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CHAPTER II: Of the Active Life, and the Exercises and the Works thereof

THOU must understand that there are in the holy Church two manner of lives (as saith St Gregory) in which a Christian is to be saved. The one is called Active, the other Contemplative; without living one of these two lives no man may be saved. The Active consisteth in love and charity exercised exteriorly by good corporal works, in fulfilling of God’s commandments and of the seven works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, towards our Christian brethren. This life pertains to all worldly men that have riches and plenty of worldly goods to dispose of, and to all those (be they learned or unlearned, lay men or spiritual persons) that are in office or state to govern, or have care of others; and generally all worldly men are bound to the practice of this kind of life according to their best knowledge and ability, and as reason and discretion shall require. If he much good have, then much good for to do; if he little have, less may he do; and if he naught have, then must he have a good will. Such works as these (be they corporal or spiritual) are works of the Active life. Also a great part of it consists in great bodily deeds which a man exerciseth upon himself, as great fasting, much watching, and other sharp penance, to chastise the flesh with discretion for sins formerly committed. As also to mortify thereby the lusts and likings of the flesh, and to make it pliable and obedient to the will of the spirit. These works though they be but Active, yet they help very much, and dispose a man in the beginning to attain afterwards to contemplation, if they be used with discretion.

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