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In the next place, how true poverty is a free capacity or power (vermögen)
The question here occurs: What is freedom? Freedom is a complete purity and detachment, which seeketh the Eternal; freedom is an isolated, a withdrawn being,1818 Friheit ist ein abgescheiden Wezen. (Denifle, p. 8, line 18.) identical with God, or entirely attached to God. Poverty is an isolated condition, an existence, withdrawn from all creatures, and therefore poverty is free. A free soul dismisses all defect and all created things, and penetrates into the increate good, that is, God,1919 Matthew xi. 12. Regnum coelorum vim patitur, et violenti rapiunt illud. and acquires it with violence, as Christ saith: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the mighty take it.”2020 Matt. xi. 12. This passage is further explained page 15, No. 19, and Note 11. God is the kingdom of heaven to souls; if therefore she leaveth all things and clingeth to God alone, she acquireth God by constraint. For God cannot withhold Himself; He must give Himself to her, for it is His nature that He communicates Himself to the soul that is receptive of Him. To a free soul all things are equal—pleasure or pain, chiding or praise, riches or poverty, 12weal or woe, friend or foe. A free soul cloth not let itself be drawn away by anything that might separate it or mediate between it and God, as St. Paul saith: “Who shall separate us from God?”2121 Rom. viii. 35. All things rather further it to God, and she presseth forward through, all that intervenes to her first original. A free soul seizes and wins all virtue, and not only virtue, but also the essence of virtue; and nothing binds it except virtue, and the most intimate and purest virtue; but this is no bond, rather is it the way of freedom. And then is the soul thoroughly free, when she can only endure what is best and entirely abandons evil. For freedom does not consist in sins, but slavery; as St Paul saith: Whosoever committeth sin, he is the slave of sin, and not a free agent.2222 John viii. 34. Genuine freedom is so noble that no one giveth it save God the Father; for it is a power flowing immediately from God the Father into the soul, and giving all capacity to the soul; as St. Paul saith: “I am able to do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.”2323 Phil. iv. 13.
The soul when she dives into herself perceives what she was, what she is, and what she is not; what she was after a sinful fashion, and this she comprehends with bitterness; and bitterness, remorse, distress, and displeasure, make her pure. Then in this purity springeth up a clear light, which showeth her all truth; 13and the Holy Ghost causeth the light to burn, intensely and hotly, and driveth the soul through it into all truth, which hath been shown to her, and by no means suffers her to return to her old sins, but leads her freely into all truth, without any necessity of further insight. And when she cometh thus into the truth, and is taken up with the truth, and freedom hath tasted the truth, this truth becomes to her so sweet and comforting that she leaveth all things and cleaveth to the truth, and then giveth up the freedom of her will and maketh herself poor. And on her going forth out of her own will, God receiveth her will, and clothes her with His will and makes it free, and gives it all capacity with Him; as St. Paul says: “Whoso cleaveth to God, he is one spirit with God.”2424 1 Cor. vi. 17. And in the poverty of her will, this her will is ennobled and elevated, and not abased, but much rather set free as though she had not become emptied of her will. The Master of Nature2525 “Master of Nature” (see Mönch von Heilbronn, ed. Menzdorf, p. 9) is identical with philosopher, but with the definite article it means ‘Aristotle,’ his name often occurring also in the margin of the MSS. But the passage in the text does not appear in this form in Aristotle, who only says, Categ. 14. b. 4: Τὸ Βέλτιον καὶ τὸ τιμιώτερον πρότερον εῖναι τῆ φυσει θοκεῖ. The passage, as it occurs in the “Following,” is of Neo-Platonic origin, and was used by Dionys. De div. nom. v. § 3; and in the Book de Causis, lect. 10 (inter. opp. St. Thomae, ed. Antverp. 1612, tom. iv.); later on it became a fixed principle among the Schoolmen. Gulielmus Paris, De immort. animae, i. p. 332. a; Alex. Alens. Summa Theol. ii. qu. 62, membr 6; Albert. M. In coelest. hierarch c. 1. p. 10a. and c. 3. p. 33.—St. Bonaventure, 2. dist. 3. p. 1. dub. 2.—St. Thomas, 1. p. qu. 55. a. 3: Ex hoc sunt in rebus aliqua superiora, quod sunt uni primo, quod est Deus, propinquiora et similiora, i. p. qu. 106. a. 3. ad 1.—Meister Eckhart, 133. 27; 277. i. says: “Everything that is most intimate with the first cause is the most noble.” Hence, when the soul hath united her will with the Divine Will, it becomes truly noble and free; and if the will is otherwise it is not free. And in the union of her spirit with the Divine Spirit, the soul is capable of all things freely; for “where the Spirit is, there is freedom,” as St. Paul saith.2626 2 Cor. iii. 17. Hence poverty is a likeness with God; for with God it can do all things.14
I hear a voice say: If a man goes out of his own will, and gives himself into obedience to another man, does he not lose his freedom? To this I answer: That man gives himself up to another in four ways. First, inasmuch as he is ignorant, and is taught, he gives himself up to another. Secondly, inasmuch as he is not dead to all sins, and that he may the more readily die to all inequality in truth, he also giveth himself up to another. Thirdly, he gives himself up from genuine humility; he does not look to see if he understands the truth and is dead to sins, but holds himself to be nothing else than a sinner, and therefore he gives himself up to another and doth not trust himself. In the fourth place, he gives himself up to the commandments of the Holy Church; what he is told to do that he does willingly.
