THE FIRE OF LOVE
OF MAN’S TURNING TO GOD; AND WHAT HELPS AND WHAT LETS HIS TURNING.
Be it known to all manner of people in this wretched dwelling place of exile abiding, that no man may be imbued with love of endless life, nor be anointed with heavenly sweetness, unless he truly be turned to God. It behoves truly he be turned to Him, and from all earthly things be altogether turned in mind, before he may be expert in the sweetness of God’s love, even in little things. Soothly by ordinate love is this turning done; so that he loves that that is worthy
to be loved, and loves not that that is not worthy to be loved; and that he burn more in love of those things that are most worthy, and less in them that are less worthy.
Most is God for to be loved: mickle are heavenly things for to be loved: little, or nought but for need, are earthly things to be loved. Withouten doubt thus every man is turned to Christ whiles nought is desired by him but only Christ.
Truly turning from these goods that in this world deceive their lovers and defend them nought, stands in want of fleshly desire, and hatred of all wickedness; so that they savour not earthly things, nor desire to hold to worldly things beyond their strait need. For they truly that heap riches and know not for whom they gather, having their solace in them, are not worthy to be sometimes gladdened in the mirth of heavenly love; although they seem by devotion, not holy
but simulated, to feel in their dis-eases something of that felicity which is to come. For truly for their foul presumption they have fallen from that sweetness with which God’s lovers are softened and made sweet because they have unmannerly loved worldly money. All love truly that ends not in God is sinful and makes the havers evil. Wherefore, loving worldly excellence, they are set on fire with sinful love, and they are further from heavenly heat than is the space betwixt the highest heaven
and the lowest place of the earth.
They sicker are made like to that love because they are conformed to wanton concupiscence; and holding to old manners of wickedness, they love the vanity of this life before holy love. Wherefore they change the joy of incorruptible clearness to wantoned beauty that shall not last. This soothly would they not do unless they were blinded with the fire of froward love, the which wastes the burgeoning of virtue and nourishes the plants of all vice. Forsooth many are not
set on womanly beauty nor like lechery, wherefore they trust themselves saved, as it were with sickerness; and because of chastity only, which they bear outwardly, they ween they surpass all others as saints. But wickedly they thus suppose and all in vain, when covetousness, the root of sins, is not drawn out. And truly, as it is written, nothing is worse than to love money. For whiles the love of temporal things occupies the heart of any man, it altogether suffers him to have no devotion.
Truly the love of God and of this world may never be together in one soul, but whichever love is stronger puts out the other that thus it may openly be known who is this world’s lover and who Christ’s follower. (For the heat of love breaks out in works which are seen.) Certainly as Christ’s lovers behave themselves towards the world, and the flesh, so lovers of the world behave themselves towards God and their own souls.
They truly that are chosen, eat and drink but ever with all their mind to God they take entent, and in all earthly things not lust, but need they only seek. Of earthly things they speak with anguish and nought but passingly, nor in them making tarrying; and then in mind they are yet with God; and the remainder of time they yield to God’s service; not standing in idleness nor running to plays nor wonders—that is the token of the rejected—but rather behaving themselves
honestly, they irk not either to speak or do or think those things that long to God.
The rejected truly alway behave themselves idly towards God; they hear God’s word with hardness, they pray without affection, they think of God without sweetness. They enter the kirk and fill the walls; they knock their breast and yield sighs, but plainly but feigned, for why they come to the eyes of men, not to the ears of God. For when they are in kirk in body, in mind they are distracted to worldly goods, which they have or else desire to have, wherefore their heart
is far from God. They eat and drink not to their need but to their lust, for but in lecherous food find they savour or sweetness. They give moreover bread to the poor, clothing peradventure to the cold; but whiles their alms is done in deadly sin, or for vainglory, or sickerly of things untruly gotten, no marvel if they please not our Gainbuyer, but unto vengeance provoke our Judge.
Wherefore, as the chosen, whiles they take heed to the world or the flesh, alway have their mind busily to God; so the rejected, whiles they seem to do God service are busy with the world, and to those things that pertain to the world and the flesh they are greatly ravished in busyness of heart. And as the chosen displease God nought when they relieve their need, so the rejected please not God in the good deeds they are seen to do; for their full few good deeds are
mingled with many ill deeds.
The fiend has many also which we trow be good. He has forsooth alms givers, the chaste, and meek—that is to say sinners calling themselves so—clad with hair and punished by penance. Truly under weening of health ofttimes deadly wounds are hid.
The fiend has also not a few hasty to work and busy to preach; but doubtless all those want to him that are warmed in charity (and who are always eager to love God) and slow to all vanity. The wicked truly are alway greedy after vile delectations, and as dead unto ghostly exercises; or else cast down with full great feebleness: whose love is ever inordinate; for they love temporal goods more than eternal, and their bodies more than their souls.
THAT NO MAN MAY SUDDENLY COME TO HIGH DEVOTION, NOR BE WET WITH THE SWEETNESS OF CONTEMPLATION
Truly it is shown to lovers that, in the first years of their turning, no man may attain to high devotion, nor be fully moistened with sweetness of contemplation. Scarcely truly and seldom, and as it were in the twinkling of an eye, are they granted to feel somewhat of heavenly things; and profiting little by little at the last they are made strong in spirit. Then afterward they have received sadness of manners, and so far as this present changeableness suffers, have
attained to stability of mind; for with great travails is some perfection gotten, that they may feel some joy in godly love.
Nevertheless it is not seen that all, though they be great in virtue, anon feel verily the actual warmth of uncreate or unwrought charity, nor melting in the unmeasured flame of love, may sing within themselves the song of God’s praise. This mystery from many truly is hidden, and to a most special few it is shown; for the higher this degree is, the fewer finders has it in this world.
No marvel that we seldom find any saint, nor one so perfect in this life and rapt with so high love, that in contemplation he might be lift up to sweetness of melody; that is to say, that he might receive into himself the heavenly sound shed into him, and as it were with melody he should yield it again in praise to God, making many notes in ghostly praising; and that he might feel in himself the heat of God’s love. And nevertheless it is marvellous that any
contemplative man should be trowed otherwise; for the psalmist, transformed into the person of contemplative man, says: ’Transibo in domum Dei in voce exultationis et confessionis,’ that is to say: ‘I shall go into God’s house in the voice of gladness and shrift’; which praise is the sound of him that feasts, that is to say, of him that is glad with heavenly sweetness.
The perfect, forsooth, that are taken up into this surpassing plenty of endless friendship, and imbued with sweetness that shall not waste, live anew in the clear chalice of full sweet charity; and in the holy counsel of mirth they draw into their souls happy heat, by the which greatly gladdened, they have greater comfort of ghostly lectuary than may be trowed. This refreshment is the height of endless heritage in them who truly love, and to whom, in this exile
forsooth, diseases happen and in the meanwhile it shall not appear unprofitable to them that they be punished for some years, the which shall be lift up to sit, without parting, in heavenly seats. Of all flesh also are they chosen to be most dear in the sight of our Maker, and to be clearly crowned. As the seraphim in high heaven truly are they burnt, who sit in solitude of body, yet their minds walk among the angels to Christ their Beloved, whom they have desired: the which also most sweetly
have sung this prayer of endless love, in Jesu joying.
