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hateth nothing but sin; he loveth God alone, and for God; he hath no joy but in God; he feareth not, but to offend God. And all his hope is to come to God. The seventh is, joyfulness of soul when he is in tribulation, and that he love God, and thank him in all diseases that he suffers. It is the greatest token that he hath the love of God, when no wo, tribulation, or persecution, can bring him down from this love. Many love God, as it seemeth to them, while they are in ease, but in adversity, or in sickness, they grudge against God; thinking that they do not deserve so to be punished for any trespass they have done. And oftimes some say that God doeth them wrong. All such are feigned lovers, and have not the true love of God. For the Holy Ghost saith, He that is a true friend loveth at all times. Three principal goods come from meek suffering of sick
It cleanseth the soul from sin before done ; it keepeth from those into which it was likely to fall; it increaseth reward in bliss, and over gildeth the crown; and the longer it endureth the brighter waxeth the crown, and the soul cleaner. And in trust hereof St. Paul said that he would joy gladly in his sicknesses, that the virtue* of Christ dwell in him.
OF MAN'S WILL.
EVERY deed that is praisable or reprovable of man's will, hath praising or reproving. Truly in the will is the root and beginning of all deeds which are in our power. And if we must not do the thing that we would do, each man is denied of God his own proper will. Therefore behold ye not only what ye do, but as much what ye would do. Not more what are your works than what is
will. Through just will, man is called just; and through unjust will, man is said to be unrighteous. And therefore if ye will live well, keep well your will. If ye would know whether your will be rightful, that will for certain is rightful which is undersoughtf to the will of God. Whosoever liveth holily and rightfully, let him not despise the worst sinners. They being tempted fall, for they have not grace to withstand, although by their own malice they turn from good to evil. No man can work well, and love God, or be chaste, unless God give it to him. Therefore thou that art blown up with pride because thou hast not done evil, because thou hast * Power.
withdrawn thyself from fleshly lusts, and hast sustained or suffered sharp penance, and therefore hast taken praising of man's mouth; have mind that unless the goodness of Christ had kept thee in, thou shouldest have fallen into as many evils, or worse, as others have done. Not of thyself hast thou power to gainstand, but of Him of whom the prophet saith, Lord, I shall love thee for thou art my strength, my ground, my refuge, him that undertaketh for me, and my helper. Therefore, if thou hast nothing but what thou hast received, why hast thou vain joy in thyself as though thou hadst not received it ?
But nevertheless, let no man be favourable to sin ; for God, by his prophet, crieth to good men, and the same cry to you, Go ye away, and go ye out from thieves, and touch not unclean things. What is it to touch unclean things ? It is, to consent to sins. What is it to go out thence? To do that which pertaineth to amendment of evil men. Act with meekness and peace as much as may be ; as St. Augustine saith, This is to touch not the unclean thing, not to consent thereto in will. Ever be ye separated in heart from evil men. This is to commune not, to consent not ; for we commune with an evil man when the fellowship of the will, or of approving, is joined to deeds.
Therefore consent ye not to evil men, that ye approve them ; neither be ye negligent, that ye reprove them not ; neither be ye proud, that ye reprove them not proudly. Therefore, my brethren, as many as ever ye have among you, that are yet grieved with the love of this world, avaricious men, forswearers, adulterers, beholders of jests, others that take counsel of false tellers of futurity, men giver to drink and lechery, and whatever evil men ye know amongst you, reprove ye as much as ye are able, by meekness, that ye may go away unhurt; and that ye consent not to the touching unclean things. Beseech ye, and pray to God, that all such be amended and again called from their evils.
OF ACTIVE LIFE AND CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE.
Christ loved much Mary, and Martha her sister, the gospel telleth. By Martha, who was busy to feed Christ, is understood active life ; and by Mary who sat by meekness at Christ's feet, to hear his word, is understood contemplative life. Christ said not that Martha did evil in ministering,
but he blamed her that she would have drawn her sister from the more perfect life. For it is perilous for them that savour not the more perfect life, to withdraw others away, whom God calleth thereto. Christ said that Mary had chosen the better part, which should not be taken from her. For active life shall be taken away with death of body, but perfect contemplation never ; for it is begun here, and it endureth more perfectly after this life.
St. Bede saith that active life is a studious servant of Christ, to be busy in just travails, and to keep the commandments of God and himself undefouled from the world, and to hold soul, hand, tongue, and all members of the body, from all filth of sin tempting them. Afterwards to help the need of neighbours, as much as he may, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the sick, and such other, and to show the way of truth to him that erreth ; to call again the proud neighbour to the way of meekness, and tell those who are with us how they must stand. And let no man enforce to pass into contemplative life, unless he have long time practised this life, for if he presume foolishly it speedeth not.
