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THAT GOD’S LOVER FORSAKES THE WORLD, IDLENESS AND IRKSOMENESS: AND OF HYPOCRITES AND COVETOUS MEN
It is said in the Canticles: ‘Love is strong as death and love is hard as hell.’ Death truly kills the quick; hell soothly spares not the dead. So, certainly, the love of God not only utterly kills the love of this world in the man that it perfectly ravishes, but also, being slain to the world and quickened to heaven, it stirs him to suffer full mickle tribulation and worldly wretchedness for God.
Wherefore whosoever thou mayest be that hopest that thou lovest Christ to this take heed; for if thou yet behold earthly things with delight, and also find thy soul high to suffer wrongs or else death, thou showest forsooth that thou art not God’s true lover. Soothly a true lover neither dresses his eyes to the world, nor dreads to suffer all that seems heavy or hard to the body for God; and whosoever happen to him yet he is not let from the thought of Jesu his Beloved.
Thou also that either art God’s lover, or with thy whole mind desirest to be, study alway, as mickle as thou canst by Christ’s grace, not to be noyed by irksomeness, nor to be taken with idleness. And if it sometimes happen that sweet easiness be not to thee in praying or in good thinking, and that thou be not made high in mind by the song of holy contemplation, and thou canst not sing as thou wast wont; yet cease not to read or pray, or else do some other good deed, inward or outward, that thou slide not into idleness or sloth. Irksomeness, soothly, has drawn many to idleness; and idleness, to negligence and wickedness.
Wherefore be thou alway fervent in as mickle as in thee is; and have not thy desire bowed to anything of this world that may be had or desired. No man truly is perfectly knit to God, whiles he is bound in desire to any worldly creature.
There are some also that seem outwardly oned to God, and within they are given to fiends. These are simulators and false men, that challenge the wrath of God. Feigners forsooth they are, that despise the world with their words, and with their deeds are known to love it too mickle. They will be seen speaking of God, and are so mickle taken up within with love of money that they also strive sometimes for the weight of two halfpence. The which, opening their mouth to desire God, are utterly wanting in charity; and whiles they have no heat of faith and charity they show themselves most holy in gait, clothing, and speech. These also, moreover, boast themselves steadfast in light diseases, but when they come thereto where they should gainstand, there they are soonest broken, and there they fall. And then what before was hid is openly shown. Yet when they abound in riches and are fed with riches, they say they eat full little, and that they have so great thought that all this world is but vanity, that, as they say, they can scarcely last for feebleness. Deceitful also are they, because they have worldly wisdom; and they beguile by that, so that they are not perceived by others lying in wait, in as mickle as they are aware; and hiding covetousness under the title of ghostly rest, they eschew loss of worldly goods, in despite of things everlasting.
But such, although they lurk for a time, withouten doubt it shall appear of what kind they have been long before the end, or at least in the end. The which do alms, or any other deed they do, in the sight of men; that it may be seen of all men. And such worthily provoke the wrath of God for they desire, not to be, but to be seen holy; and within, where God sees, wanting in true charity, they challenge their own joy not God’s.
Full hard it truly is [to have riches, and not to love them, and not less difficult is it] to have a winning craft or office, and not to be covetous. Wherefore ofttimes are priests defamed among the people: that though they be chaste they are found covetous, if they be generous they are made lechers. And ofttimes it happens that having taken the order of priesthood, they fall as mickle deep into sin as the degree which they unworthily have taken is high. Truly not a few, set on fire with noisome covetousness, under colour of sickness or poverty that may come say they gather their goods that they may eschew sudden wretchedness. But they are beguiled by fiends, for they both lose worldly goods, and run into the darkness that they dread, because they heed not God that delivers His servants in His sight: and that is worst of all, whiles within they are fulfilled with worldly covetousness, without they seem to themselves to shine with tokens of holiness.
But he that is our Lord’s servant trusts in our Lord; and distributes the goods which he has over his need, to them that need. The servant of the world truly studies to keep evilly all that he has, because of his covetousness which is unable to be fulfilled: so great a niggard is he that he dare not eat, save foully and scarcely, so that, being sparing, he may gather mickle money. And these are they that the psalmist shames saying: Inimici ejus terram lingent; that is to say: ‘His enemies shall lick the earth.’
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