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Treatise Written to a Devout Man

by Walter Hilton

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"There be in the Holy Church two kinds of life, by which Christian souls do serve and please God, and procure their own salvation. The one is corporal, the other spiritual." So begins Walter Hilton's Treatise Written to a Devout Man. Hilton was an English mystic born in the middle of the fourteenth century whose works were highly influential in fifteenth century England. Nevertheless, they still counsel Christians today on how to live Godly lives. His Treatise defines the two kinds of life within the church. The corporal is the life of a young Christian who "deal[s] with worldly businesses and affairs." Christians must spend time in the corporal and work to "mortify" all unholy desires in order to graduate to the spiritual life, where they spend much time in fasting and prayer. Hilton goes on to give thoughts on the humanity of Christ, the virtue of the saints, and ends with three things helpful to every Christian reader: what to do when prayer meditation bring us no comfort, various warnings not to become too engrossed in our meditations, and advice to take faith little by little because no one becomes righteous in a day. Anyone who desires to strike a balance between worldly and spiritual life will find Hilton's direct and instructive prose a useful resource.

Abby Zwart
CCEL Staff Writer
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About Walter Hilton
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Died: 1396
Related topics: Criticism, interpretation, etc., Devotional literature, Early works, England, Hilton, Walter,--d. 1396
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Popular works: Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection, Treatise Written to a Devout Man, Song of Angels