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CHAPTER I

OF MAN’S TURNING TO GOD; AND WHAT HELPS AND WHAT LETS HIS TURNING.

Be it known to all manner of people in this wretched dwelling place of exile abiding, that no man may be imbued with love of endless life, nor be anointed with heavenly sweetness, unless he truly be turned to God. It behoves truly he be turned to Him, and from all earthly things be altogether turned in mind, before he may be expert in the sweetness of God’s love, even in little things. Soothly by ordinate love is this turning done; so that he loves that that is worthy to be loved, and loves not that that is not worthy to be loved; and that he burn more in love of those things that are most worthy, and less in them that are less worthy.

Most is God for to be loved: mickle are heavenly things for to be loved: little, or nought but for need, are earthly things to be loved. Withouten doubt thus every man is turned to Christ whiles nought is desired by him but only Christ.

Truly turning from these goods that in this world deceive their lovers and defend them nought, stands in want of fleshly desire, and hatred of all wickedness; so that they savour not earthly things, nor desire to hold to worldly things beyond their strait need. For they truly that heap riches and know not for whom they gather, having their solace in them, are not worthy to be sometimes gladdened in the mirth of heavenly love; although they seem by devotion, not holy but simulated, to feel in their dis-eases something of that felicity which is to come. For truly for their foul presumption they have fallen from that sweetness with which God’s lovers are softened and made sweet because they have unmannerly loved worldly money. All love truly that ends not in God is sinful and makes the havers evil. Wherefore, loving worldly excellence, they are set on fire with sinful love, and they are further from heavenly heat than is the space betwixt the highest heaven and the lowest place of the earth.

They sicker are made like to that love because they are conformed to wanton concupiscence; and holding to old manners of wickedness, they love the vanity of this life before holy love. Wherefore they change the joy of incorruptible clearness to wantoned beauty that shall not last. This soothly would they not do unless they were blinded with the fire of froward love, the which wastes the burgeoning of virtue and nourishes the plants of all vice. Forsooth many are not set on womanly beauty nor like lechery, wherefore they trust themselves saved, as it were with sickerness; and because of chastity only, which they bear outwardly, they ween they surpass all others as saints. But wickedly they thus suppose and all in vain, when covetousness, the root of sins, is not drawn out. And truly, as it is written, nothing is worse than to love money. For whiles the love of temporal things occupies the heart of any man, it altogether suffers him to have no devotion. Truly the love of God and of this world may never be together in one soul, but whichever love is stronger puts out the other that thus it may openly be known who is this world’s lover and who Christ’s follower. (For the heat of love breaks out in works which are seen.) Certainly as Christ’s lovers behave themselves towards the world, and the flesh, so lovers of the world behave themselves towards God and their own souls.

They truly that are chosen, eat and drink but ever with all their mind to God they take entent, and in all earthly things not lust, but need they only seek. Of earthly things they speak with anguish and nought but passingly, nor in them making tarrying; and then in mind they are yet with God; and the remainder of time they yield to God’s service; not standing in idleness nor running to plays nor wonders—that is the token of the rejected—but rather behaving themselves honestly, they irk not either to speak or do or think those things that long to God.

The rejected truly alway behave themselves idly towards God; they hear God’s word with hardness, they pray without affection, they think of God without sweetness. They enter the kirk and fill the walls; they knock their breast and yield sighs, but plainly but feigned, for why they come to the eyes of men, not to the ears of God. For when they are in kirk in body, in mind they are distracted to worldly goods, which they have or else desire to have, wherefore their heart is far from God. They eat and drink not to their need but to their lust, for but in lecherous food find they savour or sweetness. They give moreover bread to the poor, clothing peradventure to the cold; but whiles their alms is done in deadly sin, or for vainglory, or sickerly of things untruly gotten, no marvel if they please not our Gainbuyer,2525    Redeemer but unto vengeance provoke our Judge.

Wherefore, as the chosen, whiles they take heed to the world or the flesh, alway have their mind busily to God; so the rejected, whiles they seem to do God service are busy with the world, and to those things that pertain to the world and the flesh they are greatly ravished in busyness of heart. And as the chosen displease God nought when they relieve their need, so the rejected please not God in the good deeds they are seen to do; for their full few good deeds are mingled with many ill deeds.

The fiend has many also which we trow be good. He has forsooth alms givers, the chaste, and meek—that is to say sinners calling themselves so—clad with hair and punished by penance. Truly under weening of health ofttimes deadly wounds are hid.

The fiend has also not a few hasty to work and busy to preach; but doubtless all those want to him that are warmed in charity (and who are always eager to love God) and slow to all vanity. The wicked truly are alway greedy after vile delectations, and as dead unto ghostly exercises; or else cast down with full great feebleness: whose love is ever inordinate; for they love temporal goods more than eternal, and their bodies more than their souls.


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