And holy St. Bernard giveth counsel that every man should make suit unto angels and saints to pray for him to God in the things that he would have furthered by his holy hand. If any man will stick at that, and say it needs not, because God can hear us himself; and will also say that it is perilous to do so because (they say) we are not so counseled by scripture, I will not dispute the matter here. He who will not do it, I hinder him not to leave it undone. But yet for mine own part, I will as well trust to the counsel of St. Bernard, and reckon him for as good and as well learned in scripture, as any man whom I hear say the contrary. And better dare I jeopard my soul with the soul of St. Bernard than with that of him who findeth that fault in his doctrine.
Unto God himself every good man counseleth to have recourse above all. And, in this temptation, to have special remembrance of Christ's passion, and pray him for the honour of his death, the ground of man's salvation, to keep this person thus tempted form that damnable death.
Special verses may be drawn out of the psalter, against the devil's wicked temptations—as, for example, "Exsurgat Deus et dissipentur inimici eius, et fugiant qui oderunt eum a facie eius," and many others—which in such horrible temptation are pleasing to God and to the devil very terrible. But none is more terrible nor more odious to the devil than the words with which our Saviour drove him away himself: "Vade Sathana." And no prayer is more acceptable unto God, nor more effectual in its matter, than those words which our Saviour hath taught us himself, "Ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo." And I doubt not, by God's grace, but that he who in such a temptation will use good counsel and prayer and keep himself in good virtuous business and good virtuous company and abide in the faithful hope of God's help, he shall have the truth of God (as the prophet saith in the verse afore rehearsed) so compass him about with a shield that he shall not need to dread this night's fear of this wicked temptation.
And thus will I finish this piece of the night's fear. And glad am I that we are past it, and come once unto the day, to those other words of the prophet, "A sagitta volante in die." For methinketh I have made it a long night!
VINCENT: Forsooth, uncle, so have you, but we have not slept in it, but been very well occupied. But now I fear that unless you make here a pause till you have dined, you shall keep yourself from your dinner over-long.
ANTHONY: Nay, nay, cousin, for I broke my fast even as you came in. And also you shall find this night and this day like a winter day and a winter night. For as the winter hath short days and long nights, so shall you find that I made you not this fearful night so long but what I shall make you this light courageous day as short.
And so shall the matter require well of itself indeed. For in these words of the prophet, "The truth of God shall compass thee round about with a shield from the arrow flying in the day," I understand the arrow of pride, with which the devil tempteth a man, not in the night (that is, in tribulation and adversity), for that time is too discomfortable and too fearful for pride, but in the day (that is, in prosperity), for that time is full of lightsome pleasure and courage. But surely this worldly prosperity in which a man so rejoiceth and of which the devil maketh him so proud, is but a very short winter day. For we begin, many full poor and cold, and up we fly like an arrow shot into the air. And yet when we be suddenly shot up into the highest, ere we be well warm there, down we come unto the cold ground again. And then even there stick we still. And yet for the short while that we be upward and aloft—Lord, how lusty and how proud we be, buzzing above busily, as a bumblebee flieth about in summer, never aware that she shall die in winter! And so fare many of us, God help us. For in the short winter day of worldly wealth and prosperity, this flying arrow of the devil, this high spirit of pride, shot out of the devil's bow and piercing through our heart, beareth us up in our affection aloft into the clouds, where we think we sit on the rainbow and overlook the world under us, accounting in the regard of our own glory such other poor souls as were peradventure wont to be our fellows for silly poor pismires and ants.
But though this arrow of pride fly never so high in the clouds, and though the man whom it carrieth up so high be never so joyful thereof, yet let him remember that, be this arrow never so light, it hath yet a heavy iron head. And therefore, fly it never so high, down must it needs come, and on the ground must it light. And sometimes it falleth not in a very cleanly place, but the pride turneth into rebuke and shame and there is then all the glory gone.
Of this arrow speaketh the wise man in the fifth chapter of the book of Wisdom, where he saith in the person of them that in pride and vanity passed the time of this present life, and after that so spent, passed hence into hell: "What hath pride profited us? Or what good hath the glory of our riches done unto us? Passed are all those things like a shadow . . . or like an arrow shot out into the place appointed; the air that was divided is forthwith returned unto the place, and in such wise closed together again that the way is not perceived in which the arrow went. And in like wise we, as soon as we were born, are forthwith vanished away, and have left no token of any good virtue behind us, but are consumed and wasted and come to naught in our malignity. They, lo, that have lived here in sin, such words have they spoken when they lay in hell."
