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What a perfect will is, whereof the works and virtue are essential.
Now some person might say, How can this be, that the will can work an essential work, when it is nevertheless a force which is movable; and what is movable cannot work anything essential? To this I say, that the will hath two drifts or direction’s, one to the creature and time, and the other to God. And in case the will is turned to the creature, and to time, and to the body, it is movable, and cannot generate or work out any essential work. Nothing can work above its power; if, then, the creature and time are unsteady, and the will is united with time, from this cause its working is unsteady and movable, and therefore it is not essential. For an essential work is immovable, and therefore he who wisheth to work an essential work, his will must have parted from all creatures and from time. The other drift which the will hath is in God, and in case the will is directed to God, it is immovable with God, for movement is only in time and in those who are overladen with accidents; and if the will be raised above time into eternity, and is emptied of all accidents, and penetrates into the essential good, which is God, behold all then that God worketh, the will also worketh with God. And since God’s works are essential, so also the works of the will are essential and immovable. For just as when an imperfect thing is united with one that is perfect, it will not work according to 138its imperfection, but it works according to that with which it is united—such also is the right order which is held in the works of the will For the will of man is in itself imperfect, and therefore of itself it hath an imperfect work; but if the will raiseth itself above itself and above all things in God, then hath it also a perfect work with God; for what is one hath also one working. Now if the will is united with God, it hath then one working with God, and the divine light bringeth forth in the will essential fruit.
Here the question might be put, What is an essential work? An essential work is when the essence of the soul is one and simple, and is placed in complete silence. And through simplicity it hath communion with all things; for what is most simple is most universal, and imparts itself to all things, and yet remains undivided and unmoved in itself. And to communicate and divide with all things is called an essential working; and in this working one work is all works, and all works are one work. For just as God seeth all things with one glance, and it worketh without any movement of Himself, so doeth also an essential will. It seeth all things in one glance, and in this one glance it worketh all works, and all works are only one glance. And this worketh the divine light in the will, for a perfect will 139is so dear to God that He will reward it with all gifts, and will make it fruitful in all things. For if God did not give all things to a perfect will, so that something of his own might remain to him, God would not have rewarded him, and the will would have no satisfaction; therefore God must give all things, that is, Himself, to a perfect will. Of this St. Austin speaketh, “If God gave me all things without Himself, it would not satisfy me; but if I have God I have all things, and with that I am satisfied.”8282 Confess. xiii. 8. Therefore let him who wisheth to work in pure tranquillity, be careful that he have a perfect will, in which God begetteth all virtue and all truth; and thus he taketh hold of the essence of perfection. Therefore Solomon saith, “I have sought rest in all things.”8383 In the margin Solomon. Compare Eccl. xxiv. 11. Now, man hath in all things rest if he hath exercised himself in all virtues, so that he taketh hold of the essence of all virtues, for then he resteth and husheth, leaving God only to work; and without any effort all truth poureth into him. For into a pure being flow all virtue and truth, and he lacketh nothing; for where a pure being is, there is no defect. Therefore a man hath nothing further to do than to lay himself aside, and when he hath once laid himself aside, that he keep himself purely passive, and in this purity he hath all virtue and all truth. And he need not seek virtue or truth here or there, for he hath them within him. And all men are lacking in virtue and truth, 140save alone a perfect, pure, and poor man. He hath them, and the divine will hath worked this in a perfect will, and the essential working endureth always without end. And because man is in time he hath a growth in essential truth, and he penetrates continually into the essential good, which is God; whether he sleep or wake, or eat or drink, he is always advancing. Just as little can the perfect will stand still: it always hasteneth to God. This is the supernatural power whereby the will is led; and as God, who leadeth the will, is eternal, so also is the course of the will eternal.
Objection might be made to this by some one saying, Just before it was said that the will was immovable, and now, again, I speak of a course of the will; but this is a movement? We said above that if the will turneth away from all things and uniteth with God, that it is immovable. And that is true; and this immobility is to be thus understood, that it no longer moveth to the creature and to time, for it is raised above creatures and time, and therefore it is not moved by the creature nor by time. And it turneth no more to this or to that, but it willeth always One, and that is God; to Him it cleaveth alway, without any going back; and therefore is it called immovable, for it suffereth not itself to be moved from God. Bui when I spoke of the will always running 141forward, this merely means an everlasting advance into God and His eternal immobility; and this stability of the will is meant by its immobility. For creaturely movement is to this and to that, and this will is not such, but it inclineth alway toward God, and penetrates into God, and this penetration is its course or running. And the running is not after the manner of creatures, and therefore it is not to be valued as a movement, but it is after a divine fashion, and therefore is it immovable, for the will never moveth outside God, but abideth alway in God. This indwelling (in God) is its running, and its running is its indwelling, and the more it runneth the more sure and steadfast is its indwelling, and the more rapid its course in God, the more firm and complete is its silence and immobility.
