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In the third place. Of the godly work and of three kinds of men.
But here there is a dispute between two classes of these men. One class retain the needs for the body, and give themselves up internally to God. but do not trouble themselves about external works. They watch their heart and attend to what God wisheth to work in the interior, and give also place for this. This occupies them inwardly, so that they do not care much for external reputation. It also cometh to pass that such men attain to great internal contemplation, and perceive divine graces. This is effected by their zealous entering into themselves, and by the devout contemplation of the Passion of our Lord. These and other pious contemplations guard them also from sinful defects and purity them. Into this purity now God poureth his graces, so that they are conscious of these within their. selves. If, moreover, these men give themselves up to God, and carry out what He hath warned them to do, it happeneth easily that they leave all things outward and inward, and follow Him through a poor life. And thus they become perfect, and soar indeed to the highest degree of perfection. 97But if they still keep something for their necessity, and give what remaineth to them for the sake of God, and if they watch over their heart, they are also pious men, but not in the highest degree of perfection. The other class give away all outward things for the sake of God, but they do it more from hearsay, as they, for instance, have heard that perfection consists in this, in giving away all that a man hath, and following Christ in a poor life. This they do also. But they keep and hold on to mere external poverty, do not pay much care to their heart, do not give much attention to internal contemplation of the Passion of our Lord and other good practices that keep man pure from sins, and make him fit to take in divine graces; yet they do many external good works. These also are good pious men, but they are faulty and lack light, and know nothing of the familiarity with God, nor of His working. God worketh only in the ground of the soul, but these men are always turned outwardly, while God worketh inwardly; therefore they cannot properly understand the. truth, which is God Himself, in a pure heart. And these men do not come to the proper degree of perfection which appertaineth to a heartily poor man. Now these two kinds of men strive with one another, and each of them judgeth the other, and each thinketh how wrong the other kind is; and this must be so, as both lack the most essential and perfect thing. But those men who go out from all things outwardly and 98inwardly, and have a diligent ingoing into themselves, and look to what God willeth of them, to satisfy Him in all things, who occupy themselves zealously with contemplation of the Passion of our Lord, and avoid all that hinders them in this, who accept the real truth, which is God, and let it work in them, such men are on the road of perfection. What they cannot do in works they fulfil with their will, and God taketh their will for the work if they do all that they can, and what they cannot do that God doth not require of them. These men, I say, are on the road of perfection, and they dispute with no one, nor do they judge any one, but they commit all things to God, for they have completely resigned themselves and all things, and hence they take nothing to themselves. And on their thus going out of themselves and all things, the Spirit of God entereth into them, and draweth them to Himself, and uniteth them to Him, so that they become one spirit with Him. And now the Divine Spirit speaketh in man that he should be free and empty of all things.
In this purity and emptiness God can then work without all hindering; and such a work in a pure soul is much nobler than all works that God ever worked in time and in eternity. And for this reason. When God created all things He had no hindering of His work; but the work that God worketh in the soul may 99be hindered through the freedom of man’s will, and when men unite their will to God’s, this is therefore the noblest work.
But what kind of work is this? It is nothing else than a revelation of God in the soul when God showeth Himself to the soul. God worketh, and is Himself the work that He bringeth about. Therefore God draweth away the soul from all things, that it may be able to receive His work; and this receptiveness and the work of God make the soul one spirit with God, and this is the dearest and most desired thing that God will have from man, that man should always be so disposed that God can work in him at all times without hindering, so that he may become one spirit with Him; therefore He also saith, “My delight is with the children of men” (Prov. viii. 31).
Man’s spirit becometh also one with God, if he followeth Christ just as He hath gone before us. For Christ is one with God; therefore it is necessary that he who wisheth to be one spirit with God, should be united first with Christ. And this union of man with Christ consisteth in this, that he do all things as far as it is possible and he is able, as Jesus worked them, when He was man. Christ hath taught us in His works what we should 100do, and for no other end than that we may become one with Him. Therefore He saith also, “Father, I pray Thee, that these may be one with us, even as I and Thou are one” (John xvii. 21). Thus then, man is one with Christ when he hath one working with Him. But it might be urged: Christ is God and man, how can a mere man have a working in common with Him? There are two kinds of works in Christ. The one kind is divine, as, to walk on the sea, to do wonders and signs, to fast forty days. Such-like works do not belong to us, and we should not try to work them, for they are godlike. The other kind is human; as, to be poor, despised, and insulted, to suffer hunger and thirst, to endure pain; then again the virtues that Christ had: humility, patience, and gentleness. These works belong to us, we should adopt them and work them, by which we become one with Him. What we lack in these works, marks how much we stand on ourselves and how distant we are from Christ. Whoso therefore wisheth to be one with Christ and empty of himself, must work all that Jesus worked as man, and as far as it relates to him. Paul also said, “Christ’s working is our teaching.”6666 This passage is not in St. Paul, but it occurs in an old Church prayer which runs thus: Deus celsitudo humilium et fortitudo rectorum, qui per unigenitum Filium tuum ita mundum erudire dignatus es, ut omnis illius actio nostra, fieret instructio, excita in nobis Spiritus Tui fervorem, ut quod ille verbo et exemplo salubriter docuit nos efficaciter imitari valeamus. Therefore also did He work it, that He might teach us how to work and what He taught is His will, which we ought to fulfil; and this His will bringeth to pass in us, effecting that, our will becomes His will, and His will our 101will. Thus we become one with Him, and this is only compassed by good works, which we have like unto His. St. Peter saith, “Christ hath suffered, that we might follow His footsteps” (1 Pet. ii. 21). And as He walked, so also ought we to walk.