Here shall you, good cousin, consider, that whereas the scripture here speaketh of the arrow shot into its place appointed or intended, in the shooting of this arrow of pride there be divers purposings and appointings. For the proud man himself hath no certain purpose or appointment at any mark, butt, or prick upon earth, at which he determineth to shoot and there to stick and tarry. But ever he shooteth as children do, who love to shoot up cop-high, to see how high their arrow can fly up. But now doth the devil intend and appoint a certain mark, surely set in a place into which he purposeth—fly this arrow never so high and the proud heart on it—to have them both alight at last, and that place is in the very pit of hell. There is set the devil's well-acquainted prick and his very just mark. And with his pricking shaft of pride he hath by himself a plain proof and experience that down upon this prick (unless it be stopped by some grace of God on the way) the soul that flieth up with it can never fail to fall. For when he himself was in heaven and began to fly cop-high, with the lusty light flight of pride, saying, "I will fly up above the stars and set my throne on the sides of the north, and will be like unto the Highest," long ere he could fly up half so high as he said in his heart that he would, he was turned from a bright glorious angel into a dark deformed devil, and from flying any further upward, down was he thrown into the deep dungeon of hell.
Now may it, peradventure, cousin, seem that, since this kind of temptation of pride is no tribulation or pain, all this that we speak of this sorrow of pride flying forth in the day of prosperity, would be beside our matter.
VINCENT: Verily, mine uncle, and so seemed it unto me. And somewhat was I minded so to say to you, too, saving that, whether it were properly pertaining to the present matter or somewhat digressing from it, methought it was good matter and such as I had no wish to leave.
ANTHONY: But now must you consider, cousin, that though prosperity be contrary to tribulation, yet unto many a good man the devil's temptation to pride in prosperity is a greater tribulation, and more hath need of good comfort and good counsel both, than he who never felt it would believe. And that is the thing, cousin, that maketh me speak of it as of a thing proper to this matter. For, cousin, as it is a right hard thing to touch pitch and never defile the fingers, to put flax unto fire and yet keep them from burning, to keep a serpent in thy bosom and yet be safe from stinging, to put young men with young women without danger of foul fleshly desire—so it is hard for any person, either man or woman, in great worldly wealth and much prosperity, so to withstand the suggestions of the devil and occasions given by the world that they keep themselves from the deadly danger of ambitious glory. And if a man fall into it, there followeth upon it a whole flood of all unhappy mischief: arrogant manner, high solemn bearing, overlooking the poor in word and countenance, displeasant and disdainful behaviour, ravine, extortion, oppression, hatred and cruelty.
Now, many a good man, cousin, come into great authority, casteth in his mind the peril of such occasions of pride as the devil taketh of prosperity to make his instruments of, with which to move men to such high point of presumption as engendereth so many great evils. And, feeling the devil therewith offering him suggestions to it, he is sore troubled therewith. And some fall so afraid of it that even in the day of prosperity they fall into the night's fear of pusillanimity, and they leave the things undone in which they might use themselves well. And mistrusting the aid and help of God in holding them upright in their temptations, whereby for faint heart they leave off good business in which they would be well occupied. And, under pretext (as it seemeth to themselves) of humble heart and meekness, and of serving God in contemplation and silence, they seek their own ease and earthly rest unawares. And with this, if it be so, God is not well content.
Howbeit, if it be so that a man, by the experience that he hath of himself, perceiveth that in wealth and authority he doth his own soul harm, and cannot do the good that to his part appertaineth; but seeth the things that he should set his hands to sustain, decay through his default and fall to ruin under him, and seeth that to the amendment thereof he leaveth his own duty undone; then would I in any wise advise him to leave off that thing—be it spiritual benefice that he have, parsonage or bishopric, or temporal office and authority—and rather give it over quite and draw himself aside and serve God, than to take the worldly worship and commodity for himself, with incommodity of those whom his duty would be to profit.
But, on the other hand, he may not see the contrary but what he may do his duty conveniently well, and may fear nothing but that the temptations of ambition and pride may peradventure turn his good purpose and make him decline unto sin. I deny not that it is well done to stand always in moderate fear, for the scripture saith, "Blessed is the man that is always fearful," and St. Paul saith, "He that standeth, let him look that he fall not." Yet is over-much fear perilous and draweth toward the mistrust of God's gracious help. This immoderate fear and faint heart holy scripture forbiddeth, saying, "Be not feeble-hearted or timorous." Let such a man therefore temper his fear with good hope, and think that since God hath set him in that place (if he think that God have set him in it), God will assist him with his grace to use it well. Howbeit, if he came to it by simony or some such other evils means, then that would be one good reason wherefore he should rather leave it off. But otherwise let him continue in his good business. And, against the devil's provocation unto evil, let him bless himself and call unto God and pray, and look that the devil tempt him not to lean the more toward the contrary.
