thee, secondly, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; and thou shalt do to no one what thou wouldst not have him do to thee.
Now this is the meaning of these words: Bless them that curse you, pray for your enemies and for those that persecute you. For what merit have you if you love only those who love you? Do not the heathen so? Love them that hate you, and you shall have no enemies. Put away from you all carnal and worldly desires. If a man smites you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If a man compels you to walk a mile with him, go with him two. If he takes what belongs to you, demand it not again, for this you shall not do; if he takes your outer garment, give him your shirt also. Give to everyone that askes of your, and demand nothing back, for the Father wishes that His abundant gifts should be received by all. Blessed is he who gives according to the commandment! The second commandment of the teaching is this: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not be wanton, do not steal, do not employ sorcery, do not poison, do not covet your neighbor’s goods. Take no oath, do not bear false witness, speak no evil, do not remember injuries. Shun duplicity in your thoughts and be not double-tongued. Let not your words be false nor empty, but in accord with your deeds. Be not covetous, nor rapacious, nor hypocritical, nor ill-tempered, nor proud. Have no evil intention against your neighbor. Cherish no hatred of any man, but rebuke some, pray for some, and love others more than your own soul.
My child! Shun evil and all appearance of evil. Be not angry, for anger leads to murder. Be not jealous, nor quarrelsome, nor passionate, for of all these things comes murder.
My child! Be not lustful, for lust leads to wantonness, and be not foul-mouthed, for of this cometh adultery.
My child! Be not untruthful, for lying leads to theft; neither be fond of money, nor vain, for of all these comes theft also.
My child! Do not repine, for that leads to blasphemy; neither be arrogant, nor a thinker of evil, for of all these things cometh blasphemy also.
Be humble, for the meek shall inherit the earth. Be long-suffering, merciful, forgiving, humble, and kind, and take heed of the words that you hear.
Do not exalt yourself, and yield not your soul to arrogance nor let your soul cleave to the proud, but have converse with the humble and just. Accept as a blessing all that befalls you, knowing that nothing happens without God’s will… My child! Do not sow dissensions, but reconcile those that are at strife.
Stretch not out your hand to receive, nor hold it back from giving. Be not slow in giving, nor repine when giving, for you shall know the good Giver of rewards. Turn not away from the needy, but in everything have communion with your brother, and call not anything your own, for if you are partakers in that which is incorruptible, how much more so in that which is corruptible. Teach your children the fear of God from their youth. Deal not with your slave in anger, lest he cease to fear God who is above you both, for He is no respecter of persons but calls those whom the Spirit has prepared.
But this is the way of death: First of all it is wrathful and full of curses; here are murder, adultery, lust, wantonness, theft, idolatry, sorcery, poisoning, plundering, false witness, hypocrisy, deceitfulness, insidiousness, pride, malice, arrogance, avarice, obscenity, envy, insolence, presumption, and vanity. Here are the persecutors of the righteous, haters of the truth, lovers of falsehood, who do not acknowledge the reward for righteousness nor cleave to what is good or to righteous judgments, who are vigilant not for what is good but for evil, from whom meekness and patience are far removed. Here are those that love vanity, who follow after rewards, who have no pity for their neighbors and do not labor for the oppressed or know their Creator. Here are the murderers of children, destroyers of God’s image, who turn away from the needy. Here are the oppressors of the oppressed, defenders of the rich, unjust judges of the poor, sinners in all things. Beware, children, of all these! Long before he had read the manuscript to the end, Julius had entered with his whole soul into communion with those who had inspired it – as often happens to men who read a book (that is, another person’s thoughts) with a sincere desire to discern the truth. He read on, guessing in advance what was coming, and not only agreed with the thoughts expressed in the book but seemed to be expressing them himself.
He experienced that ordinary, but mysterious and significant phenomenon, unnoticed by many people: of a man, supposed to be alive, becoming really alive on entering into communion with those accounted dead, and uniting and living one life with them.
Julius’s soul united with him who had written and inspired those thoughts, and in the light of this communion he contemplated himself and his life. And it appeared to him to be all a terrible mistake. He had not lived, but had only destroyed in himself the possibility of living by all the cares and temptations of life.
“I do not wish to ruin my life. I want to live and to follow the path of life!” he said to himself.
He remembered all that Pamphilius had said to him in their former conversations, and it all now seemed so clear and unquestionable that he was surprised that he could have listened to the stranger and not have held to his intention of going to the Christians. He remembered also that the stranger had said to him: “Go when you have had experience of life!” “I have now had experience of life, and have found nothing in it!” thought Julius.
