The scale (or ladder) of perfection



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SECTION II

That a Man should be busy to put away and hinder all Motions of sin, but more busy about those of Spiritual sins than those of Bodily

AND therefore he that riseth against the feeling of fleshly liking in meat and drink, more fully and more sharply than against those of pride, or covetousness, or lechery, or envy (the which because they be more spiritual and less perceivable, seem perhaps less evil, and are less reprehended). I say that he is half-blind, for he seeth not his spiritual uncleannesses (as of pride and envy), how foul they are in God's sight, for, I believe that if a man could see with his spiritual eye how foul pride and covetousness are in God's sight, and how contrary they are to Him, he would more loathe a stirring of pride, and the vain liking of it; and also he would more abhor and rise against that evil will of envy, or anger to his neighbour than many a stirring or liking either of gluttony or of lechery. Nevertheless, all men do not think so, for commonly men are more shy or troubled to feel a stirring of fleshly sin, and have for it more sorrow and heaviness than for great likings in vain-glory or in other ghostly sins. But they are not wise; for if they would understand the holy Scriptures and sayings of doctors they should find it as I say, which I neither may nor will rehearse now.

I will not excuse them that fall in the likings and delights of gluttony and lechery, as if they sinned not; for I wot well that all the kinds of them are sins more or less, according to the measure of the lust and misbehaviour in the sin, and other likings, with consideration of how far voluntary it was with other circumstances. But my desire is, that thou mightest know and esteem all sins according as they are, indeed, the greater to be the greater, as are spiritual sins; and the less to be the less, as are fleshly or sensual sins; and yet nevertheless would I have thee to hate and fly all, both bodily and spiritual, with all thy might. For know thou well, that fleshly desires and unreasonable likings in meat and drink, or any likings that belong to the body, exceeding reasonable needs, though they be not always great sins to him that is in charity. Nevertheless, to a soul that desireth cleanness and purity of heart, and a spiritual feeling of God, they are full heavy, painful and bitter, and greatly to be eschewed; for the spirit cannot feel his kindly savour within, till the flesh hath lost his beastly savour without.

And, therefore, if thou wilt come to cleanness of heart, thou must strive against the unreasonable stirrings of fleshly desires, but against the ground of them thou shalt not rise; for the ground of it is Need, as natural hunger, which thou must necessarily feel, and must attend thereto, and satisfy it in fitting time and manner, and help thyself against it by medicine of meat, as thou wouldst help thyself in a reasonable manner against a bodily sickness, that thou mayest more freely serve God both bodily and spiritually. For know thou well, that what man or woman that shall be occupied spiritually in thoughts, great pain or hunger wilfully undertaken or bodily sickness or pain in the stomach, or in the head, or in other parts of the body for want of good ruling of themselves in too much fasting, or in any other way, will much let the spirit, and much hinder him from the knowing and beholding of spiritual things, unless he have much grace, and be arrived to great abilities in the Contemplative life. For though it be true, that bodily pain either of penance, or of sickness, or of bodily occupation, sometime letteth not the fervour of love to God in devotion, but oft increaseth it, yet I believe that they let the fervour of love in Contemplation, the which may not be had nor felt fully, but in rest and freedom of body and soul from all the aforesaid corporal pains, wants, employments and solicitudes.

SECTION III

What Remedy a Man should use against the Faults in Eating and Drinking

THEREFORE, thou shalt behave thyself discreetly about thy body, yielding it necessaries reasonably, and then let God send thee what He pleaseth, either health or sickness; take it gladly, and grudge not willingly against Him.

Do as I say, take thy meat as it cometh, or provide it according to reason, and take it gladly, as a thing that thou needest; but be well aware of lusts that cometh with need, eschew too much as well as too little. And having done, if after it there arise in thee a remorse or biting of conscience, that thou hast eaten too much, and thereupon thou becomest sad and heavy with overmuch bitterness against thyself, lift up the desire of thy heart to thy good Lord Jesus, and acknowledge thyself a wretch, and a beast, and ask Him forgiveness, and say that thou wilt amend it, and pray that he will forgive thee. Leave off then, and think no further of it, nor strive so much with the vice, as if thou wouldst destroy it utterly, for it is not worth the doing so, neither shalt thou be ever able to bring it about that way; but set thyself about some other business bodily or ghostly, according as thou findest thyself best disposed, that thereby thou mayest profit more in other virtues, as in humility and charity. For wot thou well, that he that hath in his desire and in his endeavours no other respect to no other thing but Humility and Charity, always crying after them, how he may have them, he shall through such desire and manner of working profit and increase, not only in those two virtues, but also in all other virtues together with them, as in chastity, abstinence and such other (though he have but a little regard to them in comparison of the other, namely, Humility and Charity) more in one year than he should, without the said desire and manner of working, profit in seven years, though he strive against gluttony, lechery and such other continually, and beat himself with scourges each day from morning to even-song time.


