RECORD OF WORDS OF CHRIST

I went somewhat unwillingly to the next day’s lecture. It would
probably be interesting, I thought; but I could no longer deny that I
was beginning to feel doubtful about that. And certainly I was more
interested in Paul’s letters. Soon after I was seated, Glaucus came in.
He looked worn and haggard, but there was no time to ask him questions.
The subject of the lecture was, How are we to struggle with adversity?
The answer was, By bearing in mind that death is no evil; that defamation
is nothing but the noise of madmen; and that only the rich, the lords
and rulers of the earth, are the subjects of tragedies. But the main
point was that “the door” is always open: “Do not be more cowardly
than children. The moment they are tired, they say, ‘I won’t play any
more.’ Say you the same, ‘I won’t play any more.’ And be off. But if you
stay, don’t keep on complaining.” This topic had become familiar. What
followed, though not quite novel, interested me more, because it seemed
to bear on the Jewish Law.

First came a general descant on the advantages of being absolutely free
from fear. Why should a man fear? Had he not power over everything that
might cause him fear? Then a pupil was supposed to ask for more rules of
life, saying, “But give me commandments.” The reply was, “Why am I to
give you commandments? Has not Zeus given you commandments? Has He not
given and appointed for you what is your own, unhindered and unshackled;
but what is not your own, hindered and shackled? Well, then, what is the
commandment? Of what nature is the strict injunction with which you have
come into the world from Zeus? It is this, ‘Keep in all ways the things
that are yours, desire not the things that are for others’.… Having such
suggestions and commands from Zeus, what further commands can you crave
from me?” He finished this section of his discourse thus, “Bring these
commandments, bring your preconceptions, bring the demonstrations of
the philosophers, bring the words you have often heard and have often
yourself spoken, read, and pondered.”

I could not feel sure whether “bring” meant “bring to bear on each
point,” or “bring to your aid”; but, in either case, this conclusion, to
me at least, was disappointing. “It is all very true,” I thought, “and
strictly according to reason. We are sure we have ‘preconceptions.’ We
are not sure that we receive strength, in this or that emergency, from
any being except ourselves. And yet how tame—and, in emergencies, how
flat and unhelpful—such an utterance as this appears in comparison with
the oracle that the Christian believed he had heard from his Lord, ‘My
grace is sufficient for thee. For Power is made perfect in weakness’!”

The rest of the lecture was more lively and expressed with more novelty,
but old in substance—addressed to those who wanted to enjoy the best
seats in the theatre of life but not to be squeezed by the crowd. His
prescription was, “Don’t go to see it at all, man, and then you will not
be squeezed. Or, if you like, go into the best seats, when the theatre
is empty, and enjoy the sun there.” Then he added something that made my
companion Glaucus shrug his shoulders and cease taking notes, “Remember
always, _We squeeze ourselves, we pinch ourselves_. For example, we
will suppose you are being reviled. What is the harm in that? Why pinch
yourself on that account? Go and revile a stone. What harm will you do
the stone? Well then, when you are reviled, listen like a stone. And then
what harm does the reviler do you?”

We went out together, Glaucus and I. I think I have said before that
Glaucus had some troubles at that time in his home at Corinth, but of
what kind I did not exactly know. “Silanus,” he said presently to me,
with a bitter smile, “I am pinching myself with my shoe.” “Then take it
off,” said I. “By the immortal Gods,” he exclaimed, “I wish I could! But
what if my shoe is the universe? What if it is⸺” He stopped. I replied
at once, like a faithful disciple of Epictetus, “Not the universe,
Glaucus, but your opinions about the universe.” “Well then,” said he, “my
‘opinions about the universe.’ What if my ‘opinions about the universe’
include ‘opinions about’ certain persons and things—home, father, mother,
sister, and other such indifferent trifles? To put an imaginary case,
could I by ‘taking off’ my ‘opinion about’ my father, take my father
out of prison, or save him from death, or others from disgrace worse
than death? No, Silanus, I am beginning to be a little tired of hearing
‘Remember always, _You pinch yourselves_.’ Often it is so. But not
always. What say you?”

What ought I to have said? I knew exactly what was the correct thing
to say. “In such cases, give up the game. The door is open. Do you say
the universe pinches you? Then take off your shoe by going out of the
universe.” This would have been the orthodox consistent answer. But I
was inconsistent, not indeed in words, but in a heretical glance of
sympathy, which Glaucus—I could see—interpreted rightly. We parted. As I
walked slowly back to my rooms, I had leisure to reflect that the gospel
of Epictetus had no power to strengthen Glaucus, and—I began to fear—no
power to strengthen me, except to bear comparative trifles. It was not
strong enough—at least in me—to stand up against the great and tragic
calamities of human life.

With these thoughts, I sat down once more to study Paul’s epistles from
the beginning. Once more (but now for the last time) I was led into a
digression. It was the word “gospel” that thus dragged me away, coming
upon me (in Paul’s first sentence) just when I had been deploring the
failure of the “gospel” of Epictetus. Reading on, I found that Paul’s
“gospel” had been “promised beforehand, through God’s prophets, in the
holy scriptures concerning His son.” A little later, the writer said, “I
am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is God’s power tending to salvation
for every one that hath faith, Jew first, and then Greek. For God’s
righteousness is therein revealed, from faith tending to faith, even as
it is written, ‘Now the righteous shall live by faith’.”

The next words surprised me by mentioning “God’s wrath” as a part of the
gospel: “For there is revealed therein _God’s wrath_ from heaven against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that hold down the truth in
unrighteousness.” But I immediately perceived that it might be regarded
as “gospel” or “good tidings” to be informed that God does really feel
“wrath” at unrighteousness, or injustice, and that He will sooner or
later judge and punish it. Accordingly I was not surprised to find Paul,
soon afterwards, connecting “gospel” and “judging” thus: “In the day when
God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel, through Jesus
Christ.”

From this I perceived that Paul’s gospel promised a righteous judgment
as well as immortality. But how could it be proved that there would be
this righteous judgment? Paul said that it was “revealed _from faith to
faith_.” He added, “_as it is written_”; and a note in the margin of my
MS. shewed me that he was referring to a certain prophet named Habakkuk.
I unrolled the passage. It seemed that this Habakkuk was living in times
when his nation was grievously oppressed. The oppressors were like
fishermen catching the oppressed at their pleasure. The prophet, standing
on a tower, said to the people, “Wait and have faith. The righteous shall
live by faith.” Paul meant that if we would begin by having some faith
in a righteous God, in spite of appearances on the surface of things, we
should be helped to rise “from faith to more faith,” and consequently
that we should “live”—that is have _real_ life. Faith seemed to Paul
needful for life. Life without faith seemed to him no real life but a
living death.

As I read on, I saw that this kind of “faith” was regarded by Paul as
the foundation of all righteousness. He quoted scripture thus, “Abraham
had faith in God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” Then
I remembered that he had quoted the same passage in writing to the
Galatians, in order to prove to them that the seed of Abraham did not
obtain righteousness by doing the works prescribed in the code of Moses,
but by following in the faith of their forefather. Now this faith, in
the case of Abraham, had seemed to me at first of a narrow and selfish
nature:—“God will keep His promise to _me_, God will give _me_ a child in
my old age.” But Paul shewed that the promise concerned “all the nations
of the earth,” and that Abraham was not selfish in his faith—any more
than in his pleading with God for such righteous people as might be in
Sodom and Gomorrah when he said, “Shall not the judge of all the earth
do right?” This faith in God’s truth and righteous judgments was at the
bottom of Paul’s gospel, and Paul taught that it was at the bottom of all
righteousness both of Jews and Gentiles.

But here came a great difficulty and obstacle in the way of faith,
because, when men departed from God’s righteousness, God Himself (so
Paul taught) departed from them for a time, allowing them to do the
unrighteousness that was in their hearts and to judge unjustly. For
this cause (according to Paul) God introduced Law into the world, and
especially the Law of Moses. The Law was brought in to represent His
righteousness in a poor rough fashion, until the time should come when
He would send into the world the real righteousness or justice, the real
judge or spirit of judgment. Such a judge (according to Paul’s gospel)
was Jesus Christ, judging the world already to some extent, but destined
to judge it in complete righteousness, “in the day when God shall judge
the secrets of men according to my gospel,” said Paul, “through Jesus
Christ.”

At this point came the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, enabling
Paul to say, “Wait, and you will see justice done”; whereas Epictetus was
forced to say, in effect, “Justice will never be done,”—not at least what
a plain man would call justice—“since the justice of this life was, is,
and will be, oppression, and no second life is ever to exist.”

The only passage in which Epictetus (as far as I could recollect)
described a good judge, was one in which the philosopher was supposed to
hold a dialogue with the Censor, or Judge, of Nicopolis. The man was an
Epicurean; and Epictetus, after representing him as boasting that he was
“a judge of the Greeks,” and that he could order imprisonment or flogging
at his discretion, replied that this was coercing, not judging. “Shew
us,” said he, “the things that are unprofitable for us and we shall avoid
them. Make us passionate imitators of yourself, as Socrates made men
of himself. He was really a ruler of men. For he, above all others, so
framed men that they subordinated to him their inclinations, aversions,
and impulses.”

This seemed to me, at first, a fine ideal of a spiritual judge. I
contrasted it with Paul’s picture of the Lord as Judge taking vengeance
in fire upon His enemies; and Epictetus seemed to have the advantage. But
on consideration it appeared that Epictetus was confusing his hearers by
passing suddenly from a judge to a ruler. According to his own account
elsewhere, Socrates did not persuade a thousandth part of those to whom
he addressed himself. On the other hand Paul distinguished two aspects
of Christ. In one, He appeared as constraining His subjects to love Him
and to become “passionate imitators” of Him. In the other, He appeared
as a judge, making the guilty shrink from their own guilt, and feel pain
at their own sin, when the light of judgment reveals them to themselves.
Paul spoke of “fire” according to the metaphors of the scriptures. He
appeared to be describing the Supreme Judge as destroying the evil while
purifying the good—as fire may destroy some things but purify others.

