Fifty Spiritual Homilies. Homily 15
33 min read
33 min read
This Homily teaches at large how the soul ought to behave herself in holiness and chastity and purity towards her Spouse Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the World. It contains also certain discussions full of great instruction, viz., whether at the resurrection all the members are raised up, and a great many more concerning Evil, and Grace, and Free Will, and the dignity of human nature.
1. A VERY wealthy man, a glorious king, sets his heart, it may be, on a poor woman, who possesses nothing but her own person. He becomes her lover, and desires to take her to live with him as his spouse. Then, if she shows all benevolence to her husband, retaining also her love to him, lo! that poor needy woman, who possessed nothing, finds herself mistress of all that belongs to her husband. If, on the other hand, she should act contrary to duty and obligation, and should behave improperly in her husband’s house, she is then cast out with disgrace and contumely, putting her two hands upon her head, as is said figuratively in the law of Moses concerning a wife who is disorderly and of no advantage to her husband. Then sorrow and great mourning become hers, while she reflects what wealth she is fallen from, and what glory has passed away from her, dishonoured as she is because of her folly.
2. In like manner a soul which Christ the heavenly Bridegroom has espoused for mystical divine fellowship with Himself, and which has tasted of the heavenly riches, ought with great diligence sincerely to please Christ, her heavenly Wooer, and dutifully and properly to fulfil the service of the Spirit entrusted to her, to please God in all things, and to grieve the Spirit in nothing, and duly to preserve the modesty and love towards him in which beauty lies, and to behave herself well in the house of the heavenly King in all benevolence for the grace given to her. Behold, a soul like this is made mistress of all the good things of the Lord, and even the glorious body of His Godhead becomes hers. But if she fail, and act contrary to duty in her service, and do not the things that please Him, and follow not His will, nor co-operate with the grace of the Spirit which is with her, then she is deprived of her honours with disgrace and indignity, and banished from life, as being unprofitable and unfit for the fellowship of the heavenly King. Then over that soul there is woe and lamentation and weeping among all holy spirits unseen. Angels, powers, apostles, prophets, martyrs weep over her.
3. For as there is joy in heaven, the Lord tells us, over one sinner that repenteth, so is there great woe and weeping in heaven over one soul that falls away from the eternal life. As on earth, when a rich man dies, he is accompanied out of life with music and dirge and wailing by his own brethren and kinsfolk and friends and acquaintances, so over that soul all the saints mourn with dirges and sad music.
The Bible says the same thing elsewhere in figurative language. The pine is fallen, it says, mourn, ye cedars. For as Israel, when he was thought to please the Lord—though he never pleased Him as he ought—had a pillar of cloud to overshadow him, and a pillar of fire to give him shine; saw the sea divide before him, water clear proceeding out of the rock; but when their mind and intention turned from God, then they were delivered to serpents, or to their enemies, being led away in sore captivities and tormented with bitter bondage. This the Spirit mystically declared in the prophet Ezekiel also, saying of such a soul, as of Jerusalem, I found thee naked in the wilderness, and I washed thee from the water of thine uncleanness, and I clothed thee with raiment, and put bracelets upon thy hands, and chains about thy neck, and earrings in thine ears, and thou becamest renowned among all the heathen. Fine flour and oil and honey didst thou eat, and after all thou didst forget My benefits, and wentest after thy lovers, and didst commit fornication with shame.
4. So likewise the Spirit utters warning to the soul which through grace knows God, which after being cleansed from its former sins and adorned with the ornaments of the Holy Ghost, and after partaking of the divine and heavenly food, does not behave dutifully with much discretion, and does not properly preserve benevolence and love for Christ the heavenly Bridegroom, and so is rejected and put away from the life of which at one time it was a partaker. For Satan can raise and exalt himself even against those who have reached such measures as these; even against those who have known God in grace and power, sin still lifts itself up and strives to overthrow them. We must therefore strive, and watch over ourselves intelligently, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, as it is written. As many as are made partakers of the Spirit of Christ, see that you do not behave contemptuously in anything, small or great, and do no despite to the grace of the Spirit, that you may not be excluded from the life of which you have already been made partakers.
5. I will repeat this in a different character. If a servant comes into a palace, to be employed upon the vessels used there, he takes of what belongs to the king—he himself has nothing to bring—and ministers to the king with the king’s own vessels. Here he needs much intelligence and judgment, that he may make no mistake in serving, by bringing one dish to the royal table when he should bring another, but should serve the courses, first and last, in the right succession. If through ignorance and want of judgment he does not serve the king in the right order, it is as much as his place and life are worth. In like manner a soul which is serving God in grace and the Spirit requires much discretion and knowledge, that it may commit no fault with the vessels of God, that is, in the service of the Spirit, by not keeping its own will in harmony with grace. It is possible in the service of the Spirit, performed secretly by the inner man, for the soul to serve the Lord in vessels of its own, that is, with its own spirit; but God cannot be served without God’s vessels, that is, without grace, so as to please Him in all His will.