Humility and charity the two great remedies.

Set thyself, therefore, about Humility and Charity, and using all thy diligence and industry to come by them, yet shalt thou have enough to do in getting of them. And if thou canst get them, they will direct thee, and measure thee privily and secretly, how thou shalt eat, and how thou shalt drink, and succour all thy bodily needs, that there shall no man know of it, unless thou thyself do tell it him, and that thou shalt not be in perplexity, scruples, vexation, anguishment, or heaviness, nor with any lust or adhering to the delights and likings of sensuality, but shalt do all in peace of a glad conscience with all quietness and satisfaction. I have spoken more than I thought to have done in this matter, but nevertheless do (as far as thou canst) as I say, and I hope God shall make all well.

By this that I have said, thou mayest in some measure see into this image of sin, and perceive how much it hinders thee. The Gospel saith, how that Abraham spake to the rich man that was buried in hell, on this wise: There is betwixt us and you a great chaos;138 that is to say, a thick darkness betwixt thee and us, that we cannot come to thee, nor thou to us. This dark image in thy soul and mine may be in like manner called a chaos, that is, a great darkness, for it letteth us that we cannot come to Abraham, which is Jesus, and it letteth Him, that He will not come to us.



CHAPTER IX
Of the Five Windows of this dark Image, and what cometh in by them, and how they are to be ordered

LIFT up thy lanthorn, and thou shalt see in this image five windows, by which sin cometh into thy soul, as the Prophet saith: Death cometh in by our windows.139 These are the five senses by which thy soul goeth out of herself, and fetcheth her delight, and seeketh her feeding in earthly things, contrary to the nobility of her own nature. As by the eye to see curious and fair things, and so of the other senses. By the unskilful using of these senses willingly to vanities, thy soul is much letted from the sweetness of the spiritual senses within; and therefore it behoveth thee to stop these windows, and shut them, but only when need requireth to open them.
The understanding of the dignity of our soul would make us forsake fleshly things.

And this would be little mastery or difficulty for thee to do, if thou didst once see thy own soul by clear understanding what it is, and how fair it is in its own nature, and so is still, were it not so overlaid with a black mantle of this foul image. But because thou knowest it not, therefore leavest thou the inward sight of thyself, and seekest thy food without, abroad, like a brute beast. Thus saith our Lord in a threatening way to a chosen soul in holy Writ: Thou fairest among women, if thou knowest not thyself, go out, and walk after the steps of the flock of thy fellows, and feed thy kids.140 And it is as much as to say: Thou soul, fair by nature, made after the likeness of God, frail in thy body as a woman, by reason of the first sin, that thou knowest not thyself, nor how that angels' food should be thy delights within, therefore goest thou out by thy bodily senses, and seekest thy meat and thy liking as a beast of the flock, that is as141 one outcast and rejected, and therewith thou feedest thy thoughts and thine affections, which are unclean as goats. It is a shame for thee to do so.

And, therefore, turn home again into thyself and hold thee within, and beg no more without, namely, swines' meat. For if thou wilt needs be a beggar, ask and crave within of thy Lord Jesus, for He is rich enough, and gladlier would give thee than thou canst ask, and run no more out as a beast of the flock, that is a worldly man or woman, that hath no delight but in his bodily senses. And if thou do thus, thy Lord Jesus will give thee all that thou needest, for He will lead thee into His wine cellar, and make thee to taste and try His wines, which liketh thee best for he hath many tuns. Thus a chosen soul, joying in our Lord, saith of Him in holy Writ: The King brought me into His wine cellar.142 That is to say: Inasmuch as I forsook the drunkenness of fleshly lusts and worldly likings, which are bitter as wormwood, therefore the King of bliss, the Lord Jesus, led me in; that is, first into myself for to behold and know myself, and after He led me into His cellar; that is to say, above myself by ascending and passing into Him alone, and gave me a taste of His wine; that is for to taste a certainty of spiritual sweetness and heavenly joy. These are not the words of me, a wretched caitiff, living in sin, but they are the words of the spouse of our Lord in holy Writ; and these words I say to thee, to the end that thou mightest draw in thy soul from without, and follow on further as well as thou canst.


