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CHAPTER XXIII

Of his devout exhortation to spiritual prayer

(1)

MASTER FLORENTIUS, that notable fair flower of the priesthood, that fervid zealot for souls, not only took thought for the Brothers of his house, but was also instant in planting the seeds of the Word of Salvation amongst other neighbouring Communities of Clerks and from time to time communed with them and piously exhorted them to have peace and charity towards one another, either preaching himself or sending some suitable Brother of his house. When he visited them all the inmates rejoiced, desiring to hear the Holy Word from the mouth of God’s Priest, for the Holy Ghost spoke through his mouth to comfort that little Flock which was eagerly and devoutly willing to obey.

(2) In one of his discourses he spake this word of advice. “Every man should set before him daily these resolutions, namely, to earnestly strive to amend his life: to struggle anew against his 131temptations; to pluck out his vices, to strive with special courage to overcome those sins which do more easily beset him; to do violence to himself for Christ’s sake because ‘the Kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.’” It is profitable also for a man to lay his passions and perplexities bare before some discreet brother, one who hath tried knowledge of the Way of God. It is well not to strive in the light of one’s own understanding only, but rather to trust another, to humbly receive his counsel, and gladly to follow him as a director, for this is a great help to those that are newly converted and a wholesome sign of spiritual progress.

Therefore a man who doth so resolve to serve God continually, diligently to amend his life and to keep himself carefully from all sin, doth thereby become more worthy and more acceptable than if he fed an hundred poor persons without making such a resolution to govern himself; because the greatest gift that man can offer to God is a good and perfect will to serve Him all the days of one’s life. So long as a man doth abide by his holy purpose his death cannot be ill, for though he die, I do trust that he will be in a state of Salvation, and shall find mercy, because his intent was good, and a good will shall be counted to him for righteousness as if he had carried out his purpose: as holy David doth confess, saying, “O Lord, thou hast crowned us with a shield of thy good-will.”

Many other words of comfort spake he to strengthen the devout young men who were gathered together in his house from divers parts to employ their time in spiritual study, not in the School of learning only, but also in the School of Christ.

132

(3) Some of these would note his words in a book, and eagerly show them to such as had been absent, quoting these words of Divine eloquence amongst themselves with a far keener zest than worldlings show in repeating witty sayings. He abstained altogether from dealing with deep questions, subtle arguments and difficult matters, knowing that such things yield but little edification to devout minds, but rather are often an hindrance to heartfelt repentance, and overturn the faith of the innocent. And thus it hath been found with many men, that those who looking closely into curious matters leave the plain and lowly way of Christ, do thereby sow into themselves the seeds of many falls and errors.

(4) A certain learned monk was once arguing with a Carthusian, on the ground that his order being devoted to that solitude and peace which give a man leisure for the things of his own soul, it would seem to produce scarcely any fruit in the Church of God; but the good monk made this wise and apt reply: “We would gladly do those things which ye preach and teach, but we believe that contempt of the world is better taught by acts of penitence than by beautiful sermons and many wanderings.”

A certain Jew who had been converted to the Christian faith hearing the report of the holy life of Master Florentius, desired to confer with him about the Patriarchs and Prophets of old, because he was thought to be learned in the old law and in Hebrew, and was by many called “Rabbi,” after the manner of the Jewish sect; and when he came into the presence of Florentius that Man of God received him kindly and heard him patiently, conferring with him in all gentleness and charity, 133urging him to keep the true faith in Christ and to labour in good works; but as for those questions of the Law that pertain not to salvation, and those genealogies of the men of old, he would not breathe a word upon them, not because he was ignorant in such matters, but because they bring no edification.

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