LITTLE FLOWERS OF ST. FRANCIS
HERE BEGIN THE CHAPTERS OF CERTAIN INSTRUCTIONS AND NOTABLE SAYINGS OF BROTHER GILES
OF VICES AND VIRTUES
The grace of God and the virtues which flow therefrom are a way and a ladder that leadeth to heaven; but vices and sins are a ladder and a way that leadeth to the depths of hell. Vices and sins are a venomous and a mortal poison, but virtues and good works are a salutary medicine. One grace leadeth on to another; and one vice leadeth on to another. Grace asketh not to be praised, and vice cannot endure to be despised. The mind reposeth tranquilly in humility, of whom patience is daughter. Holy purity of heart seeth God, and true devotion enjoyeth him.
If thou lovest, thou shalt be loved.
If thou servest, thou shalt be served.
If thou fearest, thou shalt be feared.
If thou doest good to others, fitting it is that others should do good unto thee.
But blessed is he who truly loves, and desireth not to be loved again.
Blessed is he who serves, and desireth not to be served.
Blessed is he who doeth good to others, and desireth not that others should do good to him.
But because these things are most sublime and high perfection, therefore they that are foolish cannot understand them nor attain thereto. Three things there are that are very sublime and very profitable, which he who has once acquired shall never fail.
The first is, that thou bear willingly and gladly, for the love of Jesus Christ, every affliction that shall befall thee.
The second is, that thou humble thyself daily in every thing thou doest, and in every thing thou seest.
The third is, that thou love faithfully with all thy heart that invisible and supreme Good which thou canst not behold with thy bodily eyes.
Those things which are most despised and decried by worldly men are most truly pleasing and acceptable to God and to his saints; and those things which are most loved and esteemed, and are most pleasing in the eyes of worldly men, are most despised, condemned, and hated by God and by his saints.
This foul disorder proceedeth from human ignorance and malice; for wretched man loveth most those things which he ought to hate, and hateth those which he ought to love.
Said Brother Giles one day to another friar, "Tell me, dearest brother, is thine a good soul?" and the brother answered: "I know not." Then said Brother Giles: "My brother, I would have thee to know that the things which make a soul good and blessed are holy contrition, holy humility, holy charity, holy devotion, and holy joy."
All those things which can be thought with the heart, or spoken with the tongue, or seen with the eyes, or felt with the hands, are as nothing in comparison with those which we can neither think, nor see, nor touch. All the saints and wise men who have passed away, and all those who are now in this present life, and all those who shall come after us, - all those who have spoken or written, or shall speak or write of God, - shall never be able to show forth so much of him as a grain of millet in comparison with the whole extent of heaven and earth; nay, a thousand thousand times less. For all that is written of God is but as the lisping prattle of a mother to her babe, who could not understand her words did she speak after any other manner. Brother Giles said once to a secular judge: "Dost thou believe that the gifts of God are great?" And the judge said: "I believe it." To which Brother Giles replied: "I will show thee that thou dost not truly believe it." And then he said to him: "What is the value of thy worldly possessions?" The judge answered: "Perhaps about a thousand pounds." Then Brother Giles said: "Wouldst thou give this property to thine for ten thousand pounds?" The judge answered, with hesitation: "Assuredly, I would do so willingly." Then Brother Giles said: "It is a thing most certain that all the possessions of this world are nothing worth in comparison with heavenly things; wherefore, then, givest thou not these possessions of thine to Christ, that thou mayst purchase riches celestial and eternal?" Then the judge, being wise with the foolish wisdom of the world, made answer to the pure and simple Brother Giles: "Dost thou believe, Brother Giles, that there is any man whose outward acts accord perfectly with the measure of his internal belief?" Brother Giles replied: "Listen, my beloved: it is most certain that all the saints have truly striven to carry into effect, to the utmost extent of their power, all that they knew and understood to be the will of God; and those things which they were unable to effect in external act, they fulfilled by the holy desire of their will, which supplied their defect of power to perform the action." Said Brother Giles again: "If any man had perfect faith, he would soon arrive at perfection, and attain to a full assurance of his salvation. What harm or what injury could any temporal adversity in this present life do to the man who, with firm faith, looketh forward to that eternal and supreme and most perfect blessedness? And what can any prosperity, or temporal good in this world avail the wretched man who looketh forward to eternal woe! Nevertheless, let no man, how sinful soever he be, despair, so long as he liveth, of the infinite mercy of God; inasmuch as there is not a tree in the world so twisted and knotted and gnarled but may be fashioned and polished and beautiful by the hand of man; so likewise there is no man in this world so wicked and so sinful but God can convert him, and adorn him with singular graces and many gifts of virtue."
OF HOLY HUMILITY
No man can attain to any knowledge or understanding of God but by the virtue of holy humility; for the direct way to ascend is first to descend. All the perils and grievous falls which have happened in this world have arisen from nothing else but the uplifting of the head - that is, of the mind - by pride. This is proved by the fall of the devil, who was driven out of heaven; and by that of Adam, our first parent, who was banished from paradise by the uplifting of his head - that is, by disobedience. We see it also in the example of the Pharisee, of whom Christ speaketh in the Gospel, and in many others also.
And so also the contrary truth - namely, that all the great blessings which have ever been bestowed upon the world have proceeded from abasement of the head, that is, from the humiliation of the mind - is proved by example of the blessed and most humble Virgin Mary, the publican, the good thief on the cross and many others in Holy Scripture. And, therefore, good it were if we could find some great and heavy weight, which, being tied round our neck, would draw us down to the earth, and force us to humble ourselves.
A friar once said to Brother Giles: "Father, tell me, how can we avoid this pride?" To whom Brother Giles made this reply: "Rest assured, my brother, that thou canst never hope to be free from pride until thou hast first placed thy mouth where thou dost set thy feet; but if thou wilt well consider the gifts of God, thou wilt clearly see that thou hast reason to bow down thy head. And again, if thou wilt meditate on thy defects and thy manifold offenses against God, in all this thou wilt find reasons for humbling thyself. But woe to those who desire to be honoured in their unworthiness! He hath one degree of humility, who knoweth himself to be opposed to his own true good. He hath a second, who restoreth the goods of another to their proper owner, and doth not appropriate them to himself. For every virtue and every good thing which a man findeth in himself, instead of appropriating it to himself, he is bound to refer to God, from whom all graces and all good things do proceed. But every sinful passion of the soul, and every vice which a man findeth within himself, he should attribute to himself, considering that they all proceed from himself and his own malice, and from no other source. "Blessed is the man who knows and accounts himself to be vile in the eyes of God, and also in the sight of men.
