Books by this author
Be bold therefore in the conflict, to hope for perpetual peace. But again after thou hast overcome, so behave thyself as though thou shouldest go again to fight straightway, for after one temptation, we must look ever for another: we may never depart from our harness and weapons: we may never forsake our standing: we may never leave off watch as long as we war in the garrison of this body.
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Thus shall it be brought about that every temptation may be a certain renewing of thy holy purpose, and an increase of piety and virtuous living. And verily other means is there none at all of so great virtue and strength to vanquish and overthrow our enemy: for he shall be afraid to provoke thee afresh, lest he which rejoiceth to be the beginner and chief captain of wickedness should minister an occasion of piety, virtue and godliness.
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Beware diligently that thou ascribe nothing thereof unto thine own merits but thank only the free beneficence of God for altogether, and hold down and refrain thyself with the words of Paul, saying: What hast thou, that thou hast not received? If thou have received it, why rejoicest thou as though thou haddest not received it?
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The tempter is put back most of all by this means, if thou shalt either vehemently hate, abhor and defy, and in a manner spit at him straightway whensoever he enticeth and moveth thee with any temptation, or else if thou pray fervently or get thyself to some holy occupation, setting thine whole mind thereunto.
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As expert captains are wont to cause, when all things are quiet, at rest and at peace, that the watch nevertheless be duly kept: likewise see thou that thou have alway thy mind watching and circumspect against the sudden assault of thine enemy (for he ever compasseth round about seeking whom he might devour) that thou mayst be the more ready as soon as he assaulteth thee to put him back manfully, to confound him and forthwith to tread underfoot the head of the pestiferous and poison serpent.
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If the storm of temptation shall rise against thee somewhat thick and grievously, begin not forthwithal to be discontent with thyself, as though for that cause God either cared not for thee, or favoured thee not, or that thou shouldest be but an easy christian man, or else the less perfect: but rather give thanks to God because he instructeth thee as one which shall be his heir in time to come, because he beateth or scourgeth thee as his most singular beloved son and proveth thee as his assured friend.
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Moreover if through infancy and feebleness of mind we cannot as yet attain to these spiritual things, we ought nevertheless to study not the sluggisher one deal, that at the least we draw as nigh as is possible. How be it the very and compendious way to felicity is, if at once we shall turn our whole mind to the contemplation and beholding of celestial things so fervently, that as the body bringeth with him his shadow, even so the love of Christ, the love of eternal things and honest, bringeth with him naturally the loathsomeness of caduke and transitory things and the hate of filthy things.
3 min read
Nothing is so comely, so excellent, so glorious unto kings as to draw as nigh as is possible unto the similitude of the highest king Jesu, which as he was the greatest so was he also the best. But that he was the greatest, that dissimuled he, and hid secret here in earth: that he was the best, that he had liefer we should perceive and feel, because he had liefer we should counterfeit that. He denied his kingdom to be of this world, when he was Lord of heaven and earth also. But the princes of the gentiles use dominion upon them. A christian man exerciseth no power over his but charity, and he which is the chiefest thinketh himself to be minister unto all men, not master or lord.
23 min read
Thou tellest me of the trouble and business of England, tell me rather what trouble maketh in thy breast, wrath, envy, bodily lust, ambition, how nigh these be brought into subjection, what hope is of victory, how much of this host is put to flight, how reason is decked or appointed. In these things if thou shalt be watching and have a quick ear and also an eye, if thou shalt smell, if thou shalt be circumspect, I will call thee politic and peerless: and that thing which the world is wont to cast against us, I will hurl again at him: he is not wise at all, which is not wise for his own profit.
20 min read
Let us imagine therefore two worlds, the one intelligible the other visible. The intelligible which also we may call the angelical world, wherein God is with blessed minds. The visible world, the circle of heaven, the planets, and stars, with all that included is in them as the four elements. Then let us imagine man as a certain third world, partaker of both the other: of the visible world if thou behold his body, of the invisible world if thou consider his soul. In the visible world because we be but strangers we ought never rest, but what thing soever offereth itself to the sensible powers, that is to say to the five wits, that must we under a certain apt comparison or similitude apply to the angelical world, or else (which is most profitable) unto manners and to that part of man which is correspondent to the angelic world, that is to say to the soul of man.
40 min read
Let this be unto thee the fourth rule, that thou have Christ alway in thy sight as the only mark of all thy living and conversation, unto whom only thou shouldst direct all thine enforcements, all thy pastimes and purposes, all thy rest and quietness, and also thy business. And think thou not Christ to be a voice or sound without signification, but think him to be nothing else save charity, simplicity, or innocency, patience, cleanness, and shortly whatsoever Christ taught.
9 min read
Set this third rule before thee alway, bear thyself in hand that all the fearful things and fantasies which appear forthwith unto thee as it were in the first entering of hell ought to be counted for a thing of nought, by the example of Virgilius’ Eneas.
6 min read
Go unto the way of life, not slothfully, not fearfully: but with sure purpose, with all thy heart, with a confident mind, and (if I may so say) with such mind as he hath that would rather fight than drink: so that thou be ready at all hours for Christ’s sake to lose both life and goods. A slothful man will and will not. The kingdom of heaven is not gotten of negligent and reckless persons, but plainly rejoiceth to suffer violence: and violent persons violently obtain it.
5 min read
Faith is the only gate unto Christ, the first rule must be that thou judge very well both of him and also of scripture given by his spirit, and that thou believe not with mouth only, not faintly, not negligently, not doubtfully, as the common rascal of christian men do: but let it be set fast and immovable throughout all thy breast, not one jot to be contained in them that appertaineth not greatly unto thy health.