When the use of the senses are deadly sin, and when only venial.

I will show thee furthermore (for thy desire draweth more out of my heart than I thought to have said in the beginning) when the use of thy senses be deadly sin, and when venial. Thus, therefore, our Lord saith in the Gospel: A man made a great supper, and called many thereto, and sent his servant at supper-time, after them that were bidden. The first excused himself, and said on this wise, that he could not come, for he had bought a farm. The other also excused himself, that he could not come, for he had bought five yoke of oxen, and went to try them. The third, for that he had married a wife.143 I forbear to speak of the first and of the last, and will tell ye of the middlemost of them, that had bought the oxen, for he is to our purpose. Five yoke of oxen betoken the five senses, which are beastly as an ox. Now this man that was called to the supper was not rejected because he bought the oxen, but because he went to try them, and so he would not come. Right so say I to thee; for to have thy senses, and to use them in need, it is no sin, but if thou go voluntarily to try them by vain delights in creatures, then it is sin. And if thou choose that delight as a final rest of thy soul, and as a full liking, that thou carest not to have any other bliss but such worldly vanities, then is it deadly, for thou choosest it as thy God, and so shalt thou be put from thy supper; for St Paul forbids us to use our senses in that manner when he said thus: Thou shalt not go after thy lusts, nor voluntarily try thy likings. A man or a woman that is encumbered with deadly sin shall hardly escape deadly sin in this business, though he perceiveth it not; but I hope this toucheth not thee.

Nevertheless, if thou through frailty delight thee in thy senses, and in such vanities, but yet keepest thyself in charity and the grace of God as to other things, and choosest not this delight for a full rest of thy soul, but always settest up God above all things in thy desire, this sin in thee is venial; and that more or less according to its circumstances; nor shalt thou for these venial sins be put from the supper in the bliss of heaven, but thou shalt want the tasting and the assaying of that delicate supper, whilst thou livest here on earth, unless thou be busy with all thy might to withstand and conquer such venial sins, for though it be so that venial sins break not charity, yet soothly they let the fervour and the ghostly feeling of charity.

But thou wilt say again, that thou canst not keep from hearing of vanities, for divers, both those that live in the world and others, come oft to speak with thee, and tell thee some tales of vanity.

How we should behave ourselves with them that come to speak with us.

As unto this I say thus, that thy communing with thy neighbour is not much hurt to thee, but helpeth thee sometimes, if thou order thy business wisely; for that thou mayest try and find out thereby the measure of thy charity to thy neighbour, whether it be much or little. Thou art bounden (as all other men and women are) to love thy neighbour principally in thy heart, and also in deeds to show him tokens of charity, as reason asketh, according to thy might and knowledge. And since it is so that thou oughtest not to go out of thy house to seek occasion how thou mightest profit thy neighbour by deeds of charity, because thou art enclosed; nevertheless thou art bound to love all men in thy heart, and to show some tokens of true love to them that come to thee. And therefore, whoso will speak with thee, whatsoever he be, or of what degree soever, though thou knowest not what he is, nor why he cometh, yet be thou soon ready with a good will to ask what his will is, be not dainty, nor suffer him long to wait for thee, but look how ready and how glad thou wouldst be if an angel of heaven should come and speak with thee, so ready and so buxom be thou in will for to speak with thy neighbour when he cometh to thee, for thou knowest not what he is, nor why he cometh, nor what need he hath of thee, or thou of him, till thou hast tried. And though thou be at prayer, or at thy devotions, that thou thinkest loth to break off, for that thou thinkest that thou oughtest not leave God for to speak with anyone, I think not so in this case, for if thou be wise thou shalt not leave God, but thou shalt find Him, and have Him, and see Him, in thy neighbour, as well as in prayer, only in another manner.

If thou canst love thy neighbour well, to speak with thy neighbour with discretion shall be no hindrance to thee. Discretion shalt thou have on this manner as me thinketh; Whoso cometh to thee, ask him meekly what he would have; and if he come to tell thee his disease or trouble and to be comforted by thy speech, hear him gladly, and suffer him to say what he will, for ease of his own heart; and when he hath done, comfort him if thou canst, gladly, gently and charitably, and soon break off. And then, after that, if he will fall into idle tales, or vanities of the world, or of other men's actions, answer him but little, and feed not his speech, and he will soon be weary, and quickly take his leave.

