‘Be Devout’ is a psalm attributed to Doukhobor leader Ilarion Pobirokhin, who composed it between 1743 and 1785 in Tambov province, Russia. It describes in detail the fundamental elements of a Doukhobor way of life, based on the Christian principles of truth, purity, love, labour, obedience, not judging, reasonableness, mercy, self-control, prayer and fasting, repentance and thanksgiving. It provides an important window into the mindset of our early Doukhobor ancestors and the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors they espoused. At the same time, the psalm carries a universal message of good will and faith that is just as relevant and meaningful today as when it was first composed, over 250 years ago. Translated from the original Russian by Doukhobor writer and historian Eli A. Popoff.
Be devout, trust in God. Love Him with all your heart. Be zealous towards His holy church. All His commandments sacredly revere and observe. Follow the path of virtue; shun all vice. Be prudent. Having in mind the end, always maintain the right perception of your means. Do not idly let go by an occasion for worthy deeds. Do not embark on any venture without careful deliberation, and in your reasoning, do not hurry. Be not tardy, except only under special circumstances and occasions. Do not believe everything you hear. Do not desire everything you see. Do not proceed to do everything you are able to. Do not proclaim everything you know, but only that which should be proclaimed. That which you do not know, do not affirm, nor deny; best of all – enquire; then wilt thou be discreet. Be temperate. Do not partake of food without hunger. Without thirst do not drink, and that only in small quantities when required. Avoid drunkenness as you would Hades. Intemperance begets sickness, sickness brings death. The abstemious live healthily and in continuous well being.
Be meek, not arrogant – keeping more to silence than to talkativeness. When someone is speaking – keep quiet. When someone is addressing you pay attention. When someone is relaying orders to you – fulfill them, and do not boast. Do not be obstinate, quarrelsome or vain. To all be affable, to none be a flatterer. Be thou, also, righteous. Do not desire anything belonging to others; do not steal, but in whatsoever you may have need seek it through your labour. In poverty ask for help; when it is given, accept it and be thankful. Whatsoever you may have borrowed – return; whatsoever you have promised – fulfill.
Be courageous, always willing to labour. Leave off all idleness and laziness. If you wish to start some project, measure well your strength in advance, then proceed without letting up. In adversity, do not lose hope; in prosperity, do not morally deteriorate. Hold thriftiness in esteem. Keep careful observation of the different occurrences in life of inconstancy, misfortune and sorrow. Over that which the patient forbear, the fainthearted sigh, lament and wail. Be benevolent and gracious. Give to him that asketh of thee, if thou hast; help the poor, of thou canst. If anyone has hurt thee – forgive him; if thou hast hurt anyone – reconcile thyself with him. It is very commendable to refrain from holding grudges. Forgive the sinner; accede to the reconciler. If you yourself will love your fellow-man, you shall in turn be loved by all people. Be thou also obedient to elders, companionable to equals, and courteous to subordinates. Greet those whom you meet; return the greeting of those who greet you. To the enquirer, give answer; to the ignorant, give advice, to the sorrowing, give comfort. Do not envy anyone. Wish well to all.
Serve each and all, as much as you are able to. With your good deeds, you shall please all people. Your friends shall love you, and your enemies will not be able to hate you. Always speak the truth; never lie. Observe all this, and good fortune shall always be your lot.
Glory to God