Gesta Romanorum Vol. I (1871)/Of Mercy

Gesta Romanorum Vol. I  (1871) 
Anonymous, translated by Charles Swan
Of Mercy



The Emperor Titus made a law, that whosoever provided not for his parents, should be condemned to death. It happened that there were two brethren, descended from the same father. One of them had a son who discovered his uncle in the greatest indigence; and immediately, in compliance with the law, but in opposition to the will of his father, administered to his wants. Thereupon the father expelled him from his house. Notwithstanding he still maintained his poor uncle, and supplied him with every requisite. By and by, the uncle became rich and the father indigent. Now, when the son beheld the altered circumstances of his parent, he liberally supported him also, to the great indignation of his uncle, who drove him from his house, and said—"Formerly, when I was poor, thou gavest me support, in opposition to thy father; for which, I constituted thee my heir, in the place of a son. But an ungrateful son ought not to obtain an inheritance; and rather than such, we should adopt a stranger. Therefore, since thou hast been ungrateful to thy father in maintaining me contrary to his command, thou shalt never possess my inheritance." The son thus answered his uncle. "No one can be punished for executing what the law commands and compels. Now the law of nature obliges children to assist their parents in necessity, and especially to honour them: therefore, I cannot justly be deprived of the inheritance."


My beloved, the two brothers are the Son of God and the world, which both proceed from one heavenly Father. The first, begotten; the second, created. Between them, from the beginning, discord arose, and continues to this day; so that he who is the friend of the one, is an enemy to the other. According to St. James iv. "Whosoever would become the friend of this world, shall be accounted an enemy to God." The only son is every Christian, who is the progeny of Christ, because he is descended from him by faith. Therefore, we should not feed fat the world with pride, avarice, and other vices, if we would be the children of God. And if our desires are contrary, too surely we shall be excluded from the family of Christ, and lose our heavenly inheritance. If we maintain and cherish Christ by works of love and of piety, the world indeed will abhor us—but better is it to be at enmity with the world than forego an inheritance in Heaven.