6. And when grace is received, there is then great need of intelligence and discretion—which themselves are given by God to the soul that seeks them from Him—in order to serve Him acceptably in the Spirit which is received, and not to be surprised into a mistake by sin, led astray by ignorance and presumption and carelessness, and acting contrary to what the Lord’s will demands; because punishment and death and mourning will be to such a soul. The holy apostle says, Lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. You see what fear he had, though he was God’s apostle. Let us then beseech God that we, as many as have obtained the grace of God, may minister the service of the Spirit according to His will, in more than an ordinary way, and may keep no company with the notion of contempt, in order that thus we may live in a manner pleasing to Him, and may serve Him with spiritual service according to His will, and having done this may inherit eternal life.
7. Some one is compassed with infirmity. It happens that some of his members are sound, his eyesight perhaps, or something else, but the rest of his members are disabled. So it is in the spiritual world. A man may perhaps be sound in three members of his spirit, but he is not perfect or that. You see how many stages and measures of the Spirit there are, how the mischief is strained out and refined off bit by bit, and not all at once. The Lord’s whole providence and government, the rising of the sun, and everything that He has created, are for the sake of the kingdom, which the elect are to inherit, for the constitution of the kingdom of peace and concord.
8. Christians therefore ought to strive continually, and never to pass judgment on anyone—no, not upon the harlot on the street, or upon open sinners and disorderly persons—but to regard all men with singleness of intention and purity of eye, so that it may become like a fixed law of nature to despise no one, to judge no one, to abhor no one, to make no distinctions between them. If you see a man with one eye, be not divided in your heart, but look upon him as if he were whole. It a man is maimed of one hand, see him as not maimed, the lame as straight, the palsied as whole. This is purity of heart, when you see sinners or sick people, to have compassion on them and be tenderhearted towards them. It happens sometimes that the saints of the Lord sit in theatres and behold the deceit of the world. According to the inner man they are conversing with God, while according to the outer man they appear to men as contemplating what goes on in the world.
9. Worldly people are under one influence from the spirit of error, to mind earthly things; Christians have another purpose, another mind; they are of another world, another city. The Spirit of God has fellowship with their souls, and they tread down the adversary. It is written, The last enemy that is destroyed is death. The godly are masters of all things; but those who are slack in faith and sinners are the slaves of all, and the fire burns them, and the stone and the sword slay them, and in the end devils have dominion over them.
10. Question. In the resurrection do all the members rise again?
Answer. To God all things are easy; and He has so promised, though to human frailty and thought it appears impossible. For as God took of the dust and the earth, and constituted the body as a different kind of thing, not at all resembling the earth, and made many sorts of elements in it, such as hair, and skin, and bones, and sinews; or as a needle thrown into the fire changes its colour and is converted into fire, although the nature of iron is not taken away, but still subsists; so in the resurrection all the members, are raised up, and not a hair perishes, as it is written, and all become light-like, all are plunged in light and fire, and changed, and yet are not, as some say, resolved and turned into fire, with nothing of their natural substance left. Peter is Peter, and Paul is Paul, and Philip is Philip. Each one remains in his own nature and personality, though filled with the Spirit. If you say that the nature is resolved, then Peter and Paul are no more, and God is everywhere and in all directions, and neither those who go away into hell are conscious of their punishment, nor are those who go into the kingdom conscious of the benefit. Suppose there were a garden, planted with all sorts of fruit-trees, and there were in it pear, or apple, and vine, with fruit and leaves; and suppose the garden and all the trees and their leaves were changed and altered into another nature, and the former ones became light-like; so men are altered at the resurrection, and their members become holy and light-like.
12. The men of God, then, ought to prepare themselves for conflict and combat. As a brave young man bears the blows that fall on him, and the wrestling match, and hits back, so Christians ought to put up with afflictions without and wars within, in order that, though belaboured, they may conquer by endurance. That is the Christian’s road. Where the Holy Ghost is, there follow, like a shadow, persecution and wrestling. You see the prophets, how they were persecuted by their countrymen from first to last, while the Holy Ghost worked upon them. You see how the Lord, who is the Way and the Truth, was persecuted, not by another nation, but by His own. By His own race of Israel He was persecuted and crucified. So was it with the apostles. The Paraclete Spirit removed from the quarter whence the cross came, and passed to the Christians. No Jew was persecuted; Christians were the only martyrs. For this reason they ought not to be surprised. The truth must needs be persecuted.
13. Question. Some say that evil enters from without, and that if a man pleases, he does not admit it, but sends it off.
Answer. As the serpent spoke to Eve, and because of her compliance gained admission within, so to this day sin, which is without, gains admission through man’s compliance. Sin has power and liberty to enter into the heart. For our thoughts are not external to us, but from within, out of the heart. The apostle says, I will that the men pray, without wrath and evil disputations. For there are thoughts proceeding out of the heart, as the Gospel says. Go to prayer, and observe thy heart and mind, and determine to send up thy prayer to God pure, and look well there, whether there be nothing to hinder it, whether the prayer be pure, whether thy mind is wholly occupied with the Lord, as the husbandman’s with his husbandry, the married man’s with his wife, the merchant’s with his merchandise; or whether thou bendest thy knees to prayer, while others pluck thy thoughts asunder.