This was not the only occasion when the gospel of Epictetus seemed to
me—not at first, but upon full consideration—inferior to the gospel of
Paul in recognising facts fairly and fully. For example, Paul, in the
epistle I was now reading, adopted the ancient Jewish tradition that
death came into the world as a result of the sin of the first man Adam.
According to this view, death was a “curse.” Now Epictetus appeared to
be directly attacking this doctrine when he spoke as follows, “If I knew
that disease had been destined to come upon me at this very moment, I
would rush towards it—just as my foot, if it had sense, would rush to
defile itself in the mire. Why are ears of corn created? Is it not that
they may be parched and ripened? And are they to be parched and ripened,
and yet not reaped? Surely, then, if they had sense, the ears of wheat
ought not to pray never to be reaped. Nay, this is nothing short of a
curse upon wheat—never to be reaped! So you ought to know that _it is
nothing short of a curse upon men, not to die_. It is all the same as not
being ripened—not to be reaped.”

How much finer, thought I at first, is this doctrine of Epictetus than
the doctrine of Paul! And how superstitious is that Hebrew story about
a serpent, causing death to fall upon man as a curse from God! But
coming back to the matter again after I read some way in the epistle,
and thinking over what “death” meant to Epictetus and what it meant to
Paul, I began to waver. For Epictetus thought that “death” meant being
dissolved into the four elements. And how was this like “being ripened
and reaped”? When corn is reaped, men get good from it. But when I am
“reaped,” that is to say, distributed into my four elements, who will get
any good from that? So, once more, the gospel of Epictetus, as compared
with the gospel of Paul, seemed to be deficient not only in power but
also in directness and clearness of statement.

It reminded me of the saying of Paul when he said that God sent him to
preach the gospel “_not in wisdom of word_ lest the cross of Christ
should be made of no effect.” “Wisdom of word” appeared to mean “calling
old facts by new names without revealing any new truth.” So far as I
could understand the gospel of Epictetus, his language about my being
“ripened and reaped” was like that other earlier promise that I should
find “friends” in the four elements when I passed into them in the
dissolution of death. It was all “wisdom of word.”

In contrasting Epictetus with Paul to the disadvantage of the former,
I was far from imagining that the latter had unloosed the knot of the
origin of sin. But at all events he recognised the existence of the knot.
Epictetus ignored it, or failed to recognise it. He spoke in the same
breath of God’s ordaining “vice and virtue, winter and summer,” as though
God’s appointing that some men shall be bad caused him no more difficulty
than His appointing that some days shall be cold.

Paul, on the other hand, treated death as though it were a curse in the
intention of Satan, but a blessing (or step towards blessing) through the
controlling will of God. He also spoke of a spiritual body rising out
of the dead earthly body, as flower and fruit rise out of the decaying
seed. I did not at first feel sure what he meant by this. Flower and
fruit resemble seed in that they can be touched. Did Paul mean that the
spiritual body resembled the earthly body in being tangible, besides
being more beautiful? I thought not. It seemed to me possible that a
person in the flesh, dying, might become a person in the spirit, living
for ever. A man’s actions and sufferings, sown in the transient flesh,
might after death become part of the flower of the imperishable spirit,
the real man, the spiritual body. That, I thought, was what Paul meant.
This belief I found also stimulative to well-doing, according to the
saying of Paul himself, “I press on, if by any means I may attain to the
resurrection of the dead.” Moreover I remembered the “angel of Satan”
appointed for Paul to keep him from pride, and how he prayed against it,
and received a revelation “My grace is sufficient for thee.” If prayer
and strength were brought about for Paul by an “adversary” of prayer,
might not righteousness be brought about for the human race by the
“adversary” of righteousness? I did not myself at that time believe in
the existence of such an “adversary”; but Paul’s belief seemed to me not
unreasonable.

This turned me to other passages in the epistles concerning “Satan,” or
the “angels of Satan,” or “principalities and powers.” And I contrasted
them with what Epictetus had said, “All things are full of Gods and
daemons,” meaning good daemons. Once more, the words of Epictetus seemed
the nobler. But were they true? What did they amount to in fact? Nothing
except “wisdom of word,” calling the four elements “friends”! Thus in
the end—though very slowly and reluctantly—I was brought, first, to
understand, and then to favour, Paul’s opinion, namely, that so far as we
can see the truth in the “enigma” of the “mirror” of this world, there is
being waged a battle of good against evil, order against disorder, light
against darkness, life against death.

What Isaiah said concerning the stars and God’s “leading them forth”
gave me some help, just when I was thinking about the “conflict between
light and darkness.” For how, I thought, does God bring forth the stars
except through the hand of His angel of darkness? Yet we, men, mostly
speak of “darkness” as an enemy. And so, in a sense, it often is. Yet
it is revealed in the aspect of a servant of God when besides bringing
us the blessing of rest and sleep it leads forth the hosts of glories
that (except for darkness) would never have been perceived. So, darkness
brings God’s greatness to light. Paul certainly predicted that the same
truth would hereafter be recognised about death and about the apparent
disorder of Nature, and her “groanings and travailings”; and it seemed to
me that he extended the same doctrine even to sin.

The result was that I found myself content to accept—in a manner, and
provisionally—what Paul said about “Satan” and about “principalities”
and at the same time what he said to the effect that all things are from
God and through God and to God, and, “For them that believe, all things
work together for good.” In my judgment, it was better—yes, and more
reasonable, in Paul’s sense of the word “reason”—to feel that I was in
the Universe fighting a real fight against evil but looking up to God as
my Helper, than to feel that there was no evil or enemy for me anywhere
except in myself, and no friend either. So in the end I said, “Better to
have been under the curse of death with Paul, if the curse may lead to a
supreme blessing of life eternal in the presence of the Father, than to
pass out of life with Epictetus, without any experience of curse at all,
as so much earth, air, fire and water, into the nominal friendship of
Gods and daemons!”

In allowing myself thus to be led away by my new Jewish teacher I was not
influenced by his letters alone, but by legends and traditions—to some of
which he referred—in the Hebrew histories, visions, and prophecies. Some
of these taught, predicted, prefigured, or suggested that, while man and
the brute forces of man and nature blindly imagine that they are moving
the wheel of the universe, God alone is really moving it, and is using
them to move it, towards His own decreed and foreordained purpose.

To the most beautiful of all such visions I was drawn by these words of
Paul, “Know ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah?” Here a marginal
note in my MS. referred me to the whole story, how Elijah, having slain
with the sword the adversaries of God, was himself forced to flee from
the sword of King Ahab, to Mount Horeb or Sinai, where the Law had once
been given to Israel amid lightnings and thunders. And here the prophet
was taught that God is not in the principalities of Nature, not in the
tempest or fire or earthquake, but in “the still small voice.” This
agreed with a passage in Isaiah concerning the Deliverer, “He shall
not cry aloud.” In comparison with these and other similar poems and
prophecies, the best things that the Greeks have written began to appear
to me like mere “wisdom of word.”

As regards the time when Paul’s “good news” or “gospel” of “the righteous
judgment” of God was to be fulfilled, I gathered that the judgments of
God had been revealed to the apostle as having been working from the
beginning of the world—seen, as it were, through openings in a veil—in
the deluge, in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the punishment
of the Egyptians for persecuting Israel, in the punishments of Israel
during and after the Exodus, and especially in their captivity and
the destruction of their temple. But he seemed to believe that he had
received also some special revelation about a judgment to fall upon the
Jews, or upon all mankind, as soon as the gospel had been proclaimed to
the world, but not before.

His language, however, varied. To the Philippians he spoke as though he
were in doubt whether to desire to depart and to be with Christ, or to
“remain in the flesh” for the sake of his converts. This shewed that he
contemplated the possibility of his dying before the Lord’s coming. And
this was made still clearer in some of his sayings to Timothy, such as
“I have fought the good fight,” if taken with their contexts. But to the
Thessalonians he wrote somewhat differently. It appeared that certain of
them were grievously disappointed because some of their brethren had died
before the Lord’s coming. Paul wrote to console them, saying that they,
too—that is the dead brethren—would be raised up. “We that are alive,” he
said, “shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep”—as though
he anticipated that, on the day of the Coming, the greater number of the
brethren, and he among them, would be still “alive.”

From several of these passages, and from similar words in the prophets,
I gathered that, had he lived long enough to witness it, Paul would have
considered the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus to have been a “day of
the Lord” or “day of judgment.” But he was assured that the greatest day
of all would not arrive till the sins of mankind had come to a head.
Also it appeared to me that Paul did not profess to know when the last
“judgment” would come to pass, and that he, like other Christians, at
first expected it to come soon, and afterwards changed his mind.

Summing up the results of my study, I found that Paul’s gospel appeared
to be good news in a double aspect, first outside us, then inside us.
First, it said that man was made by a perfectly good God to be, in
the end, perfectly good, but was allowed by the Maker to fall into
imperfection, through Satan, as a step towards perfection. This could be
seen in the history of God’s judgments from the beginning, but most of
all in the fact that the Son of God, having been sent into the world as
a son of David, for the salvation of all the nations of the earth, and
having been killed by the Jews, had been raised from the dead to save and
judge mankind in righteousness. Secondly, it said that there was in every
human being a faculty of faith in the goodness and love and righteous
judgments of God, and that this faith, when fixed on the Saviour, enabled
men to receive His spirit of righteousness and His love, to await His
judgments, and to lead a life of righteousness on earth followed by an
immortality of blessedness in heaven.

Comparing this with the gospel of Epictetus I could not but feel that
Paul’s was far more helpful, but also more difficult to believe. Yet
it was not incredible. Epictetus himself recognised in Socrates some
traces of a power to frame men to his own will. If Socrates the Athenian,
and Diogenes the Sinopian, and others, whom God called “His own sons,”
had this power in some degree, in proportion to their possession of a
share of the divine Logos, why might not Jesus the Jew be regarded as
possessing this power to the fullest extent, having the fulness of the
Logos so that he could succeed where Socrates and Diogenes and Epictetus
failed?