What do people believe by the expression that we come quite near unto God in heaven? It consists in this, that we follow Him closely on earth. St. Bernard saith, “Many would walk with Christ in heaven, but they are unwilling to suffer with Him on earth.”6767 Volunt omnes te (Jesu) frui at non ita et imitari; regnare cupiunt sed non compati. In Cant. Sermon, 21. 2. See also the Imitation of Thomas à Kempis, c. 11. 1I. These cannot be one with Him, for a true union only begetteth one working; whoso doth not work in it, is separated from Him, for He saith Himself, “Where I am, there shall My servant be” (John xii. 26). But His servant is he who worketh His works, that He hath brought to pass. Now he who doth not this is also not His servant and shall not be with Him.
Thus no one cometh to God, save he only who setteth aside all things and followeth Christ in the way in which He hath gone before us. Christ is the everlasting aim of all men, and whosoever cometh nearest to this aim, he is also nearest to God. It happeneth, indeed, that some men come nigh to this aim by good works, and yet do not deny things, and the 102nearer they come to this aim, the nearer they come also to God, and the more diligently they exercise themselves in good works and avoid sins the nearer they come to Christ. If they have many good works, then they are so much the nearer; if they have few, then they are further; but if they have no good works whatever, then they stick in sins and are entirely away from Christ. On the other hand, if they have all good works and all virtue, they are, in that case, one with Christ, and where Christ is, there are they with Him. Whoso therefore willeth to be one with Christ, must have quite gone forth from himself, and thus he cometh to the aim; but he who giveth not up everything and yet exercises himself in good works, approaches indeed the aim, but doth not reach Christ; for he only who weareth His garment and followeth Him entirely, attaineth unto Him. Let this serve as a simile: A lord, who hath many servants, suffereth those whom he liketh most to stand nearest to him, to wear his uniform, and to bear his arms. So also is it exactly with men; those who wear the garment of Jesus, practise all virtues and bear His arms, are the men who endure His poor, despised life that He had upon earth, and suffer patiently all that smiteth and befalleth them. This is the surest sign that they are dearest to God, and these reach Christ the first; but they who do not this, and therefore have not all virtue, but yet practise good works, come indeed to the aim, but do not find Jesus.103
There are two kinds of works by which we come to the aim—an inner and an outer work,
In an inner work, man must have in view three objects—his defects, the Passion of our Lord, God and His Godhead.
First, man must consider his defects, learn to know himself internally, and if he knoweth this, free himself. If a man doth not turn into himself, if he doth not inwardly consider his defects, he never cometh to a right knowledge of them, and cannot free himself, so that he become quite pure. Therefore the men who only look to outer works and cleave to them, never come to a right knowledge of themselves, and often fail in their good works. They think that they are practising a virtue, and they put in practice a vice, and this proceedeth from a blinding of themselves, whilst the evil spirit can moreover often deceive them. He who wisheth not to be deceived, that he may come without hindering to the aim, which is Christ, with the light that God hath kindled in him, he must consider well everything, if it be good or bad; then he must choose the good and reject the bad, and thus he attaineth to the aim.104
Secondly, he must consider the Passion of our Lord; this must he stamp upon his heart, and thereby he learneth how he shall avoid all that is not God, and how he shall exercise himself in virtue that he may attain to God. In the contemplation of the Passion of our Lord, God poureth a power into him whereby He draweth man unto Himself. This is the great fruit produced by the Passion of our Lord. If, now, man turneth himself to this with earnest desire and tarries in it, then God revealeth to him the fruit of His Passion, which is so great that it entirely streams round him, and by the stream of His grace man is led with power and energy to God. Just as a mighty stream embraceth all and sweeps it along with itself with overpowering force, so likewise doth it come to pass with the man who diligently considereth the Passion of our Lord. Into him cometh the stream of divine graces, and leadeth him forcibly away from himself to his first origin from which he hath sprung. But those men who do not institute such an inner contemplation of the Passion of our Lord, and only exercise themselves with other good works, go indeed to God, but often stand still or even go backward. But it is not a human but a divine force that is lent to them in the contemplation of the Passion of our Lord, and it is so great that they cannot resist it. Therefore run they alway forward, and even if they 105lived till the day of judgment they must needs always hasten on, and would not cease to do so, for they do not urge themselves but God spurreth them on.
