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finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day.” (2 Tim. iv. 7.)
And assuredly, our Lord Jesus Christ sent not his apostles to seek for temporal honours, and the advantage of the flesh; but to carry the cross, and to deny the liberty of their own will. Wherefore, he exhorteth his followers, saying: “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (St. Matt.
4. Put ye on, therefore, the whole armour of God, and stand in readiness for the fight; for many are those that war against thee,the flesh, the world, and the devil; who cease not, day or night, to attack the innocent, and such as desire to serve Christ. But fear not them, listen not to thein, yield not to them, neither consent ye unto their suggestions, how fair or feigned soever ; for they speak guilefully unto thee, that they may take thee and deceive thee, that they may withdraw thee from God, and in the end lead thee into all evil. Wherefore, watch ye in prayer against the snares of the devil, humbly implore every day the divine assistance, and bow to the advice of thy experienced brethren, lest the temptation have dominion over thee, and the world withdraw thee again unto itself, and swallow thee up. Store up, then, in thy mind what is read in the Apocalypse, for the consolation of the soldiers that fight in the world for Christ. him that shall overcome, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more ; and I will write upon him the name of my God,” (Apoc. iii. 12); "and I will give him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of my God.” (Id. ii. 7.)
The Novice. As thou hast already, in what thou hast said, animated me to the study of mine amendment, and to the strife of complete mortification; so, for my caution, describe to me more at large the dangers that will withdraw me from the good begun, and that invite me to worldly desires.
For it grieves me sorely to think that any one should fall into lukewarmness, by shunning a little labour here. But rather is it to be wept over, when any one, having left the fear of God, returns unto the world, by following the instigation of the devil, as the unhappy Judas did, who, for the gain of a little money, forsook Christ, and entered into counsel with the Pharisees; and at length came to a halter,-miserably ending his present life, and incurring everlasting death. Open, then, thy mouth, and lay bare the wiles of the old ser
pent, who, under the semblance of good, deceiveth many, as thou hast often proved.
CHAPTER IV.-ON THE DANGERS OF A NOVICE, FROM HAVING
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE WORLD. 1. There are many things which hinder him that is just beginning; there are more that hinder him that is advancing ; but there are very few who attain unto perfection, and overcome every difficulty by the merit of their lives.
For some, indeed, begin with fervour, but when temptation rises, they presently overstep their holy purpose, and fall away into their former vices; and because they love not God purely, or resign themselves wholly to his will ; so many obstacles do they find, as there are temptations to assail them.
Such are ignorant of, or forget what they have chosen ; that they have come to fight, and to suffer all contrary things for God's sake, and for their soul's good. As the Lord hath plainly declared; “In the world you shall have distress, but have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (St. John. xvi. 33.) And how ?-by bearing with the malice of others, and persevering in the state of a good life. "
For many would serve God, so as nothing grievous oppress them ; but yet such even in this pleasantness, make shipwreck here of their vocation. For those that seek after such have yet a relish for worldly things, and know not the conflict that the religious state must have.
Would that such might grow warm again, and exercise themselves by the fruits of good works ! lest, deceived by self-love, they lose the eternal rewards.
Study, then, to prepare thyself for the endurance of labour and sorrow, that in the time to come you may rejoice eternally with Christ, and with those that triumph over this world, may deserve to be crowned in heaven.
For thy caution, however, take heed to what I say. If you would not be deceived in the way of the Lord, if you desire to make progress and to persevere in good, fly all fellowship with worldly men, and shun all occasions of temptation; that you may neither hear, nor see, what is of this world, lest you be associated therewith in body, and corrupted in mind.
Despise honours, pleasures, and riches, which seduce its votaries, and never satisfy such as possess them ; “ for they that will become
rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires” (1 Tim. vi. 9), from which, without great grace from God, they cannot be delivered. For these three vices aforesaid are deep pits, and the root of alì sins.
That, therefore, you may the better overcome and live in greater security, and not perish by the bite of the poisonous serpent,-flee and be silent, keep still, hide thyself, and live apart; love to be unknown, learn to die, mourn over the past, despise the present, meditate on the future.
Let this brief rule live in thy memory, and it will teach you to overcome all earthly things.
Forsake also thy friends and acquaintances, thy relations and neighbours, that you may find Christ, and become henceforth the companion of angels.
The more blessed shalt thou be, the more thou withdrawest thyself to live an innocent life, and seek thy salvation in solitude ; rather than put thyself in peril by feasting and revelry with wolves and dragons.
For seldom does he remain long good, who willingly associates with worldly men. And soon shall he lose his devotion, who watches not over it with anxious care, but seeketh, instead, the varied consolations of friends.
The light enclosed in the lantern retains its light and heat, but, taken out, is extinguished by a light breath, and is lost in darkness.
If what is rare be reckoned dear, how much more dear to God, and reverenced of men, is he who is but seldom seen abroad.
And so, moreover, if all external intercourse be hurtful to the religious and devout, and thereby forbiden; how much more are the visits of worldly friends hurtful to the young novice, and returning to their native home which they have forsaken.
