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Translated by F. Crombie
Book III. Similitudes
Sitting in my house, and glorifying the Lord for all that I had seen, and reflecting on the commandments, that they are excellent, and powerful, and glorious, and able to save a mans soul, I said within myself, I shall be blessed if I walk in these commandments, and every one who walks in them will be blessed. While I was saying these words to myself, I suddenly see him sitting beside me, and hear him thus speak: Why are you in doubt about the commandments which I gave you? They are excellent: have no doubt about them at all, but put on faith in the Lord, and you will walk in them, for I will strengthen you in them. These commandments are beneficial to those who intend to repent: for if they do not walk in them, their repentance is in vain. You, therefore, who repent cast away the wickedness of this world which wears you out; and by putting on all the virtues of a holy life, you will be able to keep these commandments, and will no longer add to the number of your sins. Walk, therefore, in these commandments of mine, and you will live unto God. All these things have been spoken to you by me. And after he had uttered these words, he said to me, Let us go into the fields, and I will show you the shepherds of the flocks. Let us go, sir, I replied. And we came to a certain plain, and he showed me a young man, a shepherd, clothed in a suit of garments of a yellow colour: and he was herding very many sheep, and these sheep were feeding luxuriously, as it were, and riotously, and merrily skipping hither and thither. The shepherd himself was merry, because of his flock; and the appearance of the shepherd was joyous, and he was running about amongst his flock. [And other sheep I saw rioting and luxuriating in one place, but not, however, leaping about.]
And he said to me, Do you see this shepherd? I see him, sir, I said. This, he answered, is the angel of luxury and deceit: he wears out the souls of the servants of God, and perverts them from the truth, deceiving them with wicked desires, through which they will perish; for they forget the commandments of the living God, and walk in deceits and empty luxuries; and they are ruined by the angel, some being brought to death, others to corruption. I said to him, Sir, I do not know the meaning of these words, to death, and to corruption. Listen, he said. The sheep which you saw merry and leaping about, are those which have torn themselves away from God for ever, and have delivered themselves over to luxuries and deceits [of this world. Among them there is no return to life through repentance, because they have added to their other sins, and blasphemed the name of the Lord. Such men therefore, are appointed unto death. And the sheep which you saw not leaping, but feeding in one place, are they who have delivered themselves over to luxury and deceit], but have committed no blasphemy against the Lord. These have been perverted from the truth: among them there is the hope of repentance, by which it is possible to live. Corruption, then, has a hope of a kind of renewal, but death has everlasting ruin. Again I went forward a little way, and he showed me a tall shepherd, somewhat savage in his appearance, clothed in a white goatskin, and having a wallet on his shoulders, and a very hard staff with branches, and a large whip. And he had a very sour look, so that I was afraid of him, so forbidding was his aspect. This shepherd, accordingly, was receiving the sheep from the young shepherd, those, viz., that were rioting and luxuriating, but not leaping; and he cast them into a precipitous place, full of thistles and thorns, so that it was impossible to extricate the sheep from the thorns and thistles; but they were completely entangled amongst them. These, accordingly, thus entangled, pastured amongst the thorns and thistles, and were exceedingly miserable, being beaten by him; and he drove them hither and thither, and gave them no rest; and, altogether, these sheep were in a wretched plight.
Seeing them, therefore, so beaten and so badly used, I was grieved for them, because they were so tormented, and had no rest at all. And I said to the Shepherd who talked with me, Sir, who is this shepherd, who is so pitiless and severe, and so completely devoid of compassion for these sheep? This, he replied, is the angel of punishment; and he belongs to the just angels, and is appointed to punish. He accordingly takes those who wander away from God, and who have walked in the desires and deceits of this world, and chastises them as they deserve with terrible and diverse punishments. I would know, sir, I said, Of what nature are these diverse tortures and punishments? Hear, he said, the various tortures and punishments. The tortures are such as occur during life. For some are punished with losses, others with want, others with sicknesses of various kinds, and others with all kinds of disorder and confusion; others are insulted by unworthy persons, and exposed to suffering in many other ways: for many, becoming unstable in their plans, try many things, and none of them at all succeed, and they say they are not prosperous in their undertakings; and it does not occur to their minds that they have done evil deeds, but they blame the Lord. When, therefore, they have been afflicted with all kinds of affliction, then are they delivered unto me for good training, and they are made strong in the faith of the Lord; and for the rest of the days of their life they are subject to the Lord with pure hearts, and are successful in all their undertakings, obtaining from the Lord everything they ask; and then they glorify the Lord, that they were delivered to me, and no longer suffer any evil.
I said to him, Sir, explain this also to me. What is it you ask? he said. Whether, sir, I continued, they who indulge in luxury, and who are deceived, are tortured for the same period of time that they have indulged in luxury and deceit? He said to me, They are tortured in the same manner. [They are tormented much less, sir, I replied;] for those who are so luxurious and who forget God ought to be tortured seven-fold. He said to me You are foolish, and do not understand the power of torment. Why, sir, I said, if I had understood it, I would not have asked you to show me. Hear, he said, the power of both. The time of luxury and deceit is one hour; but the hour of torment is equivalent to thirty days. If, accordingly, a man indulge in luxury for one day, and be deceived and be tortured for one day, the day of his torture is equivalent to a whole year. For all the days of luxury, therefore, there are as many years of torture to be undergone. You see, then, he continued, that the time of luxury and deceit is very short, but that of punishment and torture long.
Still, I said, I do not quite understand about the time of deceit, and luxury, and torture; explain it to me more clearly. He answered, and said to me, Your folly is persistent; and you do not wish to purify your heart, and serve God. Have a care, he added, lest the time be fulfilled, and you be found foolish. Hear now, he added, as you desire, that you may understand these things. He who indulges in luxury, and is deceived for one day, and who does what he wishes, is clothed with much foolishness, and does not understand the act which he does until the morrow; for he forgets what he did the day before. For luxury and deceit have no memories, on account of the folly with which they are clothed; but when punishment and torture cleave to a man for one day, he is punished and tortured for a year; for punishment and torture have powerful memories. While tortured and punished, therefore, for a whole year, he remembers at last his luxury and deceit, and knows that an their account he suffers evil. Every man, therefore, who is luxurious and deceived is thus tormented, because, although having life, they have given themselves over to death. What kinds of luxury, sir, I asked, are hurtful? Every act of a man which he performs with pleasure, he replied, is an act of luxury; for the sharp-tempered man, when gratifying his tendency, indulges in luxury; and the adulterer, and the drunkard, and the back-biter, and the liar, and the covetous man, and the thief, and he who does things like these, gratifies his peculiar propensity, and in so doing indulges in luxury. All these acts of luxury are hurtful to the servants of God. On account of these deceits, therefore, do they suffer, who are punished and tortured. And there are also acts of luxury which save men; for many who do good indulge in luxury, being carried away by their own pleasure: this luxury, however, is beneficial to the servants of God, and gains life for such a man; but the injurious acts of luxury before enumerated bring tortures and punishment upon them; and if they continue in them and do not repent, they bring death upon themselves.