Enchiridion. Chapter 8. Certain General Rules of True Christian Living
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Now for because we have opened as me seemeth the way (howsoever we have done it), and have prepared as it were certain stuff and matter unto the thing which was purposed, we must haste to that which remaineth, lest it should not be an Enchiridion, that is to say, a little treatise handsome to be carried in a man’s hand, but rather a great volume; we will enforce to give certain rules, as they were certain points of wrestling, by whose guiding and conveyance, as it were by the guiding of the thread of Dedalus, men may easily plunge up out of the blind errors of this world, as out of Labirinthus, which is a certain cumbrous maze, and come into the pure and clear light of spiritual living. None other science is there which hath not her rules. And shall the craft of blessed living only be without the help of all manner of precepts?
There is without fail a certain craft of virtuous living and a discipline, in which whosoever exercise themselves manfully, them shall favour that Holy Spirit, which is the promoter and bringer forward of all holy enforcement and godly purposes. But whosoever saith, Depart from us we will not have the knowledge of thy ways: these men the mercy of God refuseth, because they first have refused knowledge. These rules shall be taken partly of the person of God, of the person of the devil, and of our person, partly of things, that is to say, of virtues and vices, and of things to them annexed, partly of the matter or stuff whereof virtues or vices be wrought. They shall profit singularly against the evil things remaining of original sin. For though baptism hath wiped away the spot, yet there cleaveth still in us a certain thing of the old disease left behind, both partly for the custody of humility, and also for the matter and increase of virtue. These be blindness, the flesh and infirmity or weakness. Blindness with the mist of ignorance dimmeth the judgment of reason. For partly the sin of our first progenitors hath not a little dusked that so pure a light of the countenance, resemblance, or similitude of God, which our creator hath shewed upon us. And much more corrupt bringing up, lewd company, froward affections, darkness of vices, custom of sin hath so cankered it, that of the law graven in us of God scarce any signs or tokens doth appear. Then as I began, blindness causeth that we in the election of things be as good as half blinded and deceived with error, in the stead of the best, following the worst, preferring things of less value before things of greater price. The flesh troubleth the affection so much, that even though we know what is best, yet love we the contrary. Infirmity and weakness maketh us that we being overcome either with tediousness or with temptation, forsake the virtue which we had once gotten and attained. Blindness hurteth the judgment, the flesh corrupteth the will, infirmity weakeneth constancy.
The first point therefore is that thou can discern things to be refused from things to be accepted: and therefore blindness must be taken away lest we stumble or stagger in the election of things. The next is, that thou hate the evil as soon as it is once known, and love that which is honest and good: and in this thing the flesh must be overcome, lest contrary to the judgment of the mind we should love sweet and delectable things in the stead of wholesome things. The third is, that we continue in these things which we began well: and therefore the weakness must be underset, lest we forsake the way of virtue with greater shame than if we had been never about to walk or enter therein. Ignorance must be remedied, that thou mayst see which way to go. The flesh must be tamed, lest she lead thee aside out of the highway, once known, into bypaths. Weakness must be comforted, lest when thou hast entered into the strait way thou shouldst either faint or stop or turn back again, or lest after thou hast once set thy hand to the plough shouldst look backward, but shouldst rejoice as a strong giant to haste the way, ever stretching forth thyself to those things which be afore thee, without remembrance of those things which be behind thee, until thou mayst lay hand on the reward appointed and on the crown promised to them that continue unto these three things: therefore we shall apply certain rules according to our little power.