If it be another man that cometh to teach thee, as some Churchman, etc., hear him humbly, and with reverence to his order; and if his speeches comfort thee, ask of him more what thou needest, and take not upon thee to teach him, for it falleth not to thy share to teach a priest, but in case of necessity. If his speech comfort thee or profit thee not, answer little, and he will soon take his leave.

If it be another man that cometh to give thee his alms, or else for to hear thee speak, or to be taught by thee, speak gently and humbly to them all, reprove no man for his faults, for that belongeth not to thee, unless he be the more homely or familiar with thee, that thou knowest that he will take it well from thee. And to be short in this matter of thy telling of another of his faults, I say, that when thou conceivest that it will do him good (namely, in his soul) thou mayest tell him thy mind, if thou hast opportunity, and if he is likely to take it well. And above all other things, in this matter of conversing with thy neighbour, keep silence as much as thou canst, and then shalt thou see that by so doing thou shalt in short time be troubled with little press or company that would come to hinder thy devotions. This is my opinion herein; do thou better if thou canst.



CHAPTER X
Of another Hole or Window that is to be stopped as well as the Windows of the Senses, namely, the Imagination

BUT thou wilt say that thou hast done all this, namely, stopped the windows of thy five senses, so that thou seest no worldly things, nor hearest them, nor hast any use of thy senses, more than need requireth; and for that end thou art enclosed. And to this I answer: If thou do thus, as I hope thou dost, then hast thou stopped a great window of this image, but yet art thou not secure; for that thou hast not stopped the privy holes of the imaginations of thy heart. For though thou seest me not with thy bodily eye, yet mayest thou see me at the same time in thy soul by imagination; and so mayest thou do of all bodily things. If, then, thou feedest thy soul willingly and wittingly by imaginations of vanities of the world, and desiring of worldly things; as a comfort or pleasure and ease; verily though thy soul be kept within as to thy bodily senses, it is notwithstanding far without by such vain imaginations.

But now thou wilt ask me whether it be any great sin for a soul to busy itself in such vanities, either by the outward senses or by the inward imaginations and thoughts. As unto this I say; that I would never have thee ask any man this question; for he that will truly love God, he asketh not commonly, whether this or that be the greater sin? For he will think that whatsoever letteth him from the love of God is a great sin, and will think nothing sin but that thing which is not good, and letteth him from the love of God. What is sin but a wanting or a forbearing of good? I say not that it will or ought to grieve him so much as a mortal sin would, or a venial sin should, neither say I but that he knoweth and distinguisheth a mortal sin from a venial, and fleeth it more than the other.



CHAPTER XI
A Brief Rehearsal of what hath been said in the former Chapters, with a Portraiture of this dark Image of sin

BY this that I have said mayest thou see a little the darkness of this image of sin, not that I have described it fully to thee as it is, for I cannot; nevertheless by this little thou mayest see more if thou look well.

But thou wilt say, how know you that I bear about me such an image as you speak of? To which I answer, that I may take to me a word said by the prophet, which is this: Inveni idolum mihi -- I have found an idol in myself;144 that is, a false image, which some call an idol, very foul, disfigured and misshapen with wretchedness of all those sins which I have spoken of, by the which I am cast down into fleshly or sensual pleasures and worldly vanities, from cleanness of heart, and feeling of spiritual virtues, more than I can or may say: and such fall of mine much grieveth me, and I cry God mercy for it. By this wretchedness which I feel in my own self, more than I have said, may I the better tell thee of thy image, for we all came of Adam and Eve, clothed with clothes of beasts' skins, as the Scripture saith: Our Lord made to Adam and his wife clothes of a beast's hide.145 In token that by sin they were come to be misshapen like to a beast, in which beastly clothes we all are born, and wrapped, and disfigured from our kingly shape.


The parts of this Image.

