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THAT GOD IS TO BE LOVED AND WORSHIPPED IN DISEASES: AND ALSO OF THE MIRTH AND MEEKNESS OF THE GOOD
If temporal honour be destroyed by shame, and worldly be ended by villainy, it is known without doubt that reproach is better than worship, shame than high degree, and heaviness than praise. For by these things a man ofttimes slides into vainglory; by the other always, if a man bear it patiently, he in this life shall be taught meekness, and in the time to come shall suffer no pain—for God will not punish the righteous twice—and he shall be crowned: for the patience of the poor will not perish in the end.
Truly to holiness these things belong: first, to think, speak and do in no manner what displeases God; and then, to think, speak, and work what may please God. Do this after thy knowledge, so that thou neither fall into slander nor feign too mickle holiness. For he is a fool that desires to appear holy before men; and cruel that shows himself evil when he is good.
Some things truly there are that, taken heed unto, in themselves are neither good nor evil, for in their pure nature they are neither meedful nor unmeedful; and if such things be done they displease not God; nor if they be left undone please not God. For here we may see, smell, touch, and yet earn no meed or unmeed. All sin truly is done either to God’s displeasing, or our neighbour’s noying, or to our own harm. But many things may be found among men that are none of these. Truly to be despised, or lost, in the sight of men, makes man ascend to the joy of angels.
O good Jesu here chastise, here cut, here smite, here burn; yea, and whatsoever please Thy goodiness do to me, so that in the time to come I have none ill, but may feel Thy love here and everlastingly. To be despised by all men in confusion and shame for Thee, is sweeter to me than to be called brother by an earthly king, and to be honoured among all men and of all men. May wretchedness fall on me on ilka side in this life, so that Thou God spare me in the other. I will to be chastised and corrected here; and Christ that grant to me, if otherwise I may not escape pain to come.
The proud truly and those full of wrath seem to themselves so worthy that they can suffer nothing. Ofttimes at a light word and without cause they are moved. Therefore they are to be fled more than to be overcome, for they are froward. And that they have taken up they alway defend, though it be false or untrue; and neither with authority nor reason will they be overcome, that they should not be seen to have said what were unaccording. And when they are untaught—and that they wot well—yet they will behave as if they were inspired in all things that belong to God, so that they may speak in every place without the gainsaying of any man; and they had liever dwell still in error than be openly reproved for it.
Brethren, leave this proud madness and mad pride, and let us greatly meek ourselves whiles we are in this way: for it is better, lovely, and good that after our death Christ say to us, ‘Friend, come uppermore,’ than that He say ‘Carl, go downermore’: so truly shall it be of the meek and the proud.
Wherefore no tribulation, no disease, no wretchedness, no shame, no reproach is to dreaded by the righteous man as long as he sins not and always profits in contemplative life and the love of God. Truly before we may come to that kingly hall, in which, filled with sweetness, we shall be glad with the angels of God and all His saints, it befalls us here to be reproved by flatterers and wrong sayers; by fawners and backbiters; by praisers and blamers; so that, when we shall be examined, we may be found alway given to Christ’s precepts and His counsel, in all patience and meekness and charity; as it is written: Tanquam aurum in fornace probavit eos; that is to say: ‘As gold he has proved them in the furnace,’ that has fire on ilka side, and has found them worthy to have Himself. Thus let us go through adversity and prosperity, through fire and water, unto the time we come to the refreshing of the heavenly life.
Have mind also that in all diseases and need and poverty thou never grumble, nor speak fondly nor frowardly—but in all things give thanks to God. Thereby truly shalt thou be lifted up more joyfully to the kingdom of the saints, if in this world thou suffer gladly the things beforesaid.
O my soul, among all things that happen praise thy Lord with liking devotion; praising, feel with sweetness; and singing, taste with honeysweet devotion, saying: Laudabo Dominum in vita mea, that is to say, ‘I shall worship my Lord in my life,’ whether I be diseased or eased: whether I receive honour or shame. As long as I am, I shall sing to my God. If I rest, I sing in Jesu; and if I suffer persecution, I forget not the love of God. Truly it is enough for me to love my God, and to come to Him; since I can do no other or feel myself disposed to the work of no other things but to love Christ.
And yet, I come not to as great love of God as mine elder fathers, the which have also done many other profitable things; whereof I am full greatly ashamed in myself, and confused. Therefore, O Lord, make broad my heart that it may be more able to perceive Thy love. Truly the more able man is to receive, so mickle the more of charity he takes and savours, and the less he cares for the flesh; but with discretion, so that it be with him after the sentence of the wise: Modicum mihi laboravi et inveni mihi multam requiem; that is to say: ‘A little have I travailed with myself, and I have found great rest to myself.’ For after a few years of this life the righteous have found rest for everlasting.
The holy lover of God shows himself neither too merry nor full heavy in this habitation of exile, but he has cheerfulness with ripeness. Forsooth some reprove laughter and some praise it. Laughter therefore which is from lightness and vanity of mind is to be reproved, but that truly that is of gladness of conscience and ghostly mirth is to be praised; the which is only in the righteous, and it is called mirth in the love of God. Wherefore if we be glad and merry, the wicked call us wanton; and if we be heavy, hypocrites.
Seldom, soothly, can any man trow in another good that he finds not in himself; and he weens another has the sin into which he stumbles. And the deed of the wicked is this: that if any follow not their life, they trust that he goes wrong and is deceived; and this is because he has forsaken meekness. The degrees also of meekness are: to hold the eyes low, not high; to have a measure in speech, and not to pass it; to hear gladly their betters and those more wise; and to will wisdom should be heard from others, rather than from themselves. Not to take the time of speaking too soon. Not to go from common life. To set others before thyself; to know thy frailties and to deem thyself worse than all others. If truly I wished to come among men, I have desired that I might sit last in number, and be held least in opinion, and so all my joy should be in Christ Jesu; and thus I should take no heed to man’s praising or blaming, but with busy devotion I should desire after God.
Forsooth many that have spoken with me were like to scorpions; for they have fawned with their flattering head, and with their backbiting tail have smitten; from whose wicked lips and sorrowful tongue God shall deliver my soul, setting it in the joy of rest.
But whence is come so great madness into man’s mind that none will be blamed, none will be reproved, but all truly seek to be praised; they joy in honour, and laugh in favour. They also bear the name of a holier life; but to me such seem either above measure holy, or else mad, although they be called wise and taught. For who of good mind is there who leaves himself, not taking heed to himself, and gladdens himself in the void words of vain men? Truly if he beholds himself busily, and cares to know of what kind he is in thought and deed, he may soon understand himself, and may find whether he be worthy of praise or reproof.
When therefore he sees himself in many things worthy of blame and in few things to be praised, he should not take with gladness the honour or favour of which he is not worthy; unless he be mad and has erred in mind. Truly, if carefully considering himself, he finds he waxes marvellously warm in the heat and sweetness of God’s love, and rises highly in contemplative life, and also in this continually stands; and has also in mind that either he has not done great sins, or if he have done any he trows they be cleansed by true penance: then truly it behoves him not to sorrow for the honour of men, because clearly he was more worthy of the fellowship of angels.
Whosoever is thus disposed should no more joy to sit with a king than with a poor man; for he takes no heed to riches and honours from men, but unto the life and meeds of ilka man. He holds it not great to shine in gold, nor to be umbelapped with a great menge, nor to go in purple and be glad in the array of bishops: but truly he sets a holy and sweet conscience before all pleasures and riches.
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