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Chapter XXXIX.

Of the way in which we shall mount towards perfection, whereby we may afterwards ascend from the fear of God up to love.

The beginning” of our salvation and the safeguard of it is, as I said, “the fear of the Lord.”810810    Prov. ix. 10. For through this those who are trained in the way of perfection can gain a start in conversion as well as purification from vices and security in virtue. And when this has gained an entrance into a man’s heart it produces contempt of all things, and begets a forgetfulness of kinsfolk and an horror of the world itself. But by the contempt for the loss of all possessions humility is gained. And humility is attested by these signs: First of all if a man has all his desires mortified; secondly, if he conceals none of his actions or even of his thoughts from his superior; thirdly, if he puts no trust in his own opinion, but all in the judgment of his superior, and listens eagerly and willingly to his directions; fourthly, if he maintains in everything obedience and gentleness and constant patience; fifthly, if he not only hurts nobody else, but also is not annoyed or vexed at wrongs done to himself; sixthly, if he does nothing and ventures on nothing to which he is not urged by the Common Rule or by the example of our elders; seventhly, if he is contented with the lowest possible position, and considers himself as a bad workman and unworthy in the case of everything enjoined to him; eighthly, if he does not only outwardly profess with his lips that he is inferior to all, but really believes it in the inmost thoughts of his heart; ninthly, if he governs his tongue, and is not over talkative; tenthly, if he is not easily moved or too ready to laugh. For by such signs and the like is true humility recognised. And when this has once been genuinely secured, then at once it leads you on by a still higher step to love which knows no fear;811811    Cf. 1 John iv. 18. and through this you begin, without any effort and as it were naturally, to keep up everything that you formerly observed not without fear of punishment; no longer now from regard of punishment or fear of it but from love of goodness itself, and delight in virtue.812812    With this chapter there should be compared the Rule of S. Benedict c. vii., where a very similar description is given of twelve grades “on the mystic ladder [of humility] which Jacob saw,” evidently suggested by the chapter before us.


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