Saint Boniface Advises Nithard to Continue His Studies

To my dear friend and companion, who was drawn to me not by gifts of perishable gold nor by the smooth tongue of flattery but by the similarity of our ideals and the bonds of unfailing love, Wynfrith, a suppliant, sends greetings for eternal welfare in Jesus Christ.

Lowly as I am, noble youth, I beg you not to disregard the words of Solomon the wise: “In all thy works remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin.” [Ecclus 7:40] Walk whilst you have the light lest the darkness of death come upon you.[John xii.35] Temporal things pass swiftly away, but the eternal that never fade will soon be upon us. All the treasures of this world, such as gold, silver, precious stones of every hue, succulent and dainty food and costly garments, melt away like shadows, vanish like smoke, dissolve like foam on the sea. The psalmist uttered the truth when he said: “Man’s days are like grass: like the flower of the field he flourishes.” [Ps cii.15] And again: “My days are like a shadow that declineth and I am withered like grass.” [Ps. Ci.12]

Men who wallow in luxury are said in Holy Scripture to pass sleepless nights through anxiety, spinning their fragile webs that catch only dust or a breath of wind, for as the psalmist says: “They gather together treasure and know not for whom they gather it.”[Ps xxxviii.7] And at the moment when death, the minion of baneful Pluto, barks at the door, foaming at the mouth and gnashing his teeth, they faint with fear; then, deprived of heavenly consolation, they lose in an instant both their precious souls and the deceitful gains for which they have slaved like misers night and clay. Finally, [66] they are snatched by the claws of fiends and borne off to the gloomy caverns of Erebus, there to suffer everlasting torments.

There is no doubting the truth of this. In all earnestness affection I beg you to consider this matter very carefully. rein to your natural gifts and abilities; do not stifle your literary talents and your keen spiritual understanding with gross pleasures of the flesh. Keep in mind the words of the psalmist: “His delight is in the words of the law of the Lord; in his law he meditates day and night ” [Psalm 1:2]:I and elsewhere: “O how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day.”[Ps cxviii.97] Call to mind also the words of Moses: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.”[Josh i.8] Put aside all harmful obstacles; strive with unflagging zest to pursue your study of the scriptures and thereby acquire that nobility of mind which is divine wisdom. It is more precious than gold, more beautiful than silver, more lustrous than onyx, clearer than crystal, more costly than topaz,[Job xxvii.17,19]4 and, according to the opinion of the Preacher, all things that may be desired are not to be compared with it.[Prov viii.11]

Can there be a more fitting pursuit in youth or a more valuable possession in old age than a knowledge of Holy Writ? In the midst of storms it will preserve you from the dangers of shipwreck and guide you to the shore of an enchanting paradise and the ever-lasting bliss of the angels. Of it the same wise man has remarked. “Wisdom overcometh evil: it stretches from end to end mightily and disposes all things sweetly. Her have I loved from my youth and have become enamoured of her form.” [Wisdom 8:1]

If God allows me to return home, for such is my intention, I promise to remain steadfast at your side, helping you in your study of Sacred Scripture to the best of my ability.