I write here “Jesus the Jew,” to shew that, at that time, I did not
know that Jesus was called the Nazarene, nor had I any notion that he
was born otherwise than naturally “of the seed of David.” But I clearly
perceived that Paul placed Jesus far above all patriarchs and prophets.
Also I think (but am not quite sure) that I already understood Paul to
believe that the Son of God was Son from the beginning of the world,
before taking flesh as “the seed of David”—but not in any miraculous
way. About this point I did not employ my thoughts. The question for me
was, Had this Jesus the power attributed to him by Paul’s gospel—to
conform men to himself? I was obliged to answer, “Yes, with some men.”
For the epistles had long ago compelled me to give up the notion that the
Christians were a vicious, immoral, and rebellious sect. It was clear to
me that they were above the average in morality. And as for Paul himself,
I felt sure that Jesus had exerted this power over him, and, through him,
over vast multitudes in various nations.

Now, too, having a clearer conception of Paul’s gospel, I began to
understand better something that had perplexed me a good deal on the
first reading—I mean Paul’s description to the Galatians of the course
he took immediately after his conversion. I had expected that he would
have said something to this effect, “You Galatians are revolting from my
gospel. But it is the true gospel. I have told you the truth about all
Christ’s words and deeds. It is true that I did not know Him—or hear Him,
or even see Him—in the flesh. But after I was converted, I took great
pains to ascertain as soon as possible, from those who had known Him in
the flesh, all that He did and said. I wrote down these traditions at
once, and read them again and again till I knew them by heart. These are
the traditions I gave you.” This is what I had expected Paul to say. But
what I found him actually saying to the Galatians was this: “_I make
known unto you brethren, as to the gospel preached by me, that it is not
on any human footing, nor did I receive it from any human being, nor was
I taught it as teaching, but [it came to me] through revelation of Jesus
Christ._”

What he meant by “gospel” was—I now perceived—_not Christ’s teaching
before the resurrection, but His teaching after the resurrection_.
And this included an unfolding of the will of God as revealed in the
scriptures and in all the history of Israel. This appeared in what
followed. The Galatians all knew (he said) how bitterly he had persecuted
the Christians. For he had been a most bigoted and bitter zealot of
strict Judaism. But, said he, “_When it pleased God to reveal His Son in
me that I might preach His good tidings among the nations, straightway I
conferred not with flesh and blood, nor went I up to Jerusalem to those
that were apostles before me, but I went away to Arabia._” Afterwards
(but not in this context) he spoke of “Mount Sinai in Arabia.” Sinai
being the place where Moses received the revelation of the old Law, and
where Elijah, too, received the revelation of the “still small voice,” I
had assumed (at the time of reading the epistle) that Paul went to Mount
Sinai in Arabia that he also might receive his revelation of the new Law
of Christ. Perhaps, however, it merely meant that he wished to be alone.
If so, I was wrong. But it does not seem to me, even now, wrong to infer
that, all through that sojourn in Arabia, Paul was in communion with
that same Jesus Christ, who had recently appeared to him, and who had
converted him from an enemy into a friend.

The same Galatian letter described Paul as not going up to Jerusalem till
“three years” had elapsed. Even then he remained only “fifteen days”
in Jerusalem, and saw (as I gathered) only one or two of the apostles,
and did not go up again till “after the space of fourteen years.” All
these details about time he appeared to add, not out of any jealousy
of the older apostles, but to shew that he did not attach importance
to the things that Christ had said “in the flesh,” before death, in
comparison with the things that He had said after death, “being raised
up according to the spirit of holiness.” And who could be surprised at
this? The things that Christ said after death, when He had been “defined
as Son of God from the resurrection of the dead”—how should not these
be more deeply impressed upon the mind of the hearers, and also be most
deep and spiritual in themselves, being reserved till the disciples were
spiritually prepared to receive them?

So the gospel of Paul resolved itself into this, that God, having decreed
from the beginning that men should love Him as Father and one another as
brethren, had sent His Son into the world to enable them to do this, by
dying for them, and by imparting to them His Spirit. The Son dictated no
code of laws to obey. All that He asked was faith in Himself as the Son
of God, dying for men, and victorious over sin and death. This seemed
simple, but its simplicity did not deceive me into imagining that I
believed it. “That is all that is needed,” said I, as I closed the volume
of the epistles; “but it is more than I possess, or can possess. Paul’s
gospel is not a message but a person. It is, as he says somewhere,
‘Christ, dwelling in the heart through faith.’ I feel no such indwelling.
In the gospel of Epictetus I am neither able nor willing to believe. I
might perhaps be willing, but I am not able, to believe in the gospel of
Paul.”

From such thoughts about my own desires and inabilities it was a relief
to turn to some definite matter of fact. I had been spending several
hours in attempting to find out what Paul’s gospel was. But what was
Christ’s gospel, so far as it could be gathered from the epistles? This
I had made no attempt to discover. “Epictetus,” I reflected, “though
he does not profess to teach a gospel of Socrates or Diogenes, yet
frequently quotes from them. Might I not expect to find at least a few
words of Christ—whether uttered before or after the resurrection—quoted
here and there in some at least of these numerous letters?” Hitherto I
had met with none. But now, on rapidly unrolling the volume and searching
onwards from the end of the epistle to the Romans, I came to a quotation
that had escaped me. It was in the first of the Corinthian letters,
following immediately after some details (not of great interest) about
women’s head-covering. I had just time to note that the passage contained
the words “the Lord Jesus said,” and “on the night on which he was
delivered over,” when my servant announced that Glaucus wished to see me,
and I put the book aside.

Ostensibly Glaucus had come to compare some of his lecture notes with
mine. But I soon found that his real object was to forget his troubles
in the society of a friend. To forget them, not to reveal them. He
avoided anything that might lead to personal questions, and I respected
his reticence. When, however, he rose to go, he made some remark on the
difficulty of retaining the imperturbability on which Epictetus was
always insisting, “under the sword of Damocles.” Knowing vaguely that
his alarm was not for himself but for others, I suggested that he might
return at once to Corinth. “I would do so,” he said, “but my father
expressly bids me remain at Nicopolis.” He said this uneasily, and with a
wistful look, as though he suspected that something was amiss and longed
for advice. “If action of any kind is possible,” said I, “take it. If
not⸺.” Then I stopped. “Well,” said he, “‘if not’⸺.” He waited for me
to complete my sentence. I would gladly have left it uncompleted. For
the truth was that I had begun the sentence in one mood and was being
called on to complete it in another. When I said, “If not,” I had a flash
of faith coming with a sudden memory of Isaiah’s message about God as
the Shepherd of the stars and his exhortation to “wait patiently on the
Lord.” But it had vanished and left me in the dark. “‘If not’⸺,” repeated
Glaucus for the second time. I ought to have replied, “Then at least
keep yourself ready for action.” What I did say, or stammer out, was,
something about “waiting and trusting.”

Glaucus looked hard at me. “‘_Wait and trust!_’ That is to say, ‘_Wait
and believe_.’ That is not like you, Silanus. You don’t mean it, I see.
It is not like you to say what you don’t mean. I would sooner have heard
you repeat your old friend Scaurus’s advice, which was more like ‘_Wake
and disbelieve_.’ ‘Wait,’ say you, ‘and trust.’ Trust whom? Wait for
what? Wait for the river of time to run dry? I have kept you up too late.
Sleep well, and may sleep bring you better counsel for me!” So saying, he
departed, but turned at the door to fling a final jibe at me, “Silanus,
you are a Roman and I am only a Greek. But you must not think we Greeks
are quite ignorant of your Horace. And what says he about waiting?
_Rusticus expectat_: ‘Hodge sits by the river.’ Farewell, and sleep well.”

This was bitter medicine; but I had deserved it, and it did me good. My
cheeks burned with shame as I recalled his words “It is not like you
to say what you don’t mean.” Had I come to this? Was this the result
of my study of these Jewish writings? And yet, did I not “mean” it?
Was not the fact rather this, that in my own mind I did to some extent
mean and believe it? But it was a dormant belief. And I had no power to
communicate it to others. Then I perceived the reason. I had said “Wait
and trust.” But Isaiah said “Wait thou _upon the Lord_.” In preaching my
gospel to Glaucus I had left out “_the Lord_”—the life and soul of the
precept! If “the Lord” had been in me, as He was in Isaiah and in Paul, I
could not have left Him out. But I left Him out because He was not in me.
The truth was that I had no true gospel to preach.

In great dejection I was on the point of retiring to rest when it
occurred to me that I had left unfinished, and indeed hardly begun, the
study of Christ’s words in the Corinthian epistle. Too weary to resume it
now, I extinguished the light and flung myself down to forget in sleep
all thought of study. But I could not forget. All through the dreams of
a restless and troubled night ran threads of tangled imaginations about
what those words would prove to be, intertwined with other imaginations
about the words of Christ to Paul at his conversion. Along with these
came shadows or shapes, with voices or voice-like sounds:—Epictetus
gazing on the burning Christians in Rome, Paul listening to the voice of
Christ near Damascus, Elijah on Horeb amid the roar of the tempest. Last
of all, I myself, Silanus, stood at the door of a chamber in Jerusalem
where Christ (I knew) was present with His disciples, and from this
chamber there began to steal forth a still small voice, breathing and
spreading everywhere an unspeakable peace—when a whirlwind scattered
everything and hurried me away to the Neronian gardens in Rome.