"Blessed is he who judges himself always and condemns himself, and none but himself; for he shall not be condemned in that last and terrible eternal judgment.
"Blessed is he who shall submit himself wholly to the yoke of obedience and the judgment of others, as the holy Apostles before and after they received the Holy Spirit."
Brother Giles said also: "Let him who would acquire and possess perfect peace and quiet of mind account every man his superior, and hold himself the inferior and subject to all.
"Blessed is the man who, in his works and in his words, desires neither to be seen nor known for anything else but for that wherewith God hath adorned him.
"Blessed is the man who knows how to keep and hide within his heart divine revelations and consolations; for there is nothing so secret but God can reveal it when it pleaseth him. If the most holy and perfect man in the world were to esteem and account himself to be the vilest and most miserable sinner in the world, this would be true humility.
"Holy humility loves not to talk, nor the holy fear of God to use many words."
Brother Giles said again: "It seems to me that holy humility is like the thunderbolt; for, even as the thunderbolt striketh a terrible blow, crushing, breaking, and burning that whereon it lights, yet can we never find the thunderbolt itself, so does humility strike and disperse, burn up and consume every evil and vice and sin, and yet itself can nowhere be seen.
"He who possesses humility, by that humility finds grace with God, and perfect peace with his neighbour."
OF THE HOLY FEAR OF GOD
He who fears not, shows that he has nothing to lose. The holy fear of God orders, governs, and rules the soul, and prepares it to receive his grace.
If a man possesses any grace or any divine virtue, it is holy fear which preserves it to him. And he who has not yet acquired grace or virtue, acquires it by holy fear.
The holy fear of God is a channel of divine grace, inasmuch as it quickly leads the soul wherein it dwells to the attainment of holiness and all divine graces. No creature that ever fell into sin would have so fallen had it possessed the holy fear of God. But this holy gift of fear is given only to the perfect, because the more perfect any man is, the more timorous and humble he is.
Blessed is the man who looks upon this world as his prisonhouse, and bears in mind continually how grievously he has offended his Lord.
Greatly ought a man to fear pride, lest it should give him a sudden thrust, and cause him to fall from the state of grace in which he is; for no man is ever secure from falling, so beset are we by foes; and these foes are the flatteries of this wretched world and of our own flesh, which, together with the devil, is the unrelenting enemy of our soul. A man has greater reason to fear being deluded and overcome by his own malice than by any other enemy. It is impossible for a man to attain to any divine grace or virtue, or to preserve therein, without holy fear.
He who has not the fear of God within him is in great danger of eternal perdition. The fear of God makes a man to obey humbly and to bow his head beneath the yoke of obedience: and the more a man fears God, the more frequently he adores him.
The gift of prayer is no small gift, to whomsoever it is given.
The virtuous actions of men, how great soever they may seem to us, are not to be reckoned or rewarded after our judgment, but according to the judgment and good pleasure of God; for God looketh not to the number of works, but to the measure of humility and love. Our surest way, therefore, is always to love and to keep ourselves in humility; and never to trust in ourselves that we do any good, but always to distrust the thoughts which spring up in our own mind under the appearance of good.
OF HOLY PATIENCE
He who with steadfast humility and patience endureth tribulations for the fervent love of God, shall soon attain to great graces and virtues; he shall be lord of this world, and shall have an earnest of that glorious world which is to come.
Everything which a man doth, be it good or evil, he doeth it unto himself. Therefore, be not thou offended with him who injures thee, but rather, in humble patience, sorrow only for his sin, having compassion on him, and praying fervently for him to God. For, in so far as a man is strong to suffer and endure injuries and tribulations patiently for the love of God, so great, and no greater, is he before God; and the weaker a man is to endure sufferings and adversities for the love of God, the less is he in the sight of God.
If any man praise thee, speaking well of thee, render thou that praise unto God alone; and if any man reproach thee, speaking evil of thee, do thou help him by speaking of thyself still worse.
If thou wouldst maintain thine own cause, strive to make it appear evil, and maintain that of thy companion good, ever accusing thyself and sincerely excusing thy neighbour. When anyone strives and contends with thee, if thou wouldst conquer, lose thy case, and losing it thou shalt conquer; for if thou wilt go to law to obtain the victory, when thou believest thou hast obtained it, thou shalt find thyself shamefully defeated. Wherefore, my brother, believe me assuredly that the certain way to gain is to lose. But if we endure not tribulation well, we shall never attain to consolation eternal. It is a meritorious thing and far more blessed to endure injuries and reproaches patiently, without murmuring, for the love of God, than to feed a hundred poor men, or to keep a perpetual fast. But what profits it a man, or how does it benefit him, to afflict his body with many fasts, vigils and disciplines, if he cannot endure a little injury from his neighbour? And yet from this might he derive greater reward and higher merit than from all the sufferings he could inflict upon himself of his own will; for to endure reproaches and injuries from our neighbour with humble and uncomplaining patience, will purge away our sins more speedily than they could be by a fountain of many tears.
Blessed is the man who has ever before the eyes of his mind the remembrance of his sins and of the favours of God; for he will endure with patience all tribulations and adversities for which he expects so great consolation. The man who is truly humble looketh for no reward from God, but endeavours only to satisfy him in all things, knowing himself to be his debtor; every good thing which he hath he acknowledges to come from the free bounty of God, while every evil that befalleth him proceedeth from his sins alone.
A friar once said to Brother Giles: "Father, what shall we do if some great adversity or tribulation befall us in these times?" To whom Brother Giles replied: "My brother, I would have thee to know, that if we be such as we ought to be, though the Lord should rain down stones and lightening from heaven, they could not harm or injure us; because, if a man be in truth such as he ought to be, every evil and tribulation will be turned to his good; for we know how the Apostle saith, that all things shall be turned to good for them that love God; and in like manner all things shall turn to the condemnation and punishment of the man of evil will.
"If thou wouldst be saved and attain to eternal glory, desire not revenge, nor punishment of any creature; for the inheritance of the saints is ever to do good and to receive evil. If thou didst but know, indeed, how much and how grievously thou hast offended thy Creator, thou wouldst know that it is meet and right that all creatures should persecute thee, inflicting pain and sorrow upon thee, that so the offenses which thou hast offered to their Creator might be avenged.
"It is great and high virtue for a man to overcome himself; for he who overcometh himself shall overcome all his enemies and persevere in all good. But still greater virtue would it be if a man suffer himself to be overcome by all other men, for thus would he become victor over all his enemies, to wit, sin, the devil, the world and his own flesh. If thou wilt be saved, renounce and despise every consolation which all the things of this world and all mortal creatures can give thee, because greater and more frequent are the falls which arise from prosperity and consolation than those which come from adversity and tribulation."