Do not then affect familiarity with external friends, ye who bear the habit of religion; but, by contempt of this world, learn to ascend to the fellowship of the heavenly inhabitants.
5. What business have you to know anything of this world, to seek after its idle rumour, or to listen to its frivolous tales; which afterwards you are constrained to recall in fancy, and scarcely can expel from thy heart, by prayer, and sighs, and holy reading.
Some, under the appearance of piety, are lead to turn to their friends and kinsfolk; but whilst they dwell amongst them without fear, girt about by the fraud of the enemy, they break their holy purpose.
For it needs one to be very strong, and well founded in virtue, and
who in every word and work, walks circumspectly, to bring forth fruit among the people, or to hold converse in the world, without peril to his conscience. And his zeal for souls, is only worthy to be praised, provided he be himself discreet, upright, pure, and infected with no vanity; one who is rarely found running after novelties, but often after mortifications. “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul ?” (Matt. xvi. 26.)
Love the salvation of others, but have a care of thy own danger. It is not the loss of a clasp, or of a shoe latchet; but it is to expose thy soul to danger, or to break thy vow, or to draw thee back from thy holy purpose.
6. Places of safety are ught after by the weak and unarmed. For it is a hard task to live continently in the world, and to keep oneself free from sin. David, the holy man, strong and armed, yet when he was persecuted by Saul the king, went up into safer places in the desert (1 Reg. xviii.) with his soldiers, and there lay hid, until the wrath of his enemy
had ceased. Do you also depart far from thy friends and men, lest you
be involved in the sins of the wicked, and by an unlooked-for chance, you weep bitterly for that you have been led astray, and it repents thee that thou hadst not trusted to better counsel.
As a stinging flower, taken quickly in the hand, wounds it and leaves its thorn within; so the unskilled youth and the newly converted, unless he fly, and withdraw from worldly company, shall very soon be inflamed with the fire of worldly concupiscence, and be defiled with the pitch of a lascivious life, by running in the death-bringing ways of gluttony, luxury, avarice, pride, and envy, like an unbridled horse, that knows no fear, or a fool that has no reason.
For if you can scarcely resist temptations when the occasions are removed, how can thy weak mind presume to overcome in the very midst of the snares ? See how some, by entreaties, some by promises, draw near to the young heart; they praise its beauty of form; they persuade you that your country needs your services; that you should bring up a family ; that you ought not to leave the parents whom God hath commanded you to honour. And so by such fair words, and pleasing songs of human wisdom, they pour their melody into chaste ears, till they move the young plant, that would give itself wholly up to God; if haply it hearken to, and acquiesce in the counsel of friends, and so they seduce along with them into the world, him who incautiously listens to them, and who had already lifted up the steps of
his mind towards heaven ; whose purpose was to enter into a monastery without delay, to make himself a servant of God, in the hopes of the promise of supreme beatitude.
7. Some there are, on the other hand, who by harsh rebukes, and frequent derision, and the stings of a lying tongue, provoke the innocent, and him who was humbly drawing near, they call a hypocrite, and a fool. “Why do you pretend,” say they, “to play the fool, to desert thy friends, and despise good days? Wilt thou alone be holy? Wilt thou alone enter into the kingdom of heaven ? Dost thou think that none will be good, and please God, unless they go and do so and so, as thou goest to do? Are monks alone saved, and such as are like them ? Desist, desist, then, miserable creature, for thou canst not perform what thou hast begun.”
“ Dost thou not see how many religious have drawn back, and how few there are who have been steadfast therein ? Remain with us; return to thy friends, be a merry companion, and enjoy good gifts; GOD will be merciful to thee."
These, and many such like, the wise in this world are wont to say; but they are enemies of the Cross of Christ, for they seek to deceive the simple, and to pervert from the just way, such as would follow Christ. Against such it must be said with the prophet in the Psalm : “ But it is good for me to draw near unto God, to place my hope in the Lord.” And again, “ The wicked have spoken evil against me, but not as thy law.” (Ps. cxviii. 135.)
Beware then of the hissing of serpents, for they would subvert thee, and the devil is the chief thereof. For whom the devil cannot overcome or deceive by himself, he seeketh to pervert by means of his satellites, or to bind them fast by soft blandishments, not to leave the world. For the deceits and wicked ways which the world hath are many; so many feigned devices, so many subjects of contention, that no one can be safe therein, nor hold their faith steadfast, and scarcely can one live innocently therein, unless he withdraw himself from the crowd of men,
and seek Jesus, as the Gospel teaches us, in the desert places.
Go then quickly with Abraham, from thy country, and kindred, and and father's house, and come into the holy land ; that is, to the monastic life, and praiseworthy fellowship in Christ, that you may hearken unto the law of life, and discipline, and serve the Lord thy God faithfully all the days of thy life; till having ended the day of strife and toil, you may receive an eternal kingdom ; where you may for ever rejoice in the sight of God, and before his saints and holy angels.