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Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourse (1894) pp.70-114. Discourse 4 -- On Faith.  The first discourse on simplicity


Our Lord hath given unto us in His Gospel an easy and simple beginning, [that is,] the true and certain faith which is stirred up naturally in the simple mind, so that by this faith we may be obedient unto Him, and keep His commandments, even as all the righteous men of early times who were called by God hearkened unto His word with simplicity, and by faith they made certain of His promises. Now by simplicity is not to be understood the simplicity of the world, I mean stupidity, but the singleness of one thought (or mind) which is simple to hear and judgeth not, and which accepteth and enquireth not, after the manner of a child receiving the words from his nurse, and like a child also who receiveth the instruction of books from his master without criticising, or asking questions [concerning] those things which are said to him. For as the capacity of the child is too little to investigate human learning, so also is the measure of our mind too little to be able to understand the. explanation of divine Mysteries. And therefore by faith and simplicity only can a man hear and receive, even as Abraham, who was called, went forth after [p. 75] God, and he was not a judge of the voice which [came] to him, and he was not held back by race and kinsfolk, |71 nor by country and friends, nor by any of the many other human ties. Immediately he heard the voice and knew that it was of God, he despised everything and went forth to Him, and hearkened unto Him with simplicity. And he held Him to be certain and sure [in his mind] by faith, and by the natural simplicity which acteth not cunningly with evil things; and as a boy after his father did he run towards the voice of God, everything being despised in his eyes immediately he heard the word of God.

And there was in him also the knowledge and discretion of nature, but he shewed his discernment in that he [found it] right to hearken unto God, Who had called him, as a servant to his lord, and as a slave to his Creator. And also to that knowledge in which he was [placed] he did not give power to investigate and to enquire why and for what reason he had been called by God, "Go forth from thy country, and from thy kinsfolk, and come to the land which I will show thee." 1 And God did not reveal to him what the country was, in order that his faith might be the more victorious, and his simplicity appear; and while he thought that He was carrying him to the land of Canaan, God promised to shew him another land of life which is in heaven, even as Paul also testifieth, "He waited for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." 2 And again he said, "It is evident that they desired a country better than the land [p. 76] of Canaan, which is heaven." 3 And for this reason God teacheth us clearly that it was not that material land of promise which God promised to |72 shew to Abraham. After He had brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees He made him dwell in Harran, and He did not carry him to the land of Canaan immediately after his coming forth. And again, that Abraham might not think that he heard the report of a reward, and therefore go forth after the voice of God, He did not make known to him at the beginning the name of the country to which He would bring him.

Look then, O disciple, upon this coming forth, and let thy coming forth be like unto it, and be not backward in following the living voice of Christ, Who hath called thee. For as in that case it called to Abraham only, so in this He calleth every one He pleaseth by His Gospel, and inviteth [them] to go forth after Him. For in that He said, "Whosoever wisheth to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me," 4 He shewed a universal calling to all the children of men. And instead of choosing one person, Abraham, as He did at that time, He now inviteth every man to be like unto Abraham. And again in the case of the holy Apostles, He renewed that [call] of Abraham; and observe their faith also, that it was like unto the faith of Abraham; for as Abraham heard immediately he was called, so also immediately He called the Apostles, they heard and went forth after Him. "He saw them casting nets into the sea, and He called them, and straightway they forsook their nets [p. 77] and their father, and went after Him;" 5 and before they had heard from Him [the words], "If a man forsake not his father and mother, and everything that he hath, and cometh after me, he cannot |73 be My disciple," 6 they forsook everything and went after Jesus. For He did not propound for the disciples lengthy doctrine, but only the hearing of the word of faith; and because the faith which was in them was living, immediately it received the living word it became obedient unto life, and they ran thereafter straightway, and delayed not. Now in this they show themselves to have been disciples before they were called. For the custom of faith which is mingled with simplicity is that it receiveth not doctrine (or instruction) by much persuasion, but as the sound and healthy eye receiveth not the ray which is sent therein by contrivances and cunning inventions----but immediately that it is opened it looketh with strength upon the light, because its natural sight is sound----so also the eye of faith, which is set in the pupil of simplicity, immediately it heareth the voice of God recogniseth it, and there riseth in it the light of His Word. And joyfully it draweth towards Him and receiveth Him, even as our Lord said in His Gospel, "My sheep hear My voice and come after Me." 7

Wherever natural faith is preserved in its original state, [that man], with whom this faith is preserved, is a sheep of the Shepherd. For thus is it written concerning Matthew, "Our Lord saw him [p. 78] sitting at the place of toll,8 and He called him, and straightway he forsook his merchandise and all his possession, and went after Him." And concerning Philip also it is written that He said, "Come after Me,"9 and straightway he went after Him. In this sincerity and |74 simplicity then the Apostles went after the word of Christ, and the world was not able to impede them, nor human customs to hold them back, nor was any of those things which are esteemed of any value in [this] world able to impede those souls which had perceived God. Now there is nothing stronger in the world to the man who hath in him the life of faith than the word of God. He in whom the word is feeble because of the deadness of his soul, in him is the mighty word without power, and in him is the healthy doctrine of God diseased; for in whatsoever condition a man liveth, to that turneth every action of his life. Whosoever liveth to the world, to the world is directed all the service of his thoughts and senses, and whosoever liveth to God, to His mighty commandments turn his soul and all his motions; for the burden of the love of earthly things no longer hangeth upon those who have been called, when once they are obedient to the voice which hath called them. For the fetters of the world are a weight upon the understanding and the thoughts, and whosoever is fettered therewith and is bound by them heareth the voice of the call of God with difficulty. Now the Apostles were not thus, nor were the righteous men and the Fathers of this type, but they hearkened like [p. 79] living men, and went forth like swift ones who were unfettered by anything. And who is able to fetter and impede that soul which perceiveth God? For it is open and ready that whensoever the light of the divine word cometh thereunto, it may find it prepared to receive it.

Our Lord also called Zacchaeus from the fig tree,10 |75 and he came down immediately, and received Him into his house, for he was waiting to see Him, and to be His disciple, even before He called him. And it is a marvellous thing that though our Lord had neither spoken to him nor seen him in the flesh, yet he had believed in Him through the words of others; now the faith which was in him was preserved by the life and soundness of its nature. In that Zacchaeus heard the rumour concerning Him and believed, he shewed faith, and in that he promised to give half of his goods to the poor, and to restore fourfold that which he had exacted he shewed that the simplicity of faith had dawned in him. For if at that time the mind of Zacchaeus had not been filled with the simplicity which befitted faith, he would never have made this free and full promise to Jesus to spend and distribute in a short time what had taken him years to collect in [this] world; for what cunning hath gathered together simplicity maketh to flow away, and the things which have been collected by the schemes of artifice sincerity scattereth. And whatsoever fraud hath been able to acquire faith repudiateth, and crieth out that it existeth not, for God Himself only is the possession of faith, and it cannot be persuaded to possess [p. 80] anything else with Him. To faith all possessions are little, except that One everlasting Possession, which is God. And, moreover, for this reason faith is implanted in us, that it may find and possess God only, and that everything which is beyond may [be accounted] a loss.

