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The other way which leadeth a man into a poor, perfect, contemplative life, is, that man steppeth in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ and followeth him.
First, that a man should clothe himself with the external image of our Lord. And in this man is guarded against all sins. For His image and pattern was a bringing again of man in all the ways from which he had fallen and might fall. For our Lord did not take on Himself sin, but all that rooteth out and atoneth for sin, and this was by sufferings and contradictions, through which He hath brought us back to an innocent life, and this doth not help us except we lay the same garment on ourselves, that is, except we leave all sins, and give ourselves up continually to the sufferings of our Lord. And thus we are 199brought back to an innocent life, but if our Lord had suffered much and I were not willing to suffer, this could not help us much. But that I suffer through Him, even as He hath suffered through me, in this case His suffering maketh my suffering fruitful, and bringeth me everlasting life, and for this reason Christ spake unto His disciples, “If they drink My cup they will come to life everlasting.”134134 Here, again, two verses are condensed. In Matt. xx. 21 we read, the mother of Zebedee’s children begged that they might sit in the kingdom of Christ on both sides of Him; ver. 22, Christ answers, “Can you drink the cup which I shall give you?” And thus the suffering of our Lord bringeth us thither, where we cannot bring ourselves of ourselves, and this is the case since all in us is inclined to fall. But if it is to be raised, this must come to pass after the image of our Lord, and whoso turneth away from this image, he casteth himself down. For no one can stand by his own strength, but from the power that issueth from the works of our Lord; and whoso wisheth to have the force must seek it in the likeness of the image and of the works of our Lord. St. Peter spake of this, “Christ hath suffered through us and left us an ensample, that we follow His footsteps.” And whoso therefore likeneth himself to the image and to the work of our Lord, in him grow up the fruits of His works, and free him from all unlikeness, and bring in him a purely poor life, in which he knoweth God. And thus is Christ known by the fruitfulness of His works—that is, that the fruit which liveth in the works of our Lord spring up in him, and show him that Christ is God and man. Paul speaketh of this, “I know Christ and Him crucified.”135135 1 Cor. ii. 2.200That meant that he knew the fruit of the cross in himself, and to him from whom the fruit of the cross and the works of our Lord are hid, Christ is unknown. For every tree is known by its fruit; thus also Christ is known by the fruit of His works, when a man likens himself in his works to our Lord; and Christ cannot be known otherwise. And these are the right Christ men who believe perfectly in Christ, for no one can separate them from Christ, for the fountain of all graces hath overflowed in them, so that they can flow nowhere save into Christ When it is said that man cometh to the knowledge of the faith, this is nothing else than that the fruit of the faith springeth up in us through grace, and revealeth to us and giveth us to know in a clear manner that Christ is both God and man. Of this St. Paul spake, saying, “I know Christ only.” This was because Christ revealed Himself to him in the fruitfulness of his works, and killed all besides that was not Christ, and therefore Christ alone remained known to him. Now we obtain a knowledge of Christ by following the image and the works of Christ. For in the degree to which you follow Christ are you like unto Him, and to the extent you are like Him you know Him. For everything is known by its like, and he who is likest God knoweth also God mostly. Now God is a pure Being, and such must the man be who is to know God, pure and stripped of all besides. And the purity and nakedness issue from the image of our 201Lord. Therefore he who likeneth himself most to the image of our Lord is the purest, and knoweth God the best. Thus, then, man is prepared in the image of our Lord for a poor life, in which he seeth God in all clarity.
The other way by which a man should enter through the humanity of Christ into His Godhead is when he hath clothed his outer man with the garment of Christ, so also that he now formeth his inner man with a continual contemplation of the works and of the Passion of Christ. And by external exercising in the image of Christ, and by internal consideration of the Passion of Christ, man is inflamed with the fire of love, and all unlikeness to the truth is quickly consumed in him, and then the truth is presented naked to him and he beholdeth it in its pure nakedness. For all that is in man has gone astray through Adam’s fall; the senses are gone astray, the powers of the soul are gone astray, and none of them is obedient to another; and if that is to be set right again, so that one may be obedient to another, as they were when Adam stood in his first innocence, all this must come to pass in Christ. For just as Adam was a cause of falling and death, Christ is also the cause of resurrection and life; as Paul saith, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ are all things made alive.”136136 1 Cor. xv. 22. And whatever is in 202man must be purified; and this must take place through Christ; and each one must do what he can, and must turn himself to make himself capable of receiving.
