Peace be to you
(Ioann. 20. 19), as was the Lord's wish when He spoke to His disciples, and salvation and eternal charity. With Him may the Trinity grant you these three gifts, and preserve them amongst you with my prayer. The greatness of my zeal for your salvation is known to Him alone Who gave it, and my longing for the advance of your instruction; but since, in accordance with the Lord's teaching, Tribulation and persecution have arisen for the word's sake
(Matt. 13. 21), no other advice is now fitting for you, save that you beware lest you be that stony ground
(Matt. 13. 5), which through the poorness of its soil cannot nourish the seed which it receives, lest the Lord say of you also, But when tribulation and persecution have arisen for the word's sake, forthwith they take offence
(Matt. 13. 21). We ourselves know that we have received the Lord's word with gladness and enthusiasm; let us beware now lest we be short-lived. Patience is needful [for us], that the proof of our faith [as it is written,] may be more precious than gold
(1 Pet. 1.7). Know that an unclaimed inheritance is the object of the strife; for it is no new thing that the kingdom of heaven
(cf. Matt. 11. 12)should be the object of strife and contention. And do not hope that it is men alone who persecute you; there are devils in those who envy your possessions; against them take up that armour of God
(cf. Eph. 6. 13-17)to which the apostle points, and make a path to heaven, hurling these arrows, as it were, of earnest prayers. For whatever you ask with faith and complete agreement, shall be given to you; but look to it that you be one heart and one mind
(Act. 4. 32), so that you may receive as a present reward whatever saving grace you seek from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the common Father of us all, in accordance with our Lord's promise when He said, If two of you agree upon earth concerning anything that they seek, it shall be done for them by My Father Who is in heaven
(Matt. 18. 19). Otherwise if you do not possess one and the same purpose and aversion
(cf. Sallust. Cat. 20. 4), it is better that you do not dwell together. Therefore I command you that all, whose heart's desire is to consent with me, and who know and love my sentiment, remain with my true follower Attala, and let it be for him to choose whether he remain there or wish to come after me; for he senses the peril of your souls; do you obey him. But if he wishes to come, let Waldelenus be prior, since he can quickly, with God's help, reach a settled understanding; but meanwhile beware, lest there be any with you who does not possess one
p.29purpose with you, whoever he may be; for we have been more harmed by those who were not of one mind amongst us.
You know, my dearest Attala, those who are a trouble to your feelings; depose them at once; yet depose them in peace and agreement with the rule; only honour Libranus and keep Waldelenus always; if he is there with the community, may God deal well with him, may he be humble, and give him my kiss, which then in his hurry he did not receive. But you have long known my purpose of instilling character; if you see some progress of souls with you, stay there; if you see dangers, come thence; but the dangers I mean are the dangers of disagreement; for I fear lest there too there be disagreement on account of Easter, lest perhaps, through the devil's tricks, they wish to divide you, if you do not keep peace with them; for now without me you seem to stand less firmly there. Therefore be wary, considering the time when they do not endure sound doctrine
(2 Tim. 4. 3). Instruct yourselves and any who will hear; only let there be none amongst you who is not at one. For you (Attala) must make provision chiefly for peace, ever anxious to preserve unity of spirit in the bond of peace
(Eph. 4. 3). For what advantage is it to have a body and not to have a heart? I confess that I am broken on this account while I wished to help all, who when I spoke to them fought against me without cause
(Ps. 119. 7), and while I trusted all, I have been almost driven mad. Thus do you be wiser; I do not wish you to undertake so great a burden
(cf. Horat. Serm. i. 9. 21, Epist. ii. 1. 169), under which I have sweated; for you know already the smallness of my knowledge, like a drop, you have learnt that all advice is not suitable for all, since natures are diverse and men's types differ widely from each other. But what am I doing? I shall soon incite you to that huge toil from which I fly myself; if I begin on the many sides of instruction, I shall be introducing qualifications; therefore do you be many-sided and adaptable for the direction of those who obey you with faith and love; but you must fear even their very love, because it will be dangerous to you.
