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GOD HATH TWO SORTS OF SERVANTS, AND THE DESCRIPTION OF BOTH.
AMONG those that are called the servants of God, many serve Him unfaithfully, few faithfully. Indeed, unfaithful servants, as long as they have sensible devotion and present grace of tears, do serve God with alacrity, they pray willingly, joyfully go about good works, and seem to live in deep peace of heart; but as soon as God hath thought it good to withdraw that devotion, you shall see them troubled, chafe, become malicious and impatient, and at last neither willing to be at their prayers nor any other divine exercises. And because they feel not internal consolations as they desire, they perniciously betake themselves to those that are external and contrary to the spirit, whereby it is manifest that they are not purely God’s gift, and abuse them to their own pleasure; for if they did love God purely, and did not viciously rest in 15His gifts, they would remain peaceable in God, those gifts being taken away; and would not even then turn out of the way to unlawful consolations. Therefore they are unfaithful, because in adversity they keep not touch with God. They believe for awhile, and shrink back in time of trial. They would have all things go on their side, and endure nothing that goeth against them. If God grant those things that they would have, they serve Him; if He deny them, they leave Him—nay, in prosperity they serve not God, but themselves; and in all things would rather have their own will done than God’s. They place sanctity in internal sweetness and consolation, rather than in the perfect mortification of vices; being ignorant that by the withdrawing of devotion it more certainly appeareth, if one truly love God, than by the infusion of it. For that sensible devotion is commonly more truly a natural than spiritual devotion.
But whatsoever it be, unless a man make use of it wisely, it is wont oftentimes to bring him that is so affected to a hidden kind of pride, a wicked complacence . and a vain security, as we daily see in these unfaithful servants. For as soon 16as they are tickled with this inward sweetness, they will forsooth begin to judge and despise others: they think themselves great saints, and the secretaries of God; they expect and wonderfully long after divine revelations, and wish that some miracles were done by them, or of them, by which others might take notice of the holiness which they think they have, but have not. Thus do they use to vanish away in their own imaginations, who gape more after sensible grace than the Giver of grace. But faithful servants behave themselves far otherwise, for they seek not themselves, but God; neither their own consolation, but chiefly the will and honour of God; they always fly propriety; whether God be pleased to infuse or not to infuse the influence of internal sweetness, they are all one, and persisting in equality of mind cease not to love and praise God. It is not internal darkness, nor difficulty of senses, nor coldness of affections, nor dryness of heart, nor dejection of mind, nor drowsiness of spirit, nor adversity of temptation; to conclude, it is neither misery of adversity, nor success of prosperity, that is able to heave them out of their place; for although, peradventure, they 17feel in the inferior powers of the soul the oppression of inordinate sorrow proceeding from adversity, or the violence of sensual delight arising out of prosperity, they are not for all that dejected, because they continue quiet in the reason or higher part of the soul, and do conform their will to the divine will or permission, and grieve that they feel the least contradiction of unseemly motions. Being founded, therefore, as a firm rock, they persist steadfast in the love of God, as they whose chief comfort is in His will. They are always devout, because with all their power they avoid and abhor whatsoever is displeasing to God, and may never so little contaminate the purity of their heart; and, committing themselves in all chances to God, do still possess a pure, free, and quiet mind. This is the truest devotion and most acceptable to God. The other sensible devotion, which is more familiar to novices, or those that are lately converted, is not durable and sure, yet notwithstanding it is very profitable to us if we wisely make use of it. The faithful servants (for so I still call them, whom Christ calleth not servants, but friends), faithful servants, I say, do seek after that effectual 18and most pleasant sweetness of grace also; they seek after the joy of our Lord’s salvations; they seek after His most lovely countenance and most sweet embraces, but they do this with a spiritual and bashful, not with a sensual, greediness, or childish lightness, or a troubled impatience. They desire the gifts of God, not that they may be sensually delighted in them, but that, being made more fervent by them, and more pure from all inordinateness, they may please their heavenly Bridegroom. They love the gifts of God, and willingly thank Him for them; but yet they keep themselves, as it were, quiet and free from them as long as they rest not in them. By grace they go forward to the Giver of Grace and Supreme Good, in Whom only it is lawful for them to rest. They are truly happy, because by how much the less they stick to those gifts they receive so many the more.
And although they be never so much endowed with blessings from God, they lift not up their mind, they despise not others, but themselves; I say, they despise and acknowledge themselves unworthy of all spiritual grace, they always keep in mind that whatsoever they have it is of God’s 19mere mercy, and that of them more is exacted to whom more is given or committed. And so continuing in holy fear, and by these gifts proceeding in humility, they confess themselves to be below the lowest. They rejoice and glory within themselves if, being oppressed with unjust infamy, reproaches, injuries, and uttermost scorn, they have imitated Christ; not if they could be elevated above themselves by excess of mind, or could see strange visions, or do most apparent miracles. They, presently making the sign of the Cross, repel the deceitful suggestions by which the devil endeavours to allure them to vainglory and self-complacence, no way consenting to the subtleties of the wicked serpent. They do not confidently place the loss of their salvation either in the number or in the merit of good works which they do, but put their trust in the freedom of the sons of God, which they have obtained by the blood of Christ. We then, brother, knowing the difference of the faithful servants, endeavour to be of those which, may be, you are not of, and strive to leave them of whom, peradventure, you are one. If you are of those you would not be of, and are 20not of those of whom you would be, grieve and humble yourself, for God giveth grace to the humble. And certainly, if you humble yourself in the sight of our Lord, grieving that you are yet of the number of the unfaithful, you have already in a manner passed into the lot of the faithful; labour, persevere, fear not. You shall not be reproved with the unfaithful, but shall be received with the faithful.
There are others also that are bound to the divine service, and yet cannot be called either faithful or unfaithful servants of God; these a man may lawfully call the idle slaves of the devil. I mean those unhappy wretches that, esteeming either not at all, or very little, of devotion or the grace of God, and altogether neglecting the interior parts, make a show, as though they honoured God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him. These being plunged over head and ears in a sea of evil, do little think of their own salvation. These are all one to-day as they were yesterday. They came from the choir as they went thither, viz., unclean, tepid, apt to no goodness, wandering, dissolute, without fear, without reverence. By the divine praises, which with a polluted mouth they 21utter, they more exasperate than please. I would to God these had kept them in the world; for what do they in monasteries? why tread they on holy ground? why devour they the alms of the just? why pollute they the angelical schools of spiritual exercises with carnal delights? If they intended to live uncleanly, they should have remained in a place for their purpose, and not have entered into places of purity. Living negligently in monasteries, they double the punishments of hell which their ill living in the world had deserved. But it is out of our way to speak more of these things; wherefore I return whence I strayed.22
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