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XXI

VINCENT: Forsooth, uncle, if we feared not further, beside imprisonment, the terrible dart of shameful and painful death, I would verily trust that, as for imprisonment, remembering these things which I have here heard from you (our Lord reward you for them!) rather than that I should forsake the faith of our Saviour, I would with help of grace never shrink at it.

But now are we come, uncle, with much work at last unto the last and uttermost point of the dread that maketh this incursion of this midday devil—this open invasion of the Turk and his persecution against the faith—seem so terrible unto men's minds. Although the respect of God vanquish all the rest of the trouble that we have hitherto perused (as loss of goods, lands, and liberty), yet, when we remember the terror of shameful and painful death, that point suddenly putteth us in oblivion of all that should be our comfort. And we feel (all men, I fear me, for the most part) the fervour of our faith wax so cold and our hearts so faint that we find ourselves at the point of falling even for fear.

ANTHONY: I deny not, cousin, that indeed in this point is the sore pinch. And yet you see, for all this, that even this point too taketh increase or diminishment of dread according to the difference of the affections that are beforehand fixed and rooted in the mind—so much so, that you may see a man set so much by his worldly substance that he feareth less the loss of his life than the loss of lands. Yea, you may see a man abide deadly torment, such as some other man had rather die than endure, rather than to bring out the money that he hath hid. And I doubt not but that you have heard by right authentic stories of many men who (some for one cause, some for another) have not hesitated willingly to suffer death, divers in divers kinds, and some both with despiteful rebuke and painful torment too. And therefore, as I say, we may see that the affection of the mind toward the increase or decrease of dread maketh much of the matter.

Now the affections of men's minds are imprinted by divers means. One way is by means of the bodily senses, moved by such things, pleasant or unpleasant, as are outwardly offered unto them through sensible worldly things. And this manner of receiving the impression of affections is common unto men and beasts. Another manner of receiving affections is by means of reason, which both ordinately tempereth those affections that the five bodily senses imprint, and also disposeth a man many times to some spiritual virtues very contrary to those affections that are fleshly and sensual. And those reasonable dispositions are spiritual affections, and proper to the nature of man, and above the nature of beasts. Now, as our ghostly enemy the devil enforceth himself to make us lean to the sensual affections and beastly, so doth almighty God of his goodness by his Holy Spirit inspire us good motions, with the aid and help of his grace, toward the other spiritual affections. And by sundry means he instructeth our reason to lean to them, and not only to receive them as engendered and planted in our soul, but also in such wise to water them with the wise advertisement of godly counsel and continual prayer, that they may become habitually radicated and surely take deep root therein. And according as the one kind of affection or the other beareth the strength in our heart, so are we stronger or feebler against the terror of death in this cause.

And therefore, cousin, will we essay to consider what things there are for which we have cause in reason to master the fearful affection and sensual. And though we cannot clean avoid it and put it away, yet will we essay in such wise to bridle it at least that it run not out so far like a headstrong horse that, in spite of our teeth, it carry us out unto the devil.

Let us therefore now consider and well weigh this thing that we dread so sore—that is, shameful and painful death.

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