There, someone, masked, took me by the hand and forced me to look at the
Christian martyrs whom he was causing to be tortured. I thought it was
Nero. But the mask fell off and it was Paul. The martyrs looked down on
us and blessed us. Paul trembled but held me fast. I felt that I had
become one with him, a persecutor and a murderer. They all looked up to
heaven as though they saw something there. At that, Paul vanished, with
a loud cry, leaving me alone. Fear fell upon me lest, if I looked up, I
should see that which the martyrs saw. So I kept my eyes fixed on the
ground. But the blessings of those whom I had persecuted seemed to enter
into me taking me captive and forcing me to do as they did. Then I too
looked up. And I saw—that which they saw, Jesus the crucified. I tried to
cry out “I see nothing, I see nothing,” but my voice would not speak. I
struggled to regain control over my tongue, and in the struggle I awoke.

I had dreamed long past my usual hour for rising; and the lecture was
already beginning when I took my seat next Glaucus. It was a relief
to me to find him there; for his late outbreak of bitterness had made
me fear that he might prove a deserter. Epictetus was describing man
as being the work of a divine Artist, a wonderful sculpture, he said,
superior to the Athene of Phidias. Appealing to us individually, “God,”
he said, “has not only created you, but has also trusted you to yourself
alone, and committed the guardianship of you to yourself, saying ‘I
had no one more trustworthy than yourself to take charge of yourself.
Preserve this person for me, such as he is by nature, modest, faithful,
magnanimous’”—and he added many other eulogistic epithets. Here Glaucus
passed me his notes with a bitter smile, pointing to the words “preserve
me this person such as he is by nature.” He had marked them with a query.
Nor could I help querying them in my mind. I felt that at all events
they were liable to be interpreted in a ridiculous way. My thought was,
“Paul bids us trust in God or in the Son of God. Epictetus never does
this. But here he says that God trusts us to ourselves. Does He then
trust babies to preserve themselves? And if not, when does He begin to
trust us—whether as boys or as youths or as men—to preserve ourselves as
we are by nature?” And here I may say that, as regards belief, or trust,
or faith, Epictetus differed altogether from Paul. The former inveighed
against babblers, who “trust” their secrets to strangers, and against
the Academic philosopher for saying “_Believe_ me it is impossible to
find anything to be _believed_ in.” But he never insisted (as Paul does)
on the marvellous power possessed by a well-based belief or faith to
influence men’s lives for good. For the most part Epictetus used the word
“belief,” like the words “pity” and “prayer,” in a bad sense.

But to return to the lecture. In order to illustrate his favourite topic
of the necessity of seeking happiness in oneself, Epictetus, as it were,
called up Medea on the stage, expostulating with her for her want of
self-control: “Do not desire your husband, then none of your desires
will fail to be realised.” She complained that she was to be banished
from Corinth. “Well,” said he, “Do not desire to remain in Corinth.”
He concluded by advising her to desire that which God desires. “And
then,” said he, “who will hinder or constrain you any more than Zeus is
constrained?” To me, even as a dramatic illustration, such advice seemed
grotesque. Nor was it a good preparation for what followed, in which he
bade us give up desires and passions relating, not only to honour and
office, but also to country, friends, children: “Give them all up freely
to Zeus and to the other Gods. Make a complete surrender to the Gods. Let
the Gods be your pilots. Let your desires be with them. Then how can your
voyage be unprosperous? But if you envy, if you pity, if you are jealous,
if you are timid, how do you dare to call yourself a philosopher?”

I could perceive that Glaucus was ill pleased at this, and especially at
the connexion of “pity” with “envy”—though it was not the first time, nor
the last, that I heard Epictetus speak of “pity” in this contemptuous
way. Perhaps others were in the same mood as Glaucus, and perhaps our
Teacher felt it. If he did, he at all events made no effort to smooth
away what he had said. Far from it, he seemed to harden himself in order
to reproach us for our slackness and for being philosophers only in name.
“Observe and test yourselves,” he exclaimed, “and find out what your
philosophy really is. You are Epicureans—barring perhaps a few weak-kneed
Peripatetics. Stoic reasonings, of course, you have in plenty. But shew
me a Stoic man! Shew me only one! By the Gods, I long, I long to see one
Stoic man. But perhaps you have one—only not as yet quite completed? Shew
him, then, uncompleted! Shew him to me a little way towards completion!
I am an old man now. Do me this one last kindness! Do not grudge me this
boon—a sight that up to this day my eyes have never enjoyed!”

We were all very quiet at this outburst, so unusual in our Teacher. Two
or three youths near my seat seemed stimulated rather than depressed.
But to me it seemed a sad confession of failure, amounting, in effect,
to this, “I have taught from the days of Vespasian to the second year of
Hadrian. My business has been to produce Stoics. Up to this day, a real
Stoic is”—these were his words—“_a sight that up to this day my eyes have
never enjoyed_.” What a contrast, thought I, between _my_ Teacher (for
“mine” I still called him) and that other, the Jew, Paul, (whom I refused
to call “mine”) who numbered his pupils by cities, and whose campaigns
from Jerusalem to Rome, through Asia and Greece, had been a succession of
victories, leading trains of prisoners captive under the banner of the
Crucified!

What followed amazed me, forcing me to the conclusion that Epictetus was
profoundly ignorant of human nature, at all events of our nature, and
perhaps of his own. For instead of saying, “We have been on the wrong
road,” or “You have not the power to walk, and I have not the power to
make you walk,” he found fault with himself and us, without attempting to
shew what the fault was. At first it seemed our lack of noble ambition.
“Not one of you,” he exclaimed, “desires, from being man, to pass
into becoming God. Not one of you is planning how he may pass through
the dungeon of this paltry body to fellowship with Zeus!” But then he
shifted his ground, saying, in effect, “I am your teacher. You are my
pupils. My aim is so to perfect your characters that each of you may
live unrestrained, uncoerced, unhindered, unshackled, free, prosperous,
blessed, looking to God alone in every matter great or small. You, on
your side, come here to learn and to practise these things. Why, then, do
you fail to do the work in hand, if you on your side have the right aim,
object, and purpose, and _I on my side—in addition to right aim, object,
and purpose—have the right preparation_? What is deficient?”

Here was our Master assuming as absolutely certain that he had “_the
right preparation_”! But that was just the point on which I had long
felt doubtful, and was now beginning to feel absolutely certain in a
negative sense. However, he continued with the same perfect confidence
in himself and in the practicability of his theory, “I am the carpenter,
you the material. If the work is practicable, and yet is not completed,
the fault must rest with you or with me.” Then he concluded with the
following personal appeal; these were his exact words, “Is not this
matter”—he meant the art of living as a son of Zeus, free, and in perfect
peace—“capable of being taught? It is. Is it not in our own hands? Nay,
it is the only thing that is in our own hands. Wealth is not in our own
hands, health is not, reputation is not. Nothing is—except the right
use of our imaginations. This is the only thing that is by nature ours,
unpreventable, unhinderable. Why do you not perform it then? Tell me
the reason. Your non-performance is either my fault, or your fault, or
the natural and inherent fault of our business. Now our business, in
itself, is practicable, and is indeed the only business that is always
practicable. It remains, then, that the fault rests either with me, or
with you, or, which is nearer the truth, with both of us. What is to be
done, then? Are you willing that we should begin together, at last though
late, to bring this purpose into effect? Let bygones be bygones. Only let
us begin. Believe me, and you will see.”

With that, he dismissed us. I was curious to know what Glaucus thought
of it, so I waited for him to speak. To my surprise, he said, “It is not
often that the Master speaks in this way or suggests that he himself may
be in fault. Who knows? He may have something new in store. I felt so
angry with him at the beginning of the lecture that I was within an ace
of going straight out. But now, as he says, ‘Let bygones be bygones.’ I
shall go on with him a little longer. What say you? For the most part he
is too cold for me, always talking about the Logos within us, and the
God within us, as though I, Glaucus the son of Adeimantus, who need the
help of all the Gods that are, were myself all the God that I needed! He
chills me with his Logos. But when he appealed to us in that personal way
‘Believe me,’ he gave me quite a new sensation. Did it not stir you? I
don’t think I ever heard him say that before.”

“It did stir me,” said I, “and I am sure I never heard him say it
before. Plato represents Socrates as always persuading his hearers to
‘follow the Logos,’ not to follow Socrates; and Epictetus, for the most
part, uses similar language. For the rest, I am not sure that our Master
will do me all the good I had hoped. But I shall do as you do. We shall
still sit, I hope, together.” So we parted.

I had not said more than the truth. Epictetus had stirred me, but not in
the way in which he had stirred Glaucus. “Let bygones be bygones”—the
“bygones” of nearly forty years! Why were they to be “bygones”? Had they
no lesson to teach? Did they not suggest that for forty years Epictetus
had been on the road to failure and that he had consequently failed?
Could I believe that during all that time Epictetus himself had been
deficient in “purpose”? Not for a day! Not for a moment!

As I sat down to revise the notes of my lecture, it occurred to me that
Glaucus—who was of a much less settled temperament than Arrian—must
have heard better news from home, and that this helped him to take a
brighter view of things in general and of philosophy in particular. “If
my old friend were here,” said I, “would he not regard Glaucus’s change
of mood as one more instance of Epictetus’s power to ‘make his hearers
feel precisely what he desired them to feel’? But what if I went on to
say that this ‘power’ was mere rhetoric, not indeed ‘wisdom of word’ in
the sense of hair-splitting logic, but ‘wisdom of speech,’ the knowledge
of the language and imagery best fitted to stir the emotions? What would
Arrian say to that?”

I mentally constructed a dialogue between us. “There is something more,
Silanus.” “But what more?” “That I do not know. Only I know there is
something more behind.” Then Scaurus’s explanation recurred to me of that
“something more behind.” For Scaurus had asserted that Epictetus had been
touched by what he called the Christian superstition, which, although he
had shaken it off, had left in his mind a blank, a vacant niche, which
he vainly tried to fill with the image of a Hercules or a Diogenes. That
brought back to my thoughts Scaurus’s first mention of “Christus”; and
then it came upon me as a shock that I had spent half-an-hour in my
rooms, musing over Epictetus and Glaucus and Arrian, and there, on the
table before me, was Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians containing
his only quotation of the words of the Lord, and I had taken no notice of
it. So I put my notes aside and unrolled the epistle.

