The Following of Christ, Book I, Chapter XXV

cover of the ebook 'The Following of Christ'Of the fervent amendment of our whole life

1. Be vigilant, and delight in God’s service, and often think with thyself, to what end thou came hither, and why thou didst leave the world: was it not that thou might live to God, and become a spiritual man?

Be fervent therefore in thy spiritual progress, for thou shalt shortly receive the reward of thy labours: and then grief and fear shall no more come near thee.

Thou shalt labour now a little, and thou shalt find great rest: yea, everlasting joy.

If thou continue faithful and fervent in working, God will doubtless be faithful and liberal in rewarding.

Thou must preserve a good and firm hope of coming to the crown: but must not think thyself secure, lest thou grow negligent or proud.

2. When a certain person in anxiety of mind was often wavering between hope and fear; and on a time being overwhelmed with grief, had prostrated himself in prayer in the church before a certain altar, he revolved these things within himself, saying: If I did but know that I should still persevere: and presently he heard within himself an answer from God: And if thou didst know this, what wouldst thou do? Do now what thou wouldst then do, and thou shalt be very secure.

And immediately being comforted and strengthened, he committed himself to the divine will, and his anxious wavering ceased.

Neither had he a mind any more to search curiously, to know what should befall him hereafter; but rather studied to enquire what was the will of God, well pleasing and perfect, for the beginning and accomplishing every good work.

Hope in the Lord, and do good, saith the prophet, and inhabit the land, and thou shalt be fed with the riches thereof. – Psalms 31

There is one thing which keeps many back from spiritual progress and fervent amendment of life, and that is, the apprehension of difficulty, or the labour which must be gone through in the conflict.

And they indeed advance most of all others in virtue, who strive manfully to overcome those things which they find more troublesome or contrary to them.

For there a man makes greater progress, and merits greater grace, where he overcomes himself more, and mortifies himself in spirit.

4. But all men have not alike to overcome and mortify.

Yet he that is diligent and zealous, although he have more passions to fight against, will be able to make a greater progress than another who has fewer passions, but is withal less fervent in the pursuit of virtues.

Two things particularly conduce to a great amendment: these are forcibly to withdraw one’s self from that to which nature is viciously inclined, and earnestly to labour for that good which one wants the most.

Study likewise to fly more carefully, and to overcome those faults which most frequently displease thee in others.

5. Turn all occasions to thy spiritual profit: so that if thou seest or hearest any good examples, thou mayest be spurred on to imitate them.

But if thou observe any thing that is blame-worthy, take heed thou commit not the same: or if thou at any time hast done it, labour to amend it out of hand.

As thine eye observeth others: so art thou also observed by others.

O how sweet and comfortable it is to see brethren fervent and devout, regular and well disciplined!

How sad a thing, and how afflicting, to see such walk disorderly, and who practise nothing of what they are called to.

How hurtful it is to neglect the intent of our vocation, and to turn our minds to things that are not our business.

6. Be mindful of the resolution thou hast taken, and set before thee the image of the crucifix.

Well mayest thou be ashamed, if thou looked upon the life of Jesus Christ, that thou hast not yet studied to conform thyself more to his pattern, although thou hast been long in the way of God.

A religious man, who exercises himself seriously and devoutly in the most holy life and passion of our Lord, shall find there abundantly all things profitable and necessary for him: nor need he seek for any thing better out of Jesus.

O if our crucified Jesus did but come into our heart, how quickly and sufficiently learned should we be!

7. A fervent religious man bears and takes all things well that are commanded him.

A negligent and lukewarm religious man has trouble upon trouble, and on every side suffers anguish: because he has no comfort within, and is hindered from seeking any without.

A religious man that lives not in discipline, lies open to dreadful ruin.

He that seeks to be more loose and remiss will always be uneasy: for one thing or other will always displease him.

8. How do so many other religious do, who live under strict monastic discipline?

They seldom go abroad; they live very retired; their diet is very poor; their habit coarse; they labour much; they speak little; they watch long; they rise early; they spend much time in prayer; they read often; and keep themselves in all kind of discipline.

Consider the Carthusians, the Cistercians, and the monks and nuns of divers orders: how every night they rise to sing psalms to the Lord.

It would therefore be a shame for thee to be sluggish at so holy a time, when such multitudes of religious begin with joy to give praises to God.

9. O that we had nothing else to do but to praise the Lord our God with our whole heart and mouth!

O that thou didst never want to eat, nor drink, nor sleep, but couldst always praise God, and be employed solely in spiritual exercises!

Thou wouldst then be much more happy than now, whilst thou art under the necessity of serving the flesh.

Would to God there were no such necessities, but only the spiritual refreshments of the soul, which, alas, we taste too seldom!

10. When a man is come to this, that he seeks his comfort from nothing created, then he begins perfectly to relish God; then likewise will he be well content, however matters happen to him.

Then will he neither rejoice for much, nor be sorrowful for little: but will commit himself wholly and confidently to God, who is to him all in all; to whom nothing perishes or dies, but all things live to him, and serve him at a beck without delay.

11. Always remember thy end, and that time once lost never returns.

Without care and diligence thou shalt never acquire virtues.

If thou beginnest to grow lukewarm, thou wilt begin to be uneasy.

But if thou givest thyself to fervour, thou shalt find great peace: and the grace of God, and love of virtue will make thee feel less labour.

A fervent and diligent man is ready for all things.

It is a greater labour to resist vices and passions, than to toil at bodily labours.

He that does not shun small defects, by little and little falls into greater.

Thou wilt always rejoice in the evening, if thou spend the day profitably.

Watch over thyself, stir up thyself, admonish thyself; and whatever becometh of others, neglect not thyself.

The greater violence thou offerest to thyself, the greater progress thou wilt make. Amen.