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VINCENT: The third kind of tribulation, uncle, remaineth now—that is, that which is sent a man by God, and not for his sin either committed or which otherwise would come, and therefore is not medicinable, but is sent for exercise of our patience and increase of our merit, and therefore better than medicinable. Though it be, as you say (and as indeed it is) better for the man than any of the other two kinds in another world, where the reward shall be received, yet I cannot see by what reason a man can in this world, where the tribulation is suffered, take any more comfort in it than in any of the other twain that are sent him for his sin. For he cannot here know whether it be sent him for sin before committed, or for sin that otherwise should befall, or for increase of merit and reward after to come. For every man hath cause enough to fear and think that his sin already past hath deserved it, and that it is not without peril for a man to think otherwise.
ANTHONY: This that you say, cousin, hath place of truth in far the most part of men. And therefore must they not envy nor disdain, since they may take in their tribulation sufficient consolation for their part, that some other who is more worthy may take yet a great deal more. For, as I told you, cousin, though the best must confess himself a sinner, yet there are many men—though to the multitude, few—who for the kind of their living and the clearness of their conscience may well and without sin have a good hope that God sendeth them some great grief for the exercise of their patience and for increase of their merit. This appeareth not only by St. Paul, in the place before remembered, but also by the holy man Job, who in sundry places of his disputations with his burdensome comforters forbore not to say that the clearness of his own conscience declared and showed to himself that he deserved not that sore tribulation that he then had. Howbeit, as I told you before, I will not advise every man at adventure to be bold upon this manner of comfort. But yet know I some men such that I would dare, for their more ease and comfort in their great and grievous pains, to put them in right good hope that God sendeth it unto them not so much for their punishment as for exercise of their patience.
And some tribulations are there, also, that grow upon such causes that in those cases I would never forbear but always would, without any doubt, give that counsel and comfort to any man.
VINCENT: What causes, good uncle, are those?
ANTHONY: Marry, cousin, wheresoever a man falleth in tribulation for the maintenance of justice or for the defence of God's cause. For if I should happen to find a man who had long lived a very virtuous life, and had at last happened to fall into the Turks' hands; and if he there did abide by the truth of his faith and, with the suffering of all kinds of torments taken upon his body, still did teach and testify the truth; and if I should in his passion give him spiritual comfort—might I be bold to tell him no further but that he should take patience in his pain, and that God sendeth it to him for his sin, and that he is well worthy to have it, though it were yet much more? He might then well answer me, and other such comforters, as Job answered his: "Burdensome and heavy comforters be you." Nay, I would not fail to bid him boldly, while I should see him in his passion, to cast sin and hell and purgatory and all upon the devil's pate, and doubt not but—as, if he gave over his hold, all his merit would be lost and he would be turned to misery—so if he stand and persevere still in the confession of his faith, all his whole pain shall turn all into glory.
Yea, more shall I yet say than this. If there were a Christian man who had among those infidels committed a very deadly crime, such as would be worthy of death, not only by their laws but by Christ's too (as manslaughter, or adultery, or other such thing); and if when he were taken he were offered pardon of his life upon condition that he should forsake the faith of Christ; and if this man would now rather suffer death than so do—should I comfort him in his pain only as I would a malefactor? Nay, this man, though he would have died for his sin, dieth now for Christ's sake, since he might live still if he would forsake him. The bare patient taking of his death would have served for the satisfaction of his sin—through the merit of Christ's passion, I mean, without help of which no pain of our own could be satisfactory. But now shall Christ, for his forsaking of his own life in the honour of his faith, forgive the pain of all his sins, of his mere liberality, and accept all the pain of his death for merit of reward in heaven, and shall assign no part of it to the payment of his debt in purgatory, but shall take it all as an offering and requite it all with glory. And this man among Christian men, although he had been before a devil, nothing would I doubt afterward to take him for a martyr.
VINCENT: Verily, good uncle, methinketh this is said marvellous well. And it specially delighteth and comforteth me to hear it, because of our principal fear that I first spoke of, the Turk's cruel incursion into this country of ours.
ANTHONY: Cousin, as for the matter of that fear, I purpose to touch it last of all. Nor meant I here to speak of it, had it not been that the vehemency of your objection brought it in my way. But otherwise I would rather have put instead some example of those who suffer tribulation for maintenance of right and justice, and choose rather to take harm than to do wrong in any manner of matter. For surely if a man may—as indeed he may—have great comfort in the clearness of his conscience, who hath a false crime put upon him and by false witness proved upon him, and who is falsely punished and put to worldly shame and pain for it; a hundred times more comfort may he have in his heart who, where white is called black and right is called wrong, abideth by the truth and is persecuted for justice.
VINCENT: Then if a man sue me wrongfully for my own land, in which I myself have good right, it is a comfort yet to defend it well, since God shall give me thanks for it?
ANTHONY: Nay nay, cousin, nay, there walk you somewhat wide. For there you defend your own right for your temporal avail. But St. Paul counseleth, "Defend not yourselves, my more dear friends," and our Saviour counseleth, "If a man will strive with thee at the law and take away thy coat, leave him thy gown too." The defence therefore of our own right asketh no reward. Say you speed well, if you get leave; look hardly for no thanks!
But on the other hand, if you do as St. Paul biddeth, "Seek not for your own profit but for other folk's" and defend therefore of pity a poor widow or a poor fatherless child, and rather suffer sorrow by some strong extortioner than suffer them to take wrong; or if you be a judge and have such zeal to justice that you will abide tribulation by the malice of some mighty man rather than judge wrong for his favour—such tribulations, lo, are those that are better than only medicinable. And every man upon whom they fall may be bold so to reckon them, and in his deep trouble may well say to himself the words that Christ hath taught him for his comfort, "Blessed be the merciful men, for they shall have mercy given them. Blessed be they that suffer persecution for justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Here is a high comfort, lo, for those that are in this case. And their own conscience can show it to them, and can fill their hearts so full with spiritual joy that the pleasure may far surmount the heaviness and grief of all their temporal trouble. But God's nearer cause of faith against the Turks hath yet a far surpassing comfort that by many degrees far excelleth this. And that, as I have said, I purpose to treat last. And for this time this sufficeth concerning the special comfort that men may take in this third kind of tribulation.
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