The first words of the sentence were, “For _I_ received from the Lord”—he
emphasized “_I_,” as though it meant “_I myself_,” or “Whatever others
may have received, _I_ received so and so”—“that which I also delivered
over to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was to be
delivered over.…” Here I paused and looked back, to see what “for” meant
(in “_for_ I received”) and why Paul was introducing this saying of the
Lord. I found that the apostle had been warning the Corinthians thus,
“Ye meet together, not for the better, but for the worse.” In the first
place, he said, there were dissensions among them, and in the next place,
“When ye come together it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper,
for each one taketh his own supper, and one is hungry while another
is drunken.” Then I understood that the Lord’s Supper meant that same
Christian feast of which Arrian had spoken. This interested me because
in Rome, as a boy, I had heard it said that the Christians partook of “a
Thyestean meal,” that is, they killed children and served up the flesh to
the parents. This I do not think I had myself believed, except perhaps in
the nursery; but it was commonly taken as truth among the lower classes
in Rome.

Now I perceived that the meal was to have been a joint one—like that
of the Spartan public meals or syssitia, where all fed alike. But in
that luxurious city of Corinth many of the Christians had introduced
Corinthian luxury and turned the public meal into a group of private
meals, so that some had too little and others too much. Paul tried to
bring them back to better things by telling them what Christ said to his
disciples on the night of his last meal, “the night on which he was to
be delivered over.” He implied that their meal ought to have been like
Christ’s last meal; and now the question for me was, what that, the
Lord’s Supper, was like.

But first I had to ask myself the meaning of Christ’s being “delivered
over.” About this I had no doubt that it referred to the prophecy in
Isaiah concerning the Suffering Servant, who “was _delivered over_ on
account of our sins.” These words Paul had quoted in the epistle to
the Romans, and he elsewhere spoke of God, or the Father, as “giving,”
or “_delivering over_,” the Son for the salvation of mankind. Now both
Isaiah and Paul had made it quite clear that the Servant, or Son, thus
“delivered over” by the Father, goes voluntarily to death, and this I
assumed to be the case here. But I did not know by what agency God was
said to have “delivered him over.” I thought it might be by a warning or
dæmonic voice, as in the case of Socrates, bidding him surrender himself
to the laws of his country. Or Christ’s own people, the citizens of
Jerusalem, might have delivered him up to Pilate, to procure their own
exemption from punishment on account of some rebellion or sedition. Or he
might be said to have been delivered over by a decree of Fate, to which
he voluntarily submitted.

So much was I in the dark that for a moment I thought of Christ as
fighting at the head of an army of his countrymen and giving himself
up for their sakes, like Protesilaus or the Decii; and I tried to
picture Christ doing this, or something like this. But I failed. Still
I was being guided rightly so far as this, that I began faintly to
recognise that this “delivering over” might be not a mere propitiation
of Nemesis, occurring now and then in battles, but part of the laws of
the Cosmopolis, occurring often when a deliverance is to be wrought for
any community of men. Of such a propitiation Protesilaus was the symbol,
concerning whom Homer says,

“First of the Achæans leaped he on Troy’s shore
Long before all the rest.”

He leaped first, in order to fall first. But his country rose by his
fall. His wife sorrowed, “desolate in Thessaly,” and his house was left
“half built.” But in the minds of men he abides among the firstfruits of
the noble dead, who have counted it life to lay down life for others.
This legend I now began to apply to spiritual things. I was being
prepared to believe that the sons of God in all places and times must
needs be in various ways and circumstances “delivering themselves over”
as sacrifices to the will of God, in proportion to their goodness,
wisdom, and strength—the good spending their life-blood for the evil, the
wise for the foolish, the strong for the weak.

After this, came a sentence that perplexed me greatly, “This is my body,
which is in your behalf. Do this to my remembering or reminding.” Not
being able to make any sense at all of this, I read on, in hope of light:
“In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new
covenant in my blood.” The word “covenant” helped me a little, because I
had found Paul speaking elsewhere to the Corinthians in his own person
about a “new covenant” and an “old covenant.” Also to the Galatians
he mentioned “two covenants,” one of which, he said, “corresponds to
Mount Sinai.” So I turned to the scripture that described how God made
a “covenant” with Israel that they should obey the Law given to them
from Mount Sinai. It had these words: “And Moses, having taken the
blood”—that is, the blood from a “_sacrifice of salvation_” consisting
of bullocks—“sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood
of the covenant that the Lord has covenanted with you concerning all
these words’.” The blood of the old covenant (I perceived) was blood of
“sprinkling,” purifying the body. David prayed for something more than
that, when he said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right
spirit within me.” So it occurred to me that the “new covenant” was to
purify, not the body but the heart and the spirit, entering into man and
becoming part of him so as to cleanse him from within.

This seemed to agree with Paul’s opinion, and with what I had read in
Isaiah, that the sacrifices of bulls and goats cannot make the heart
clean. Now, therefore, going back again to the first words “This is my
body, which is in your behalf,” I inferred that Christ was speaking about
Himself as being the “_sacrifice of salvation_” above mentioned, and that
He used these words, purposing to devote Himself to death for the people,
in order to redeem them from sin by purifying their hearts.

I am writing now in old age. Forty-five years have passed since the night
when I first read, “This is my body, which is in your behalf.” During
that interval I have done my best to ascertain the exact words spoken by
the Saviour in His own tongue. And now it is much more clear to me than
it was then that the Lord Jesus was herein giving Himself, His very self,
both as a legacy to the disciples and also as a ransom for their souls.
But even then I perceived that some such meaning must be attached to the
words, and that they could not have been invented by any disciple; and
they made me marvel more than anything else that I had met with in the
Jewish scriptures or Paul’s epistles. Such a confidence did they shew in
the power of His own love, as being stronger than death! I do not say
that I believed that the words had been fulfilled. But I felt sure that
Christ had uttered them in the belief of their being fulfilled; and, just
for a few moments, the notion that He should have been deceived seemed to
me so contrary to the fitness of things, and to the existence of any kind
of Providence, that I almost believed that they must have had some kind
of fulfilment. I did not stay to ask, “How fulfilled?” I merely said,
“This is divine, this is like the ‘still small voice.’ This is past man’s
invention. This must be from God.”

Then I checked myself, doubt rising up within me. “Paul,” I said, “was
not present on the night of the Last Supper. He says concerning these
words, ‘I received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you.’
Is it not strange that the oracles or revelations supposed by Paul to
have been delivered to him by Jesus after the resurrection should have
included matters of historical fact, and historical utterances, which
could have been ascertained from the disciples that heard them? I must
wait till I receive the Christian gospels from Flaccus.”

Then this also occurred to me. “Socrates, too, like Christ, was unjustly
condemned. Socrates might have escaped from death, but he refused. The
dæmonic voice that told him what to do and not to do, bade him remain and
die, and he obeyed. In effect, then, this voice from heaven ‘_delivered
over_’ Socrates to death. Or he may be said to have ‘_delivered himself
over_.’ Now what were the last words of Socrates? Did he leave any such
legacy to his disciples? Might I not find some help here? For assuredly
Socrates, like Christ, endeavoured to make men better and wiser.” I
remembered hearing Epictetus say—and I recognised the truth of the
saying—“Even now, when Socrates is dead, the memory of the words and
deeds of his life is no less profitable to men, perhaps it is more so,
than when he lived.” So I turned over Arrian’s notes and found several
remarks of our Master about Socrates and his contempt for death; and with
what a humorous appearance of sympathy he accepted the jailer’s tears,
though he himself felt they were altogether misplaced. At last I came to
a passage where Epictetus compared Socrates, on his trial, and in his
last moments, to a man playing at ball: “And what was the ball in that
case? Life, chains, exile, a draught of poison, to be parted from a wife,
to leave one’s children orphans. These were his playthings, but none the
less he kept on playing and throwing the ball with grace and dexterity.”

This was enough, and more than enough. It was hopeless, I perceived, to
search in Epictetus for what I sought—some last legacy of Socrates to his
disciples, implying that he longed to help them after death. Epictetus
would have rebuked me, saying, “How could he help them when he was
dissolved into the four elements? What could Socrates bequeath to them
beyond the memory of his words and deeds?”

Failing Epictetus, I took out from my bookcase such works of Plato and
Xenophon as might contain the last thoughts of Socrates. Both of these
writers believed in the immortality of the soul. Yet I could not find
either of them asserting, or suggesting, that Socrates felt any trouble
or anxiety for his friends and for their faith, nor any token of a
hope that his soul might help theirs after his death—or rather, to use
his phrase, after he had “transferred his habitation.” When I tried to
find such a hope, I could not feel sure that I was interpreting the
words honestly. It seemed to me that I was importing something of the
Jewish _pathos_, or feeling, into an utterance of the Greek _logos_. I
still retained the conviction that Socrates, in his last moments, had
his disciples at heart, and that, in enjoining that last sacrifice to
Æsculapius, he wished to stimulate them to something more spiritual and
more permanent than that single literal act. But I longed for something
more. I thought of Christ’s “constraining love,” and how a man might
be “constrained” in a natural way by the love of the dead—the love of
a wife, father, mother, or child. Such a love I said, might be no less
powerful, for help and comfort, than the hate of Clytemnestra following
Orestes for evil. Æneas (I remembered) used the word “_image_,” speaking
to the spirit of Anchises, “Thy _image_, O my father, constrained me to
come hither.” But Anchises replies that he himself had been all the while
following his son in his perilous wanderings, so that it was not a mere
“_image_.” It was a _presence_. “Is it possible,” I asked, “that Christ,
not in poetry but in fact, thought of bequeathing to His disciples such a
_presence_, to follow and help them after His death?”

