Let us add also the fifth rule as an aider unto this foresaid fourth rule, that thou put perfect piety, that is to say the honouring of God, in this thing only, if thou shalt enforce away from things visible, which almost every one be imperfect or else indifferent to ascend to things invisible after the division of a man above rehearsed. This precept is appertaining to the matter so necessarily, that whether it be through negligence or for lack of knowledge of it, the most part of christian men instead of true honourers of God are but plain superstitious, and in all other things save in the name of christian men only, vary not greatly from the superstition of the gentiles. 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. What this visible sun is in the visible world that is the divine mind, that is to say God, in the intelligible world, and in that part of thee which is of that same nature, that is to say in the spirit. Look what the moon is in the visible world, that in the invisible world is the congregation of angels and of blessed souls called the triumphant church, and that in thee is the spirit. Whatsoever heavens above worketh in the earth under them, that same doth God in the soul. The sun goeth down, ariseth, rageth in heat, is temperate, quickeneth, bringeth forth, maketh ripe, draweth to him, maketh subtle and thin, purgeth, hardeneth, mollifieth, illumineth, cleareth, cherisheth and comforteth. Therefore whatsoever thou beholdest in him, yea whatsoever thou seest in the gross part of this world of the elements which many have separated from the heavens above and circles of the firmament, in conclusion whatsoever thou considerest in the grosser part of thyself, accustom to apply it to God and to the invisible portion of thyself. So shall it come to pass that whatsoever thing shall anywhere offer itself to any of the sensible wits, that same thing shall be to thee an occasion of piety, to honour God. When it delighteth thy corporal eyes as oft as this visible sun spreadeth himself on the earth with new light, by and by call to remembrance how great the pleasure is of the inhabitants of heaven, unto whom the eternal sun ever springeth and ariseth, but never goeth down.
How great are the joys of that pure mind whereupon the light of God always shineth and casteth his beams. Thus by occasion of the visible creature pray with the words of Paul, that he which commanded light to shine out of darkness may shine in thy heart, to give light and knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesu Christ. Repeat such like places of holy scripture in which here and there the grace of the spirit of God is compared to light. The night seemeth tedious to thee and dark, think on a soul destitute of the light of God and dark with vices: yea and if thou canst perceive any darkness of night in thee, pray that the sun of justice may arise unto thee. This wise think and surely believe that things invisible which thou seest not are so excellent, so pure, so perfect, that things which be seen in comparison of them are scarce very shadows representing to the eyes a small and a thin similitude of them. Therefore in this outward corporal things whatsoever thy sensible wits either desire or abhor, it shall be a great deal meeter that the spirit love or hate the same thing in inward and incorporal things. The goodly beauty of thy body pleaseth thine eyes, think then how honest a thing is the beauty of the soul. A deformed visage seemeth an unpleasant thing, remember how odious a thing is a mind defiled with vices: and of all other thine do likewise. For as the soul hath certain beauty wherewith one while she pleaseth God, and a deformity wherewith another while she pleaseth the devil, as like unto like: so hath she also her youth, her age, sickness, health, death, life, poverty, riches, joy, sorrow, war, peace, cold, heat, thirst, drink, hunger, meat. To conclude shortly, whatsoever is filthy in the body, that same is to be understood in the soul. Therefore in this thing resteth the journey to the spiritual and pure life, if by a little and little we shall accustom to withdraw ourself from these things which be not truly in very deed, but partly appear to be that they be not: as filthy and voluptuous pleasure, honour of this world, partly vanish away and haste to return to naught, and shall be ravished and carried to these things which indeed are eternal, immutable and pure: which thing Socrates saw full well, a philosopher not so much in tongue and words as in living and deeds, for he saith that so only shall the soul depart happily from her body at the last end, if aforehand she have diligently through true knowledge recorded and practised death, and also have long time before by the despising of things corporal, and by the contemplation and loving of things spiritual, used herself to be as it were in a manner absent from the body.
Neither the cross unto which Christ calleth and exhorteth us, neither that death in which Paul willeth us to die with our head, as also the prophet saith: for thy sake we be slain all the day long, we be accounted as sheep appointed to be killed: neither that which the apostle writeth in other terms saying, seek those things that be above, not which be on the earth. Taste and have perceivance of things above, meaneth it any other thing than that we unto things corporal should be dull and made as though we were insensible and utterly without capacity? So that the less feeling we have in things of the body, so much the more sweetness we might find in things pertaining to the spirit, and might begin to live so much the trulier inwardly in the spirit, the less we lived outwardly in the body. In conclusion to speak more plainly, so much the less should move us things caduke and transitory, the more acquainted we were with things eternal. So much the less should we regard the shadows of things, the more we have begun to look up upon the very true things. This rule therefore must be had ever ready at hand, that we in no wise stand still anywhere in temporal things, but that we rise thence making as it were a step unto the love of spiritual things by matching the one with the other, or else in comparison of things which are invisible that we begin to despise that which is visible. The disease of thy body will be the easier if thou wouldest think it to be a remedy for thy soul. Thou shouldest care the less for the health of thy body if thou wouldest turn all thy care to defend and maintain the health of the mind. The death of the body putteth thee in fear, the death of the soul is much more to be feared. Thou abhorrest the poison which thou seest with thine eyes, because it bringeth mischief to the body: much more is the poison to be abhorred which slayeth the soul.