And as God the Father begetteth His Son in Himself and in all things, so in the same birth He leadeth man to Himself through the Passion of His Son and all virtues. And as God is everlasting in His begettings, so also the initiation of man in the sufferings of His Son is an everlasting process, and nothing can hinder man in this work. Just as little as God can be hindered in the birth of His Word, will He let the man be disturbed who giveth himself up with entire love to the Passion of His Son. The men who with intensest love contemplate the Passion of our Lord, are a second Christ; for love uniteth, therefore they cannot go astray as long as they cleave to Christ. As God the Father did not let His Son fail, so also doth He not let such men go astray, but He willeth that they should always come forward in order that they may reach the aim. Therefore, whoso wisheth to come to the aim, which is Jesus Himself, must entirely immerse himself in the Passion and consider it steadfastly. Out of this contemplation he obtaineth so great force, that in one hour it leadeth him nearer than he could have attained to for a long time by natural force. But whosoever 106neglecteth this is idle, and even if he succeed in reaching God, it is only by all possible effort and grievous difficulty.
Jesus saith, “I am the Gate, through which a man must go to God. Whoso entereth elsewhere is a thief and a murderer. The thief cometh to steal, and the murderer to kill”6868 John x. 9. Ego sum ostium. (John x. 1-10). And as the thief taketh that which is not his, so also do those who wish to obtain heaven without the Passion of our Lord. They wish to take what is another’s, for the kingdom of heaven is ours through the Passion of our Lord, and whoever taketh it in any other way save this, he taketh it by unjust means and is a thief. He is also a murderer who wisheth to enter otherwise than through the Passion of our Lord. Christ hath been killed and murdered by us, and through His death we have been saved from everlasting death and given again to life. Whoso killeth himself—that is, inflicteth penance on his body—except in considering the Passion of Christ, he killeth himself unrightly, for thereby he cannot come into the kingdom of heaven. Therefore is he called a murderer. Only in the death of our Lord canst thou get there. Whoso wisheth rightly to mortify his body and strip it of lusts, let him sink into the Passion of Jesus, in which all bad lusts disappear, for otherwise no man can die to himself. If a man be thus 107dead to bodily lusts, a godlike ecstasy ariseth in him exceeding all bodily lusts, and this rapture driveth on man to his aim, which is Christ.
Some men take much exertion for the knowledge of truth. But he who wisheth to obtain genuine truth, let him consider with all possible diligence the Passion of Jesus, in which welleth forth the fountain of all truth. Christ is the truth, and whosoever wisheth to have the truth let him seek it in Christ and in His Passion; here he findeth it for sure, but nowhere else. The truth of the world he may indeed find in his natural knowledge, but even if he have this it helpeth him not to true happiness. But if he wisheth to have the truth which is alone saving, he must seek this in the Passion of our Lord. Here is the real fountain of divine truth, and whoso drinketh of it drinketh living water. To this water Jesus calleth with a loud voice, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. Whosoever drinketh of it, out of his body shall flow streams of living water flowing into everlasting life, and whoso drinketh of this water shall never thirst” (John iv. 14). Therefore, whosoever wisheth to drink the full truth let him hold his mouth to the sacred wounds of our Lord, from which the truth floweth. St. John rested on the breast of our Lord, and sucked all wisdom and the truth of God, which was hidden from all men; this do also 108those men who diligently immerse themselves in the Passion of our Lord. They sleep on His breast, and suck from it all wisdom and all truth, the friendship of God, that was hid from all other men; a truth, an unspeakable truth, as St. Paul saith, “I have heard things which it is not proper to reveal to men” (2 Cor. xii. 4). Such a truth also receive men of which they ought not to speak at all, for the fountain of all grace and truth floweth through them, and the stream is so great that they overflow with it. This no man can know but God alone, for what God works in them goeth above all human conceptions. No man is required to lead or guide these men; they are at all times led to God and guided to perfection. They come to the right aim, that is, God; they go the right road and they are there at home where their right dwelling is—namely, the kingdom of heaven, of which St. Paul saith, “Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. iii. 20).