Some one might now say, How can this be, that man cometh to this in time, that his will becometh immovable, for man is scarcely so perfect that he doth not mark how his will inclineth now to one side and now to another, and as man is born in time, he hath a movement with time? To this I answer, That man is made up of time and of eternity, and hence he must have an influence from them both. The body is receptive of the temporal influence, which he must endure, because he liveth in time. Then from the necessity of the body, the will inclineth to the body, that 142the body should strive to satisfy its necessity. In this way the will is certainly movable, and inclineth now to one thing and now to another, in order that the body may have its necessity. If, now, a man ordereth bodily things with discretion, and giveth the body the necessity that belongeth to it, and which it consumeth in the service of God and according to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ, this man is not against the truth nor against perfection, nor is this really a movement. For it is a movement for the will to turn from good to bad, and that is not here the case; for the will only grants to the body what is quite necessary, and in real sincerity and truth; but what a man doth not want that the will doth not grant. If, then, a perfect will dwelleth always in truth and in perfection, and doth not let itself be led out of them, it is called properly immovable. And any movement that may take place in a perfect man is more a movement of the senses than of the will; for a perfect will willeth God only, and what is otherwise, as a necessity of the body, it suffereth the senses to seek; and he doth not this for the pleasure or comfort of the body, but for the honour of God. When, then, the liody taketh its necessity, the will taketh the power which the body hath received from the food, and transfers it to God, so that it is absorbed in God, and thus is the will immovable. Any movement that takes place in it is for the sake of virtue, for it is not to be moved by any evil 143propensity or vice; and thus it remaineth always in the truth, and therefore it suffereth not itself to be moved. This immobility is also worked again by the divine light, which streams round the will, and consisteth in no untruth.
It is sometimes said, that poor men stand too much on their own will and like much to follow it, and that this is a fault in them. To this I answer, that a right poor man is entirely resigned and hath given up his will, and never carrieth out his own will; but he fulfilleth alway His will to whom he hath resigned himself, that is, God’s will. Again it might be said, What is your own will? and what is a resigned will? Your own will is nothing else than a holding yourself possession of bodily and spiritual things.
The man who hath not yet parted with all temporal things, internally and externally, has still possession of his will for it is the property of the will, that it inclineth to creatures and to time, and hence he who is overladen with creatures, hath still property in his will. Therefore whoso wisheth to be free of all property, must leave creatures inwardly and outwardly, as far as may consist with, discretion. It might now be said, There are many good people, who have their outward 144necessity and yet internally hold no property, for they purpose the honour of God in it, and if they knew that it was the will of God, they would leave all things. To this I answer: When a man is internally free from all property and selfhood he is so outwardly; for what a man hath in his heart, he worketh outwardly, whether it be good or evil; and therefore, it they are quite free internally, this would appear also outwardly. They might be quite free internally, but if they knew that outward things sever them from God, they would leave them and give themselves up to a poor life; but that they are perfectly free from all selfhood is not so. They say, no doubt, that they would leave all, if they knew that it is the will of God, and they would “assume poverty.” But it is the holiest will of God that maketh us quite perfect, thus when St. Paul saith: “This is the will of God, our salvation and our sanctification.”8484 1 Thess. iv. 3. But the highest perfection lieth in poverty, therefore it is also the will of God that we should be poor, for Christ Himself saith, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.” If it were not the will of God, He would not have said it. Therefore he who wisheth to be empty of his own will, must set himself free from all outward possession.
Further, keeping possession of ourselves in spiritual things is from self-will, and indeed 145in a twofold way. First, a man taketh on himself an external work that hindereth him entirely in his perfection, but he will not give it up, but carry it out according to his own head, believing it to be good, though another seeth that it is not good. He would gladly bring the other from it and direct him to something better, but the other will not follow it. This also is from self-will of man, which hindereth him in his perfection. Secondly, if a man hath a false view and holdeth it as true, but will not suffer himself to be brought from it, that is again self-will. And even if his opinion is partly right, but another understandeth the thing better, only the former will not hear the latter, when he insists on having the advantage given to his own more ignorant view. Nay, if a man’s opinion be really the true one, so that a different view of the case cannot be entertained, the man of the stamp we are considering will boast of it too much, despise other people, hold them to be devoid of understanding, and think himself the wisest of all. This cometh all from an overbearing will, which is very destructive.