This then is an ugly image to look upon; whose head is pride; for pride is the first and principal sin, as the wise man saith: The beginning of all manner of sin is pride.146 The back and hinder part of it is covetousness, as St Paul saith: I forget that which is behind (vizi, all worldly things) and I stretch forward to that which is before.147 The breast (in which is the heart) is Envy; for it is no fleshly sin, but it is a devil's sin, as the wise man saith: By envy of the devil death came into the world,148 for all those that are of his party follow him therein. The arms of it are wrath, inasmuch as a man wreaketh or revengeth himself by his arms, contrary to Christ's bidding in the Gospel: If a man smite thee upon one cheek, thou shalt not smite him again, but offer him the other.149 The belly of this image is gluttony, as St Paul saith: Meat serveth for the belly, and the belly for meat, but God shall destroy them both;150 namely, at the last day, when shall be the full reforming of his chosen, and damning of the reprobate, The members of it are lechery, of the which St Paul saith thus: Yield not your members to be instruments of iniquity unto sin; especially to this sin of lechery. The feet of it are sloth; therefore the wise man said to the slow and lazy person (to stir him up to do good deeds), Run, make haste, raise thy friend,151 that is to say, run quickly about to good works, and make haste, for the time passeth, and raise up thy friend, which is Jesus, by devout Prayer and Meditation. Here hast thou heard the members of this image.

CHAPTER XII
A comparing of this Image with the Image of Jesus, and how it is to be dealt with

THIS is not the image of Jesus, but it is liker an image of the Devil, for the image of Jesus is made of virtues, with humility and perfect love and charity; but this is made of false fleshly love to thyself, with all those members, spoken of in the former chapter, fastened thereto. This image bearest thou, and every man whatsoever he be, until by grace of Jesus it be somewhat destroyed and broken down. Thus David seemeth to say in the Psalter: Man passeth away as an image, and is troubled in vain.152 Which is as if he had said: Though it be so that man in the beginning was made after the image of God, stable and stedfast; nevertheless because of sin, he proceedeth far in this image of sin, living in this world, by the which he is unstable and troubled in vain. Also St Paul speaketh of this Image thus: As we have heretofore borne the image of the earthly man, the first Adam, that is, the image of sin, Right so now (if we will come to the love of God) let us bear the image of the heavenly man Jesus,153 which is the image of virtues.
This image is to be crucified and to be broken down. And how? First by the help of Jesus.

What shalt thou do with this image? I answer thee by a word that the Jews said to Pilate of Christ -- Crucify Him. Take thou this body of sin, and do Him on the Cross; that is to say, break down this image, and slay the false love of sin in thyself; as Christ's body was slain for our sins and trespasses; right so it behoveth thee, if thou wilt be like Christ, slay thy bodily liking and fleshly lusts in thyself. Thus said St Paul: Those that are Christ's followers have crucified and slain their flesh (that is, the image of sin) with all the lusts,154 and the unreasonable desires and appetites of it. Slay then and break down Pride, and set up Humility; also break down Anger and Envy, and raise up Love and Charity to thy neighbour. Also instead of Covetousness, poverty of Spirit; instead of Sloth, fervour in devotion with cheerful readiness to all good deeds; and instead of Gluttony and Lechery, Sobriety and Charity in body and soul. This considered St Paul, when he said thus: Putting off the old man with all his members, which is rotten according to the desires of error, ye shall shape you and clothe you in the new man, which is the image of God by holiness and righteousness155 and perfection of virtues. Who shall help thee to break down this image? Verily thy Lord Jesus. In the virtue and in the Name of Him shalt thou break down this mawment (or idol) of sin, pray to Him earnestly, and desire it, and He shall help thee.
Second, by keeping our hearts. How we may know our heart and affections.

Gather then thy heart together, and do after the counsel of the wise man, when he saith thus: With all diligence keep thine heart, for out of it cometh life,156 and that is when it is well kept, for then wise thoughts, clean affections and burning desires of virtues and of charity, and of the bliss of Heaven come out of it, making the soul to live a blessed life. But on the contrary, if it be not kept, then as our Lord saith in the Gospel, evil thoughts and unclean affections come out of the heart which defile the man. They either benumb and kill the life of the soul by mortal sin, or else they enfeeble the soul and make it sick, if they be venial. For what is a man but his thoughts and his loves? These alone make a man good or bad. So much as thou lovest God and thy neighbour, and knowest Him, so much is thy soul, and if thou love Him little, little is thy soul, and if thou love Him not at all, nothing at all is thy soul. It is nothing as to good, but it is much as to sin. And if thou wilt know what thou lovest, look and observe what thou thinkest upon most, for where our love is, there is our eye; and where our liking is, upon that our heart is thinking most. If thou love God much, thou likest to think much upon Him, and if thou love Him little, then little dost thou think upon Him. Rule well thy thoughts and thine affections, and then art thou virtuous.