If the senses of man are to be purified, they must be ordered according to the external man of Christ, and must be formed and directed after Him, and thus they will be purified and ordered in the internal man. But without the image of Christ the senses never die to sensuality, so that the internal man may remain unhindered by them; ii this is to be, so that the man may be called a man free from sensuality, this must take place in the image of Christ; the more he turneth his senses and formeth them after that image, the more they die within him. In this way also the outward senses are brought to Christ, so that they are restored to the condition of the primitive order.
And just as the outer senses are purified and ordered, in their first nobility, in the image of Christ, so also must the internal powers of the soul be purified and ordered by an internal consideration of the works and of the Passion of Christ. And whoso neglecteth this will never be properly ordered in the internal man, and abideth in the disorder following the fall of Adam, nor 203will his reason be ever enlightened with divine light For Christ is the true Light which enlighteneth all the powers of the soul; as He Himself saith, “I am the Light of the world.”137137 John. viii. 2. And therefore whoso wisheth to have the light of truth must have his reason in Christ; and whoso is enlightened elsewhere save in the Passion of Christ, has more a false than a true light. Of this Christ spake: “Beware of false prophets, who show themselves good, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”138138 Matt. vii. 15. The false prophets are the lights that are not begotten from Christ, and from His teaching, and from His works, and from His Passion; they appear very good, and yet are inwardly and secretly bad; therefore we should guard against them, and should turn to the true Light, which is Christ. And let no man be directed by any light save it be somewhat like to Christ, and those who wish to come on the right road of an undeceived life, turn their reason from all things to the works and the Passion of Jesus Christ, and plunge themselves in it; then they are born again, as a newly-born child desireth milk to drink, and the eye of the reason is anointed with the oil of divine grace, in which, pure and clean, it will know the naked truth, and no more false light can deceive it. But a reason immersed anywhere save in the Passion of Christ is not anointed with the salve of divine graces. Hence it remaineth dark, so that it cannot see the divine truth; and from this cause many are deceived by manifold false lights, 204taking falsehood to be truth, and truth to be falsehood; and this is because all men err and are blind of themselves; therefore if they are to see, they must leave the darkness and turn to the Light, which is Christ; then the eye of their reason will be enlightened to know divine truth. For the reason of man is by nature dark, and like unto the night; and when the sun setteth in it it is night, and when it riseth it is day. So also is it with the reason; when the Divine Sun riseth in it it is clear as day, but when the Sun is withdrawn it becometh dark. Now, the light is withdrawn from it when it turneth to creatures and leaveth Christ. It is correctly said that the heathen attained to great natural light; but I say all their light was night compared to day, when contrasted with the light which the true Christian obtaineth who turneth his reason to Christ. In him dieth all unlikeness or inequality of light; he is all light; with the heathen, however, all inequality was not extinguished, therefore also they had not true pure light. Thus are still all men who have been indeed taught by nature, but not born from the Passion of Christ; they are blind compared with those enlightened by the Passion of Christ, and the distinctions which these last understand they derive from the works of Christ. Natural men, it is true, tell correctly the truth from images and forms, which they draw from their reason; but divine men who are united with Christ and His Passion keep the truth in silence, for 205what they hold to be true is raised above all images and forms, in a pure feeling of the divine good, of which no one can speak. Therefore are they silent, and they are held to be devoid of reason; thus is it also right, for they do not give to be understood what they know, and cannot at all express it with words. If they were to say what they see internally, they would be obliged rather to lie than to speak the truth; therefore they keep silent in order not to speak falsehoods. St. Dionysius saith, “All that you can speak of God is rather untrue than true, for God is unspeakable; and what you say of God is therefore always something else.”139139 De Mystica Theolog. c. 5. So is it also with the reason which