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In the third place, this ought to drive man to a poor life, that he may die to himself and to all creatures, and God alone may live in him.
The third cause why a man should give himself up to a poor life is in order that he die to himself and all creatures, and that God alone may live in him. Now such a poor life is living in death, and in this death is blessedness, as St. John saith, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”109109 Rev. xiv. 13. Therefore we should make ourselves poor, that we may fundamentally die, and in this dying be made alive again. Therefore Christ said, “Unless the grain of corn fall into the ground and die it cannot bring forth fruit. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.”110110 John xii. 24. So also is it in truth. Whoso wisheth to have all the fruit of life must suffer all manner of death. And no one can have all manner of death save a poor man. Therefore a teacher said, “Whoso liveth after the Gospel hath cross and martyrdom.” Therefore no one can have the fruit of a right perfect life save a poor man, wherefore 176Christ said, “Whosoever cometh after Me, let him sell all that he hath and give to the poor, and follow after Me.” This selling means the self-denial of man; the giving away is virtue, the following of Christ is fundamentally to die, so that dying completely to himself, God may live perfectly in him. Therefore is a poor life useful in order that we may alway die. And whoso doth not entirely die cannot either fully live.
I hear it said, How can this be, that a poor man entirely dieth, for he is still seen to live like other men, and he is even seen cheerful? To this I answer and say, that a Christianly poor man dieth alway; whether he eat or drink, or wake or sleep, all is a suffering to him. How this happens, that he liveth much as the common of men, this is merely an ordering of the outer man, according to which necessity he cannot attend much to God, and this is his dying. For according to the inner man he would wish always to busy himself with God and leave all other things. Moreover if he testifieth himself to be cheerful, this joy hath nothing common with time, nor with any creatures. For it springeth alone from God, and therefore is it without defects, and doth not oppose the dying of the creature. Now although a poor man would perhaps gladly help himself, so that he might not entirely die, God will not allow it. For his 177future must be his through dying, and what he hath he hath by dying. His death are also manifold and without number, for he dieth every moment. Thus must a poor man die. Blessed is the man who can die all manner of deaths; but this dying is of such a nature that no man can rightly understand it, and he is the most rational who understandeth this dying the best. For no one understandeth death save he to whom God hath revealed it.
But why must we always die if we would be blessed? There are two matters: One is, that our nature since Adam’s fall is full of sinful propensity, and this propensity must be rooted out and die. And as this can never be absolutely rooted out we must continually die. It cometh to pass indeed that a man die according to his rational will, and that he willeth not otherwise than God willeth. As St. Paul saith, “You are dead in Christ, for your life is hidden in Christ.”111111 Col. iii. 3. But the sensuous will, with its sensuous inclination, can never die absolutely in time. Now the rational will must continually kill this sensuous will, so that sensuality be always under the direction of the higher powers, and these be directed to God. Whoso standeth thus standeth in the justice in which God created Adam, and whoso standeth in this justice he would stand without any sins, mortal or venial. And this can by no means happen 178unless God draweth man to it. Therefore a man cannot be absolutely without defects, and therefore must he continually die. Another reason why man must continually die is the perpetual onslaughts of the evil spirit and of the world striving to make us fall. For whatever the station of a man he is attacked in it. And no one in time is free from this. Then must we at all times fight against this, and die that we may overcome, for whoso overcometh and dieth shall be crowned, as St. Paul saith;112112 2 Tim. ii. 5. and the deaths are without number that we die in the combat, for the evil spirit circumvents us with manifold snares, and we must alway be on our guard to resist him. It often happeneth that an image is presented to man which he beleiveth to proceed from grace, though it is from the evil spirit, as St. Paul saith, “The evil spirit is clothed as an angel of light.”113113 2 Cor. xi. 14. He presents this image to us in a pleasant light, and yet it is evil in itself. And those who have much to do with images and visions are often deceived in this way. For it is often from the evil spirit, and now in this time more than it ever was. For the truth is revealed and disclosed in the Holy Scriptures, and therefore it is not needful that the truth should be revealed to us in another way. And whoso taketh truth otherwise than out of the Gospel he is sick in faith, and not much is to be thought of his life, for our life is only from the Gospel, as Paul saith, “Our Lord hath begotten us again in His Gospel.”114114 St. Paul only says, 1 Cor. iv. 15, “I have begotten you through the Gospel.” And 179whoso is begotten elsewhere than in the Gospel is not a legitimate child, but a bastard. Thus, therefore, the evil spirits have often presented man an image that appeareth good in order that he may take false, sham truth to be the real truth. To this we must die. The cause why God formerly revealed Himself in visions115115 Denifle admits that Tauler often assumes the existence of visions, but he never in his sermons gives a theory of them. Denifle adds that the author of the “Following” often alludes to them, but while affirming that this same author depreciates visions too much, admits that since Christ these phenomena are not necessary, and that the Catholic Church never taught that a Divine Faith must be attached to them, invariably associating only a human faith with them. Those who, like Preger, see in the doctrine of visions “a serious sign of erroneous belief,” can judge from Benedict XIV. (De Server. Dei Beatificat et Beatorum canoniz. Venet. 1764, lib. iii. c. 50. sq. p. 358) how soundly the Church judges on this point. D. Schram treats at great length of visions (Institut. theologiae mysticae, Paris 1868), where you find most of the theologians and Mystics cited who treat of them. was this, that the truth was hidden, and this was necessary. But it is not now necessary, and therefore it happeneth very seldom from God. Therefore we must always die to that which is unlike simple divine truth. For simple divine truth is a pure intuition of the soul into the being of God, and we must die to all that hindereth the spirit in this. And the holy Evangel leadeth us to this. And whoso is led into it otherwise than by the teaching of Jesus Christ he is a thief and a murderer, and is a follower of the Final or Antichrist. Therefore let him who doth not wish to be deceived hold to the teaching of Jesus Christ; then let others teach what they will, nothing can injure him.