Yes. It seemed quite possible, nay, almost certain—that Christ thought
this. But who, except a Christian, would believe that the thought was
more than a dream? “Scaurus,” I said, “who often jests at me as a
dreamer, would now jest more than ever. Here am I, pondering poetry,
when I ought to be studying history! Yet how can I study history in
Paul, when Paul himself tells me that he received these words from one
that had died—presumably therefore in a vision? The right course will
be to wait till Flaccus sends me the gospels. These may chance to be
historical biographies—not records of things seen, or words heard, in
visions.” And then Scaurus’s saying recurred to me, that no two writers
agree independently in recording a speech or conversation for twenty
consecutive words that are exactly the same. “And this,” said I, “I hope
to test before many days are over, with regard to these mysterious words
of Christ.”

But before rolling up the book it came into my mind that Paul said
somewhere to the Romans “I beseech you therefore by the compassionate
mercies of God to present your bodies a _living sacrifice_, holy,
acceptable to God.” Having found these words and read them carefully
over, I thought that the writer must have had in view some allusion to
the sacrifice of Isaac. For that was the only “living sacrifice” that I
could find (and indeed it is the only one) mentioned in scripture. Then I
turned to the first book of the Law and there I found that God’s promise
of Isaac to Abraham had been called a covenant, and this, said Paul to
the Galatians, was, so to speak, the real _thought_ of God. The covenant
of Sinai was only an afterthought. The sign of Abraham’s covenant by
promise was in the blood of circumcision stamped permanently on man’s
body. The sign of the covenant of Sinai was in the blood of bullocks
merely sprinkled on the body. Also there was yet another covenant between
God and man, earlier than both of these. This, the earliest covenant of
all, was with Noah. Now the sign of this was not on man at all, but on
the sky, being the rainbow. And in the covenant with Noah there was no
mention of blood (either of man or beast) except this—that man was not to
taste the blood of beasts when he ate their flesh, and that he was not to
pour out the blood of men, much less to taste of it.

Then it seemed to me that the words and thoughts of Christ, being a Jew,
must be studied in the light of the words and thoughts of his countrymen
the ancient Jews. The first covenant, that of Noah, said, “The blood is
the life, therefore ye shall not taste of blood; and whosoever shall
taste of blood, whether of man or beast, shall die; and whosoever shall
pour out the blood of man, his blood shall be poured out and he shall
die.” This was confirmed by the Covenant of Moses the Lawgiver. Then came
a second covenant, that of the Son, saying, “I have changed all that.
I am the New Covenant. The New Covenant is in my blood, that is, in my
life. My blood is truly my life. Ye shall taste of my blood. It shall be
poured out for all, as a living sacrifice. Whosoever shall taste of my
blood shall not die but shall live for ever, even as I live.”

Looking back now to that moment, I seem to perceive that I was being led
on by the Spirit of God, far beyond my own natural powers of thought and
reason, in order that I might have some foretaste of the revelation of
the Lord’s sacrifice, so as to be strengthened and prepared for the trial
that was shortly to fall upon me, when I was to be dragged away from the
shore that I had just touched, back again into the tumultuous deep. For
a long time I continued musing on this mystery, and turning over passage
after passage in Paul’s epistles describing how believers are all one
“in Christ,” and “Christ in them,” and how they are made righteous, or
brought near to God, “in the blood of Christ.”

So passed the greater part of the day, up till the ninth hour. Then came
a reaction. The thought of Scaurus returned, and of his criticisms. “He
is right,” I said, “I am a dreamer. I will go out into the fields.” So I
went out, taking my Virgil as company. When I came into the woods I sat
down in the warmth of the westering sun. There, for a time, listening to
the songs of the thrushes and the cooing of the doves, I felt at peace,
and opened my Virgil, intending to read about the bees and the fields.
But I had brought the Æneid by mistake, and the first words I met were
these:

“Si nunc se nobis ille aureus arbore ramus
Ostendat nemore in tanto!”

Then back again came suggestions of doubt. For I recognised it as a kind
of oracle from the Gods, that I must still be seeking for the light of
the truth in the dark forest of error, and that I could not find it
without divine help. “But,” said I, as I started up to return home, “it
shall be such help as a Roman may accept without shame. The faith of
Junius Silanus shall never be constrained by spells, or incantations, or
by anything except reasonable conviction and the force of facts.”

Returning home as the sun was sinking I found letters awaiting me. Among
these, one was from Flaccus, saying that he had sent me three little
Christian books called “gospels,” in accordance with my order. After
his usual fashion, addressing me as the son of his old master, but also
as a companion in the fellowship of book-lovers, he added some remarks
on the contents of the parcel. “The third of these books,” he said, “is
written by a man of some education, named Lucas, a companion of Paulus
(whose works I recently sent you); and he has published a supplementary
volume, which I have ventured to add although you did not order it.
The supplement is entitled ‘The Acts of the Apostles,’ that is, of the
missionaries sent out by Christus. The ‘gospel,’ as you probably know,
is a record of the acts and words of Christus himself. Also, as you are
interested in this sect, I have sent you a book called the Revelation of
John. It is written in most extraordinary Greek, without pretensions to
grammar, much less to style. But it has some poetic touches in it. Of
the eastern style, of course. But that you will understand. This John
was himself—(I am told)—one of their ‘apostles,’ and a man of note among
the Christians. He is said to have written it soon after the reign of
Domitian.”

There was also a letter from Scaurus, or rather a packet of letters. Out
of it fell a separate note of the nature of a postscript, and I read that
first, as follows: “Two things I forgot to say. First, if you decide
to open my sealed note about the similarities of Paul and Epictetus, I
shall not now feel hurt. For the reasons I have given in my letter, I
hope you will not open it, because I trust you will turn your mind to
other matters. But I do not now regard that note as important. By this
time, you probably have the books of the Christians. You also know more
than you did about Epictetus, so you have been able to judge for yourself
whether I have not spoken the truth. But now—I repeat—my advice is to put
the whole investigation aside. Go to Illyria and see whether you cannot
find an opening there for a military philosopher.”

As to the sealed note, I have explained above that, when I opened it, I
found it was, as Scaurus said, of very little importance to me—knowing
what I then knew. Such effect as it had on me was produced before I had
opened it, because it provoked my curiosity and stimulated me to study
the books of the Christians.

The postscript continued as follows. “The second thing, much more
important, concerns a fundamental matter in this Christian superstition.
You know, I am sure, from Paul’s letters, that the ancient Jews—better
called Israelites—have always claimed that God has honoured them above
all nations by making a special ‘treaty’ or ‘covenant’ with them. Well,
Paul admits this for Jews, but claims for Christians that they have a
still better ‘treaty’ or ‘covenant,’ which he calls ‘new,’ as distinct
from that of the Jews, which he calls ‘old.’ He represents his leader,
Christ, as making or ratifying this ‘new covenant’ with his blood, on the
night on which he was betrayed. Not only this, but he gives the exact
words uttered by Christ—and, mark you, _this is the only occasion on
which he quotes any words of Christ at all_. Not only this, but he says
that he received them from his leader; ‘I received from the Lord that
which I also delivered over to you.’ Now, Silanus, look for yourself. Do
not believe me. Look in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, some way
after the middle, and see whether he does not quote these words, ‘This
cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as ye are drinking,
to my remembering.’ What the words mean I do not precisely know. But
there they are. Next look in the three gospels⸺”

“Now,” said I, “I shall get light.” I put down the letter and took up the
three gospels—the packet from Flaccus. But a glance shewed that it would
be a long and difficult business to find the passage in them, and to
compare their three versions with the one in Paul’s epistle. So I turned
to the postscript again, “Next look in the three gospels and prepare to
be surprised. You will find the following four facts. First, none of
them contain the words ‘Do this to my remembering.’ Secondly, the latest
gospel (that of Lucas) makes no mention of a ‘covenant.’ Thirdly, the two
earliest gospels do not call the covenant ‘new.’ Fourthly, the Greek word
may mean not ‘covenant’ at all, but ‘testament’; and the meaning may be
that their leader bequeaths them his blood—whatever that may mean—by his
last will and testament.

“Now I put it to you, Silanus, as a reasonable man, whether it is worth
while investigating a superstition as to which the earliest documents
disagree concerning such a fundamental fact (or rather allegation).
These Christians—for I am informed they mostly take Paul’s view—assert
that their Founder made a ‘_new covenant_’ between them and God on a
special night. Three of them give accounts—detailed accounts—of all
manner of things that happened on that night. A fourth, Paul, professes
to give the very words of the Founder of the Covenant, as he received
them from the Founder himself, not alive of course but dead! And he,
Paul, _alone of the four, mentions the phrase_ ‘_new covenant_.’ What do
you think of this?”

Indeed I did not know what to think of it. And Scaurus’s next words
almost decided me to take his view of the whole matter, to put away
all my Jewish and Christian books and to have done with every kind of
philosophy. “Spare me,” so the postscript proceeded, “for the sake of the
immortal Gods, my dearest Quintus, spare me the pain—during the few years
or months of life that may still remain for me—of seeing the son of my
dearest friend ensnared in the net of a beguiling superstition that must
lead you away from your duty to your country. Be kind to me and to your
father.”

Not having read the preceding part of his letter, I was amazed at this
outburst of alarm in my behalf. But I perceived that, with his usual
sympathetic insight, he had read some of my thoughts almost before I was
conscious of them myself, and I was grateful to him. If he had stopped
there, I sometimes think things might have happened differently. But he
continued, “_Truth_, as Sophocles says, _is always right_. Be true to the
truth. Be true to yourself. Amid all the shifting fancies and falsehoods
around you, esteem the knowledge of yourself the only knowledge that
is certain and unchangeable. In that respect the old philosophers were
right. ‘Know thyself’ is the only divine precept. On self-knowledge
alone is based the only covenant—if indeed it is fit to imagine any
covenant—between God and man.”