is purified by the Passion of Christ and enlightened by the divine light. All that they can say of the divine is always something else. Yea, St. Paul saith, “It is not lawful to speak of it.” Such men also are only known by their silence; many a man showeth by his babble that he is nothing, but the others show by their silence what they are. Whoso talketh much showeth that the simple divine good hath never been found perfectly in him. But whoso hath this is disgusted with external words, save when it is needful for his fellowmen, and to this he must consent. Without it is necessary, he speaketh not; he is familiar with no one, but he hath an everlasting contemplation of the good that he hath found in himself; he findeth no rest in other things, but it driveth him always to this good. He 206is accused of having no charity, but this happeneth because he hath occupied himself only with the single divine goodness, which makes all that is manifold give him disgust. He would alway be gladly alone, and that no one may hinder him he must omit many works of charity. But what faileth him in external works of charity, he worketh immediately in God; and such a work is a thousand times more noble than any accidental work of charity, for it is an essential work, while the other is accidental, and therefore not noble. Whoso worketh all works in immediate love, is right rich in good works, for he worketh all works in one; all are essential to him, and also bring an essential reward. But these men are alway blamed; people say that they are inactive, and will not perform any good work; they are accused of transgressing the commandments of Holy Church; but if they are free from everything external, they keep all commandments of Holy Church in God. But external men cannot understand or test this, and thus blame the others at all times. It must needs be so, for they are blind; but yet it is a folly for a blind man to wish to lead one who seeth. Such men need no leader, for they have the right lead, and they cannot give themselves up to another; they have the true light, which issueth from the Passion of Christ, which suffereth them not to fall into any false light; for the Passion of our Lord destroyeth all falsity in the reason and enlighteneth it with all truth. 207Thus doth the reason attain unto its first nobility through the contemplation of the work and of the Passion of Christ.
The will of man is also perfected in Christ, in His works and in His Passion. Without Christ all men go astray; with a blind will they incline to a sham good, and give no heed to the true good. This is also meet and proper, for all temporal things are in themselves blind, and all are blinded by them who choose them, and thus overlook the true good, which is hidden in the Passion of our Lord. If, however, man turneth with his will to Christ and His Passion, then Christ cometh to meet him with all true good things, and endoweth him richly with delightful gifts, which surpass all the gifts of creatures. If the will embraceth these it leaveth all that is earthly and its gifts and cleaveth to Christ, to receive only from Him. Christ also said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field; if man findeth the treasure he hideth it, and from joy he runneth away, selleth all that he hath and buyeth the field, and also the treasure in the field.”140140 Matt. xiii. 44. That is the most holy fruit of the Passion of our Lord. If man turneth with his whole will to it and seeketh there he findeth an unspeakable treasure, for special gifts issue from every wound, and these currents of grace are (according to Bonaventura) six thousand six 208hundred and sixty-six, which flow continually in the richest measure. If a man cometh to this field where these living fountains spring up he openeth his mouth and drinketh, overdrinks himself, and is intoxicated, and overflows with rapture; from overwhelming joy he can no longer hold himself, runneth away and selleth what he hath, namely, all that is not God; he leaveth all and buyeth the field wherein the fountains of this grace spring forth. He seeketh continually more and more for these original springs till he cometh to his first original source, which is in the heart of God. Here he drinketh the hidden wisdom of God, which no one knoweth save he who hath received it. This divine fatherly wisdom and goodness alway floweth through the Passion of our Lord into panting, thirsting hearts, which are burnt through by the divine fire of love. For this fire burneth through and inflameth them, so that they too excessively thirst, and in this thirst they hurry with burning desire to the fountain and to the wounds of our Lord, from which all graces flow; to these they hold their mouth with longing and drink. Oh, the lovely drink that they here drink! The giver is precious, also the drink, for giver and drink are one! He it is who giveth, and He too is what He giveth. Oh, if all men knew what a treasure lieth hid in the field! every one would dig and seek it; they would find so much that they would desire nothing more in time, for the field is full of riches.209
