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Chapter XXXVIII.

We must strengthen the mind against troubles to come, and build it up by looking out for them beforehand. What difficulties there are in doing this.

188. But again, no one must retire through cowardice, or give up his faith from fear of danger. With what grace must the soul be equipped, and the mind trained and taught to stand firm, so as never to be disturbed by any fears, to be broken by any troubles, or to yield to any torments! With what difficulty indeed are they borne! But as all pains seem less in the fear of greater pains, so also, if thou dost build up thy soul by quiet counsel, and dost determine not to go from thy course, and layest before thee the fear of divine judgment and the torment of eternal punishment, canst thou gain endurance of mind.

189. If a man thus prepares himself, he gives signs of great diligence. On the other hand it is a sign of natural ability, if a man by the power of his mind can foresee the future, and put as it were before his eyes what may happen, and decide what he ought to do if it should take place. It may happen, too, that he will think over two or three things at once, which he supposes may come either singly or together, and that he settles what he will do with them as he thinks will be to the most advantage, in the event of their coming either singly or together.

200. Therefore it is the duty of a brave man not to shut his eyes when anything threatens, but to put it before him and to search it out as it were in the mirror of his mind, and to meet the future with foreseeing thought, for fear he might afterwards have to say: This has come to me because I thought it could not come about. If misfortunes are not looked for beforehand, they quickly get a hold over us. In war an unexpected enemy is with difficulty resisted, and if he finds the others unprepared, he easily overcomes them; so evils unthought of readily break down the soul.

200. In these two points, then, consists the excellency of the soul: so that thy soul, trained in good thoughts, and with a pure heart, first, may see what is true and virtuous (for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”),291291    S. Matt. v. 8. and may decide that only to be good which is virtuous; and, next, may never be disturbed by business of any kind, nor get tossed about by any desires.

201. Not that this is an easy thing for any one. For what is so difficult as to discern, as though from some watch-tower, the resources of wisdom and all those other things, which to most seem so great and noble? Again, what so difficult as to place one’s decision on fixed grounds, and to despise what one has decided to be worthless, as of no good? Or, once more, what so difficult, when some misfortune has happened, and it is looked on as something serious and grieving, as to bear it in such a way that one considers it nothing beyond what is natural, when one reads: “Naked was I born, naked shall I go forth. What the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away”292292    Job i. 21. (he who said this had lost children and possessions), and to preserve in all things the character of a wise and upright man, as he did who says: “As the Lord pleased, so did He. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”293293    Job i. 21. And again: “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”294294    Job ii. 10.


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