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Surely, cousin, as I said before, in bearing the loss of worldly goods, in suffering captivity, thraldom, and imprisonment, and in the glad sustaining of worldly shame, if we would in all those points deeply ponder the example of our Saviour himself, it would be sufficient of itself alone to encourage every true Christian man and woman to refuse none of all those calamities for his sake.
So say I now for painful death also: If we could and would with due compassion conceive in our minds a right imagination and remembrance of Christ's bitter painful passion—of the many sore bloody strokes that the cruel tormentors gave him with rods and whips upon every part of his holy tender body; of the scornful crown of sharp thorns beaten down upon his holy head, so strait and so deep that on every part his blessed blood issued out and streamed down; of his lovely limbs drawn and stretched out upon the cross, to the intolerable pain of his sore-beaten veins and sinews, feeling anew, with the cruel stretching and straining, pain far surpassing any cramp in every part of his blessed body at once; of the great long nails then cruelly driven with the hammer through his holy hands and feet; of his body, in this horrible pain, lifted up and let hang, with all its weight bearing down upon the painful wounded places so grievously pierced with nails; and in such torment, without pity, but not without many despites, suffered to be pined and pained the space of more than three long hours, till he himself willingly gave up unto his Father his holy soul; after which yet, to show the mightiness of their malice, after his holy soul departed, they pierced his holy heart with a sharp spear, at which issued out the holy blood and water, whence his holy sacraments have inestimable secret strength—if we could, I say, remember these things, in such a way as would God that we would, I verily suppose that the consideration of his incomparable kindness could not fail so to inflame our key-cold hearts, and set them on fire with his love, that we should find ourselves not only content but also glad and desirous to suffer death for his sake who so marvellously lovingly forbore not to sustain so far passing painful death for ours.
Would God that we would here—to the shame of our cold affection toward God, in return for such fervent love and inestimable kindness of God toward us—would God we would, I say, but consider what hot affection many of these fleshly lovers have borne and daily bear to those upon whom they dote. How many of them have not stinted to jeopard their lives, and how many have willingly lost their lives indeed, without any great kindness showed them before—and afterward, you know, they could nothing win! But it contented and satisfied their minds that by their death their lover should clearly see how faithfully they loved. The delight thereof, imprinted in their fancy, not only assuaged their pain but also, they thought, outweighed it all. Of these affections, with the wonderful dolorous effects following upon them, not only old written stories, but beside that experience, I think, in every country, Christian and heathen both, giveth us proof enough. And is it not then a wonderful shame for us, for the dread of temporal death, to forsake our Saviour who willingly suffered so painful death rather than forsake us? Considering that, beside that, he shall for our suffering so highly reward us with everlasting wealth. Oh, if he who is content to die for his love, of whom he looketh afterward for no reward, and yet by his death goeth from her, might by his death be sure to come to her and ever after in delight and pleasure to dwell with her—such a love would not stint here to die for her twice! And what cold lovers are we then unto God, if, rather than die for him once, we will refuse him and forsake him forever—him who both died for us before, and hath also provided that, if we die here for him, we shall in heaven everlastingly both live and also reign with him! For as St. Paul saith, "If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him."
How many Romans, how many noble hearts of other sundry countries, have willingly given their own lives and suffered great deadly pains and very painful deaths for their countries, to win by their death only the reward of worldly renown and fame! And should we, then, shrink to suffer as much for eternal honour in heaven and everlasting glory? The devil hath also some heretics so obstinate that they wittingly endure painful death for vain glory. And is it not then more than shame that Christ shall see his Catholics forsake his faith rather than suffer the same for heaven and true glory?
Would God, as I many times have said, that the remembrance of Christ's kindness in suffering his passion for us, the consideration of hell that we shall fall in by forsaking him, and the joyful meditation of eternal life in heaven that we shall win with this short temporal death patiently taken for him, had so deep a place in our breast as reason would that they should—and as, if we would strive toward it and labour for it and pray for it, I verily think they would. For then should they so take up our mind and ravish it all another way, that, as a man hurt in a fray feeleth not sometimes his wound nor yet is aware of it, until his mind fall more thereon (so much so that sometimes another man telleth him that he hath lost a hand before he perceive it himself), so the mind ravished in the thinking deeply of those other things—Christ's death, hell, and heaven—would be likely to diminish and put away four parts of the feeling of our painful death—either of the death or the pain. For of this am I very sure: If we had the fifteenth part of the love for Christ that he both had and hath for us, all the pain of this Turk's persecution could not keep us from him, but there would be at this day as many martyrs here in Hungary as there have been before in other countries of old.