A certain Religious once complained of his superior in the presence of Brother Giles, because of a severe obedience which he had received from him; to whom Brother Giles made answer: "Dearest brother, the more thou complainest, the heavier dost thou make thy burden, and the harder will it be to carry; but the more humbly and devoutly thou submittest thy neck to the yoke of holy obedience, the sweeter and the lighter will that yoke be to bear. But it seems to me that thou art not willing to bear reproach in this world for the love of Christ, and yet desirest in the next world to be with Christ; thou art not willing in this world to be persecuted and evil spoken of for Christ, yet in the other world thou wouldst fain be blessed and welcomed by Christ; thou willest not to labour in this world, and thou wouldst repose and take thy rest in the other. Brother, brother! I tell thee that thou dost grievously deceive thyself, for it is by the way of shame, humiliation and reproach that a man attaineth to true celestial glory; and by patiently enduring derision and contumely for the love of Christ, doth a man attain to the glory of Christ. For the worldly proverb saith well: `He who gives not what costs him something, shall not receive that which he desires.'
"The horse is a noble and useful creature; for in his swiftest course he suffers himself to be ruled, guided, and turned hither and thither, backwards and forwards, according to the will of the rider; so likewise should it be with the servant of God, who should suffer himself to be ruled, guided, turned and bent, according to the will of his superior; nay, of all others, for the love of Christ.
"If thou wilt be perfect, strive earnestly to be virtuous and gracious, fighting valiantly against all vices, and bearing patiently all adversities, for the love of thy Lord, who was troubled, afflicted, reproached, beaten, crucified and slain for thy love, and not for his own fault, nor for his own glory, nor for his own profit, but only for thy salvation. And to the end that thou mayest do this which I say, it is needful above all that thou overcome thyself; for little will it profit thee to lead and draw other souls to God, if thou be not first drawn and led to him thyself."
The slothful man loseth both this world and the next, because he brings forth no fruit in himself, and is of no profit to others.
It is impossible for a man to acquire any virtue without diligence and great labour. When thou canst stand in a place of safety, stand not in a place of danger.
He standeth in a safe place who painfully and diligently labours and toils in God, and for the Lord his God, not for fear of punishment or hopes of reward, but for the love of God. The man who refuses to labour and suffer for the love of Christ, truly refuses to share the glory of Christ; and thus, inasmuch as diligence is useful and profitable to us, so is negligence hurtful and dangerous.
As sloth is the way to hell, so is holy diligence the way to heaven.
Most solicitous and diligent ought a man to be in acquiring and preserving virtue and the grace of God by constant faithful co-operation with the grace vouchsafed to him; for it often happens that he loses the fruit among the leaves, and the grain amid the straw. On some our good God graciously bestows fruit with but few leaves; to others He gives fruit and leaves together; others, again, there are, who have neither fruit nor leaves. It seems to me a greater thing to know well how to guard and secretly to preserve the fruits and graces vouchsafed to us by God, than to know how to obtain them; for though a man know well how to acquire and gather up wealth, yet, if he know not well how to store it up and to preserve it, he will never be rich; while another, who carefully treasures up what by little and little he has acquired, becomes a man of great wealth.
Oh, how great a quantity of water the Tiber contain, did none of it flow away in other channels!
Man asks of God an infinite gift, a gift which hath no measure and no bound, yet he will but love God by measure and within bounds. He who desires to be loved by God, and to receive from him an infinite, immense and superabundant reward, ought to love God supremely and immensely, and to serve him without limit or cessation. Blessed is he who loves God with all his heart and with all his mind, who labours and suffers with mind and body for the love of God, and yet seeks no reward under heaven, but accounts himself only to be his debtor.
If one man were exceedingly poor and needy, and another were to say to him: "I will lend thee something very precious for the space of three days; and know, that if thou turn this thing to good account within the space of these three days, thou shalt gain infinite treasure, and become rich for evermore"; certain it is that this poor man would be most diligent in turning that precious thing to the best possible account. And so I say to thee, that the thing which God hath lent to us is our body, which is his goodness he hath lent for three days; inasmuch as our whole life here below may be compared to three days.
If, then, thou wouldst be rich, and eternally enjoy the sweetness of his divine presence, strive to make the best profit thou canst of this loan from the hand of God for the space of these three days, to wit, of this thy body, which he hath lent thee for the brief space of thy mortal life; for if thou art not diligent to labour and traffic in this present life whilst yet thou hast time, thou shalt never enjoy everlasting riches, nor repose eternally in the peaceful rest of heaven.
But if all the wealth of the world were in the hands of a man who made no use of it, either for himself or others, what would it profit either him or them? Assuredly it would be of no use or benefit whatsoever.
On the other hand, a man who possesses little, by turning that little to good account, may bring forth abundant fruit, both for himself and for others.
There is a proverb of this world which says: "Never set an empty pot to boil on the fire, expecting thy neighbour to come and fill it." And in like manner the good God will not have thee to leave any grace empty and unused; because he never gives a single grace to any man that it should remain unused, but he gives it, on the contrary, that it should be filled and used by the performance of good works; for a good will is not sufficient unless a man fulfill it, carrying it into effect by good works.
Said a begger man once to Brother Giles, "Father, I pray thee, give me some little consolation"; to whom Brother Giles made answer: "My brother, strive to stand well with God, and then shalt thou have the consolation thou needest; for unless a man prepare within his soul a fair dwelling, in which God may abide and rest, he will never find peace or home or consolation amongst creatures."
When any man wisheth to do evil, he needeth not much counsel how to do it; but to do well he taketh much counsel, and maketh long delay. Brother Giles said once to his companions: "My brethren, it seems to me that there is no one nowadays who wishes to do those things which he sees to be most profitable to him both in soul and body. Believe me, my brethren, for I can swear it in all truth, that the more a man shuns and avoids the yoke of Christ, the more grievous he makes it to himself, and the more heavily it weighs upon him; while the more generously a man takes it up, lending himself willingly to its weight, the lighter and the sweeter will he find it to bear. Now it is the will of God that man should labour in this world for the good of the body, provided he neglect not the good of his soul; for soul and body, without any manner of doubt, shall be united together to suffer or to enjoy for all eternity; to wit, either to suffer eternally in hell inconceivable pains and torments, or to enjoy with the saints and angels in Paradise perpetual joys and unspeakable consolations, as the reward of good works. But if a man do good without humility, it shall be turned into evil; for many there are who have done works good and praiseworthy to the eye, but because they wanted humility the works have become corrupt, thus showing that they sprang from pride; for such as have their root in humility never decay."
