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CHAPTER III.

Of Good as a Handle to Evil.

Although good things are always good, yet they are made, by the craft of the devil^ a handle to evil. 35So he exhorts sometimes to high and difficult undertakings of virtue, such as immoderate fasts, very burdensome pilgrimages, and the like. He has various reasons. One is that a man may not be able to complete the thing promised; another, that by doing so some great damage may come to him, as for instance, that by excessive fasting he may injure his brain, may be filled with melancholy and oppressive sadness; or by the labours of a pilgrimage, that he may give way to vehement impatience; or from desire of being eminent in teaching others the swelling of pride may arise, or even the evil of heresy.

2. Sometimes, from an anxiety to give abundant alms, men are led by the devil to cheating, so as to get more money than is just or lawful. For he well knows that it is much worse to be dishonest in one’s dealings in order to give largely, 36than to give nothing, and utterly refuse all unjust gains.

3. Sometimes the enemy infuses into the soul a great sensible sweetness and moves her to tears, after going through a most severe and immoderate fast. He does this to encourage the person to continue indiscreet austerities, that thus the head may give way, and the brain be injured, and that afterwards melancholy or anger may ensue, and the body may be broken down. Or he wishes the person to give way to singular habits and to set him up by pride.

Sometimes the devil gives these tears and sensible sweetnesses after a very plentiful meal of meat and drink. And this he does to bring fasting and abstinence into disrepute, and to encourage a person to gluttonous living, as a means of procuring devotion.

4. The devil insinuates the vice of avarice, sometimes under colour 37of a prudent care to provide security for declining years, sometimes the object is to lay up a sum for the poor, or for the building of a church. When the desire to get money is well established, he urges the soul, for a good end, not to be too strict in conscience, but to allow some fraud in buying and selling, or perhaps to swear falsely. No mortal sin is, however, allowable, however praiseworthy the end to be achieved may be.

5. The enemy has a trick also of hiding his working under the guise of devotion towards holy and religious persons, and a spiritual friendship; so that two persons, frequently talking, eating, and laughing together, may lose their guard, and take little liberties in joke, and that thus the holy and spiritual love may degenerate into an abominable carnal affection, and at last lead to a most shameful end.

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6. When a man has begun to speak with a good and holy intention, the devil gets him to continue speaking; so that he may say words beside the purpose, and be moved by anger, or by vain-glory; or he gets him to think that the audience will think him dull if he does not tell them some news, or some extraordinary thing, or something ingenious. The end is that he talks in an unbridled manner, of what he knows and of what he does not know. Or, perhaps, he speaks of things that ought not to have been said before those persons, on account of their simplicity. The tongue, then, should be always curbed and measured, in the middle and end of our speaking, as well as at the beginning.

7. Sometimes the devil gives a man a fund of useful thoughts, but at the wrong time, and simply to hinder prayer. For he sends these thoughts for a bad end, and so at a 39very unsuitable time. For when we are hearing or saying Mass, that is not a lawful time for planning, on affairs of our household. At another time it would be very right and expedient.

8. It happens sometimes that a thought of anger or revengefulness shoots into the mind. Then this thought displeases the person, but the devil gives him to understand that it is evident he does not fully and freely forgive his enemy, therefore it would be wrong for him to say the Lord’s prayer, or to receive the pax before communion. But if for God’s sake a man wishes to love his enemy, he ought to, and he safely can, say to God: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. If with the will we love our enemy that is a true efficacious love.

9. Persons who fear God more than others, are tempted by the devil to fear Him more still, and to 40be in continual terror in all they do. Such persons as these should get clearly and solidly instructed to what they are obliged by their state under pain of mortal sin, and what they are not obliged to. It is not possible to obtain an infallible knowledge on these points, but we may obtain a moral certainty, by the advice of prudent men, by the good counsel of devout persons, by the Scriptures, by the judgment of our own reason, by our confessor. Such a tempted person ought to conform his opinion to the judgment of these before mentioned. When, therefore, he has this kind of certitude, he may justly be in peace, even though he have committed some negligences or venial sins.

If, however, he becomes aware that he has failed in any principal points, then he ought to repent, and in fitting time and place confess. See, then, how necessary it is to be 41clear as to what is mortal sin, and what is not, what are obligations and what not. Then, whatever a person does over and above his obligations increases his merit and grace. But to believe that we are always bound to do what is best is an error, and to think that one who omits to do what he knows to be best, has, therefore, committed a mortal sin, is a foolish mistake. One who has these false fancies will never enjoy peace of conscience.

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