O honey sweet heat, than all delight sweeter, than all riches more delectable.O my God! O my Love! into me glide; with Thy charity thirled; with Thy beauty woundedSlide down and comfort me, heavy; give medicine to me, wretched; show Thyself to Thy lover Behold in Thee is all my desire, and all my heart seeks. After Thee my heart desires; after Thee my flesh thirstsAnd Thou openest not to me but turnest Thy Face.Thou sparrest Thy door, and hidest Thyself; and at the pains of the innocent Thou laughest
In the meantime nevertheless Thou ravishest Thy lovers from all earthly things; above all desire of worldly things Thou takest them, and makest them takers of Thy love and full great workers in loving. Wherefore in ghostly song, of burning up bursting, to Thee they offer praises, and with sweetness they feel the dart of love.
Hail therefore O lovely Everlasting Love, that raisest us from these low things and presentest us with so frequent ravishings to the sight of God’s Majesty. Come into me, my Beloved! All that I had I gave for Thee, and that I should have, for Thee I have forsaken, that Thou in my soul mightest have a mansion for to comfort it. Never forsake Thou him that Thou feelest so sweetly glow with desire for Thee; so that with most burning desire I desire, to be ever within Thy
halsing. So grant me grace to love Thee, and in Thee to rest, that in Thy kingdom I may be worthy for to see Thee withouten end.
THAT ILK MAN CHOSEN OF GOD HAS HIS STATE ORDAINED
Contemplative men that are highly burnt with the love of everlasting life are forsooth highest in this most lovely burning, and most beloved of the Lover Everlasting; so that they seldom or never go out to worldly business, nor yet receive the dignity of prelacy nor honours; but rather, certainly, withholding themselves within themselves, with joy and in song of praise they alway in mind ascend to Christ. Truly in this the kirk follows the hierarchy of angels, in the
which the highest angels are not sent outward, being evermore near to God. They that are high in Christ’s love and contemplation are so busy in the sight of God alone, that they take not sovereignty among men; but it is kept for others, that are more occupied with the business of man, and enjoy less of inward delight.
Therefore irk one chosen has his degree ordained before of God; so that whiles this one is chosen to prelacy, this other is busy to take heed to God within, and God within uplifts him thereto, so that he leaves all outward occupations. Soothly such are most holy and yet of men are held lowest, because they only dwell in mind for they seldom go outward to do miracles.
Others truly both submit themselves to God’s service and discreetly govern their subjects.
Others also that live in fleshly penance, unseen in the sight of men, are ofttimes in their lives granted or shown tokens; or else after their death, although they be full sharply punished some while in purgatory.
Truly all saints have not done miracles, either in their life or after their death; nor all damned have lacked miracles, either in their life or after their death. The doom truly of God is privy, lest, by seen tokens of sinners, evil should be made worse, and they that are good, despising those things that may be had in common by good and ill, should be more quick in the love of their Maker.
Some forsooth have wrought good deeds, but not God’s but man’s honour have they sought; and this perishes after their death, only having what they have desired in this world. Truly ofttimes it happens that the meanly good and less perfect, have done miracles; also full many of those high in devotion are placed in heavenly seats, and altogether rest before the Majesty of God, having their meed among the high companies of heaven. For the feast of Saint Michael is
specially honoured, and yet he is not trowed of the highest order of angels.
Some also, turned to God and doing penance, and forsaking worldly errands, joy in mind if, after death, their name may be honoured among the living; to the which Christ’s true servant should take no heed, as peradventure he may lose all that he works for.
Those things truly that are common to good and ill, are not to be desired by saints; but charity and ghostly virtues should be fastened without ceasing in their hearts; the which not only keep the soul from filth of sins, but in the doom shall raise the body also to endless memory.
All things that are done here soon cease and flee. There truly, either in honour or confession, they shall last withouten end. The active therefore and prelates, eminent in cunning and virtue, should set contemplative men before themselves, and hold them their betters before God; not trowing themselves worthy to be given to contemplation, unless peradventure God’s grace to that should inspire them.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWIXT GOD’S LOVERS AND THE WORLD’S: AND THEIR MEEDS
The soul of man feels nothing of the burning of endless love the which has not first perfectly forsaken all worldly vanity, studying busily to be given to heavenly things, and to desire God’s love without ceasing, and mannerly to love all creatures to be loved. Truly if all things that we love, we love for God, rather God in them, than them we love; and so not in them but in God we delight, whom to enjoy withouten end we shall be glad.
The wicked truly love this world, setting therein the lust of their delectation; and those things only that belong to this world’s joy, withouten ceasing they covet. And how may a man do more fondly, more wretchedly, or damnably than fully to love, for themselves only, transitory and failing things.
The Trinite God truly is to be loved for Himself only. Put we therefore our mind fully into it, and be we busy to bear all our thoughts unto that end, that withouten end we may be gladdened by it; so that ourselves and all things that we love, we love for that alone.
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But that sinner lies that says he loves God and yet dreads not to serve sin. Ilk man truly that loves God is free, nor binds himself to bondage of sin, but steadfastly continues in the service of righteousness. Whiles we love earthly things or comfort for themselves, withouten doubt we love not God, serving Him not forsooth; but if we be delighted in creatures, so that we set our Maker behind, and care not to follow those things that are eternal, we shall be deemed as
hating God. Full froward truly is it to the soul, and the token of damnation and of endless death, when a man gives himself wholly unto this world; and in divers desires and errors of the flesh, he goes as him lists. Thus no marvel a wretch is destroyed; and, while he seems to flow in pleasure, he hies to the ay-lasting penance of hell.
Therefore no man should dare presume, nor rise himself up by pride when he is despised to his reproach, or when insults are cast him; nor defend himself, nor for ill words give ill again; but all things, praise as well as reproof, bear evenly. Truly, doing in this wise, we shall withouten end with Christ be glad, if in this life we love Him without ceasing. Whose love, rooted in our hearts and made sicker, makes us like unto His likeness; and other joy, that is to say
godly, He puts into us; mirthing our minds wholly with burning love. His love truly is fire, making our souls fiery and purging them from all degrees of sin, making them light and burning; which fire, burning in them that are chosen, ever makes them look up in mind, and continually to hold to the desire for death.
Wherefore, whiles we can sin, let us charge ourselves to flee this world’s prosperity, and to bear adversity gladly. Forsooth an evil mind while it joys is lost, and while it seeks gladness in creatures it, as it were with a flattering venom, kills the self; whose contagion let us be well aware to eschew, beholding the ghostly food that is ordained in heaven for burning lovers.
And so, Christ granting, be we comforted by sweet songs of charity and be we delighted in so sweet devotion; while the wicked sleep in horrible darkness, and full of sins, go down to pains.