A friar once said to Brother Giles: "Father, it seems to me that we have not yet learned to know our true good." And Brother Giles replied: "My brother, it is certain that every one practices the art which he had learned, for no man can do good work unless he has first learned. I would have thee to know then, my brother, that the most noble art in the world is that of well-doing; and who can know it except he first learn it?"
Blessed is the man whom no created thing can disedify; but more blessed is he who receiveth edification from everything which he sees and hears.
OF THE CONTEMPT OF TEMPORAL THINGS
Many sorrows and troubles shall befall the miserable man who sets his heart and desires upon earthly things, for which he forsakes and loses the things of heaven, and at last those of earth also. The eagle flieth very high; but if a weight be laid upon his wings, he can no longer soar aloft; and so by the weight of earthly things man is hindered from soaring on high, to wit, from attaining to perfection; but the wise man, who lays the weight of the remembrance of death and judgment on the wings of his heart, cannot fly and range freely amid the vanities of this world, lest they prove to him occasion of damnation. We see daily how men of the world toil and labour hard, placing themselves in many bodily dangers, to acquire its false riches; and then, after they have thus laboured and acquired, in a moment they die, and leave behind them all that they have gathered together in their lifetime. Therefore there is no dependence to be placed on this deceitful world, which deceiveth every man who trusteth in it, for it is a liar. But he who desires to be truly great and rich indeed, let him love and seek the true and eternal riches, which never satiate or weary or grow less.
Let us take example from the beasts and birds, who, when they receive their food are content, and seek only what they need from hour to hour: and so also ought man to be content with what is barely sufficient temperately to supply his needs, asking no more. Brother Giles said that St Francis loved the ants less than any other animal, because of the great care they take in the summer to gather and lay up a store of grain against the winter, but that he said that he loved the birds far better, because they gathered nothing one day for another.
But the ant giveth us n example that we should not remain idle in the summer-time of this present life, lest we be found empty and without fruit in the winter of the last and final judgment.
OF HOLY CHASTITY
Our frail and miserable flesh is like to the swine, that loves to wallow in the mire, and find its delight therein. Our flesh is the devil's knight; for it resists and fights against all those things which are pleasing to God and profitable for our salvation. A certain friar said to Brother Giles: "Father, teach me how to preserve myself from sins of the flesh." And Brother Giles answered him: "My brother, he who wishes to move a large stone, or any other great weight, and carry it to any other place, must try to move it rather by ingenuity than by force. And so, if we desire to overcome the vice of impurity and to acquire the virtue of chastity, we must set to work rather by the way of humility and by a good and discreet method of spiritual discipline than by a rash penance and presumptuous austerity. Every vice troubles and obscures the fair glory of holy chastity; for it is like a bright mirror which is clouded and darkened, not only by contact with impure and defiling things, but even by the mere breath of man. It is impossible for a man to attain to any spiritual grace, so long as he is inclined to carnal concupiscence; and therefore, whithersoever thou turn thyself, thou shalt never be able to attain to spiritual grace until thou canst master all the vices of the flesh. Wherefore, fight valiantly against thy frail and sensual flesh, thine own worst enemy, which wages war against thee day and night. And know that he who shall overcome this mortal enemy of ours has most certainly defeated and discomfited all his other enemies, and shall attain to spiritual grace, and every degree of virtue and perfection."
Said Brother Giles: "Amongst all other virtues, I would set the virtue of chastity first, because sweet chastity containeth all perfection in itself; but there is no other virtue which can be perfect without chastity."
A friar asked Brother Giles, saying: "Father, is not the virtue of charity greater and more excellent than that of chastity?" And Brother Giles said: "Tell me, brother, what is there in this world more chaste than holy charity?"
Brother Giles often sang this sonnet:
O holy chastity, how good art thou!
Truly precious art thou and thy savour is sweet!
They who have not tasted thee know thee not;
Wherefore the foolish understand not thy worth.
A friar said once to Brother Giles: "Father, thou dost so often commend the virtue of chastity, that I would fain ask of thee what it is?" And Brother Giles answered: "My brother, chastity is, in very truth, the careful and continual custody of our corporal and spiritual senses, in order to preserve them pure and unstained for God alone."
Man is unable to posses in peace the great graces which he receives from God, because many things that are contrary, disturbing and hostile arise against those graces; for the more acceptable any man is to God, the more vehemently is he assailed and buffeted by the Evil One. In order, therefore, to correspond with the grace which he receives from God, he must maintain an unceasing warfare; for the fiercer the conflict, the more glorious shall be the victor's crown. But we have not many conflicts, nor many impediments, nor many temptations, because as yet we have advanced but a little way in the spiritual life.
True it is, however, that if a man walk warily and well in the way of God, he shall feel neither fatigue nor weariness in his journey; but the man who travels by the broad way of the world shall never be free from labour, weariness, anguish, tribulation and pain, even to the day of his death.
Then said one of the friars to Brother Giles: "Father, it seems to me that thou teachest us two things, the one contrary to the other; for thou sayest first, the more virtuous a man is, and the more acceptable to God, the greater conflicts has he to endure in the spiritual life; and next thou sayest the contrary, to wit, that the man who walks well and warily in the way of God, shall feel neither weariness nor fatigue in his journey." To whom Brother Giles thus explained the contrariety of these two sayings: "It is most certain, my brother, that the devils bring a more fearful array of temptations against those who have a good will than against those who have not. But what harm can the devils and all the evils of this world do to the man who goes forward discreetly and fervently in the way of God, and therein labours and toils faithfully, knowing and seeing as he does that his reward shall a thousand times over-pay his labour? And further, I tell thee, of a truth, that he who is enkindled with the fire of divine love, the more fiercely he is assailed by temptations to sin, the more deeply will he hold it in abhorrence and detestation. The worst devils ever hasten to tempt a man when he is under some bodily weakness or infirmity, or when he is in some great sorrow or anguish, or in a state of tepidity, or when he is hungry or thirsty, or has received some insult or affront, or some injury, spiritual or temporal; for these wicked spirits know well that at such times, and in such circumstances, he is most open to temptation. But I say to thee, of a truth, that for every temptation and for every vice which thou shalt overcome, thou shalt acquire a virtue; and for each vice, in the conquest whereof thou shalt overcome thyself, thou shalt obtain a larger grace and a brighter crown."