And I doubt not but that, if the Turk stood even here with all his whole army about him; and if every one of them all were ready at hand with all the terrible torments that they could imagine, and were setting their torments to us unless we would forsake the faith; and if to the increase of our terror they fell all at once in a shout, with trumpets, tabrets, and timbrels all blown up at once, and all their guns let go therewith to make us a fearful noise; if then, on the other hand, the ground should suddenly quake and rive atwain, and the devils should rise out of hell and show themselves in such ugly shape as damned wretches shall see them; and if, with that hideous howling that those hell-hounds should screech, they should lay hell open on every side round about our feet, so that as we stood we should look down into that pestilent pit and see the swarm of poor souls in the terrible torments there—we would wax so afraid of the sight that we should scantly remember that we saw the Turk's host.
And in good faith, for all that, yet think I further this: If there might then appear the great glory of God, the Trinity in his high marvellous majesty, our Saviour in his glorious manhood sitting on the throne, with his immaculate mother and all that glorious company, calling us there unto them; and if our way should yet lie through marvellous painful death before we could come at them—upon the sight, I say, of that glory, I daresay there would be no man who once would shrink at death, but every man would run on toward them in all that ever he could, though there lay by the way, to kill us for malice, both all the Turk's tormentors and all the devils.
And therefore, cousin, let us well consider these things, and let us have sure hope in the help of God. And then I doubt not but what we shall be sure that, as the prophet saith, the truth of his promise shall so compass us with a shield that we shall never need to fear. For either, if we trust in God well, and prepare us for it, the Turk shall never meddle with us; or else, if he do, he shall do us no harm but, instead of harm, inestimable good. Wherefore should we so sore now despair of God's gracious help, unless we were such madmen as to think that either his power or his mercy were worn out already? For we see that so many a thousand holy martyrs, by his holy help, suffered as much before as any man shall be put to now. Or what excuse can we have by the tenderness of our flesh? For we can be no more tender than were many of them, among whom were not only men of strength, but also weak women and children. And since the strength of them all stood in the help of God; and since the very strongest of them all was never able to himself to stand against all the world, and with God's help the feeblest of them all was strong enough so to stand; let us prepare ourselves with prayer, with our whole trust in his help, without any trust in our own strength. Let us think on it and prepare ourselves for it in our minds long before. Let us therein conform our will unto his, not desiring to be brought unto the peril of persecution (for it beseemeth a proud high mind to desire martyrdom) but desiring help and strength of God, if he suffer us to come to the stress—either being sought, found, and brought out against our wills, or else being by his commandment, for the comfort of our cure, bound to abide.
Let us fall to fasting, to prayer, and to almsdeed in time, and give unto God that which may be taken from us. If the devil put in our mind the saving of our land and our goods, let us remember that we cannot save them long. If he frighten us with exile and flying from our country, let us remember that we be born into the broad world, not to stick still in one place like a tree, and that whithersoever we go, God shall go with us. If he threaten us with captivity, let us answer him that it is better to be thrall unto a man for a while, for the pleasure of God, than, by displeasing God, to be perpetual thrall unto the devil. If he threaten us with imprisonment, let us tell him that we would rather be man's prisoner a while here in earth than, by forsaking the faith, be his prisoners for ever in hell. If he put in our minds the terror of the Turks, let us consider his false sleight, for this tale he telleth us to make us forget him. But let us remember well that, in respect of himself, the Turks are but a shadow. And all that they can do can be but a flea-bite in comparison with the mischief that he goeth about. The Turks are but his tormentors, for he himself doth the deed. Our Lord saith in the Apocalypse, "The devil shall send some of you to prison, to tempt you." He saith not that men shall, but that the devil shall, himself. For without question the devil's own deed it is, to bring us by his temptation, with fear and force, into eternal damnation. And therefore saith St. Paul, "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood," etc.
Thus may we see that in such persecutions it is the midday devil himself that maketh such incursion upon us, by the men who are his ministers, to make us fall for fear. For until we fall he can never hurt us. And therefore saith St. James, "Stand against the devil and he shall flee from you." For he never runneth upon a man to seize him with his claws until he see him down on the ground, willingly fallen himself. For his fashion is to set his servants against us, and by them to make us fall for fear or for impatience. And he himself in the meanwhile compasseth us, running and roaring like a ramping lion about us, looking to see who will fall, that he may then devour him. "Your adversary the devil," saith St. Peter, "like a roaring lion, runneth about in circuit, seeking whom he may devour."
