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XVII

VINCENT: Surely, uncle, you have shaken my examples sorely, and have in your aiming of your shot removed me these arrows, methinketh, further off from the mark than methought they stuck when I shot them! And I shall therefore now be content to take them up again.

But meseemeth surely that my second shot may stand. For of truth, if every kind of tribulation be so profitable that it be good to have it, as you say it is, then I cannot see why any man should either wish, or pray, or do any manner of thing to have any kind of tribulation withdrawn either from himself or from any friend of his.

ANTHONY: I think indeed tribulation so good and profitable that I might doubt, as you do, why a man might labour and pray to be delivered of it, were it not that God, who teacheth us the one, teacheth us also the other. For as he biddeth us take our pain patiently, and exhort our neighbours to do also the same, so biddeth he us also not forbear to do our best to remove the pain from us both. And then, since it is God who teacheth both, I shall not need to break my brain in devising wherefore he would bid us to do both, the one seeming opposed to the other.

If he send the scourge of scarcity and great famine, he will that we shall bear it patiently; but yet will he that we shall eat our meat when we can get it. If he send us the plague of pestilence, he will that we shall patiently take it; but yet will he that we let blood, and lay plasters to draw it and ripen it, and lance it, and get it away. Both these points teacheth God in scripture, in more than many places. Fasting is better than eating, and hath more thanks of God, and yet will God that we shall eat. Praying is better than drinking, and much more pleasing to God, and yet will God that we shall drink. Keeping vigil is much more acceptable to God than sleeping, and yet will God that we shall sleep. God hath given us our bodies here to keep, and will that we maintain them to do him service with, till he send for us hence.

Now we cannot tell surely how much tribulation may mar the body or peradventure hurt the soul also. Therefore the apostle, after he had commanded the Corinthians to deliver to the devil the abominable fornicator who forbore not the bed of his own father's wife, yet after he had been a while accursed and punished for his sin, the apostle commanded them charitably to receive him again and give him consolation, "that the greatness of his sorrow should not swallow him up." And therefore, when God sendeth the tempest, he will that the shipmen shall get them to their tackling and do the best they can for themselves, that the sea eat them not up. For help ourselves as well as we can, he can make his plague as sore and as long-lasting as he himself please.

And as he will that we do for ourselves, so will he that we do for our neigbour too. And he will that we shall in this world have pity on each other and not be sine affectione, for which the apostle rebuketh them that lack their tender affection here. So of charity we should be sorry too for the pain of those upon whom, for necessary cause, we ourselves be driven to put it. And whosoever saith that for pity of his neighbour's soul he will have no pity of his body, let him be sure that, as St. John saith, "He that loveth not his neighbour whom he seeth, loveth but little God, whom he seeth not," so he who hath no pity on the pain that he seeth his neighbour feel before him, pitieth little (whatsoever he say) the pain of his soul that he seeth not.

Yet God sendeth us also such tribulation sometimes because it is his pleasure to have us pray unto him for help. And therefore, the scripture telleth that, when St. Peter was in prison, the whole church without intermission prayed incessantly for him, and at their fervent prayer God by miracle delivered him. When the disciples in the tempest stood in fear of drowning, they prayed unto Christ and said, "Save us, Lord, we perish," and then at their prayer he shortly ceased the tempest. And now see we proved often that in sore weather or sickness by general processions God giveth gracious help. And many a man in his great pain and sickness, by calling upon God is marvellously made whole. This is the goodness of God who, because in wealth we remember him not, but forget to pray to him, sendeth us sorrow and sickness to force us to draw toward him, and compelleth us to call upon him and pray for release of our pain. When we learn thereby to know him and to pray to him, we take a good occasion to fall afterward into further grace.

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