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CHAPTER IX: How Love slayeth Covetousness, Lechery and Gluttony, and the fleshly delight and savour in all the five Bodily Senses, softly and easily, through a gracious beholding of Jesus

COVETOUSNESS also is slain in a soul by the working of love, for it maketh the soul so covetous of spiritual good and so inflamed to heavenly riches that it setteth right nought by all earthly things. It hath no more joy in the having of a precious stone than a chalk-stone; no more love hath he in an hundred pounds than in a pound of lead. It setteth all things that must perish at one price; he heedeth no more the one than the other, as to his love; for he knows well that all these earthly things which worldly men set so great price by and love so dearly must pass away and turn to nothing, both the thing itself and the love of it. And therefore he worketh his thoughts betimes into that judgement and esteem of them which they must come to hereafter, and so accounteth them as nought. And when worldly lovers strive and fight and plead for earthly goods, who may first have them; the lover of Jesus striveth with no man, but keepeth himself in peace, and is well contented with that which he hath, and will strive for no more; for he thinketh that he needs no more of all the riches on earth than a scanty bodily sustenance for to sustain his bodily life withal, as long as it pleaseth God, and that he can easily have. And therefore would he have no more than he barely needeth for the time, that he may freely be discharged from the trouble of keeping and spending of it, and fully give his heart and his business about the seeking of Jesus for to find Him in cleanness of spirit; for that is all his covetousness; for why?—only the clean in heart shall see Him.

Also, the fleshly love of father and mother and other worldly friends hangeth not upon him. It is even cut from his heart with the sword of spiritual love, so that he hath no more affection to father or mother, or to any worldly friend than he hath to another man, except he see or feel in them more grace or more virtue than in other men, or except that his father or mother hath the selfsame grace that some other men have. But if they be not so, then loveth he other men better than them, and that is charity. And thus doth God’s love slay covetousness of the world, and bringeth into the soul poverty of spirit. And that doth love, not only in them that have right nought of worldly goods, but also in some creatures that are in great worldly state and have earthly riches to spend. Love slayeth in some of them covetousness so far forth that they have no more liking nor savour in having of them than of a straw. No, though it should so happen that they should lose them through default of those that should look after them, yet set they nought thereby. For why?—the heart of God’s lover is, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, taken so fully with the sight of the love of another thing, which is Jesus, and that is so precious and so worthy that it will receive no other love to rest in it that is contrary thereto.

And not only doth love this, but also it slayeth the liking of Lechery and all other bodily uncleanness, and bringeth into the soul true chastity, and turneth it into liking. For the soul feeleth so great delight in the sight of Jesus that it liketh for to be chaste, and it is no great difficulty to it to keep chastity, for therein is most ease and most rest.

And in the same manner the gift of love slayeth the lusts of Gluttony, and maketh the soul sober and temperate, and beareth it up so mightily that it cannot rest in the liking of meat and drink. But it taketh such meat and drink, whatever it be, as least hindereth or chargeth the bodily complexion, if it can easily come by it; nor for the love of itself, but for the love of God. On this wise the lover of God seeth well that he needeth to sustain his bodily life with meat and drink, as long as God will suffer them to continue together. Here, then, will be the discretion of the lover of Jesus, as far as I understand that hath feeling and working in love, that in what manner he may best keep his grace whole, and be least letted from working in it through taking of bodily sustenance, so shall he do. That kind of meat, which least letteth and least troubleth the heart, and may keep the body in strength, be it flesh, be it fish, be it bread and ale, that I suppose the soul chooseth for to have, if it can come thereby. For the whole business of the soul is to think on Jesus with reverent love, constantly, without letting of anything, if that it might. And therefore since it must needs be letted somewhat and hindered the less it is letted and hindered by meat or drink or any other thing the better it is. It had rather use the best meat and most costly if it less hinder the keeping of his heart, than to take only bread and water, if that hinder him more; for he hath no regard for to get great merit by the pain of fasting, and be put thereby from softness and quietness of heart, but all his business is for to keep his heart as stably as he can in the sight of Jesus and in the feeling of His love. And surely I am of the opinion that he may with less lust and liking use the best meat, that is good in its kind, than another man that worketh all by reason without the special gift of love can use the worst. Ever excepting such meat as is dressed with art and curiosity only for lust, for such manner of meat cannot at all accord with him. And also on the other side, if little meat, as only bread and beer, most helpeth and quieteth his heart, and keepeth it most in peace, that is most acceptable to him for to use; and, namely, if he feel his bodily strength sustained thereby, and have the gift of love withal.

And yet doth love more, for it slayeth sloth and fleshly idleness, and maketh the soul to be occupied in goodness, and, namely, inwardly in beholding of him, by virtue whereof the soul hath savour and spiritual delight in praying, in meditating, and in all manner of doing that belongeth to him to do according to the state he is in, without heaviness or painful bitterness, whether he be religious or secular.

Also, it slayeth the vain likings of the five bodily senses. As first of the sight of the eyes, so that the soul hath no liking in the sight of any worldly thing, but feeleth rather pain and disease in beholding of it, be it never so fair, never so precious, never so wonderful. And, therefore, as worldly lovers run out sometimes for to see new things, for to wonder at them, and so for to feed their hearts with the vain sight of them; right so a lover of Jesus is busy for to run away, and withdraw himself from the sight of such manner of things, that the inner sight be not letted; for he spiritually seeth another manner of thing, which is fairer and more wonderful, and that would he not forbear.

Right on the self-same wise is it of speaking and hearing. It is a pain to the soul of a lover of Jesus for to speak or hear anything that might let the freedom of his heart from thinking on Jesus, whatever song, or melody, or music271271    Minstrelsy. outward it be, if it hinder the thought that it cannot freely and restfully pray, or think on him, it liketh him right nought. And the more delectable it is to other men, the more unsavoury it is to him. And also to hear any manner of speaking of other men, unless it be somewhat touching the working of his soul into the love of Jesus, it liketh him right nought, he is right soon weary of it. He had rather be in peace, and hear right nought, nay speak right nought, than for to hear the speaking and the teaching of the greatest Clerk on earth, with all the reasons that he can say to him by human wit, except he can speak feelingly and stirringly of the love of Jesus; for there lies his skill272272    Craft. principally. And therefore would not he speak of anything else, nor hear, nor see anything, but what might help him, and further him into more knowledge, and to better feeling of Him.

Of worldly speech it is no doubt that he hath no savour in speaking, nor in hearing of it, nor in worldly tales, nor tidings, nor in any such vain jangling that belongeth not to Him. And the same is of smelling and tasting. The more the thoughts are distracted and broken from spiritual rest by the use either of smelling, or tasting, or of any of the senses, the more he avoideth it. The less that he feeleth of them, the better273273    Lever. he is. And if he could live in the body without the feeling of any of them he would never feel them, for they trouble the heart oft-times, and put it from rest; but they cannot fully be eschewed. Nevertheless the love of Jesus is sometimes so mighty in a soul, that it overcometh and slayeth all that is contrary thereto for a time.


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