From Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
The Second Tale
As I have heeretofore heard (Gracious Ladies) there lived a wealthy Marchant in Paris, being a Mercer, or seller of Silkes, named Jehannot de Chevigny, a man of faithfull, honest, and upright dealing; who held great affection and friendship with a very rich Jew, named Abraham, that was a Merchant also, and a man of very direct conversation. Jehannot well noting the honesty and loyall dealing of this Jew, began to have a Religious kinde of compassion in his soule, much pittying that a man so good in behaviour, so wise and discreete in all his actions, should be in danger of perdition thorow want of Faith. In which regard, lovingly he began to intreate him, that he would leave the errors of his Jewish beleefe, and follow the truth of Christianity, which he evidently saw (as being good and holy) daily to prosper and enlarge it selfe, whereas on the contrary, his profession decreased, and grew to nothing.
The Jew made answer, that he beleeved nothing to be so good and holy, as the Jewish Religion, and having beene borne therein, therein also he purposed to live and dye, no matter whatsoever being able to remove him from that resolution. For all this stiffe deniall, Jehannot would not so give him over; but pursued him still day by day, reitterating continually his former speeches to him: delivering infinite excellent and pregnant reasons, that Merchants themselves were not ignorant, how farre the Christian faith excelled the Jewish falshoods. And albeit the Jew was a very learned man in his owne Law, yet notwithstanding the intire amity he bare to Jehannot, or (perhaps) his words fortified by the blessed Spirit, were so prevailant with him, that the Jew felt a pleasing apprehension in them, though as yet his obstinacie stoode farre off from Conversion. But as he thus continued strong in opinion, so Jehannot lefte not hourely to labour him: insomuch, that the Jew being conquered by such earnest and continuall importunity, one day spake to Jehannot, saying.
My worthy friend Jehannot, thou art extremely desirous, that I should convert to Christianitie, and I am well contented to doe it; onely upon this condition: That first I wil journey to Rome, to see him whom thou sayest, is Gods general Vicar here on earth, and to consider on the course of his life and manners, and likewise of his Colledge of Cardinals. If he and they doe appeare such men to mee, as thy speeches affirme them to be, and thereby I may comprehend that thy Faith and Religion is better then mine, as with no meane paines thou endevourest to perswade mee, I will become a Christian as thou art: but if I finde it otherwise, I will continue as I am, a Jew.
Jehannot hearing these words, became exceeding sorrowfull, and sayd within himselfe; I have lost all the paines which I did thinke to be well employed, as hoping to have this man converted heere. For, if he go to the Court of Rome, and behold there the wickednes of the Priests lives, farewell all hope in me, of ever seeing him to become a Christian. But rather, were he already a Christian, without all question he would turne a Jew. And so going neerer to Abraham, he said. Alas my loving friend, why shouldst thou undertake such a tedious travel, and so great a charge, as thy journey from hence to Rome will cost thee? Consider, that to a rich man (as thou art) travaile by land or Sea is full of infinite dangers. Doest thou not thinke, that here are Religious men enow, who wil gladly bestow Baptisme upon thee? To mee therefore it plainely appeareth, that such a voyage is to no purpose. If thou standest upon any doubt or scruple, concerning the faith whereto I wish thee; where canst thou desire conference with greater Doctours, or men more learned in all respects, then this famous Cittie doth affoord thee, to resolve thee in any questionable case? Thou must thinke, that the Prelates are such there, as heere thou seest them to be, and yet they must needes be in much better condition at Rome, because they are neere to the principall Pastor. And therefore, if thou wilt credit my counsell, reserve this journey to some time more convenient, when the Jubilee of generall Pardon happeneth, and then (perchance) I will beare thee company, and go along with thee as in vowed Pilgrimage.
Whereto the Jew replyed: I beleeve Jehannot that all which thou hast said, may be so. But, to make short with thee, I am fully determined (if thou wouldst have me a Christian, as thou instantly urgest me to bee) to goe thither, for otherwise, I will continue as I am. Jehannot perceyving his setled purpose, said: Goe then in Gods name. But perswaded himselfe, that hee would never become a Christian, after he had once seene the Court of Rome: neverthelesse, he counted his labour not altogither lost, in regard he bestowed it to a good end, and honest intentions are to be commended.