Now the Holy Scriptures have shown us that with this mind a man should draw nigh to God in faith and simplicity. And for this reason Adam and Eve, so long as they lived in simplicity, and so long as the faith which was |76 in them had not been made gross through corporeal passions, immediately they heard the command of God they received it, and kept it. For God said to Adam, "Thou shalt not eat; and if thou eatest, thou shalt die; but if thou keepest the command I will give thee everlasting life." 11 And by faith Adam received [the command], and kept [it], and [in] his simplicity he did not judge the command, [saying], "Why hath He withheld from us one tree, and given us power over all the others? And He hath promised to give me life if I keep the command;" these things because of his simplicity he neither judged nor sought to inquire into. Now when the counsel of the Enemy came and found simplicity, it taught craft and cunning, and sowed in that one simple thought, another thought which was its opposite, in order that he who was one man, and was wholly and entirely sincere in his simplicity, might be divided into two thoughts----the willing and the unwilling, the judging and the being judged, and the being in doubt whether he would do [the command] or not [p. 81]----and the counsel which the Enemy brought to that childlike and simple man made him to be a judge of God's command to him. Now Adam did not prosper in his judgment because it had destroyed his simplicity, for he stupidly thought it meet to listen to an enemy rather than to a friend, and to one who killed rather than to one who could make alive, and to one who taught wickednesses rather than to one who had been to them a teacher of good things. So long as they existed in their simplicity they hearkened unto the voice of God, but as soon as they wished to act cunningly they became receptacles |77 of the counsel of the Calumniator; for cunning is at the side of Satan, and simplicity is with those who belong to Christ. The man who wisheth to be cunning and crafty cannot become a disciple of Christ, as His doctrine requireth. The mind which is full of cunning is at all times destroying and building up thoughts which are opposite [to one another]; it bindeth up and looseth, it believeth and denieth, at one time it deemeth a thing good, but at another it rejecteth it and chooseth another. The mind which is trained in cunning is a channel for confused opinions, and it remained not [long enough] in any one [of them] to believe it and to support itself thereupon; but simplicity is the opposite of cunning in every thing, even as its very name testifieth, for there are in it no thoughts which abrogate the others.

Simplicity hath received the name of being befitting to God, for we also call God "Simple" in the words of our confession of Him, because there are in Him neither structures nor parts of limbs, and thus also in our ordinary speech a man who is not cunning in wickedness is called by us "simple", because he hath not [p. 82] in his mind the anxious trepidation of evil things. And he knoweth not how to look at and to bring to an issue the things which happen to him from the world; and he contriveth no means whereby he may do harm to his enemies, or to make an end of the things which are spoken against him, and he weaveth no crafty things, and he layeth not snares, and he behaveth not artfully to do harm to others. These and such like things simplicity knoweth not how to do, and for this reason the mysteries of God have at all times been entrusted to it, and it hath shown itself worthy of divine revelations, even as also were the Apostles when they |78 were chosen. It is well known that the Apostles were the simplest of men, and it was for this reason Jesus chose them, that by their simplicity He might mock at the wisdom of the world, and that by their ignorance He might make manifest the emptiness of the learning of the wise and learned, even as Paul saith, "God chose the fools of [this] world to put its wise men to shame," 12 And again he said, "Because, by the wisdom of God, the world knew not the wisdom of God, God willed that by the simplicity of preaching, He might make to live those that believed." 13 And again he said to certain men of his disciples who were boasting in the knowledge of the world, "Observe also your calling, my brethren, for there are not many among you [who are] wise according to the flesh." 14

And I have not spoken these things wishing to show that there is no wisdom in the doctrine of Christ, but that that wisdom which is above the world is the wisdom of Christ, for the wisdom of the world, [p. 83] is its opposite in all things, even as darkness is the opposite of light, and bitterness of sweetness, and sickness of health. For the wisdom of God flourisheth not by these things, [that is] the study and care of earthly thoughts, but all its meditation is upon spiritual things, and its motions and thoughts are above the world, even as the Apostle himself testified 15 concerning himself, "I am a fool to the wisdom of the world, but by my knowledge I possess the wisdom which is above the world." And in teaching that not every man is able to be a hearer and a receiver of that wisdom |79 which he had, he crieth out, saying,16 "We speak wisdom among the perfect: not the wisdom of this world nor that of the rulers of this world, which are brought to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, which none of the wise men of the world hath been able to hear." The wisdom of [this] world is not sufficient for a foundation, nor is it able to receive the building of the wisdom of God, and for this reason our Lord placed simplicity in us for a foundation.

Who is there that knoweth not how simple was that first union of the first ones of the race of the children of men, and how simple they were in respect of all the life and conduct of [this] world, for they had had no experience and they had never been occupied in any of its affairs, because the conversation of the things of the world had not as yet been revealed to them; but they were near unto divine sights, [p. 84] and God spake unto them continually face to face, and He was at all times found in close converse with them, carrying, and bringing, and leading them from that place from which they sprang and in which they had been framed, and placing them in Paradise. And in the form of a man He was shewing them everything as a near friend, and they never took thought in their mind as to where was the dwelling of Him that shewed them [these things]; or from what time He was; or if He had been made, and if He had been made, who made Him; and why hath He created us; and for what reason hath He set us in this Paradise and delivered unto us this law. These things were remote from, their minds because simplicity thinketh not of such, but it is wholly and entirely |80 drawn to listening unto that which it heareth, and its whole thought is mingled with the word of him that speaketh with it, even as is [that of] the child with the speech of whosoever talketh with him.

Behold then, in the early heads of our race God placed simplicity, and it became the receptacle of the commandment; for simplicity is anterior to faith because faith is the daughter of simplicity, but faith giveth not birth to cunning. He that is crafty and cunning doth not readily give credence unto what he heareth, but the simple man listeneth unto all voices and believeth. Now if simplicity is the sincerity of nature it receiveth only the things which are spoken by God. For as the earth was, in its natural construction [p. 85] intended by its Creator to receive the seeds and plants which are needful for the wants of mankind----that it bringeth forth thorns and briars is not of its own nature, for it received this from its Creator afterwards as a penalty----so also hath simplicity been placed in our nature by the Creator. But cunning and craftiness we receive afterwards by reason of the disputes which come upon us, even as the whole family of the children of men testifieth, for in all that are born is simplicity stirred up before craftiness. As long as they are infants and children they are filled with innocence and sincerity, but when they have lived in the world, through a gradual and progressive growth and the matters which befall them, they learn craftiness and cunning. It is as if a man were to take away a child one year old, and were to go forth and bring him up in the desert, where there is neither conversation of the children of men nor the exercise of the affairs of the world, and where he would never see anything at all |81 of the habits and customs of men; it would then be found that he was in a state of natural simplicity, and moreover, when he had arrived at manhood's estate this man would be able to receive very much more easily divine visions and spiritual thoughts, and he would readily become a vessel to receive the Divine wisdom. In this manner I think the matter standeth. And also it was because the marvellous preacher, John the Baptist, according to the testimony of the Book,17 lived in the wilderness until the day of his showing himself to the children of Israel, that he was able to receive and to teach Divine mysteries, [p. 86] and to receive the power of the baptism of the Spirit. And of the things which none of the early prophets had perceived, he, through the natural simplicity in which he had been brought up, became a receptacle in the wilderness----and especially of those things which were before the abrogation of the curse and the death of sin, and before the wall of enmity which was set in the midst had been broken through,18 of which it is written that it was broken through by the Cross of Christ----and he became aforetime a receiver of the things which were after the Cross; and for this reason Grace led him forth to the wilderness that he might remain in the simplicity of nature, and be able to receive the knowledge of the mysteries which were above nature.