Contemplative life hath two parts, the lower consists in meditation, or thinking of holy scripture, and in other sweet thoughts of Jesus, and in sweetness of prayers. The higher part is in beholding of heavenly things, having the eye of the heart among the heavenly citizens, thinking on God, the beauty of angels, and holy souls. Contemplation is a wonderful joy in God's love, which joy is a loving of God that cannot be told. And that wonderful love is in the soul, and for abundance of joy and sweetness it ascends into the mouth ; so that heart, tongue, body, and soul, joy together in God.
This gladness God sendeth into the soul that he chooseth to this life. When a man hath long practised good doing, and sweetness of prayer, and is wont to feel compunction, and to be free from `occupations of this world, and hath learned to occupy the eye of the soul alone in the love of God, and hath begun in desiring earnestly a foretaste, yea, in this life the joy of everlasting bliss which he shall take in the life to come. Truly that soul which is called and chosen of God to this life, God first inspireth to forsake the world in will, and all the vanity and coveting and lusts thereof. After that, He leadeth him alone, all troubles and worldly company being forsaken, and speaketh to his heart; and as
the prophet saith, He giveth him to taste the sweetness of beginning of love, and turneth his will to holy prayers, and sweet meditations; putting out of the heart idle thoughts and all vanities, setting it to think on him and heavenly things. Then He openeth to the eye of such a soul the gate of heaven, so that the same eye looketh into heaven, and then the fire of love enlighteneth his heart, and burning therein maketh it clean of all earthly filth; and so, thenceforward, he is contemplative, and filled with love of a sight which he saw in heaven with the spiritual eye of his soul. But no man hath perfect sight of heaven while he liveth here, in the body; but he that endeth in this love, as soon as he dieth, is brought before God with companies of angels, and seeth him face to face, and dwelleth with him without end.
All these sentences (opinions) foregoing, I have gathered of holy writ, and of divers saints, and doctors, and nothing of mine own head; to show to my poor brethren and sisters what grace and love our Lord Jesus hath showed to souls in this life. For each man should ascend from one to another, as he is called of God, some in higher, some in lower, as he is enabled of God thereto. But for that, I, myself, caitiff and wretch, unworthy through divers sins before done, being beneath all these perfect points, which seem to me as far distant as from hence to heaven. Therefore I beseech all that read or hear this treatise, to pray for me to God, that he forgive my sins, and quicken my soul with grace of his heavenly treasure of love. And let us all, together, give thanks to the Holy Trinity, who thus graciously lighteneth the souls of mortal men with the beams of his heavenly grace. Blessed be the name of our Lord, into worlds of worlds. Amen.
Here endeth the book called the Poor Caitiff.
At the end of one of the manuscripts of the Poor Caitiff, in the British Museum, Ms. Harl. 2335, is the following note, which proves the value placed upon its contents in the days of darkness preceding the reformation, ana shows one method of circulating the truth then adopted.
“ This book was made of the goods of John Gamalin, for a common profit, that the person that has this book committed to him of the person that hath power to commit it, have the use thereof for the time of his life, praying for the soul of the same John. And that he that hath this aforesaid use of commission, when he occupieth it not, leave he it for a time to some other person. Also that the person to whom it was committed for the term of life, under the foresaid conditions, deliver in to another the term of his life. And so be it delivered and committed from person to person, man or woman, as long as the book endureth."
HOW THE OFFICE OF CURATES* IS
ORDAINED OF GOD.
(From the MS. in the Library of Corpus Christi College Cambridge.)
The office of curates is ordained of God ; few do it well and many full evil, therefore test we their defaults, with God's help.t
I. They are more busy about worldly goods than virtues and good keeping of men's souls. For he that can best get riches of this world together, and have a great household and worldly array, is held to be a worthy man of holy church, though he know not the best point of the gospel Such a one is praised and borne up by the bishops and their officers. But the curate that gives himself to study holy writ and teach his parishioners to save their souls, and live in meekness, penance, and busy labour about spiritual things, and cares not about worldly respect and riches, is held to be a fool and destroyer of holy church. He is de-, spised and persecuted by high priests and prelates and their officers, and is hated by other curates. This makes many to be negligent in their spiritual cures, and to give themselves to occupations and business about worldly goods. These negligent curates think but little, how dearly Christ, bought man's soul with his precious blood and death, and how hard a reckoning he shall make at doomsday for those souls. They would seem to be out of christian faith-for they make not themselves ready to come thither, and to answer how they came into their benefices, and how they
* By curate was meant any minister that has the care of souls.
+ Wickliff composed three pieces, entitled, Of Prelates, For the order of Priesthood, and How the office of Curates is ordained of God. His design was to show from the authority of scripture the duties of the clergy, to expose the errors and wicked practices then so general, and to point out the evil consequences both to the people and thema selves. His language in these pieces is bold and uncompromising, and exhibits a painful picture of the state of the romish priesthood at that day. The latter tract appears the most suitable for the present collection, but in copying it for the press it was not thought desirable to transcribe the whole. What is here given will be a sufficient testimony respecting many evils prevalent in the days of Wickliff, to which a large portion of his writings refer.