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tions of this life, till, having finished my course, I may deserve to obtain the reward of eternal blessedness, with the faithful of Christ.
2. For I resolve, from this time to come, to order my whole life to the service of God, and to consummate the little time that yet remains unto me in the state of religion. Wherefore, behold me ready to undergo all labour, to acquiesce in thine admonitions, and to comply with the rules of my elders, set forth for my salvation and progress, as becomes the noviciate, and the state of religion requires.
CHAP. I. THAT DISCOURSE OF GOD IS VERY PROFITABLE TO THE
1. THE SENIOR. With pleasure I listen to thy words; and as far as I can do thee good, I shall comply with thy request. And may the grace of the Holy Spirit be with me now, that I may speak worthily, and our converse be pleasing to God, and profitable to our neighbours.
If there be a great art in teaching, it is to propose just things duly, and to confirm them by sacred testimony. I wish to talk with thee somewhat of God, and of the servants of God; that from the hearing thereof, comfort may come to you, and an increase of reward to me from such discourse. I trust in the Lord Jesus, that his mercy may not be wanting to our prayers, who hath promised that He will be present with those that speak of him, saying: “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matth. xviii. 20.)
2. For it is now as when his two disciples were walking and discoursing of him in the way, he appeared unto them in the likeness of a stranger, and said : “What are these discourses that you hold one with another, as you walk, and are sad ?" (St. Luke xxiv. 17.) said, concerning Jesus of Nazareth." (ver. 19.)
See how mercifully our Lord came unto them in their sadness, and joined them in presence. And because they spoke not of worldly matters, but of the works of their Saviour, therefore they deserved to be comforted by him, and moreover, to be instructed in the divine Scriptures; for presently they were so wondrously inflamed with the love of Christ, that they declared, in the wonder of the light that flowed from his sweet discourse : ” Was not our heart burning within us whilst he spoke in the way, and opened unto' us the Scriptures ?" (St. Luke xxiv. 32.)
For as good conversation enkindles the heart of the pious to a love
“ And they
of heavenly things, and makes the fruits of virtue generate therein, so vain discourse corrupts good manners, loses the grace of God, quenches devotion, stains the conscience, and scandalises others.
Let us pray then, to the Lord, that he may lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and keep us from all evil deeds, and idle words; let us sit at the feet of Jesus, with Mary Magdelene, hearkening to his words (Luke x. 39), which can save our souls: and in all our works, let us show forth the good-will of God.
The Novice. 1. Thou hast comforted me, and instructed me, by words and by the best examples. “Chl that I may keep my ways, so that I may not offend with my tongue." May all my goings be directed ever in the sight of my God. Be not then angry with my questions, but tell, I pray thee, how one may come to the complete contempt of this world, and become the true disciple of Christ ?
2. For I see many leave the world, and yet return unto a worldly life. I observe others, who have taken upon them the religious habit, yet languish away from their former fervour. Some who open up the Church unto others, but who taste not of the sweetness thereof themselves. Some, too, I notice, who are carried away with external things, and by degrees decline to a perilous and hurtful license. I pray thee, then, do not let me wander without the orbit of perfection, but teach me plainly what to avoid and what to hold.
CHAPTER II.- HOW TO HOLD TO GOOD EXAMPLE, AND TO SHUN BAD.
THE SENIOR. 1. The good disciple is ever ready to acquiesce in his master's advice, and presumes not rashly to undertake anything contrary to his judgment; but studies to preserve humility, fulfil obedience, deserve thanks, to hold peace, to keep a good conscience, and increase his glory.
For he that lends his ear to wisdom and knowledge in the beginning, cannot easily go astray, but shall rejoice in a blessed end, when his short toil is over. The more he advances in virtue, the more shall his wisdom increase; and the more humbly shall he bow to his superiors.
For the tree that raises its goodly branches aloft into the air must needs have its roots deeply set in the soil below, lest it fall, and be
Let not therefore any sudden fear overcast thee, but put a firm trust in God; forsake thy own will, and bow thyself down in true humility. For the Lord shall be at thy side,—“ who protecteth them that walk in
simplicity” (Prov. ii. 7); and who revealeth his hidden things unto the humble.
2. But that you may the better persevere in what is good, take thy rule of life from those who are better than thyself; search out wisdom from those more learned ; seek counsel from the experienced, and with the devout hold converse. If
you should see some wandering from the way of truth, and going after Satan, do not imitate those that perish, but study, rather, to be the more emulous of the good and fervent. Seek to be saved with the few, “and enter ye in at the narrow gate;" for, as Christ hath witnessed, “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat.” (St. Matth. vii. 13.)
Woe unto those that depart from the Lord their God, and return unto Egypt; that is, unto this world, darkened by sins, that they may feed upon the fleshpots that quickly perish.
But, “ Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord; who meditateth in his law day and night, that he may walk in his ways.” (Ps. i. 3.)