That we are poor in graces is a sign that we have not yet come properly to this field, for whoever cometh to it properly and diggeth would not go away empty. Oh, how foolish is many a man that he doth not seek this incalculable treasure! If he can find a penny he seeketh for it, and here he leaveth the riches untouched, and remaineth a poor vile creature, who can never be saved, for all our blessedness and salvation are contained in Christ and His Passion. For whoso seeketh his salvation outside the Passion of Christ loseth much more than he seeketh. The wounds of our Lord are alone the fountains from which all salvation floweth; whosoever seeketh salvation let him seek it in the Passion of our Lord; there he findeth it surely, and nowhere else. I can find nothing better for man than that he turn earnestly to the Passion of our Lord and consider it; what is there counselled him he should do, for thus he obtaineth most surely an entrance into God. Whoever knoweth what noble fruit groweth on the field of the Passion of Christ would work on it day and night and never go away from it; he would fence it round, build himself a tower upon it, and dwell there, and set up a winepress. The fence would be his senses, which he would guard against all luxury and turn to the Passion of Christ; the tower would be his spirit, raised above all created things, where he would dwell in the uncreated Godhead; 210the wine-press would be his heart, where the sweet new wine would always flow for him, so that he would be quite intoxicated with it. On the field of the Passion of Christ grow wine and corn, in order to have meat and drink at the same time. They who come to this field and eat and drink here are full of divine graces. The prophet saith: “Eat the grist and drink the new wine, and be ye drunken, ye most beloved.”141141 Here the author of the “Following” again combines two verses: 2 Esdras, 8. 10. “Comedite pinguia et bibite mulsum;” and Solomon’s Song, 5. 1. “Drink abundantly, O beloved.” Oh, what a noble meat they eat, and what a good wine they drink! It is a wonder that they are not surfeited with the delight and overflow with the sweetness of the noble wine. Neither hail nor frost can injure this fruit and wine, though they grow winter and summer; you can always reap and gather, it is always harvest and vintage. Whoever wisheth to be rich thereby let him build a great barn and a roomy cellar and store them well. The more they can hold, the larger supply is there of fruit and wine.
If the desires of all men were directed to this, to gather this fruit and wine, how many rich persons there would then be on earth. If man’s will seizeth hold on these riches it sinketh itself therein, eateth and drinketh, and enjoyeth its ease, seeking nothing more among creatures but all in God. But God endoweth him richly with all gifts. With these gifts He forceth the will and maketh it subject to Him. He maketh man free, so 211that he is freed from all adherence to creatures, and only cleaveth to God alone. Thus is inflamed in him the fire of the love of God, and it maketh him lovely, so that he entirely floweth away in love—a love that is by nature in God, but by grace in him. He arriveth then at the state of his original innocence; the will is raised above itself and all things; the will is no longer will, it loseth its name, and is called now the will of God, and no longer man’s will. This is now the aim of the will for which it was created, and this is worked by the noble fruit of the Passion of Christ; it freeth him from all attraction of creatures and floodeth him with divine sweetness; it overwhelmeth him and killeth all besides, and maketh him united. Then in this state of simplicity he is led on high to comprehend the divine wonders; and he is led through all the wonders to the wonder of wonders, which is God; here he has got beyond wondering, and all other wonders escape him. Thus as he seeth that he can never come to the end of this wonder, he keepeth silence and leaveth all things to God, and all that God then doeth seemeth to him right. In this manner the will is at its highest point, and the measureless purity of divine goodness is given him by God, which compelleth him so that he can be nothing else than good. This is obtained by the will in the Passion of Christ, in which all bitterness is turned into sweetness, but all the sweetness of the world is turned into bitterness. Herein 212alone is revealed true goodness, which is God, and it compelleth him to will only all that God willeth.