Cicuta is poison of the body, but voluptuousness is much more and ready poison to the soul. Thou quakest and tremblest for fear, thy hair standeth upright, thou art speechless, thy spirits forsake thee and thou waxest pale, fearing lest the lightning which appeareth out of the clouds should smite thee, but how much more is it to be feared lest there should come on thee the invisible lightning of the wrath of God, which saith: Go ye cursed persons into eternal fire? The beauty of the body ravisheth thee, why rather lovest thou not fervently that fairness that is not seen? Translate thy love into that beauty that is perpetual, that is celestial, that is without corruption, and the discreetlier shalt thou love the caduke and transitory shape of the body. Thou prayest that thy field may be watered with rain lest it dry up, pray rather that God will vouchsafe to water thy mind lest it was barren from the fruit of virtues. Thou restorest and increasest again with great care the waste of thy money: the greatest care of all oughtest thou have to restore again the loss of the mind. Thou hast a respect long aforehand to age, lest anything should be lacking to thy body: and shouldest thou not provide that nothing be lacking to the mind? And this verily ought to be done in those things which daily meeteth our sensible wits, and as everything is of a diverse kind, even so diversely doth move us with hope, fear, love, hate, sorrow and joy. The same thing must be observed and kept in all manner of learning which include in themselves a plain sense and a mystery, even as they were made of a body and a soul, that the literal sense little regarded thou shouldest look chiefly to the mystery. Of which manner are the letters of all poets and philosophers, chiefly the followers of Plato. But most of all, holy scripture, which being in a manner like to Silenus of Alcibiades, under a rude and foolish covering include pure divine and godly things: for else if thou shalt read without the allegory the image of Adam formed of moist clay and the soul breathed into him, and Eve plucked out of the rib, how they were forbid the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the serpent enticing to eat, God walking at the air: when they knew they had sinned, how they hid themselves, the angel set at the doors with a turning sword lest after they were ejected, the way to them should be open to come again shortly: if thou shouldest read the whole history of the making of the world, if thou read (I say) superficially these things, seeking no further than appeareth outwardly, I cannot perceive what other great thing thou shalt do than if thou shouldest sing of the image of clay made by Prometheus, or of fire stolen from heaven by subtlety and put into the image to give life to the clay. Yea peradventure a poet’s fable in the allegory shall be read with somewhat more fruit than a narration of holy books, if thou rest in the rind or outer part. If when thou readest the fable of the giants, it warneth and putteth thee in remembrance that thou strive not with God and things more mighty than thou, or that thou oughtest to abstain from such studies as nature abhorreth, and that thou shouldest set thy mind unto these things (if so be they be honest) whereunto thou art most apt naturally. That thou tangle not thyself with matrimony, if chastity be more agreeable to thy manners. Again that thou bind not thyself to chastity if thou seem more apt to marriage: for most commonly those things come evil to pass which thou provest against nature. If the cup of Circe teach that men with voluptuousness as with witchcraft fall out of their mind and be changed utterly from men unto beasts.
If thirsty Tantalus teach thee that it is a very miserable thing for a man to sit gaping upon his riches heaped together and dare not use them. The stone of Sisyphus, that ambition is laborious and miserable. If the labours of Hercules putteth thee in remembrance that heaven must be obtained with honest labours and enforcements indefatigable: learnest thou not that thing in the fable which the philosophers teach and also divines, masters of good living? But if (without allegory) thou shalt read the infants wrestling in their mother’s belly, the inheritance of the elder brother sold for a mess of pottage, the blessing of the father prevented and taken away by fraud, Goly smitten with the sling of David, and the hair of Sampson shaven: it is not of so great value as if thou shouldest read the feigning of some poet. What difference is there whether thou read the book of Kings or of the Judges in the Old Testament, or else the history of Titus Livyus, so thou have respect to the allegory nere nother? For in the one, that is to say Titus Livyus, be many things which would amend the common manners: in the other be some things, yea, ungoodly as they seem at the first looking on, which also if they be understood superficially should hurt good manners: as the theft of David, and adultery bought with homicide, how the daughters of Lot lay with their father by stealth, and conceived, and a thousand other like matters. Therefore the flesh of the scripture despised chiefly of the Old Testament, it shall be meet and convenient to search out the mystery of the spirit. Manna to thee shall have such taste as thou bringest with thee in thy mouth. But in opening of mysteries thou mayst not follow the conjectures of thine own mind, but the rule must be known and a certain craft, which one Dionisius teacheth in a book entitled De divinis nominibus, that is to say, of the names of God: and Saint Augustyne in a certain work called Doctrina christiana, that is to say, the doctrine of a christian man. The apostle Paul after Christ opened certain fountains of allegory, whom Origene followed, and in that part of divinity obtained doubtless the chief room and mastery.
But our divines either set naught by the allegory or handle it very dreamingly and unfruitfully: yet are they in subtlety of disputation equal or rather superiors to old divines. But in treating of this craft that is to say in pure, apt, and fruitful handling, the allegory not once to be compared with them, and that specially as I guess for two causes. The one, that the mystery can be but weak and barren that is not fortified with strength of eloquence, and tempered with certain sweetness of speaking, in which our elders were passing excellent, and we not once taste of it. Another cause is, for they content with Arystotle only, expel from schools the sect of Plato and Pictagoras, and yet Saint Augustyn preferreth these latter, not only because they have many sentences much agreeable to our religion, but also because the very manner of open and clear speech, which they use (as I have said before) full of allegories, draweth very nigh to the style of holy scripture.
No marvel therefore though they have more commodiously handled the allegories of the word of God, which with plenteous oration were able to increase and dilate to colour and garnish any manner thing never so barren, simple, or homely, which men also being most expert and cunning of all antiquity had practised and exercised long before in poets and books of Plato, that thing which they should do after in divine mysteries. I had liefer that thou shouldest read the commentaries of those men, for I would instruct and induce thee not unto contention of arguments, but rather unto a pure mind. But and if thou cannot attain the mystery, remember yet that some thing lieth hid which though it be not known, yet verily to have trust to obtain it shall be better than to rest in the letter which killeth. And that see thou do not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New. The gospel hath her flesh, she hath also her spirit: for though the veil be pulled from the face of Moses, nevertheless yet unto this day Paul saith per speculum in enigmate, not the thing itself and clearly, but the image or similitude of the very thing as it were in a glass imperfectly and obscurely: and as Christ himself sayeth in his gospel of John, The flesh profiteth nothing at all, it is the spirit that giveth life. I verily would have been afraid to have said it profiteth not at all, it should have been enough to say the flesh profiteth somewhat, but much more the spirit: but now verity himself hath said it profiteth not at all. And so greatly it profiteth not, that after the mind of Paul it is but death, except it be referred to the spirit: yet at the least way in this thing is the flesh profitable for that she leadeth our infirmity as it were with certain graces or steps unto the spirit. The body without the spirit can have no being: the spirit of the body hath no need. Wherefore if after the doctrine of Christ the spirit be so great and excellent a thing, that he only giveth life: hither to this point must our journey be, that in all manner letters, in all our acts, we have respect to the spirit, and not to the flesh. And if a man would take heed, he should soon perceive that this thing only is it whereunto exhorteth us among the prophets specially Esaias, among the apostles Paul, which almost in every epistle playeth this part and crieth that we should have no confidence in the flesh, and that in the spirit is life, liberty, light, adoption: and those noble fruits so greatly to be desired which he numbereth. The flesh everywhere he despiseth, condemneth, and counselleth from her. Take heed and thou shalt perceive that our master Christ doth the same thing here and there, whiles in pulling the ass out of the pit, in restoring the sight to the blind, in rubbing the ears of corn, in unwashen hands, in the feasts of sinners, in the parable of the pharisee and the publican, in fastings, in the carnal brethren, in the rejoicing of the Jews that they were the children of Abraham, in offering of gifts in the temple, in praying, in dilating of their phylacteries, and in many like places he despiseth the flesh of the law, and superstition of them which had liefer be Jews openly in the sight of man than privily in the sight of God. And when he said to the woman of Samary, believe me that the hour shall come when ye shall honour the father neither in this mountain, neither in Jerusalem: but the hour shall be and now is when the very true worshippers shall worship the father in spirit and verity: for surely the father requireth such to honour him: the father is a spirit, and they which honour him must honour in spirit and verity. He signified the same thing indeed when at the marriage he turned the water of the cold and unsavoury letter into wine of the spirit, making drunk the spiritual souls, even unto the contempt and despising of their life. And lest thou shouldest think it a great thing that Christ despised these things which now I have rehearsed, yea he despised the eating of his own flesh and drinking of his own blood, except it were done spiritually. To whom thinkest thou spake he these things: The flesh profiteth nothing at all, it is the spirit that quickeneth and giveth life?
