LVI. (303) But, nevertheless, he selected out of the whole race of mankind those who were really men for their superior excellence; and he elected them and thought them worthy of the highest possible honour, calling them to the service of himself, to that everlasting fountain of all that is good; from which he has showered forth other virtues, drawing forth, at the same time, for our enjoyment, combined with the greatest possible advantage, a drink contributing more than ever nectar, or at all events not less, to make those who drink of it immortal. (304) But those men are to be pitied, and are altogether miserable, who have never banquetted on the labours of virtue; and they have remained to the end the most miserable of all men who have been always ignorant of the taste of moral excellence, when it was in their power to have feasted on and luxuriated among justice and equality. But these men are uncircumcised in their hearts, as the law expresses it, and by reason of the hardness of their hearts they are stubborn, resisting and breaking their traces in a restive manner; (305) whom the Lord reproves, saying, “Be ye circumcised as to your hard-Heartedness;”{43}{#de 10:16.} that means, “do ye eradicate the overbearing character of your dominant part, which the immoderate impulses of the passing hour have sown and caused to grow within you, and which the wicked husbandman of the soul, folly, planted. (306) Again, it says, “Let not your necks be Stiff,”{44}{#de 10:18.} that is to say, let not your mind be unbending and self-willed, and let it not admit into itself that most blameable ignorance of excessive perverseness. But discarding obstinacy and moroseness of nature as an enemy, let it change so as to become gentle, and inclined to obey the laws of nature. (307) Do you not see that the most important and greatest of all the powers of the living God are his beneficent and his punishing power? And his beneficent power is called God, since it is by means of this that he made and arranged the universe. And the other, or punishing power, is called Lord, on which his sovereignty over the universe depends. And God is God, not only of men, but also of gods; and he is mighty, being truly strong and truly Powerful.{45}{#de 10:17.}

LVII. (308) But, nevertheless, though he is so great in excellence and in power, he feels pity and compassion for all those who are most completely sunk in want and distress, not considering it beneath his dignity to be the judge in the causes of proselytes, and orphans, and widows, and disregarding kings and tyrants, and men in high commands, and honouring the humility of those men above mentioned, I mean the proselytes, with precedence, on this account. (309) These men, having forsaken their country and their national customs in which they were bred up, which, however, were full of the inventions of falsehood and pride, becoming genuine lovers of truth, have come over to piety; and becoming in all worthiness suppliants and servants of the true and living God, they very properly receive a precedence which they have deserved, having found the reward of their fleeing to God in the assistance which they now receive from him. (310) And in the case of orphans and widows, since they have been deprived of their natural protectors, the one class having lost their parents, and the others their husbands, they have no refuge whatever to which they can flee, no aid which they can hope for from man, being utterly destitute; on which account they are not deprived of the greatest hope of all, the hope of relief from God, who, because of his merciful character, does not refuse to provide and to care for persons so wholly desolate. (311) “Let then,” says the law, “God alone be thy boast, and thy greater Glory,”{46}{#de 10:21.} And do not pride thyself either on thy wealth, or on thy glory, or on the beauty of thy person, or on thy strength, or on anything of the same kind as the objects at which foolish empty-headed persons are apt to be elated; considering that, in the first place, these things have no connection at all with the nature of good, and secondly, that they are liable to rapid changes, fading away in a manner before they have time to flourish permanently. (312) And let us cling to the custom of addressing our supplications to him, and let us not, after we have subdued our enemies, imitate their impiety in those matters of conduct in which they fancy that they are acting piously, burning their sons and their daughters to their gods, not, indeed, that it is the custom of all the barbarians to burn their children. (313) For they are not become so perfectly savage in their natures as to endure in time of peace to treat their nearest and dearest relatives as they would scarcely treat their irreconcilable enemies in time of war. But that they do in reality inflame and corrupt the souls of the children of whom they are the parents from the very moment that they are out of their swaddling clothes; not imprinting on their minds, while they are still tender, any true opinions respecting the one only and truly living God. Let us not then be overcome by, and fall down before, and yield to their good fortune as if they had prevailed by reason of their piety. (314) For present prosperity is given to many persons for a snare, being only a bait to be followed by excessive and incurable evils. And it is very likely that even men who are unworthy may be allowed to be successful, not for their own sakes, but in order that we who act impiously may be more vehemently grieved and pained, who having been born in a God-fearing city, and having been bred up in laws which would imbue men with every virtue, and having been instructed from our earliest youth in all such pursuits as are most honourable to men, neglect them all, and cling only to such practices as deserve to be neglected, considering all good things as subjects for amusement, and looking upon things fit only for sport as seriously good.