But the case is different, as I will show, with a thoroughly perfect poor man, who has become empty of himself and of all things. First, he need not give himself over through ignorance, for a poor man is a pure man; now, where purity is, there is light; where there is light, it shineth and showeth what is hidden. A thoroughly poor man is a pure light in himself, in which he sees and recognises all truth, and need not go out of himself nor seek it elsewhere. For in this going forth 15he is easily led into intermediate and manifold distractions. Rather doth he go into himself, where he findeth all that he requires. For in this movement in which he really drops himself and all creatures, God must give Himself to him in all truth; then if he hath God, he needeth nothing more.2727 The same view occurs at No. 16, p. 11. Denifle considers the meaning to be simply this: If man has departed from himself and all things, then God fills him, because there is no more obstacle at hand. That God “must give Himself up” does not relate to necessitas coactionis, as St. Thomas calls it ( l. 2. q. 112. a 3), but to the necessitas infallibilitatis; for the design of God would be defeated if He did not give Himself to a soul prepared to receive Him, as the preparation itself is His doing. Comp. No. 137.
Furthermore, it is not needful for him to go out of himself for the sake of dying. For he is dead to all sins: he who is dead to them, has no need of further dying. But here it may be asked if a man can come to this in time, that he hath no more to die? Man certainly comes to this in time, that creatures find in him nothing more to kill, for he has gone out of himself and out of all creatures. In this state was St. Paul when he said: “I have reckoned all things as dung.”2828 Phil. iii. 8. Hence the deaths of a poor man are so subtle and hidden that few creatures can detect them. But man never comes to this in time; God always finds something to kill in him. Therefore, it is not necessary for a man who hath abandoned self, to give himself up to creatures; but he should at all times give himself up to God.
In the third place: A poor and pure man need not give himself to any man through 16humility, for he hath in himself the roots of all humility. Nor is it, needful for him to show his humility to creatures, for God understandeth his heart well; as Christ saith “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”2929 Matt. xi. 29. Have humility of heart, that is enough. An objection may be made that “it is not enough for man to have virtue in him, but he should manifest it, that people may be bettered.” I answer to this: If thou art gone out from thyself and quite withdrawn, people will be much more improved on thy account, if they wish it, through this thy withdrawal than through thy co-operation. It may, however, be urged: Granting that a man in himself understandeth all truth and hath overcome all sin, yet is it good that he should not assume this to himself, and it is better for him to trust another than himself. To this I say: He should not assume it, but give it to God, and to no creature; for no creature can give such truth and singleness, for God only giveth them.
In the fourth place: A purely poor man is also not bound to take externally, like another man, all that is legally prescribed in holy Christianity; for those who do this are not wholly emptied of themselves. And that which holy Christianity worketh in an external manner the poor man worketh inwardly and essentially. For in manner and form 17enters the manifold, but essence is without manner or form. And the poor man is thus simplified in essence, and therefore he cannot mix himself with the manifold, as St. Paul saith: “All laws are not binding to the righteous.”3030 1 Tim. i. 9. For the law is only there to make people leave sin and win virtue. The really poor man hath left all sins and won all virtue. But how shall a thoroughly poor man hold himself under the law? He should in simplicity do all that he can and that appertaineth to him, and the rest he should leave; yet he should not despise it nor hold it to be evil but good; for all is good that holy Christianity hath set forth. And thus to the poor man abideth always his freedom, and yet he is very submissive and obedient.