And in like manner when God redeemed the people out of Egypt, He led them out into the desolate wilderness where simplicity could be obtained, and I believe that He brought them forth into the desert that, being freed |82 from the customs and habits of mankind, and from the cunning and wisdom of the world which they had received in the land of Egypt, they might become accustomed to the simplicity of nature, and receive divine instruction with sincerity. And although there are many other reasons why He brought them out into the wilderness, this seems to be the primary reason to him that knoweth how to look at the mysteries of Divine dispensation. And because those who went forth from Egypt did not wish to cast off from them the wickedness and cunning which they had learned in Egypt, but were in every thing opponents of the promise of God towards them, He kept them in the wilderness for forty years, that evil, and those who ministered thereunto might disappear; [p. 87] that cunning might perish, together with those who had received it from Egypt; and that that generation which should be born and grown up in the wilderness----for all their bringing up was in simplicity, according to the law of the place----might go in and inherit the land of promise; because it is seemly for those who were brought up in the wilderness to be simple, and it belongeth to simplicity to hearken unto the commandments of God, and to be persuaded by them. And if any man thinketh that they believed because they saw the signs and wonders in the wilderness, or because they feared the penalty which came upon those who were before them, it will be found that those who went forth from Egypt saw greater wonders than they. For with all the other mighty deeds which were wrought in Egypt they saw also the dividing of the sea, and that fearful passage; and [they saw] that the sea returned, and grew together and covered up all the Egyptians who had entered |83 therein;19 and that marvellous thing which took place at Marah, how by means of a piece of wood the waters were made sweet and became drink for them;20 and to speak briefly, those who went forth from Egypt were spectators of all the wonderful things which took place in Egypt, and in the desert, and of those things which happened meanwhile. But the young generation which was born in the desert saw nothing except those wonders which were continually with them, the pillar [of fire], the cloud,21 the rock which poured out water,22 and the quails which came up from the sea;23 and although the miracles which they saw were lesser than those which the people who went forth from Egypt saw, yet they, through their simplicity, remained in the fear of God better than the men who had seen many and great signs. [p. 88] And that thou mayest know that all the mighty deeds which took place, and all the wonderful things which were wrought, were not able to uproot and to abrogate in them the evil things which they had learned from Egypt, and that that generation which had been born in the desert was entirely remote from them by reason of its simplicity, understand from this [fact]. After they had arrived at an inhabited land at the end of the forty years, and were encamped opposite Midian wishing to go into the countries of the heathen, by reason of the sight of the women whom the Midianites had arrayed in fine apparel and set before them, whoredom broke out among the remnant of the people who had come forth from Egypt, and they waxed wanton, even as the Holy Book maketh known, "The people saw the |84 daughters of Midian and committed whoredom [with them], and they were united with Baal-Peor, and worhipped idols;" 24 now those who did this were, according to what the Book saith, those who remained of the people who had gone forth from Egypt. "And the plague had dominion over them, and four and twenty thousand of them died;" 25 now the Book saith that the number of those who went forth from Egypt amounted to six hundred thousand,26 and God said, "They shall not go in to see the land of promise," 27 and by the fact that they alone of all the people died we may understand also they only committed whoredom. "And Moses and all Israel were sitting before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle, and Zimri, the son of Salu, the chief of the tribe [p. 89] of Simeon, went into the cell to Cozbi, a daughter of the chiefs of Midian, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all Israel; and there rose up Phinehas, and shewed forth the triumph of zeal." 28 Now from the fact that the pestilence had dominion only over that remnant which remained of the people who had come forth from Egypt, it is right that we should know that it was they only who drew nigh to that work of wickedness, and that all the rest of the people who had been born in the wilderness, and who had been reared in the purity and simplicity of the fear of God were sitting at the door of God, and were entreating mercy by repentance with Moses. And from what took place at the casting of the calf 29 I also believe this, for at that time also when Moses came down from |85 the mountain, and saw the confusion of the people, and knew that this incitement [to sin] belonged only to certain of them, he ground the calf with a grinder, and scattered its dust upon the waters. And when the people had drunk thereof, it became a test of their thoughts, and those men in whose imaginations the calf had been first depicted became the men who urged the doing of this wickedness; and it is written that in them and in those who were slain by the swords of the LÚvites the sign of the calf appeared. And from the ending of their deaths we may also understand that the beginning of error was in them. Because they urged on [others] and were the leaders in error, [p. 90] the penalty which the word of Moses had decreed also overtook them through the sign of the calf which appeared in their persons. And so also here from the fact that twenty-four thousand [men] only fell through that sudden pestilence----now the Book saith30 that with them was brought to an end the number of those who went forth from Egypt----it is right that we should know that they only were joined unto whoredom. From their penalty let us learn [concerning] their whoredom; and from their violent death let us recognize that their whoredom belonged wholly to them, and that, remembering the worship of idols in Egypt, when they saw it in Midian they were straightway joined thereunto. And the simplicity of the upright who had been born in the desert preserved them for the Lord, and they sat at the door of the tabernacle in the purity of their hearts, and with souls remote from cunning, and with thoughts free from the craft of wickedness, they entreated mercy |86 of the Lord. And for this reason also the promises to Abraham of material things were fulfilled in them, and simplicity went in and inherited the land of promise, and innocence took possession of the border of the inheritance which had been promised to the chief of their race, and integrity, which they had [received] from the Lord, made them victorious in their wars with the Amorites. For when they had passed over the Jordan 31 Joshua commanded them to go round Jericho seven days, each day once, and on the seventh day to go round seven times, and he and the priests were to go before them carrying horns and the ark [p. 91] of the Lord; and the whole people followed after Joshua and after the ark in simplicity, like children following their fathers. And what shall I say concerning all the rest of the people? Concerning Joshua the Book pointeth out 32 that in him especially were found simplicity and innocence; "But the young man Joshua departed not from the tent, but was there continually in the service of Moses;" and he that was free from going out and coming in among the multitude was especially nigh unto simplicity. If cunning and wickedness are gathered together from conversation with the multitude, it is evident that simplicity and integrity can be acquired from being brought up to lead a life of silent contemplation, and the more a man increaseth his life of contemplation, the more his possession of simplicity groweth. And concerning this the customary life of the world itself testifieth to us that all those who were reared in the contemplative life, and who never went forth in the ways, or contended and conversed with the multitude, were found to be |87 especially upright and simple, and that the integrity which is born from righteousness was found in them, even as also the blessed David joineth integrity unto innocency in his words, "The innocent and upright have cleaved unto me because I waited for Thee." 33 And again that same prophet testifieth concerning the simplicity of his soul, and how he was with God, [saying], "I was innocent and ignorant, and I was like a beast before Thee;" 34 and he was brought down to such ignorance [p. 92] like the beast with man, which by reason of its irrational and indiscriminating nature is unable to judge one of his deeds or actions; even thus was the knowledge of David in respect of God. For as the beast is governed by man, so also did David place himself to be led by the will of God, that he might not judge His will in any form, even as the verse following maketh known, in which he saith, "Because I am like a beast before Thee in all innocence, comfort me with Thy counsel, and lead me after Thy glory."35 And again he saith, "I have not enquired what is in heaven with Thee, or what is Thy will upon earth."36 For I have never understood the distinguishing attributes of Thy government, because while 1 sought to know why Thou didst desire one thing, Thy will willed something else; and because I was confounded by the varieties of Thy deeds I ran and took refuge in simplicity. And I became before Thee a beast which knoweth not anything, that Thy will alone might govern me, and Thy knowledge lead me in the path of life, and that Thou mightest give |88 me Thy wise care in everything which was necessary for spiritual and bodily life.