Full great marvel it seems that mortal man may be taken up into such high love for God that he feels nothing but heavenly solace in his most privy substance; and so as, in the noise of an organ, he ascends on high to contemplate high desire. That which is done by others to sorrow then turns to joy, so that they seem unable to suffer pain in soul; also they can not be troubled with the dread of death, nor in any way be moved from restfulness to unease.
Truly he who is stirred with busy love, and is continually with Jesu in thought, full soon perceives his own faults, the which correcting, henceforward he is ware of them; and so he brings righteousness busily to birth, until he is led to God and may sit with heavenly citizens in everlasting seats. Therefore he stands clear in conscience and is steadfast in all good ways the which is never noyed with worldly heaviness nor gladdened with vainglory.
Truly those obstinate in unclean works know not the love of Christ, for they are burned with fleshly likings; and they yield no devotion to God because of the burden of riches by the which they are thrust to the earth. They are not, forsooth, ordained to have the delights of paradise, but go on in their frowardness unto their death; and therefore, worthily, their heaviness shall not be lessened, nor shall the sorrow of their damnation be put aback; because they
wilfully walk in lusts and sin, and have frowardly, for false love, lost the love of the Endless Lover. Wherefore in perpetual pains they shall plainly repent that they have sinned; and yet they shall never be cleansed from sin, but be burned endlessly by continued fires withouten any comforter.
WHEREFORE IT IS BETTER TO TAKE ENTENT TO THE LOVE OF GOD THAN TO KNOWLEDGE OR DISPUTATION
In all things that we work or think be we more taking heed to the love of God than to knowledge or disputation. Love truly delights the soul and makes conscience sweet, drawing it from love of lusty things here beneath, and from desire of man’s own excellence. Knowledge without charity builds not to endless health but puffs up to most wretched undoing.
Be our souls therefore strong in the taking of hard labours for God; and be they wise with heavenly, not worldly, savour. May they desire to be lightened with endless wisdom, and to be inflamed by that fire with which some are stirred to love and desire our Maker only, and mightily are made strong to the despising of all transitory things. Not counting their greatest solace in these things that abide not, for they here have no dwelling, but without ceasing they seek
the heavenly place not made with hands, and cry: Mihi vivere Christus est, et mori lucrum. ‘Christ to me is life, and great winning to die.’
He forsooth truly loves God that consents to no wicked likings. Certainly man is far from Christ’s love in as mickle as he delights himself in worldly things. Wherefore if thou love God thy work shows that; for he is never proved to love God whiles he is made to consent to wicked desires.
Therefore to all that are in this exile this I dare show: that all they that will not love the Maker of all things shall be cast into endless darkness; and there shall they that would not here be lightened with the love of their Gainbuyer feel the burning withouten end of the fire of hell. They shall be sundered from the company of singers, in charity with their Maker; and busily shall they sorrow cast out from the mirth of those singing in Jesu, wanting in the
clearness and the joy of them that shall be crowned. For liever had they tarry a little while in worldly softness than suffer penance that their sins might be cleansed, and they might come full of piety before the Defender of all good.
Truly, in this vale of weeping, they have been delighted in the slippery way and the broad; where is no place of gladness but of labour, wherefore in torments withouten release they shall sorrow: when the poor, which were arrayed with virtues, shall be born to everlasting peace and be made glad in the delight of full truly seeing the Life-giving Godhead. And in ghostly heat they have happily flourished, although they have taken no solace in the worthy height of this
world, nor have sown pride among foolish wise men; but they have borne griefs from wicked men, and have excluded temptations from the soul that they might be holden in peace at the throne of the Trinity. And they have truly voided old unthriftiness of venomous life, clearly and most gladly praising ghostly beauty; and plays of softness, which youth accepts and unwise worldly men desire, they have deems worthy reproof, thinking with continuance of the song full of charity ascending to our Maker.
For which thing the receivers of the joy of love, conceiving heat that may not be consumed, join together in song of clear chorus; and in lovely harmony and friendly mirth have they set a heavenly shadow against all heat of lechery and filth. Wherefore in this burning of sweetest love they are taken up to the beholding of their Beloved, and by means of this most happy flame they are flourishing in virtue, and freely enjoy their Maker: and their mind, changed, now
passes into the melody that lasts. And from henceforth their thoughts become song, and heaviness being cast out, the hall of their soul is fulfilled with wonderful music, so that it has entirely lost the former pricking and evermore abides whole in high sweetness, full marvellously singing in heavenly sweet meditation.
Furthermore when they go from this hardness and from the diseases that happen here, then the time comes that they shall be taken, and withouten doubt be born withouten sorrow to God, and have their seats among the seraphim; for they are altogether set on fire with the most high fire of love, burning within their souls. So sweetly and devoutly have they loved God that whatsoever they have felt in themselves was ghostly heat, heavenly song and godly sweetness. Herefore
it is truly that they die without heaviness, soothly passing with joy; and are lift up unto so great a degree in endless worship, and are crowned in the contemplation of the great plenteousness of their Maker, singing with clearest choirs; the which also more burningly desire after that Godhead that rules all things.
And forsooth though now they clearly behold the chere of truth, and are moistened with the most delectable sweetness of the Godhead, yet no marvel if after a little while they shall be made more marvellous: when the bodies of the saints, that are at this time holden in earth, shall be raised from their graves, and their souls shall be knitted to them in the last examination. Then forsooth shall they take principality among the peoples, and the unrighteous shall they
deem to be damned; and they shall show that the meanly good were blessed to come to Blissfulness. The general doom thus done, soothly they shall be borne into everlasting song, and go up with Christ to the height of truth, enjoying the Face of God in love withouten end.
By this it is shown that everlasting sweetness moistens their minds, the which binds the bands of true charity, unable to be loosed. Wherefore let us seek rather that the love of Christ burn within us than that we take heed to unprofitable disputation. Whiles truly we take heed to unmannerly seeking, we feel not the sweetness of the eternal savour. Wherefore many now so mickle savour in the burning of knowledge and not of love, that plainly they know not what love is,
or of what savour; although the labour of all their study ought to spread unto this end, that they might burn in the love of God. Alas, for shame! An old wife is more expert in God’s love, and less in worldly pleasure, than the great divine, whose study is vain. For why, for vanity he studies, that he may appear glorious and so be known, and may get rents and dignities: the which is worthy to be held a fool, and not wise.
CONCERNING HERETICS: AND FAITH IN THE TRINITY
The plenteousness and the whole of holy truth shows itself to them that seek it; and to the children of unity hidden mysteries are open. Wherefore, soothly, springs the frowardness of heretics but from an untaught and inordinate mind, which is blinded by desire of its own excellence? For truly they cease not to resist God within themselves by vain desires; and it is also by their earning that with open arguments they gainstand the truth outwardly.
When the Christian religion wills to cut away all that is contrary, and fully accord in unity of love, the manner of heretics and the proud is to get new opinions, and to make known questions, unwont and from the saying of holy kirk; and so those thing that true Christian men hold holy they joy to scatter with their vanities.