Undertake then the breaking down of this image, when thou hast first well bethought thee of thyself, and of thy wretchedness, inwardly, as I have said, how proud, how vain, how envious, how melancholy (or froward), how covetous, how fleshly, and how full of corruption. Also how little knowing, feeling or savour thou hast of God and of spiritual things, how wise, how quick and how much savour thou hast in earthly things. And (that I may say all in one word) how thou art as full of sin as an hide or skin is full of flesh, yet be not thou too much dejected, though thou thinkest thus of thyself. And when thou hast done thus, lift up then the desire of thy heart to thy Lord Jesus, and pray for His help, cry to Him with great desires and sighings that He will help thee to bear this great burthen of this image, or else that He will break it. Think also what a shame it is for thee to be fed with swines' meat of fleshly savours, that oughtest to feel a spiritual savour of heavenly joy.


This breaking will be painful at first. But afterwards more easy.

If thou dost thus, then beginnest thou to rise against the whole ground of sin in thee, as I have said. And it may be that thou shalt feel pain and sorrow, for thou must know that no soul can live without pain, heaviness and sadness, unless that she take delight or have her rest either in her Creator or in some creature. And, therefore, when thou risest against thyself by a fervent desire for to attain to the feeling of thy Lord Jesus within thee, and for to draw away thy love from all bodily things, and from rest in all bodily feelings, insomuch that thou art even a burthen to thyself, and it seems to thee that all creatures are risen up against thee, and all the things, which heretofore thou tookest delight in, do now turn thee to pain and heaviness. And when thou hast thus forsaken thyself, and canst not likely, for all that, as yet find comfort in God, needs must thy soul feel and suffer pain in this case. Nevertheless, I hope that he that will suffer this pain awhile, stedfastly, cleaving to the desire and naked mind after Jesus Christ, and to that his desire, that he will have nothing but his Lord, and will not lightly depart therefrom, nor seek any other comfort from without for a time (for it lasteth not long), our Lord is nigh to him, and soon shall ease his heart, for He will help him to bear his body or sensuality, which is full of corruption; and will, with His merciful power of His gracious presence, break down this false image of love in him; not all at once, but by little and little, till he be in some measure reformed to His likeness.
The means to facilitate it.

After such a total rising and resolution made by thee against thyself, when it is passed thou shalt more soberly, more gently and more easily rule thyself, and more charily keep and guard thy thoughts and thine affections, and shalt note and discern them, whether they be good or bad. And thereupon if afterwards thou feel (I put this for an example) a stirring of pride in any manner or spice of it, be then presently well aware, as well and as soon as thou canst, and suffer it not to escape away lightly, but take it in mind, and there rent it, break it and despise it, and do all the shame thou canst unto it; look thou spare it not, nor believe it, though it speak never so fair, for it is false, though it seem to be truth; as the Prophet saith: My people, they who call thee blessed, do deceive thee (by their so saying) and would bring thee into error.157

And if thou be diligent to do thus, thou shalt, by the grace of Jesus, within short time, stop much of the spring of Pride and much abate the vain delight thereof, so that thou shalt very early feel any such motion in thee. And when thou feelest it, it shall be so weak and, as it were, half dead, that it shall not much trouble thee. And then shalt thou have a spiritual sight of the virtue of Humility, and see how good and how fair it is, and thou shalt desire it and love it for its goodness, so that it shall please thee both to behold and see thyself as thou art indeed, and also to be esteemed and held by others to be such a one, that is full of corruption, and (if need be) to suffer gladly despite and reproof for love of righteousness.

In like manner when thou feelest any stirrings of wrath, or anger, or of melancholic risings of heart, or any other evil will against thy neighbour, for any manner of cause, though it seem reasonable, and not to be against charity, beware of it, and be ready with thy thought to restrain it, that it turn not into a further liking or consent; resist it as much as thou canst, and follow it not neither by word nor deed, but as it riseth, smite it down again, and so shalt thou slay it with the sword of the fear of God, that it shall not trouble thee, for know well in all these stirrings of pride, vain-glory, envy, or any other, that as soon as thou perceiveth it, and resistest it with displeasure of thy will and of thy reason, thou slayest it. Though it be so, that it cleave still upon thy heart against thy will, and will not lightly pass away, fear it not, for though it letteth thy soul from peace, yet doth it not defile her.