He also recalled the words of Pamphilius: that whenever he might go to the Christians, they would be glad to receive him.
“No, I have erred and suffered enough!” he said to himself. “I will give up everything and go to them and live as it says here!” He told his wife of his plan, and she was delighted with it. She was ready for everything. The only difficulty was to decide how to put the plan into execution. What was to be done with the children? Were they to be taken with them or left with their grandmother? How could they be taken? How, after the delicacy of their upbringing, could they be subjected to all the difficulties of a rough life? The slave girl proposed to go with them, but the mother was afraid for the children, and said that it would be better to leave them with their grandmother and to go alone. And to this they agreed.
All was decided. Only Julius’s illness delayed the execution of their plans.
In that state of mind Julius fell asleep. In the morning he was told that a skillful physician was visiting the town and wished to see him, promising him speedy relief. Julius willingly consented to see him, and the physician proved to be none other than the stranger whom he had met when he started to join the Christians. Having examined his injuries the physician prescribed certain potions of herbs to strengthen him.
“Shall I be able to work with my hands?” inquired Julius.
“Oh yes! You will be able to write and to drive a chariot.”
“But hard work – digging?”
“I was not thinking of that,” said the physician, “because it cannot be necessary for a man in your position.”
“On the contrary, it is just what is wanted,” said Julius, and he told the physician that since he had last seen him he had followed his advice and had experienced life; and that life had not given him what it promised, but on the contrary had disillusioned him, and that he now wished to carry out the intention he had then spoken of.
“They have evidently employed all their deceptions and have enchanted you so that in spite of your position and the responsibilities that rest upon you – especially in regard to your children – you still do not see their error.”
“Read that!” was all Julius said in reply, handing him the manuscript he had been reading.
The physician took the manuscript and looked at it.
“I know this,” he said. “I know this deception, and am surprised that such a man as you should be caught by such a snare.”
“I don’t understand you. Where is the snare?”
“It is all tested by life! These sophists and rebels against men and gods propose a way of life in which all men will be happy, and there will be no wars or executions, no poverty or depravity, no strife or anger. And they insist that this condition will come about when all men fulfill the law of Christ – not to quarrel, nor yield to lust, nor take oaths, nor do violence, nor take arms against another nation. But they deceive themselves and others by taking the end for the means.
“Their aim is not to quarrel, not to bind themselves by oaths, not to be wanton, and so forth, and this aim can only be attained by means of public life. But what they say is as if a teacher of archery should say: ‘You will hit the target when your arrow flies to it in a straight line.’ The problem is how to make it fly straight. And that result is attained in archery by having a taut bowstring, a flexible bow, and a straight arrow. It is the same in life. The best life, in which men have no need to quarrel, to be wanton, or to commit murder, is attained by having a taut bowstring (the rulers), a flexible bow (the power of government), and a straight arrow (the justice of the law). But they, under pretext of living a better life, destroy all that has improved or does improve it. They recognize neither government, nor the authorities, nor the laws.”
“But they say that if men fulfill the law of Christ, life will be better without rulers, authorities, and laws.”
“Yes, but what guarantee is there that men will fulfill it? None! They say:
‘You have experienced life under rulers and laws, and life has not been perfected. Try it now without rulers and laws and it will become perfect. You cannot deny this, for you have not tried it.’ But this is the obvious sophistry of these impious people. In saying that, is it not in effect as though a man should say to a farmer: ‘You sow your seed in the ground and cover it up, and yet the harvest is not what you would wish. I advise you to sow in the sea. It will be better like that – and you cannot deny my proposition, for you have not tried it’?”
“Yes, that is true,” said Julius, who was beginning to waver.
“But that is not all,” continued the physician. “Let us assume the absurd and impossible. Let us assume that the principles of the Christian teaching can be poured into men like medicine, and that suddenly all men will begin to fulfill Christ’s teaching, to love God and their fellows, and to fulfill his commandments. Even assuming all that, the path of life inculcated by them would still not stand examination. Life would come to an end and the race would die out. Their teacher was a young vagabond, and such will his followers be, and according to our supposition such would the whole world become if it followed his teaching. Those living would last their time, but their children would not survive, or hardly one in ten would do so. According to their teaching all children should be alike to every mother and to every father, whether they are their own children or not. How will these children be looked after, when we see that all the devotion and all the love implanted in mothers hardly preserves their own children from perishing? What will happen when this devotion is replaced by a compassion shared by all children alike? Which child is to be taken and preserved? Who will sit up at night with a sick (and malodorous) child except its own mother? Nature has provided a protection for the child in its mother’s love, but the Christians want to deprive it of that protection, and offer nothing in exchange! Who will train a son, who will penetrate into his soul like his father? Who will defend him from dangers? All this they reject! All life – that is, the continuation of the human race – is made away with.”
