The Following of Christ, Book I, Chapter III

cover of the ebook 'The Following of Christ'Of the doctrine of truth

1. Happy is he whom truth teacheth by itself, not by figures and words that pass, but as it is in itself.

Our opinion, and our sense, often deceive us, and discover but little.

What signifies making a great dispute about abstruse and obscure matters, for not knowing of which we shall not be questioned at the day of judgment.

It is a great folly for us to neglect things profitable and necessary, and willingly to busy ourselves about those which are curious and hurtful. We have eyes and see not.

2. And what need we concern ourselves about questions of philosophy?

He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh, is set at liberty from a multitude of opinions.

From one Word are all things, and this one all things speak: and this is the beginning which also speaks to us, John 8:23.

Without this Word no one understands or judges rightly.

He to whom all things are one, and who draws all things to one, and who sees all things in one, may be steady in heart, and peaceably repose in God. [The Author seems here to allude to that passage of Saint Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:2. where he says, “That he desired to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”]

O Truth, my God, make me one with thee in everlasting love.

I am weary with often reading and hearing many things: in thee is all that I will or desire.

Let all teachers hold their peace; let all creatures be silent in thy sight: speak thou alone to me.

3. The more a man is united within himself, and interiorly simple, the more and higher things doth he understand without labour: because he receives the light of understanding from above.

A pure, simple, and steady spirit, is not dissipated by a multitude of affairs; because he performs them all to the honour of God, and endeavours to be at rest within himself, and free from all seeking of himself.

Who is a greater hinderance and trouble to thee, than thine own unmortified affection of heart?

A good and devout man first disposes his works inwardly, which he is to do outwardly.

Neither do they draw him to the desires of an inordinate inclination: but he bends them to the rule of right reason.

Who has a stronger conflict than he who strives to overcome himself?

And this must be our business, to strive to overcome ourselves, and daily to gain strength against ourselves, and to grow better and better.

4. All perfections in this life are attended with some imperfections: and all our speculations with a certain obscurity.

The humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God, than the deepest search after science.

Learning is not to be blamed, nor the mere knowledge of any thing, which is good in itself, and ordained by God: but a good conscience and a virtuous life is always to be preferred before it.

But because many make it more their study to know, than to live well: therefore are they often deceived, and bring forth none, or very little fruit.

5. Oh! if men would use as much diligence in rooting out vices and planting virtues, as they do in proposing questions: there would not be so great evils committed, nor scandals among the people, nor so much relaxation in monasteries.

Verily, when the day of judgment comes, we shall not be examined what we have read, but what we have done; nor how learnedly we have spoken, but how religiously we have lived.

Tell me now where are all those great doctors, with whom thou wast well acquainted, whilst they were living, and flourished in learning?

Now others possess their livings, and I know not whether they ever think of them.

In their life-time they seemed to be something: and now they are not spoken of.

6. Oh! how quickly doth the glory of the world pass away! Would to God their lives had been answerable to their learning! then would they have studied and read well.

How many perish in the world through vain learning, who take little care of the service of God.

And because they choose rather to be great than to be humble, therefore they are lost in their own imaginations.

He is truly great, who is great in charity.

He is truly great, who is little in his own eyes: and makes no account of the height of honour.

He is truly prudent, who looks upon all earthly things as dung, that he may gain Christ.

And he is very learned indeed, who does the will of God, and renounces his own will.