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OF THE DESPISING OF THE WORLD
To despise this world is to pass through this life without the love of all temporal and passing things; to seek nothing in this world but God; for all vainglory and solace not to care; scarcely to take thy necessaries, and if they sometimes want, to bear it goodly. This is the despising of this world. Have this in mind if thou wilt not be slain through love of it. Thus is the world despised and not loved.
All soothly that we love, we worship; it is also foul to worship dirt, that is to love earthly things. Therefore these rich niggards bind themselves thrall in most foul filth and stink, and joy to be called lords of men, though they be servants of sin. If a man be lord of men, that is not of nature but of fortune. That man is subject to vice is from a froward will. Put away therefore thy wicked will, and thou shalt be free from the fiend and from sin and made the servant of righteousness that teaches thee not to love earthly things.
Covetousness of the world and the love of God truly are contrary, and rest not together in one soul. The place is so strait, that one falls out. The more soothly thou castest out covetousness the more thou tastest God’s love. The more covetousness, the less charity.
O wretched soul, what seekest thou in this world where thou seest that all things are deceitful and passing? They soonest beguile thee that most flatter thee. Why busiest thou thyself for mortal things? Why yearnest thou with great desire for the things that shall perish? Seest thou not that they perish sooner than they are gotten? ‘But I wot where thou dwellest, where Satan’s seat is; that has blinded thine eyes and by his falsehoods has scorned thee: so that thou shouldest desire fleeting things, and love hateful things, and despise abiding things, and be drawn to things vanishing. And so thou settest thyself on a false ground, and when thou weenest to stand thou fallest into the fire.
The dwellers in temporal plenty are beguiled by five things that they love: by riches; by dignity; by will; by power; and by honours. These bind them in sin, and constrain them in defaults; with these lusts they are overcome, and never are loosed but by death; but their loosing is too late when there is no more save endless pain. This lets them from despising the world; from God’s love; from knowledge of themselves; from the desire for the heavenly kingdom. No man may be saved unless he cease to love the world with all that is therein. Cease therefore whiles heat is in the body and the fair age of youth yet abides.
What things shall delight him that disposes himself to love Christ? He will despise youth and will keep his strength for God; riches he counts for nought; he will take heed that this fairness is vain, and grace deceitful. Whereto shall I run on one by one? He shall perfectly despise all things that in this world pass as a shadow.
O lover of the flesh, what findest thou in thy flesh wherefore thou so delightest in it? Does the form or shape please thee, or hast thou now thy joy in a skin? Why takest thou not heed what is hid under the skin? Or knowest thou not that fleshly fairness is the covering of filth, and the dregs of corruption, and oft the cause of damnation? Therefore be it enough for thee, all other things being despised, to love God; to praise God; with God to be; in God to joy; and from Him not to part; but to cleave to Him with unslakened desire.
The world itself compels us to despise the world that is so full of wretchedness; in which is abiding malice, destroying persecution, swelling wrath, fretting lust, false blaming for sin, and bitterness of slander; where all things are confused and withouten order; where neither righteousness is loved nor truth approved; where faithfulness is unfaithful, and friendship cruel, that stands in prosperity and falls in adversity.
There are yet other things that should move us to the despising of the world: the changeableness of time; shortness of this life; death sicker; the chance of death unsicker; the stableness of everlastingness and the vanity of things present; the truth of the joys to come.
Choose what thou wilt. If thou love the world, with it thou shalt perish; if thou love Christ, with Him thou shalt reign.
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