Moreover, the merciful Lord deserteth not his own, but, as the good Shepherd, comforteth his sheep, who hear his voice and follow him even unto death, choosing rather to die in the conflict of temptations, than to consent unto sin, and to return basely unto the world. To such he hath said: “ Fear not, little fock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.” (St. Luke ii. 32.) Why will you fear then, under such a shepherd, to fight for that eternal kingdom which He has promised to give unto you ?-yea, and will do as he hath promised. And not only hath he promised that he will give future joys in the place of this world's contempt, but even in this present life he gives to those that serve him, the consolation of the Holy Spirit, which is far better and more sweet than all this world's gladness. For often to those
grace of devotion ; and to those that meditate on the law of God, he opens the light of understanding ; so that having tasted of the sweetness of the spirit, the flesh and the world seem wholly vile. Whence the Lord saith to those that perfectly renounce this world : “ Every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my
name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold; and shall possess life everlasting.” (St. Matth. xix. 29.)
3. But because that many seek after vain consolations, and turn away to external objects, therefore do they not feel the grace of devotion, nor deserve to receive the heavenly illumination. Wherefore, the
most sure way of pleasing God,--and what is meritorious of greater grace and glory,—is to fly the world, to leave your friends, to despise temporal things, to assume a stricter life, to renounce your own will, to live in obedience, to be continually employed, to macerate the flesh by watching and fasting, to apply earnestly to reading and prayer, to strive daily against temptations and vices, to loathe the present, to long after the eternal, to seek continually the grace of God, to keep it carefully when found, to think meanly of thyself, to lend a willing service to others, to wish to please God alone, to endeavour to converse among your brethren without quarrels, and firmly to persevere in the holy purpose you have set before you, with a great desire of advancing more and more.
These belong to the true disciple of Christ, and these lead the servant of God, without doubt, to the heavenly kingdom. Whence our loving Master said to his chosen disciples : " You are they who have continued with me in my temptations; and I dispose to you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom; that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” (St. Matt. xxii. 28.)
The Novice. 1. What thou hast said pleaseth mé; for I am comforted in these words, I am comforted in the Lord, and in the hope of eternal life, for which I labour, and breathe now joyfully. “ For I reckon, that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” (Ad Rom. viii. 18.) And verily to those that faithfully serve God, it shall be well with them now, and they shall receive still greater things in the time to come. For 56
know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good," (Id. v. 28),-both things present, and things to come.
2. Wherefore, I beseech thy clemency, that you may confirm my wavering mind by thy holy words, and if thou knowest of any good examples, propose them for mine imitation. For though I have heard many and illustrious examples of men of old, yet I would bear also good things of those of our own days; nevertheless, unfold to me the causes that retard my spiritual proficiency, that so I may beware of the frauds of the enemy, and may be able to follow the paths of the just with foot that offendeth not.
CHAPTER III.-SHOWETH HOW PRAISEWORTHY THE STATE OF
RELIGION IS, IF IT BE WELL KEPT. 1. Great and holy is the religious state, if well kept; whosoever so
liveth, as his rule teaches, and his habit "points out, and yet is not so secure, as all at once to reckon himself a spiritual man, because he walks with the good, heareth often the sacred lessons, and singeth well, but because he striveth with all his heart to fulfil what he hath promised, and to perform what he ought to do.
But if, through frailty, it happen sometimes that such an one be overcome by any temptation, or moved by passion, qnickly let him study to correct himself, and to mourn much; to acknowledge his fault, and not to increase his offence by excusing it; but to obtain pardon, let him humble himself of his own accord, that so God may pardon him. For the Lord is merciful; and although he may be offended, yet is he easily appeased by the tears and prayers of him that confesses his fault. As holy David testifies in his penitence: “ A contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”— (Ps. I. 19.)
2. Wherefore, with mighty endeavour, “Forget the things that are behind, stretch forth thyself to those that are before.” (Phil. iii. 13.) Look not back upon the slothful or the weak, but attend to that for which thou hast come, and which ought to be done by thee. For he that would advance, must begin every day ; must haste and spare no labour, neither waste away his time in idleness. Wherefore, count not thy days long, nor thy years many, in religion; neither glorify thyself in the dignity of thine order, nor take pleasure in the amenity of the place ; but rather think how far distant you are from true virtue, and diligently take notice in how much filth of vice you lie. " For if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Gal. vi. 3.) For by boasting, the grace of Christ is lost, and the good that has been long a-gathering is quickly scattered away.
3. Wherefore, fear ye the hidden judgments of God hanging over you; examine all thine actions strictly : “ Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thine ability; but the things that God hath commanded thee, think of them always, and in many of his works be not curious.” (Eccles. iii. 22.) As long as you remain in the body of sin, thou mayest not dare to promise to thyself security from temptation, nor rest from labour ; but contend like a strong warrior against thy vices, and, till you receive the crown of glory, place firmly on thy heart the shield of patience, in every temptation and strait, that in the imminent article of death, you may say with the apostle Paul: “ I have fought a good fight, I have