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CHAPTER VII

That a Man's Devotion sometimes will be the greater by reason of the outward Work which before out of Charity he had been in hand with

AND it may fall out sometimes that the greater trouble thou hast exteriorly had in doing of thy active works, the more inflamed desire shalt thou afterwards have to God and the more sight of God and spiritual things, through the grace of our Lord, in devotion when thou comest thereto; for it fareth thereby as if thou hadst a little coal of fire, and wouldst make a fire therewith, and make it burn; thou wouldst first lay to some sticks, and with them over-cover the coal so that there is as yet no show or seeming hope of fire by it; nevertheless when thou hast abiden awhile and afterwards blowest it a little, anon, suddenly there will arise out a great flame of fire, so that the sticks will be turned all into fire. Even so is it spiritually; thy will and thy desire that thou hast to God is as it were a little coal of fire in thy soul, for it giveth to thee somewhat of light and of spiritual heat; but it is very little that it giveth, for often it waxeth cold and turneth to a fleshly rest (or into a rest of flesh and sensuality) and sometimes into idleness and doing of no good; therefore it is expedient that thou put to sticks, that is, some works of the active life; and though it be so that those works do seem for a time to be a let to thy desire, so that it may not be so entire nor so fervent as thou wouldst it were, yet be not daunted nor troubled thereat, but abide and suffer awhile, and so blow at the fire; that is, first go and do thy works, and afterwards, go alone to thy prayers and devotions, and lift up thine heart to God, and pray Him that of His goodness He will accept thy works that thou doest and receive them to His honour and glory; hold them as nothing in thine own sight, nor to be of any worth save so far as God only out of His goodness shall vouchsafe to accept of them; humbly acknowledge thy wretchedness and frailty really attributing thy good deeds to Him; and so much as they have any goodness in them, and inasmuch as they are bad, or not done discreetly with all circumstances requisite for a good deed, ascribe them to thyself, and then for this humility shall all thy good deeds turn into a flame of fire as do sticks laid upon a coal; and thou thus doing, thy external good deeds shall not hinder thy devotion but rather increase it. And moreover, our Lord saith in holy Scripture thus: Fire shall always burn in My Alter, and the Priest rising up in the morning shall put wood thereunto, so that the fire may not be extinguished.22Lev. 6:12,13. This fire is love and desire to God in a soul, the which fire requireth that it be nourished and maintained by laying to sticks, so that it may not go out; and these sticks are of divers matters, as some of one kind of wood and some of another. A man that is learned and hath some understanding in the holy Scripture, if he have this fire of devotion in his heart, it is good for him to get him sticks of holy examples and devout prayers, and nourish the fire with them. Another man that is unlearned cannot so readily have at hand the sayings of holy Scripture, or of Doctors for the purpose, and therefore it is necessary for him to do many good external deeds to his Christian brethren, and thereby maintain and exercise towards them the love he beareth them for God.

And so it is good that each man in his degree, and according to what is most agreeable to the benefit and disposition of his soul, do get him sticks of one thing or another, as either by praying, considering, meditating or reading in some good and devout book, or in doing of some corporal or external work, thereby for to nourish in his soul the fire of love so that it may not become quenched; for the affection of love is dainty and tender, and will easily go out and vanish away unless it be well kept and continually nourished by good deeds or exercises, corporal or spiritual.

Now therefore, since our Lord hath put into thine heart a little sparkle of this blessed fire, that is Himself, (as holy Scripture saith, Our Lord is a consuming fire;33Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29. for, as a material fire wasteth all bodily things that may be wasted, so a spiritual fire, that is God, wasteth all kind of sin, and therefore our Lord is likened to fire wasting) I pray thee to nourish this fire within thee. This fire is nothing else but Love and Charity. This hath He sent into the earth, as He saith in the Gospel: I came to send fire into the earth, and to what end, but that it might burn?44Luke 12:49. that is, God hath put into man's soul a fire of love and a good desire, and a great good will for to please Him, and that He hath done to this end, that man should know it, keep it, and nourish it, and strengthen and increase it, and thereby be saved. The greater desire that thou hast to Him and for Him, the greater is the fire of love in thee, and the less that the desire is in thee, the less is the fire. The quantity or measure of thy desire within thee, how much it is, neither thyself doth know, nor doth any man know how great it is in him, much less the quantity of love that is in another man; God only knoweth it, or he to whom God shall reveal and make it known. And therefore dispute not with thyself as if thou wouldst know how great thy desire is; be busy and serious to desire as much as thou canst, but not to know the quantity or measure of thy desire.


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