Verily not to them which with Saint John’s gospel or an agnus dei hanging about their necks think themselves sure from all manner of harm, and suppose that thing to be the very perfect religion of a christian man: but to them to whom he opened the high mystery of eating his own body. If so great a thing be of no value, yea if it be pernicious or perilous: what cause is there wherefore we should have confidence in any other carnal things except the spirit be present? Thou peradventure sayest mass daily and livest at thine own pleasure, and art not once moved with thy neighbour’s hurts, no, no more than if they pertained nothing at all to thee: thou art yet in the flesh of the sacrament: but and if while thou sayest, thou enforcest to be the very same thing which is signified by receiving that sacrament, that is to say, to be one spirit with the spirit of Christ, to be one body with the body of Christ, to be a quick member of the church: if thou love nothing but in Christ, if thou think all thy goods to be common to all men, if the incommodities of all men grieve thee even as thine own: then no doubt thou sayest mass with great fruit, and that because thou doest it spiritually. If thou perceive that thou art in a manner transfigured and changed into Christ, and that thou livest now less and less in thine own self, give thanks to the spirit which only quickeneth and giveth life. Many been wont to number how many masses they have been at every day, and having confidence in this thing as of most value (as though now they were no farther bound to Christ) as soon as they be departed out of the church return to their old manners again: that they embrace the flesh of piety, that is to say of pure life or service of God I dispraise not: that they there stop I praise not: let that be performed in thee which is there represented to thine eyes. There is represented to thee, the death of thy head: discuss thyself withinforth, and (as the saying is) in thy bosom, how nigh thou art dead to the world. For if thou be possessed wholly with wrath, ambition, covetousness, envy, yea though thou touch the altar, yet art thou far from mass. Christ was slain for thee, flee thou therefore these beasts, sacrifice thyself to him which for thy sake sacrificed himself to his father: if thou once think not on these things, and hast confidence in the other, God hateth thy carnal and gross religion. Thou art baptised, think not forthwith that thou art a christian man, thy mind altogether favoureth nothing but this world: thou art in the sight of the world a christian man, but secret and before God thou art more heathen than any heathen man. Why so? For thou hast the body of the sacrament and art without the spirit which only profiteth. Thy body is washed, what matter maketh that while thy mind remaineth still defiled and inquinate? Thy body is touched with salt, what then when thy mind is yet unsavoury? Thy body is anointed, but thy mind unanointed. But if thou be buried with Christ withinforth, and studiest to walk with him in the new life I then know thee for a christian man. Thou art sprinkled with holy water, what good doth that, if so be thou wipe not away the inward filth from thy mind? Thou honourest saints and art joyous and glad to touch their relics, but thou despiseth the chief relics which they left behind them, that is to be understood the examples of pure living.
There is no honour more pleasant to Mary than if thou shouldest counterfeit her humility. No religion is more acceptable to saints or more appropriate than if thou wouldest labour to represent and follow their virtues. Wilt thou deserve the love and favour of Peter or of Paul, counterfeit the one’s faith, and the other’s charity, and thou shalt do a greater thing than if thou shouldest run to Rome x. times. Wilt thou worship Saint Fraunces singularly? Thou art high minded, thou art a great lover of money, thou art stubborn and self-willed, full of contention, wise in thine own opinion, give this to the saint, assuage thy mind, and by the example of Saint Fraunces be more sober, humble or meek, despise filthy lucre, and be desirous of riches of the mind, put away striving and debates with thy neighbours and with goodness overcome evil. The saint setteth more by this honour than if thou shouldest set before him a thousand burning tapers. Thou thinkest it a special thing to be put in thy grave wrapped in the cowl or habit of Saint Fraunces? Trust me, like vesture shall profit thee nothing at all when thou art dead, if thy living and manners be found unlike when thou were alive. And though the sure example of all true virtue and pure life, shewing how thou shouldest honour God in everything, is set of Christ most commodiously in such manner, that in no wise thou canst be deceived. Nevertheless if the worshipping of Christ in his saints delight thee so greatly, see that thou counterfeit Christ in his saints, and for the honour of every saint look thou put away all vices, vice by vice, so that thou sacrifice to every saint singularly some one vice singularly, or else study to embrace and counterfeit some one singular virtue in every saint, such as thou perceivest to have reigned most chiefly in every saint, singularly of them which thou worshippest so specially. If this shall come to pass, then will I not reprove those things which be done outwardly. Thou hast in great reverence the ashes of Paul, I damn it not, if thy religion be perfect in every point, but if thou have in reverence the dead ashes or powder of his body, and settest no store by his quick image yet speaking, and as it were breathing, which remaineth in his doctrine: is not thy religion preposterous and out of order and according to the common proverb, the cart set before the horse?
Honourest thou the bones of Paul hid in the shrine, and honourest thou not the mind of Paul hid in his writings? Magnifiest thou a piece of his carcase shining through a glass, and regardest not thou the whole mind of Paul shining through his letters? Thou worshippest the ashes in whose presence now and then the deformities and diseases of bodies be taken away, why rather honourest thou not his doctrine, wherewith the deformities and diseases of souls are cured and remedied? Let the unfaithful marvel at these miracles and signs for whom they be wrought: but thou that art a faithful man embrace his books, that as thou doubtest not, but that God can do all things, even so thou mightest learn to love him above all things.
