The Lantern of Light. Chapter Eleven: of Joy and Tribulation
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4 min read
But for that we reprove these sins, this evil party grudges and pursues with strong hand, to imprison, and to slay. Therefore must we learn the lore of Christ’s holy gospel, (Matthew 5) Ye are blessed when men have cursed you, and have pursued you, and said all evil against you falsely for my sake; joy and be merry, for your reward is great in heaven. And also St. Peter saith, (1 Peter 3) When ye suffer anything for righteousness, blessed must ye be. St. Paul affirms this sentence, that God’s true servants shall have pain in this life, to keep them in virtue, (2 Timothy 3) All that ever will live meekly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution. And St. Luke saith of the words of Paul, in the Deeds of the Apostles, By many tribulations it behoves us to enter into the realm of God. And thus saith the prophet in the Psalms; Many are the tribulations that fall to the righteous, and from them all, when time cometh, God shall deliver them. Christ promised this manner of life to his own disciples, and gave them comfort, that they should have a gracious deliverance. For then shall bliss be much the sweeter, when they come thereto, John 16. Truly I say unto you the truth, Ye shall lament and weep, but this world shall have joy; and ye shall be heavy; and afterwards your heaviness shall be turned into joy; and your joy shall be so sure that no man shall take it from you.
And that this joy should savour well to them that love him, he shall send them tribulation. As St. Gregory saith, “God showeth to his chosen, sharpness in this journey, lest if they delighted them in this earthly way, they might forget the things that are in the heavenly country” Tribulations that bruise us down in this wretched world, constrain us to go to God, who else might easily be in condemnation. For the eyes that sin closes, pain makes open; and many a man that followeth theft, with many other sins, if by God’s visitation he were lame, blind, or crooked, he should cease, and serve his God, and do penance full truly. The flesh dreads not spiritual pains to come, but it dreads to suffer any pains in this life. Therefore the evil cease not to do sin, unless judgments upon their flesh constrain them to be still. And for this cause the Lord shall send upon his servants sore punishing to their flesh, and other tribulations. The lust of the flesh may be swelled from the coveting of evil. We must needs break the nut if we will have the kernel. We must needs suffer travail if we desire rest. So must we needs suffer pain if we will come to bliss. He is a false coward knight that fleeth and hideth his head, when his master is in the field, beaten, among his enemies. But our Lord Jesus Christ was beaten of the Jews, and afterwards died in the field, on the mount of Calvary, to pay our ransom. He took his death, for he was nothing guilty; and his body when it was offered, made a satisfaction at full, in redemption of mankind. Therefore the wise man saith in the book of Ecclesiasticus, Forget not thou the kindness of thy surety, for he hath given his life for thee. This surety is our Lord God, who without meed (freely) came from heaven into this world to redeem his people. And in taking flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, he showed us grace and kindness, both in word and working. But in giving of his life he laid his body in pledge, yea to the death he would not spare to suffer extreme pain, so much he loved his people. If faith be true in us, this may not be forgotten.
Some men forsake sins and follow Christ in virtue, and this is a great kindness, though they go no higher. Some wake in abstinence and study holy lessons; this is kindness, if they flee from sin. Some are ready when they are called of the Holy Ghost, to suffer death for Jesus Christ, and in witness of his law; and when they have holiness of life, this is the greatest kindness, as the gospel shows, John 6 A greater love or charity may no man have, than to lay down his life in saving of his friend’s soul. We were pleasing and dear to God when we took baptism, but we are much dearer when we do the works that God hath bidden in his law, without any grudging. And if we maintain this belief, and will not g-o therefrom, neither become renegades for pain that may befall, but think on Christ’s passion, which assuages all heaviness, then are we most dear-worthy, and worthy highest merit.
Therefore saith St. Paul to the Galatians, Far be it from me to make any glory, but in the cross (that is the passion) of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom this world is crucified to me, and I am crucified to the world. For this world despised Paul, and he despised the world. Some are not crucified to the world, but the world is crucified to them; for they despise this world, but the world despises not them. Some are crucified to the world, but not so the world to them; for though the world despise them, they despise it not again. Some are neither crucified to the world, nor the world to them; for neither do they despise the world, nor the world them. In the first degree were the apostles, and in the second are other good livers. But in the third and fourth degree are those that shall be damned. And therefore we should understand that as some suffer pain to save the people when they might not save themselves, so did Jesus Christ, and showed his great kindness. Some suffer pain, and enlarge their reward as did Christ’s apostles, and many other martyrs. Some suffer pain to cleanse them of their past sins, and cry to God for mercy. Some suffer pain to keep them from sin, with which they should be encumbered if there were no pain. But some suffer pain because they haunt sin; and as they make no end thereof, the pain shall last without end. Join we then the cross of Christ to our bare flesh, that our part may be found among those holy saints who willingly forsook themselves, and joyed in tribulation; as St. James saith. My brethren, hope ye all joy when ye have slidden among divers temptations, knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience; since patience hath a perfect work; that ye may be perfect in soul, and whole in body, and in nothing failing.