But if a man is more modest in this his opinion, if he doth not despise other people, and yet is too rejoiced in his having so much penetration, this hinders him from his perfection, which surpasseth all that is human, for the 146highest perfection cannot be grasped by the senses, but you must be raised above the senses into a state of silence; the reason must drop its imagery and be tranquil and at rest, and in this way you seize hold on that which is per feet. And whoso doth not suffer this in proper order, hath still his own will, which is destructive. St. Dionysius saith, “Quiet yourselves, that ye be at rest from all contest.” A single view of pure divine truth is better than all the works that holy Christendom worketh one with another.8585 This passage of Dionysius is always introduced by the German Mystics as far as the words “Christendom worketh.” But only what Denifle notes really comes from Dionysius, the remainder, according to this critic, having been copied by one Mystic from another. Myst. Theol. c. 1. § 1: Σὑ δέ . . τῆ περὶ τὰ μυστικὰ θεάματα συντόνῳ διατριβῆ καὶ τὰς αἰσθήσεις ἀπόλειπε καὶ τὰς νοερὰς. ἐνεργείας και πάντα αἰσθητὰ καὶ νοητά κ.τ.λ.. Christ also saith, “Ye need not take heed as to what ye shall say when ye have to answer, for it shall be given unto you in that hour what ye shall say.”8686 Matt. x. 19. Christ means by this, that man should not trouble his mind with thoughts and place them as intermediate things between God and his soul, but he should at all times keep silence and let God alone speak. The Divine Word instructeth him more in all wisdom, what he should speak, if it be necessary, than if he were to learn and study more what he ought to say.8787 See St. Bonaventure, Itinerar. c. 7. p. 347 (ed. Hefele. Tubingen, 1861), who introduces the same doctrine though he does not use exactly the same expression, “speaking of the Word.” David said also, “Happy is the man whom Thou, Lord, teachest.”8888 Psalm xciv. 12. He is taught by God when he keepeth silence, and God only speaketh in him. This speaking maketh him blessed and teacheth him all truth.
Supposing, now, that all which a man 147understandeth is perfectly true, but he valueth it little, and findeth no joy in it, but findeth more pleasure in that which is raised above all imagery, in pure, divine truth; if in this condition he has to work out virtue outwardly, that belongeth to him of necessity, and he cannot give himself up properly to this work, for he is continually too much occupied with God for him to trouble himself about external things, and he wisheth to be free from them; then I say, he still hath self-will.
It might certainly be asked, Is it not better that a man should only mark the state of his heart and suffer God to work in him, than that he should trouble himself about outer works? I answer, Yes; but a distinction is needful here. It needeth a man, who hath so exercised himself in virtues, that though an external virtue were to rejoice him, he would no more be able to work it; and this happeneth in two ways.
First, if he have expended all that he had already on virtue, so that he hath no longer any matter on which to exercise virtue, if thus he would gladly work it, but cannot, as he hath nothing, and is poor, and is furthermore devoted to God, so that he cannot sever himself 148from God for a single moment; if he is further weak in body, so that he hath no more strength to work external virtue this excuseth him from the exercise of outward virtue, and if he turned to outward things he would commit a fault. Virtue must now work in the will, and the will is more pleasing to God than the outward work. That he doth not work this, doth not hinder his self-sacrifice, for it is the right self-sacrifice that he hath freed himself from all outward works, and that God can work unhindered within him. These are the genuine supplicants who pray in spirit and in truth; in spirit, because their spirit is one with God, and in truth, because, without any defects, they suffer God alone to work in them, and practise every virtue inwardly in the will. The virtue which they then work is essential virtue. For all accident droppeth away, and a pure essence alone remaineth, and in this pure essence is virtue worked, and for that reason it is called essential, for it cometh to pass in the essence and not in accidents. And these men can work all virtue in one moment. For their nature is so simple and so refined that it can penetrate into each virtue and work it. And this virtue is almost equal to the divine virtue, for as God exciteth and worketh all virtue, remaining Himself immovable in perfect rest, thus such men excite every virtue. Before a virtue is begun to be practised, it is previously excited in a pure heart; for a pure heart awakeneth more virtues in love than all 149men can carry out in works. This heart also a wakeneth virtue and yet remaineth immovable, therefore is this virtue like God’s virtue. Such men who have virtue in essence can let drop accidental virtue without a sin, and in giving up their own will.