14. But you say that the Lord came and condemned sin by the cross, and that it is now within no longer. Suppose a soldier puts up his chariot at some one’s house, he is free when he pleases to go in and out of that house. So sin is free to make its arguments heard in the heart. It is written, Satan entered into the heart of Judas. But if you say that by Christ’s coming sin was condemned, and that after baptism evil is no more at liberty to argue in the heart, do you not know that from the advent of the Lord to this day all that have been baptized have had bad thoughts at times? Have not some of them turned to vainglory, or to fornication, or to gluttony? All the worldly people dwelling within the pale of the church, are their hearts spotless and pure? Or do we find that many sins are committed after baptism, and that many live in sin? So even after baptism the thief is free to enter, and to do what he likes.
15. It is written, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. But thou sayest, “I do love; and I have the Holy Spirit.” Hast thou constant remembrance, and passionate affection, and burning ardour for the Lord? Art thou fast bound that way day and night? If thou hast a love like that, thou art pure; but if not, then search thou still, whether, if earthly business or foul and evil thoughts come thy way, thou hast no inclination to them, or whether thy soul is always drawn to love and longing after God. The thoughts of the world drag the mind down to earthly and corruptible things, and do not suffer it to love God or to remember the Lord. And oftentimes, on the other hand, the unlearned man goes to prayer, and bends the knee, and his mind enters into rest, and deep as he may dig and get below, the wall of evil that withstands him breaks down, and he enters into vision and wisdom, where potentates and wise men and orators cannot penetrate to understand and know the delicacy of his mind, since he is engrossed in divine mysteries. One who is inexperienced in judging of hearts does not know how to value them, for lack of experience. Well, Christians abhor the glorious things of the earth, and account them but dung in comparison with the magnificence of those things—a magnificence which works effectually in them.
16. Question. Is it possible for a man who has a gift of grace to fall?
Answer. If he gets careless, he falls. The adversaries never are idle or shirk battle. How much more then ought you never to cease from the quest of God? For great is your loss if you are careless, although you may think yourself to be exercised in the very mystery of grace.
17. Question. Does grace remain after a man has fallen?
Answer. It is God’s desire to bring the man back to life, and He disposes him to weep his way back and to repent. If it does remain, it is for the purpose of making you a surer workman in repenting of those things by which you formerly did amiss.
18. Question. Are those who are perfect liable to difficulty or warfare, or are they wholly free from anxiety?
Answer. The adversary never ceases from warring. Satan is merciless in his hatred of men; therefore he never shirks from warring against every man. But he is not seen to set upon all to the same degree. Governors of provinces and counts at court pay tribute to the emperor; but the man in that position has such confidence in his wealth of gold and silver that he meets his taxes out of superfluous income, and feels no loss. A man who gives alms never feels it a loss, and in the same way Satan considers these things no part of his serious business. But take a poor man, destitute even of daily food; he is beaten and tortured, because he cannot pay the tax; he spends his time in being scraped and harried, and cannot die; while another man is commanded to lose his head, and perishes at a moment’s notice. So it is among Christians. There are some who are vigorously warred upon and scraped by sin; and yet they become the firmer and wiser for the wars, despising the power of the adversary, and they are in no peril in that quarter, because they are unfallen and assured of their own salvation, because they have often practised in the war with evil, and have gained experience. Having God with them, they are led and are at rest. 19. Others, however, who have not yet had practice, if they fall into a single difficulty, and war is stirred against them, sink at once into destruction and perdition.
Like travellers in a city intending to see their dear ones and acquaintances, who meet many people in the market-places, but are not stopped by them, because their aim is to find their friends, and when they knock at the door outside and call, their dear ones open to them with joy; but if they loiter in the market-places, and are deluded or detained by those who encounter them, the door is shut, and no one opens to them; so those who press forward to reach our Master, Christ the true Beloved, ought to look down upon all others and take no notice of them. Counts and governors, who have entrance into the palace to the king, are in much fear, how they shall present their accounts, and lest for some mistake in answering for themselves they should be brought to trial and to punishment; but simple country folk, who have never set eyes on a prince, pass their days without anxiety. That is the way with this world beneath the sky, from kings down to the poor. Knowing nothing of the glory of Christ, they care only about matters of this life. Not readily does any one bethink him of the day of judgment. But those who in thought enter in before Christ’s judgment seat, where His throne is, and pass their lives in His presence, are in fear and trembling continually, to make no mistake concerning His holy commandments.
20. When the rich men of the earth have brought much fruit into their garners, they set to work again every day to get more, in order to have plenty, and not run short. If they presume upon the wealth laid up in the garners, and take things easily and add no more, but use up what they have stored already, they soon sink into want and poverty. So they have to labour and add, enlarging their intake, that they may not get behindhand. In Christianity, to taste of the grace of God is like that. Taste, it says, and see how gracious the Lord is. This tasting is an effectual power of the Spirit in full certainty, ministering in the heart. As many as are the sons of light, and of the ministry of the New Covenant in the Holy Ghost, these have nothing to learn from men; they are taught of God. Grace itself writes upon their hearts the laws of the Spirit. They ought not therefore to rest their assurance only upon the scriptures that are written in ink; the grace of God writes the laws of the Spirit and the mysteries of heaven upon the tables of the heart as well. For the heart governs and reigns over the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it reigns over all the members and the thoughts. For there, in the heart, is the mind, and all the faculties of the soul, and its expectation; therefore grace penetrates also to all the members of the body.