From these last words I found myself in absolute revolt. During the
past few days I had come to think that perhaps the only certain and
unchangeable truth was that self-knowledge without other knowledge is
impossible, or, if possible, most harmful. Dissenting from these last
words I went back to dissent further, or rather to draw a different
inference. “Truth is always right.” Then could it be right for me to
give up the search for truth, lest I should pain myself or Scaurus? From
my father, one of the most just and honourable of men, how often had I
heard the maxim, _Audi alteram partem_! Why should I not “hear the other
side” since that very day had placed at my disposal (thanks to Flaccus)
the means of doing this? Scaurus had indirectly challenged me to do it.
My father had, in a sense, commanded it. Before I retired to rest that
night, I resolved to devote the whole of the next day, and as much time
as I could spare afterwards, to the examination of the Christian gospels.

Beginning with the passages that described the Lord’s Supper, I soon
found that Scaurus was correct in saying that the words of the Lord
quoted by Paul were not in any of the gospels. But my copy of Luke—an
old one, having been transcribed in the reign of the emperor Nerva as
the scribe stated—contained a note in the margin, not in the scribe’s
handwriting, “After ‘_my body_,’ some later copies have these words,
‘_which is being given in your behalf. Do this to my remembering; and the
cup likewise, after supping, saying, This cup is the new testament in my
blood which is being shed for you_’.” Now these words were very similar
to Paul’s quotation, and Flaccus had told me that Luke was a companion of
Paul. So I reflected that Luke must often have partaken of the Christian
Supper with Paul, and must have heard these words from Paul. Why
therefore were the words omitted in Luke, except in “some later copies”?
Mark, Matthew, and Paul agreed in inserting some mention of “covenant.”
Why did Luke, Paul’s companion, alone omit it?

Looking into the matter more closely, I found that Luke, though he
omitted the phrase about “covenant,” _inserted in his context some
mention of “covenanting,” or “making covenant,”_ as follows: “I
_covenant_ unto you as my Father _covenanted_ unto me.” The “covenant”
was “a kingdom, that ye may eat and drink at my table.” Also, in the
same context, Jesus said, “The kings of the nations lord it over them,
and those who play the despot over them are called”—I think he meant,
“called” by their flatterers—“benefactors. But you, not so.” And Jesus
went on to say, “He that ruleth must be as he that serveth,” and, “I am
among you as he that serveth.” The words “my Father covenanted unto me”
appeared to mean a covenant of sacrifice, namely, that the Son was to
sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world, and to pass, through that
sacrifice, into the Kingdom at the right hand of the Father. And the
other words meant that Jesus “covenanted” with the disciples that they
should sacrifice themselves in like manner, taking Him as it were into
themselves, by drinking the blood of the sacrifice (that is, His blood)
and eating its flesh or body (that is, His body). And thus they, too,
being made one with Him, were to pass into the Kingdom.

Such a “covenant” as this, would, I perceived, be so “new” that it might
be described as turning the world upside down—all the kings serving their
subjects, all the masters waiting on their servants. This was indeed
strange. But it was not peculiar to Luke. Mark and Matthew (I found) had
a similar doctrine, though not in this passage; only, instead of “I am
among you as he that serveth,” they had, “to give his soul as a ransom
for many.” This accorded with what was said above, namely, that the
“covenant,” or condition, on which the Son came into the world, was, that
He should be the “servant,” or “sacrifice,” or “ransom,” for mankind. All
three names expressed aspects of one and the same thing. David had said,
“The sacrifice of the Lord is a contrite spirit.” That meant, contrite
for _one’s own_ sins. Jesus seemed to go outside a man’s self, and to
say, “The sacrifice of the Lord is a spirit of service _to others_.”
Romans, I reflected, would call this doctrine either an impracticable
dream, or—if practicable, and if attempted—a pestilent revolution. But
once more the thought recurred that the Jew would say to us, as the
Egyptian said to Solon, “You Romans are but children,” and that, although
Rome had the power (as Virgil said) of “subjecting the proud oppressors
in war,” it might not have what Epictetus described as the power of the
true Ruler (which this Jewish Ruler seemed to claim), namely, to draw the
subjects towards the ruler with the chain of “passionate affection.”

Scaurus next asserted that some disagreements here between the
evangelists arose from translating Hebrew into Greek. Where Mark has
“and they drank,” Matthew has “drink ye.” Scaurus said that the same
Hebrew might produce these two Greek translations. “Also,” said he,
“supposing Jesus to have said in his native tongue, _This is my body for
you_, some might take ‘for you’ to mean ‘given _to you_ as a gift,’ but
others ‘given _for you_ as a sacrifice’.” Hence he inferred that it was
hardly possible to discover what Jesus actually said, because, besides
differences of memory in the witnesses, there might be differences of
translation in those who remembered the same words. But on the other
side, if Scaurus was right, the facts shewed the independence of the
witnesses, as well as their honesty and accuracy. If Jesus used one
Jewish phrase that might imply two meanings, it seemed natural that his
disciples should try to express both meanings in Greek. The nearness of
the Passover (at the time when the words were uttered), and the connexion
in scripture between “covenant” and “sacrifice,” and many things
that I had read in Paul’s epistles, made me believe that “sacrifice”
was implied. Why should not the disciples suppose that their Saviour
bequeathed a legacy _to_ them that was also a sacrifice _for_ them? This
seemed to me a beautiful and intelligible belief.

The result was that I resolved not to give up the study of these books.
Repeating my father’s maxim, _Audi alteram partem_, “Scaurus,” I said,
“shall be on one side, and the three gospels”—which I spread out on the
table—“shall be on the other.” I soon found, however, that my task was
not so simple. There was not merely “the other side,” there were often
three “sides”—so strangely did the gospels vary. Scaurus made a fourth,
or, rather, a commentary on the three. From my youth up (thanks largely
to Scaurus) I had some skill in comparing histories. It was necessary
first (I perceived) to have the three gospels side by side. For this
purpose, the penknife and the pen—the former for transposing, the latter
for transcribing—had to be freely used. Mark’s gospel I preserved intact.
Extracts from Matthew and Luke—copying or cutting them out—I placed
parallel to the corresponding passages in Mark. I also made use of
marginal notes in my MS. referring me to parallel passages in the other
gospels or in the scriptures. Some days were spent in this labour. After
that, I determined to attend lectures regularly, but to devote all my
leisure to a close examination of the gospels with the help of Scaurus’s
comments. Now I must speak of his letter.

It began, as his postscript had ended, with a personal appeal, warning
me against a tendency to dreaming, “which,” said he, “I think you must
have inherited from my Etrurian grandmother, whose blood runs in your
veins—through your dear mother—as well as in mine. I myself, at times,
have to fight against it.” Then he cautioned me against the Jews. “They
are all of them,” he said, “dangerous people, though in different
ways. There are two sorts, plotters and dreamers; the plotters, all
for themselves; the dreamers, all for someone else, or something else
(the Gods know what!) outside themselves. Now a dreamer in the west,
mostly a Greek (for a Roman dreamer is a rare bird) is a harmless
creature—dreaming passively. But the Jewish dreamer dreams actively. He
is, to use the Greek adjective, _hypnotic_. If I might invent a Greek
verb, I would say that he ‘_hypnotizes_’ people. He makes others dream
what he dreams. And his dreams are not the dreams of Morpheus, ‘golden
slumbers’ on ‘heaped Elysian flowers.’ No, they are often dreams like
those of Hercules Furens—destroying himself and his friends while he
thinks he is destroying ‘powers of evil’! I have known several Jews, some
very good, more very bad; only one, perhaps, half-and-half. That was
Flavius Josephus, whose histories you have read. He could be all things
to all men in a very clever way, mostly for his people, sometimes for
himself.

“Paul was all things to all men in a very different way, and always the
same way. Paul, as you know, frankly warns his readers, ‘I am become all
things to all men that I may by all means save some,’ and ‘I became to
the Jews a Jew that I might gain the Jews’—not for himself, of course,
but for his Master, the King of the Jews. I have never told you, before,
something that I will tell you now—to warn you against these Jews,
especially the Christian Jews. I once saw this Paul, only once. I was but
a boy. He was standing, chained, in a corridor in the palace, waiting
to be heard. One of the Prætorian guard was talking to him and Paul was
replying, while my father and I were passing by; and my father, having
something to say to the guardsman, made some courteous remark to Paul
about interrupting their talk. Paul stood up. He was rather short, and
bent down besides with the weight of his chains; and the guardsman (quite
against regulations) had put a stool for him to rest on. He reached up
his face to my father’s as though he could not see very distinctly:
but it was not exactly the eyes, but the look in them, the unearthly
look, that I shall never forget. No doubt, he was thankful for the few
syllables of kindness. It seemed to me as if he wished to return the
kindness in kind. He said something. What it was I don’t know. Probably
bad Greek or worse Latin. Thanks of some sort, no doubt. But it was
the look—the look and the tone, that struck me. Struck! No, rather,
bewitched. For days and nights afterwards I saw that man’s face, and
heard his voice in my dreams. I did not like the dreams. But he made me
dream. He was a retiarius. If he had had me alone for a day or two, I
feel even now that he would have caught me in his Christian net. I don’t
want you to be caught.”

Then Scaurus went on to speak of himself at some length. I will set down
his exact words for two reasons. First, they shew what pains he had taken
to prepare himself for the work of a critic. Secondly, his letter seemed
to me to explain in part why he was so set against what he called the
soporific or hypnotic art of Paul. He and I approached the apostle in
different circumstances. I came to Paul before coming to the gospels.
He read the gospels first, and found it impossible to believe them.
Then, with a mind settled and fixed against belief, approaching Paul, he
found—this I believe to be the fact—that Paul was drawing him towards
Christ. He resisted the constraint, thinking that he was resisting a
sort of witchcraft. Yes, and even to the end of his life, he fought
against the truth, seeing it masked as falsehood. Yet assuredly he loved
the truth and spared no pains to reach it. Let my old friend speak for
himself in what I will call—

SCAURUS’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

“While I am in the mood for telling secrets I may say that, for me, too,
this Christian superstition has not been without attractions; and, had
there been anything solid in it, I think I should have ascertained it.
You must know that in the last year or two of Domitian this sect was
brought into notice in Rome among the highest circles by rather painful
circumstances—painful, I mean, to me. I had retired from the army. As
soon as I had recovered from my wounds, enough to be able to limp about,
I looked round me for something to do. I was not in favour with the
Emperor. He had lost reputation in the Dacian war; and he was supposed
to dislike those officers—there were only a few—who had done creditably
in that most discreditable business. I was supposed to be one of the
few. At all events, in the ‘regrettable incident’ of Fuscus, I brought
off most of my men safe, and we did not run away. Well, I thought I had
better lead a retired life. So under the plea of disablement—which was
unfortunately only too true, as I was lamed for life—I kept at home
in Tusculum all through the reign of Domitian, giving myself up to
literature.