A man is often judged as one standing on his own opinion, who would, however, gladly live after the teaching of Jesus. He should not mind this, for it is fair that he should be so judged. Whoso doth not live in the most, perfect manner after the teaching of our Lord standeth on Ids own selfhood. Let him take unto himself humility as much as he will, yet 180he is not humble, and his humility is more a holding fast to himself than a denial of himself, for true self-denial abideth only in the Gospel, and whoso doth not live in the most perfect manner according to it is never thoroughly humble, nor dieth entirely to himself. Therefore let every man look and see how much he liveth in the Gospel, for so much is he advanced in humility and dead to himself.
But what use doth it bring if a man alway dieth? It bringeth a fivefold use. First, man draweth nigh thereby to his first innocence. For he was created without all sins, but when he fell into these, he became overladen with all manner of sins. But these defects must be rooted out by dying; the more he dieth to these the more he draweth nigh to his first innocence, and if he cometh again into this nobility, he is without defects. If man had not fallen his nobility would have remained immortal, and he would have suffered no punishment They are best in this who have the most died to themselves, for in that death and denial of self a new delight springeth up, for the death that man suffereth thereby openeth up the hidden joy. Christ also said, “Take My yoke upon you—that is, My Passion—and ye will find rest unto your souls.”116116 Matt. xi. 29. The second use is, that in each such dying a new life ariseth to man, and 181with this life every time a new love, so that man is overflooded with grace, and his reason is enlightened with divine light, his will is glowing with the fire of divine love; he groweth continually, so that he becometh rich in graces and his reason so clear that no false light can any more deceive him, and he can perfectly distinguish all truth, as far as it is necessary. He is quite inflamed with divine love, so that no one can any more separate him from God. In this state was St. Paul when he said, “Who can separate us from the love of God?”117117 Rom. viii. 35. He meant to say, No one. Whoso wisheth to be receptive of the gifts of God, let him always take heed to this, to be able to die; let him suffer all manner of deaths and to him will be all gifts, for through every dying he receiveth in return a special gift. They who thus die also become so rich that no one can compute their riches. Truly if we knew what use lies in dying, we should hasten to it as if all the highest worldly dignities were about to be given to us. But what is most useful to us we fly from the most, while we always seek what is most hurtful. It is said that those who are in heaven, before they would do without the smallest part of the reward they have obtained and which they have received through their suffering, would come down to earth again and suffer till the day of judgment. Thirdly, if a man is quite pure he is emptied of all defective accident, and receptive of God alone. God is present in all 182things; if you accomplish all things so, then God only remaineth to us; but this purity must be sought by dying, and if the soul is freed from everything else, she is in a condition to bring forth the Son of God within her. And as God the Father begetteth His Son in the Godhead, thus also the Son of God is born in a pure soul, and she is again born in God. Therefore Jesus said, “Except ye be born again, ye can in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.”118118 John iii. 3. The fourth use ariseth if God is born in the soul,119119 Richard of St. Victor, speaking of this divisio animae et spiritus, says, “hanc autem” (divisionem); “operari in nobis solet vivus ille Dei sermo et efficax . . . spiritus ab anima scinditur . . . et in eandem imaginem (Divinae gloriae) transformatur” (De exterm. c. 18, p. 33). when God ravisheth the spirit from the soul and casteth her into the darkness of His Godhead, so that she becometh quite like unto God. She loseth the shape of what is created, and is formed into the formless image of the Son in the Godhead, so that the man becometh a son of grace, as he is a son of nature. Fifthly, if the soul be raised into God, it reigneth also with God; of which St. Paul saith, “If we die with Christ, so shall we also reign with Him.”120120 Rom. viii. 8. Thus the spirit can do all things with God; he commandeth all with God, he ordereth and leadeth all with God; what God omits, he omitteth; what God doeth, he doeth with God; he worketh all things with God. This unspeakable perfection we obtain through dying.