A friar once asked counsel of Brother Giles, saying: "Father, I am assailed often by an evil temptation, and I have many times besought the Lord to deliver me from it, yet he takes it not from me; counsel me, father; what ought I do?" To whom Brother Giles made the reply following: "My brother, when a king arrays one of his knights in strong armour of proof, it is a token that he requires him to fight valiantly against his enemies for love of him."
Another friar said to him: "Father, what can I do to attain to greater fervour and love of prayer? for when I go to pray I am hard, cold, dry, and without devotion." Brother Giles answered him thus: "A king has two servants: one of them has armour of proof, and the other has none; both desire to go forth and fight against the enemies of the king. He that is well armed enters into the battle and fights valiantly; but the other, who is unarmed, says thus to his lord:'My liege, you see that I am unarmed and defenceless; but for your love I will gladly enter into the battle and fight there all unarmed as I am.' Then the good king, seeing the love of his faithful soldier, says to his servant: `Go with this my true follower, and provide him with all the armour necessary for his defence, that he may enter securely into the conflict; and emblazon his shield with my royal bearings, that he may be known as my loyal knight.' And thus oftentimes it cometh to pass, when a man goes to prayer, that he feels himself to be naked, indevout, cold, and hard of heart; but when he puts a force upon himself, and for love of our Lord enters boldly into the battle-field of prayer, our loving Lord, and King, beholding the gallant bearing of his faithful knight, gives him, by the hands of his ministering angels, fervent devotion and good will. When a man has begun some great and laborious work, such as clearing the ground and cultivating the vine that it may bring forth its fruit in due season, he is often tempted by the great toil and manifold hindrances he meets with to weary him of his work, and even to repent him that ever he began it. But if notwithstanding he persevere until the harvest-time, he will forget all that he has endured in his joy at the fruit of his labours. In like manner he who is strong to resist temptation shall attain to great consolations; for, as St Paul tells us, after tribulation shall be given consolation and the crown of eternal life. And not only they who resist temptation shall obtain the rewards of heaven, but they shall be recompensed even in this life; as says the Psalmist: `Lord, according to the multitude of my temptations and my sorrows, thy consolations shall rejoice my soul.' So that the greater the conflict and the temptations, the more glorious shall be the crown."
A certain friar asking counsel of Brother Giles concerning a temptation, said to him: "O father, I am beset by two evil temptations; the one is, that when I do anything good, immediately I am tempted to vainglory; the other, that when I do anything evil, forthwith I fall into such sadness and despondency, that I am almost in despair." To whom Brother Giles replied: "My brother, thou dost well and wisely to mourn for thy sins; but I counsel thee to do so discreetly and temperately, and always to remember that the mercy of God is grater than all thy sins. And if the infinite mercy of God receiveth to penance a man who is a great sinner, and who sins wilfully, when he repents: thinkest thou that the good God will forsake the man who sins not wilfully, if he also be contrite and penitent? I counsel thee likewise not to refrain from doing well, for fear of vainglory; for if the husbandman were to say in the seed-time: `I will not sow my seed, lest perhaps the birds come and eat it up', assuredly he would reap no fruit that year. But if he sow his seed, although the birds may consume a portion thereof, he will gather in the greater part when the harvest comes. And so with the man who is tempted to vainglory but continually resisteth the temptation, I say that he does not by reason of it lose the merit of his good work."
A friar said to Brother Giles: "Father, I have read that St Bernard once said the seven Penitential Psalms with so great devotion and tranquility of mind, that he thought of nothing else the whole time but of the words of the psalms he was saying." And Brother Giles answered him thus: "My brother, I think more of the prowess of the knight who holds and valiantly defends a castle which is assailed and compassed around by enemies, so that he suffers none of them to effect an entrance, than if he were dwelling therein in peace, undisturbed by any hostile assault."
OF HOLY PENANCE
A man ought continually to afflict and mortify his body, and willingly to endure every injury, tribulation, anguish, shame, contempt, reproach, adversity and persecution, for the love of our good Master and Lord, Jesus Christ, who gave us an example of all this in his own person; for, from the moment of his glorious Nativity until that of his most cruel Passion, he continually endured anguish, tribulation, pain, contempt, sorrow and persecution, and that only for our salvation. Wherefore, if we would attain to a state of grace, it is necessary above all things that, so far as possible, we walk in the footsteps of our good Master, Jesus Christ. A secular once said to Brother Giles: "Father, how can we that live in the world attain to a state of grace?" And Brother Giles replied: "My brother, a man must first repent of his sins with great contrition of heart; next, he must confess them to the priest with bitter and heartfelt sorrow, accusing himself of them sincerely, without excuse or concealment; next, he must perfectly perform the penance enjoined him by the confessor; also he must guard himself from every vice, from all sin and from all occasions of sin; he must likewise exercise himself in good works towards God and his neighbour; and by so doing, a man shall attain to a state of grace and virtue."
Blessed is the man who feels a continual sorrow for his sins, weeping over them day and night in bitterness of heart, only because of the offence he has thereby offered to God.
Blessed is the man who shall have always before his eyes the sorrows, pains, and afflictions of Jesus Christ, and who for his love shall neither desire nor receive any temporal consolation in this bitter and tempestuous world, until he cometh to the celestial consolation of life eternal, wherein all his desires shall be fulfilled in fulness of joy.
OF HOLY PRAYER
Prayer is the beginning, the middle and the end of all good; prayer illuminates the soul, and enables it to discern between good and evil. Every sinner ought to pray daily with fervour of heart, that is, he should pray humbly to God to give him a perfect knowledge of his own miseries and sins, and of the benefits which he has received and still receiveth from the good God. But how can that man know God who knoweth not how to pray? And for all those who shall be saved, it is needful above all things that, sooner or later, they be converted to the use of holy prayer. Brother Giles said thus: "If a man had a son who, for his evil deeds, had been condemned to death or banishment, most certainly he would use every means in his power, labouring day and night, to obtain from the emperor the pardon of his son, and his release from banishment or death; he would make many prayers and supplications, he would give presents or pay fines to the utmost of his power, either in his own person or by the hands of his kindred and friends. Now, if a man do all this for the mortal life of his son, how much more careful and diligent ought he to be in praying to God, and in begging both good men in this world and the saints in heaven to pray for his own soul which is immortal, when it is banished from the heavenly city, or when it lies under sentence of eternal death for its many sins!"