“That also is true,” said Julius, carried away by the physician’s eloquence.
“Yes, my friend, have nothing to do with these ravings. Live rationally, especially now that you have such great and serious and pressing responsibilities. It is a matter of honor for you to fulfill them. You have reached the second period of your doubts, but go on and your doubts will vanish. Your first and evident duty is the education of your children, which you have neglected. You must train them to be worthy servants of their country. The existing political structure has given you everything you have, and you must serve it yourself and give it worthy servants in the persons of your children, on whom you will thereby also confer a benefit. Another obligation you have is the service of the community. You are mortified and discouraged by your accidental and temporary failure. But nothing is achieved without effort and struggle, and the joy of triumph is great only when the victory has been hardly won. Leave it to your wife to amuse herself with the babble of the Christian writers. You should be a man, and bring up your children to be men. Begin to live with the consciousness of duty, and all your doubts will fall away of themselves. They were caused by your illness. Fulfill your duty to the State by serving it and by preparing your children for its service. Set them on their feet, so that they may be able to take your place, and then peacefully abandon yourself to the life which attracts you. Till then you have no right to do so, and were you to do so you would encounter nothing but suffering.”
Whether it was the effect of the medicinal herbs or the advice given him by the wise physician, Julius speedily recovered, and his plans of adopting a Christian life now appeared to him like raving.
After staying a few days the physician left the city. Soon afterwards Julius left his sick bed and began a new life in accord with the advice he had received. He engaged teachers for his children and supervised their studies himself. He spent his own time on public affairs and soon acquired great influence in the city.
So a year passed, and during that time Julius did not even think about the Christians. But at the end of the year a legate from the Roman Emperor arrived in Cilicia to suppress the Christian movement, and a trial was arranged to take place in Tarsus. Julius heard of the measures that were being undertaken against the Christians, but he paid no attention to them, not thinking that they related to the commune in which Pamphilius was living. But one day as he was walking in the forum to attend to his duties, a poorly dressed elderly man approached him whom he did not at first recognize. It was Pamphilius.
He came up to Julius leading a child by the hand, and said: “Greetings, friend! I have a great favor to ask of you, but now that the Christians are being persecuted I do not know whether you will wish to acknowledge me as your friend, or whether you will not be afraid of losing your post if you have anything to do with me.” “I am not afraid of anyone,” replied Julius, “and as a proof of it I ask you to come with me to my house. I will even neglect my business in the forum to have a talk with you and help you. Come with me. Whose child is that?” “He is my son.” “I need not have asked. I recognize your features in him, and I also recognize those light blue eyes, and need not ask who your wife is. She is the lovely girl I saw you with several years ago.” “You have guessed right,” replied Pamphilius. “She became my wife soon after you saw us.” On reaching the house, Julius called his wife and handed the boy over to her, and then led Pamphilius to his luxurious private room.
“You can speak freely here,” he said. “No one will hear us.” “I am not afraid of being heard,” replied Pamphilius. “My request is not that the Christians who have been arrested should not be judged and executed, but only that they should be allowed to announce their faith in public.” And Pamphilius told how the Christians who had been seized by the authorities had succeeded in sending word from their prison to the community telling of their condition. Cyril the Elder, knowing of Pamphilius’s relations with Julius, had sent him to intercede for the Christians. They did not ask for mercy. They looked upon it as their vocation to testify to the truth of Christ’s teaching, and they could do this equally well by suffering martyrdom as by a life of eighty years. They would accept either fate with equal indifference, and physical death, which must inevitably overtake them, was as welcome and void of terror now as it would be fifty years hence. But they wished by their death to serve their fellowmen, and therefore Pamphilius had been sent to ask that their trial and execution should be public.
Julius was surprised at Pamphilius’s request, but promised to do all in his power to aid him.