But there are troubles on every side, my dearest friend; there is danger if they hate, and danger if they love. You must know that both are real, either hatred or love from their side; peace perishes in hatred, and integrity in love. Hold yourself therefore to the impulse of the one desire which you know my heart desires. You know I love the salvation of many and seclusion for myself, the one for the progress of the Lord, that is, of His church, the other for my own desire; but these are longings in me rather than achievements; but in yourself let them be fulfilled, I pray, since in my absence you will be able to know both at least in part; yet I do not write as a command. Know then my bidding to all; and since I have felt the desires of many to differ in respect of maintaining the strictness of the rule, I have bound the branches to the root, when in
p.31their frailty they have fallen from my small degree of strictness, that is, have departed from the truth of my instruction. For let those who have preserved my sentiment, so serve God, always electing for themselves the wiser and more godly, provided they be humble and compassionate. Whoever are rebellious, let them depart away; whoever are obedient, let it be they who become my heirs. Do you and all that are wholly mine observe these precepts; and for the sake of unity and humility, however many you be when Christ increases and multiplies your numbers, let all have regard to him who ministers to God beside the altar that was blessed by the holy bishop Aid. Therefore do you also, if I by the persecution of our enemies [gap: manuscript damage/extent: 1 word].
I have written this because of the uncertain outcome of events. It was in my wish to visit the heathen and have the gospel preached to them by us, but when Fedolius just reported their coolness he quite took my mind from that.
I wanted to write you a tearful letter; but for the reason that I know your heart, I have simply mentioned necessary duties, hard of themselves and difficult, and have used another style, preferring to check than to encourage tears. So my speech has been outwardly made smooth, and grief is shut up within. See, the tears flow, but it is better to check the fountain; for it is no part of a brave soldier to lament in battle. It is not a new thing that has happened to us; this was what we chiefly preached each day. Long ago a certain philosopher, wiser than the rest in this, that against the opinion of all men he declared God to be one, was thrust into prison. The gospels are full of this matter, and of it they are chiefly composed; for this is the truth of the gospel, that the true disciples of Christ crucified should follow Him with the cross. A great example has been shown, a great mystery has been declared; the Son of God willingly (for He was offered up because He Himself willed it
(Isai. 53. 7)) mounted the cross as a criminal, leaving to us, [as it is written,] an example, that we should follow His footsteps
(cf. 1 Pet. 2. 21). Blessed then is the man, who becomes a sharer in this passion and this shame. For there is something wonderful there concealed; for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men
(1 Cor. 1. 25). Strangely is
p.33immeasurable wisdom discerned in foolishness, and in weakness incomparable strength. Thus are hidden there all choice consolations, the secrets of salvation; but they are difficult in order that they may be precious; they are veiled in order that they may be merited by few; merited indeed by few, since they are too wonderful. Therefore let us patiently bear all adversities for truth's sake, that we may be sharers in the Lord's passions; for if we suffer together with Him, together we shall reign
(cf. 2 Tim. 2. 12 et Rom. 8. 17). What needs to be added to this save perseverance? For he who perseveres up to the end shall be saved
(Matt. 10. 22). For it is at the end that judgement holds its session, and at the outcome that praise is sung. But that he should be persevering, let each constantly beseech the help of God with all humility of mind; for it is not of him that willeth, we are told, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy
(Rom. 9. 16), since the mercy of God is greater and better than man's life
(Ps. 62. 4), however good life may be; for none merit mercy, save those who confess themselves to be wretched before God, and feel themselves unworthy of salvation in themselves, unless the sole mercy of God should snatch them from such dangers. And though they are conscious in themselves of good works, yet fearing the judgements of God and lamenting that they have committed many injustices, they humbly trust in the gentleness of God alone; and their perfect fear is more pleasing, the more it practises humility; for God's good pleasure is upon them that fear Him and on those who hope upon His mercy
(Ps. 146. 11). So none will be saved by his own right hand (according to the Lord's word to Job, in which to some extent He derided his defence by some proofs of power, saying, And then I shall confess that thy right hand can save thee
(Iob 40. 9)) except him who humbly uses his capacities, which are themselves gifts, with fear and trembling in the will of God, often praying, Cast me not away from Thy face
(Ps. 50. 13), and Reject me not from Thy commandments
