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Man is unable to posses in peace the great graces which he receives from God, because many things that are contrary, disturbing and hostile arise against those graces; for the more acceptable any man is to God, the more vehemently is he assailed and buffeted by the Evil One. In order, therefore, to correspond with the grace which he receives from God, he must maintain an unceasing warfare; for the fiercer the conflict, the more glorious shall be the victor’s crown. But we have not many conflicts, nor many impediments, nor many temptations, because as yet we have advanced but a little way in the spiritual life.
True it is, however, that if a man walk warily and well in the way of God, he shall feel neither fatigue nor weariness in his journey; but the man who travels by the broad way of the world shall never be free from labour, weariness, anguish, tribulation and pain, even to the day of his death.
Then said one of the friars to Brother Giles: “Father, it seems to me that thou teachest us two things, the one contrary to the other; for thou sayest first, the more virtuous a man is, and the more acceptable to God, the greater conflicts has he to endure in the spiritual life; and next thou sayest the contrary, to wit, that the man who walks well and warily in the way of God, shall feel neither weariness nor fatigue in his journey.” To whom Brother Giles thus explained the contrariety of these two sayings: “It is most certain, my brother, that the devils bring a more fearful array of temptations against those who have a good will than against those who have not. But what harm can the devils and all the evils of this world do to the man who goes forward discreetly and fervently in the way of God, and therein labours and toils faithfully, knowing and seeing as he does that his reward shall a thousand times over-pay his labour? And further, I tell thee, of a truth, that he who is enkindled with the fire of divine love, the more fiercely he is assailed by temptations to sin, the more deeply will he hold it in abhorrence and detestation. The worst devils ever hasten to tempt a man when he is under some bodily weakness or infirmity, or when he is in some great sorrow or anguish, or in a state of tepidity, or when he is hungry or thirsty, or has received some insult or affront, or some injury, spiritual or temporal; for these wicked spirits know well that at such times, and in such circumstances, he is most open to temptation. But I say to thee, of a truth, that for every temptation and for every vice which thou shalt overcome, thou shalt acquire a virtue; and for each vice, in the conquest whereof thou shalt overcome thyself, thou shalt obtain a larger grace and a brighter crown.”
A friar once asked counsel of Brother Giles, saying: “Father, I am assailed often by an evil temptation, and I have many times besought the Lord to deliver me from it, yet he takes it not from me; counsel me, father; what ought I do?” To whom Brother Giles made the reply following: “My brother, when a king arrays one of his knights in strong armour of proof, it is a token that he requires him to fight valiantly against his enemies for love of him.”
Another friar said to him: “Father, what can I do to attain to greater fervour and love of prayer? for when I go to pray I am hard, cold, dry, and without devotion.” Brother Giles answered him thus: “A king has two servants: one of them has armour of proof, and the other has none; both desire to go forth and fight against the enemies of the king. He that is well armed enters into the battle and fights valiantly; but the other, who is unarmed, says thus to his lord:’My liege, you see that I am unarmed and defenceless; but for your love I will gladly enter into the battle and fight there all unarmed as I am.’ Then the good king, seeing the love of his faithful soldier, says to his servant: ‘Go with this my true follower, and provide him with all the armour necessary for his defence, that he may enter securely into the conflict; and emblazon his shield with my royal bearings, that he may be known as my loyal knight.’ And thus oftentimes it cometh to pass, when a man goes to prayer, that he feels himself to be naked, indevout, cold, and hard of heart; but when he puts a force upon himself, and for love of our Lord enters boldly into the battle-field of prayer, our loving Lord, and King, beholding the gallant bearing of his faithful knight, gives him, by the hands of his ministering angels, fervent devotion and good will. When a man has begun some great and laborious work, such as clearing the ground and cultivating the vine that it may bring forth its fruit in due season, he is often tempted by the great toil and manifold hindrances he meets with to weary him of his work, and even to repent him that ever he began it. But if notwithstanding he persevere until the harvest-time, he will forget all that he has endured in his joy at the fruit of his labours. In like manner he who is strong to resist temptation shall attain to great consolations; for, as St Paul tells us, after tribulation shall be given consolation and the crown of eternal life. And not only they who resist temptation shall obtain the rewards of heaven, but they shall be recompensed even in this life; as says the Psalmist: ‘Lord, according to the multitude of my temptations and my sorrows, thy consolations shall rejoice my soul.’ So that the greater the conflict and the temptations, the more glorious shall be the crown.”
A certain friar asking counsel of Brother Giles concerning a temptation, said to him: “O father, I am beset by two evil temptations; the one is, that when I do anything good, immediately I am tempted to vainglory; the other, that when I do anything evil, forthwith I fall into such sadness and despondency, that I am almost in despair.” To whom Brother Giles replied: “My brother, thou dost well and wisely to mourn for thy sins; but I counsel thee to do so discreetly and temperately, and always to remember that the mercy of God is grater than all thy sins. And if the infinite mercy of God receiveth to penance a man who is a great sinner, and who sins wilfully, when he repents: thinkest thou that the good God will forsake the man who sins not wilfully, if he also be contrite and penitent? I counsel thee likewise not to refrain from doing well, for fear of vainglory; for if the husbandman were to say in the seed-time: ‘I will not sow my seed, lest perhaps the birds come and eat it up’, assuredly he would reap no fruit that year. But if he sow his seed, although the birds may consume a portion thereof, he will gather in the greater part when the harvest comes. And so with the man who is tempted to vainglory but continually resisteth the temptation, I say that he does not by reason of it lose the merit of his good work.”
A friar said to Brother Giles: “Father, I have read that St Bernard once said the seven Penitential Psalms with so great devotion and tranquility of mind, that he thought of nothing else the whole time but of the words of the psalms he was saying.” And Brother Giles answered him thus: “My brother, I think more of the prowess of the knight who holds and valiantly defends a castle which is assailed and compassed around by enemies, so that he suffers none of them to effect an entrance, than if he were dwelling therein in peace, undisturbed by any hostile assault.”
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