The devil it is, therefore, who, if we will fall for fear of men, is ready to run upon us and devour us. And is it wisdom, then, to think so much upon the Turks that we forget the devil? What a madman would he be who, when a lion were about to devour him, would vouchsafe to regard the biting of a little fisting cur? Therefore, when he roareth out upon us by the threats of mortal men, let us tell him that with our inward eye we see him well enough, and intend to stand and fight with him, even hand to hand. If he threaten us that we be too weak, let us tell him that our captain Christ is with us, and that we shall fight with the strength of him who hath vanquished him already. And let us fence with faith, and comfort us with hope, and smite the devil in the face with the firebrand of charity. For surely, if we be of the tender loving mind that our Master was, and do not hate them that kill us but pity them and pray for them, with sorrow for the peril that they work unto themselves, then that fire of charity thrown in his face will strike the devil suddenly so blind that he cannot see where to fasten a stroke on us.
When we feel ourselves too bold, let us remember our own feebleness, and when we feel ourselves too faint, let us remember Christ's strength. In our fear, let us remember Christ's painful agony, that he himself would for our comfort suffer before his passion, to the intent that no fear should make us despair. And let us ever call for his help, such as he himself may please to send us. And then need we never doubt but that he shall either keep us from the painful death, or else strengthen us in it so that he shall joyously bring us to heaven by it. And then doth he much more for us than if he kept us from it. For God did more for poor Lazarus, in helping him patiently to die for hunger at the rich man's door, than if he had brought to him at the door all the rich glutton's dinner. So, though he be gracious to a man whom he delivereth out of painful trouble, yet doth he much more for a man if, through right painful death, he deliver him from this wretched world into eternal bliss. Whosoever shrinketh away from it by forsaking his faith, and falleth in the peril of everlasting fire, he shall be very sure to repent ere it be long after.
For I am sure that whensoever he falleth sick next, he will wish that he had been killed for Christ's sake before. What folly is it, then, to flee for fear from that death which thou seest thou shalt shortly afterward wish thou hadst died! Yea, I daresay almost every good Christian man would very fain this day that yesterday he had been cruelly killed for Christ's sake—even for the desire of heaven, though there were no hell. But to fear while the pain is coming, there is all our hindrance! But if, on the other hand, we would remember hell's pain into which we fall while we flee from this, then this short pain should be no hindrance at all. And yet, if we were faithful, we should be more pricked forward by deep consideration of the joys of heaven, of which the apostle saith, "The passions of this time be not worthy to the glory that is to come, which shall be showed in us." We should not, I believe, need much more in all this matter than one text of St. Paul, if we would consider it well. For surely, mine own good cousin, remember that if it were possible for me and you alone to suffer as much trouble as the whole world doth together, all that would not be worthy of itself to bring us to the joy which we hope to have everlastingly. And therefore, I pray you, let the consideration of that you put out all worldly trouble out of your heart, and also pray that it may do the same in me.
And even thus will I, good cousin, with these words, make a sudden end of mine whole tale, and bid you farewell. For now begin I to feel myself somewhat weary.
VINCENT: Forsooth, good uncle, this is a good end. And it is no marvel if you are waxed weary. For I have this day put you to so much labour that, save for the comfort that you yourself may take from having bestowed your time so well, and for the comfort that I have taken—and more shall, I trust—of your good counsel given, else would I be very sorry to have put you to so much pain.
But now shall our Lord reward and recompense you therefore, and many, I trust, shall pray for you. For to the intent that the more men may take profit of you, I purpose, uncle, as my poor wit and learning will serve me, to record your good counsel not only in our own language, but in the German tongue too.
And thus, praying God to give me, and all others who shall read it, the grace to follow your good counsel, I shall commit you to God.
ANTHONY: Since you be minded, cousin, to bestow so much labour on it, I would it had happed you to fetch the counsel at some wiser man, who could have given you better. But better men may add more things, and better also, thereto. And in the meantime, I beseech our Lord to breathe of his Holy Spirit into the reader's breast, who inwardly may teach him in heart. For without him little availeth all that the mouths of the world would be able to teach in men's ears.
And thus, good cousin, farewell, till God bring us together again, either here or in heaven. Amen.
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