But that thou mayst haste and make speed unto felicity with a more sure course, 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.
Understand well also that the devil is none other thing but whatsoever calleth away from such things as Christ taught. He directeth his journey to Christ which is carried to virtue only. And he becometh bond to the devil which giveth himself to vices. Let thine eye therefore be pure, and all thy body shall be bright and full of light. Let thine eye look unto Christ alone as unto only and very felicity, so that thou love nothing, marvel at nothing, desire nothing but either Christ or else for Christ. Also that thou hate nothing, abhor nothing, fly nothing, nothing avoid but only sin or else for sin’s sake. By this means it will come to pass that whatsoever thou shalt do, whether thou sleep, whether thou wake, whether thou eat, whether thou drink, and to conclude that thy very sports and pastimes, yea (I will speak more boldly) that some vices of the lighter sort into which we fall now and then while we haste to virtue, all the whole shall grow and turn in thee unto a great heap of rewards. But and if thine eye shall not be pure, but look any otherward than unto Christ, yea though thou do certain things which be good or honest of themselves, yet shall they be unfruitful or peradventure very perilous and hurtful. For it is a great fault to do a good thing not well. And therefore that man that hasteth the strait way unto the mark of very felicity, whatsoever things shall come and meet him by the way, so far forth ought he either refuse or receive them, as they either further or hinder his journey: of which things there be three orders or three degrees. Certain things verily be of such manner filthy that they cannot be honest, as to avenge wrong, to wish evil to another.
These things ought always to be had in hate, yea though thou shouldest have never so great advantage to commit them, or never so great punishment if thou didst them not, for nothing can hurt a good man but filthiness only. Certain things on the other side be in such manner honest that they cannot be filthy, of which kind be to will or wish all men good, to help thy friends with honest means, to hate vices, to rejoice with virtuous communication. Certain things verily be indifferent or between both, of their own nature neither good nor bad, honest nor filthy: as health, beauty, strength, fecundity, cunning, and such other. Of this last kind of things therefore nothing ought to be desired for itself, neither ought to be usurped more or less, but as far forth as they make and be necessary to the chief mark, I mean, to follow Christ’s living. The very philosophers have certain marks also imperfect and indifferent, in which a man ought not to stand still nor tarry, which also a man may conveniently use, referring them to a better purpose, and not to enjoy them and tarry upon them, putting his whole felicity in them: notwithstanding those mean and indifferent things do not all after one manner and equally either further or hinder them that be going unto Christ, therefore they must be received or refused, after as each of them is more or less of value unto thy purpose.
Knowledge helpeth more unto piety than beauty or strength of body or riches: and though all learning may be applied to Christ, yet some helpeth more compendiously than some. Of this end and purpose, see thou measure the profitableness or unprofitableness of all mean things. Thou lovest learning, it is very well if thou do it for Christ’s sake: but if thou love it therefore only because thou wouldst know it, then makest thou a stop and tarrying therefrom whence thou oughtest to have made a step to climb further. But if thou desire sciences that thou by their help mightest more clearly behold Christ hid in the secrets of scripture, and when thou knowest him love him, when thou knowest and lovest him teach, declare, and open him to other men, and in thyself enjoy him: then prepare thyself unto study of sciences, but no further than thou mayst think them profitable to good living. If thou have confidence in thyself and trust to have great advantage in Christ, go forth boldly as an adventurous merchant to walk as a stranger somewhat further, yea in the learning of gentiles, and apply the riches or treasure of the Egyptians unto the honesting of the temple of God. But if thou fear greater loss than thou hopest of advantage, then return again to our first rule: know thyself and pass not thy bounds, keep thee within thy lists. It is better to have less knowledge and more of love, than to have more of knowledge and not to love. Knowledge therefore hath the mastery or chief room amongst mean things. After that is health, the gifts of nature, eloquence, beauty, strength, dignity, favour, authority, prosperity, good reputation, kin, friends, stuff of household. Every one of these things as it helpeth most and nighest way unto virtue, so shall it most chiefly be applied in case they be offered unto us hasting in our way, if not then may we not for cause of them turn aside from our journey purposed.
Money chanced unto thee, if it let nothing to good living, minister it, make friends with the wicked mammon: but if thou fear loss of virtue and good mind, despise that adavntage full of damage and loss, and follow thou even Crates of Thebes flinging thy grievous and cumbrous pack into the sea, rather than it should hold thee back from Christ. That thing mayst thou do the easier, if, as I have said, thou shalt custom thyself to marvel at none of those things which be without thee, that is to say, which pertain not unto the inner man, for by that means it will come to pass that thou canst neither wax proud or forget thyself. If these things fortune unto thee, neither thou shalt be vexed in thy mind if they should either be denied thee or taken from thee, forasmuch as thou puttest thy whole felicity in Christ only. But and if it chance they come unto thee besides thine own labour, be more diligent and circumspect, having no less care than thou hadst before: have in mind that a matter to exercise thyself virtuously on, is given to thee of God, but yet not without jeopardy and danger. But if thou have the benignity of fortune suspected, counterfeit Prometheus, do not receive the deceitful box, and go light and naked unto that which is only very felicity. Certainly whosoever with great thought and care desire money as a precious thing, and count the chief succour of life to be therein, thinking themselves happy as long as it is safe, calling themselves wretches when it is lost: those men no doubt have made or feigned unto themselves many gods. Thou hast set up thy money and made it equal unto Christ, if it can make thee happy or unhappy. That I have spoken of money understand the same likewise of honours, voluptuousness, health, yea and of the very life of the body. We must enforce to come to our only mark, which is Christ, so fervently that we should have no leisure to care for any of these things, either when they be given us, or else when they be taken from us, for the time is short as saith Paul: Henceforward, saith he, they that use the world, must be as they used it not. This mind I know well the world laugheth to scorn as foolish and mad: nevertheless it pleaseth God by this foolishness to save them that believe. And the foolishness of God is wiser than man. After this rule thou shalt examine, yea whatsoever thou doest. Thou exercisest a craft? It is very well done if thou do it without fraud: but whereunto lookest thou to find thy household? But for what intent to find thy household, to win thy household to Christ?