Thou honourest the image of the bodily countenance of Christ formed in stone or tree, or else portrayed with colours: with much greater reverence is to be honoured the image of his mind, which by workmanship of the Holy Ghost is figured and expressed in the gospels.
Never any Apelles so expressly fashioned with pencil the proportions and figure of the body as in the oration and doctrine of every man appeareth the image of the mind, namely in Christ, which when he was very simplicity and pure verity, no discord, no unlike thing at all could be between the spirit and chief pattern of his divine mind and the image of his doctrine and learning from thence deduct and derivate, as nothing is more like the father of heaven than his son, which is the word, the wisdom and knowledge of the father, springing forth of his most secret heart: so is nothing more like unto Christ than the word, the doctrine and teaching of Christ, given forth out of the privy parts of his most holy breast: and ponderest thou not this image? Honourest it not? Lookest thou not substantially with devout eyes upon it? Embracest it not in thy heart? Hast thou of thy lord and master relics so holy, so full of virtue and strength, and setting them at nought, seekest thou things much more alienate, stranger and farther off? Thou beholdest a coat or a sudorye, that is said to have been Christ’s, astonied thereat as though thy wits were rapt: and art thou in a dream or a slumber when thou readest the divine oracles or answers of Christ? Thou believest it to be a great thing, yea a greater than the greatest that thou possessest at home a little piece of the cross: but that is nothing to be compared to this, if thou bear shrined in thy heart the mystery of the cross. Or else if such things make a man religious and devout, what can be more religious than the Jews, of which very many (though they were never so wicked) yet with their eyes saw Jesus Christ living bodily, heard him with their ears, with their hands handled him. What is more happy than Judas, which with his mouth kissed the divine mouth of Christ? So much doth the flesh without the spirit profit nothing at all, that it should not once have profited the holy virgin his mother that she of her own flesh begat him, except she in her spirit had conceived his spirit also: this is a very great thing, but hear a greater. The apostles enjoyed the corporal presence and fellowship of Christ (readest thou not) how weak, how childish they were, how gross and without capacity. Who would desire any other thing unto the most perfect health of his soul, than so long familiarity and conversation together with him that was both God and man? Yet after so many miracles shewed, after the doctrine of his own mouth taught and declared to them, after sure and evident tokens that he was risen again, did he not at the last hour when he should be received up into heaven cast in their teeth their unstability in the faith? What was then the cause? Verily the flesh of Christ did let: and thence it is that he saith: Except I go away, the Holy Ghost will not come, it is expedient for you that I depart. The corporal presence of Christ is unprofitable unto health. And dare we in any corporal thing beside that put perfect piety, that is to say, the love and honour of God? Paul saw Christ in his humanity, what supposest thou to be a greater thing than that? Yet setteth he nought by it, saying, though (saith he) we have known Christ carnally, now we do not so. Why knew he him not carnally? For he had profited and ascended unto more perfect gifts of the spirit. I use peradventure more words in disputing these things than should be meet for him which giveth rules: nevertheless I do it the more diligently (and not without a great cause) for that in very deed I do perceive this error to be the common pestilence of all christendom: which bringeth and occasioneth, yea for this causeth, the greater mischief: forasmuch as in semblance and appearance it is next unto godly love or holiness. For there are no vices more perilous than they which counterfeit virtue: for besides this that good men may lightly fall into them: none are with more difficulty cured, because the common people unlearned thinketh our religion to be violate when such things are rebuked: let incontinent all the world cry out against me, let certain preachers, such as are wont to cry out in their pulpits, bark which with right good will sing these things inwardly in their own stomachs looking verily not unto Christ, but unto their own advantage, through whose either superstition without learning, or feigned holiness, I am compelled oftentimes to shew and declare that I in no wise rebuke or check the corporal ceremonies of christian men and devout minds of simple persons: namely in such things that are approved by authority of the church. For they are now and then partly signs of piety and partly helpers thereunto. And because they are somewhat necessary to young infants in Christ, till they wax older and grow up unto a perfect man: therefore it is not meet they should be disdained of them which are perfect, lest by their example the weak person should take harm. That thou doest I approve, so the end be not amiss. Moreover if thou stop not there whence thou oughtest to ascend to things more near to health: but to worship Christ with visible things instead of invisible and in them to put the highest point of religion, and for them to stand in thine own conceit, to condemn other men, to set thy whole mind upon them, and also to die in them, and to speak shortly that thou be withdrawn from Christ with the very same things which be ordained for the intent only that they should help unto Christ: this is verily to depart from the law of the gospel which is spiritual, and fall into certain superstition of ceremonies like unto the Jews: which thing peradventure is of no less jeopardy than if without such superstition thou shouldest be infect with great and manifest vices of the mind: this is forsooth the more deadly disease. Be it, but the other is worse to be cured. How much everywhere sweateth the chief defender of the spirit Paul to call away the Jews from the confidence of deeds and ceremonies, and to promote them unto those things which are spiritual: and now I see the commonality of christian men to be returned hither again. But what said I the commonality? That might be yet suffered had not this error invaded and caught a great part both of priests and doctors: and to be short, the flocks of them almost throughout which profess in title and habit a spiritual life. If they which should be the very salt be unsavoury: wherewithal shall other be seasoned?
I am ashamed to rehearse with what superstition the most part of them observe certain ceremonies of men’s inventions, yet not institute for such purpose. How odiously they require them of other men: what confidence without mistrust they have in them: how indifferently they judge other men: how earnestly they defend them. To these their deeds they think heaven to be due, in which if they be once rooted at once they think themselves Pauls and Antonys.
They begin, O good Lord, with what gravity, with how great authority, to correct other men’s lives, after the rule of fools and indiscreet persons (as saith Terence), so that they think nothing well done but that they do themselves.