But the man who holdeth temporal things and hath not yet devoted all to virtue, must work out, at all events, the virtues necessary to his state. And even if God were to work inwardly in him, yet must he often break off from the internal work and practise external virtue; he must do this if he hath an object for it, and necessity demands it. He must do it if he wisheth to be humble, and if he doeth it not he committeth a fault; he omitteth to do it from self-will, and not through the will of God. He cannot yet possess virtue in essence, as he is still burthened with the temporal; it is therefore needful for him to exercise accidental virtues so long till he is emptied of all accidents. If he is then emptied of the accidental, he is then free from the necessity of exercising this kind of virtue (the accidental) and worketh it henceforth essentially. If an object faileth for this exercise, he must omit it, but if one is found he must do it. Thus man is humble if he exerciseth all virtue, till virtue becometh his property and his very essence, and if this hath come to pass, he can omit accidental virtue. 150But whoso hath not obtained all virtue, till it hath become his very being, he still possesseth a property in his self-will. He may indeed say to others that he is willing to give way and do all that he is commanded to do, and he may thus believe that he possesseth humility and hath given up his own will. This may be all well and good. But true humility lieth in the virtues; the more a man hath of these, the humbler he becometh, and the more hath given up his own will. If a man possesseth all virtue he is always humble; if he hath it not, he doth not give way, and is not free from his own will, though he give out what he pleaseth.
Now that man entirely give himself up to virtue, is worked out by the divine light, which lighteth the will, and enkindleth in it the fire of divine love, which driveth him on henceforth to virtue, and suffereth him not to rest till he hath hold on the essence of all virtue. Whoso followeth this light is humble, and no one else. A man may indeed show a denial of self, but this rather hindereth a man from true humility than helpeth him to it. It often cometh to pass that rich folk assume humility, and say to others they will give way; but these people only give way as far as they free themselves from temporal things and practise virtue, but no further; he, however, 151who entereth into himself and perceiveth the divine light in him, followeth all that is said to him by God; and this man is humble, and hath departed from his self-will.
It might be said, This light is doubtful, for men are often deceived, holding a natural or a devilish light to be divine. Therefore is it good that a man should trust to another who hath more light. I say it is good for a man who standeth in doubt to let himself be led, so that he may be shown what is best, which he can and ought to follow. He should not only stop at external doctrine, but carry it into the light of his heart, see what he finds good, and follow it. Above all things should he turn to the Passion of our Lord, consider it with great earnestness, and what he learneth there he should follow, but he should compare what he hath learnt with the testimony of Holy Scripture and the general teaching of the Church; thus he cannot err. Nor is it necessary that he should always regard what his Leader saith and commandeth him; but he should mark this especially, what God commandeth him inwardly, that should he chiefly follow, and thus cometh he to true humility. By the counsel of men only he cometh not thereto; man only counselleth what is human, and this doth not make perfect. But God’s counsel is divine, and this maketh perfect. Whoso followeth His teaching cometh to the 152highest perfection. “Blessed is the man,” saith David, “whom Thou, O Lord, teachest.”8989 Psalm xciv. 12.
It might here be said that the teaching of an exemplary man is from God, therefore you should always follow it. I answer, that the teaching of an exemplary man is from Cod. But it is still in the intermediate, and so long as a man thus standeth he is not immediately touched by God, for to be so he should not follow any creature, but God. If, however, he hath come so far that God toucheth him without any mediation, he should give way to no creature. For God hath revealed to him a li^ht in which he cannot err, and God giveth him enough to do with himself, so that he forgetteth all creatures, and therefore, saith the Master of Nature (Aristotle), “Whoso is touched by the first cause must follow no human counsel, but Him who is above all human counsel.”9090 In the margin stands Aristotle, but Denifle says that he cannot find the passage in that author.
It might be here said, How is man to understand if he is touched by God? By two things. First, when God cometh into the soul He revealeth Himself with a new light, which man hath never known in himself before, and this light breaketh out with heat 153in the body, so that man by bodily feeling is aware of the divine light, and the heat of the light giveth him to wit that it is from God. For the light of nature, that is cold; but the divine light is hot. In the second place, when God revealeth Himself to the soul, this is without all doubt, and man cannot doubt it. And though all men were to say it is not from God, that would not affect him; for he hath found such truth in him as no one can give, save God only. But natural light is doubtful, and a weening or conjecturing. But this light and this feeling are without all doubt or conjecture, and form a complete knowing. And those who have felt it know that it is true what I say; but those who have not felt, cannot either know it.154
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