It may be asked, Whereby shall a man know that his will is overcome by God? By six things. First, if a man giveth not himself up to any sinful work, but resists it and alway fleeth from it, and draweth his will entirely away from it. But the will of man cannot do this, therefore he who liveth according to his own will can never live without sin. Secondly, if man prepareth himself for all virtues, so that he exerciseth each virtue that God requireth of him; this also man cannot do of himself, and of this Christ saith, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”142142 John xv. 5. In the third place, if he doth not flee all the deaths that may occur to him, but suffereth them gladly through God; and no one can do this except through God, of which St. Paul said, “I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me.”143143 Phil. iv. 13. In the fourth place, if a man sets aside all that is intermediate between him and God, whether bodily or spiritual; and this God Himself must work in man, and must take from him all mediums, and that is the highest work that God can work in man through grace. In the fifth place, it may be known if man’s will is the will of God by this: If the honour of God only is his object in all his doing and permitting, if he always taketh the 213best for the greatest honour of God. Then the light of glory hath sprung up in man, when he findeth nothing else in himself than that the honour of God should alway increase, but his own honour should diminish. But many men are found who say, “I wish that the honour of God might be fulfilled in me and in all.” It is well to say this, but it is scarcely to be attained that this can always be: no one can do so except a right perfect man who stands in essential truth, unmoved by any accident, whether weal or woe, or whatever it be, so that he always remain contented in all things. Sixthly, if a man who standeth in essential truth always penetrates more in this essence into the hidden, secret, unknown will of God, and loseth his will entirely in it, so that he becometh entirely without will, neither willing good nor evil, but willing nothing; and thus nothing becometh the object of the will. This cometh to pass because he knoweth nothing in that moment but the pure will of God, and thereby is he freed from all willing, and suffereth God only to will, and this is the highest union of the human will with God’s will. Now all this is worked by the Passion of Jesus, in which he lifteth himself and freeth himself from all that is not God. He is thus linked to God by the great good which lieth hid in the Passion of Christ, and he arriveth at the highest degree of perfection. And God granteth him what he asketh, because he hath done all that God wished to have from him. 214Therefore whoever willeth that God should hear him at all times must listen and hear what God willeth to have from him; if he doeth this God can refuse him nothing. St. Gregory saith, “God’s hand is never empty of gifts when the ark of the heart is full of good will.”
A perfect will doeth as much with one good work as an imperfect will with many good works, and it worketh as much in a moment as another in a long time, and it doeth as much in rest as another with much labour. This is because God doth not take this according to the plenitude of number, nor of magnitude, but he taketh everything according to the perfection of purity. Therefore the work that is perfect and pure is dearer to God than a thousand that are impure and imperfect. Since now a perfect will alone can do a perfect work, then one single work by it is worth a thousand other works. Also for this reason is its work better, because a perfect will comprehendeth all good works in one good work; and not only those that it might do, but those that all men, and angels, and saints do. And this is because he doeth in one work all that he can, and if he could do all works as that one work, he would do it gladly. Yea, if he could do the works that God worketh, he would not omit to do so; and thus he deserveth essential reward in all good works. 215Again, this is because he loveth them, and where love is it deserveth; and the work answereth to perfect love; this is not what an imperfect will worketh in its imperfection, but the work answereth as if he had done it in perfection. In other cases what is wanting in a good work must be made up by him who worketh it, but whoso loveth hath no drawback in his work, for it answereth to the perfection with which he loveth it. Thus, then, it deserveth reward. The most perfect works that Christ ever did, and that all saints in heaven and all perfect men on earth do, all answer to a perfect will, and the works are entitled to reward according to their perfection. For if anything faileth to this perfection (in this man of charity) he is pained thereby; he would gladly be perfect according to the dearest will of God, and he would do what he could to become so; what is lacking to him now God filleth up with His works and with all perfect works. For God loveth much a good will; He wisheth that it should lack nothing, but that it may alway embrace the best, and He will dower him with all good.