But for all that when they be waxen old sires in their manner of living thou shalt see that as yet they savour or taste of Christ nothing at all: but to be beastly swimming in certain churlish vices in their living and pastime froward, and scarce can suffer and forbear their own self: in charity cold: in wrath fervent: in hate as tough as white leather: in their tongues venemous and full of poison: in exercising and putting forth of their malice conquerors and not able to be overcome: ready to strive for every little trifle: and so far from the perfection of Christ, that they be not once endued with these common virtues, which the very ethnics or heathen men have learned, either by reason given to them of nature, or by use of living, or by the precepts of philosophers. Thou shalt also see them in spiritual things clean without capacity, fierce that no man shall know how to entreat or handle them, full of strife and contention, greedy upon voluptuous pleasure, at the word of God ready to spue, kind to no man, misdeeming other men, flattering their own selves. It is come to this point now at last with the labours of so many years, that thou shouldest be of all men the worst, and yet think thyself the best: that instead of a christian man thou shouldest be but a plain Jew, observing only unfruitful traditions and ceremonies of the inventions of man, that thou shouldest have thy glory and joy, not in secret before God, but openly afore the world. But and if thou hast walked in the spirit and not in the flesh: where be the fruits of the spirit? Where is charity? Where is that cheerfulness or joyous mirth of a pure mind? Where is tranquillity and peace towards all men? Where is patience? Where is perseverance of soft mind, wherewith thou lookest day by day continually for the amendment even of thine enemies? where is courtesy or gentleness, where is freeness of heart, where is meekness, fidelity, discretion, measure or soberness, temperance and chastity? where is the image of Christ in thy manners? I am, sayst thou, no keeper of whores, no thief, no violator of holy things, I keep my profession. But what other thing is this to say than I am not like other men, extortioners, adulterers, yea and I fast twice in a week? I had liefer have a publican humble and lowly asking mercy than this kind of pharisees rehearsing their good deeds. But what is thy profession? is it I pray thee that thou shouldest not perform that thing thou promised long ago when thou wert baptised, which was that thou wouldest be a christian man, that is to say, a spiritual person, and not a carnal Jew, which for the traditions of man shouldest transgress the commandments of God? Is not the life of a christian man spiritual? Hear Paul speaking to the Romans. No damnation is to them that are grafted in Christ Jesu, which walk not carnally or after the flesh: for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesu hath delivered me from the law of sin and death: for that which the law weakened by reason of the flesh could not perform or make good, that same, God made good, sending his Son in the similitude of flesh prone to sin, and of sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the justifying of the law might be fulfilled in us which walk not after the flesh but after the spirit: for they that be in the flesh, be wise in things pertaining to the flesh: but they which be in the spirit perceive those things that pertain to the spirit: for wisdom of the flesh is death, and wisdom of the spirit is life and peace: for the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God because she is not obedient to the law of God, nor yet can be. They that be in the flesh, they cannot please God: what could be spoken more largely? What more plainly? nevertheless many men subtle and crafty to flatter or favour their own vices: but prone and ready without advisement to check other men’s, think these things to pertain to themselves nothing at all: and that Paul spake of walking carnally or after the flesh, they refer to adulterers only and keepers of queans: that he spake of wisdom of the flesh which is enemy to God, they turned it to them which have learned humanity, or that they call secular sciences: in either other they set up their crests, and clap their hands for joy, both that they neither be adulterers, and in all sciences stark fools. Moreover to live in the spirit they dream to be none other thing than to do as they themselves do: which persons if they would as diligently observe the tongue of Paul as they maliciously despise Tully’s, they should soon perceive that the apostle calleth the flesh that thing that is visible and the spirit that thing that is invisible: for he teacheth everywhere that things visible ought to serve to things invisible: and not contrarywise invisible things to serve things visible. Thou of a preposterous order appliest Christ to those things which were meet to be applied unto Christ: requirest thou of me record that this word flesh pertaineth not only to filthy and superstitious lust of the body? Hold and understand that thing which the said apostle (doing that same which he in all places doth) writeth to the Colocenses. Let no man mislead you for the nonce in the humility and religion of angels which things he never saw, walking in vain, inflate with the imagination of the flesh, and not holding the head, that is to say Christ, of whom all the body by couples and joints ministered up and compact, groweth into the increase of God. And lest thou shouldest doubt any thing that he spake of them which having confidence in certain corporal ceremonies bark against the spiritual purposes of other men: take heed what followeth: If ye be dead with Christ, ab elementis hujus mundi, from traditions, ceremonies and inventions of men: why have ye yet such decrees among you, as though ye lived unto the world? And anon after calling us from the same things, saith: If ye be risen up again with Christ, seek those things that are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Be expert and wise in those things that be above, and not on the earth. Moreover giving precepts of the spiritual life, what exhorteth he us to do at last? whether that we should use such or such ceremonies: whether that we should be this or that wise arrayed, that we should live with this or that meats, that we should say customably any certain number of psalms? he made mention of no such things. What then?
Mortify (said he) your members which be on the earth, fornication, uncleanness, bodily lust, evil concupiscence, and avarice which is the service of idols: and a little after, that now put from you all such things, wrath, indignation, malice: and again, spoiling yourself of the old man with all his acts putting on you the new man which is renewed in knowledge of God after the image of him which made him. But who is the old man? Verily Adam, he that was made of the earth, whose conversation is in earth, not in heaven. By the earth understand whatsoever is visible, and therefore temporal and transitory. Who is that new man? Verily the celestial man that descended from heaven, Christ. And by heaven understand whatsoever is invisible, and therefore eternal and everlasting. At the last, lest we should be minded to purchase the favour of God after the manner of the Jews with certain observances, as ceremonies magical, he teacheth that our deeds are pleasant and allowed of God, so long as they are referred unto charity, and also spring thereof, saying: Above all these things keep charity the bond of perfection, and let the peace of God rejoice as a victor in your hearts, in which also ye be called in one body. I will give thee a more plain token and evident probation that this word flesh signifieth not the lust of the body only. Paul nameth often the flesh, often the spirit, writing to a certain people named Galatas, which he called not only from lust of the body to chaste living but enforceth to withdraw them from the sect of the Jews and confidence of work into which they were induced by false apostles. In this place therefore numbering the deeds of the flesh, mark what vices he rehearseth. The deeds of the flesh (saith he) be manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, to be shameless, lechery, worshipping of idols, witchcraft, privy hate, discord, otherwise called contention or strife, emulation that may be called indignation or disdain, ire otherwise called wrath, scolding dissension, that is to say, diversity in maintaining of opinions, sects, or maintaining of quarrels, envy, homicide, drunkenness, excess in eating, and such like. And not long after he saith: If we live in the spirit, let us walk in the spirit. After that as declaring and uttering a pestilence contrary to the spirit, he addeth: Let us not be made desirous of vainglory, provoking one the other, and envying one another. The tree is known by the fruit. That thou omittest not watch, fasting, silence, orisons, and such other like observances, I pass not thereon, I will not believe that thou art in the spirit except I may see the fruits of the spirit. Why may I not affirm thee to be in the flesh when after almost a hundred years exercise of these things, yet in thee I find the deeds of the flesh, enviousness more than is in any woman, continual wrath and fierceness as in a man of war, scolding, lust and pleasure insatiable, malicious cursing, backbiting with tongue more venemous than the poison of a serpent, an high mind, stubbornness, light of thy promise, vanity, feigning, flattering? Thou judgest thy brother in his meat, drink or raiment, but Paul judgeth thee of thy deeds. Doth that separate thee from worldly and carnal men, that thou art in lighter causes verily but yet with the same vices infected? is he more filthy, which, for his inheritance taken from him or it came to his hands, for his daughter defiled, for hurt done to his father, for some office, for his prince’s favour: conceiveth wrath, hatred, emulation (which may be called indignation or disdain), than thou which (I am ashamed to tell) for how little a trifle, yea for nothing, doest all the same things much more maliciously, the lighter occasion to sin lighteneth not, but aggravateth the sin, neither it maketh matter in how little or great a thing thou sin, so it be done with like affection: and yet is there difference verily: for so much the grievouser doth every man trespass, the less the occasion is wherewith he is pulled away from honesty.
