Certainly I am ashamed in christian men’s behalf, of whom the most part follow as they were brute beasts, their affections and sensual appetites, and in this kind of war are so rude and unexercised, that they do not as much as know the diversity between reason and affections or passions. 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.
Walk (saith Paul) in the spirit, and ye shall not accomplish the desires and lusts of the flesh, for the flesh desireth contrary to the spirit, and the spirit contrary to the flesh, that ye cannot do whatsoever things ye would.
And in another place: If ye shall live after the flesh, ye shall die. If ye shall, walking in the spirit, mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live. Certainly this is a new change of things, that peace should be sought in war, and war in peace: in death life, and in life death: in bondage liberty, in liberty bondage. For Paul writeth in another place: I chastise my body and bring him into servitude. Hear also the liberty. If ye be led with the spirit, ye be not subject to the law. And we have not (saith he) received again the spirit of bondage in fear, but the spirit which hath elected us to be the children of God. He saith in another place: I see another law in my members repugnynge against the law of my mind, subduing me to the law of sin which law is in my members. Thou readest with him also of the outer man which is corrupt, and of the inner man which is renewed day by day. Plato put two souls to be in one man. Paul in one man maketh two men so coupled together, that neither without other can be either in heaven or hell: and again so separate that the death of the one should be life of the other. To the same (as I suppose) pertain those things which he wrote to the Chorintes. The first man was made into a living soul.
The last Adam was made into a spirit quickening: but that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is living: then followeth that which is spiritual. The first man came of the earth himself terrestrial. The second came from heaven and he himself celestial. And because it should more evidently appear these things to pertain not only to Christ and Adam, but to us all, he added saying: As was the man of the earth, such are terrestrial and earthly persons. As is the celestial man, such are the celestial persons. Therefore as we have borne the image of the earthly man: even so now let us bear the image of the celestial man. For this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood shall not possess the kingdom of heaven, nor corruption shall possess incorruption. Thou perceivest plainly how in this place he calleth Adam made of earth that thing which in another place he calleth the flesh and the outer man which is corrupt. And this same thing certainly is also the body of death, wherewith Paul aggrieved cried out: Oh wretch that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? In conclusion Paul declaring the most diverse fruit of the flesh and of the spirit writeth in another place, saying: He that followeth in his flesh shall reap or mow of his flesh corruption: but he that soweth in the spirit shall reap or mow of the spirit life eternal. This is the old debate of two twins Jacob and Esau, which before they were brought forth into light wrestled within the cloisters of the mother’s belly, and Esau verily caught from Jacob the preeminence of birth and was first-born: but Jacob prevented him again of his father’s blessing. That which is carnal cometh first, but the spiritual thing is ever best. The one was red, high coloured and rough with hair: the other smooth. The one unquiet and a hunter: the other rejoiced in domestical quietness. And the one also for hunger sold the right that pertained to him by inheritance, in that he was the elder brother, while he, enticed with a vile price and reward of voluptuousness, fell from his native liberty into the bondage of sin. The other procured by craft of grace that which belonged not to him by right of law. Between these two brethren though both were born of one belly, and at one time, yet was there never joined perfect concord. For Esau hateth Jacob, Jacob for his part, though he quitteth not hate for hate, yet he fleeth and hath ever Esau suspected, neither dare come within his danger. To thee likewise what so ever thing affection counselleth or persuadeth: let it be suspected, for the doubtful credence of the counsellor. Jacob only saw the Lord: Esau as one delighting in blood liveth by the sword. To conclude, when the mother asked counsel of the Lord he answered: the elder shall be servant to the younger: but the father Isaac added: thou Esau shalt do service to thy brother: and the time shall come when thou shalt shake off and loose his yoke from thy neck. The Lord prophesieth of good and obedient persons, the father of evil and disobedient persons. The one declareth what ought to be done of all men: the other told aforehand what the most part would do. Paul willeth that the wife be obedient to her husband: for better is (saith scripture) the iniquity of the man than the goodness of the woman. Our Eve is carnal affection, whose eyes the subtle and crafty serpent daily troubleth and vexeth with temptation, and she once corrupted goeth forth and ceaseth not to provoke and entice the man also through consent to be partaker of the iniquity or mischievous deed. But what readest thou of the new woman, of her I mean that is obedient to her husband?