And moreover, David sheweth in a psalm that the grace of God aboundeth specially with the pure in heart, [saying], "God is good to Israel, [even] to the pure in heart;" 37 now he uniteth purity of heart with the sight of God, for [the name] Israel is interpreted "He hath seen God". And whosoever is simple and pure in heart is able to see God, even as [p. 93] our Lord spake in His Gospel, "Blessed are the pure in heart, "for they shall see God." 38 And moreover David the prophet sheweth that the mind which is remote from the cunning of human teachings is particularly able to comprehend the righteousness of God, and to possess courage of spirit and the confidence which will contend with all things, [saying], "Because I know not the art of writing, I will go in in the strength of the Lord, and I will remember Thy righteousness only." 39 And teaching those who are simple and innocent, and those who are wise and understanding, he saith, "[Thou art] my doctrine from my youth up, that I might shew Thy wonderful works." 40 And again when he sheweth concerning the purity of his thoughts he likeneth them unto hands, and their freedom from iniquity he com-pareth unto the washing of the hands, [saying], "I have washed my hands in innocency," 41 that is to say, I have cleansed and purified my thoughts, and I have remembered Thy altar, O Lord. And again he saith, "I have walked in my house in the innocency of my heart, |89 when wilt Thou come unto me?" 42 And again he saith, "Whosoever worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house," 43 and it is well known that cunning is built up of deceit. And again he saith, "Examine me, O Lord, and try me, prove my reins and my heart." 44 And again he saith, "I by myself have purified my heart, and washed my hands in innocency." 45

And besides these David's election testineth that he was chosen from a station which taught simplicity, for he was chosen from following the sheep, even as he himself confesseth and calleth to mind his election in one of his psalms, [saying], "He chose [p. 94] David His servant, and took him from [following] a flock of sheep, and from after the ewes that gave suck." 46 And teaching that his kingdom also was governed by simplicity he saith, "He pastured them in the integrity of his heart," 47 and it is manifest that integrity is simplicity. And the book of his history also sheweth us [his] innocency, for on account of his simplicity in the direction of the affairs of [this] world he had one to give him counsel concerning human business with him continually; for the Book maketh known to us 48 that Ahithophel was David's counsellor. And from other things it is easy for us to see the simplicity of the blessed David, who himself also maketh it known when he spake with Jonathan, saying, "There is no wickedness in my heart, and [yet] thy father hunteth my life to take it." 49 And this [is] also [shewn] by that which |90 was said by Jonathan to his father, "He hath put himself in thy hands; and he made war and slew the Philistines by the simplicity of David the king." 50 And again when the men who were with him counselled 51 him to slay Saul, through his simple mind he refrained. That they should counsel him to slay his enemy arose from the cunning and craft of [this] world, for it is the custom of those who are filled with the cunning of [this]. world to act craftily to remove obstacles from their path; but David in his simplicity and mercy refrained. And we might find many things in the Holy Books which make manifest the simplicity and uprightness of heart [p. 95] of this man of God, and that also which was said by the Lord unto Samuel,52 "I have found a man according to My heart," testified unto the purity of David's heart, and it is well known that simplicity is born of purity of heart. And again David himself asked in prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God." 53

And besides these we may also see that all the other just and righteous men pleased God through simplicity. Concerning those early disciples who became apostles after the Ascension of our Lord into heaven it is thus written, "They all dwelt together, and they were of one mind and of one soul, and they were breaking bread in [one] house, and were receiving food in rejoicing, and they were praising God in the innocency of their heart, and no man said of the possessions which he had, They are mine, for they had everything in common." 54 Now it is manifest that |91 such innocency as this is born of simplicity, and that their praise ascended unto God from the purity of their heart; and that they took their food together with rejoicing, the man who brought much not considering that he should eat more than the other who cast nothing into the common fund, arose from innocency of character.

And again the Word sheweth that the blessed Joshua was the most innocent of all the people because he grew up 55 being always in the tabernacle, and this man who was the most simple and innocent of all the people, [p. 96] for he had been brought up in quietness, was chosen to that famous government after Moses the Great. And that simplicity is nigher unto those who are brought up in the tabernacle or in the house than unto others who are exercised in going in and coming out, the history of Jacob and Esau testifieth. "Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field, and Jacob was a simple man, dwelling in a tent," 56 and from their works we are able to understand the difference of their characters. In all places the Scriptures call Esau cunning and crafty, and one who layeth up anger, and keepeth wrath, [as it is said], "He keepeth his anger for ever, and he layeth up his wrath for ever and ever." 57 And again [the Book] speaketh concerning his anger towards the seed of Jacob, "His fiery anger burned for ever, and he was furious at them," 58 and again that he went forth armed to meet his brother with four hundred men 59 |92 also sheweth that his anger was of long standing; for he had sought to take vengeance upon his brother for the [stealing] of the birthright for twenty years after Jacob had turned towards Haran, and had it not been for the humility of Jacob and for the hidden dispensation of God which changed his anger into pleasantness, he would have performed that to do which he went forth. But Jacob appeareth as the opposite of this in everything, whether as regardeth his parents, or the house of Laban, for by his deeds he is shewn to us to be a simple and obedient man. And for [p. 97] this reason the Holy Book sheweth us all his simplicity in one word: "Jacob was a simple man dwelling in a tent." 60 And, moreover, by reason of his simplicity he would never have meditated the stealing of the birthright unless his mother Rebecca had taught him; but when he heard of the matter which would help [him] he was persuaded in the simplicity of his mind and was not stubborn. And that no man may imagine that his simplicity was natural foolishness, see how attentive he was to the curses of his father, and how he returned answer concerning the things which were set forth by knowledge, "Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Peradventure my father will feel me, and I shall be in his eyes as a mocker, and curses shall come upon me and not blessings." 61 But his mother in faith, being certain of those early promises which were revealed to her, and of those things which were spoken to her when she went to enquire of the Lord, and it had been told her, "The elder shall be a servant to the |93 younger," 62 made answer unto him, saying, "Upon me be thy curses, my son, only hear my voice, and do what I command thee;" and straightway he was obedient to his mother like a child. And she prepared and gave to Isaac the food which he loved, and she covered Jacob's hands and neck, in the places which are near to the touch, with skins of animals; and he in his simplicity judged not what would happen to him, but like a child that is set before his nurse, who doeth unto him what she wisheth, was that full-grown [p. 98] man before his mother by reason of his simplicity. And again, when he took in the food to his father, that which Rebecca had put into his mouth he repeated like a child, adding nothing and taking away nothing. And again when the time for his marriage had come, he did not venture to draw nigh thereto of his own freewill, but in his simpleness he had regard unto his father's commands. Now Esau, like a man crafty for wickedness, because he wished to vex and grieve his father and mother in return for their having dealt deceitfully with him, went and took wives 63 from the daughters of Canaan, who were continually embittering the spirit of Isaac and Rebecca. And when he perceived that the hatred of his parents towards him increased because of the perpetual strivings of his wives, and seeing that he could not be deprived of [his] material inheritance----now he considered this also with craftiness----he went and took [another] wife, Basemath, the daughter of Ishmael, as one might say, |94 with the wound he took a plaster. And he did not do this like an understanding son who was penitent for the things which he had wrought previously, but only because he was afraid lest Isaac would not proclaim him [heir] to that inheritance of riches and possessions which he loved, even as he was also vexed by reason of [the loss of] the birthright and the blessings, not because he had lost the spiritual promises which were therein, but because he had been deprived of the larger part of the riches which the firstborn are wont to receive, and because he saw that his father's love, through which he expected to receive the larger part [p. 99] of his riches as an inheritance, was changed. Now all these acts of Esau teach whosoever knoweth how to regard them [aright] concerning his craftiness and wickedness; but with these things we are also able to discover in this place the simplicity of Isaac their father. For although his whole love was turned to Esau, and he loved him as his firstborn, immediately he perceived the dispensation of God which is above nature, and Rebecca had gone in to him and revealed what had been spoken to her when she went to enquire of the Lord, immediately [I say,] was his love changed from Esau, and he directed it towards Jacob who was worthy thereof.