I speak not now of those monks or religious persons whose manners even the whole world abhorreth, but of them whom the common people honoureth not as men, but as angels, which selfsame notwithstanding ought not to be displeased with these words, which rebuketh the vices and noteth not the persons: but and if they be good men, let them also be glad to be warned of whatsoever man it be, in those things which pertaineth to health: neither it is unknown to me that amongst them are very many which holpen with learning and wit have tasted the mysteries of the spirit, (but as Livius saith) it fortuneth almost every where, that the greater part overcometh the better. Notwithstanding (if it be lawful to confess the truth) see we not all the most strait kind of monks to put the chief point of religion either in ceremonies or in a certain manner or form of saying, that they call their divine service, or in a labour of the body, which monks if a man should examine and appose of spiritual things, he should scarce find any at all that walked not in the flesh. And hereof cometh this so great infirmity of minds, trembling for fear where is no fear, and therein surety and careless where is most peril of all: hereof cometh the perpetual infancy in Christ (to speak no more grievously) that the preposterous esteemers of things make most of such things which by themselves are of no value: those set at nought which only are sufficient, ever living under tutors or schoolmasters, ever in bondage, never advancing ourselves up to the liberty of the spirit, never growing up to the large stature of charity: when Paul crieth to a certain people called Galathas, Stand fast, be not ye locked again under the yoke of bondage. And in another place the law was our tutor or schoolmaster in Christ, that of faith we should be justified. But seeing that faith is come, now we be no more under a tutor or schoolmaster: for every one of you (saith he) is the very son of God through faith which he hath in Christ Jesu. And not much after he saith, And we also when we were little ones were in service and bondage under the ceremonies and law of this world. But when the time was fully expired, God sent his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them which were under the law, that we by adoption should be his sons. And for because ye be the sons of God, God hath sent the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, pater (as a man would say, Dada, father). And so is he not now a servant but a son to God. And again in another place: Brethren ye be called into liberty, let not your liberty be an occasion unto you to live in the flesh, but in charity of the spirit serve one another: for all the law is fulfilled in one saying: Love thy neighbour as thyself, but and if ye bite and eat one the other, take heed lest ye be consumed one of another. And again, to the Romans: Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear, but the spirit that maketh you the sons of God by adoption, in whom we cry, Dada, father. Unto the same also pertaineth that he writeth to Timothy, saying: Exercise thyself under the deeds of piety: for bodily exercise is good but for a small thing, piety is good unto all manner things. And to the Corynthes: God is a spirit, and where the spirit is, there is liberty. But why rehearse I one or two places, when Paul is altogether at this point, that the flesh which is full of contention should be despised, and that he might settle us in the spirit which is the author of charity and liberty. For these companions be ever inseparable, on the one side, the flesh, bondage, unquietness, contention or strife: and on the other side, the spirit, peace, love, liberty. These things everywhere Paul mingleth with other sayings. And seek we a better master of our religion, namely when all divine scripture agreeth to him? This was the greatest commandment in the law of Moses. This Christ iterateth and finisheth in the gospel: and for this cause chiefly was he born: for this cause died he, to teach us not to counterfeit the Jews, but to love.
After the last supper made the even before his passion, how diligently, how tenderly, and how affectionately gave he charge to his disciples, not of meat, not of drink, but of charity to be kept one towards another: what other thing teacheth he, what other thing desireth his disciple John, than that we love one another? Paul everywhere (as I have said) commendeth charity, but specially writing unto the Corynthes he preferreth charity both before miracles and prophecies, and also before the tongues of angels. And say not thou by and by that charity is, to be oft at the church, to crouch down before the images of saints, to light tapers or wax candles, to say many lady psalters or Saint Katheryne’s knots. God hath no need of these things. Paul calleth charity to edify thy neighbour, to count that we all be members of one body, to think that we all are but one in Christ, to rejoice in God of thy neighbour’s wealth even as thou doest of thine own, to remedy his incommodities or losses as thine own. If any brother err or go out of the right way, to warn him, to admonish him, to tell him his fault meekly, soberly and courteously: to teach the ignorant: to lift up him that is fallen: to comfort and courage him that is in heaviness: to help him that laboureth: to succour the needy. In conclusion to refer all riches and substance, all thy study, all thy cares to this point, that thou in Christ shouldest help as much as thy power extendeth to. That as he neither was born for himself, nor lived to his own pleasure, neither died for himself but dedicate himself wholly to our profits: even so should we apply ourselves, and await upon the commodities of our brethren, and not our own: which thing if it were used, nothing should be either more pleasant or else easy than the life of religious persons, which we see now clean contrary, grievous almost everywhere and laborious, and also full of superstition, like unto the Jews, neither pure from any vices of the lay people, and in many sundry things much more defiled, which kind of men Saint Augustyne (of whom many glory and rejoice as of the author and founder of their living) if he now might live again, certainly would not once know, and would cry out, saying that he would approve nothing less than this kind of life, and that he had instituted an order and manner of living, not after the superstition of the Jews, but after the rule of the apostles. But I hear even now what certain men (which are somewhat well advised) will answer unto me. A man must take heed in little and small things, lest a little and a little he should fall into greater vices, I hear it right well, and I allow the saying, nevertheless thou oughtest to take heed a great deal more that thou so cleave not to these little and small things that thou shouldest fall clean from the most chief and greatest things. There is the jeopardy more evident, but here more grievous. So flee Scylla that thou fall not into Charybdis.
