Ioasaph received this parable with great joy and said, "How true this story is, and most apt! Grudge not, then, to shew me other such like figures, that I may know for certain what the manner of our life is, and what it hath in store for its friends."
The elder answered, "Again, those who are enamoured of the pleasures of life, and glamoured by the sweetness thereof, who prefer fleeting and paltry objects to those which are future and stable, are like a certain man who had three friends. On the first two of these he was extravagantly lavish of his honours, and clave passionately to their love, fighting to the death and deliberately hazarding his life for their sakes. But to the third he bore himself right arrogantly, never once granting him the honour nor the love that was his due, but only making show of some slight and inconsiderable regard for him. Now one day he was apprehended by certain dread and strange soldiers, that made speed to hale him to the king, there to render account for a debt of ten thousand talents. Being in a great strait, this debtor sought for a helper, able to take his part in this terrible reckoning with the king. So he ran to his first and truest friend of all, and said, `Thou wottest, friend, that I ever jeopardied my life for thy sake. Now to-day I require help in a necessity that presseth me sore. In how many talents wilt thou undertake to assist me now? What is the hope that I may count upon at thy hands, O my dearest friend?' The other answered and said unto him, `Man, I am not thy friend: I know not who thou art. Other friends I have, with whom I must needs make merry to-day, and so win their friendship for the time to come. But, see, I present thee with two ragged garments, that thou mayest have them on the way whereon thou goest, though they will do thee no manner of good. Further help from me thou mayest expect none.' The other, hearing this, despaired of the succour whereon he had reckoned, and went to his second friend, saying, `Friend, thou rememberest how much honour and kindness thou hast enjoyed at my hands. To-day I have fallen into tribulation and sorrow, and need a helping hand. To what extent then canst thou share my labour? Tell me at once.' Said he, `I have on leisure today to share thy troubles. I too have fallen among cares and perils, and am myself in tribulation. Howbeit, I will go a little way with thee, even if I shall fail to be of service to thee. Then will I turn quickly homeward, and busy myself with mine own anxieties.' So the man returned from him too empty-handed and baulked at every turn; and he cried misery on himself for his vain hope in those ungrateful friends, and the unavailing hardships that he had endured through love of them. At the last he went away to the third friend, whom he had never courted, nor invited to share his happiness. With countenance ashamed and downcast, he said unto him, `I can scarce open my lips to speak with thee, knowing full well that I have never done thee service, or shown thee any kindness that thou mightest now remember. But seeing that a heavy misfortune hath overtaken me, and that I have found nowhere among my friends any hope of deliverance, I address myself to thee, praying thee, if it lie in thy power, to afford me some little aid. Bear no grudge for my past unkindness, and refuse me not.' The other with a smiling and gracious countenance answered, `Assuredly I own thee my very true friend. I have not forgotten those slight services of thine: and I will repay them to-day with interest. Fear not therefore, neither be afraid. I will go before thee and entreat the king for thee, and will by no means deliver thee into the hands of thine enemies. Wherefore be of good courage, dear friend, and fret not thyself.' Then, pricked at heart, the other said with tears, `Wo is me! Which shall I first lament, or which first deplore? Condemn my vain preference for my forgetful, thankless and false friends, or blame the mad ingratitude that I have shown to thee, the sincere and true?'"
Ioasaph heard this tale also with amazement and asked the interpretation thereof. Then said Barlaam, "The first friend is the abundance of riches, and love of money, by reason of which a man falleth into the midst of ten thousand perils, and endureth many miseries: but when at last the appointed day of death is come, of all these things he carrieth away nothing but the useless burial cloths. By the second friend is signified our wife and children and the remnant of kinsfolk and acquaintance, to whom we are passionately attached, and from whom with difficulty we tear ourselves away, neglecting our very soul and body for the love of them. But no help did man ever derive from these in the hour of death, save only that they will accompany and follow him to the sepulchre, and then straightway turning them homeward again they are occupied with their own cares and matters, and bury his memory in oblivion as they have buried his body in the grave. But the third friend, that was altogether neglected and held cheap, whom the man never approached, but rather shunned and fled in horror, is the company of good deeds, -- faith, hope, charity, alms, kindliness, and the whole band of virtues, that can go before us, when we quit the body, and may plead with the Lord on our behalf, and deliver us from our enemies and dread creditors, who urge that strict rendering of account in the air, and try bitterly to get the mastery of us. This is the grateful and true friend, who beareth in mind those small kindnesses that we have shown him and repayeth the whole with interest."
Again said Ioasaph, "The Lord God prosper thee, O thou Wisest of men! For thou hast gladdened my soul with thine apt and excellent sayings. Wherefore sketch me yet another picture of the vanity of the world, and how a man may pass through it in peace and safety."
