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MARTHA MAY SERVE AS A MIRROR FOR IMPERFECT RELIGIOUS MEN; MARY FOR SUCH AS ARE GROWN TO PERFECTION.
MARTHA, because she is distracted in her external actions and in her right intentions by the multiplicity of vain cogitations, and is troubled about many things, although peradventure she be not deformed, yet is she not comely enough. But Mary, because she knoweth how to forsake the troops of unstable cogitations, and persisting in unity and tranquillity of mind, doth strive to cleave to goodness itself, is of more perfect beauty. Wherefore howsoever you are externally occupied, love not only to be right and innocent with Martha, but also to be clear and simple with Mary. Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her. And you have chosen the same; which unless you keep, according to your power, you produce not fruit worthy your profession. Have therefore always a charitable simplicity 79of mind if you be yet a little one in Christ, and are not able to follow Mary, soaring so high in mind; imitate her humility, imitate her affectionate watering our Lord’s feet with tears, imitate her most lovingly seeking our Lord in the sepulchre. For even in these she had simplicity of mind; she loved one thing, she thought on one thing, she sought one thing. But imitate her not for your own delight, but to please our Lord. For if by spiritual delectation you do principally seek yourself in these, your soul is not the chaste spouse of Christ, but the most base servant of sin; I might say, the devil’s impure hackney. You shall at length merit to be admitted to the apprehension of higher mysteries by these that are more low, if I may so call them, which, indeed, are not low, but of a wondrous height.
In all things that differ not from the sincerity of a monastical life, conform yourself to the Community, still avoiding vicious irregularity. And because you live among Monks that live laudably according to the sweet austerity of a holy Rule, be not singular in abstinence and watching; neither exceed the rest of the Monks therein, unless by the 80revelation of the Holy Ghost you know it to be the will and pleasure of God. Neither attempt anything without the counsel and consent of your Superior, lest, while you presume of your own head to afflict your body beyond measure, you make yourself unable for good works, and wholly deprive yourself of the fruit of your labour. God requireth of you purity of mind, not the overthrow of your body. He would that you should subject it to the spirit, not oppress it. Therefore, as well in external exercises as internal, temper the fervour of your mind with a holy discretion.
If your will, being more slow to virtue. and remiss, do, as it were, sleep, rouse it up, spur it forward. But if, having too much bridle, it run too fast, repress and check it. Always assist it with holy fear in the presence of God. And let these words always resound in the ears of your heart—“Look to thyself.” Consider not over-curiously the deeds of others, what are their manners and behaviour, unless it belong unto you as an officer. Let your curiosity and business be about yourself. Howbeit, think not in this that I would have you make no account of the excesses or sins of others, or neglect to amend 81them as much as in you lieth, or procure them to be amended. For we condemn curiosity, not holy zeal of justice. We d4commend not what in this case is not against mature stability, or contrary to the sincere love of your neighbour. These vices that you see in others, or hear of them, either think them not to be simply true, or interpret them in the better part; but if they be so manifest that no interpretation can qualify them, endeavour to separate your sight both of body and mind from them, and reflecting on your own sins, if you have leisure, humbly pray to God both for yourself and them. For so shall you more easily avoid unquiet suspicions and rash judgements. But beware that with consent of reason you rejoice not at another’s sin, though of small moment, or of any adversity; but mourn for your brother before our Lord, calling to mind that we are members one of another, all one body, and redeemed all with the same blood. Learn not to be angry, but to pity the defects of others, and patiently to bear with them, whether they be defects of body or mind.
For it is written, “Bear one another’s burdens;” and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ. Let not 82the heavenly grace which you observe in others excite you to satanical envy, but to a faithful imitation and godly congratulation. And although you have not the spiritual good that you know another to be blessed with, yet rejoice in heart that God is honoured by it: as readily thank our Lord for it as if it were your own.
And, indeed, it will be to your own good, and you shall be crowned for another’s as for your own. Nay, more; it shall become your own. So order your mind that you desire not to please the world, nor fear to displease it. In man, although very nearly allied, love nothing but good, or the grace and workmanship of good. And again, hate nothing but vice.
Offend not God willingly, either for kinsmen, friends, or any other body’s sake, though never so well deserving at your own hands; neither favour, flatter, or applaud any one in any sin. Do not earnestly desire the presence or speech of any man unless it be for some spiritual good; and yet a perplexed earnestness is neither, then, good. Love all men, but spiritually, not sensually. For so it will come to pass, that you will not be inordinately troubled at the corporal absence of such as are 83virtuous or your friends, nor afflicted at the corporal presence of such as are vicious or your enemies.
Nay, esteem no man your enemy, but love even your persecutors, as the most dear furtherers of your salvation. Whatsoever you see, hear, or perceive in creatures to be delightful and worthy of singular admiration, either by their natural disposition, or the art and industry of man, refer it to the praise of the great Creator, or the use of eternal beatitude, that you may be delighted in our Lord. Always be afraid of sensual delectation, whencesoever it hath its beginning. For if you seek yourself by that and cleave to it, you will be entangled and defiled. Utterly detest the love of all sinners, yea, even of the very least. By which, notwithstanding, if, peradventure, being overreached, you fall out of frailty, afflict not yourself unreasonably with inordinate pusillanimity, but humbly confess your fault before our Lord, and renewing your good purpose and piously taking heart, cast all your defects into the unsearchable profundity of His mercies or His most holy wounds. As long as you live in this clay building of your body, you may mortify in yourself the affections of lesser sinners, but wholly avoid to slip into them you 84cannot. Godly Monks, although they slip sometimes, yea, very often, yet they hate sinning and beware of it, and grieve after they have offended; but perverse Monks sin without hating, without bewailing of it. For they take no pains to extinguish the affections of lesser faults, nor to avoid the occasion of them. They desire the liberty of a more loose life; they love to be absent from Divine Office and other conventual acts; they desire delicate and superfluous meat and drink; they espy out opportunities of trifling; they affect inordinate laughter. They, delight in secular businesses, to see vanities, to have curious things for their own use: self-complacence, foolish joy, idleness, vain talk, fables, fantastic behaviour, and such other vices are with them not at all, or scarcely accounted, faults; in their conscience they make no bones of them. For being made insensible, they think themselves whole when they are deeply wounded, and, therefore, neither care for lamenting their sins, nor amending their life. But what say they? These, say they, are no wounds, or if they be, they are very little ones, and as much as nothing. O wretched Monks! O mad Monks! O Monks, not Monks! For although they seem little, yet, because they are not afraid to 85receive them, and after receipt of them defer to cure them, they become mortal. I speak nothing of their falling into pride, rebellion, disobedience, murmurings, fury, detractions, hatred, envy, contempt, gluttony, with other hideous sins, and all by this negligence. Do not, Brother, do not imitate these; for they are not disciples of the Crucified, and the beloved friends of God; neither ever shall be, unless they leave off to be what they are. Look you better to yourself, leave, remove, cast aside whatsoever may any way hinder you from the true love of God.86
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