21. On the other hand, as many as are sons of darkness, sin reigns over their heart, and penetrates to all their members, for out of their hearts proceed evil thoughts, and thus diffused puts the man in darkness. Those who say that evil is not born and bred in man, may have no anxiety about to-morrow, nor any desire either. For a certain length of time, evil ceases to cause trouble in them by suggesting some object of desire, so that a man will affirm on oath, “Such a passion no longer assails me.” After a short while he is consumed with the desire, so that he is found guilty of perjury into the bargain. As water runs through a pipe, so does sin through the heart and thoughts. As many as will not have this notion, are refuted and mocked by sin itself, even if sin did not wish to triumph; for evil endeavours to escape notice and to be hidden in the mind of man.
22. If a man loves God, then God also mingles His love with him. Once trusted by man, He adds to him the trust of heaven, and the man becomes a twofold being. Whatever part of yourself you offer to Him, He mingles with your soul a like part of His own, that all that you do may be purely done, and your love pure and your prayer pure. Great is the dignity of man. See how mighty are the heaven and the earth, the sun and the moon; but the Lord was not pleased to rest in them, but in man only. Man, therefore, is of more value than all created things—I may venture to say, not only than visible creatures, but invisible likewise, even than the ministering spirits. It was not of Michael and Gabriel, the archangels, that He said, Let us make them after Our image and likeness, but about the spiritual substance of man, I mean his immortal soul. For it is written, The angels of the Lord encamp round about them that fear Him.
The material creatures are bound by an unchangeable kind of nature. 23. Heaven was once established for good and all—the sun, the moon, the earth—and the Lord had no pleasure in them, though they cannot alter from what they were created, neither have they any will. But you are for this reason after the image and likeness of God, because, as God is His own Master, and does what pleases Him—and, if He pleases, has power to send the righteous to hell and sinners into the kingdom, but He does not choose to do so, nor does He admit the thought, for the Lord is a righteous judge—so are you your own master, and if you choose to perish, you are of alterable nature. If you choose to blaspheme, to concoct poisons, to murder somebody, no one opposes or hinders you. If a man chooses, he is subject to God, and walks in the way of righteousness, and restrains his desires. This mind of ours is evenly balanced, having power to subdue by resolute thoughts the impulses and shameful desires of evil.
24. If in a great house, where there are things of gold and silver, and garments of various kinds, and money, young men and women who live there suppress their own minds, though nature, by reason of indwelling sin, covets them all, and because of the human fear of their masters they check the impulses of desire, how much more, where the fear of God is, ought a man to fight and counteract the indwelling evil. God has enjoined on thee what thou canst do. The nature of irrational animals is tied. The serpent’s nature is bitter and venomous; therefore all serpents are such. The wolf is habitually ravenous; all wolves are of the same nature. The lamb’s gentleness makes it a prey; all lambs are of the same nature. The dove is guileless and harmless; all doves are of the same nature. But man is not like that. One man is like a ravening wolf; another, like the lamb, is a prey. Both are of the stock of mankind. 25. One man is not satisfied with his own wife, but goes a-whoring, while another does not so much as suffer a desire to rise in his heart. One man plunders his neighbour’s goods; another, in piety towards God, gives away his own. You see how alterable this nature is. You find it inclining to evil, you find it inclining again to good. In both cases it is in a position to assent to such action as it likes. Nature, then, is susceptible both of good and evil, either of divine grace or of the contrary power, but is under no compulsion. Adam himself to begin with, being in a state of purity, was sovereign of his own thoughts; but from the time that he transgressed the commandment, mountains grievous to be borne lie on his mind, and the thoughts of evil mingling with it are all made his own, and yet not one of them is his own, because they are under the dominion of evil.
26. You ought then to seek for a lamp to be lighted, that you may find pure thoughts. Those are the natural thoughts, which God made. People brought up at sea learn to swim, and when waves and billows rise, they are not surprised at it; but those who are not used to these things, when even a little sea comes up, take fright and go under. So it is with Christians. As the mind of a child of three cannot take in or understand the mind of a grownup reasoner, because there is a great difference of age between them, so Christians contemplate the world like infant children, with their eyes fixed upon the measure of grace. They are strangers to this age. Their city and their rest is elsewhere. Christians have the comfort of the Spirit, tears, and mourning, and sighing; and even the tears are an enjoyment to them. They have fear also, in the midst of joy and rejoicing, and thus are they like men carrying their blood in their hands, having no confidence in themselves, or thinking themselves to be anything, but despised and rejected above all men.