A certain friar said to Brother Giles: "Father, it seems to me that a man ought to feel great sorrow and grief of heart when he experiences not the grace of devotion in his prayer." Brother Giles answered him: "My brother, I counsel thee to proceed calmly and gently; for if thou hadst a little good wine in a bottle, and if in that same bottle there were dregs below the good wine, thou wouldst assuredly take care not to shake or move it, for fear of mixing the good wine with the dregs. Now, until thy prayer be freed from all vicious and fleshly lust, thou shalt receive no divine consolation; because that prayer is not pure in the sight of God which is mingled with the dregs of carnal things. Wherefore a man should strive as much as possible to free himself from all the dregs of worldly concupiscence, that his prayer may be pure before God, and that he may derive therefrom devotion and divine consolation."
A friar put to Brother Giles this question: "Father, why is it that a man is more disturbed by temptations during prayer than at any other time?" To which Brother Giles made answer as follows: "When a man has to bring any question for the determination of the judge, and goes to him for aid or counsel, his adversary no sooner hears of it than he straightway appears to oppose and resist his appeal, and to throw every obstacle in the way of his cause. So it is when a man goes to prayer, for he goes to seek help from God in the cause of his soul; and immediately there cometh his adversary the devil with his temptations, to make great opposition and resistance, using every effort, artifice and labour to hinder his prayer, lest it should prove acceptable in the sight of God, and to take from it all merit and all consolation. And this we may plainly see; for when we are speaking of worldly things and feel perhaps no temptation, nor experience any distraction of mind; but when we go to prayer to delight and console ourselves, we are suddenly pierced with many arrows, to wit, by divers temptations, which the devil putteth in our way in order to distract our mind, that the soul may have no delight or consolation in its converse with God." Brother Giles said, furthermore, that a man in prayer ought to be like a good knight in battle, who, however hard pressed by his enemy, scorneth to leave the field, but resisteth manfully, striving to overcome his foe, that he may rejoice and triumph in the glory of victory. But if he should leave the battle for fear of wounds or death, assuredly he would meet with nothing but shame, confusion and dishonour. And so ought we to do, for we ought not to intermit our prayer for every temptation which may present itself, but resist courageously; for, as the Apostle says: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for, when he hath overcome, he shall receive the crown of eternal life." But if, because of temptations, a man abandon prayer, he will certainly be defeated, dishonoured and overcome by his adversary the devil.
Another friar said to Brother Giles: "Father, I see some men who have received from God the gift of tears, which they shed abundantly and devoutly in their prayer; and I can experience none of these graces when I pray to God." To whom Brother Giles made answer: "My brother, I counsel thee to labour humbly and faithfully in this thy prayer, for the fruits of the heart cannot be gathered in without labour and fatigue being used thereon; and even after this labour and toil the desired fruit follows not immediately, nor until its appointed season; so also God gives not these graces in prayer immediately nor until the fitting time is come, and the mind is wholly purged from all carnal vices and affections. Therefore, my brother, do thou labour humbly in prayer; for God, who is all good and gracious, knoweth all things, and discerneth what is best for thee; and when the fit time and season is come, he will in his loving mercy, give thee abundant fruit of consolation."
Another friar said to Brother Giles: "What art thou doing, Brother Giles? What art thou doing, Brother Giles?" And he answered: "I am doing evil." And that friar said to him: "What evil doest thou?" Then Brother Giles, turning to another friar, said to him: "Tell me, my brother, which, thinnest thou, is the readier, our Lord God to give us his grace, or we to receive it?" And that friar made answer: "Most assuredly God is readier to give us grace than we to receive it." Then said Brother Giles: "Do we well in this?" And that friar said: "Nay; but we do evil." Then Brother Giles turned to the friar who spake first, and said: "See, brother, this shows us clearly that we do evil, and that I spoke truly when I answered thee, to wit, that I was doing evil." Brother Giles said also: "Many works are praised and commended in Holy Scripture, such as the works of mercy and other holy works; but when the Lord speaketh of prayer, he saith thus: `Our heavenly Father seeketh men to adore him on earth in spirit and in truth.'" Again Brother Giles said: "The true Religious are like wolves; because they never come into public and frequented places save upon great necessity, and seek immediately to return to their secret haunts rather than to remain long among men. Good works adorn the soul." A friar who was a very familiar companion of Brother Giles said to him: "Father, why goest thou not sometimes to speak of the things of God, to teach and to labour for the salvation of souls?" To whom Brother Giles replied: "My brother, I desire to fulfill my duty to my neighbour with humility, and without injury to my own soul; and that is done by prayer." "At least," said the friar, "go sometimes to visit thy parents." And Brother Giles answered: "Knowest thou not what our Lord saith in the Gospel, `He who shall leave father, or mother, or brethren, or sisters, for my sake, shall receive an hundredfold'?" And he added, moreover: "A nobleman entered the Order of Friars Minor whose possessions valued, perhaps, sixty thousand pounds; great, then, shall be the reward of those who leave much for the love of God, since it is to be returned to them an hundredfold. But we who are blind, when we see any man virtuous and pleasing to God, understand not his perfection because of our own blindness and imperfection. Were we truly spiritual, we should seldom desire to see or speak with any one, except upon great necessity; for the truly spiritual man desireth to dwell apart from creatures, and to be united to God in contemplation."
Then Brother Giles said to a certain friar: "Father, I would fain know what is contemplation?" And the friar answered: "Father, truly I know not." Then Brother Giles said: "To me it seems that contemplation is a divine fire, a sweet devotion infused by the Holy Ghost, a rapture and suspension of the mind inebriated by the unspeakable savour of divine sweetness, and a sweet and tranquil enjoyment of the soul which is rapt and suspended in loving admiration of the glories of heaven, and an inward and burning consciousness of that celestial and unspeakable glory."
OF HOLY SPIRITUAL PRUDENCE
O thou servant of the heavenly King, who wouldst learn the mysteries and the profitable and virtuous lessons of holy spiritual doctrine, open wide the ears of thine understanding, receive with earnest desire of heart, and carefully lay up in the treasure-house of thy memory the precious store of these spiritual doctrines, warnings and admonitions, which now I unfold to thee; by the which thou shalt be illuminated and directed in thy journey on the way of the spiritual life, and shalt be defended from the malignant and subtle assaults of thy material and immaterial enemies: and so, with humble boldness, thou shalt steer thy course safely through the stormy sea of this present life, until thou shalt attain to the desired haven of salvation. Listen, then, my son, and note well what I say to thee.