“I have promised to help you,” he said, “out of friendship, and because of the particular feeling of tenderness you have always aroused in me, but I must say that I consider your teaching most senseless and harmful. I can judge of this because some time ago, when I was ill, disappointed, and low spirited, I myself once again shared your views and came very near to abandoning everything and joining your community. I know now on what your error is based, for I have myself experienced it. It is based on love of self, weakness of spirit, and sickly enervation. It is a creed for women, not for men.”
“Because, while you recognize the fact that discord lies in man’s nature and that strife results therefrom, you do not wish to take part in that strife or to teach others to do so; and without taking your share of the burden you avail yourselves of the organization of the world, which is based on violence. Is that fair? Our world owes its existence to the fact that there have always been rulers. Those rulers took on themselves the trouble and all the responsibility of defending us from foreign and domestic foes, and in return for that we subjects submitted to them and rendered them honor, or helped them by serving the State. But you, out of pride, instead of taking your part in the affairs of the State and rising higher and higher in men’s regard by your labors and to the extent of your deserts – you in your pride at once declare all men to be equal, in order that you may consider no one higher than yourself, but may reckon yourself equal to Caesar. That is what you yourself think and teach others to think. And for weak and idle people that is a great temptation! Every slave, instead of laboring, at once considers himself Caesar’s equal. But you do more than this: you deny taxes, and slavery, and the courts, and executions, and war – everything that holds people together. If people listened to you, society would fall to pieces and we should return to primitive savagery.
“Living under a government you preach the destruction of government. But your very existence is dependent on that government. Without it you would not exist. You would all be slaves of the Scythians or the barbarians – the first people who happened to hear of your existence. You are like a tumor which destroys the body but can only nourish itself on the body. And a living body resists that tumor and overcomes it! We do the same with you, and cannot but do so. And in spite of my promise to help you obtain your wish, I look upon your teaching as most harmful and despicable: despicable because I consider it dishonorable and unjust to gnaw the breast that feeds you – to avail yourselves of the advantages of governmental order, and to destroy that order by which the State is maintained, without taking part in it!”
“If we really lived as you suppose there would be much justice in what you say,” replied Pamphilius. “But you do not know our life, and have formed a false conception of it. The means of subsistence which we employ are obtainable without the aid of violence. It is difficult for you, with your luxurious habits, to realize on how little a man can live without privation. A healthy man is so constituted that he can produce with his hands far more than he needs for his subsistence. Living together in a community we are able by our common work to feed without difficulty our children, our old people, and the sick and weak. You say of the rulers that they protect people from external and internal enemies – but we love our enemies, and so we have none. You assert that we Christians stir up in the slave a desire to be Caesar, but on the contrary, both by word and deed we profess one thing: patient humility and labor, the humblest of labor, that of a working man. We neither know nor understand anything about political matters. We only know one thing, and we know that with certainty, that our welfare lies solely in the good of others, and we seek that welfare. The welfare of all men lies in their union with one another, and union is attained not by violence but by love. The violence of a brigand inflicted on a traveler is as atrocious to us as the violence of an army to its prisoners, or of a judge to those who are executed, and we cannot intentionally participate in the one or the other. Nor can we profit by the labor of others enforced by violence. Violence is reflected on us, but our participation in violence consists not in inflicting it but in submissively enduring its infliction on ourselves.”
“Yes,” said Julius, “you preach about love, but when one looks at the results it turns out to be quite another thing. It leads to barbarism and a reversion to savagery, murder, robbery, and violence, which according to your doctrine must not be repressed in any way.”
“No, that is not so,” said Pamphilius, “and if you really examine the results of our teaching and of our lives carefully and impartially, you will see that not only do they not lead to murder, robbery, and violence, but on the contrary those crimes can only be opposed by the means we practice. Murder, robbery, and all evils, existed long before Christianity, and men have always contended with them, but unsuccessfully, because they employed means that we deplore, meeting violence by violence; and this never checks crime, but on the contrary provokes it by sowing hatred and exasperation.
“Look at the mighty Roman Empire. Nowhere else is such trouble taken about the laws as in Rome. Studying and perfecting the laws constitutes a special science. The laws are taught in the schools, discussed in the Senate, and reformed and administered by the most educated citizens. Legal justice is considered the highest virtue, and the office of Judge is held in peculiar respect. Yet in spite of this it is known that there is now no city in the world so steeped in crime and corruption as Rome. Remember Roman history: in olden times when the laws were very primitive the Roman people possessed many virtues, but in our days, despite the elaboration and administration of law, the morals of the citizens are becoming worse and worse. The number of crimes constantly increases, and they become more varied and more elaborate every day.