27. Suppose there were a king, who entrusted his treasure to some poor man. The man who received the charge of it does not hold it for his own, but always acknowledges his poverty, not daring to squander out of another’s treasure. He bears continually in mind, not only that the treasure is another’s, but “it was a mighty king who entrusted me with it, and whenever he pleases he takes it away from me.” So ought those who have the grace of God to esteem themselves, to be humble-minded and to acknowledge their poverty. As the poor man who received the charge of the treasure from the king, if he presumes upon the treasure that is another’s, and is proud as of wealth of his own, and his heart conceives arrogance, the king takes away his treasure, and the man who had it in charge is left poor as he was before; so if those who have grace presume, and their hearts are puffed up, the Lord takes His grace from them, and they are left such as they were before receiving the grace from the Lord.
28. There are many, who, in spite of grace being with them, are cheated by sin without observing it. Suppose there is a maid in a house, and also a young man; and she is wheedled into consenting to him, and falls, and loses her character. So the dreadful serpent of sin is always with the soul, tickling and enticing it; and if it consents, the incorporeal soul enters into connexion with the incorporeal evil of that spirit. Spirit enters into connexion with spirit, and he who gives consent commits adultery in his heart, admitting the suggestion of the wicked one. This then is the measure of your conflict, not to commit this crime in your thoughts, but to resist with your mind, and do battle and conflict within, and not to comply, and to take no pleasure in the thought of what is wrong; and if the Lord finds in you this preparation, at the last day He takes you to Himself in His kingdom.
29. For there are things which the Lord so orders that He may not leave Himself without testimony of His divine grace and calling; and there are others which He orders in the way of permission, that a man may be proved and exercised, that his self-determination may be made plain. Those in afflictions and temptations, if they endure, do not fail of the kingdom of heaven; therefore Christians in circumstances of distress are not vexed or grieved. If they are tried by poverty or suffering, they ought not to be surprised, but rather to take pleasure in poverty and reckon it as wealth, and fasting as feasting, and dishonour and obscurity as glory. On the other hand, if they should fall into circumstances which in this life are glorious, which incline them to worldly ease, or wealth, or glory, or luxury, they ought not to take pleasure in these things, but to shun them as they would shun fire.
30. In the world around us, if a very small nation is stirred to war against the emperor, he is at no pains to go to the front in person, but sends soldiers with their officers, and they carry on the war. But if the nation in motion against him is a very great one, powerful enough to ravage his empire, the emperor himself is compelled to take the field, with those in the palace and in his camps, and to join in battle. Consider then your own dignity. God set Himself in motion, in company with His camp—I mean the angels and holy spirits—and came to your protection in person, to deliver you from death. Take good care of yourself, then, and bethink yourself what a provision has been made for you. We use an illustration from this life, being still in it. Suppose there were an emperor, and he were to find a man in want and suffering, and were not ashamed of him, but treated his wounds with healing medicines, and brought him into his palace, and clothed him with the purple and the diadem, and made him partaker of the royal table; even so Christ the heavenly King came to suffering man and healed him, and made him partaker of the royal table, and this without putting constraint upon his will, but by persuasion He sets him in such honour.
31. It is written in the gospel that the Lord sent His servants, calling those who were willing, and declaring to them that dinner was ready; but those who had been called excused themselves, alleging, one, “I have bought some yoke of oxen,” another, “I have betrothed to myself a wife.” You see that the entertainer was ready, but the people invited refused. They alone were answerable for it. So great is the dignity of Christians. Consider how the Lord has prepared for them the kingdom, and calls them to enter in, and they will not. As for the gift which they are to inherit, one might say, if every one from the creation of Adam to the end of the world strove against Satan and endured afflictions, he would do nothing great in comparison with the glory which he is to inherit; for he will reign to ages without end with Christ. Glory to Him Who so loved a soul like this, for giving Himself and His grace and entrusting the soul therewith! Glory to His greatness!
32. According to all appearances, all we brethren who sit here have but one image and the one character of Adam. Well, have we in secret also, in the things within, one purpose among us all, and one heart? Are we all one, good and godly? Or are there some of us who have fellowship with Christ and His angels, and others with Satan and the devils? And yet we all sit together appearing like one man; every one of us bears the same character of Adam. You see how different the invisible substance, the inward man, is from the outward, when we all look like one man, and yet some are with Christ and the angels, and some with Satan and the unclean spirits. The heart contains an unfathomable depth. In it are reception-rooms, and bedchambers, doors, and porches, and many offices and passages. In it is the workshop of righteousness or of unrighteousness. In it is death; in it is life. In it is the good traffic, and the contrary.
33. Suppose there were a very great palace, and this were deserted, and became full of every evil smell, and of many dead bodies. Well, the heart is Christ’s palace, and it is full of all uncleanness, and of crowds of many wicked spirits. It must be refounded and rebuilt, and its store-chambers and bedrooms put in order; for there Christ the King, with the angels and holy spirits, comes to rest, and to dwell, and to walk in it, and to set His kingdom. I tell you, it is like a ship furnished with plenty of tackle, where the captain disposes of all, and sets them their tasks, finding fault with some, and showing others their way about. The heart has a captain in the mind, the conscience, which is ever judging us, thoughts accusing or else excusing one another..