The Jew mounted on horse-backe, and made no lingering in his journey to Rome; where being arrived, he was very honourably entertained by other Jewes dwelling in Rome. And during the time of his abiding there (without revealing to any one the reason of his comming thither) very heedfully he observed the maner of the Popes life, of the Cardinals, Prelates, and all the Courtiers. And being a man very discreet and judicious, hee apparantly perceived, both by his owne eye, and further information of friends; that from the highest to the lowest (without any restraint, remorse of conscience, shame, or feare of punishment) all sinned in abhominable luxurie, and not naturally onely, but in foule Sodomie, so that the credite of Strumpets and Boyes was not small, and yet might be too easily obtayned. Moreover, drunkards, belly-Gods, and servants of the paunch, more then of any thing else (even like brutish beasts after their luxury) were every where to be met withall. And upon further observation, hee saw all men so covetous and greedie of Coyne, that every thing was bought and solde for ready money, not onely the blood of men, but (in plaine termes) the faith of Christians, yea, and matters of divinest qualities, how, or to whomsoever appertaining, were it for Sacrifices or Benefices, whereof was made no mean merchandize, and more Brokers were there to be found (then in Paris attending upon all Trades) of manifest Symonie, under the nice name of Negotiation, and for gluttony, not sustentation: even as if God had not knowne the signification of vocables, nor the intentions of wicked hearts, but would suffer himselfe to bee deceived by the outward names of things, as wretched men commonly use to doe.
These things, and many more (fitter for silence, then for publication) were so deepely displeasing to the Jew, being a most sober and modest man; that he had soone seene enough, resolving on his returne to Paris, which very speedily he performed. And when Jehannot heard of his arrivall, crediting much rather other newes from him, then ever to see him a converted Christian; he went to welcome him, and kindly they feasted one another. After some few dayes of resting, Jehannot demanded of him; what he thought of our holy Father the Pope and his Cardinals, and generally of all the other Courtiers? Whereto the Jew readily answered; It is strange Jehannot, that God should give them so much as he doth. For I will truely tell thee, that if I had beene able to consider all those things, which there I have both heard and seene: I could then have resolved my selfe, never to have found in any Priest, either sanctity, devotion, good worke, example of honest life, or any good thing else beside. But if a man desire to see luxury, avarice, gluttony, and such wicked things, yea, worse, if worse may be, and held in generall estimation of all men; let him but goe to Rome, which I thinke rather to be the forge of damnable actions, then any way leaning to grace or goodnesse. And, for ought I could perceive, me thinkes your chiefe Pastour, and (consequently) all the rest of his dependants, doe strive so much as they may (with all their engine arte and endevour) to bring to nothing, or else to banish quite out of the world, Christian Religion, whereof they should be the support and foundation.
But because I perceive, that their wicked intent will never come to passe, but contrariwise, that your faith enlargeth it selfe, shining every day much more cleare and splendant: I gather thereby evidently, that the blessed Spirit is the true ground and defence thereof, as being more true and holy then any other. In which respect, whereas I stood stiffe and obstinate against the good admonitions, and never minded to become a Christian: now I freely open my heart unto thee, that nothing in the world can or shall hinder me, but I will be a Christian, as thou art. Let us therefore presently goe to the Church, and there (according to the true custome of your holy faiths) helpe me to be baptized.
Jehannot, who expected a farre contrary conclusion then this, hearing him speake it with such constancy; was the very gladdest man in the world, and went with him to the Church of Nostre Dame in Paris, where he requested the Priests there abiding, to bestow baptisme on Abraham, which they joyfully did, hearing him so earnestly to desire it. Jehannot was his Godfather, and named him John, and afterward, by learned Divines he was more fully instructed in the grounds of our faith; wherein he grew of great understanding, and led a very vertuous life.