Now the question might occur: How is it then with the poor men, who are in a community, when one gives himself up to another and is obedient to him? Is not this against freedom? This is explained, because a poor man can give himself up in a threefold way.
First, from the necessity of the body, as to seek bread, through God, for his own wants or the necessity of his brother. And if he 18gains what is necessary for himself, he should give himself over to God and watch his heart and give God scope to work in him inwardly; and he should let God use the strength he has got from the food, and not let himself be led astray. For if he let himself fail at all in God’s work he would not be thoroughly free. For it belongs to the nature of alms that they should be consumed in God. And whosoever consumes them otherwise, be it with external works or in idleness, he doth not make a proper use of his alms nor act according to the true principles of a poor life. If I am asked: Should then a poor man always watch his heart and not trouble himself about external things, such as spinning and other such work? and if he trouble himself with outer works, is this against poverty and freedom? I say: A thoroughly poor man owes no one anything, only God, and he should always hold himself so, if he wish to do the work of God, that God may find him ready. And if this relates to external works, he should leave them, nor consider the obedience to man, but he should satisfy God and not man. But if he consumes internally so that the body can no longer endure it, let him then certainly go forth to an external work of charity that may be nearest at hand.
Secondly, a poor man may give himself up for the sake of virtue in himself and in his 19brethren. In himself this may happen in three ways: First, if his nature is burthened or sick, so that it cannot well take heed of the heart and turn inwardly to God, in this case he can very properly give himself to some work of charity. Then, again, if he hath not yet obtained the external virtues, he must exercise himself till he has adopted, the essence of virtue. Thirdly, to better his brother, that he may give him a good example and image, he should practise works of charity; and what he does he should do from pure love, and this does not take from freedom but increaseth it. Again, and further, a poor man should give himself up and practise acts of charity to his brother in three ways: First, when he is deficient in virtue and has no one who could help him, he should go out of himself and go to the help of his brother,—even if he were in the highest vision and contemplation that can exist in time, and did not come to help his brother, he would commit a sin. Then, again, he is the follower of our Lord, who exercised outward works of charity towards His disciples, and he ought to follow His image. Lastly, if he is to possess eternal life, as Christ saith, “Come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”3131 Matt. xi. 28. And this means the acts of mercy that God will require from every man. And in this way a man can go out of himself and give himself up to works of charity. But 20this doth not hinder a man, nor take from him his freedom, but it helpeth in the closest manner and gains for him freedom. And the man is not pure and free simply if he is pure in virtue, but he ought to exercise himself in all virtues that belong to his state, and then he is pure and free, and then he can without any sin dive into himself and take heed of his heart.
In the third place, a poor man ought to give himself up to an external work of charity when he is warned by God to do so, and he ought not to resist God; he should satisfy his Creator in this, and give himself up in all that God requireth of him.
Here it might be objected: How is a man to understand if the motive to an external work be from the Evil Spirit, or from Nature, or from God? For internal works that God worketh in the soul are far better than external works of charity, and yet both must exist. I shall consider this distinction quite briefly, for much might be said on the subject, which I pass over at present. First, let us see how the Evil Spirit is to be recognised in the way in which he stimulates to acts of charity. First, if a man 21is stirred out of his internal recollection and moved to address himself to wealthy persons, and to give himself up to them and to satisfy them without any necessity of virtue, and if he wastes his time unprofitably with them and lives comfortably with them in much ease, in eating and in drinking, and if he fancies that his nature needeth his ease, that he may be stronger, and may serve God better, and if he grasps at more than his necessity, and becometh heavy laden and disturbed and given to manifold cares, so that he cannot so well enter again into his heart as if he had remained at home, this motive and tendency are from the Evil Spirit and from his bodily nature. For bodily nature also findeth its pleasure in these things. St. Paul saith: “The kingdom of heaven is not eating and drinking, but peace, joy, and righteousness.”’3232 Rom. xiv. 17.