Right so in like manner shalt thou do against all evil stirrings of Covetousness, Sloth, Gluttony and Lechery; that thou be always ready with thy reason and thy will to reprove them and despise them.


An excellent way to facilitate it is to set our desire upon God.

And this mayest thou do the better, and the more readily, if thou be diligent and careful to set thy heart most upon one thing, and that is nought else but a spiritual desire after God, how to please Him, love Him and know Him, to see Him and to enjoy Him by grace here in a little feeling, and in the bliss of Heaven in a full being. This desire, if thou keep it, it will tell thee what is sin, and what is not; and what thing is good and what better; and if thou wilt but fasten thy thoughts to the same desire, it shall teach thee all that thou needest, and it shall procure thee all that thou wantest. And, therefore, whensoever thou risest against the ground of sin in general, or against the ground of any particular sin, hang fast upon this desire, and set the point of thy thoughts more upon God whom thou desirest than upon the sin which thou abhorrest. And if thou do so, then God fighteth for thee, and will destroy sin in thee. And thou shalt much sooner come to thy purpose if thou doest thus, than if thou shouldst leave thy humble desire principally after God, and set thy heart only against the stirrings of sin, as though thou wouldst destroy it by thy own mastering of it, but thou shalt never so bring it about.

CHAPTER XIII
How a Man shall be shapen to the Image of Jesus, and Jesus shapen in him

Do as I have said, and better if thou canst, and I hope by the grace of Jesus thou shalt make the devil ashamed, and shalt break down all such wicked stirrings, that they shall not much trouble thee. And by this course may the image of sin be broken down in thee and destroyed, by the which thou art misshapen from the kindly shape of Christ's image; and thou shalt be reformed and shapen again to the image of the Humanity of Jesus, by humility and charity, and afterwards shalt thou become full shapen to the image itself of the Godhead, whilst thou livest here, as it were in a shadow of it in contemplation, and hereafter in verity and full reality in the bliss of Heaven.

Of this shaping to the likeness of Christ St Paul speaks thus: My little children whom I travail with again (as a woman that were with child with you) until Christ be shapen again in you.158 Thou hast conceived Christ within thee by faith, and He liveth in thy soul by grace, inasmuch as thou hast a good will and a desire to serve Him and please Him; but He is not yet fully shapen in thee, nor thou in Him by perfection of charity. And therefore St Paul bare thee and me and others also with travail, as a woman beareth a child, until the time that Christ hath His full shape in us, and we in Him. Of this treateth the second book.



CHAPTER XIV
The Conclusion of this Book, and of the Cause why it was made, and how she for whom it was made was to make use of it


The true way to contemplation.

WHOSO thinkest to attain to the working and to the full use of contemplation and not by this way, that is by perfection of virtues, and taking full heed thereto, cometh not in by the door, and therefore as a thief he shall be cast out. I say not but that a man may have by the gift of God, at by times, a tasting and a glimmering of the contemplative life; some I say at the beginning of their conversion. But the solid feeling of it shall he not have, until he have gotten in him some perfection of virtues. For Christ is the door, and is also the porter, and without His leave and His liberty no man may come in; as He Himself saith: No man cometh to the Father but by Me.159 That is to say, no man can come to the contemplation of the Godhead but he that is first reformed by perfection of humility and charity, to the likeness of Jesus in His Humanity.

Lo, then, have I told thee a little, as methinketh, first of Contemplative life, what it is; and then of the ways which, by the grace of God, lead thereunto. Not as if I had it myself in feeling and in working, as I have it in talking. Nevertheless, I would by this writing of mine (such as it is) first stir up my own negligence to do better than I have done; and also my purpose is, to stir thee, or any other man or woman that hath taken the state of life Contemplative, to travail more diligently and more humbly in that manner of life, by such simple words as God hath given me grace for to say. And therefore if there be any word therein that stirreth thee or comforteth thee more to the love of God, thank God, for it is His gift and not of the words written. And if it comforteth thee not, and thou understandest it not readily, study not too long about it, but lay it aside till another time, and go to thy prayers or some other business; take it as it will come, and not all at once.

Also these words which I write, take them not too strictly, but when thou thinkest, upon good consideration, that I write too short, either for lack of English or lack of reason, I pray thee amend it only where need is. Also these words which I write to thee, belong not all of them to one that is of an active life, but to thee or to any other which hath the state of life contemplative.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with thee.



THE SECOND BOOK

CHAPTER I
1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   ...   28


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