To observe these little things is wholesome verily: but to cleave utterly unto them is very jeopardous. Paul forbiddeth not thee to use the law and ceremonies, but he will not him to be bound to the law and ceremonies which is free in Christ: he condemneth not the law of deeds, if a man use it lawfully: without these things peradventure thou shalt not be a christian man, but they make thee not a christian man, they will help unto piety and godliness, even so yet if thou use them for that purpose. But and if thou shalt begin to enjoy them, to put thy trust and confidence in them, at once they utterly destroy all the living of a christian man. The apostle setteth nought by the deeds of Abraham, which to have been very perfect no man doubteth: and hast thou confidence in thine? God disdaineth certain sacrifices called victim, the sabbotes and certain holy days called Neomenye of his people the Jews, of which things he himself was author and commander, and darest thou compare thine own observances with the precepts of the law of God? yet hear God ready to spue at them and aggrieved with them. For what intent (saith he) offer ye to me the multitude of victims, I am full. As for holocausts of wethers, tallow or inward suet and fat of beasts, blood of calves, of lambs and goats, I would not have, when ye come before my presence, who hath required these things of your hands that ye might walk in my houses? Offer ye no more sacrifice in vain, your incense is abomination to me, I will not suffer any more the feast of the Neomenye and sabbath day, with other feast days.
The companies of you are infected with iniquity, my soul hath hated your kalendas and your solemn feasts. These things be grievous unto me, I was even sick to abide them. And when ye put forth your hands, I will turn mine eyes from you, when ye rehearse the observances and manners of holy feasts and sacrifice: moreover the multiplying of prayers, noteth he not them as though he pointed them with his finger, which measure their religion with a certain number of psalms and prayers, which they call daily service. Mark also another thing, how marvellously the facundyous prophet expresseth heaping together the disdain or indignation of God: so that he now could suffer neither with ears, neither eyes. What things (I beseech thee)? verily those things which he himself had ordained to be kept so religiously, which also were observed so reverently so many years of holy kings and prophets. And these things abhorreth he as yet in the carnal law. And trustest thou in ceremonies made at home in thine own house, now in the law of the spirit? God in another place biddeth the same prophet to cry incessantly and to put out his breast after the manner of a trump, as in an earnest matter and worthy to be rebuked sharply, and such a matter as unneth could be obtained of these men but with much ado. Me (saith he) they seek from day to day, and know they well my ways, as a people that hath done justice, and hath not forsaken the judgment of their God. They ask me for the judgments of justice, and desire to draw nigh to God: why have we fasted (say they) and thou hast not looked upon us and meeked our souls, and thou wouldest not know it: lo, in the day of your fast (answereth the prophet) your own will is found in you, and ye seek out all your debtors, lo, unto strife and contention ye fast, and ye smite with your fist cruelly, fast ye not as ye have fasted unto this day, that your cry might be heard on high. Is this the fast that I have chosen, that a man should vex and trouble himself for one day, either that a man should bow down his head as a hook or circle, and to straw underneath him sackcloth and ashes? wilt thou call this a fast or a day acceptable unto God? But what shall we say this to be? doth God condemn that thing, which he himself commanded? Nay, forsooth. What then? but to cleave and stick fast in the flesh of the law, and to have confidence of a thing of nothing, that is it verily which he hateth deadly. Therefore he sheweth that he would have added in either place. Be ye washed (said he) and made clean, take away your evil cogitations and thoughts out of my sight. When thou hearest the evil thoughts rehearsed, toucheth he not evidently the spirit and the inward man? The eyes of God seeth not outward, but in secret, neither he judgeth after the sight of the eyes, neither rebuketh after the hearing of the ears. God knoweth not the foolish virgins, smooth and gay outward, empty of good works inward: he knoweth not them which say with lips, Master, master.
Moreover he putteth us in remembrance that the use of the spiritual life standeth not so greatly in ceremonies as in the charity of thy neighbour. Seek (saith he) judgment or justice, succour him that is oppressed, give true judgment and right to him that is fatherless and motherless or friendless, defend the widow. Such like things did he knit to the other place, where he speaketh of fasting. Is not this rather (saith he) that fast I have chosen: loose or cancel cruel obligations, unbind the burdens which make them stoop to the ground that bear them: let them that be bruised go free and break asunder all burden: break thy bread to hungry. The needy and them which hath no place of habitation, lead in to thy house. When thou seest a naked man clothe him, and despise not thine own flesh. What shall a christian man do then? Shall he despise the commandments of the church? Shall he set at naught the honest traditions of forefathers?
Shall he condemn godly and holy customs? Nay, if he be weak and as a beginner he shall observe them as things necessary, but and if he be strong and perfect so much the rather shall he observe them, lest with his knowledge he should hurt his brother which is yet weak, lest he also should kill him for whom Christ died: we may not omit these things, but of necessity we must do other things. Corporal deeds be not condemned, but spiritual are preferred. This visible honouring of God is not condemned, but God is not pleased saving with invisible piety and service. God is a spirit and is moved and stirred with invisible sacrifice. It is a great shame for christian men not to know that thing which a certain poet being a gentile knew right well, which giving a precept of due serving God, saith: If God be a mind as scripture sheweth us, see that thou honour him chiefly with a pure mind. Let us not despise the author being either an heathen man or without degree of school, the sentence becometh yea a right great divine: and (as I very well have perceived) is likewise understood of few as it is read of many. The intellection of the sentence verily is this, like rejoysen with like. Thou thinkest God to be moved greatly with an ox killed and sacrificed, or with the vapour or smoke of frankincense, as though he were a body. God is a mind, and verily mind most pure, most subtle and perfect, therefore ought he to be honoured most chiefly with a pure mind. Thou thinkest that a taper lighted is sacrifice, but a sacrifice to God (saith David) is a woeful or sorrowful spirit.