(Ps. 118. 10), since, as someone says, the greatness of certain men's good character has often been the cause of their damnation, those I mean who, the more distinguished they are in good qualities, have fallen from the station of humility. Therefore it is written, The more distinguished you are, come down, arise and sleep with the uncircumcised
(Ezech. 32. 19); as if the proud spirit were told in other words: since by your holiness you have lifted yourself up in pride, now come down from it and be reckoned amongst sinners, since what is done with pride counts as nothing before Me. Narrow, [you see,] is the gate
(Matt. 7. 13), and trodden by few is the highway of perfection, which avoids the vices on the left hand, and on the right the evils of vanity and pride. Therefore must we pass by the royal road to the city of the living God, through affliction of the flesh and contrition of the heart, through bodily toil and spiritual humility, through our practice, the substance of our lawwful duty, not the meed of merit, and, what is greater than these, through Christ's grace, faith, hope, and charity. Observe the many dangers; learn the cause of war, the
p.35greatness of the glory; do not ignore the enemy's strength, and freewill in between; understand that the gate is open to our foes from the north; thus Jerusalem too is open from the north, for that reason the enemy watches on that side dwelling in the north, for that reason it is written, From the north are evils kindled over all the earth
(cf. Ierem. 1. 14). If you remove the foe, you remove the battle also; if you remove the battle, you remove the crown as wellif these stand, where they are it is needful that there be goodness, watchfulness, zeal, patience, fidelity, wisdom, steadfastness, prudence, and if not; destruction must ensueand, to conclude, if you remove the freedom, you remove the worth.
See what adversities surround us, and what as it were tumultuous eddies wash us round, my dearest disciple, not to speak of those which lurk within and daily fight against us in ourselves. Thus in the midst of so great dangers to will and to run, though it be your duty, is not in your power; for human goodness is not strong enough to reach the goal it wishes between so many opposing forces, unless the mercy of God also provide the willthat the pilgrim's desires should be fulfilled and have free course, and by his avoiding the slips and stumbles and opposing chances of good fortune, that his course should be completed without stumbling. Wherefore humility of mind is the cause of merit, for without help it cannot be assisted; the proud man does not merit it; he is left alone and hardened; he is unthankful, unprayerful, irreligious. The idle servant is beaten in life, his service is despised; despaired of, he is even considered to be most worthy of disdain by men. What then are we to say to this, wretched as we are, who before we deserve release from evils beguile ourselves with goods, and before the removal of vices hope to have perfection? We desire to know all; we tire of doing all we know, hoping that words can count instead of deeds. Perhaps here below they may; for above they clearly cannot in God's sight, since there it is not he who has spoken, but he who has acted
(cf. Matt. 7. 21), that shall be saved.
Now as I write a messenger has reached me, saying that the ship is ready for me, in which I shall be borne unwilling to my country; but if I escape, there is no guard to prevent it; for they seem to desire this, that I should escape. If I am cast into the sea like Jonah, who himself is also called Columba in Hebrew, pray that someone may take the place of the whale to bring me back in safe concealment by a happy voyage, to restore your Jonah to the land he longs for.
But now my parchment letter is already forced to reach its end, though the greatness of my subject requires a more extensive treatment; love does not keep order, hence my missive is confused. I wished to say everything in short, but could not manage everything. What I wanted to write, I would not in view of the difference of your desires. Perhaps my
p.37own desire is not devoid of pandering, let God's will be done in all things; if He will, He knows my prayer. Do you examine your consciences, whether you are more pure and holy in my absence; do not seek me through love, but through necessity alone. May you not be the poorer by this event, and do not by this separation seek a freedom that would reduce you to bondage to the vices. He who loves unity is mine; he is not mine who divides; for he who does not gather with Me, says the Lord, scatters
(Luc. 11. 23). Otherwise if you see perfection farther removed from you than before, and fate has kept me away from you, and Attala is not strong enough to govern you; since your brethren are here in the neighbourhood of the Britons, unite yourselves all together in one party, whichever is the better, that you may the more readily strive against the vices and wiles of the devil; and meanwhile let him be your leader whom you all have chosen, since, if I am free to do so, by God's will I shall make provision for you. But if the situation pleases you and God builds with you there, may you increase [there with His blessing] to thousands of thousands
(Gen. 24. 60). Pray for me, my beloved children, that I may live to God.