Barlaam took up his parable and said, "Hear then a similitude of this matter too. I once heard tell of a great city whose citizens had, from old time, the custom of taking some foreigner and stranger, who knew nothing of their laws and traditions, and of making him their king, to enjoy absolute power, and follow his own will and pleasure without hindrance, until the completion of a year. Then suddenly, while he was living with never a care in rioting and wantonness, without fear, and alway supposing that his reign would only terminate with his life, they would rise up against him, strip him bare of his royal robes, lead him in triumph up and down the city, and thence dispatch him beyond their borders into a distant great island; there, for lack of food and raiment, in hunger and nakedness he would waste miserably away, the luxury and pleasure so unexpectedly showered upon him changed as unexpectedly into woe. In accordance therefore with the unbroken custom of these citizens, a certain man was ordained to the kingship. But his mind was fertile of understanding, and he was not carried away by this sudden access of prosperity, nor did he emulate the heedlessness of the kings that had gone before him, and had been miserably expelled, but his soul was plunged in care and trouble how he might order his affairs well. After long and careful search, he learned from a wise counsellor the custom of the citizens, and the place of perpetual banishment, and was taught of him without guile how to ensure himself against this fate. So with this knowledge that within a very little while he must reach that island and leave to strangers this chance kingdom among strangers, he opened the treasures whereof he had awhile absolute and unforbidden use, and took a great store of money and huge masses of gold and silver and precious stones and delivered the same to trusty servants and sent them before him to the island whither he was bound. When the appointed year came to an end, the citizens rose against him, and sent him naked into banishment like those that went before him. But while the rest of these foolish kings, kings only for a season, were sore anhungred, he, that had timely deposited his wealth, passed his time in continual plenty mid dainties free of expense, and, rid of all fear of those mutinous and evil citizens, could count himself happy on his wise forethought.
"Understand thou, therefore, that the city is this vain and deceitful world; that the citizens are the principalities and powers of the devils, the rulers of the darkness of this world, who entice us by the soft bait of pleasure, and counsel us to consider corruptible and perishable things as incorruptible, as though the enjoyment that cometh from them were co-existent with us, and immortal as we. Thus then are we deceived; we have taken no thought concerning the things which are abiding and eternal, and have laid up in store for ourselves no treasure for that life beyond, when of a sudden there standeth over us the doom of death. Then, then at last do those evil and cruel citizens of darkness, that received us, dispatch us stript of all worldly goods, -- for all our time has been wasted on their service -- and carry us off `to a dark land and a gloomy, to a land of eternal darkness, where there is no light, nor can one behold the life of men.' As for that good counsellor, who made known all the truth and taught that sagacious and wise king the way of salvation, understand thou that I, thy poor and humble servant, am he, who am come hither for to shew thee the good and infallible way to lead thee to things eternal and unending, and to counsel thee to lay up all thy treasure there; and I am come to lead thee away from the error of this world, which, to my woe, I also loved, and clave to its pleasures and delights. But, when I perceived, with the unerring eyes of my mind how all human life is wasted in these things that come and go; when I saw that no man hath aught that is stable and steadfast, neither the rich in his wealth, nor the mighty in his strength, nor the wise in his wisdom, nor the prosperous in his prosperity, nor the luxurious in his wantonness, nor he that dreameth of security of life in that vain and feeble security of his dreams, nor any man in any of those things that men on earth commend ('tis like the boundless rush of torrents that discharge themselves into the deep sea, thus fleeting and temporary are all present things); then, I say, I understood that all such things are vanity, and that their enjoyment is naught; and, that even as the past is all buried in oblivion, be it past glory, or past kingship, or the splendour of rank, or amplitude of power, or arrogance of tyranny, or aught else like them, so also present things will vanish in the darkness of the days to come. And, as I am myself of the present, I also shall doubtless be subject to its accustomed change; and, even as my fathers before me were not allowed to take delight for ever in the present world, so also shall it be with me. For I have observed how this tyrannical and troublesome world treateth mankind, shifting men hither and thither, from wealth to poverty, and from poverty to honour, carrying some out of life and bringing others in, rejecting some that are wise and understanding, making the honourable and illustrious dishonoured and despised, but seating others who are unwise and of no understanding upon a throne of honour, and making the dishonoured and obscure to be honoured of all.
"One may see how the race of mankind may never abide before the face of the cruel tyranny of the world. But, as when a dove fleeing from an eagle or a hawk flitteth from place to place, now beating against this tree, now against that bush, and then anon against the clefts of the rocks and all manner of bramble-thorns, and, nowhere finding any safe place of refuge, is wearied with continual tossing and crossing to and fro, so are they which are flustered by the present world. They labour painfully under unreasoning impulse, on no sure or firm bases: they know not to what goal they are driving, nor whither this vain life leadeth them this vain life, whereto they have in miserable folly subjected themselves, choosing evil instead of good, and pursuing vice instead of goodness; and they know not who shall inherit the cold fruits of their many heavy labours, whether it be a kinsman or a stranger, and, as oft times it haps, not even a friend or acquaintance at all, but an enemy and foeman.
"On all these things, and others akin to them, I held judgement in the tribunal of my soul, and I came to hate my whole life that had been wasted in these vanities, while I still lived engrossed in earthly things. But when I had put off from my soul the lust thereof, and cast it from me, then was there revealed unto me the true good, to fear God and do his will; for this I saw to be the sum of all good. This also is called the beginning of wisdom, and perfect wisdom. For life is without pain and reproach to those that hold by her, and safe to those who lean upon her as upon the Lord. So, when I had set my reason on the unerring way of the commandments of the Lord, and had surely learned that there is nothing froward or perverse therein, and that it is not full of chasms and rocks, nor of thorns and thistles, but lieth altogether smooth and even, rejoicing the eyes of the traveller with the brightest sights, making beautiful his feet, and shoeing them with `the preparation of the Gospel of peace,' that he may walk safely and without delay, this way, then, I rightly chose above all others, and began to rebuild my soul's habitation, which had fallen into ruin and decay.