And let us also observe the obedience of Jacob, who was persuaded by his parents in everything like a child. "If Jacob also thus shall take wives of the daughters of Canaan," said Rebecca,64 "what good shall my life do me? And Isaac called to Jacob and commanded him, saying, Thou shalt not take unto thyself a wife from the daughters of the Canaanites. But |95 go unto Laban, the son of Bethuel, thy mother's brother, and take thee a wife from thence;" and he was obedient and went forth readily, and became suddenly a stranger to all the good things of his father's house. And like an alien who possessed nothing he began [to travel] the path of his journey, and he asked from them for his need nothing, neither beast for burden, nor servants for ministration, nor costly apparel in which to appear, nor other things which are a vain show, to which many hold fast to-day, but he went forth from them with his staff, [p. 100] being provided for the journey, and bearing blessings and promises of good things instead of these things of mankind. And his words also make [this] known unto us, for in giving thanks unto God for the things which he had, and entreating to be delivered from his brother, [he saith], "With my staff [only] I passed over this Jordan, and now I have become two companies; deliver me from the hands of Esau, my brother, for I am afraid of him." 65 Let us listen also unto the words which he spake in that country in which God was revealed unto him, for from them we may especially see his simplicity: "Verily there is the Lord in this place, and I knew it not." 66 Didst thou think, O simple Jacob, that God was limited only to the country in which thy parents lived, and that He did not reveal Himself or make Himself manifest in every place to those who are worthy of His revelation? And let us consider also how many times his wages were changed while he lived with Laban, even as at the end his words rebuked that crafty man: "Thou hast changed my hire |96 ten times, but the Lord hath not suffered thee to harm me." 67 And again when he served him for his younger daughter, Laban took the other in her stead and brought her in to him, and led him astray in his simplicity, and he perceived [it] not; and when he asked by word or mouth why this deception had been perpetrated upon him, immediately a plausible excuse was offered to him----even though it was a lying one ----his simplicity listened thereto and accepted it. And how many times did Laban in his wickedness seek to oppress Jacob, and how many times did he through his cruelty and cunning change his acts towards him with manifold schemes [p. 101] and tricks! But Jacob's innocency was not disturbed, and his simplicity was not agitated, and his integrity was not made crafty; and so long as he himself was watchful concerning the things which related to himself, so long also was God mindful of the things which concerned him. This is the proof of enlightened doctrine to every one who wisheth to serve the Lord: his thoughts must not cease from meditation upon God, or occupy themselves with artful schemes and inventions wherewith he may do harm to his enemies. Do thou, O disciple, abide in the sincerity of thy mind, for it belongeth to the Lord to know how He will direct thy life, and the things which are beneficial for thee those will He perform for thee. Though thou hear of some who are ready to act wickedly towards thee, and of others who dwell in ambush to take away thy life, and of others who are become workers to overthrow thy building, and of others who blacken thy fair fame and vilify thy manner of life, and of others |97 who dig deep that they may cast thee down from the height upon which thou standest, and of others who make signs of detraction at thee, and of others who speak against thee with scorn and who pour out against thee blasphemies with mockery, and of others by whom thou art made a proverb and a byword, and of others whose whole conversation is curses of thee; in spite of all these things do thou abide in thy simplicity. And turn not backwards from that country to which thy gaze is directed, and cease not from thy hidden converse with God, and let not the power of the things which are without thee overcome the power of the hidden anchor upon which hangeth thy life, but keep fast hold upon the hope that Christ cannot lie, according to Paul's counsel 68 [p. 102] to us, "To lay hold of the hope which is promised to us; which we have as an anchor fixed in our soul that it may not be moved." For as the anchor which is cast down [into the sea] by its weight holdeth fast and restraineth the ship in the waves that it may not wander and drift away out of its proper course, so also is the hope which is promised to us in heaven, and which is the hidden anchor which is set above us, and is sunk and hidden from us in the heaven of heavens; let us make fast our minds to it, and let us fasten the ship of our soul thereto that it may not shift about and be disturbed by the storms and waves of the world which beat upon it, and drift out of its proper course. In spite of the things which thou hearest abide thou in thy simplicity, and let not those who speak against thee change thee and make thee to become like unto them. |98 For the Adversary gathereth together all these things for this reason and setteth them in array against thee to turn thy mind from its state of happiness, and to disturb and trouble thy innocency, to make crafty thy simplicity, to make thee like unto those who fight against thee, to fill thee with anger like unto them, to make thee a vessel of wrath like unto them, and to clothe thee with the dress of wickedness. And when thy mind hath descended from that state of simplicity which looketh at one [thing] alone, and thou directest thy gaze upon many, and thou hearest the things which are spoken against thee, through these the Adversary will find thee as he desireth, and thou wilt become easy of access to him, and a ready and easy prey; but do thou persist in thy simplicity which is a vessel of righteousness. For as a material vessel [p. 103] becometh a receptacle of what we put therein, so also is simplicity a pure and honourable vessel which receiveth the various forms of righteousness.

Now therefore let Jacob the simple man, whose history I have depicted for thee, be a type of the things of which I have spoken to thee, and when words of strife are stirred up to disturb thy simplicity, and thou art sensible of the snares of the Enemy which would trip thee up, think upon this blessed man, and consider all his history from the beginning to the end----for for this reason these things and others like unto them were written in the Scriptures----and let them be a support to thy soul which is tottering to a fall, and a consolation to [thy] thoughts which are filled with sadness by reason of the indignation of him that stirreth up anger. Observe how much Esau and Laban plotted to do harm unto Jacob, but the Lord followed after |99 him in all his actions; and while Jacob remained quiet and took no pains to meet the schemes of his enemies, God turned their crafty devices backwards, and instead of a changing series of losses He brought gain upon him. For Jacob was occupied in his integrity, and God sought out good things for him; Jacob busied himself wholly in every work like a child in his simplicity, and the Lord in His wisdom made his paths to prosper. Laban plotted schemes whereby he might cause him loss, and Jacob perceived it not, that simple man felt it not, and that innocent man knew it not; but in his stead God saw and knew everything, and what [p. 104] Laban had bound, the Lord loosed. Laban contrived a scheme of loss against Jacob and the Highest scattered [it]: he made an invention which would increase his own possession and diminish that of Jacob, and God made another invention against it. While Jacob remained at peace the Judge became his advocate, and while he journeyed on in his works innocently God in His wisdom directed his paths. These things [concerning] Jacob were written for thee, and they belong to thee if thou wilt abide in the simplicity of the mind of Jacob, and in the sincerity of soul of that simple man; for the simple belong unto the Lord. Be not ashamed of simplicity, for the cunning and the crafty are vessels of the Adversary; desire not and lust not after cunning, for cunning is the ground which produceth wickedness, and simplicity is the field which maketh righteousness to bring forth fruit. For this reason, in all places, the Lord speaketh with simplicity, and in it His Will abideth, and it becometh a dwelling-place and a receptacle of His revelations. 