If thou wouldst see well, pluck out thine eyes and become blind; if thou wouldst hear well, become deaf; if thou wouldst speak well, become dumb; if thou wouldst work well, cut off thy hands, and labour with thy heart; if thou wouldst love well, hate thyself; if thou wouldst live well, mortify thyself; if thou wouldst gain much and become rich, lose and become poor; if thou wouldst enjoy thyself and take thine ease, afflict thyself, and continually fear and distrust thyself; if thou wouldst be exalted and had in honour, humble and reproach thyself; if thou wouldst be reverenced, despise thyself, and do reverence to those who despise and reproach thee; if thou wouldst always receive good, continually endure evil; if thou wouldst be blessed, desire that all men should curse thee and speak evil of thee; if thou wouldst enjoy true and eternal repose, labour and afflict thyself, and desire every kind of temporal suffering. Oh, what great wisdom is it to know and do all these things! but, because it is so high and so sublime, it is granted by God to few. But I say, of a truth, that if any man will study these things and carry them into effect, he will have no need to go to Paris or to Bologna to learn any other theology. For, if a man were to live a thousand years, and have no external action to perform, nor any word to speak with his tongue, I say that he would have enough to do within his own heart, in labouring internally at the purifying, governing, and justifying of his heart and of his mind.
A man should not desire either to see, to hear, or to speak any thing but for profit of his soul. The man who knows not himself is not known. Woe to us, then, when we receive the gifts and graces of the Lord, and know not how to acknowledge them! Woe still greater to those who neither receive nor acknowledge them, nor care to receive or possess them! Man was made to the image of God, and changes as he wills; but the good God changeth never.
OF KNOWLEDGE USEFUL AND USELESS
The man who would know much, must labour much and humble himself much, abasing himself and bowing his head until his mouth be in the dust; and then will the Lord bestow on him great wisdom and knowledge. The highest wisdom is to do always that which is good, acting virtuously, and guarding carefully against every sin and every occasion of sin, and ever keeping in mind the judgments of God. Brother Giles said once to a man who desired to go to a school to learn secular knowledge: "My brother, wherefore wouldst thou go to this school? I would have thee to learn that the sum of all knowledge is to fear and to love, and these two things are sufficient for thee; for so much knowledge as he can use, and no more, is sufficient for a man. Busy not thyself in learning those things which may be useful to others, but study always and seek to use those which are profitable to thyself. For we often greatly desire knowledge by which we may aid others, and think little of that by which we may profit ourselves; and I say to thee, that the word of God dwelleth not with the speaker, nor with the hearer, but with the faithful doer thereof. Some men who cannot swim cast themselves in the water to save others from drowning, and so all of them are lost together. If thou dost not work out thine own salvation, how shalt thou work out that of thy neighbour? And if thou doest not thine own work well how shalt thou do the work of another man? for it is not credible that thou shouldest love the soul of another better than thine own.
"The preachers of God's word ought to be standard-bearers, lights and mirrors to the people. Blessed is the man who so guideth others in the way of salvation, that he ceaseth not to walk therein himself. Blessed is the man who so teacheth others to run therein, that he ceaseth not to run himself. More blessed is he who so helps others to become rich that he fails not also to enrich himself. I believe that a good preacher admonishes and preaches to himself far more than to other men. It seems to me that he who would convert and draw the soul of sinners into the way of God, ought to stand in continual fear lest he should be perverted by them, and drawn by the way of sin and the devil's road to hell."
OF GOOD AND EVIL SPEAKING
The man who speaketh good words and such as are profitable to the soul is truly the mouth of the Holy Ghost; and the man who speaketh evil and useless words is certainly the mouth of the devil.
When good spiritual men meet at times to converse together, they should always discourse concerning the beauty of virtue, that they may increase in the love thereof, and that virtue may increase in them; that so delighting in it more and more, they may exercise themselves the more diligently in all virtues, and by this continual exercise may attain to a greater love of them; and by this love and this continual exercise and delight in virtue, they may ascend to an ever increasing and more fervent love of God, and to a higher degree in the spiritual life, thus obtaining from the Lord greater gifts and a larger measure of divine grace.
The more strongly a man is tempted, the more needful it is that he speak continually of holiness and virtue; for as by means of unholy talk of evil things a man is easily led to do evil, so oftentimes by speaking of virtue a man is led and disposed to virtuous actions. But what shall we say of the good which proceedeth from virtue? It is such and so great that we cannot worthily express its sublime, admirable and infinite excellence.
And again, what shall we say of evil, and of the eternal penalty which follows sin? For it is an abyss so fearful and so deep, that it is beyond the power of our mind to think, or of our mouth to speak. I do not think that there is less virtue in keeping silence well, than in speaking well; and therefore it seems to me that a man ought to have a neck as long as a crane's, that, when he has to speak, his words may have a long way to travel before they reach his mouth; to wit, that when a man would speak, let him think and think again, and examine and re-examine very diligently, the how and the why, the time and the manner, the state and condition of his hearers, and his won motive and intention.
OF HOLY PERSEVERANCE
What will it profit a man to fast much, and pray, to give alms, to afflict his body, and to have his soul filled with heavenly thoughts, if, after all, he come short of the desired and blessed haven of salvation, that is, of holy and steadfast perseverance? We may sometimes behold a fair and tall ship upon the waters, strong and newly built, and laden with a rich and regal freight; yet suddenly, by the rising of a tempest, or by lack of skill in the helmsman, that proud vessel sinks and perishes miserably, never reaching the desired haven. What avail then all its riches and strength and beauty, now woefully lost in the depths of the sea?
Again, we may sometimes see a small and battered vessel, carrying but little wealth on board, but steered by a good and wary pilot, pass safely through all the perils of the waves, and anchor safely in the longed-for harbour; and so it is with voyagers on the world's tempestuous sea. "And therefore," said Brother Giles, "a man should always fear; and though he be in great prosperity, or in high dignity, or in a state of great perfection, or of great perfection in his state, yet if he have not a good pilot, to wit, holy discretion, he may perish miserably in the deep abyss of sin: wherefore we see plainly that perseverance is of all things the most needful for us; for, as the Apostle says: `Not he who beginneth is crowned, but he who persevereth unto the end.' When a tree has been planted, it does not grow immediately; and after it is grown, it does not immediately bear fruit; and when it has borne fruit, not all its fruit is tasted by its master, but some falls to the ground and is spoiled, some is eaten by worms; yet if it abide until the due season, the greater part will be gathered by the owner of the tree. And what would it profit me," continued Brother Giles, "though I had enjoyed the delights of the kingdom of heaven for a hundred years, if thereafter I should not persevere and make a good end?" He said also: "I account these to be the two greatest gifts and graces which God can bestow on us in this life, to wit, lovingly to persevere in his service, and ever to preserve ourselves from falling into sin."