“Nor can it be otherwise. Crime and evil can be successfully opposed only by the Christian method of love, and not by the heathen methods of revenge, punishment, and violence. I am sure you would like men to abstain from evil voluntarily and not from fear of punishment. You would not wish men to be like prisoners who only refrain from crime because they are watched by their jailers. But no laws or restrictions or punishments make men averse to doing evil or desirous of doing good. That can only be attained by destroying evil at its root, which is in the heart of man. That is what we aim at, while you only try to repress the outward manifestations of evil. You do not look for its source and do not know where it is, and so you can never find it.
“The commonest crimes – murder, robbery, and fraud – are the result of men’s desire to increase their possessions, or even to obtain the necessaries of life which they have been unable to procure in any other way. Some of these crimes are punished by the law, but the most important and far-reaching in their consequences are perpetrated under the wing of the law, as, for instance, the huge commercial frauds and the innumerable ways in which the rich rob the poor. Those crimes which are punished by law may indeed to a certain extent be repressed – or rendered more difficult of execution – and the criminals for fear of punishment become more prudent and cunning and invent new forms of crime which the law does not punish. But by leading a Christian life a man preserves himself from all these crimes, which result on the one hand from the struggle for money and possessions, and on the other from the unequal concentration of riches in the hands of the few. Our one way of checking theft and murder is to keep for ourselves only as much as is indispensable for life, and to give to others all the superfluous products of our toil. We Christians do not lead men into temptation by the sight of accumulated wealth, for we rarely possess more than enough for our daily bread. A hungry man, driven to despair and ready to commit a crime for a piece of bread, if he comes to us will find all he wants without committing any crime, because that is what we live for – to share all we have with those who are cold and hungry. And the result is that one sort of evildoer avoids us, while others turn to us, give up their criminal life, and are saved, and gradually become workers laboring for the good of all.
“Other crimes are prompted by the passions of jealousy, revenge, carnal love, anger and hatred. Such crimes cannot be suppressed by law. A man who commits them is in a brutal state of unbridled passion; he is incapable of reflecting on the consequences of his actions, opposition only exasperates him, so the law is powerless to restrain these crimes. We however believe that man can find satisfaction and the meaning of life only in the spirit, and that as long as he serves his passions he can never find happiness. We curb our passions by a life of love and labor, and develop in ourselves the power of the spirit, and the more deeply and widely our faith spreads the rarer will crime inevitably become.
“A third class of crime,” Pamphilius continued, “arises from the desire to help men. Some men – revolutionary conspirators –are anxious to alleviate the people’s lot, and kill tyrants, imagining that they are thereby doing good to the majority of the people. The origin of such crimes is the belief that one can do good by committing evil. Such crimes, prompted by an idea, are not crushed out by legal punishments: on the contrary they are inflamed and evoked by them. In spite of their errors the men who commit them do so from a noble motive – a desire to serve mankind. They are sincere, they readily sacrifice themselves and do not shrink from danger. And so the fear of punishment does not stop them. On the contrary, danger stimulates them, and sufferings and executions exalt them to the dignity of heroes, gain sympathy for them, and incite others to follow their example. We see this in the history of all nations. But we Christians believe that evil will only pass away when men understand the misery that results from it both for themselves and for others. We know that brotherhood can only be attained when we are all brothers – that brotherhood without brothers is impossible.
“And though we see the errors of the revolutionary conspirators, yet we appreciate their sincerity and unselfishness, and are attracted by the good that is in them.
“Which of us then is more successful in the struggle with crime and does more to suppress evil – we Christians, who prove by our life the happiness of a spiritual existence from which no evil results and whose means of influence are example and love; or you, whose rulers and judges pass sentences in accord with the dead letter of the law, ruin their victims, and drive them to the last extremity of exasperation?”
“When one listens to you,” said Julius, “one almost begins to think that you may be right. But tell me, Pamphilius, why are people hostile to you? Why do they persecute you, hunt you down, and kill you? Why does your teaching of love lead to discord?”