For Eli was sleeping with his sons inside the temple, |100 and when the Lord desired to speak with the children of men, He forsook the old age which was trained in wisdom and exercised in the affairs of the world, and lusty manhood which had received the cunning of evil things, and came to simplicity and spake with it, and chose converse with it. "The Lord called to Samuel, "Samuel, Samuel," twice;69 and simplicity rose up and ran to old age, and the child knew not who it was that called him; and he ran to give an answer to Eli instead of to God, [p. 105] and he did this three times, because he had not yet had experience of divine revelations. Now when Eli understood that it was the Lord Who had called him, he commanded him to make answer as unto the Lord, and not to run towards him; for "Eli understood that the Lord had called the boy."70 And old age sent youth to the Lord to learn His will, and cunning had need of simplicity that by means of it it might learn the Divine Will; for Eli entreated Samuel and begged him to reveal to him everything which he had heard from the Lord, and not to hide anything from him. And because he perceived that he himself was unworthy to speak with the Lord, he offered entreaty to the child to reveal to him the Divine mystery; and between Divinity and knowledge simplicity became an interpreter, and childhood received and made answer, and to a child only a few years old, who was unacquainted with the arrangement of the affairs of men, was the knowledge of God revealed. For the Lord dwelleth in the upright, and with the simple ones He speaketh; and He chooseth the sincere, who having learnt the word do |101 not consider that it is their own, but they recognize Him that spake it, and to Him they return gratitude. And the word of God doth not become to them the material for pride and vain boasting, and they are not exalted by the things of God as if they were their own, and they say not, The word of wisdom which we have is our own. Now these simple and upright ones never consider [that it is their own], but in their simplicity they confess that what they have belongeth to the Lord; [p. 106] and for this reason we have found in all places that God rejected cunning and chose simplicity. For because the man wise in the spirit, that is, the man who hath by the experience of his soul obtained the taste of the knowledge of life, is not easily found, his simplicity of nature is acceptable unto God; for this is His own gift and the first thing formed in our nature, for when God created us in the beginning He placed simplicity within us. So therefore simplicity is placed in [our] midst, and one riseth therefrom to the doctrine of spiritual things and becometh a wise man of the spirit, and another cometh down therefrom to the doctrine and training of the things of this world, and such an one is called crafty and cunning. For if men should be called according to the exact name of things, those who are exercised and whose whole training is in corporeal things would not be called wise, and those whose simplicity hath been trained in spiritual things would not be called crafty and cunning; but those who have collected their knowledge from the world would be called crafty and cunning, while those who have been exercised in spiritual things would be called wise and understanding men, for wisdom belongeth to God alone and to the man whose quest is God. |102 

The knowledge of the world is not worthy to be called wisdom, rightly speaking, nor can the wisdom of God be said to be cunning and craftiness by the understanding of discretion, for in this wisdom there is no scheming, and it is not stablished by the composition of various opinions. It passeth the power of speech [to say] why [p. 107] God delighteth in simplicity, and why He chooseth it rather than the wisdom of the world, for behold the wisdom of the world is the gift of God, even as the apostle said, "By the wisdom of God the world knew "not the wisdom of God." 71 And for this reason it is well known that if wisdom were not in us from the time when we were framed and made----and wisdom is not implanted in everything that hath been made----we should not be able to gather together wisdom from the world. Behold then also the wisdom of the world is the gift of God, and why then hath He rejected it and chosen simplicity? It is well known that the reason is because our own labour is therein, and because it is collected from those who possess it, whose vision is directed to the world and not to God, and who run thereafter that they may be thought to be wise men in the opinion [of men]. And to speak finally, the human passions weary themselves when they gather themselves together and seek this wisdom among things which have been made, and in that they have united labours to their quest, and the trouble and afflictions of their persons to the discovery of this knowledge, they imagine that it belongeth to them when they consider how they have laboured for its sake. For this reason the Lord rejected the wise men of the world and chose the simple ones |103 in their stead. And moreover, inasmuch as the wisdom of the world is the opposite of the Divine wisdom in every respect, and there is no means whereby they may be mingled with one another, even as light cannot be mingled with darkness, so also if a man wish to obtain from the wise men of the world [p. 108] knowledge of the things of the Spirit he must first of all cast off from him the thoughts of that wisdom, and the whole expectation of his previous knowledge, and he must stand at the beginning of the path of the first step which is simplicity, and childlike disposition, and the faith which heareth and receiveth with simpleness. And then he may begin the journey of the path of the wisdom of Christ and set out on his course, and if he be zealous to march on wisdom itself will shew him the way.

Simplicity then is the gift of nature, and it belongeth to the Creator, and nothing belonging to us is mingled therein, that is to say, nothing of our will and nothing of our work. Therefore its gift dwelleth in His gift, and His wisdom abideth in the place which He hath constructed, even as it also stooped [to dwell] with Samuel; it forsook subtlety and spake with him, and the chief priesthood and came to him. And behold the Holy Book doth not blame Eli for much wickedness, but only because he was remiss, and because he chid not his sons. Now Eli himself was not a participator in their iniquity, and if any man should say that he acted in his youth as they did [we must remember] that the Book doth not accuse him of this, neither doth it say, "Thou didst do wickedly in this manner in thy youth, and now thy sons do like unto thee;" but the Lord said to Samuel, "Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of everyone that |104 heareth it shall tingle," 72 because Eli had heard of the iniquity which his sons were doing in the tabernacle, and had rebuked them not. Now . the whole accusation of Eli arose because of his negligence, [p. 109] and because his rebuke was not commensurate with the wickedness of his sons: for it is written that he rebuked them,73 but the rebuke was feeble and ineffectual, and not one which the serious nature of the iniquity demanded. His negligence alone and not his own wickedness, was the sole object of the condemnation of Eli the priest, and although the matter was thus yet God chose youth rather than him, and He made His conversation with childhood and simplicity. For as the Book maketh known,74 Samuel was brought up in the temple of the Lord, as were Joshua 75 the son of Nun and Jacob,76 for these also were reared in the tent, even as our discourse hath shewed above.77 And it is a thing to wonder at how the Lord called what He had formed from these two places, whether it be those who were accustomed to the wilderness, or those who were brought up in the tent, for in both these places simplicity was to be acquired. For behold God set apart from the wilderness David, and Moses, and many others for His dispensation, but Samuel, and Joshua, and Jacob He chose from the bringing up in the tabernacle (i. e., tent). Behold then, from this also we may know that simplicity is beloved of God, and that it was the beginning of the way of those who drew nigh unto God. And moreover, we may also see simplicity in Abel, |105 and the Holy Book sheweth us that he was more simple than Cain; for they both brought offerings to the Lord,78 and the offering of simplicity was accepted, but the offering of wickedness was rejected. And Cain was angry with the Lord and with Abel; [p. no] with Abel because he envied him, and with the Lord because He had rejected his offering. If he had been of a simple disposition he would not have been envious, and if he had been sincere he would not have been angry with the Lord. And moreover we may see the cunning of Cain from the outlet which he found for his wickedness, for when he meditated slaying Abel his brother, and was not able to do it because he was near unto his parents, he said "Let us go down into the plain;"79 and Abel, in his innocency, heard and was persuaded like a child. And his simplicity imagined not wickedness, and he did not consider in his heart why Cain called him to the plain, neither did he perceive Cain's hatred towards him, because simplicity knoweth not how to be a spectator of these things; but in the innocency of his heart and in brotherly love towards him he turned, and whithersoever he called him he [went] readily and obediently. And observe here also the works of simplicity, and have regard unto the injurious effects of cunning and wickedness, and be strenuous to be on the side of the simple, who have at all times pleased God; and reject cunning as something which is unfit for thee, and which is not meet for the discipleship in which thou standest. For as the apparel which befitteth thy rank in life is well known, and if thou puttest on that which is contrary hereto thou wilt become a |106 laughing-stock, so also the apparel of simplicity is meet for thee, and if thou puttest on that of cunning thou wilt be condemned by the wise and understanding, and the feast will not receive thee [arrayed] in this apparel.