Further: Another motive proceedeth from the Evil Spirit if a man favours rich people and gives them what is due to poor people, as, for example, to invite them, and to live on a good footing with them, for in doing this such a man seeketh praise and honour, and that people should invite him again, and thereby he neglects virtue, and he gets no reward for this conduct, but much 22tribulation. Christ saith: “If thou makest a feast, thou shalt not invite thy friends nor the rich, but thou shalt invite the poor, and thou shalt not have thy reward here, but in the kingdom of heaven.”3333 Luke xiv. 12, 14.
In the third place: If a man is by himself and God worketh works in him, and if he thinks he is too weak and he cannot suffer it, and turns himself outwardly into time, to unnecessary works of charity, and in the distraction of the senses, and of a bodily nature, if it be difficult to the body to be much recollected internally, this again is a temptation of the Evil One and of nature. In the fourth place, the motive is also inspired by the Evil Spirit if a man turns himself to external works of charity beyond all measure or necessity; for example, in excessive fasting and watching, and other severe practices, by which a man is unbalanced and his senses are in some degree perverted so that he becomes half foolish, and by which he departs so much from himself that he can never again revert to his own heart, and he becomes so seriously ill that for this reason he is obliged to give up many good works which God would have worked in him. Therefore St. Paul spoke in this connection, “Let your service be in moderation.”3434 Rom. xii. 1. Rationabile obsequium vestrum.23
Further, to discern if the external work of charity is dictated by Nature observe this: Whatsoever is turned to self or considers self in a work of charity, that is a work of Nature; for Nature always loveth and proposeth self. Again, if a man exerciseth himself in bodily joys, and testifieth love to them, that is also readily seen to be from Nature, for sinners also practise those things amongst one another. Thirdly, if rich people show trust and faith one to another that is also from Nature, for like adheres to like naturally: therefore if a poor man cumbers himself about rich folk, this is a sign that he hath a certain likeness with them, and hath not yet contemned all things; for if he had despised all things he would not hold much intercourse with rich people, for virtue would consist in only doing this as far as necessity directeth.
In the third place, how is a man to discern if an external act of charity is prompted by God? To determine this observe: Man has to keep three things in view in his work. First, the necessity of the person whom he serves, if that person needs his services,—in which case he ought to come to the help of every man, friends or foes, bad or good. For 24in a case of necessity no one is excluded, as Christ saith: “Pray also for those who despitefully use you and do good to them that hate you, that ye may be children of your heavenly Father, who causeth His sun to shine on the evil and the good.”3535 Matt. v. 44, 45. And that is a divine work of charity if it is a case of necessity and is performed with modesty.
Again, a man ought to keep in view the distinction of persons in his works of charity. He should be more prone to a good man, who consumeth all things in God, than to a man in whom he doth not recognise much good. For in a good man all things are fruitful and to the praise of God, and all things are in him referred to their first source. And although it be true that God at all times worketh in a good man, that he be strengthened so that he may be able to support the work of God, yet you should come to his help rather than to that of another man, in whom God does not work so purely or unimpeded. And also all things are more the property of a good man than of him who hath them; and therefore if a man wisheth to atone for his sins, he ought to impart to a good man that which he hath; and further, a good man can obtain much more for him for whom he prayeth, and God giveth ear to him sooner than to another man.25
In the third place: A man ought to keep in view, in his external act of charity, the proper ordering of time and of himself. In regard to time, in the morning a man ought to take special heed of his heart, and not cumber himself much about external works, unless a great necessity intervene. For things are easier to a man in the morning, and at that season he can more effectually turn to God than at any other time. And afterwards, in the afternoon, a man may very properly exercise himself in external acts of charity; but again, at vesper time, he should take heed of the state of his heart. Thus we see that he should keep order in the regulation of his time. He must also observe order in the management of himself. For if he feeleth himself well moved towards God, and if God driveth him from external things to Himself, he should give place to God, and suffer Him to work internally in him. And at such moments he may be quite empty of all external works, unless there be a case of great necessity. Afterwards, when God no longer worketh in him, and this internal working is withdrawn from him, he ought to give himself to external work in necessary works of charity, and for him thus to work is a divine act of charity.26
A man can also detect a divine work of charity, when he is always inspired by complete devotedness to the work, and when he proposeth nothing in it save the honour of God and the necessity of his fellow man, when he doth not seek any natural pleasure in it, nor any motive save the honour and glory of God. And such works of charity should be wrought by a poor man, and he should readily leave all other kinds of work, whether prompted by the evil spirit or by nature, and therefore poverty is a free property and power.
