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CHAPTER IX

Of the burdens that he bore, and the wrongs that he suffered

(1)

THAT old enemy of mankind, the Devil, perceiving these exercises in the spiritual warfare, was sorely hurt, and omitted not to persecute the devout Master, being jealous of this good beginning and of his pious deeds—for Satan feared that through the example and industrious preaching of Florentius the spoils of many souls would be taken from him; therefore he stirred up certain adversaries to impugn the simple life of this just man with harsh words and derision, as is the wont of such men to use, hoping to withdraw him from the good course which he had begun. But Florentius, being a man of gentle mind and well disposed to bear reproach for Christ’s sake, was moved neither by evil report nor by the lies of them that would belittle him, for these things weighed lightly upon him as spider’s webs, so that he continued constant in his good undertaking. He walked meekly among the perverse, and patiently amid slanderers, returning to no man evil for evil, but with a quiet heart he said his prayers, and either held his peace, or bridled the mouth of foolish men with some reasonable word. Fools railed against that which they did not comprehend, and one who walked humbly and avoided every vanity seemed to their froward understanding to be distraught.

(2) But with modest aspect, like some flower 99of the field, Florentius went forth clad in a gray habit covered by a long cloak; and as some lily may grow among thorns and give forth her sweet odour when torn thereby, so was Florentius among his mockers; when derided he became yet more cheerful and made the sweet odour of his fame yet sweeter and more widely diffused by the patience which he showed. The Lord put upon him the breastplate of faith, and armed His warrior with the virtue of perseverance so that the wantonness of men might not prevail to overturn his stable mind, which the Grace of God had strengthened within him; for he was zealous to suffer shame and threatenings for the Name of Jesus, knowing that which is written; “Blessed are ye when men shall speak evil of you and reproach your name as evil for the Son of Man’s Sake.” Therefore he waited diligently upon the Author of Life, Jesus the Son of God, Whom the Pharisees called a Samaritan and a deceiver; Who warned His disciples beforehand that they must suffer much enmity from worldlings, for that He himself before them suffered yet more bitter things from the envious Jews. “For,” saith He, “if they have persecuted Me, they shall also persecute you”; “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have called the good man of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household?”

By these holy words he was mightily comforted, and cared not for the mockings of men, nor turned aside from the true path of humility which the truth doth teach, but through his contempt of the world and self-denial he strove to climb to the very heights of virtue. He chose rather to be called an outcast Lollard with his Brothers, or to be 100thought a madman by worldlings, than to be reputed a great lord and master. Therefore so far as in him lay he put aside the honourable title of Master, and desired to be called by his name only, as did also the other Brothers, though some of these were sufficiently learned and sprung from the wealthier families in the world. He would have nothing costly or beautiful by way of apparel, he desired nothing delicate for his food, he allowed only those things necessary for use, but nothing superfluous; naught save those somewhat simple and unadorned things which tend to lowliness and are no offence to worldlings—for these latter are taught better by an example of lowliness than by subtle arguments. Therefore by following the Common Life, and showing brotherly love to all; by being not highminded but condescending to things of low estate, he was now esteemed as a loving father and not feared as an austere master; for the outward signs of an honest character and the inward virtue of heavenly purity were seen reflected in him as in the brightest mirror.

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