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CHAPTER VII: That all the Souls that live humbly in the Faith of Holy Church, and have their Faith enlivened with Love and Charity, be reformed by this Sacrament, though it be so that they cannot feel the special gift of Devotion or of spiritual feeling

IN this reforming, which is only in Faith, the most part of chosen souls lead their lives, setting their wills stedfastly to flee all manner of deadly sin, and keeping themselves in love and charity to their neighbour, and keeping the commandments of God according to their knowledge. And when it is so that wicked stirrings and evil desires of pride, envy, wrath or luxury, or of any other capital sin rise in their hearts, they resist and strive against them, by being displeased at them in their will, so that they follow not those wicked motions in their deeds; and if through frailty they fall, as it were against their will, and through ignorance, their conscience soon after so grieveth and paineth them for it, that they can take no rest till they have made their confession, and had absolution for it.

Surely all these souls that thus live in this state of reforming, and be found therein at the hour of their death, shall be saved, and shall come to a full reforming in the bliss of Heaven though it were so, that they never had spiritual feeling, nor inward taste of devotion, nor any special gift of grace of sweetness or comfort in all their lifetime. For if thou shouldst say, that no soul shall be saved, unless she were here reformed in spiritual feeling, so that she hath felt devotion and spiritual sweetness in God, as some souls through special grace have done; then should very few souls be saved, in comparison of the multitude of the other.

Nay, it is not so to be supposed, that only for the souls that have had such extraordinary devotion, or have through great grace come to a spiritual feeling, and for no more, our Lord Jesus should have taken upon Him the nature of man, and suffered the bitter passion of His death. It had been such a small purchase for Him to have come from so far to so near, and from so high to so low, for so few souls; no, His mercy is spread larger than so. But on the contrary, if thou imaginest the Passion of our Lord to be so precious, and His mercy so great, that there shall no soul be damned, and namely, no Christian, do he never so wickedly, as some fools do imagine, surely thou errest greatly.

Go, therefore, in the middle way, and hold thee there, and believe as holy Church believeth, and that is, that the most sinful man that liveth on earth, if through grace he turn his will from deadly sin by true repentance to the service of God, he is reformed in his soul, and if he die in this state, he shall be saved. Thus hath our Lord promised by His Prophet, saying: At what time soever a sinner shall be converted, and sorry for his sins, he shall live, and not die.

And on the other side, whoso liveth in deadly sin, and will not leave it, nor amend him thereof, nor receive the Sacrament of Penance, or else if he receive it, taketh it not truly, for the love of God (that is, for the love of virtue and cleanness, but only for dread or shame of the world, or only for fear of the pains of hell), he is not reformed to the image of God, and if he die in that state, he shall not be saved, his Faith shall not save him, for it is but a dead faith, because it lacketh love, and therefore it will not serve his turn. But they that have Faith quickened with love and charity, though it be but the least degree of charity, as are simple souls who feel not the gift of special devotion, nor have spiritual knowledge or feeling of God, as some spiritual men have, but believe in general as holy Church believeth, though they know not fully what that is (for it is not necessary that they should know so fully), but in that belief keep themselves in love and charity to their neighbour as well as they can, and eschew all deadly sin according to their best skill, and do deeds of mercy to their neighbours; all these belong to the bliss of Heaven. For thus is it written in the Apocalypse: Ye that fear God, both great and small, praise Him. By great ones are understood souls that are profiting in grace, or that are perfect in the love of God, which are reformed in spiritual feeling. By small, imperfect souls of worldly men and women, and others that have but a childish knowledge of God, and full little feeling of Him, but are brought forth in the bosom of holy Church, and nourished with the Sacraments, as children are fed with milk. All these ought to love God, and thank Him for the salvation of their souls, which proceedeth from His endless mercy and goodness. For holy Church, which is mother of all these, and beareth tender love to all her ghostly children, prayeth and asketh for them all tenderly of her Spouse, that is of Jesus, and getteth them health of soul through virtue of His Passion; and namely for them that cannot speak for themselves by spiritual prayer for their need.

Thus I find in the Gospel that the woman of Canaan asked of our Lord health for her daughter that was troubled with the fiend; and our Lord at first made dainty of the matter, because she was an alien. Nevertheless she ceased not to cry till our Lord had granted her asking, and said to her thus: O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee as thou wilt. In the same hour was her daughter made whole. This woman betokeneth holy Church, that asketh help of our Lord for simple ignorant souls, that are encumbered with temptations of the world, and cannot speak perfectly to God by fervour of devotion, nor by burning love in Contemplation. And though our Lord seemeth to make dainty at first, because they are, as it were, aliened from Him, nevertheless, for the great faith and desert of holy Church, He granted to her all that she will. And for these simple souls that believe stedfastly as holy Church believeth, and put themselves wholly upon the mercy of God, and submit themselves under the Sacraments and Laws of holy Church, are saved through the prayers and faith of their holy Mother the Church.

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