“The reason of that lies not in us but outside us. Till now I have been speaking of crimes which are regarded as such both by the State and by us. These crimes constitute a form of violence which infringes the temporary laws of any State. But besides these there are other laws implanted in man – laws that are eternal, common to all men, and written in their hearts. We Christians obey these divine, universal laws, and find their fullest, clearest, and most perfect realization in the words and life of our Master, and we regard as a crime any violence that transgresses the commands of Christ, because they express God’s law. We consider that to avoid discord we must also obey the State laws of the country we live in, but we regard the law of God, which governs our conscience and reason, as supreme, and we can only obey those human laws which do not conflict with the divine Law. ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’ Our struggle against crime is therefore both deeper and wider than the State’s, for while we avoid transgressing the laws of the particular country we happen to live in, we seek above all not to infringe the will of God – the law common to all human nature. And because we regard the law of God as the highest law, men hate and fear us, for they consider some particular laws as supreme – the legislation of their own country, for instance, or even very often some custom of their own class. They are incapable of becoming, or unwilling to become, real human beings, in the sense of Christ’s saying that ‘The truth shall make you free.’ They are content with their position as subjects of this or that State or as members of society, and so they naturally feel enmity towards those who see and proclaim the higher destiny of man. Incapable of understanding, or unwilling to understand, this higher destiny for themselves, they are unwilling to admit it for others. It was of such that Christ said: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees! For you take away the key of knowledge: you do not enter in yourselves, and hinder them who are entering in.’ They are the authors of those persecutions which raise doubts in your mind.
“We have no enmity towards any man, not even towards those who persecute us, and our life brings harm and injury to no one. If men are irritated against us and even hate us, the reason can only be that our life is a thorn in their side, a constant condemnation of their own life which is founded on violence. We are unable to prevent this enmity against us, which does not proceed from us, for we cannot forget the truth we have understood, and cannot begin to live contrary to our conscience and our reason. Of this hostility which our belief provokes against us in others our Teacher said: ‘Think not that I come to bring peace upon earth. I come not to bring peace, but a sword!’ Christ himself experienced this hostility, and he warned us, his pupils, of it more than once. He said: ‘The world hates me, because its deeds are evil. If you were of the world, the world would love you, but because you are not of the world and I have delivered you from the world, therefore the world hates you. The time comes that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.’
“But we, like Christ, fear not them that kill the body and then can do nothing more to us. Sufferings and the death of the flesh will not pass any man by, but we live in the light and therefore our life does not depend on the body. It is not we who suffer from the attacks upon us, but our persecutors and enemies, who suffer from the feeling of enmity and hatred they nurse like a serpent in their breasts. ‘And this is the judgement, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ There is no need to be disconcerted about this, for the truth will prevail. The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd and follow him, because they know his voice. And Christ’s flock will not perish, but increase, drawing new sheep to itself from all the countries of the earth, for the Spirit blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof but cannot tell where it comes from nor where it goes.”
“Yes,” Julius interrupted him, “but are there many among you who are sincere? You are often accused of only pretending to be martyrs and glad to die for the truth, but the truth is not on your side. You are proud madmen, destroying all the foundations of social life!”
Pamphilius made no reply, and looked sorrowfully at Julius.
Just then Pamphilius’s little son ran into the room and pressed close to his father’s side.
Despite the caresses Julius’s wife had bestowed upon him, he had run away from her to find his father. Pamphilius sighed, caressed the child, and got up to go, but Julius detained him, asking him to stay to dinner and have a further talk.
“It surprises me,” he said, “to see that you are married and have children. I cannot understand how you Christians can bring up a family while having no property. How can the mothers among you live at peace, knowing that their children are not provided for?”
“Why are our children less provided for than yours?”
“Because you have neither slaves nor property. My wife is much inclined to Christianity. She even at one time wished to give up our way of life, and I intended to go away with her. But she feared the insecurity and poverty she foresaw for the children, and I could not but agree with her. That was at the time of my illness. My whole way of life was repulsive to me just then and I wished to abandon it. But my wife’s fears, and the explanation given me by the physician who was treating me, convinced me that though a Christian life as you live it may be right and possible for people who have no family, it is impossible for family people, or for mothers with children: that with your outlook life itself – the human race – would cease to exist. And it seems to me that that is quite correct. So your appearance with a son greatly surprised me.”
“Not only a son – there is also one at the breast and a three-year-old girl, who have remained at home.”
“But I don’t understand it! Not so long ago I was ready to give up everything and become one of you. But I had children, and it was clear to me that, however good your life might be for myself, I had no right to sacrifice my children. So for their sake I remained here, living as before, that they might be brought up in the conditions in which I myself grew up and have lived.”