And though he hath despised the blood of goats and calves, yet will he not despise a heart contrite and humble. If thou do that thing which is given to the eyes of men, much rather take heed that thing not to be away which the eyes of God require. Thy body is covered with a cowl or habit: what is that to the purpose if thy mind bear a secular vesture? If thy outer man be cloaked in a cloak white as snow, let the vestments of thy inner man be white as snow also, agreeable to the same. Thou keepest silence outward, much more procure that thy mind be quiet within. In the visible temple thou bowest down the knees of thy body: that is nothing worthy if in the temple of thy breast thou stand upright against God. Thou honourest the tree of the cross, much more follow the mystery of the cross. Thou keepest the fasting day and abstainest from those things which defile not a man: and why abstainest thou not from filthy talking, which polluteth thine own conscience and other men’s also? Meat is withdrawn from the body, but why glutteth thy soul herself with cods of beans, pease, and such like which are meat meet for swine? Thou makest the church of stone gay with goodly ornaments, thou honourest holy places: what is it to the purpose if the temple of thy heart, whose walls the prophet Ezechyell bored through, be profaned or polluted with the abominations of Egypt? Thou keepest the sabbath day outward, and within all things be unquiet through the rage and tumbling of vices together. Thy body committeth no adultery, but thou art covetous: now is thy mind a fornicator. Thou singest or prayest with thy bodily tongue, but take heed within what thy mind saith. With thy mouth thou blessest, and with thy heart thou cursest. In thy body thou art closed within a strait cell, and in thy cogitation thou wanderest throughout all the world. Thou hearest the word of God with thy corporal ears, rather hear it within. What saith the prophet? Except ye hear within, your soul shall mourn and weep. Yea, and what readest thou in the gospel? that when they see they should not see, and when they hear they should not hear. And again the prophet saith, with your ear ye shall hear and ye shall not perceive. Blessed be they therefore which hear the word of God within. Happy are they to whom God speaketh within, and their souls shall be saved. This ear to incline is commanded, that noble daughter of the king, whose beauty and goodliness is altogether within in golden hems. Finally what availeth it if thou do not those evil things outward, which with affection thou desirest and covetest inward? What availeth it to do good deeds outward, unto which within are committed things clean contrary? Is it so great a thing if thou go to Hierusalem in thy body, when within thine own self is both Sodome, Egypt, and Babylon?
It is no great thing to have trodden the steps of Christ with thy bodily heels, but it is a great thing to follow the steps of Christ in affection. If it be a very great thing to have touched the sepulchre of Christ, shall it not be also a very great thing to have expressed the mystery of his burying? Thou accusest and utterest thy sins to a priest, which is a man: take heed how thou accusest and utterest them before God, for to accuse them afore him is to hate them inwardly. Thou believest perchance all thy sins and offences to be washed away at once with a little paper or parchment sealed with wax, with a little money or images of wax offered, with a little pilgrimage going. Thou art utterly deceived and clean out of the way. The wound is received inwardly, the medicine therefore must needs be laid to within: thine affection is corrupt, thou hast loved that which was worthy of hate, and hated that which ought to have been beloved. Sweet was to thee sour, and bitter was sweet. I regard not what thou show outward: but and if clean contrary thou shalt begin to hate, to fly, to abhor that which thou lately lovedst, if that wax sweet to thine appetite which lately had the taste of gall: of this wise at the last I perceive and take a token of health. Magdalayne loved much, and many sins were forgiven her. The more thou lovest Christ, the more thou shalt hate vices: for the hate of sin followeth the love of piety as the shadow followeth the body. I had liefer have thee hate once thy vicious manners within and in deed, than to defy them before a priest ten times in word.
Therefore (as I have rehearsed certain things for love of example) in the whole spectacle and sight of this visible world, in the old law, in the new law, in all the commandments of the church, finally in thyself and in all business appertaining to man, withoutforth is there a certain flesh, and within a spirit. In which things if we shall not make a preposterous order, neither in things which are seen shall put very great confidence, but even as they do help to better things, and shall always have respect to the spirit and to things of charity: then shall we wax not heavy as men in sorrow and pain (as those men be) not feeble, ever children (as it is a proverb) not beastly and dry bones (as saith the prophet) without life, drowsy and forgetful as men diseased of the lethargy, not dull having no quickness, not brawlers and scolders, not envious and whisperers or backbiters, but excellent in Christ, large in charity, strong and stable both in prosperity and adversity, looking beside small things and enforcing up to things of most profit, full of mirth, full also of knowledge: which knowledge whosoever refuseth them doth that noble lord of all knowledge refuse. For verily ignorance or lack of experience, whom for the most part accompanieth dulness of learning, and that gentlewoman whom the Greeks call Philancia, that is to say, love of thyself, only bringeth to pass (as Esayas saith) that we put confidence in things of nothing, and speak vanities, that we conceive labour and bring forth iniquity, and that we always be fearful and vile bond servants unto the ceremonies of the Jews. Of which manner persons Paul speaking saith, I bear them record that the zeal of God they have, but not after knowledge. But what knew they not?
Verily that the end of the law is Christ, and Christ verily is a spirit, he is also charity. But Esayas more plainly describeth the miserable and unprofitable bondage of these men in the flesh: Therefore, saith he, my people be led in captivity because they had no knowledge, and the nobles of them perished for hunger, and the multitude of them dried away for thirst. It is no marvel that the common people be servants to the law and principles of this world, as they which are unlearned, neither have wisdom more than they borrow of other men’s heads: it is more to be marvelled that they which are as chief of Christ’s religion, in the same captivity perish for hunger, and wither away for thirst. Why perish they for hunger? Because they have not learned of Christ to break barley loaves, they only lick round about the rough and sharp cod or husk, they suck out no marrow or sweet liquor. And why wither they so away for thirst? For because they have not learned of Moses to fetch water out of the spiritual rock of stone, neither have drunk of the rivers of the water of life which floweth, issueth, or springeth out of the belly of Christ: and that was spoken verily of the spirit, not of the flesh. Thou therefore my brother, lest with sorrowful labours thou shouldest not much prevail, but that with mean exercise mightest shortly wax big in Christ and lusty, diligently embrace this rule, and creep not always on the ground with the unclean beasts, but always sustained with those wings which Plato believeth to spring ever afresh, through the heat of love in the mind of men. Lift up thyself as it were with certain steps of the ladder of Jacob, from the body to the spirit, from the visible world unto the invisible, from the letter to the mystery, from things sensible to things intelligible, from things gross and compound unto things single and pure. Whosoever after this manner shall approach and draw near to the Lord, the Lord of his part shall again approach and draw nigh to him. And if thou for thy part shalt endeavour to arise out of the darkness and troubles of the sensual powers, he will come against thee pleasantly and for thy profit, out of his light inaccessible, and out of that noble silence incogitable: in which not only all rage of sensual powers, but also similitudes or imaginations of all the intelligible powers doth cease and keep silence.