XXXVII. (121) These then, to speak with strict propriety are the prices to be paid for the preserving and ransoming of the soul which is desirous of freedom. And may we not say that in this way a very necessary doctrine is brought forward? Namely that every wise man is a ransom for a worthless one, who would not be able to last for even a short time, if the wise man by the exertion of mercy and prudence did not take thought for his lasting; as a physician opposing himself to the infirmities of an invalid, and either rendering them slighter, or altogether removing them unless the disease comes on with irresistible violence, and surmounts all the ingenuity of medical skill. (122) And in this way Sodom was destroyed, since there was, as it were, no good which could be put in the scale sufficient to outweigh the unspeakable multitude of its wickednesses. So that if the fiftieth number could have been found, according to which an emancipation for the slavery of the soul and complete freedom is proclaimed, or if any one of the numbers below fifty which the wise Abraham enumerated descending at last down to ten, the number peculiar to instruction, the mind would not have been destroyed in so inglorious a manner. (123) We ought at times to endeavour as far as possible to preserve those who are not on the point of being utterly destroyed by the wickedness that is in them; imitating good physicians who, even if they see that it is impossible for those who are sick to recover, nevertheless apply their remedies with cheerfulness, lest it should appear that it was owing to their neglect that the affair did not turn out as it was desired. And if ever so slight a seed of good health is seen, this is to be cherished as a spark of fire with all imaginable care; for there is hope that if it can have its duration protracted and its strength increased the man may for the future have a better life and one more free from danger. (124) Therefore when I see any good man dwelling in any house or city, I pronounce that house or that city happy, and I think that its enjoyment of its present good things is sure, and that its expectation of future happiness will be accomplished, inasmuch as, for the sake of those who are worthy, God will bestow his boundless and illimitable riches even on the unworthy. And I pray that they may live to as great an age as possible, since it is not possible that they should ever grow old, as I expect that good fortune will remain to men as long as these men are able to live in the practice of virtue. (125) When, therefore, I see or hear that any one of these men is dead, I am exceedingly downcast and grieved, and I lament those who are left behind alive as much as I lament them; for to the one I see, that the necessary end has arrived in consistency with the ordinances of nature, and that they have exhibited a happy life and a glorious death. But I look upon the others as now deprived of the great and mighty hand by which they were saved, and as likely, now that they are bereft of it, soon to feel the evils which are due to them, unless, indeed, instead of the former men, who are gone, nature should be preparing to make other young men shoot up, as in the case of a tree which has already shed its ripe fruit for the nourishment and enjoyment of those who are able to make use of it. (126) As, therefore, good men are the strongest part of cities, with a view to their duration, so also in that state of each individual of us, which consists of soul and body, the reasoning powers which are attached to prudence and knowledge, are the firmest part of its foundation; which the legislator, using metaphorical language, calls the ransom and the first-born, on account of those reasons which I have already mentioned. (127) In this way he also says, “The cities of the Levites are ransomed for ever, because the minister of God enjoys eternal freedom, according to the continuous revolutions of the ever-moving soul,” and he admits incessant healing applications; for when he calls them ransomed, not once, but for ever, as he says, he means to convey such a meaning as this, that they are always in a state of revolution, and always in a state of freedom, the state of revolution being implanted in them because of their natural mortality, but their freedom coming to them because of their ministration to God.