XXI. (90) This also Jacob, the practiser of virtue, asked at the end of his most holy prayers. For he said, “And the Lord shall be to me as God.” Which is equivalent to: He will no longer display towards me the despotic power of his absolute authority, but rather the beneficent influence of his universally propitious and saving power, utterly removing the fear with which he is regarded as a master, and filling the soul with affection and benevolence as felt towards a benefactor. (91) What soul could ever conceive thus that the master and ruler of the universe, without changing anything of his own nature, but remaining in the condition in which he always was, is continually kind and uninterruptedly bounteous? (92) owing to which he is, to those who are happy, the most perfect cause of unlimited and overflowing blessings. And to trust in a king who is not by reason of the magnitude of his authority elated so as to do injury to his subjects, but who, through his love to mankind, prefers that every one should enjoy happiness without fear, is the greatest possible bulwark of prosperity and security.

XXII. (93) What, therefore, we originally undertook we have now nearly fulfilled, namely, to demonstrate that the fact spoken of must be taken to mean the principle which declares God to be the most glorious of all things. The portion of the subject which follows next, is the demonstration that perfection is found in no created thing, but that it does appear in them at times owing to the grace of the great Cause of all things. And the fruit of the tree is, that the graces of God endure for ever and ever, and that they are shed incessantly upon mankind, and never cease. (94) Thus, in truth, the wise man, following the practice of the first and greatest planter, displays his knowledge of husbandry; and the sacred scripture wishes the labours of husbandry to be performed, even by those of us who are not yet perfect, but who are still reckoned among the middle numbers of those things which are accounted duties; for it says, (95) “When you go forth into the land which the Lord your God giveth to you, and when you plant every tree which is good for food, you shall completely purify its uncleanness. For three years it shall be unclean as to its fruit, it shall not be eaten; but in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, being praised by the Lord. And in the fifth year you shall eat the fruit thereof; and everything that it bears shall be useful to you: I am the Lord your God.”{20}{#le 19:23.} Therefore it was impossible for the children of Israel, to plant those trees which are eatable, before they arrived in the country which had been given them by God; for he says, “When you go forth into the land, … and when you plant every tree which is good for food.” (96) So that while we are outside of the promised land, we should not be able to cultivate such trees; and this is very natural; (97) for as long as the mind has not entered upon the path of wisdom, but turns aside and wanders out of the road, it cares only for the trees which do not admit of being cultivated or used for food of men–trees which are barren and useless, and which, though they bear, bear no fruit which is eatable. (98) But when the mind, having entered upon the path of wisdom, marches along with its doctrines, and begins to keep pace with them all, it then cultivates the useful trees, which are capable of bearing eatable fruit, instead of caring for those useless kinds; it cultivates a mastery over, instead of the indulgence of the passions, and knowledge instead of ignorance, and good instead of evil. (99) Since therefore he who is led into the path of virtue is still at a long distance from the end, it is very naturally laid as an injunction upon the man who plants, to remove the uncleanness of that which is planted. And what this is, we will now consider.