Thou runnest well. Thou fastest, verily a good work as it appeareth outward: but unto what end referrest thou thyself, to spare thy victuals or that thou mayst be counted the more holy? Thine eye is wanton, corrupt, and not pure. Peradventure thou fastest lest thou should fall into some disease or sickness. Why fearest thou sickness? Lest it would take thee from the use of voluptuous pleasures: thine eye is corrupt. But thou desireth health because thou mayst be able to study. To what purpose I beseech thee referrest thou thy study, to get thee a benefice withal? With what mind desirest thou a benefice? Verily to live at thine own pleasure, not at Christ’s. Thou hast missed the mark which a christian man ought to have everywhere prefixed before his eyes. Thou takest meat that thou mightest be strong in thy body, and thou wilt have thy body strong that thou mightest be sufficient unto holy exercises and watch. Thou hast hit the mark. But thou providest for health and good living lest thou shouldest be more evil favoured or deformed, lest thou shouldst not be strong enough unto bodily lust, thou hast fallen from Christ making unto thee another God.
There be which honour certain saints with certain ceremonies. One saluteth Christofer every day, but not except he behold his image.
Whither looketh he? Verily to this point, he hath borne himself in hand that he shall be all that day sure from evil death. Another worshippeth one Rochus, but why? Because he believeth that he will keep away the pestilence from his body. Another mumbleth certain prayers to Barbara or George, lest he should fall into his enemy’s hands. This man fasteth to Saint Apolyne lest his teeth should ache. That man visiteth the image of holy Job, because he should be without scabs. Some assign and name certain portion of their winning to poor men, lest their merchandise should perish by shipwreck. A taper is light before Saint Hierom to the intent that thing which is lost may be had again. In conclusion after this same manner look how many things be which we either favour or else love, so many saints have we made governors of the same things, which same saints be divers in divers natures: so that Paul doth the same thing among the Frenchmen that Hieron doth with our countrymen the Almayns, and neither James nor John can do that thing in everywhere which they do in this or that place: which honouring of saints truly, except it be referred from the respect of corporal commodities or incommodities unto Christ, is not for a christian man, insomuch that it is not far from the superstitiousness of them which in time past vowed the tenth part of their goods to Hercules, to the intent they might wax rich, or a cock to Esculapius that they might be recovered of their diseases: or which sacrificed a bull to Neptunus that they might have good passage by sea and prosperous sailing. The names be changed, but verily they have both one end and intent. Thou prayest God that thou mayst not die too soon, or while thou art young, and prayest not rather that he would give to thee a good mind that in whatsoever place death should come upon thee he should not find thee unprepared. Thou thinkest not of changing thy life, and prayest God thou mightest not die. What prayest thou for then? Certainly that thou mightest sin as long as is possible. Thou desireth riches and cannot use riches, doest not thou then desire thine own confusion? Thou desirest health and canst not use health, is not now thy honouring of God dishonouring of God? In this place I am sure some of our holy men will cry out against me with open mouths, which think lucre to be to the honouring of God, and as the same Paul saith, with certain sweet benedictions deceive the minds of innocent persons while they obey and serve their belly and not Jesu Christ. Then will they say, forbiddest thou worship of saints in whom God is honoured?
I verily dispraise not them so greatly which do those things with certain simple and childish superstition for lack of instruction or capacity of wit, as I do them which seeking their own advantage prayeth and magnifieth those things for most great and perfect holiness, which things peradventure be tolerable and may be suffered, and for their own profit and advantage cherish and maintain the ignorance of the people, which neither I myself do despise, but I cannot suffer that they should account things to be highest and most chief, which of themselves be neither good nor bad, and those things to be greatest and of most value which be smallest and of least value. I will praise it and be content that they desire health of Rochus whom they so greatly honour, if they consecrate it unto Christ. But I will praise it more if they would pray for nothing else but that with the hate of vices the love of virtues might be increased: and as touching to live or to die let them put it into the hands of God, and let them say with Paul, whether we live, whether we die, to God and at God’s pleasure we live or die. It shall be a perfect thing if they desire to be dissolved from the body and to be with Christ: if they put their glory and joy in diseases or sickness, in loss or other damages of fortune, that they might be accounted worthy, which even in this world should be like or conformable unto their head. To do therefore such manner of things is not so much to be rebuked as it is perilous to abide still and cleave to them. I suffer infirmity and weakness, but with Paul I show a more excellent way. If thou shalt examine thy studies and all thy acts by this rule, and shalt not stand anywhere in mean things till thou come even unto Christ, thou shalt neither go out of thy way at any time, neither shalt do or suffer any thing in all thy life which shall not turn and be unto thee a matter of serving and honouring God.