Also the highest power of the spirit, which
is called synteresis144144 According to the greatest of the Schoolmen, the
synteresis is not a power of the soul (potentia), but a
habitus (St. Thomas, 1. p. qu. 79. a. 12) and
habitus principiorum operabilium. But according
to Alexander of Ales and St. Bonaventure it is
not a pure Power (Potenz), but a potentia habitual is (2 qu. 73. m.
1.—2 dist. 39. a. 2. qu. I.)
St. Thomas expressed a similar view (2 dist. 39. qu. 3. a. I.) when he calls the synteresis a virtus: Quae (sicut aquila) transcendit rationabilem. St. Bonaventure calls it (Itiner. c. 1), Apex mentis, seu synteresis scintilla. According to William of Paris there were several, who described it as Nobilissima et sublimissima pars animae (De vitiis et peccatis, c. 6. opp. ed. Par. 1674. tom. ii. p. 273} as superior pars rationis, nay, as ipsa anima humana secundum essentiam (p. 274). On the whole, all the Schoolmen agree in placing this synteresis in the ratio practica, while the Mystics seek it in parte affectiva, though they also acknowledge in it something higher than the intelligentia. (See Sandaeus, l. c. p. 30 and foll.)
Eckhart comes nearest to the scholastic doctrine, 113. 36, where he gives the synteresis much the same properties as the Schoolmen.—the understanding faculty—is brought back to its first nobility by the Passion of Christ. This faculty is created immediately for God without mediums, but 216it was brought under a medium by the fall of Adam, and this medium must be destroyed in Christ, so that the spirit may be entirely stripped of all mediums. This happeneth in this wise, when all the faculties of man, whether outer or inner, pass through the works and the teaching of Christ, and do what they can. This exercise in Christ maketh the powers quite pure, and the purity is inflamed with the tire of love, so that each faculty inclineth itself to what it was ordained, that is, to the highest power, which attaineth God without a medium. Then God revealeth Himself in the essence of the soul, and draweth all the faculties to Him, and uniteth them with Himself. Thus all that which is in man will run after God and seek Him. And then God showeth Himself, and giveth him to try on His garment, and when the faculties taste how sweet God is, they find such relish in this sweetness, that they follow and hurry after God alway. As a sporting dog hurrieth after game as soon as he findeth the scent, so all the faculties, when they track God in the essence of the soul, run after Him. And thus hath it come to pass when they look into the essence of the soul, where God is, that God lifteth and embraceth them, and they embrace God. And each sitteth down to table, and wisheth to partake, and each one inviteth the other to eat and to drink. They all eat and drink, and are all filled in common. One letteth himself be moved by 217another, what one willeth the other willeth, and all agree. Therefore Christ said, “When I am lifted up I draw all things to Me.” Thus when the highest faculty of the spirit unites itself with Christ, it is drawn up with Christ, and draweth all things with it; and thus each thing cometh to its first origin from which it came. This is because, when the highest faculty of the spirit standeth on the most perfect degree for which the spirit was created, all the lowest faculties are obliged to stand on the highest perfection for which they were ordained, for when anything faileth in the highest it must fail in the lowest.