Whose errors casting away we say: Truly the Son of God, even to the Father, and without beginning, is evermore to be trowed and understood; for except the Father had begotten Him without beginning, truly the full Godhead should not have been in Him. Soothly if God had been at sometime the Father when He had no Son, then no marvel He was less than afterward, when He had gotten a Son; that shall no man of good mind say.
Therefore God unchangeable begets God unchangeable; and whom He has begotten from eternity He ceases not this day also to beget. For neither might the substance of the Son be called at any time unbegotten, nor the being of the Getter ever be conscious of Himself without any only begotten Son of Himself. Truly even as the beginning of the Godhead may not be found of reason or wit because it has not beginning, so the generation of the Son with the eternal Godhead
When truly the marvel and worship of God almighty shows itself clearly in infinity, without beginning, to what end shall man’s folly raise itself in striving to make known to the ears of mortal men a sacrament unable to be spoken? He truly knows God perfectly that feels Him incomprehensible and unable to be known. Nothing, soothly, is perfectly known unless the cause thereof, how and in what wise it is, be perfectly known. In this present life we know in part and we
understand in part; in the life to come, truly, we shall know perfectly and fully, as is lawful or speedful to creatures. Forsooth he that desires to know of our Everlasting Maker above that that is profitable, without doubt falls fonder from perfect knowledge of Him.
Thou askest what God is? I answer shortly to thee: such a one and so great is He that none other is or ever may be of like kind or so mickle. If thou wilt know properly to speak what God is, I say thou shalt never find an answer to this question. I have not known; angels know not; archangels have not heard. Wherefore how wouldest thou know what is unknown and also unteachable? Truly God that is almighty may not teach thee what He Himself is. For if thou knew what God
is thou shouldest be as wise as God is: that neither thou nor any other creature may be.
Stand therefore in thy degree, and desire not high things. For if thou desirest to know what God is, thou desirest to be God; the which becomes thee not. Wot thou well God alone knows Himself, and may know. Truly it is not of God’s unpower that He may not teach thee Himself as He is in Himself, but for His inestimable worthiness; for such a one as He is, none other may be. Soothly if He might be truly known, then were He not incomprehensible. It is enough for thee
therefore to know that God is; and it were against thee if thou would know what God is.
Also it is to be praised to know God perfectly; that is to say, He being unable to be fully conceived: knowing Him to love Him; loving Him to sing in Him; singing to rest in Him, and by inward rest to come to endless rest. Let it not move thee that I have said to know God perfectly, and I have denied that He may be known: since the prophet in the psalm has said: Praetende misericordiam tuam scientibus te, that is to say: ‘Thy mercy show to them knowing Thee.’
But thus understand this authority if thou wilt not err: ‘To them knowing Thee,’ that is to say: God is to be loved, to be praised, to be worshipped and glorified, the only Maker of all things; above all things; through all things; and in all things; that is blessed in the world of worlds. Amen.
THAT IN THE GODHEAD WE OUGHT NOT TO SAY THREE GODS OR THREE ESSENCES, AS WE SAY THREE PERSONS: AND THAT ILK MAN SHALL BE CALLED GREAT OR SMALL AFTER THE QUANTITY OF HIS LOVE
If any, erring, would say in the Trinity are three Essences because they say three Persons, why should they not also say three Gods; since to God it is all one to be God and to be His Essence? We say truly, the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Ghost is God; the Father also is His Essence; the Son is His Essence; the Holy Ghost is His Essence: and yet not three Gods nor three Essences we say; but one God and three Persons to be of one Essence, with strong faith
One Godhead truly there is, of three Persons, full and perfect; and ilk Person in the self contains the whole Godhead; evenhood and onehood, forsooth, having after the Substance of the Godhead; not lacking distinction of diversity after the property of the Name.
They are also three Persons and one god; one Essence; one Substance; one Godhead: and, though ilk Person betokens the Essence, although there be three Persons yet three Essences shall not therefore be understood. And as our God, the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost we call one Essence and not three, so we shall say the High Trinity to be three Persons, not one alone.
The Father is so called, because of Himself He gat a Son; the Son is so called, because of the Father He is gotten; the Holy Ghost, because of both the Holy Father and the Holy Son He is inspired. The Father, Life, getting the Son, Life, has given to Him His whole Substance: so that the Father should be as mickle in His Son as in Himself (and the Son is not less in the Father than in Himself). But the Father has taken His Essence of none; the Son truly of His Father
alone has taken in His birth that He is; the Holy Ghost forsooth of the Father and the Son forth passing, and with Them and in Them endlessly being, is no more in Himself than in Either: for truly He is even and everlasting with Them of whom He is; since He is of the same Substance, of the same Kind, and of the same Godhead; and the third Person in the Trinity.
Truly the everlasting Son of the Father is become Man in time, born of a maiden, that He might gainbuy man from the fiend’s power. This is our Lord Jesus Christ: the which only be fastened in our minds the which for us only was tied on the cross.
Nothing truly is so sweet as to love Christ. And therefore ransack we not too mickle those things that we in this life may not conceive. Truly in heaven they shall be clearer than light, if we give all our hearts to love God. For we shall be able to be taught of God; and we shall joy in full marvellous melody, and in high mirth praise our Maker, in full sweet easiness without grief and irksomeness and withouten end.
He forsooth that loves mickle is great, and he that loves least is least: for after the greatness of the charity we have in us, shall we be praised before God. So is it not before men, but he that has most riches or goods is most considered and especially dreaded; when they ought not so to do, but most honour and dread them that they suppose be best in knowledge.
Truly the mighty men of this world can do nothing but for their bodies or their goods. Holy men truly have more worthiness; for they shall have power to spar heaven to them that disease them and would not therefore do penance: and also to open heaven to them that have honoured them in God, and maintained them in this exile: whiles they were arrayed with charity and have not received vainglory. Wherefore they should travail to get, to have, and to hold to charity with
all their might and all their strength, that in the day of temptation they may manfully stand against the enemy; and when they shall be proved they may receive the crown of life. Charity truly makes men perfect; and only those loving perfectly are granted to come to the height of contemplative life.
And truly the poor, although they be clad with heaviness and uncleanness, yet they should not be despised; for they are friends of God and breathren of Christ, if they bear the burden of poverty with deeds of praise. Then sickerly the persons ye despised without, ye honour within as heavenly citizens; and in so mickle as ye grow to honour them for God, in so mickle He privily works in His Godhead; the which, comforting them, says: Beati pauperes quoniam vestrum est
regnum Dei, that is to say: ‘Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’
For the great tribulation and need that they suffer in this life they are purged of their sins. For whiles the poor man is noyed in body with hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness and other griefs of this world, he is purged in soul from uncleanness and worldly filth. And truly in the time to come poor men shall feel the sweeter rest of the everlasting, in as mickle as in this life they have borne most grievous labours. It shall belong to them truly to say: Laetati sumus
pro diebus quibus nos humiliasti, annis quibus vidimus mala; that is to say: ‘Gladdened are we for the days in which Thou hast meeded us, for the years in which we have seen grief.’