I will put hatred between thee (meaning the serpent and the woman) and between her generation and thine, she shall tread down thy head and thou shalt lay await to her heel. The serpent was cast down on his breast, the death of Christ weakened his violence, he now only lieth await to her heel privily. But the woman through grace of faith changed as it were into a man boldly treadeth down his venomous head. Grace is increased and the tyranny of the flesh is diminished. When Sara was minished and decayed, then did Abraham (God being the author) grow and increase. And then she calleth him not husband but lord, neither yet could she obtain to have a child before she was dried up and barren. What I pray thee brought she forth at the last to her lord Abraham now in her old days, yea, and past child bearing? Verily Isaac, that is to say joy, for as soon as affections have waxed old and are weakened in a man, then at the last springeth up the blessed tranquillity of an innocent mind, with sure quietness of the spirit, as it were a continual feast. And as the father let not his wife have her pleasure without advisement: even so hath the sporting of the children together suspect, I mean of Isaac with Ismael. Sara would not the child of a bondwoman and the child of a free woman should have conversation together at that age: but that Ismael (while as yet youth is fervent) should be banished out of presence, lest under a colour of pastime he might entice and draw into his own manners Isaac yet young and tender of age. Now was Sara an old wife and now had brought forth Isaac, yet mistrusteth Abraham except the answer of God had approved his wife’s counsel, he is not sure of the woman until he heard of God: In all things that Sara hath said to thee, hear her voice. O happy old age of them in whom so mortified is the carnal man made of the earth, that he in nothing defieth the spirit, which agreement whether in all things perfect may happen to any man in this life or no, verily I dare not affirm, peradventure it were not expedient, for even unto Paul was given unquietness and trouble of the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to vex him withal. And at the third time he refused to have the messenger taken from him. Then had he none other answer of God but only this: Paul, my grace is sufficient for thee. For strength is wrought and made perfect in weakness. Indeed this is a new kind of remedy. Paul, lest he should be proud, is tempted with pride, that he might be strong in Christ: he is compelled to be weak in himself: he bare the treasure of celestial revelations in a vessel of earth, that the excellency should depend on the might of God, and not on himself, which one example of the apostle putteth us in remembrance and warneth us of many things. First of all that when we be assaulted of vices, immediately we must give ourselves to prayer again, and desire help of God.
Moreover that temptations to perfect men are not perilous: but also are very expedient to the continuance and preserving of virtue. Last of all when all other things are full tamed then the vice of vainglory even in the chief time of virtues layeth await: and this vice to be as it were Hydra, whom Hercules fought withal, a quick monster long of life and fruitful, by reason of her own wounds, which at the last end, when all labours be overcome, can scarce be destroyed. Nevertheless continual and importunate labour overcometh all thing. In the meantime while thy mind rageth and is vexed with vehement perturbations, by all manner of means thrust together, draw down , hold and bind this Protheus with tough bands while he goeth about to change himself into all manner monsters and affections of things, into fire, into the shape of some terrible wild beast and into a running river, until he come again into his own natural likeness and shape. What is so like Protheus as is the affections and appetites of fools, which draw them sometime into beastly and bodily lust, sometime into mad ire or wrath, otherwhiles into poison, envy and strange fashions of vices? Agreeth it not well that the excellent cunning poet Virgil said: There shall diverse similitudes and fashions of wild beasts delude and mock, for suddenly he will be a fearful swine and foul tiger, and a dragon full of scales, and a lioness with a red mane, or shall counterfeit the quick sound of the flame of fire. But here have in remembrance what followeth. The more he changeth himself into all manner of similitudes, the more, my son (saith Virgil), strain thy tough bands. And also because we shall not need to return again to fables of poets, thou shalt by the example of the holy patriarch Jacob learn to endure and to wrestle lustily all night until the morning, by the help of God, begin to give light. And thou shalt say, I will not let thee depart except thou shalt have given me thy blessing first. But what reward of his victory and great virtue that mighty and excellent strong wrestler obtained, it is certainly very profitable to hear. First of all God blessed him in that same place. For evermore after that the temptation is overcome, a certain singular increase of divine grace is added unto a man, whereby he should be another time much more surely armed than he was before against the assault of his enemy. Furthermore through touching of the thigh the sinew of the conqueror waxed withered and shrunk, and he began to halt on the one foot. God curseth them by the mouth of his prophet which halt on both their feet, that is to say, them which will both live carnally, and please God also. But they be happy in whom carnal affections be so mortified, that they bear and lean most of all to the right foot, that is, to the spirit. Finally, his name was changed: of Jacob he was made Israel, and of a busy wrestler a quiet person. After that thou hast chastised thy flesh or thy body, and crucified him with vices and concupiscences, then shall tranquillity and quietness without all trouble come unto thee, that thou mayst be at leisure to behold the Lord, that thou mayst taste and feel that the Lord is pleasant and sweet, for that thing is signified by Israel. God is not seen in fire, neither in the whirlwind and troublous rage of temptation, but after the tempest of the devil (if so be that thou shalt endure perseveringly) followeth the hissing of a thin air or wind of spiritual consolation. After that air hath breathed quietly upon thee, then apply thine inward eyes, and thou shalt be Israel, and shalt say with him, I have seen my Lord, and my soul is made whole. Thou shalt see him that said: No flesh shall see me, that is to say, no carnal man. Consider thyself diligently, if thou be flesh, thou shalt not see God: if thou see him not, thy soul shall not be made whole. Take heed therefore that thou be a spirit.