[p. 111] And with these men let us also consider Joseph the chaste, whose honour towards his father and whose love towards his brethren were born of simplicity; for his brethren were envious of him and he perceived it not, they devised murder against him and he knew it not, and [when] his father told him to go and visit his brethren, he obeyed him readily. He saw dreams which made known his own greatness and their subjection, and in his simplicity he drew nigh and revealed unto them their subjection; the simple man did not perceive that cunning would add to its wickedness, nor that hatred [of him] would be increased in his brethren by the hearing of these things. And when the old man Jacob saw the simplicity of his son Joseph, he rebuked him [and told him] not to reveal [it], not because he was not certain of what would happen, for the Book saith 80 that he kept all these things because he believed that they were about to take place; but he rebuked the simplicity of Joseph in order that he might not increase the hatred of his brethren by the revealing of his dreams. He bore and was carrying food to them, and he passed from place to place asking for them; and he did not know that in running to his brethren he was running to murderers. He saw them, and in his simplicity he was filled with joy, but they when they saw him [were filled] with gloom and anger. |107 And while simplicity was meditating good things, and increasing love at the sight of the brethren, the envy which cunning brought forth grew the more strong, and increased, and meditated murder; and they plotted wickedness and they wrought wickedness. But see the end of the two [sides], and observe with which [p. 112] God was well pleased. While that simplicity which did not know how to hide its dreams was mounted upon a chariot of honour, craftiness was cast down upon the ground before it, and simplicity gave the command, and craftiness was obedient thereto. Simplicity was increased by the wisdom of God, and craftiness added wickedness to itself. "I have seen that there is none who is so wise and understanding as thyself," said the king of Egypt 81 to that simple man. For simplicity is nigh unto wisdom, and the understanding of God is akin to integrity, and simplicity is the vessel which receiveth the divine revelations. Now the blessed Paul also wisely rejected cunning, saying, "We walk not in craftiness, and we handle not the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth we shew ourselves before all the consciences of the children of men." 82 And behold, Paul also hath taught thee that deceit is closely joined to cunning and that it is the vessel of all wickednesses, and for this reason he also fled therefrom. And who is the disciple who will not reject it if the apostle rejected it and cast it forth, and made it a thing alien to the pure doctrine of Christ, which befitted him not? For as wickedness is the opposite of good, so also is cunning the opposite of simplicity. And in another place Paul writeth to his disciples, |108 "Peradventure like a crafty man I have carried you off with guile;" 83 and here also he closely uniteth guile with cunning, [p. 113] And again in another speech he condemneth the heretics and sheweth that all their doctrine standeth in cunning. "Let us not be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of the deceitful doctrines of the children of men, who in their cunning act craftily to lead astray; but let us be firm in our love that we may make to grow up everything of ours in Christ" 84 And moreover our Lord also maketh known that heretics are cunning and crafty, for He said, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves;" 85 and [He maketh known] also, that when a man appeareth to be one thing and is another, he is a worker of cunning. To appear in sheep's clothing, being actually wolves, was taught unto them by cunning; for cunning ministereth unto two things, it maketh wickedness to grow, and it maketh wickedness to increase, and moreover, it schemeth how it may teach itself to others. Where it is meet to hide, it hideth, and where it knoweth that it is meet to reveal, it revealeth; for wickedness is blind, but cunning hath eyes. And again in another place our Lord taught His disciples to beware of the cunning of the Pharisees and Sadducees, saying, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees, and of the leaven of Herod;" 86 and thou mayest know that He here calleth cunning and wickedness by the name of leaven, [p. 114] |109 because in another place when the Pharisees said "Herod desireth to kill thee," 87 he called Herod a fox because of his cunning, saying, "Go ye and say to this fox"----for because he hath no power to do what he desireth by authority, behold he contriveth artful schemes and plots in order that cunning may take the place of power, even as cunning taketh the place of strength in the fox----"by My own freewill will I go, but thy cunning which is outside My freewill, is not able to make Me go forth. To-day and to-morrow I work miracles, and the third day I am perfected." 88 Behold then our Lord warned His disciples against the cunning of Herod and the wickedness of the Pharisees, because while they were doing one thing they taught another. Our Lord did not bid them beware of the doctrine of Moses which the Pharisees taught, but of their traditions which they invented in their cunning that they might be material for the merchandise of iniquity; and of their feigning to be righteous before the children of men; and of their being careful of the honour of God while in their secret works they belittled Him; and of their making long their prayers in order to devour widow's houses; and of their disfiguring their countenances that they might appear to be men who fasted; and of their washing the outside of the cup and platter----that is to say, they beautified and made fair the parts of them which were manifest----being filled within with iniquity and all impurity; and of their adorning their persons outside with a reverent and venerable demeanour to be observed with the eye, being secretly filled with rapine, and deceit, and |110 wantonness, and the desire for all [p. 115] objects of lust.89 Of all this doctrine then of the Pharisees our Lord commanded His disciples to beware.

All these things which arise from deceit, and which are wrought under a false disguise are born of cunning. Why then instead of these things did our Lord command His disciples to be harmless as doves in respect of good things, and cunning as serpents,90 in respect of evil things? towards faith [that they should offer] simplicity, and against error that they should oppose craftiness? It was in order that the upright might save their life, and that the crafty might not destroy it. For for the acquiring of virtues simplicity must be employed by us; but that we may not perish craft is necessary for us; towards God sincerity of mind (or conscience), and towards the children of men, who plot to take away from us the things of God, craftiness of thought. So then well did our Lord command us to be harmless as doves2 towards each other and towards Him, and crafty as serpents towards those who scheme to deprive us of spiritual things. For even the craftiness of the serpent is [directed] against the man, and not against itself, and it delivereth its body to blows by the craftiness of its nature, but it guardeth its head from injury, for from it death is transmitted throughout its entire length.

And again to the disciples who asked craftily which should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and who lusted with crafty mind to rise a step above the others, He taught the simplicity of children, in whom there is no desire for dominion and rule, and whose |111 thought hath never experienced the love of the honour of the world. "Verily I say [p, 116] unto you, that except ye be converted and become childlike and simple as children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." 91 And again, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God like a child"----with uprightness of heart and simplicity----"shall not enter therein." 92 And again Paul also taught concerning this simplicity that we should not only make use of it towards God, and towards each other, but he also commandeth the servants of this world to honour their masters in simplicity, without deceit and without cunning. "Servants, be obedient to your masters in all things, not with eye-service as those who please the children of men, but with fear and trembling, and with the simpleness of heart as unto Christ." 93 And again he also commanded the Jews that simplicity should be found with them in their gifts. "He that giveth [let him do it] with simplicity; and he that standeth at the head, [let him rule] with diligence." 94 For if cunning be found among those who give they become spies of the affairs of those who receive, and for this cause the gift which simplicity would give without thought is kept back. Now it is the custom of simplicity not to think and then to give, but to all men it divideth and giveth abundantly. And again, our Lord taught this simplicity when He said, "Give unto every one that asketh of thee;" 95 and again Paul himself prayed for those who give that the fruits of their righteousness might be increased, |112 and that they might distribute gifts to the needy with simplicity, [p. 117] "May that God Who giveth seed to the sowers, and bread for food, multiply your 'seed, and increase the fruits of your righteousness; that ye may be enriched in everything in all simplicity, which perfecteth by our hand thanksgiving to God." 96 And behold here also in simplicity Paul prayeth for his disciples that they may be enriched, and that therefrom, he saith, thanksgiving towards God may increase and wax strong. And again he saith, "Ye have become obedient to the confession of the Gospel of Christ,97 and ye have become subject with them and with every man in your simplicity." And again he saith, "I fear lest, as the serpent led Eve astray in its guile, your mind should be corrupted from the simplicity that is towards Christ;" 98 and here again he teacheth us that whosoever believeth in Christ, it is meet for him to abide in His doctrine. And he sheweth us also by [his] words that until Eve had forsaken simplicity towards the commandment of God she did not receive the guile of the cunning of the Tempter. And moreover, that [kiss of] peace which at the end of all his Epistles Paul commandeth his disciples to give one another, is born of simplicity, and sincerity of mind giveth it. "We live by the Spirit, and by the Spirit let us come to an end. Let us not be vainglorious, provoking one another, and envying one another." 99 And that a man should live by the Spirit and come to an end by the Spirit cometh to a man by simplicity and innocency of mind. |113 