I hear a voice saying: How then about an ill-regulated freedom, and how is a man to know if his freedom is regulated by God or not? Notice here: Godlike freedom springeth from true humility, and endeth in humility, and in patience, and in all virtues, and in God Himself. For if a divine poor man, who is free, be attacked either by man or by the evil spirit, he becometh more humble and patient, and draweth nigher to God, and committeth all things to Him, and he keepeth silence and suffereth and thanketh God. But freedom of a lower class springeth from pride and endeth in pride, and in anger, and in insolence, and in other vices. For if an imperfectly free man is attacked, he becometh wrathful, and seeketh revenge at once, and falls into arrogance, into 27hatred, judgment, and slander, against him who disputes with him, and he cannot contain himself, but must break out into revenge by means of vices. It may quite well happen that they wish to do this from a sense of justice, and they are so far free that they are not willing to depart from justice, and think they are giving honour to God in their opposition. But this justice is false, for it doth not spring from genuine humility, but from pride, as a teacher saith: “False justice hath hardness, but true justice hath pity and compassion.”3636 In the margin stands: Gregory, from whom the passage is taken. Homil. 34 in Evang. No. 2. In this manner, ill-regulated free men are to be recognised by their unvirtuous sallies, but just and free men by their humble silence, by their long-suffering and resignation to God. And their silence is not from fear, but because they perceive that their speech doth not bring fruit, therefore are they silent. If, however, God willeth that they do so, they speak without all fear. And they are able to endure much for the truth; but unjust free men are much troubled with the necessity and help themselves, as far as they are able, to get rid of the suffering, if possible.
It also happens often that a just and free man is viewed as ill-regulated. Thus, when a thing is proposed to him that is good, and he recognises that it is not the best for him, and he turns to this best and is satisfied with it;—this, his conduct, is often held to be bad, 28and yet it is good. And an imperfectly free man is also often considered as well regulated; for example, when he ought to practise a virtue, which is a case of necessity, and he omits to do so, and wishes to be singly occupied with himself. This is often reckoned as good, and yet it is evil. For we ought to work virtues, if a necessity occur, and remain singly with ourselves, if that is also convenient and fitting.
There are two kinds of ill-regulated freedom. One is bodily, the other spiritual.
Bodily freedom cometh from temporal good, from honours and friends and power. For whosoever hath much property, honours, and friends, and is powerful, wishes to be the best, and wishes to be noble and free. And this freedom is not regulated, for it doth not spring from God. And it is seldom that a man is taken up and implicated in property and honours, or with friends or power, who is at the same time unembarrassed with imperfect freedom. But whosoever wishes to be thus perfectly free, must have departed from property, and honours, and friends, and power, and must have come to the true ground of humility. For in this ground springeth up 29true freedom, and from no other ground; for true freedom is a capacity for all virtue and an abandonment of all vice. An objection may be urged that no one is capable of all virtue, though he hath left the cause of all vice. Now temporal goods, worldly honour, friends, and power are a cause of vice and sins, therefore it must follow of necessity that he who wisheth to have genuine freedom in order that he may obtain all virtue, must leave and be empty of all temporal things, honours, power, and friends. Seneca alludes to this when he saith: “Whoso wisheth to be quite free in his mind must be poor and like a poor man.”3737 Inter excerpta (spuria) ed. Lips. 1770, p. 1004: si vis vacare animo, aut pauper sis oportet, aut pauperi similis. Poor men are accused of being irregularly free; but it is the rich who are so, who retain property in temporal goods, and try to vindicate themselves with subtle pretences, and wish to come to the same degree of perfection as a thoroughly poor man, and think they can obtain the best internally, without external poverty. It is good if this come to pass. But the Gospel saith not so. It saith indeed, “you should leave it and not keep it,”3838 Luke xviii. 22. and those who keep it, and yet wish to be perfect, belong to a lower class of freedom. Ill-regulated freedom has also this peculiarity, that it sins without punishment or fear, and assumes to itself virtue without acquiring it or accomplishing it, and places itself in seeming perfection, without having abandoned itself and all things.30
The other kind of ill-regulated freedom ia spiritual. For it proceedeth from the spirit and is possessed by spiritual people and clerics, and it is brought forth in three fashions.