But what heaven does St. Paul mean here? Heaven is of two kinds the heaven that is over us, and the other heaven, which is spiritual, that is. the soul, in which God dwelleth: and where God is. there is heaven. Therefore St. Paul saith, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”6969 Luke xvii. 21. Jesus, and not St. Paul, says this. If, now, the being and essence of our soul is heaven, and God is in it, what 109is to blame that we have not this heaven here, and do not know God? There are two things that hinder us. First, defective accidents. When man is too much burthened with these, they prevent him from attaining to the essence of his soul; therefore he hath not heaven and cannot know God. The essence of the soul is simple; but if the soul is dissipated in what is manifold, she cannot make use of her essence. Now, St. Paul was freed from all defective accident; thereby, had he come into the essence of the soul, he beheld its nobility and knew God immediately, and therefore could he well say, “Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. iii. 20). But how comes it to pass that he had not then the kingdom of heaven that he now hath? This relates to the second thing that hindered him; that was, the coarseness of his body, and therefore he said, “I desire to be dissolved from the body, and to be with Christ” (Phil. i. 23); and again, “Oh I, unhappy man, who delivereth me from this body of sin?” (Rom. vii. 24). And on this account he could not have the kingdom of heaven that he now hath. And yet his dwelling was in heaven, which was in the essence of his soul, and in it he knew God, and therefore he said, “I know Christ Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Cor. ii. 2).
Thus a man must be free from all the defects of accident if his dwelling is to be in 110heaven. And it cannot be that he should be free from his defects save in the Passion of our Lord. To it should he turn with all earnestness, all accidental defects pass away from him, and thus he cometh into heaven, that is. into the essence of his soul, when he seeth God inwardly; and no defect can fasten hold on him, for it melteth away in the wounds of our Lord. Just as the snow, if held before the fire, melteth and becometh water, so it happens with all sins which are held in the burning wounds of our Lord. They all melt away and become nothing; and thus the man cometh to the right essence of his soul, when he seeth all truth internally without any taint of untruth.
The heathen also sought the naked and simple essence of the soul, but they could never come to it without Christ. Hence they could not know God, nor be happy, and yet they wished to be happy. And the same happens still to all men who seek the naked essence of the soul without the Passion of our Lord; for they never come to a right understanding of the truth, which is God, and by which they can be saved and happy. For all our salvation and happiness are placed in Christ and in His Passion; therefore he who wisheth to be saved must enter into the Passion of our Lord. And therefore our Lord said, “It was necessary for Christ to suffer to 111come into the kingdom of heaven.”7070 See Luke xxiv. 46. We also must suffer with the Passion of Christ in the kingdom of our soul, where we see God immediately, and thus we come to our right aim with the Passion of our Lord.
The third object that a man ought to have in his internal work, in order that he come to his aim, is to contemplate God in His pure Godhead and Divinity. If man hath seen in his interior what he really is, hath he put aside all defective accident, if the contemplation of the Passion of our Lord hath led him to all virtue, then he seeth God in His essence and simplicity and in His true nature. Through this vision he goeth into God, uniteth himself to Him, and God leadeth man with Himself into Himself, and thus he hath an everlasting entrance into God. He is indeed quite encompassed by God, so that he loseth himself, and knoweth nothing more save God only. And thus sinketh he, and is drowned in the fathomless ocean of the Godhead; he liveth in God as the fish in the sea, and thus as the sea encompasseth the fish, so the soul is encompassed by God and hasteneth to its aim, where she shall eternally abide. She aimeth at it and hits it, as is written in the Canticles, when the Lord, speaking of His bride, saith. “My friend, thou hast wounded Me with thine eyes.”7171 Compare Solomon’s Song iv. 9. The eye is the love of man 112penetrating into God; and with this love the soul compelleth God, so that He must do what she wisheth, and this is called wounding, because she hath sway over God and hath mastered Him. She spanneth her bow and shooteth God in the heart; the bow that she spans is her own heart; this she spans and shooteth with a burning desire at God, and hitteth the right mark, and thus she attaineth to the highest degree of perfection.
The other work by which man draweth nigh to his aim, which is Christ, is outward; it consists of all the virtues which appertain unto a perfect life. These a man must have of necessity, if he wisheth to arrive at the right aim. Mention has already been made of these virtues further back, therefore we pass them over here, and only note, moreover, that a man who wisheth to be one spirit with God must be led to this by the life, Passion, and works of our Lord Jesus Christ. As now a thoroughly poor man is led through all this, he cleaveth to God and is one spirit with God.
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