Now therefore it is good that the disciples of Christ should follow after simplicity, and that they should have regard unto innocency of mind; [p. 118] and let us not be envious of those who are cunning in respect of wickedness, and who are crafty to obtain the honours and pleasures of the world. For behold we may learn from all the books of the Old and New Testaments that in simplicity man draweth nigh unto God, and that simplicity becometh the dwelling-place of God; and together with the doctrine of the books the actual experience of affairs sheweth that righteousness is nearer unto simplicity than unto cunning. For although the cunning and the crafty may do works, and appear to lead the life of righteousness, yet are they held fast by other passions, and for this reason they persevere in labours that they may nourish the evil passions which are stirred up in their souls, whether it be honour or glory or power which they scheme to pursue by their life of labours. Now simplicity hath not such ideas in the service of its labours, for it is led by the beautiful law wherewith it is held fast, or by the fear which it putteth not away, or by love towards God which guardeth it in its afflictions, if it happen that it hath come to this, for as far as is the capacity of love fear guardeth and supporteth simplicity.

Therefore be not ashamed, O disciple, of this good gift, but lay hold upon it from the beginning of thy discipleship unto the end thereof, and in all good things let it be found with thee; for by simplicity and faith thou hast hearkened unto God, and hast gone forth from the world, and thou hast not judged and examined therewith into the things which He spake to thee. For if thou hadst been cunning thou wouldst not have listened unto Him, and if thou hadst inclined thine ear unto |114 His word with thoughts of craftiness thou wouldst not have gone forth after God who called thee, neither [p. 119] would any of those who have been called and who have been obedient unto God have hearkened unto His word and gone forth after His command when He called them to go forth after Him, nor would they have been ministers of His dispensation in any form towards the children of men. For from natural simplicity is born the abundance of the spiritual mind. And observe that the simple mind is able to receive the learning of this world also, for a very young and simple child accepteth the learning of the world and feareth [his] masters, but in proportion as he increaseth in stature and becometh crafty in the things of the children of men, he despiseth [his] masters, and esteemeth learning lightly. And thus also doth simplicity receive spiritual learning, being filled with fear of the Teacher, and being watchful not to forget [His] instruction. And if any man wisheth to draw nigh to craftiness and therefrom to things which are to be desired, he immediately despiseth instruction, and holdeth God in contempt. Let us then lay hold upon and be watchful of this good gift, and let the whole course of our life and conduct be in sincerity of heart. Let us reject craftiness and be remote from cunning; let us rebuke wickedness and be watchful against guile; let us be remote from artifice, and let us flee from the Calumniator; and let us cast away from us the tongue which smiteth in secret. And with a simple understanding and innocent mind let us give praises unto the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for ever, Amen.

Here endeth the First Discourse which is on Simplicity.

[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end.  Page numbers in brackets refer to the Syriac text in vol. 1 of the printed edition.]

1. 1 Genesis xii. 1.

2. 2 Hebrews xi. 10.

3. 3 Hebrews xi. 16.

4. 1 St. Matthew xvi. 24.

5. 2 St. Matthew iv. 18.

6. 1 St. Luke xiv. 26.

7. 2 St. John x. 27.

8. 3 St. Matthew ix. 9.

9. 4 St. John i. 43.

10. 1 St. Luke xix. 4.

11. 1 Genesis ii. 17.

12. 1 1 Corinthians i. 27.

13. 2 1 Corinthians i. 26.

14. 3 1 Corinthians i. 21.

15. 4 Compare 2 Corinthians xi. 6.

16. 1 1 Corinthians ii. 6, 7.

17. 1 St. Luke i. 80.

18. 2 Ephesians ii. 14, 16.

19. 1 Exodus xiv. 28.

20. 2 Exodus xv. 25.

21. 3 Exodus xiii. 21. 

22. 4 Exodus xvii. 6.

23. 5 Exodus xvi. 13.

24. 1 Numbers xxv.

25. 2 Numbers xxv. 9.

26. 3 Exodus xii. 37.

27. 4 Numbers xiv. 23.

28. 5 Numbers xxv. 6, 7, 8.

29. 6 Exodus xxxii. 20.

30. 1 Numbers xxxii. 13; xxvi. 64, 65.

31. 1 Joshua vi. 3, 4.

32. 2 Exodus xxxiii. 11.

33. 1 Psalm xxv. 21.

34. 2 Psalm lxxiii. 22.

35. 3 Psalm lxxiii. 24.

36. 4 Psalm lxxiii 25.

37. 1 Psalm lxxiii. i.

38. 2 St. Matthew v. 8.

39. 3 Psalm lxxi. 15, 16.

40. 4 Psalm lxxi. 17.

41. 5 Psalm lxxiii. 13.

42. 1 Psalm ci. 2.

43. 2 Psalm ci. 7.

44. 3 Psalm xxvi. 2.

45. 4 Psalm lxxiii. 13.

46. 5 Psalm lxxviii. 70.

47. 6 Psalm lxxviii. 72.

48. 7 2 Samuel xv. 12.

49. 8 I Samuel xx. 1; xxiv.11.

50. 1 1 Samuel xix. 5.

51. 2 1 Samuel xxiv. 4-10.

52. 3 1 Samuel xiii. 14; Acts xiii. 22.

53. 4 Psalm li. 10.

54. 5 Acts ii. 44-47; iv. 32.

55. 1 Exodus xxxiii. 11.

56. 2 Genesis xxv. 27.

57. 3 Amos i. 11. 

58. 4 Ezekiel xxv. 12; and see Amos i. 11; Obadiah 10. 

59. 5 Genesis xxxiii. 1.

60. 1 Genesis xxv. 27.

61. 2 Genesis xxvii. 11-13.

62. 1 Genesis xxv. 23.

63. 2 Judith, Bashemath and Mahalath; see Gen. xxvi. 34; xxviii. 9; xxxvi. 3.

64. 1 Genesis xxvii. 46; xxviii. 1, 2.

65. 1 Genesis xxxii. 10.

66. 2 Genesis xxviii. 16.

67. 1 Genesis xxxi. 7.

68. 1 Hebrews vi. 19.

69. 1 1 Samuel iii. 4-10.

70. 2 1 Samuel iii. 8.

71. 1 1 Corinthians i. 21.

72. 1 1 Samuel iii. 11.

73. 2 1 Samuel ii. 23-25.

74. 3 1 Samuel i. 28.

75. 4 Exodus xxxiii. 11.

76. 5 Genesis xxv. 27.

77. 6 See pp. 86, 91.

78. 1 Genesis iv. 4.

79. 2 Genesis iv.8.

80. 1 Genesis xxxvii. 11.

81. 1 Genesis xli. 39.

82. 2 2 Corinthians iv. 2.

83. 1 2 Corinthians xii. 16.

84. 2 Ephesians iv. 14, 15.

85. 3 St. Matthew vii. 15.

86. 4 St. Matthew xvi. 6; St. Mark viii. 15; xii. 13; St. Luke xii. 1.

87. 1 St. Luke xiii. 31, 32.

88. 2 St. Luke xiii. 32.

89. 1 St. Matthew xxiii.

90. 2 St. Matthew x. 16.

91. 1 St. Matthew xviii. 3.

92. 2 St. Mark x. 15.

93. 3 Ephesians vi. 5, 6.

94. 4 Romans xii. 8.

95. 5 St. Matthew v. 42.

96. 1 2 Corinthians ix. 10, 11.

97. 2 2 Corinthians ix. 13.

98. 3 2 Corinthians xi. 3.

99. 4 Galatians v. 25, 26.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts