187 Taking an opportunity afforded by a pause in the banquet the king asked the envoy who sat in the seat of honour (for they were arranged according to seniority), How he could keep his kingdom 188 unimpaired to the end? After pondering for a moment he replied, ‘You could best establish its security if you were to imitate the unceasing benignity of God. For if you exhibit clemency and inflict mild punishments upon those who deserve them in accordance with their deserts, you will 189 turn them from evil and lead them to repentance.’ The king praised the answer and then asked the next man, How he could do everything for the best in all his actions? And he replied, ‘If a man maintains a just bearing towards all, he will always act rightly on every occasion, remembering that every thought is known to God. If you take the fear of God as your starting-point, you will never miss the goal.

190 The king complimented this man, too, upon his answer and asked another, How he could have friends like-minded with himself? He replied, ‘If they see you studying the interests of the multitudes over whom you rule; you will do well to observe how God bestows his benefits on the 191 human race, providing for them health and food and all other things in due season.’ After expressing his agreement with the reply, the king asked the next guest, How in giving audiences and passing judgments he could gain the praise even of those who failed to win their suit? And he said, ‘If you are fair in speech to all alike and never act insolently nor tyrannically in your treatment of 192 offenders. And you will do this if you watch the method by which God acts. The petitions of the worthy are always fulfilled, while those who fail to obtain an answer to their prayers are informed by means of dreams or events of what was harmful in their requests and that God does not smite them according to their sins or the greatness of His strength, but acts with forbearance towards them.’