Wherefore halse the burden of poverty with joy, and have mind to bear goodly other wretchedness; that by the sufferance of tribulation thou mayest be worthy to come to the joy of everlasting peace!
THAT THE PERFECT LOVER OF GOD HAD LIEVER RUN INTO GREAT PAIN THAN BY SIN ONCE GRIEVE GOD: AND WHY GOD TORMENTS THE RIGHTEOUS BY THE WICKED
From the great fire of love so great beauty of virtue grows in souls that a righteous man would rather choose to suffer all pain than once grieve God; although he knew he might rise by penance and afterward please God more and be holier. For ilk one perfect understands this: that nothing is more dear to God than innocence, nothing more pleasing than good will. For truly if we love God rightly we would sooner lose great meed in heaven than once sin venially; for most
righteous is it to ask no meed of righteousness but the friendship of God, that is Himself. Therefore it is better ever to suffer tormentry than once, wilfully and knowingly, to be led from righteousness to wickedness.
Wherefore it follows that they who so burningly love Christ that they will in no wise sin, not only shall be free from pain, but shall joy endlessly with angels. They truly that serve wicked deeds, and ween that worldly and fleshly solace is to be greatly loved, loving those things they desire, forsooth they lose both the joy that they love, and run into the wickedness that they eschewed not.
But it is wont to be asked by some why God almighty chastises the wicked and the righteous together. Thou seest under the flail both corn and chaff at once; but in the winnowing the chaff is cast out and the corn is busily gathered to man’s use. If all men lived truly, without doubt we should dwell in peace and tranquillity, withouten debate and battle; but since among the few good are many evil, many diseases comes that evil may be chastised: and thus evil things
happen to good men because they are mingled with the evil unto their death. The righteous also, because they are ready to sin, so that their readiness be not brought to deed are taught to take a light scouring here, that they may escape the bitter scouring that is to come.
Therefore if thou suffer persecution, wretchedness, and other diseases, thou hast that which accords to the place in the which thou dwellest. Is not this the vale of tears and tribulations in which thou art? How wouldest thou therefore be glad in prison, and live in all prosperity in thine exile, or go thy long pilgrimage withouten diseases? Have mind that Christ and His apostles have suffered tormentry, and thou by bliss seekest to come to joy! But thou shalt not.
Forsooth either, in this life, the fire of God’s love shall waste the rust of our sins and cleanse our souls to make them able to flee to bliss, or else, after this life, the fire of purgatory shall punish our souls, if it happen we escape the fire of hell. Or else, if the strength of love be not so mickle in us that it can altogther burn us, it behoves us to be cleansed with tribulation, sickness and dis-eases.
This also we have withouten doubt: that no young man can be made holy among flatterings, and sweet words of fair women, and plenteousness of liking things, unless it be by the untrowed greatness of God’s grace; where so many and so great things stir many to fall, so that holy men have also ofttimes been lost. Wherefore I trow it is a great miracle when man by the grace of God and the love of Christ perfectly despises these cherishings and manfully goes up betwixt these
enemies to the soul—although they seem soft to the flesh—to the high holiness of heavenly contemplation. And, withouten fail, the holier he is and the more plenteously filled within with the solace of God’s love, although he be set in the fire, he knows not how to burn; and the foul lusts of an unclean life offering themselves, he has perfectly slakened them.
It is no marvel (that sometimes), though it be seldom, Christ works in some beloved to Him, of whom it is said: Expandit nubem in protectionem eorum, et ignem ut luceret eis per noctem; that is to say: He has spread a cloud, the shadow of God’s grace, for their defence against fleshly desires, and the fire of endless love to give them light within to mind, through the night of this life, that they be not taken by the unlawfulness of vain beauty. Truly Christ’s
love burns in them with so great sweetness, that all fleshly and unlawful liking they think of as most foul, and therefore they despise it.
Therefore touch thou not lecherously that which is lawful neither to desire nor to have. Have in mind also to withhold thy hand, thy tongue, and thy body; and displease not they conscience concerning women. Truly the stirrings of lechery are the array of men and women. Also hot lectuaries, and other meats that with their heat too mickle enflame the flesh—which nourishers of bodies and killers of souls are busy to make—should be eschewed by the chaste.
THAT GOD IS TO BE LOVED AND WORSHIPPED IN DISEASES: AND ALSO OF THE MIRTH AND MEEKNESS OF THE GOOD
If temporal honour be destroyed by shame, and worldly be ended by villainy, it is known without doubt that reproach is better than worship, shame than high degree, and heaviness than praise. For by these things a man ofttimes slides into vainglory; by the other always, if a man bear it patiently, he in this life shall be taught meekness, and in the time to come shall suffer no pain—for God will not punish the righteous twice—and he shall be crowned: for the patience of
the poor will not perish in the end.
Truly to holiness these things belong: first, to think, speak and do in no manner what displeases God; and then, to think, speak, and work what may please God. Do this after thy knowledge, so that thou neither fall into slander nor feign too mickle holiness. For he is a fool that desires to appear holy before men; and cruel that shows himself evil when he is good.
Some things truly there are that, taken heed unto, in themselves are neither good nor evil, for in their pure nature they are neither meedful nor unmeedful; and if such things be done they displease not God; nor if they be left undone please not God. For here we may see, smell, touch, and yet earn no meed or unmeed. All sin truly is done either to God’s displeasing, or our neighbour’s noying, or to our own harm. But many things may be found among men that are none of
these. Truly to be despised, or lost, in the sight of men, makes man ascend to the joy of angels.
O good Jesu here chastise, here cut, here smite, here burn; yea, and whatsoever please Thy goodiness do to me, so that in the time to come I have none ill, but may feel Thy love here and everlastingly. To be despised by all men in confusion and shame for Thee, is sweeter to me than to be called brother by an earthly king, and to be honoured among all men and of all men. May wretchedness fall on me on ilka side in this life, so that Thou God spare me in the other. I
will to be chastised and corrected here; and Christ that grant to me, if otherwise I may not escape pain to come.
The proud truly and those full of wrath seem to themselves so worthy that they can suffer nothing. Ofttimes at a light word and without cause they are moved. Therefore they are to be fled more than to be overcome, for they are froward. And that they have taken up they alway defend, though it be false or untrue; and neither with authority nor reason will they be overcome, that they should not be seen to have said what were unaccording. And when they are untaught—and
that they wot well—yet they will behave as if they were inspired in all things that belong to God, so that they may speak in every place without the gainsaying of any man; and they had liever dwell still in error than be openly reproved for it.
Brethren, leave this proud madness and mad pride, and let us greatly meek ourselves whiles we are in this way: for it is better, lovely, and good that after our death Christ say to us, ‘Friend, come uppermore,’ than that He say ‘Carl, go downermore’: so truly shall it be of the meek and the proud.
