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Of Vice under the semblance of Virtue.

The devil sometimes advises us to put aside all striving after very lofty virtue, and to occupy ourselves instead in things of little moment. He does this, either to take us altogether out of the road of any great perfection, or that by this sort of bastard humility we may fancy we have an extraordinary sanctity in avoiding a lofty state, and not seeking high things. By this a secret pride may be engendered in the soul, and a rash judging 14of others, who do not walk in the same path.

2. Sometimes the enemy counsels to say an immense multitude of prayers out of custom. His object in this is to render the task burdensome and tiresome, so that they shall be void of devotion, and without unction; or again that, by considering the number of prayers said, the person may be lifted up with pride. Sometimes, too, he does it to hinder the person from works which would be more profitable, or which are more necessary. Or again, he thus tempts the soul to fancy that by the frequency of her prayers she can oblige God by right to accomplish what she covets.

3. Frequently the devil hinders people from doing good things from a fear lest they should be called Saints, or should be thought Saints, and so should become proud. So he causes a person to imagine 15that spiritual sloth is a discreet humility. He will not allow the withholding of alms to be called avarice, nor the giving up fasting to be gluttony, but he terms it a high and excellent virtue of humility.

4. Under guise of giving correction the devil incites some either to anger or to a put on anger. He does this that a person may go further than he ought in correction, using injurious or insulting expressions; or perhaps from anger, seeking rather the indulgence of a spiteful malice than the culprit’s good. The devil often has another object to gain, for by the rude harshness of the correction, the person found fault with, instead of mending, becomes far worse than before. For to gain a person to good an exceeding rigour is not near so efficacious as a gentle, mild way. In like manner, impatience, injustice, revengefulness, &c., are covered 16under the veil of correction; and such correction is not really correction at all, but destruction.

5. Sometimes the devil, under pretext of a wise discretion, advises more sleep and food, so as under colour of prudence to introduce into the soul the vices of gluttony and sloth; forbidding fasts and abstinence.

6. Heady and unruly persons the devil pushes sometimes to seek frequent counsel of the wise, knowing well that they will not follow the advice they receive, and so will sin on with less excuse than before. Sometimes he gets foolish persons to confide blindly in foolish advisers, so that the one who gives the advice, and the one who follows it, may both perish together.

7. Sometimes the devil depreciates all counsel of man, and exhorts the soul to look to God alone, and to expect from Him instruction in prayer. Or he tells a man it is 17safest to rely on his own judgment. For, says he, in this thing that you think to do, who knows better than yourself how you should do it? You know the thing, you know your own mind best, and you have best the faculty of carrying it out. Besides, were you to ask counsel, those who give it would simply give such, very likely, as would suit their own ends, either their own honour, or their own gain. This temptation is much more dangerous and hurtful to persons that are devout and of good intelligence than to others, and it is indeed the height of pride.

8. Sometimes the devil has a trick of getting a man to speak things to his own dispraise, or even to commit sins, to show people that he is plainly not a hypocrite, and does not pretend to be over-good. Now this great evil is evidently suggested by the devil. For by this mode of speaking and acting 18against his own glory, a still more subtle pride creeps in, since by acting in this fashion a man desires to be thought truthful and honest, and one who nowise seeks his own praise; whereas in his own mind this is the very thing he exceedingly burns with desire for. This is often very plainly to be discerned. For when some one else asserts the disgraceful things of the man, which he had said of himself, he shows himself very much annoyed, and takes up the cudgels in his own behalf, excusing himself hotly, and sounding the trumpet of his own praise in clear and loud notes.

9. The good of the neighbour is sometimes made a cloak for undertaking some noble and lofty enterprise. But the truth is, that our own ostentation and glorying hide beneath this cover. And this is plain, when he who would undertake it would rather the things were done by himself than by any 19other person. For, if the thing could be done as well or even better by another, and that it would be just as pleasing to God that he should lose it as effect it, then to wish to do it shows evidently that self and his own glory is mixed up with the work. In fact, he would rather men knew the thing was effected through him than through others. It is a sign that the work is undertaken, not solely for God, hut with an admixture of self. By this s^me touchstone the purity of our intention may be tested in other cases also.

10. Sometimes, under pretext of conforming to the ways and manners of others, and not being singular, or some other good and laudable virtue, the devil incites a person to eat and drink more than is fitting. So again of dress and other like things. Very great discretion must therefore be used in all things.

11. Sometimes a person holds 20his tongue as it were from the virtue of silence when it is really from contempt, anger, or pride; and when he ought to speak, he does not, either through want of courage, or through human respect.

12. It happens also that under colour of a desire to know how to manage some necessary or useful tiling, the enemy pushes a person to the hearing and seeing of many dangerous things, through curiosity and a craving to be acquainted with everything. Thence not unfrequently arise great temptations of unclean thoughts and images, or perhaps hatred. And even if nothing arise from thence, the thing itself is in a measure damaging to the soul. For the mind becomes so filled with the images of things seen and heard, that no peace or clear thought of God is possible. All is now obscured.

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