34. You see that conscience will not slubber over such thoughts, which comply with sin, but at once judges them. It tells no lies. It attests what it must say before God in the day of judgment, as though judging us continually. Suppose there be a chariot and reins; the animals and all the apparatus are under one driver; so when he pleases, he is carried along by the chariot at a great rate, and when he pleases, he stops it. Whichever way he pleases to turn it, there it goes along with him. The whole chariot is in the driver’s power. In like manner the heart contains many natural faculties bound up with it, and it is the mind and conscience which chides and guides the heart, and calls from sleep the natural faculties that spring in the heart. The soul has many members, though it is but one.
35. From the time that Adam transgressed the commandment, the serpent entered in and made himself master of the house, and became like a second soul beside the soul. For the Lord says, Whoso denieth not himself, and hateth not his own soul, is not My disciple, and, He that loveth his soul shall lose it. Sin entering into the soul has become like a member of it, and is united with the bodily man, and therefore many unclean thoughts spring up in the heart. He who does the wishes of his soul, does the wishes of evil, because it is entwined and mingled with the soul. He who brings his soul into subjection, and is angry with himself and with the desires that beset him, is like one who subdues an enemy’s city. This man is permitted to come to good measures of the Spirit, and is rewarded through the power of God with the pure man, and is made greater than himself; for such an one is deified, and made a son of God, receiving the heavenly stamp upon his soul. For His elect are anointed with the oil of consecration, and are made men of rank and kings.
36. Such is the nature that men have. In the depth of wickedness and the bondage of sin, a man is at liberty to turn to what is good. A man bound over to the Holy Spirit, and inebriated with heavenly things, has power to turn to evil. A woman clothed in rags, famished, and dirty all over, is with much labour brought to royal rank, and arrayed in purple and crown, and made a king’s bride. She remembers her former filthy condition, and is half-minded to go back to her old state; but she will not deliberately return to her former shame, for that would be folly. Yet even those who have tasted of the grace of God, and are partakers of the Spirit, if they do not take heed to themselves, are extinguished, and become worse than they were before, when they were in the world. Not that God is liable to change, or impotent, or that the Spirit is Himself quenched; but men do not correspond to grace, and for this reason miscarry, and fall into a thousand evils. For those who have tasted of that gift have both things present with them, joy and comfort, fear and trembling, gladness and mourning. They mourn for themselves and for all Adam, since mankind is all one, and the tears of such persons are bread, and their mourning sweetness and refreshment.
37. If you see a man proud and puffed up because he has a share of grace, this man, even if he should work miracles and raise the dead, but does not hold his soul worthless and contemptible, and continue poor in spirit and an object of abhorrence to himself, is cheated by sin without knowing it. Even if he works signs you cannot believe him, for the sign of Christianity is this, to be approved of God while earnestly shunning the notice of men, and even if a man has the entire treasures of the King, to conceal them, and to say continually, “It is not mine; another has put this treasure in my charge. I am a poor man, and when He pleases, He takes it from me.” If any one says, “I am rich; I have enough. I have gained; I need nothing more,” he is no Christian; he is a vessel of error and of the devil. The enjoyment of God is insatiable. The more any one tastes and eats of Him, the more he hungers. Such men’s ardour and passion for God is beyond restraint, and the more they endeavour to get on and make progress, the more they esteem themselves poor, as those that are in need and have nothing. This is what they say: “I am not fit for this sun to shine upon me.” This is the sign of Christianity, this humility. 38. But if a man says, “I am satisfied and filled,” he is a deceiver and a liar.
As the body of the Lord was glorified, when He went up into the mountain, and was transfigured into the divine glory and into the infinite light, so are the bodies of the saints glorified and shine like lightning. The glory that was within Christ was outspread upon His body and shone; and in like manner in the saints, the power of Christ within them shall in that day be poured outwardly upon their bodies. For even now they partake of His substance and nature in their minds; for it is written, He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are of one, and, The glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given them. As many lamps are lighted from one flame, the bodies of the saints, being members of Christ, must needs be what Christ is, and nothing else.
39. Question. What advantage have Christians over the first Adam? for he was immortal and incorruptible, both in body and in soul, whereas Christians die and come to corruption.
Answer. The real death is within, in the heart, and is concealed, and it is the inner man that perishes. So if any one has passed from death unto life in that hidden region, he does indeed live for ever, and never dies. Although the bodies of such men are dissolved for a season, they are raised again in glory, for they are hallowed. So we call the death of Christians sleep and repose. If the man were immortal, and his body exempt from corruption, the whole world, beholding the strange fact that Christian men’s bodies were incorruptible, would come over to the good by a kind of compulsion, not by a voluntary decision. 40. In order that the freedom of will which God gave man at the beginning might once for all be shewn and might abide, providence orders these matters, and bodily dissolution takes place, that it may be at the man’s discretion to turn to the good or to the bad. For even one who is perfect in evil, deep in sin, making himself a tool of the devil, by whom he is completely mastered, is not bound by any necessity. He is at liberty to become a chosen vessel, a vessel of life. In like manner on the other side those who are drunk with the Godhead, although filled full with the Holy Ghost and under His dominion, are not held by any necessity, but have their free choice to turn and do what they please in the present world.
