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[§ 22] ON THE LIFE OF SOUL AND OF FLESH, [§ 23] AND OF THE GLORY OF THE GOOD SOUL, [§ 24] AND THE MISERY OF THE WICKED SOUL, ON THEIR DEPARTURE FROM THE BODY.
So long as his soul dwells in the body, a man lives according to the flesh; and on its departure he dies according to the same flesh. And it is equally true that, just as the soul supplies life to the flesh so long as it remains in the flesh, so that flesh in turn supplies the soul with life so long as the flesh does the works of justice. Thus soul and flesh are seen to act reciprocally; the soul working for the flesh, and the flesh for the soul; and, pro vided that the soul cooperates duly with the flesh, they win for each other the life of an. enduring life. There is a difference, however; inasmuch as the soul is introduced to that life when it has shaken off the flesh, whereas the flesh will not enjoy it until reunited to that soul at the resurrection on the last 63day. Therefore rejoice, O my soul, and thou, my flesh, rejoice in the living God (Ps. lxxxiii. 3). Come ye to God your Creator; come, and be enlightened (Ps. xxxiii. 6); and now no longer do that of which ye should be ashamed; but always study to do what may ensure you joy for ever. I implore and I exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. vi. 1). For although He now suffers much to be done by you which much displeases Him, think not that He will suffer it always. For He is patient, doubtless, but yet a rewarder; and loving, but yet a searcher of heart and reins. He endures much now, awaiting our amendment, such is His great gentleness; but if we do not correct ourselves betimes, He will condemn us, such is His perfect justice. And He, who is now so kind to us as to call us His brethren and His friends, will then, at that last scrutiny, reject us as enemies whom He refuses to know, there being no good works by which He can know us.
My soul and my flesh, now, now at least, keep watch at all times and everywhere, thinking on your end. For, it may be, you will not easily sin if you do this; and, if you do it as I admonish you, you may be secure; because, in the day when many are sorrowing who now laugh and rejoice, 64you will be glad and exult with an unspeakable joy.
Give diligent heed, therefore, to your works. If they are good and pleasing to God, rejoice; if they are bad and not acceptable to Him, reform them at once. Let not your eye slumber, nor your eyelids sleep. The pit of perdition is wide open, .and he who is ever so little off his guard, slips into it easily enough. Sin, injustice, folly, vanity, impel him to it scarce resisting, and, once plunged into it, there will be no escaping for ever. But as the pit of eternal destruction yawns for the wicked and the evil workers, so the gate of Paradise stands opened wide to the good and those who persevere in goodness; and the soul once welcomed there shall always remain and dwell there, full of joy and gladness for ever and ever.
[§ 23.] And now let us trace, if we can, with careful eye the course by which good works raise to heaven the soul of him who has lived well, whilst evil works drag the soul of the sinner into hell. The purged soul, as soon as she parts from the body, sees all her works; and seeing that all of them are good, rejoices with an indescribable joy. Presently an angel takes her into his keeping; 65yes, the angel who guarded her eyes from beholding vanity, and closed her ears against hearing iniquity, he embraces her; who kept watch about her mouth, that it should not speak lies, he protects her; who shielded her from sinning by sense of touch or smell, he rejoices in her; and in his great joy and blithesomeness hovers round about her, and sets her before the throne of the Divine brightness, there to be happy without end. And other angels then fly to greet her, and other saints, whose post is there before the face of the Majesty of God, and recognising her as their friend and their associate in good works, joyfully embrace her with the arms of a tenderest love; and, ac costing her as follows, declare the common joy of one and all of the denizens of bliss: ‘Lo, thou art our companion; lo, thou art our friend, for thou hast served God faithfully, and hast laboured with all thy might to do His commandments; now, now at last rest thee from thy toil, and enjoy unending happiness, now and onwards through eternity.’
[§ 24.] But, on the other hand, when the soul of the wicked is forced to go out of the body, angels of Satan presently receive her; and, binding her roughly with chains of fire, and forcing her 66still more roughly on from every side, hurry her off to the torments of that hell where Satan, plunged in the pit, lies deep and low, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (St. Matt. viii. 12), where ‘fire and brimstone and storms of wind is the portion of the cup of sinners’ (Ps. x. 7). Then the infernal king, Satan himself, clutching her in his grasp, and belching on her a breath of loathsome fire, orders her to be pinioned by his satellites, and, thus bound, to be cast into the midst of the tormenting fires, there to be tortured with out end with them, there without end to die undyingly for very grief. Then the unhappy soul, racked with pains, hedged round by the infernal fiends, above, beneath, on every side, returning at last to herself, and seeing all the evils she has ever done, cries with a woful cry, ‘Ah, poor me, poor me! why did I ever live? Poor me, racked all over with such strange torments! poor me! O worms, O worms, why do you gnaw me so cruelly? Pity me, pity me; pity poor me, that suffer so many and such awful other torments! Ah, poor me, poor me! And I want to die; but, dying and dying, still I cannot die. Now do I, poor wretch, receive again all wherein I sinned, by sight, by taste, by hearing, by smell, by touch.’ And yet it 67avails not the woe-begone soul so miserably grieving, so late repenting, so sadly crying out for pain, that so great sorrow now afflicts it. No; what in her earthly life she merited, that she now receives in the pains of hell, poor soul, poor sinful soul.
Therefore pay good heed, O my soul, and thou, O my flesh; and paying heed, judge true judgment, and decide which is the better, which the more profitable, course to follow; to do well and receive good, or to do ill and receive evil? Unless you are fools, you will answer, ‘To do well and get good.’ Therefore do good; do good that you may be able to have good, that Good from which all good is; I mean the Good of all good, which cannot but be good. Our Creator has given us many good things, He has placed many within our reach; but there is no good so precious, none so worthy of every wise man’s quest, as THE GOOD. to whom no created good may be compared; and He is our Creator Himself, who is never other than good. Which Good, if, by His grace, you are able to have, you will have all other goods in Him. But if, having others, you have not Him, the Sole Good, you labour in vain, and, like idiots chasing the wind, you will find at last not truth, but hollowness and vanity.68
No; all present glory, as indeed you see it to be if you rightly consider the matter, is like a bladder filled with wind; which, so long as it is held in the hands quite carefully and only looked at, shows goodly and fair enough; but if by any chance the smallest hole be pricked in it, emptiness—not goodliness, only emptiness and wind—is left in your hands.
Therefore reflect; and, as I admonished you at the beginning of this meditation, think ever on your last end; because thus thinking, and being always solicitous about your departure hence, you will not easily sin; and so living on to the last, the temporal joys being ended, which, whilst you were thus timorous, flitted like a puff of wind across your cheek, you will find not vanity but truth, which is Christ; to whom may He bring you who created you. Amen.69
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