Thus is it known of a man if he stand rightly or wrongly. If the internal man be well ordered according to the best, the outer man must also be so, for what the spirit receiveth from God it also giveth to the lower faculties, and just as God ordereth it so it ordereth them. Thus the inner man is known by the outer, for if the spirit is formed inwardly after Christ by grace, then the external man is formed from this. Christ also said, “Even as the Father hath sent Me, so send I also you, that you may go and bring forth fruit.”145145 Here again verses of different chapters are combined: John xx. 21, “Even as the Father hath sent Me, so send I you;” and xv. 16, “That ye may go and bear fruit.” From this likeness to Christ the disciples of Christ can also be known.218
Nothing maketh us liker Christ than when we consider His works and His Passion. For this also hath Christ worked and suffered, to take away all inequality from us; in this same work and Passion we must form ourselves, if we wish to lose our inequality and unlikeness. Verily as Christ hath redeemed in no other wise than by His life, working, and suffering, just as little can any one be saved and perfect, save if we hold to the teaching, works, and Passion of Jesus; he who busies himself the most with this is happiest and likest Christ. The works and the Passion of Jesus are full of blessedness, and therefore our mind ought to live upon them. As the bee flieth to the flower and sucketh sweetness therefrom in order to get honey, so also ought we to fly to the wounds of our Lord, and to suck them, and then we shall stream over with divine sweetness. Only thus doth man gather unto himself this precious honey; whatever belongeth to the man will so overflow with divine good that he will desire nothing more. That bee which flieth out the farthest to the flowers of the field bringeth also the most honey home, and what cometh from it is all honey; so is it also with the man who flieth and sucketh the most at the wounds of Christ, the loveliest flowers of the field; he receiveth the most honey. His soul is full of the divine honour, and what proceedeth from him is nothing else than the honour of God, which 219is at all times revealed to him. As Jesus Christ hath at all times established the glory of His Father, so such men establish alway the honour of God, and for this reason, because the wounds of our Lord always overflow with grace, and whoso drinketh of them drinketh continually internal graces, and these pass over into all his actions, and into all that he letteth be, making all to the honour of God; God also keepeth him from all that is against His honour. As a lord alloweth nothing to his dear servant that would be against his honour, even out of love for this faithful servant, so also God permitteth nothing in His servant that were unworthy of God and of him; this God doeth out of special love for them who cleave to His love, who embrace His Passion and consider it zealously.
Whoso cleaveth to Christ and considereth His Passion is as little permitted to leave God as the Son is able to leave the Father. For when man turneth to the Passion of our Lord, God openeth the fountain of His grace, floodeth therewith the mind of man, and overwhelmeth him, so that he can do nothing apart from grace; that which now floweth from Him is only love and grace. Oh, lift up thy wings and fly away to the field where the flowers bloom as Solomon saith, “I am the flower of the field,”146146 Solomon’s Song ii. 1. Ego flos campi, and lower down, p. 220, Luke xix. 5. and suck the sweetness of the flowers and gather honey. Thou shalt 220receive honey in plenty, so that thou canst hand it over to men! Why do people think that God suffereth sinners to live, and doth not slay them? Chiefly among others for this reason, because good men who hold their mouth to the wounds of our Lord, and suck all grace therefrom, return to God and pray for sinners. As grace compelleth man to pray for them, so they compel God to hear them. Christ also said to Zaccheus, “I must tarry to-day in thy house.”147147 Luke xix. 5. For as the grace of God compelleth men to do what God willeth, so also they compel God to do what they list. Because under the old covenant the overflow of divine grace was not so perfect, God slew or smote the sinner at the time, instantly; but now is the outflow of divine grace perfect and floodeth all pure hearts, compelling them in true love to cleave to God, and thus also is God compelled by them.
Oh, wise would be he who knew these men and was intimate with them; if they desired he should do anything he would do it quite perfectly, for what they ask of God He granteth them. But they are known by no one save those who are like unto them, for their treasure, which they carry in themselves, is hidden, as gold in the earth; therefore he whose heart is burthened with earthly things cannot know them. They are also for this reason not to be known, because they carry what they have in the innermost depths of 221their soul, hence the man who minds outward things cannot well recognise them. They are unknown because their treasure is raised above all images and forms; but whoso perceiveth truth according to images cannot recognise them. What they have, have they obtained from the Passion of Christ; whoso doth not know this also knoweth nothing of these men. They cannot also be known, because they obtained all that they have in a pure state of rest, but whoever is impure and unquiet knoweth them not. They are also unknown as they have nothing striking about them, and whoever still aspires after notorious things and striking things, he knoweth nothing of such men, and thus these best men are generally the most slighted and least loved, because people do not love what they do not understand. Lastly, they are not known because their possession is raised above all words; but those who love all things according to words are often deceived. Therefore is it the highest wisdom to recognise good men. Wisdom is not studied at Paris but in the Passion of our Lord, and whoso turneth his reason to this learneth all godly wisdom.148148 Denifle remarks in this connection, that if some Protestant inquirers see in this or in other passages an undervaluing of scholasticism, let once for all this fact suffice in answer: that the greatest of the Schoolmen, St. Thomas, teaches that—“Scientia et quidquid aliud ad magnitudinem pertinet occasio est quod homo confidat de se ipso, et ideo non totaliter se Deo tradat. Et inde est quod hujusmodi quandoque occasionaliter devotionem impediunt, et in simplicibus et mulieribus devotio abandat.” &c. (St. Thomas, 2. 2. qu. 82, a. 3. ad 3.)