Some one will ask, Can then no one die without external poverty? I give this answer, 183So long as a man hath temporal things, he often useth them without dying to his nature; but if he is poor in temporal things, outwardly as well as inwardly, all is turned into grace for him. What was natural to him before becometh now of grace, and he dieth alway; for whoso groweth alway in grace, he must always die to nature. As, however, all things do not become of grace to man, if he hath not yet freed himself from all things, and they are still natural, he doth not therefore continually die. Hence no one can entirely die save a pure and poor man. If a man hath what is his necessity, this doth not kill nature; but if he have want and must beg for much, this killeth nature and increaseth grace; he also who always suffereth want dieth continually. Poor men are so rich in grace, that they do not know it, for their dying is without number, therefore also the grace is incalculable that God secretly imparteth to them. It often cometh to pass that a man believeth that he is abandoned by God and all creatures, and hath no grace. But want and self-denial entirely kill nature, and he is filled with unspeakable grace; for as is the dying so is the grace, and blessed are they who have chosen God in a dying life, for their riches are excessive great in graces. If poverty were useful to no other end than that man should continually die, and thereby receive innumerable graces, it ought to be chosen if only on that account. Whoever doth not love it showeth that he hath no divine love. For if he had 184divine love, he would then also love the image of our Lord Jesus Christ; His image was poverty and suffering. Whoso doth not love poverty doth not love God also. Thereby should a man know if he belongeth to heaven or to hell from his love for the poor or the rich, and whether he preferreth to be with the poor rather than the rich. Whoever occupies himself much with rich folk doth not show that he is a purely poor man; for like loveth its like; whom he is closest to he loveth, cleaveth to him, and goeth about with him.
The fourth ground that should prompt man to a poor life is the perfection of a contemplative life. So long as a man is chained to temporal things, he must have an active life, for he hath much to work. As long as the affair lasteth he must work, but whoso would free himself from it before he hath completed all outer works, he would have an imperfect self-denial, and fail very much. For it is laziness to be against God and the truth by such a neglect of virtue. A teacher saith on this point, “He raiseth his hands in vain to God who doth not offer them to the poor if he could.” Neither true freedom nor contemplation take place in the possession of temporal things, for just as much as a man hath in temporal things, to that same measure he lacketh in everlasting things. For temporal and eternal are opposed to one another. 185Whoever hath the one must leave the other. A contemplative life is raised above all that is temporal, and only an enjoyment of eternal things; whoever therefore wisheth to lead such a life must needs leave all that is temporal. Thus if a man hath turned himself only to God, the best part, He then alone is his object. He entereth into God and withdraweth from all creatures, so that no one can speak either evil or good of him, as he is entirely hid in God. These men are the friends of God. Verily, no man can hide himself in God, except he who is quite free from creatures, for whoso still cleaveth to the created is also known to it; but if you are free from the creature outwardly and inwardly, then God only knoweth us, and the creature forgetteth us. When these men of contemplation sink themselves in God and hide in Him, they are strangers to all the created, they see God without any hindering. But others cannot do this who still cleave to earthly things, for they would be too often impeded in it. Therefore a perfectly contemplative life is a purely poor life, emptied of all that is temporal.
People often conceive, too, that if a man lead a contemplative life and seeth God without a veil, yet saw that his neighbour suffereth want, he should give up his contemplation and come to his help. They who still have 186temporal possessions must do this, for it they do it not their contemplation availeth not indeed, they commit sin; but they who are free from all temporal things, and therefore have nothing with which to help their fellowman, are also set free from this external work. This freedom is much nobler than the occupation with creatures; Christ also praised the inactivity of Mary, for our Lord only goeth about with such persons. This going about is nothing else than the dwelling of the lover with the beloved. But God cannot dwell anywhere, save in a soul that is free from the earthly. They who possess such freedom walk with God, and God with them. Solomon also saith, in the Book of Love (the Canticles), “He kissed me with the kiss of His mouth.”121121 Solomon’s Song i. 2. The soul is kissed by God when she is raised above all earthly things, and only beholdeth the countenance of God; then God inclineth His countenance and kisseth her, and His kissing is nothing else than a union of love with love. One beholdeth the other, and neither can do anything without the other; they are quite united by love, of which bond of love St. Bernard saith, “How sweet is this bond of love; it maketh the poor rich, but the rich who hath it not is poor.”
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