41. Question. Is it by degrees that evil is diminished and rooted out, and a man advances in grace? or is evil rooted out at once, when he receives a visitation?
Answer. As the unborn babe in his mother’s womb is not at once fashioned into a man, but the image is formed by degrees and born, and even then is not fullgrown, but takes many years to develope, and become a man; and again, as the seeds of barley or of wheat do not root the moment they are put in the ground, but storm and wind pass over them, and then in due time the ears form; and the man who plants a pear tree does not at once partake of the fruit; so likewise in spiritual things, where there is so much wisdom and delicacy employed, it is only little by little that a man grows and comes to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature, not, as some say, “Off with one coat, and on with another.”
42. He who wishes to be a learned man goes and learns his letters. When he has got to the top there, off he goes to the Latin school, and is at the very bottom. When he gets to be top there too, off he goes again to the advanced school, and is once more at the bottom, a freshman. Then, when he becomes a “scholasticus,” he is a freshman among the pleaders, and last of them all. When he once more rises to the top, he is then made a governor, and when he reaches the position of chief magistrate, he takes to him the aid of the assessor. Well, if the world of sense has such a series of promotions, how much more have the heavenly mysteries their promotions, and increase the number of grades, and then, through much practice and many a testing, the man who gets through is made perfect. Christians who have truly tasted of grace, and have the sign of the cross upon their mind and heart, these, from the king to the beggar, consider all things but dung and ill savour; and these are able to know that the whole world of earth, and the treasures of the emperor, and his riches, and his glory, and the discourses of wisdom are but a vain show, having no solid basis, but passing away; and whatever there is under the heaven, to them is easily contemned.
43. Why so? Because the things above the heavens are so strange and wonderful, which are not to be found in kings’ treasures, nor in wisdom of words, nor in worldly glory, and dignities, and wealth—such wealth they possess, who have the Lord and Creator of all things in their inmost man, a possession which does not pass away, but abides. Christians know the soul to be precious beyond all created things; for man alone was made after the image and likeness of God. Behold the heaven, how vast it is, and the earth; and the creatures in them are valuable, and their bodies are great; but man is valuable above all those bodies, inasmuch as the Lord was well pleased in him alone. The whales of the sea also, and the mountains, and the beasts, in outward appearance are greater than man. Behold then thy dignity, and of how great value thou art, that God hath made thee above angels, because for thy help and deliverance He came upon earth Himself in person.
44. God and His angels came for thy salvation. The King, the King’s Son, held council with His Father, and the Word was sent, and put on the garment of flesh, and concealed His own Godhead, that like might be saved by like, and laid down His life upon the cross. So great is the love of God towards man. The Immortal chose to be crucified for thee. Consider then how God loved the world, because He gave His only begotten Son for them. How shall He not with Him freely give as all things? In another place it says, Verily I say unto you that He shall make him ruler over all His goods. Elsewhere it shews the angels as ministers of the saints. When Elias was in the mountain, and the foreigners came against him, the young servant said, “There are many Coming against us, and we are by ourselves.” Then Elias answered, “Do you not see camps and multitudes of angels with us round about succouring us?” You see that the Master and the multitudes of the angels are with His servants. How great then is the soul, and how much valued by God, that God and the angels seek after it for fellowship with themselves and for a kingdom! And Satan and his powers seek after it for their own party.
45. For as in the natural world kings are not waited upon by boorish people, but by those who are good-looking and well-educated, so in the heavenly palace those who wait upon the heavenly King are the blameless, the irreproachable, the pure in heart. As in the palace good-looking maidens, that have no kind of blemish, the handsomest, go into the society of kings, so in the spiritual order, it is the souls that are adorned with all good manners which have the society of the heavenly King. In visible things, where a prince goes to stay, if it should happen that that house contains anything that is not clean, it is put to rights, and much cleaning takes place, and sweet odours are poured out; how much more does the house of the soul, in which the Lord rests, require cleaning, that He may be able to enter in and rest there, who is without spot or blemish! In such a heart God and the whole church of heaven rests.
46. In the natural world, if a father enjoys possessions, and has diadems and precious stones, he hides these in storehouses, and they are treasured up for his beloved son, and to him he gives them. So God has entrusted what He has gotten, with His own precious things, to the soul. In the natural order, if there is a war, and a king comes with his army to fight, and his side is inferior in numbers or in strength, immediately he sendeth an ambassage, desiring conditions of peace; but if it be a very great nation against an equal nation, and king against king—say the king of the Persians against the emperor of the Romans—the two kings have no choice but to move with all their forces. See then how great is thy dignity, that God has moved with His own forces—that is, with angels and spirits—to join issue with the adversary in order to deliver thee from death. God came for thy sake.