2 min read
The flesh must be tamed, lest she lead thee aside out of the highway, once known, into bypaths. Weakness must be comforted, lest when thou hast entered into the strait way thou shouldst either faint or stop or turn back again, or lest after thou hast once set thy hand to the plough shouldst look backward, but shouldst rejoice as a strong giant to haste the way, ever stretching forth thyself to those things which be afore thee, without remembrance of those things which be behind thee, until thou mayst lay hand on the reward appointed and on the crown promised to them that continue unto these three things: therefore we shall apply certain rules according to our little power.
3 min read
The most part of men through proneness of nature and some special property, either rejoice in, or abhor certain things. Some there be whom bodily lust tickleth not at all: let not them by and by ascribe that unto virtue which is an indifferent thing, for not to lack bodily lust, but to overcome bodily lust is the office of virtue.
7 min read
Enchiridion. Chapter 6. Of the Inward and Outward Man and of the Two Parts of Man, Proved by Holy Scripture
They suppose the thing only to be the man which they see and feel and they think nothing to be beside the things which offer themselves to the sensible wits when it is nothing less than so. What so ever they greatly covet, that they think to be right: they call peace, certain and assured bondage, while reason oppressed and blinded followeth whither so ever the appetite or affection calleth, without resistance. This is that miserable peace which Christ, the author of very peace that knit two in one, came to break, stirring up a wholesome war between the father and the son, between the husband and the wife, between those things which filthy concord had evil-coupled together. Now then let the authority of the philosophers be of little weight, except those same things be all taught in holy scripture, though not with the same words. That the philosophers call reason, that calleth Paul, sometime the spirit, sometime the inner man, other while the law of the mind. That they call affection, he calleth sometime the flesh: sometime the body: another time the outer man, and the law of the members.
9 min read
The only way therefore to felicity is first that thou know thyself: moreover that thou do nothing after affections, but in all things after the judgment of reason: let reason be sound and pure and without corruption: let not his mouth be out of taste, that is to say, let him behold honest things. But thou wilt say: it is an hard thing that thou commandest: who sayeth nay? And verily the saying of Plato is true: whatsoever things be fair and honest, the same be hard and travailful to obtain. Nothing is more hard than that a man should overcome himself. But then is there no greater reward than is felicity?
6 min read
Of a soul as of a certain goodly thing, and of a body as it were a brute or dumb beast. For certainly we so greatly excel not all other kinds of brute beasts in perfectness of body, but that we in all his natural gifts are found to them inferiors. In our minds verily we be so celestial and of godly capacity that we may surmount above the nature of angels, and be unite, knit and made one with God. If thy body had not been added to thee, thou hadst been a celestial or godly thing. If this mind had not been grafted in thee, plainly thou hadst been a brute beast.
7 min read
Enchiridion. Chapter 3. That the First Point of Wisdom Is to Know Thyself, and of Two Manner Wisdoms, the True Wisdom, and the Apparent
So it is that one christian man hath not war with another but with himself, and verily a great host of adversaries spring out of our own flesh, out of the very bowels and inward part of us. Likewise as it is read in certain poets’ tales of the brethren gendered of the earth. And there is so little difference between our enemy and our friend, and so hard to know the one from the other, that there is great jeopardy lest we somewhat recklessly or negligently defend our enemy instead of our friend, or hurt our friend instead of our enemy.
6 min read
I have forged for thee this little treatise called Enchiridion, that is to say, a certain little dagger, whom never lay out of thy hand, no not when thou art at meat or in thy chamber. Insomuch that if at any time thou shalt be compelled to make a pilgrimage in these worldly occupations, and shalt be too cumbered to bear about with thee the whole and complete armour and harness of holy scripture, yet commit not that the subtle lier in wait at any season should come upon thee and find thee utterly unarmed, but at the least let it not grieve thee to have with thee this little hanger, which shall not be heavy to bear, nor unprofitable for thy defence, for it is very little, yet if thou use it wisely, and couple with it the buckler of faith, thou shalt be able to withstand the fierce and raging assault of thine enemy.
17 min read
For what intent was the sign of the cross printed in thy forehead, but that as long as thou livest thou shouldst fight under his standard? For what intent wert thou anointed with his holy oil, but that thou for ever shouldst wrestle and fight against vices? What shame and how great abomination is it accounted with all men if a man forsake his king or chief lord? Why settest thou so light, then, by thy captain Christ?
13 min read
When every man hath done that he can, let him not be like unto the Pharisees whom the Gospel maketh mention of, which doth boast his good deeds unto God saying: I fast twice in the week, I pay all my tithes and so forth. But after Christ’s counsel let him speak from the heart and to himself, and not to other, saying I am an unprofitable servant, for I have done no more than I ought to do. There is no man that better trusteth than he that so distrusteth. There is no man further from true religion than he that thinketh himself to be very religious. Nor Christ’s godliness is never at worse point, than when that thing which is worldly is writhen unto Christ, and the authority of man is preferred unto the authority of God. We must all hang of that head if we will be true Christian men.
33 min read
It is more difficult, and so more admirable, to build a fine city than to demolish one. We observe, however, that the most prosperous cities are built by private citizens, simple men, but are demolished by the wrath of princes. All too often we go to more trouble and expense to demolish a town than would be needed to build a new one, and we fight wars with such extravagance, at such expense, and with such enthusiasm and diligence, that peace could have been preserved for a tenth of all that.
11 min read