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CHAPTER XXVI

Of three temptations that are full of peril to the devout

(1)

MASTER FLORENTIUS being a most skilful and mighty champion in the Spiritual contest used to say that there were three temptations, perilous above all others, which hidden beneath the cloak of good motives do deceive many; and unless a man resist these in due time, that is at the very outset, they lead little by little to a final overthrow, or make the indolent wretchedly lukewarm. But this doth make the matter worse, that through the subtility of the devil’s wiles many are too heedless of such temptations, and scarce seek to be informed by men of prudence and knowledge as to the greatness of the perils into which they may fall.

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(2) The first temptation is when one, newly converted, doth desire to return to his own country and to visit parents and friends; for such an one a return to the world, on the pretext of doing good and in the hope of converting worldlings, is often the occasion of his neglecting his own soul, although he may think to gather truit in his own country. And while he dallieth there amid vain and inconstant persons, he doth expose himself to the winds and waves of temptation. Experience hath often shown how one that is lightminded, and not yet firmly founded in virtue, when he doth join himself to them of the world without restraint, is either entangled by their sins, or, under stress of temptation, doth grow cold toward the good courses he had begun. Therefore is it good for a man continually to flee from everything that is hurtful to the soul, and not to return to his country or his friends unless some notable cause compel him. Let him never be presumptuous about himself, but be suspicious of this present world that is everywhere filled with poisoned snares; let him follow the counsel and sayings of his Superior, for this in every case is the safer and surer way. Of ten men who associate for long with their kindred or friends, scarce one or two return unhurt, and it doth often happen that they who remain in the world, having withdrawn from their good resolutions become even worse and more worthless than other men: and rejecting the Grace of God blush not to resume those evil courses which they did once despise.

(3) The second temptation is when one that is a layman, wishing to be a Clerk, doth through this desire leave his lowly station, and retire from 140the holy Community in order that he may acquire learning and become great.

Wretched man! he knoweth not how evilly he is deceived when leaving his lowly station and obedience he seeketh higher place. Such an one is soon puffed up by a little knowledge and is slow to become a good Clerk. God grant that he become not altogether a worldling; that of his own motion and for the sake of worthless learning doth risk the loss of virtue and blacken the repute of a good name.

(4) The third temptation is when one that is already a Clerk and learned doth aspire to the Priesthood, to high preferment or to any other dignity, on the plea of some holy motive such as u that of being the more able to be of profit to others, or of teaching better or of preaching more frequently. Although such an one may seem to have a good motive, yet inwardly he is weighed down by grievous pride in that he is in haste to go up higher so as to appear greater than his fellows. In that he loveth not lowly subjection and is unwilling to despise himself, he doth diligently beseech his friends that they recommend him for promotion, but heedeth not the danger of his own soul.

Alas! when he hath attained that little short-lived shadow of glory, gotten with a great effort, an effort indeed far greater than that which would suffice to deprive him of every honour, in how evil a case will he find his conscience.

(5) Let him who would be delivered from these three temptations pray God every day to save him from pride and vain conceit, and keep him in lowly subjection and perfect obedience; for pride doth make a man to be inwardly blind and without savour, 141and outwardly a vain babbler, presumptuous, ignorant of himself and despising others; and, what is worse, to seek lordship over others is clearly enough a sign of perdition and leadeth to many evils. When a certain Brother was talking with Florentius in his cell the Master said, amongst other things: “Ye should study to give yourselves to lowliness, then may ye make progress and become worthy of the Grace of God.”

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