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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

Ah, now the message hits home! There is nothing like being cheated to bring out one’s sense of honesty.

You see the point now, I suspect. It’s not so much that you have been deceived, swindled and robbed – that happens to most of us. It’s the fact that your swindler is crowing about it. He is so proud of the way he deceived you, and the cleverness with which he has prevented you from correcting his misdeeds. When what is vile is honored among men, how the wicked strut!

When you meet it in person, evil is so banal. You may not think so, for Satan tells us that evil is enlightening. When you see it in person, it enlightens you not at all. It looks so drab and ordinary. Evil, you see, is often the result of a choice between what is right and what is convenient. That which is convenient hardly ever leaves the impression of virtue.

But what will you have? If you will live the life of virtue, your convenience will be sacrificed often. As my father said , if a man’s virtue costs him nothing, it is worth the same.

For the Christian, the command is simple. Take up the Cross, says our Lord, and follow me. To take up the Cross is to deny your self. Self-affirmation is the opposite of being a Christian. It means that there is no sacrifice unless it results in pure benefit to oneself. That is your swindler’s choice. He chose between that which put coin in his purse and the life of sacrifice which would mean being honest with you. He would not sacrifice. You see the result in him; know that it is the same in you.

This is a sad thing for Christians. It is often the case that they say they are willing to take up the Cross – but they cannot seem to find a cross that is convenient. They deceive themselves into thinking themselves sacrificial Christians. They are willing to give of their abundance, but sacrifice nothing. It is still the truth: the worst cross to bear is no cross.

But take heart! Your God has presented to you a cross to bear for his sake. It has come in the form of honesty. You know what you should do. Do not expect others to be honest; never cease to be honest yourself. Is this a sacrifice? Of course. It will be very inconvenient, as it now is to you. But I am glad to see that you know that it is the only choice of a true Christian. You could return his dishonesty by cheating him in return. It is much better to overcome evil with good. You have chosen well in this.

Rejoicing with you in your sufferings, I remain

Isaac the alchemist

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