OF TRUE RELIGIOUS LIFE
Brother Giles said of himself: "I would rather have a small measure of the grace of God as a Religious in Religion, than have many graces from God as a secular living in the world; for in the world are many more perils and hindrances, and far fewer remedies, than in Religion." He said also: "It seems to me that a sinful man fears his good far more than he fears his loss or injury; for he fears to enter Religion and to do penance, yet he does not fear to offend God and lose his own soul by remaining hard and obstinate in the world, awaiting his eternal damnation in the mire and misery of his sins."
A man of the world asked Brother Giles: "Father, what wouldst thou advise me to do - to enter Religion, or to remain and do good works in the world?" To whom Brother Giles thus replied: "My brother, it is certain that if a man knew of a great treasure lying hidden in a common field, he would not ask counsel of any one to ascertain whether or no he should take possession of it and carry it to his own house: how much more ought a man to strive and hasten with all care and diligence to possess himself of that heavenly treasure which is to be found in holy religious orders and spiritual congregations, without stopping to ask counsel of so many!" The secular, on receiving this answer, immediately distributed all that he possessed to the poor; and having thus stripped himself of all things, entered forthwith into Religion.
Brother Giles said: "Many men enter Religion, and do not put into effect and operation those things which belong to the perfection of that holy state; but these are like the ploughman who arrayed himself in the armour of Orlando, and knew not how to manage it, or how to fight under its weight. It is not every man who can ride a restive and vicious horse; and if he attempt to mount it, he will perhaps be thrown when the animal rears or runs away."
Brother Giles added, moreover: "I account it no great matter for a man to enter into the king's court; nor do I think it any great thing for a man to obtain certain graces or favours from the king; but it is a very great thing for him to be able to dwell and converse discreetly in the king's court, persevering wisely and prudently in his service.
"Now the court of the great King of Heaven is holy Religion, and there is no great labour in entering it, and receiving therein certain graces and favours from God; but the great thing is, that a man should know how to live well therein, and to persevere therein discreetly until the day of his death."
Brother Giles said also: "I would choose rather to be in the secular state, continually and devoutly desiring to enter into holy Religion, than to be clothed in the religious habit without the exercise of good works, but persevering in sloth and negligence. And therefore ought the Religious ever to strive to live well and virtuously, knowing that he can be saved in no other state but that of his profession."
On another occasion Brother Giles said: "It seems to me that the Order of the Friars Minor was instituted by God for the utility and great edification of the people; but woe to us friars if we be not such men as we ought to be! Certain it is that there can be found in this life no men more blessed than we; for he is holy who followeth the holy, and he is truly good who walketh in the way of the good, and he is rich who goeth in the path of the rich; and the Order of Friars Minor is that which follows more closely than any other the footsteps and the ways of the Best, the Richest, and the Most Holy who ever has been or ever will be, even our Lord Jesus Christ."
OF HOLY OBEDIENCE
The more strictly a Religious holds himself bound by the yoke of holy obedience for the love of God, the more abundantly will he bear fruit unto God; the more entirely subject he is to his Superior for the glory of God, the freer and the purer shall he be from sin. The truly obedient Religious is like a knight well mounted and well armed, who fearlessly and securely makes his way through the ranks of the enemy, because none of them can harm him. But he who obeys with murmuring and unwillingness is like a soldier who, entering the battle unarmed and ill-mounted, is soon thrown to the ground and wounded by his enemies, and, it may be, made captive or slain.
The Religious who wishes to live according to his own will, shows that he desires to build his eternal abode in the lowest depths of hell. When the ox bows his head beneath the yoke, he ploughs the ground well, so that it will bring forth good fruit in due season; but when the ox strays about at his own pleasure, the land remains wild and uncultivated, and brings forth no fruit at the harvest. And so the Religious who bows his head beneath the yoke of holy obedience, bears much fruit in due season to the Lord his God; but he who obeys not his Superior from his heart, remains barren and wild and fruitless in his profession. Wise and magnanimous men bow their heads promptly, fearlessly and without hesitation beneath the yoke of holy obedience; but foolish and cowardly men struggle to withdraw their neck from the yoke, and refuse to obey any creature. I hold it to be greater perfection in a servant of God simply to obey his Superior for the reverence and love of God, than it would be to obey God himself were he to command him in his own Person; for he who is obedient to a Vicar of the Lord would assuredly be still more obedient to the Lord himself, were he to lay his commands upon him.
And so it seems to me that in the case of a man who has promised obedience to another, were he vouchsafed the grace of conversing with angels, and were he, whilst thus conversing, to be called to him to whom he has promised obedience, it would be his duty immediately to leave his communing with angels, and go to perform the obedience given him for the glory of God.
He who having placed his neck under the yoke of holy obedience desires to withdraw from that obedience, in order to follow a life of greater perfection, in that man, I say, if he be not already well established in the virtue of obedience, such a desire is but a sign of great pride and presumption lurking secretly within his soul. Obedience is the way to attain to every good and every virtue; and disobedience is the way to every evil and to every vice.
OF THE REMEMBRANCE OF DEATH
If a man had ever before the eyes of his mind the remembrance of death and of the final eternal judgment, and of the pains and torments of the lost souls, certain it is that he would never have a will to sin or to offend God. And if it were possible for a man to have lived from the beginning of the world until now, and in all that time to have endured every kind of adversity, tribulation, grief, sorrow and affliction, and so to die, and then his soul go to receive the eternal bliss of heaven, what harm would he have received from all the evil which he had endured during all that time past?
Again, if for the same space of time a man had enjoyed every king of earthly pleasure and consolation, and then, when he came to die, his soul were to fall into the eternal torments of hell, what would all the good things profit him which he had enjoyed in the time past?
A begger man said once to Brother Giles: "I tell thee, I would right gladly live a long time in this world, and have great riches and abundance of all things, and be held in great honour." To whom Brother Giles made answer: "My brother, wert thou to be lord of the whole world, and wert thou to live therein a thousand years in every kind of temporal enjoyment, pleasure, delight and consolation, tell me, what guerdon or what reward couldst thou look for from this miserable flesh of thine, which thou wouldst so diligently serve and cherish? But I say to thee, that he who lives according to the will of God, and carefully keeps himself from offending God, shall receive from God, the Supreme Good, and infinite eternal reward, great and abundant riches and great honour, and long eternal life in that perpetual celestial glory; unto which may our good God, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ, bring us all, to the honour of the same Lord Jesus Christ, and of his poor little one Francis."
THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION, REVISED AND EMENDED BY DOM ROGER HUDLESTON, WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ARTHUR LIVINGSTON (THE HERITAGE PRESS, NEW YORK).
This text is in the public domain.
Provided by Kathy Sewell