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II

Since all our principal comfort must come from God, we must first presuppose, in him to whom we shall give any effectual comfort with any ghostly counsel, one ground to begin with, on which all that we shall build may be supported and stand; that is, the ground and foundation of faith. Without this, had ready before, all the spiritual comfort that anyone may speak of can never avail a fly.

For just as it would be utterly vain to lay natural reasons of comfort to him who hath no wit, so would it undoubtedly be frustrate to lay spiritual causes of comfort to him who hath no faith. For unless a man first believe that holy scripture is the word of God, and that the word of God is true, how can he take any comfort in that which the scripture telleth him? A man must needs take little fruit of scripture, if he either believe not that it be the word of God, or else think that, though it were, it might yet for all that be untrue! As this faith is more strong or more faint, so shall the comforting words of holy scripture stand the man in more stead or less.

This virtue of faith can no man give himself, nor yet any man to another. But though men may with preaching be ministers unto God therein; and though a man can, with his own free will, obeying freely the inward inspiration of God, be a weak worker with almighty God therein; yet is the faith indeed the gracious gift of God himself. For, as St. James saith, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is given from above, descending from the Father of lights." Therefore, feeling our faith by many tokens very faint, let us pray to him who giveth it to us, that it may please him to help and increase it. And let us first say with him in the gospel, "I believe, good Lord, but help thou the lack of my belief." And afterwards, let us pray with the apostles, "Lord, increase our faith." And finally, let us consider, by Christ's saying unto them, that, if we would not suffer the strength and fervour of our faith to wax lukewarm—or rather key-cold—and lose its vigour by scattering our minds abroad about so many trifling things that we very seldom think of the matters of our faith, we should withdraw our thought from the respect and regard of all worldly fantasies, and so gather our faith together into a little narrow room. And like the little grain of mustard seed, which is by nature hot, we should set it in the garden of our soul, all weeds being pulled out for the better feeding of our faith. Then shall it grow, and so spread up in height that the birds—that is, the holy angels of heaven—shall breed in our soul, and bring forth virtues in the branches of our faith. And then, with the faithful trust that through the true belief of God's word we shall put in his promise, we shall be well able to command a great mountain of tribulation to void from the place where it stood in our heart, whereas with a very feeble faith and faint, we shall be scantly able to remove a little hillock.

And therefore, as for the first conclusion, since we must of necessity before any spiritual comfort presuppose the foundation of faith, and since no man can give us faith but only God, let us never cease to call upon God for it.

VINCENT: Forsooth, good uncle, methinks that this foundation of faith which, as you say, must be laid first, is so necessarily requisite, that without it all spiritual comfort would be given utterly in vain. And therefore now shall we pray God for a full and fast faith. And I pray you, good uncle, proceed you farther in the process of your matter of spiritual comfort against tribulation.

ANTHONY: That shall I, cousin, with good will.

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