47. Suppose a king were to find a poor man who had leprosy all over his body, and were not ashamed of him, but applied remedies to his wounds, and healed his sores, and then took him to the royal table, and arrayed him in purple, and made him a king; that is what God did to the race of men. He washed their wounds, and healed them, and brought them into the heavenly bridechamber. Great then is the dignity of Christians, so great that there is nothing to compare with it. But if the Christian becomes high-minded and allows evil to steal over him, he is like a city without a wall, and the robbers come into it from any quarter they please, with nothing to hinder them, and lay it waste and set it on fire. Thus, whilst thou art taking things easily, and paying no heed to thyself, the spirits of wickedness come in upon thee, and destroy and lay waste thy mind, dissipating thy thoughts upon this present world.
48. Many people who are well informed about outward things, and pursue knowledge, and take pains about the correctness of their lives, consider that this constitutes perfection, not looking deep into their hearts, or seeing the bad things there which keep the soul in. According to the inner meaning of evil, it is a root in the members; the thief is in the house, that is, the opposing power. It is a defiant and an invisible force; and unless a man sets himself to combat sin, the inward evil gradually spreads, and by multiplying carries the man along into open sins, to commit them. Evil is continually gushing up like the eye of a well-spring. Be thou then busied upon stopping the streams of evil, lest thou shouldest fall into a thousand wrong things and be like one in stupor. Suppose there to be a nobleman living at ease in affluence, and the officers of the governor and those who serve warrants arrest him, carrying him off to the governor, saying, “You are accused on a serious charge, and your head is in danger.” At the very tidings of such a fear, he loses all his ideas, and is like one in a stupor. 49. Conceive, then, that it is thus with the spirits of wickedness.
The world that you see round you, from the king to the beggar, are all in confusion and disorder and battle, and none of them knows the reason, or that it is the manifestation of the evil which crept in through Adam’s disobedience, the sting of death. For the sin which crept in, being a kind of invisible power of Satan, and a reality, implanted all evils. Without being detected it works upon the inner man and upon the mind, and contends with the thoughts; but men are not aware that they are doing these things at the instigation of an alien force. They think it all to be natural, and that they do these things of their own determination, while those who have the peace of Christ in their minds, and His enlightenment, know very well the source of these movements.
50. The world is subject to the lust of evil, and knows it not, and there is an unclean fire which kindles the heart, and so spreads into all the members, and disposes men to lasciviousness and a thousand wrong things. Those who let themselves be tickled and pleased with it commit the sin inwardly in the heart, and thus the evil gets room, and they fall into open impurity. Mark that the same is true of the love of money, and of vain glory, pride, envy, anger. A man is invited to a dinner, and many meats are offered him; sin suggests that he should taste them all, and so his soul is pleased and becomes overloaded. Lusts are intolerable mountains, among which are rivers of dragons and venomous beasts and serpents. As if a whale were to swallow up a man in its belly, so sin swallows up souls. They are burning flames of fire, and fiery darts of the wicked one. The apostle says, That ye may be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. The evil got room, and has laid its foundations around the soul.
51. But the prudent, when the passions bestir themselves, will not comply, but are angry with the evil desires, and make themselves enemies to themselves. For Satan has a great wish to rest and stretch himself in the soul, and is annoyed and cramped when the soul will not comply with him. Some there are under the command of the divine power, who if they see a young man with a woman may perhaps think a little, but their mind is not defiled, nor do they inwardly commit sin; but it is not yet possible to be confident in such a case. There are others in whom the thing is at an end, quenched, and withered up; but these are the measures of the great ones. As men in the trade go down naked into the deep of the sea, into the watery death, to find there pearls that will do for a royal crown, and purple dye, so those who embrace the single life go naked out of the world, and go down into the deep of the sea of evil and into the gulf of darkness, and from those depths they take and bring up precious stones suitable for the crown of Christ, for the heavenly church, for a new world, and a city of light, and a people of angels.
52. As in a net many kinds of fishes are included, and they cast back the worse kinds at once into the sea, so the net of grace is spread over all, and seeks satisfaction; but men will not consent, therefore they are thrown back again into the very pit of darkness. As much sand is washed away before the gold is found, and that in very small grains like millet, so out of many there are few found to be approved. Those who have the work of the kingdom are made manifest, and those who only dress up the word of it appear. Those who are seasoned with the heavenly salt appear, and those who speak out of the treasures of the Spirit. The vessels in which God is well pleased appear, and He gives them His own grace; while others with much patience receive the hallowing power, in divers manners, as the Lord wills. So he who speaks, unless he be guided by heavenly light and wisdom, cannot satisfy the mind of every one, since there are so many different purposes, some at war, and some at rest.
53. If a city has been laid waste, and one wishes to rebuild it, he at once demolishes completely the things that are ruinous and fallen, and so begins to dig and to lay, his foundations where he dug, and to carry up the building, though there is as yet no house; and he who wishes to make a pleasure garden in a waste, ill-smelling place begins first to clean it up, and to make a fence round it, and to prepare water-courses, and then he plants, and the plants grow, that thus after a long time the garden may bear fruit; so the purposes of men since the fall are dried up, laid waste, and thorny. God said to the man, Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth to thee. There is need, therefore, of much toil and labour, for a man to seek and lay up the foundation, till fire shall come into men’s hearts, and shall begin to clear off the thorns; and so they begin to be sanctified, glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen.