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CHAPTER XI.

PERFECT MORTIFICATION IS THE CERTAIN AND ONLY SHORT WAY TO PERFECTION.

BY mortification, as by a certain and compendious way, hasten to perfection of life. Will you in few words know what this generality of mortification is? Will you know that only certain short cut? I will tell you I will show you. Give ear therefore. Put off all propriety. Behold this short way. Put off all propriety. And what is the meaning of this? Lay aside all you own will and seeking put off all the old man. But that you may the better understand what is spoken, I will propose the same a little more plainly.

Have you bound yourself to the observance of poverty? Why, then, be poor. Poor, how is that? Be poor in the desire of wealth and passions of the mind, poor in spirit. If you love and desire anything by propriety of affection and sensuality; 87if as yet you seek yourself in anything, you are yet voluntary, you are not yet truly poor; you cannot yet, with St. Peter, say to God, “So we have left all, and have followed Thee.” Strip yourself, leave all, put off all propriety. Whatsoever is not God, let not abide in your heart by cleaving to it, or inordinately loving it. Be free from all things that are besides God; insomuch, that I would have you neither foolishly to rejoice for any good news, nor to be inordinately dejected for any bad; and whether you have not received what you yet have not, or have lost what you have, every way keep a stable and quiet state of mind. For God’s sake utterly deny all sensible things, yea, even yourself. Which is as much as to say, mortify in yourself the force of concupiscence, delight, anger, and natural indignation; and as well in adversity as prosperity resign yourself over to God’s divine pleasure, without any contradiction of will. I have showed you that this short way and general mortification of yourself in none other than the general casting away of all propriety, that is, a humiliation of yourself in all kinds. For, indeed, perfect humility itself is that shortest way, by which 88you go straightforward to the port of perfection. Now this port is perfect charity, or purity. You will demand how you may know whether you have attained to that port. I will give you manifest instructions. If always abiding in silence of heart, as in a most quiet haven, you affectionately direct and incline towards God your mind, being free from all inordinate care, affection, and earnest imagination of things that are below you, and, in a word, from all disquiet and tumult, so that your memory, your understanding, your will—that is, your whole spirit—possessing the above-named port, be happily united to God.

This is the sum of all perfection. For although, being clothed with this corruptible flesh, we cannot always by present insight and memory stick to the theory and speculation of God, yet here we ought always to be fixed by our intention; and hither, as to a mark, we ought carefully to recall our mind as often as we waste ourselves by unseasonable, light, and unsettled cogitations. As long as by reading, meditating, hearing, or speaking, we profitably and sincerely treat of any contemplative and spiritual matter, we are not separated from God. 89Neither when, occasion, requiring, we do with the like sobriety and sincerity speak or think of external matters in their due time, do we go far from God. Oh, what a brave philosopher, what a wise man, what an excellent divine shall I account you oh, how happy and blessed, if you convey these things by your corporal ears into the ears of your heart, and, being stirred up to the true mortification of yourself, do lay the axe to the root of the tree. But what tree is this? It is propriety, of which we spake a little before. But what is the axe, then? It is the fervour of spiritual and internal exercise. But chiefly the daily handling of our Lord’s Passion, and often aspirations to God, with prompt obedience and a reasonable sobriety of diet, are this axe. It is certainly a sharp axe, a blessed axe, a most grateful axe, an axe that bringeth with it all good and all purity, a golden axe, and decked with precious stones. But the tree is a cursed tree, a tree full of most bitter fruits, a tree of all evil, a tree that produceth and nourisheth all inordinateness, a tree of obscurity and darkness. This tree is in you, as also in all others, and as long as it abideth in you, your cannot have perfect light. If, 90therefore, you desire clearly. to behold the bright beams of the Sun of Justice, cut down this tree and cast it from you. It is a very thick and hard tree, not to be cut down at the first blow, nor the first day, nor, perchance, the first year; no, nor peradventure in a long time together. Wherefore, perseverance and patience are requisite. Now, as gold, if there be no let, naturally goeth downwards, and the flame of fire is carried upwards, so the mind that is purged and purified from the dross of propriety, and seeketh only the will of God, is naturally elevated to her beginning, which is God, and is more freely united to Him; but the mind that is partly purged of it, although she tend to her beginning, and be in some sort illustrated from above by the brightness of eternal light, yet, notwithstanding, because all impediment is not taken away, she cannot have free passage nor flow to, nor be swallowed up in, the bottomless depth of eternal light; that is, she cannot freely be united to God, her principal and greatest good. Furthermore, although God out of His bounty be pleased sometimes to lift up some to His love by a more easy way without many temptations, yet let no man, although enriched with spiritual gifts, easily 91believe that he hath attained to the perfect resignation of himself, unless in very deed he has endured many most grievous adversities, and has kept a perfect quietness and liberty of mind in the toleration of them. There are many that, as long as they feel no checks, no injuries, no losses, no temptations, no troubles, seem devout, patient, and humble; but, as soon as they are once touched by them, they proudly show, by murmuring, indignation, and impatience, how little they are mortified. Wherefore, before any one can be thought to have attained to the true abnegation of himself, he must necessarily endure many adversities with a voluntary and quiet mind. And as for him that bath been exactly tried by God in afflictions, let him think that he hath not yet gone so far as that he is able to endure them; for if he had, without doubt he should not want occasions of diverse tribulations; for God rejoiceth to adorn the soul more secretly and perfectly joined to Him with manifold afflictions, as it were with so many precious pearls, and so to bring it to the true similitude of JESUS CHRIST. He, therefore, that, rejecting propriety in all things, conformeth his will to the divine will and ordinance, being equally prepared to undergo 92any adversity, confusion, subtraction of internal sweetness for God’s sake, as he would the affluence of any prosperity, honour, and devotion; he, I say, that is come to that pass, that he can endure all temptation and tribulation with a certain internal sweetness and joy, this man hath found a precious pearl; this man hath attained to the highest degree of perfection; he is everywhere, and in all occasions, united to God, and most sweetly poureth his soul to Him. He doth purely, quietly, simply, joyfully, and sweetly walk all the day long in the light of our Lord’s countenance and can adhere to highest contemplation when he pleaseth with the same facility that he doth live and breathe. What in this vale of misery he may receive from Heaven, and to what God will be pleased familiarly to admit him, it lieth not in our power to speak, for, indeed, they are things unspeakable. Let him that is such glorify God, and confess that JESUS CHRIST hath raised up the needy from the earth, and lifted up the poor out of the dung, since that of an impure man here on earth He hath made an Angel like to God.

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