“Even as a boy, I was very fond of Greek, and I liked learning it in
my own way and not according to the ways of my masters. My way was to
commit to memory—and to keep in memory by constant repetition, a very
different thing from mere ‘committing’—great masses of such literature
as I liked best. Many and many a time have I met and passed a friend
or schoolfellow in the Via Sacra, and heard his voice behind me, ‘Are
you going to cut me, Scaurus?’ But I had not been ‘Scaurus’ when I
passed him. I had been Medea frantic, or Demosthenes haranguing the
Athenians, or Plato describing Thales on the well’s brink, or—for I was
an eclectic—Thucydides recording his personal experiences of the plague.
I kept this up, even in the army. Many a long night in Dacia has been
shortened in the company of my friends, the great Greek authors. The
result of all this was, that when I reached consular age, and, instead
of going in for consulships, went in for lameness and literature, I was
well provided, so far as concerned the Greek raw material, for critical
studies.

“Well, as time went on, extending the course of my reading, I happened
to pick up in Flaccus’s shop a Greek translation of the Hebrew book of
Job. It was a chaos, with occasional lucidities—some of them magnificent.
On my shewing it to a learned Jew (whom Josephus had recommended to me)
he explained to me that the Greek translators had often been misled
by similarities of Hebrew words. Hebrew is a queer language. It has
vowels but does not write them. I saw at once what an abundant source
of error this might be. Even in Latin, where vowels are written, I have
known Greeks go wrong by rendering _amnis_ as though it were _omnis_.
How much more, if there were no vowels! My rabbi—that is their name
for ‘teacher’—informed me that even the Greek-speaking Jews were now
beginning to be dissatisfied with the Seventy (that is the name they give
to their authorised version). Several new translations of some of the
books were floating about, he said, and a good and faithful translation
of the whole would probably be produced before long. This interested me.
Under his guidance I studied the parallelisms in the two books of Esdras
and other books of theirs. I learned just enough Hebrew to understand how
it would be possible for an expert to go back to a lost Hebrew original
from two extant parallel Greek translations. You see what I mean. A very
little knowledge of Latin might enable anyone to see, that, in two Greek
documents, ‘_oaks_’ and ‘_flintstones_,’ being parallel, point to a Latin
‘_ilices_’ or ‘_silices_’—the reading being doubtful—from which two
Greeks have been translating.

“Now I must pass to the last year or last but one of Domitian. You have
heard your father speak of Flavius Clemens (not exactly a strong man,
but a good one) who was put to death by his uncle, the Emperor, for
‘Judaism’ (so it was called) and his poor wife exiled. ‘Judaism,’ with
our people, was only a more respectable name for ‘Christianism,’ though
the two superstitions are poles asunder. Poor Domitilla was a downright
Christian. Her husband Clemens was at all events Christian enough for
Domitian’s purposes. He was put to death and his effects confiscated. I
bought a few of his books as memorials of my old friend, and among these
were certain Christian publications called ‘gospels.’

“Every Christian missionary is supposed to ‘preach the gospel’; so, of
course, there might be, theoretically, as many gospels as missionaries,
and ‘a gospel according to’ each missionary, if each chose to write down
what he preached. Accordingly I gather from Flaccus that there have
been a great number of these ‘gospels’; but only three are now in large
demand among Christians in Rome—the three he sent you. The earliest of
these is ‘The Gospel according to Mark.’ That it is the earliest you
can see thus. Put them (that is, of course, the parallel parts of them)
in three columns, Mark in the middle. Then imagine three schoolboys
seated together—Sinister, Medius, and Dexter—writing a translation of
Homer. Suppose Sinister and Dexter to be cribbing from Medius, who sits
between them. The experienced schoolmaster will speedily discover that,
whenever Sinister and Dexter closely agree, it is because they cribbed
from Medius. Similarly Matthew and Luke largely copied—not ‘cribbed,’ for
they did it honestly enough, no doubt—from Mark. Consequently (subject
to certain exceptions, which I will state later on) Matthew and Luke
_never agree together—in those parts of the gospel where there are three
parallel narratives—without also agreeing with Mark_. Don’t trust me for
this. Try it yourself.”

I did try it. And I found that—subject to the exceptions defined
by Scaurus in another letter—his statement was correct. His letter
continued, “So I began with Mark. Do not suppose that I began with any
prejudice against him. On the contrary, your old friend, whom you are so
fond of calling Misomythus, must plead guilty, I fear, to a latent desire
of the philomythian kind—that Mark might contain truth and not myth. But
hereby hangs another tale, and I must begin another confession.

“Among Domitilla’s slaves was one especially dear to her, her librarian,
whom she would (no doubt) have manumitted if she had anticipated the blow
that was soon to fall on her husband and his household. He was an old
man, of Alexandrian extraction, and of some education, simpleminded as a
child, perfectly honest, giving an impression of firmness, gentleness,
and dignity, quite unusual in a slave. I liked old Hermas—that was his
name, you must have seen him, I think, in your childhood—for his own
sake, as well as for his love of literature. When I bought the books
I bought him at the same time. He was nearly seventy and ailing. The
calamities of his mistress helped him to his grave, and he died a few
days after he had come to my household. We had very little talk together,
and least of all at our last meeting; but what we had then, I never
forgot. It happened thus. One afternoon, when he came into the library a
little later than usual—slowly, and painfully, and leaning on his staff—I
happened to have Domitilla’s three gospels rolled out on the table before
me. There were some notes in the margin of Matthew. These were in his
neat small handwriting and I was looking at them. ‘Not Domitilla’s hand,
I think,’ said I, with a smile. He shook his head, opened his lips as if
to speak, looked long and wistfully at me, as if he would greatly have
liked to talk about something more than mere librarian’s business. But
all he said was, ‘Will my lord give his instructions for the day’s work?’
I gave them. They were that he should go to bed and keep there till he
was fit for business. He bowed, moved slowly toward the door, turned and
looked at me a second time with that same expression, only more intense;
then left the room without a word. I felt strangely drawn towards the old
man, and had almost called him back. But I did not. ‘To-morrow,’ I said,
‘to-morrow.’

“Unexpected business took me from Tusculum late in that afternoon and
kept me away for three days. On my return I was told that Hermas was no
more. He had earnestly desired to see me, they said; and when he found
that I had left Tusculum, and that my return might be delayed, and
that his voice was failing, and death perhaps imminent, he had spent
his last strength in writing a letter, which, by his request, was to
be left by his side until he was carried to the funeral pyre—in case I
might come to take it. I went at once to his bedside and read it there.
I keep it still. But I will not transcribe it for anyone, not even for
you, Silanus. It is a confidence between me and old Hermas, a private
confession of a dream of his. A dream fulfilled and to be fulfilled, he
says. All a dream, I say. Who shall decide? Though I will not give you
the words, you shall have the substance of his letter.

“Well, then, if I might believe this letter, he, old Hermas, lying dead
on the couch before my eyes, was not really dead, but only on the way to
a beautiful city of justice and truth, to which all the just, honourable,
and truthful might attain, Roman, Greek, Jew, Scythian, rich and poor,
bond and free, high-born and low-born. No franchise was needed except
a patient and laborious pursuit of virtue. In this city no one citizen
was greater than another. If anyone could be called greatest, it was the
one that made of least account his own pleasures, his own wealth, fame,
and reputation, serving the state and his fellow-citizens in all things.
Yet it was not a republic, for it had a king. But this king was not a
despot like the kings of the east, abhorred by Greeks and Romans. The
kingdom was a family at unity with itself, the citizens being closely
bound by affection to their king as father and to their fellow-citizens
as brethren. ‘And if,’ said Hermas, ‘you desire to be drawn towards that
king and to become one with all the fellow-citizens of the City of Truth,
I beseech you, my dear lord and benefactor—being, as you are, a lover
of truth—to study with all patience those books of my dearest mistress
Domitilla, which I saw before you on that day on which you spoke to me
your words—your last words to me, so God wills it—words of kindness
following deeds of kindness, for which may the Father in heaven be kind
to you for ever and ever.’

“A postscript added a further request, that I would search for other
papyri, which contained the epistles of Paul, and which, he said,
belonged to Domitilla’s library, though he had been unable to find
them. ‘These,’ he said, ‘give a clue to the meaning of many things that
are obscure in the gospels; for in the gospels traditions derived from
different documents or witnesses, are sometimes set down without uniform
arrangement, and without proportion; so that, in Mark, a whole column of
forty lines might be given, for example, to the exorcism of some evil
spirit, and only three or four lines to some principal and fundamental
saying of Christ. But Paul, though he was neither an eye-witness nor an
ear-witness, understood spiritual things, according to his saying, _We
have the mind of Christ_.’

“This was written on the day before his death. Another postscript, added
on the following day, contained nothing but a hope or prayer that he
might meet me in the City of Truth. I should add that I searched at
the time in vain for Domitilla’s copy of Paul’s letters. It was not
till three years afterwards that I read them, having procured a copy
from another source. Sometimes I regret this and ask myself whether
Hermas might have been right in thinking that Paul would have led me to
understand the gospels better. But I cannot think that the Gods have
decreed that those alone shall find the way to the City of Truth who may
happen to have studied four Christian papyri in a particular order. Now
I must pass from all this prattle about regrets, hopes, prayers, and
preconceptions, to describe my exploration of the gospels and my search
for historical fact.”