First, when a man turns away from a sinful life and attacks his body with severity, and exercises himself in a penitential life, and works virtues externally, and doth not examine himself internally, and doth not perceive God in himself, and thus remains all along an external man,—this man remains unknown to himself. For true knowledge springeth from within and not from without. Since, therefore, they are external and not internal, the truth remains unknown to them, and they fall from blindness into an ignorance of themselves. If they carry on a great many exercises, they fancy themselves the best, and thus a kind of spurious freedom arises in them, leading them not to give way to any one, for they think themselves the best through the manifold nature of their works. These are, indeed, good men, but they cannot subsist without defects, for internal light is wanting to them. And thus they fall into an ill-regulated freedom, and into a despising and judging of others. And it is very distressing to live and move with such people, for these 31men, while they stand alone in their external works, never come to genuine humility. They may all show externally an humble carriage, but they are not so fundamentally. But the ground of genuine humility is born from within, and not only from without. Some one might say: What is the use of external observance, penance, &c., as they don’t place a man in perfection, and even cause ill-regulated freedom to spring up in a man? To this I reply that external practices are good and useful if they are used in an orderly manner and in moderation; and if, over and above them, a man examines and watches himself internally, and giveth himself up to God. The outer life is imperfect without the inner, and, in like manner, the inner without the outer. They both belong together to the structure of perfection, and neither is sufficient without the other.
Furthermore, an ill-regulated freedom is brought forth if a man hath exercised himself in external good works, and he then leaveth the manifold and turneth into himself, and remaineth within. For in this withdrawal into himself there springeth up a natural light in him, and this shows him the distinction of natural truth. And this distinction begets a great pleasure, and this pleasure drives him on to know still more truth, so that he becomes intellectually developed; but the reason and 32intellect are from nature. Therefore he stands still in his natural light, and he comprehends what he will through distinction, and he fancies he has all truth and distinctions in him. Then he falls back with pleasure on himself, and he fancies that no one is equal to him, and that he is so free that he should give way to no one, for he weens that no one knoweth the truth which he understands, and therefore he forms judgments of other people, as that no one comprehends the truth as perfectly as he does, and a pride riseth up in him, and he takes pleasure in forming distinctions, which is so agreeable to him that he pays no attention to virtue and good works. And from this ariseth an ill-regulated freedom, so that he despiseth all the laws of holy Christianity. And inasmuch as he goeth into his natural light to recognise all things, it comes to pass that he willeth to know faith according to a figurative manner, and he cannot thus know it. And inasmuch as he thus stands in ignorance of faith, and yet would gladly know it, the evil spirit comes in, and presents a false light to him as a true one, and he gives himself up to it, and grasps it as a truth, and yet it is false, and he cometh thereby to fall. And his fall is in some degree like Lucifer’s fall, for he is spiritual, and he can scarcely ever rise again, and all that he doeth he holds to be no sin at all. And for this reason the sin remains unpunished and unrepented. And no man can come to the help of this man, but God only. And these men are 33called free spirits. But it is an evil freedom, and it is never the freedom which hath been spoken of before, and which appertaineth to a pure, poor man. For it proceedeth from the evil spirit; but the other freedom is from God. And it is necessary to be very careful in intercourse with these men; and no man can recognise in time these persons except a perfect man, who is enlightened both with natural and with divine light.
In the third place, an ill-regulated freedom is generated by visions, as when a man is ravished in ecstasy, and seeth something that was hidden from him before, and this does not happen without means, as St. Paul saith, and thereby a man cometh to think that he is in a very edifying state;3939 2 Cor. xii. 7. and thus a freedom that is often irregular springeth up in him; for it doth not originate in genuine humility. And, moreover, the evil spirit can deceive the man, for he may present to him a false image, which leads him to think he is very favoured, as St. Paul saith, that the evil angel may take on himself the likeness of a good angel;4040 2 Cor. xi. 14. and therefore we ought not to believe in all spirits, for man is easily deceived. And these men will hardly endure that you chide them.34
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