It is not enough to have got rid of the pleasure of this world, unless a man gets the blessedness of the other.
1. When a man has quitted his home, and renounced this world, and has rid himself of the pleasure of the world, and of possessions, and of father and mother, for the Lord’s sake, and has crucified himself, and made himself a stranger and poor and needy, but does not find in himself divine comfort instead of the comfort of the world, nor feel the pleasure of the Spirit in his own soul instead of the temporal pleasure, and is not clothed in the inward man with the garments of the light of the Godhead instead of those garments that perish, and does not know to satisfaction, instead of this temporal and carnal fellowship, the fellowship of the heavenly Bridegroom in his own soul, and has not the joy of the Spirit within instead of the tangible joy of this world, and does not receive the solace of heavenly grace and a divine repletion in the soul in the appearing to him of the glory of the Lord, as it is written; and, in short, instead of this temporal enjoyment, does not obtain even now in his own soul an enjoyment incorruptible, greatly to be desired; this man is become salt without savour; this man is beyond all men miserable; this man has been deprived of things here, and failed to enjoy divine gifts. He does not know divine mysteries through the working of the Spirit in the inner man.
2. For this is the reason why a man is made a stranger to the world, in order that his soul may pass in mind into another world and age, according to the apostle. Our conversation, he says, is in heaven; and again, Though we walk on earth, we do not war after the flesh. Therefore, one who renounces this world must firmly believe that we ought in mind to pass even now through the Spirit into another age, and there to have our conversation and pleasure and enjoyment of spiritual good things, and to be born of the Spirit in the inner man, as the Lord said, He that believeth in Me, hath passed from death unto life. Because there is another death besides the death that is seen, and another life besides the life that is seen. The scripture says, She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth; and, Let the dead bury their dead; Because the dead shall not praise Thee, O Lord, but we, the living, shall bless Thee.
3. For as the sun, when he has risen upon the earth, is all there upon the earth, but when it comes to sunset, he gathers all his beams together, betaking himself to his own home; so the soul which is not begotten from above of the Spirit is all on the earth, spread abroad in thought and mind all over the earth, even to the ends of it; but when it is permitted to receive the heavenly birth and fellowship of the Spirit, it gathers all its thoughts together, and taking them still with it, enters in unto the Lord, into the dwelling from heaven, not made with hands, and all its thoughts become heavenly and pure and holy, making their way into the divine air. Delivered from the prison of the darkness of the wicked ruler, who is the spirit of the world, the soul finds pure and divine thoughts, because it has seemed good to God to make man partaker of the divine nature.
4. If, then, you are going to withdraw from all the affairs of this life, and if you persevere in your prayer, shall you not esteem this labour rather to be full of rest, and shall you not consider the little affliction and pain to be charged with joy and recreation exceeding great? If your body and your soul had been consumed away hour after hour throughout life for the sake of good things so great, what did that come to? Oh, the unspeakable compassion of God, that He bestows Himself in free gift upon those who believe, that in a little space of time they should inherit God, and God should dwell in man’s body, and that the Lord should find a fair home in man! As God created the heaven and the earth for man to dwell in, so He created man’s body and soul for a dwelling for Himself, to inhabit and take His rest in the body as in His own house, having for His fair bride the lovely soul, made after His own image. The apostle says, I have espoused you to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ; and again, Whose house we are.
As the husband with diligence treasures up all good things in his house, so the Lord lays up and treasures in the soul and body, which are His house, the heavenly wealth of the Spirit. Neither the wise by their wisdom nor the prudent by their prudence were able to comprehend the subtilty of the soul, or to speak of it as it is, but only those to whom through the Holy Ghost that comprehension is revealed, and the exact knowledge concerning the soul is declared. Consider here, and discern, and understand, how. Listen. He is God; the soul is not God. He is the Lord; it is a servant. He is Creator; it is a creature. He is the Maker; it the thing made. There is nothing common to His nature, and to that of the soul. But by reason of His infinite, unspeakable, inconceivable love and compassion, it pleased Him to dwell in this thing of His making, this intelligent creature, this precious and extraordinary work, as the scripture says, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures, for His wisdom and fellowship, for His own habitation, for His own precious and pure bride.
5. When such good things are set before us, and such promises have been promised, and such has been the good pleasure of the Lord towards us, let us not neglect, O my children, nor delay to press to the life eternal, and to give up ourselves entirely to pleasing the Lord. Let us, then, beseech the Lord that by His own power of Godhead He would deliver us from the prison of the darkness of the passions of shame, and would cause His own image and handiwork to shine up, making the soul sound and pure, and so we may be permitted to have the fellowship of the Spirit, glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.