Wherefore no tribulation, no disease, no wretchedness, no shame, no reproach is to dreaded by the righteous man as long as he sins not and always profits in contemplative life and the love of God. Truly before we may come to that kingly hall, in which, filled with sweetness, we shall be glad with the angels of God and all His saints, it befalls us here to be reproved by flatterers and wrong sayers; by fawners and backbiters; by praisers and blamers; so that, when we
shall be examined, we may be found alway given to Christ’s precepts and His counsel, in all patience and meekness and charity; as it is written: Tanquam aurum in fornace probavit eos; that is to say: ‘As gold he has proved them in the furnace,’ that has fire on ilka side, and has found them worthy to have Himself. Thus let us go through adversity and prosperity, through fire and water, unto the time we come to the refreshing of the heavenly life.
Have mind also that in all diseases and need and poverty thou never grumble, nor speak fondly nor frowardly—but in all things give thanks to God. Thereby truly shalt thou be lifted up more joyfully to the kingdom of the saints, if in this world thou suffer gladly the things beforesaid.
O my soul, among all things that happen praise thy Lord with liking devotion; praising, feel with sweetness; and singing, taste with honeysweet devotion, saying: Laudabo Dominum in vita mea, that is to say, ‘I shall worship my Lord in my life,’ whether I be diseased or eased: whether I receive honour or shame. As long as I am, I shall sing to my God. If I rest, I sing in Jesu; and if I suffer persecution, I forget not the love of God. Truly it is enough for me
to love my God, and to come to Him; since I can do no other or feel myself disposed to the work of no other things but to love Christ.
And yet, I come not to as great love of God as mine elder fathers, the which have also done many other profitable things; whereof I am full greatly ashamed in myself, and confused. Therefore, O Lord, make broad my heart that it may be more able to perceive Thy love. Truly the more able man is to receive, so mickle the more of charity he takes and savours, and the less he cares for the flesh; but with discretion, so that it be with him after the sentence of the wise:
Modicum mihi laboravi et inveni mihi multam requiem; that is to say: ‘A little have I travailed with myself, and I have found great rest to myself.’ For after a few years of this life the righteous have found rest for everlasting.
The holy lover of God shows himself neither too merry nor full heavy in this habitation of exile, but he has cheerfulness with ripeness. Forsooth some reprove laughter and some praise it. Laughter therefore which is from lightness and vanity of mind is to be reproved, but that truly that is of gladness of conscience and ghostly mirth is to be praised; the which is only in the righteous, and it is called mirth in the love of God. Wherefore if we be glad and merry, the
wicked call us wanton; and if we be heavy, hypocrites.
Seldom, soothly, can any man trow in another good that he finds not in himself; and he weens another has the sin into which he stumbles. And the deed of the wicked is this: that if any follow not their life, they trust that he goes wrong and is deceived; and this is because he has forsaken meekness. The degrees also of meekness are: to hold the eyes low, not high; to have a measure in speech, and not to pass it; to hear gladly their betters and those more wise; and to
will wisdom should be heard from others, rather than from themselves. Not to take the time of speaking too soon. Not to go from common life. To set others before thyself; to know thy frailties and to deem thyself worse than all others. If truly I wished to come among men, I have desired that I might sit last in number, and be held least in opinion, and so all my joy should be in Christ Jesu; and thus I should take no heed to man’s praising or blaming, but with busy devotion I should desire
Forsooth many that have spoken with me were like to scorpions; for they have fawned with their flattering head, and with their backbiting tail have smitten; from whose wicked lips and sorrowful tongue God shall deliver my soul, setting it in the joy of rest.
But whence is come so great madness into man’s mind that none will be blamed, none will be reproved, but all truly seek to be praised; they joy in honour, and laugh in favour. They also bear the name of a holier life; but to me such seem either above measure holy, or else mad, although they be called wise and taught. For who of good mind is there who leaves himself, not taking heed to himself, and gladdens himself in the void words of vain men? Truly if he beholds
himself busily, and cares to know of what kind he is in thought and deed, he may soon understand himself, and may find whether he be worthy of praise or reproof.
When therefore he sees himself in many things worthy of blame and in few things to be praised, he should not take with gladness the honour or favour of which he is not worthy; unless he be mad and has erred in mind. Truly, if carefully considering himself, he finds he waxes marvellously warm in the heat and sweetness of God’s love, and rises highly in contemplative life, and also in this continually stands; and has also in mind that either he has not done great sins,
or if he have done any he trows they be cleansed by true penance: then truly it behoves him not to sorrow for the honour of men, because clearly he was more worthy of the fellowship of angels.
Whosoever is thus disposed should no more joy to sit with a king than with a poor man; for he takes no heed to riches and honours from men, but unto the life and meeds of ilka man. He holds it not great to shine in gold, nor to be umbelapped with a great menge, nor to go in purple and be glad in the array of bishops: but truly he sets a holy and sweet conscience before all pleasures and riches.
THAT GOD’S LOVER FORSAKES THE WORLD, IDLENESS AND IRKSOMENESS: AND OF HYPOCRITES AND COVETOUS MEN
It is said in the Canticles: ‘Love is strong as death and love is hard as hell.’ Death truly kills the quick; hell soothly spares not the dead. So, certainly, the love of God not only utterly kills the love of this world in the man that it perfectly ravishes, but also, being slain to the world and quickened to heaven, it stirs him to suffer full mickle tribulation and worldly wretchedness for God.
Wherefore whosoever thou mayest be that hopest that thou lovest Christ to this take heed; for if thou yet behold earthly things with delight, and also find thy soul high to suffer wrongs or else death, thou showest forsooth that thou art not God’s true lover. Soothly a true lover neither dresses his eyes to the world, nor dreads to suffer all that seems heavy or hard to the body for God; and whosoever happen to him yet he is not let from the thought of Jesu his
Thou also that either art God’s lover, or with thy whole mind desirest to be, study alway, as mickle as thou canst by Christ’s grace, not to be noyed by irksomeness, nor to be taken with idleness. And if it sometimes happen that sweet easiness be not to thee in praying or in good thinking, and that thou be not made high in mind by the song of holy contemplation, and thou canst not sing as thou wast wont; yet cease not to read or pray, or else do some other good deed,
inward or outward, that thou slide not into idleness or sloth. Irksomeness, soothly, has drawn many to idleness; and idleness, to negligence and wickedness.
Wherefore be thou alway fervent in as mickle as in thee is; and have not thy desire bowed to anything of this world that may be had or desired. No man truly is perfectly knit to God, whiles he is bound in desire to any worldly creature.