“It is strange how differently we look at things,” said Pamphilius. “We say that if adults live in the worldly way it may be excused, for they are already spoiled, but for children it is terrible. To bring them up in worldly fashion and expose them to temptation! ‘Woe unto the world because of temptations; for temptations must come; but woe to that man through whom the temptation comes!’ So says our teacher, and I repeat it to you not as a retort, but because it is really true. The chief necessity for us to live as we do comes from the fact that there are children among us; those children of whom it is said: ‘Except you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
“But how can a Christian family manage to live without definite means of livelihood?”
“According to our belief there is only one means – that of loving work for people. Your method is violence. But that method may fail and be destroyed, as riches are destroyed, and then only work and the love of men is left. We consider that love is the basis of all, and should be firmly held to and increased. And when that is so, families live and prosper. No,” continued Pamphilius, “if I doubted the truth of Christ’s teaching, or hesitated to follow it, my doubts and hesitations would vanish when I thought of the fate of children brought up among the pagans in the conditions in which you and your children have been and are being brought up. Whatever arrangement of life some people may make, with palaces, slaves, and the imported produce of other lands, the life of the majority of men will remain as it should be. And the security for that life will always be the same – brotherly love and labor. We wish to exempt ourselves and our children from these conditions, and make men work for us by means of violence and not by love, and strange to say the more we apparently secure ourselves thereby, the more do we actually deprive ourselves of the true, natural, and reliable security – that of love. The greater a ruler’s power the less he is loved. It is the same with the other security – labor. The more a man frees himself from labor and accustoms himself to luxury, the less capable of work he becomes and the more he deprives himself of true and reliable security. And yet when people have placed their children in these conditions they say they have ‘provided for them!’ Take your son and mine and send the two of them to find their way anywhere, to transmit instructions, or to do some necessary thing, and you will see which of the two will do it better. Or offer them for education, and you will see which of the two would be accepted the more readily. No! Do not tell those terrible words that a Christian life is only possible for the childless. On the contrary it might be said that a pagan life may be pardonable only for those who have no children. ‘But woe unto him that shall cause one of these little ones to stumble.'” Julius was silent for some time.
“Yes,” he said at last. “Perhaps you are right. But my children’s education has been begun, they have the best teachers. Let them learn all we know – there can be no harm in that. There is time enough both for me and for them. They can come to you when they are grown up if they find it necessary. And I can do the same when I have set them on their feet and am left free.”
“Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” said Pamphilius. “Christ gives perfect freedom at once: the world’s teaching will never give it. Farewell!” And Pamphilius called his son and went away.
The Christians were condemned and executed publicly, and Julius saw Pamphilius with other Christians clearing away the bodies of the martyrs.
He saw him, but from fear of the higher authorities did not approach him nor called him to come close.
Another twenty years passed. Julius’s wife died. His life flowed on in public activity and in efforts to obtain power, which sometimes seemed within his reach and sometimes eluded him. His wealth was great and continued to increase.
His sons had grown up; and the second, especially, began to lead an extravagant life. He made holes in the bottom of the bucket which held his father’s wealth, and in proportion as that wealth increased so did the rapidity of the outflow through those holes. And here began for Julius a conflict with his sons such as he had had with his father – anger, hatred, and jealousy.
About this time a new Prefect was appointed and deprived Julius of favor. His former flatterers abandoned him, and he was in danger of banishment. He went to Rome to explain matters but was not received, and was ordered to return.
On reaching home he found his son carousing with dissolute companions. A report had spread in Cilicia that Julius was dead, and the son was celebrating his father’s death! Julius lost control of himself and felled his son to the ground. He then retired to his wife’s rooms. There he found a copy of the Gospels, and read: “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“Yes,” thought Julius, “he has long been calling me. I did not believe him but was stubborn and wicked, and my yoke was heavy and my burden malevolent.”
He sat there for a long time with the open Gospel on his knee, thinking over his whole past life and remembering all that Pamphilius had said to him at different times. At last he rose and went to his son. To his surprise he found him on his feet, and was inexpressibly glad to find that he had sustained no injury.
Without saying a word to his son Julius went out into the street and set off towards the Christian settlement. He walked all day, and in the evening stopped at a villager’s for the night. In the room which he entered lay a man, who got up at the sound of footsteps. It was his acquaintance the physician. “No, this time you shall not dissuade me!” cried Julius. “This is the third time I have started to go thither, and now I know that only there shall I find peace of mind.”