But no one is hidden from these men; they recognise all; for as Christ hath communion with all things, such a man learneth, when in communion with Christ, all things. Jesus is the rule of all men, and whoso knoweth the rule understandeth all men; He is full of 222grace and truth: whoso obtaineth the grace that is in Christ and in His Passion, to him all mediation disappeareth, so that all things are known to him immediately. That we do not know all in truth comes from this, that we still have mediation; if we were free from this we should certainly know the pure truth. But its purity we obtain in Christ and in His Passion. For His Passion is like a grindstone, and to him who grindeth his mind in it, all rust falleth away. His Passion taketh away all deformity from the mind, so that thou knowest quite purely, and no more unlikeness remaineth in thee. The spirit becometh thus a pure vessel of God; in Him God can now work without any hindering; but God worketh in the soul without hindering when its highest power looketh well about it, and driveth away all that is hurtful. What doth not belong to its dwelling is not let in, it shutteth out all, that no storm may bring an injury. Thus God now resteth in it and inviteth in His guests, namely, all the faculties of the soul; He leadeth them into His house, into the essence of the soul. They must all be therein, and He giveth to each his special viand; each receiveth its own and taketh what belongeth to it, as Jesus saith, “Give to each his reward, beginning from the last unto the first.”149149 This passage, again, is not correctly cited: Matthew xx. 8, “Call the labourers and give them their wages, beginning from the last to the first . . . They received one penny.” The last to whom God giveth is here the highest power and the essence of the soul; they are the last in the divine service, but they yet receive first their reward. The 223lower powers must begin in the service of God, and each one must do what he can. Thus the lowest powers are gradually led into the highest; but the highest are led into the essence of the soul, where God dwelleth as in His own house. He endoweth them now and beginneth with the last; for he begetteth His Son in the essence of the soul, for this is alone capable of supernatural birth. Through this birth all the other faculties also receive their distinct gifts; He imparteth to the reason light, to the will love, to the memory strength: also the lower faculties receive their share; from the sight He withdraweth all that is against God, the hearing He draweth to Himself, the feeling He turneth away from the luxury of the flesh, from the taste He withholdeth all that is unholy, the smell He directeth to Himself; each receiveth its own. But the lower faculties murmur because they are not endowed first. This murmuring ariseth when man beginneth to turn to God; he would wish at once to know all truth and to have perfect love, to be free from all that is against God; he would embrace all that appertaineth to God. But if he doth not find this directly he waxeth wrath against God, and yet he cannot become all this till he cometh to the point where the Father begetteth His Son in the soul; then all perfect gifts are given him by the Father of Light, in whom there is no shadow of turning, fur which reason also His gifts are unchangeable. God alway draweth the weakest 224to Himself, and yet endoweth the best first. For if He were to dower the lower faculties first, they would be too weak, and could not keep the gift. Whereupon God beginneth with the best, endowing this first, that the gift may be retained. His gifts lead the spirit to the highest degree of perfection, in which it seeth the pure truth, which is God Himself. This is worked by the fruitfulness of the works and of the Passion of Christ, wherewith it conquereth and overcometh all things, so that it obtaineth true peace and enjoyeth God without a medium. Then the spirit standeth in right freedom, and what it willeth cometh to pass, and what it ordereth must be obeyed, and what it asketh is granted. This is because it and God are one, and what God willeth it willeth, and what God commandeth it commandeth, and hence all things must come to pass as it wisheth, and all things must be obedient to it. And this is the other way by which you should go to a poor life.
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