There are some also that seem outwardly oned to God, and within they are given to fiends. These are simulators and false men, that challenge the wrath of God. Feigners forsooth they are, that despise the world with their words, and with their deeds are known to love it too mickle. They will be seen speaking of God, and are so mickle taken up within with love of money that they also strive sometimes for the weight of two halfpence. The which, opening their mouth
to desire God, are utterly wanting in charity; and whiles they have no heat of faith and charity they show themselves most holy in gait, clothing, and speech. These also, moreover, boast themselves steadfast in light diseases, but when they come thereto where they should gainstand, there they are soonest broken, and there they fall. And then what before was hid is openly shown. Yet when they abound in riches and are fed with riches, they say they eat full little, and that they have so great
thought that all this world is but vanity, that, as they say, they can scarcely last for feebleness. Deceitful also are they, because they have worldly wisdom; and they beguile by that, so that they are not perceived by others lying in wait, in as mickle as they are aware; and hiding covetousness under the title of ghostly rest, they eschew loss of worldly goods, in despite of things everlasting.
But such, although they lurk for a time, withouten doubt it shall appear of what kind they have been long before the end, or at least in the end. The which do alms, or any other deed they do, in the sight of men; that it may be seen of all men. And such worthily provoke the wrath of God for they desire, not to be, but to be seen holy; and within, where God sees, wanting in true charity, they challenge their own joy not God’s.
Full hard it truly is [to have riches, and not to love them, and not less difficult is it] to have a winning craft or office, and not to be covetous. Wherefore ofttimes are priests defamed among the people: that though they be chaste they are found covetous, if they be generous they are made lechers. And ofttimes it happens that having taken the order of priesthood, they fall as mickle deep into sin as the degree which they unworthily have taken is high. Truly not a
few, set on fire with noisome covetousness, under colour of sickness or poverty that may come say they gather their goods that they may eschew sudden wretchedness. But they are beguiled by fiends, for they both lose worldly goods, and run into the darkness that they dread, because they heed not God that delivers His servants in His sight: and that is worst of all, whiles within they are fulfilled with worldly covetousness, without they seem to themselves to shine with tokens of holiness.
But he that is our Lord’s servant trusts in our Lord; and distributes the goods which he has over his need, to them that need. The servant of the world truly studies to keep evilly all that he has, because of his covetousness which is unable to be fulfilled: so great a niggard is he that he dare not eat, save foully and scarcely, so that, being sparing, he may gather mickle money. And these are they that the psalmist shames saying: Inimici ejus terram lingent;
that is to say: ‘His enemies shall lick the earth.’
THAT LOVERS OF GOD SHALL DEEM WITH HIM: AND OF THE LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE GOTTEN BY LABOUR, AND OF GOD: AND THAT A TRUE LOVER ERRS NOT, NOR IS BEGUILED NEITHER WITH FASTING NOR ABSTINENCE, COUNSEL NOR PRESUMPTION
Man’s soul is the taker of God only; anything less than God cannot fulfill it: wherefore earthly lovers never are fulfilled. The rest therefore of Christ’s lovers is when their hearts are fastened by desire and thought in the love of God; and loving, burning and singing, contemplate Him.
Sweetest forsooth is the rest which the spirit takes whiles sweet godly sound comes down, in which it is delighted, and in most sweet and playful songs the mind is ravished to sing the delights of everlasting love. Now forsooth the praise of God sounds again in the mouth, and of the blest Maiden, in whom it joys more than may be trowed. And no marvel that this happens, whiles the heart of the singer is utterly burnt with heavenly fire and is figured into His likeness,
in the which is all sweet and merry song, moistening our affections with heavenly savour. And therefore he abounds with inward delights, and in song and thought joys in the burning of love.
This truly is untrowable to all mortals; and he that has this trows not that anything so sweet and full of sweetness can be perceived by man, being yet in body that will rot, and being grieved with the fetters of mortality. The haver marvels also, but is gladdened, because of the goodness, unable to be told, of God, that gives His goods plenteously and upbraids not; of whom he receives all that he feels.
Forsooth when that great thing wants—and truly it is called great formerly to mortals it is nearly unknown—he never trows himself to be in prosperity, but alway languishes in love; whiles he wakes he continually sings, or thinks, of love and of his lover: and if he be alone the more sweetly he sings.
Truly from the time that any man has received this, never afterwards shall he fully go from it; but evermore shall heat, sweetness, or singing—if all these be not near—bide. But all these truly bide together, unless they be repressed by full great sickness of the head, or of the breast, or of the side; or by great hunger or thirst by the which the flesh is broken; or with too mickle cold or heat or with travel, they be let.
Therefore it behoves him that will sing in God’s love, and in singing will rejoice and burn, to be in the wilderness, and not to live in too mickle abstinence; nor to be given in any wise to superfluity or waste. Nevertheless it were better for him in little things to pass measure unknowingly, whiles he does it with good intent to sustain nature, than if for too mickle fasting he began to fail, and for feebleness of body he could not sing. But withouten doubt he that
is chosen to this neither in eating nor in abstinence is overcome by falsehood of the fiend. Truly the true lover of Christ, and taught of Christ, with no less study is ware of too mickle than of too little. Withouten comparison truly shall he be worthy of more meed, that with songful joy, praying, contemplating, reading and meditating, and eating well but discreetly; than if he, withouten this, should fast evermore, or should eat bread alone or herbs, and should continually pray and
Eaten have I and drunken of this that seemed best, not because I loved pleasantness, but because nature must be sustained in the service of God and in the praise of Jesu Christ; conforming myself in good manners to them with whom I dwelt for Christ; and that I should not feign holiness where none is, nor that men should praise me too mickle where I was full little to be praised. From divers, also, I have gone, not because they fed me commonly or in hard measure, but
because we have not accorded in manners, or for some other reasonable cause. Nevertheless I dare say, with blessed Job: ‘Fools have despised me; and when I have gone from them they have backbitten me; nevertheless they shall be ashamed when they see me that have said that I would not abide but where I might be delicately fed.’ It is better truly to see what I may despise, than to desire what I may not see.
No marvel that fasting is full good to cast down the desires of the flesh, and to make tame wild wantonness of mind. Truly fleshly desires lie as it were slaked in him who goes to the height of contemplation by song and the burning of love. For the death of ill affections belongs to him that takes heed to contemplation; whose soul is also turned within into another joy and another form. He lives now not to himself, but Christ truly lives in him; wherefore he melts in
His love, and languishes within himself, and nearly fails for sweetness: he scarcely lives for love. His soul is it that says: Nunciate dilecto quia amore langueo: that is to say: ‘Show to my Beloved, that I languish for love.’ I desire to die: I covet to be loosed: full greatly I yearn to go. Behold for love I die! Lord, come down! Come, my Beloved, lift me from heaviness. Behold I love: I sing: I am full hot: I burn within myself. Have mercy upon me, wretched; bidding me be brought
He that has this joy, and in this life is thus gladdened, is inspired of the Holy Ghost: he cannot err, whatever he do it is lawful. No mortal man can give him counsel so good as that is that he has in himself of God Immortal. If others truly would give counsel to him, withouten doubt they shall err because they have not known him: and if he would give assent to their skills he shall not be suffered of God that constrains him to His will, that he pass it not. Wherefore
of such is said: Spiritualis omnia judicat, et a nemine judicatur; that is to say: ‘The ghostly man deems all things, and is deemed of no man.’