“Where?” asked the physician.
“Among the Christians.”
“Yes, perhaps you may find peace of mind, but you will not have fulfilled your duty. You lack manliness: misfortunes crush your spirit. Not so do true philosophers behave! Misfortunes are only the fire in which gold is tried. You have passed through a test. And now that you are wanted you run away! Now is the time to try people and yourself. You have acquired true wisdom and should employ it for the good of your country. What would happen to the people if all who have learned to know men, their passions, and the conditions of life, were to bury their knowledge and experience in their search for peace of mind, instead of sharing them for the benefit of society? Your experience of life was gained among men and you ought to use it for their benefit.”
“But I have no wisdom at all! I am altogether sunk in error! My blunders have not become wisdom because they are old, any more than water becomes wine because it is stale and foul.”
And seizing his cloak Julius hastily left the house and set out to walk farther, without staying to rest. By the close of another day he reached the Christian settlement.
They received him gladly, though they did not know that he was a friend of Pamphilius, whom they all loved and respected. At the luncheon Pamphilius, seeing his friend, ran to him gladly and embraced him.
“At last I have come,” said Julius. “Tell me what I am to do and I will obey you.”
“Don’t trouble about that,” said Pamphilius. “Come with me.” And he led Julius into the guest house, and showing him a bed, said:
“When you catch up with observing our life, you will see for yourself how you can best be of use to men. But I will show you something to do tomorrow to occupy your time for the present. We are gathering grapes in our vineyards. Go there and help. You will see yourself what you can do.”
Next morning Julius went into the vineyards. The first was of young vines which were loaded with clusters. Young people were plucking and gathering them. The places were all occupied and Julius, having walked about for some time, found no place for himself. He went on farther and came to an older vineyard where there was less fruit. But here also there was nothing for him to do; the gatherers were all working in pairs and there was no place for him. He went still farther and entered a very old, deserted vineyard. The vine-stocks were gnarled and crooked and Julius could see no grapes.
“There, that is like my life,” he said to himself. “Had I come the first time, it would have been like the fruit in the first vineyard. Had I come when I started the second time, it would have been like the fruit in the second vineyard. But now here is my life – like these useless superannuated vines, only fit for fuel!” And Julius was terrified at what he had done, terrified at the punishment awaiting him for having uselessly wasted his life. And he became sad and said aloud:
“I am no longer good for anything and can now do nothing!” And he sat down and wept because he had wasted what he could never recover. Suddenly he heard the voice of an old man calling him:
“Work, dear brother!” said the voice.
Julius looked round and saw an old man, gray and bowed by age and scarcely able to move his feet. He was standing by the vines and gathering the few sweet bunches that still remained here and there. Julius went up to him. “Work, dear brother! Work is joyous!” And the old man showed him where to look for bunches of the grapes that still remained. Julius began to look for them, and finding some, brought them and laid them in the old man’s basket.
And the old man said to him: “Look, in what way are these bunches any worse than those they are gathering in the other vineyards? ‘Walk while you have the light!’ said our teacher.
“‘The will of Him that sent me is that every one who sees the son, and believes in him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world; but so that the world through him might be saved. He that believes in him is not condemned, but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the son, who is of one nature with God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.’
“My son, be not unhappy! We are all sons of God and His servants! We are all one army! Do you think that He has no servants besides you, and that if you had devoted yourself to His service with your whole strength you could have done all that He needs – all that is needful for the establishment of His kingdom? You say you would do twice, ten times, a hundred times, more than you did. But if you did ten thousand times ten thousand more than all men have done, what would that have been in the work of God? A mere nothing! God’s work, like Himself, is infinite. God’s work is you. Come to Him, and be not a laborer but a son, and you will become a partner of the infinite God and of His world. In God’s sight there is neither small nor great, there is only what is straight and what is crooked. Enter into the straight path of life and you will be with God and your work will be neither small nor great, it will be God’s work. Remember that in heaven there is more happiness over one sinner than over a hundred righteous persons. The worldly work, all that you have neglected to do, has only shown you your sin, and you have repented. And when you repented you found the straight path. Once you found the straight path, follow it with God, and do not think of the past nor of what is great or small. All living are equal in God’s sight! There is one God and one life!”
And Julius was comforted, and from that day he lived and worked for the brethren according to his strength. And so he lived joyfully for another twenty years, and did not notice how death took his body.