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CHAPTER XXVII.

Agaiust those who excuse themselves č;- saying that the Way of

Virtue is hard and difficult.

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WORLDLY men make another excuse for forsaking virtue ;

they say that it is hard and difficult, although they know very well that this difficulty does not proceed from virtue itself, which is a reasonable thing, and therefore very conformable to the nature of a rational creature, but from the bad inclination of our flesh and appetites, which originated in sin. Wherefore the Apostle says, “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh : and these are contrary the one to the other.” (Gal. v. 17.) And in another place he says, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man : but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin.” (Rom. vii. 22, 23.) By which words he gives us to understand that virtue and the law of GOD are conformable and pleasing to the superior part of our soul, wherein are the understanding and the will, but that the keeping of it is hindered by the bad inclination and corruption of our appetite with all its passions, which rebelled against the superior part of our soul when that rebelled against GOD, which rebellion is the cause of all this difficulty. This is the reason why so many turn away from virtue though they esteem it highly : like some sick persons who desire health, but abhor medicine, because its taste is unpleasant. If we could free men then from this delusion we should have done a good day's work, for this is the chief thing that repels them from virtue, because there is nothing else in it that is not of great value and dignity.

LORD,” saith David, “and be doing good.” (Ps. xxxvii. 3.) And in another place he saith, “Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Ps. iv. 5.) This is the right sort of confidence, not trifling with God's mercy, continuing in thy sins, and thinking to go to Heaven. Thou hast true hope if thou forsakest thy sins, and callest on GOD; but if thou obstinately perseverest in them, it is not hope, but presumption. This is not to hope, and by hoping to obtain mercy : it is to offend against mercy, and make thyself unworthy of it. For as the Church avails nothing to a man who goes out of it to do evil, neither does God's mercy profit one who shelters himself under it in his wickedness.

This should be considered by the stewards of God's Word, for often by not considering to whom they speak, they give occasion to the wicked to continue in their wickedness. They ought to consider that as the more food you give to a sickly body, the more you hurt it; so the more a soul that is obstinate in sin is fed with this sort of confidence, the more encouragement it finds to persevere in its evil life.

Finally, I conclude this subject with a wise saying of S. Augustine, who says, that by hope and by despair men go to hell; hoping wrongly in life, and despairing worse in death. Therefore, my Brother, lay aside this presumptuous confidence, and remember that in God are mercy and justice, so that as thou fixest thine eyes on His mercy and hopest, thou must also fix them on His justice and fear. For, as S. Bernard very well says, God has two feet, one of mercy, and the other of justice, and no man must embrace either singly, lest justice without mercy should make us fear so much that we despair, or mercy without justice should make us presume and hope so much that we continue in our evil courses.

CHAPTER XXVII.

Agaiust those who excuse themselves č;' saying that the Way of

Virtue is hard and difficuli.

they say

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men make another excuse for forsaking virtue ;

that it is hard and difficult, although they know very well that this difficulty does not proceed from virtue itself, which is a reasonable thing, and therefore very conformable to the nature of a rational creature, but from the bad inclination of cur flesh and appetites, which originated in sin. Wherefore the Apostle says, “ The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh : and these are contrary the one to the other.” (Gal. v. 17.) And in another place he says, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man : but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin.” (Rom. vii. 22, 23.) By which words he gives us to understand that virtue and the law of GOD are conformable and pleasing to the superior part of our soul, wherein are the understanding and the will, but that the keeping of it is hindered by the bad inclination and corruption of our appetite with all its passions, which rebelled against the superior part of our soul when that rebelled against GOD, which rebellion is the cause of all this difficulty. This is the reason why so many turn away from virtue though they esteem it highly : like some sick persons who desire health, but abhor medicine, because its taste is unpleasant. If we could free men then from this delusion we should have done a good day's work, for this is the chief thing that repels them from virtue, because there is nothing else in it that is not of great value and dignity.

thee this, would the way of virtue still be hard to thee? Certainly not. But tell me, has not the LORD promised and confirmed this to thee again and again throughout the Scriptures? Hear what He says by Ezekiel the Prophet, speaking especially to those who live under the law of grace, “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances, and do them : and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” (Ezek. xi. 19, 20.) These are the words of Ezekiel. What dost thou doubt now? That God will keep His word? Or that, when He has kept it, thou wilt be able to keep His law? If thou sayest the first, thou makest God a false promiser, which is one of the greatest blasphemies possible. If thou sayest that with His help thou wilt not be able to keep His law, thou makest Him an inefficient provider, One Who desires to restore man, but uses insufficient means. What hast thou then to doubt about?

Besides this, He will also give thee strength to mortify the bad inclinations that fight against thee, and make the way hard. This is one of the chief fruits of that tree of life, which the SAVIOUR sanctified with His Blood. This the Apostle confesses, saying, “ Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom. vi. 6.) By “our old man,” and “the body of sin," the Apostle means our sensitive appetite, with all the evil inclinations that proceed from it; and he says that it was crucified on the cross with Christ, because by that most glorious sacri. fice He obtained for us grace and strength to overcome that tyrant, and so to be freed from the power of our bad inclinations and from the bondage of sin, as was declared above. This is the victory, this is the great assistance that God promises by Isaiah, speaking thus, “ Fear thou not; for I am with thee : be not dismayed; for I am thy GOD: I will strengthen thee : yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteous one ;” that is, of the Son of God Himself. 6. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee; they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a

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thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thee by thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isa. xli. 10, 12, 13.) These are the words of God by Isaiah. Who can be discouraged with such assistance? Who will be dismayed by fear of his bad inclinations, since grace so overcomes them?

And if thou sayest that the righteous still have their private failings, the “wrinkles,” which, as Job says, are “a witness” against them, (Job xvi. 8); the Prophet answers by one word, saying, “They shall be as nothing,” (Isa. xli. 2). For if they remain, they remain as an exercise, and not as a stumblingblock; to arouse us, and not to rule over us; to enable us to gain a crown, and not to ensnare us into sin. They remain for our victory, and not for our fall; they remain in such a manner as it is good that they should remain, that we may be approved, that we may be humbled, that we may know our own weakness, and that God and His grace may be glorified, and therefore their remaining will turn to our advantage. For as wild beasts, which are naturally hurtful to men, are useful to them when tamed and domesticated, so the passions, when tempered and moderated, aid greatly in the practice of virtue.

Tell me then, if GOD so strengthens thee, who will overcome thee? “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. viii. 31.) “The LORD is my light, and my salvation,” says David, “whom then shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid ?” “Though an host of men were laid against me, yet shall not my heart be afraid : and though there rose up war against me, yet will I put my trust in Him.” (Ps. xxvii. I, 3.) Assuredly, my Brother, if with such promises as these thou darest not resolve to serve GOD, thou must be very cowardly; and if thou dost not trust such words, without doubt thou art very disloyal. It is GOD Who tells thee that He will give thee a new spirit, that He will take away thy stony heart, and give thee a heart of flesh, (Ezek. xi. 19); that He will mortify thy passions, that thou wilt be so changed, that thou wilt not know thyself, because He will weaken and enfeeble them. What more hast thou to ask ? What more hast thou to desire ? What dost thou lack, but

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