But no man may be of so great presumption that he suppose himself to be such a one; although he has perfectly forsaken all the world, and though he has led a solitary life, unable to be reproved, and though he has gone up to the contemplation of heavenly things. For this grace truly is not granted to all contemplatives, but seldom, and to most few: the which, taking great rest of body and of mind, are only chosen to the work by the strength of God’s love. Full hard
soothly it is to find such a man; and because they are few, full dear are they held, desirable, and beloved before God and man; and angels also joy in their passing from this world, whom angels company becomes.
Many forsooth there are that oft, in great devotion and sweetness, offer their prayers to God, and praying and meditating they can feel sweetness of contemplation; the which also run not about but bide in rest.
THAT NO MAN SHALL DEEM ANOTHER, BUT GIVE GOD PRAISE: AND OF EIGHT AFFECTIONS OF THE LOVE OF GOD: AND THAT WOMEN’S COMPANY BE ESCHEWED.
If any man live holily and righteously, he also despises not the worst sinners. Truly they, being tempted, fall because they have no grace of gainstanding, although by their own malice they turn themselves from good to ill. No man can work well, and love God, and be chaste, except God give it to him. Also thou that swellest in pride because thou hast done well, for thou hast restrained thyself from fleshly lusts and thou hast suffered sharp penance, wherefore thou hast
taken praise from the mouth of man: have mind that, except the goodliness of Christ had overcovered thee, thou shouldest have fallen into as many ills, or into worse, than he that is fallen. Truly of thyself thou hadst no grace of gainstanding, but of Him, to Whom is said: Diligam te Domine, fortitudo mea. ’Thee, Lord my strength, I shall love.’ Wherefore, if thou have nought but that thou hast received, why pridest thou thyself as if thou hadst not received it?
I forsooth do thanks to my God; the which, without my merit, has so chastened His child—for my good and His honour—has so made His servant fear, that it seems full sweet to me to flee worldly pleasures, that are both few and soon slipping; in no mickle that I might be worthy to escape the pains of hell, that are both many and shall never end. And yet again He has so taught me, and given me virtuous teaching, that I should gladly bear this present penance and
tribulation; in so mickle that I might come full lightly to everlasting delectation and most full prosperity. For if we will, in this life lightly and without great sharpness, we can perfectly repent and cleanse ourselves; as long as we, as mickle as we can, destroy vice. If we be not cleansed here, truly in the time to come, we shall find that the Apostle is true, saying these words: Horrendum est incidere in manus Dei viventis. ’Horrible is it to fall into the hands of the living God.’
Lord God, have mercy on me! My youth was fond; my childhood vain; my young age unclean. But now Lord Jesu my heart is enflamed with Thy holy love and my reins are changed; and my soul also will not now touch for bitterness what before was my food: and my affections now are such that I hate nothing but sin. Nought dread I but to grieve God: I joy not but in God: I sorrow not but for my sins: I love nothing but God: nothing I trust but Him: nothing heavies me but sin:
nothing gladdens me but Christ.
Nevertheless now, lately, of three worthy women I worthily received reproof . . . Forsooth coming to myself I do praise to God, because by their words He taught me good, and has shown to me a sweeter way than I knew before; that Christ’s grace so mickle working in me, I shall not be found worthy reproof in this way before women.
The fourth woman, to whom I was in part familiar, not reproving but as it were despising me, said: ‘Nought hast thou but fair looks and fair words, deeds hast thou none.’
And therefore I trow it is better to want their speciality than to fall into their hands, that know not, either in love nor in despite, to keep measure. This truly has happened to me because I have sought their health; not that I have unlawfully desired anything of them with whom I have for some while taken my bodily sustenance.
THAT SOLITARY OR HERMIT’S LIFE PASSES COMMON AND MIXED LIFE. AND HOW IT COMES TO FIRE OF LOVE: AND OF SWEETNESS OF SONG.
Some have been and peradventure are yet alive that alway set common life before solitary life; saying we ought to run to gatherings if we desire to come to high perfection. Against whom there is not mickle to dispute, because that life only they bear up with praise, the which they either covet to keep, or at the least know full little. Truly they praise not solitary life, for they know it not.
Truly there is a life which no man living in flesh can know, but he to whom it is given of God to have; and soothly no man deems truly of this thing, of which he is yet unsicker what, and in what manner, it works. Withouten doubt, I wot if they knew it more than another they would praise it.
Others err worse that cease not to reprove and slander solitary life, saying: Vae soli; that is to say: ‘Woe be to a man alone’; not expounding ‘alone’ as ‘without God’, but ‘without a fellow.’ He truly is alone with whom God is not; for when he falls into death he is taken alive to tormentry, and is sparred from the joyful sight of God and of His saints.
Forsooth he that chooses solitary life for God, and leads it in good manner, is not near woe but fair virtue; and the name of Jesu shall continually delight his mind; and the more they dread not to take that life without man’s solace, the more shall it be given them to be gladdened with God’s comforting.
Ghostly visitations forsooth ofttimes they receive; the which, set in company, they know not at all. Therefore it is said to a beloved soul: Ducam cam in solitudinem, et ibi loquar ad car ejus. That is to say: ‘I shall lead her into the wilderness, and there shall I speak unto her heart.’
Some truly are taught by God to desire the wilderness for Christ, and to hold a single purpose; the which forthwith, that they may more freely and devoutly serve God, forsaking the common clothing of the world, despise all transitory things, and cast away temporal things; and excelling in height of mind they desire only everlasting joy, and are only given to devotion and contemplation, and every effort of their life they cease not to give to the love of Christ. Of whom
full many, although from men they dwell full far, yet they stumble not from heavenly desires, because their minds are full far from wicked conversation.
The righteous hermits have also a single purpose. They live in the charity of God and of their neighbour; they despise worldly praise; as mickle as they can they flee man’s sight; they hold ilk man more worthy than themselves; they continually give their minds to devotion; they hate idleness; they manly gainstand fleshly lusts; they savour and burningly seek heavenly; earthly they covet not, but forsake; in sweetness of prayer they are delighted. Truly some of them
feel the sweetness of eternal refreshment; and with chaste heart and body, with the undefiled eye of the mind, truly behold God and the citizens of heaven. Because by the bitter drink of penance they have loved great labour, they are now set afire with the love of high contemplation, and alone are worthy to take heed to God, and to bide the kingdom of Christ.
Therefore great is the hermit’s life if it be greatly done. And truly the blessed Maglorius was full of miracles, and from his childhood gladdened by the sight of angels. When according to the prophecy of his former father, Saint Sampson, he was made archbishop, and had a long worthily governed God’s kirk, being warned by the visit of an angel, he left his archbishopric and chose a hermit’s life. And at the end of his life his passing was betokened to him. Saint
Cuthbert also went from his bishopric to an anchorite’s life.
Therefore if such men have done thus for to have more meed, who of good mind will be hardy to set any state in holy kirk before solitary life? Truly in this they occupy themselves with no outward things, but only take heed to heavenly contemplation; and that they be continually warm in the love of Christ, and set worldly business perfectly behind.