Let him pity and comfort those who are in distress and affliction. I mean not that he should let every malefactor pass forth unpunished, and freely run out and rob at random. But in his heart let him be sorry to see that of necessity, for fear of decaying the common weal, men are driven to put malefactors to pain. And yet where he findeth good tokens and likelihood of amendment, there let him help all that he can that mercy may be had. There shall never lack desperately disposed wretched enough besides, upon whom, as an example, justice can proceed. Let him think, in his own heart, that every poor beggar is his fellow.
VINCENT: That will be very hard, uncle, for an honourable man to do, when he beholdeth himself richly apparelled and the beggar rigged in his rags.
ANTHONY: If there were here, cousin, two men who were both beggars, and afterward a great rich man would take one unto him, and tell him that for a little time he would have him in his house, and thereupon arrayed him in silk and gave him a great bag by his side, filled even with gold, but giving him this catch therewith: that, within a little while, out he should go in his old rags again, and bear never a penny with him—if this beggar met his fellow now, while his gay gown was on, might he not, for all his gay gear, take him for his fellow still? And would he not be a very fool if, for a wealth of a few weeks, he would think himself far his better?
VINCENT: Yes, uncle, if the difference in their state were no other.
ANTHONY: Surely, cousin, methinketh that in this world, between the richest and the most poor, the difference is scant so much. For let the highest look on the most base, and consider how they both came into this world. And then let him consider further that, howsoever rich he be now, he shall yet, within a while— peradventure less than one week—walk out again as poor as that beggar shall. And then, by my troth, methinketh this rich man much more than mad if, for the wealth of a little while—haply less than one week—he reckon himself in earnest any better than the beggar's fellow.
And less than thus can no man think, who hath any natural wit and well useth it. But now a Christian man, cousin, who hath the light of faith, he cannot fail to think much further in this thing. For he will think not only upon his bare coming hither and his bare going hence again, but also the dreadful judgment of God, and upon the fearful pains of hell and the inestimable joys of heaven. And in the considering of these things, he will call to remembrance that peradventure when this beggar and he are both departed hence, the beggar may be suddenly set up in such royalty that well were he himself that ever was he born if he might be made his fellow. And he who well bethinketh him, cousin, upon these things, I verily think that the arrow of pride flying forth in the day of worldly wealth shall never so wound his heart that ever it shall bear him up one foot.
But now, to the intent that he may think on such things the better, let him use often to resort to confession. And there let him open his heart and, by the mouth of some virtuous ghostly father, have such things often renewed in his remembrance. Let him also choose himself some secret solitary place in his own house, as far from noise and company as he conveniently can, and thither let him sometimes secretly resort alone, imagining himself as one going out of the world even straight unto the giving up his reckoning unto God of his sinful living. There, before an altar or some pitiful image of Christ's bitter passion, the beholding of which may put him in remembrance of the thing and move him to devout compassion, let him then kneel down or fall prostrate as at the feet of almighty God, verily believing him to be there invisibly present, as without any doubt he is. There let him open his heart to God and confess his faults, such as he can call to mind, and pray God for forgiveness. Let him call to remembrance the benefits that God hath given him, either in general among other men or privately to himself, and give him humble hearty thanks for them. There let him declare unto God the temptations of the devil, the suggestions of the flesh, the occasions of the world—and of his worldly friends, much worse many times in drawing a man from God than are his most mortal enemies, as our Saviour witnesseth himself where he saith, "The enemies of a man are they that are his own familiars." There let him lament and bewail unto God his own frailty, negligence, and sloth in resisting and withstanding of temptation; his readiness and proneness to fall into it. There let him lamentably beseech God, of his gracious aid and help, to strengthen his infirmity—both to keep him from falling and, when he by his own fault misfortuneth to fall, then with the helping hand of his merciful grace to lift him up and set him on his feet in the state of his grace again. And let this man not doubt but that God heareth him and granteth him gladly his boon.
And so, dwelling in the faithful trust of God's help, he shall well use his prosperity, and persevere in his good profitable business, and shall have the truth of God so compass him about with a shield of his heavenly defence that he shall not need to dread of the devil's arrow flying in the day of worldly wealth.
VINCENT: Forsooth, uncle, I like this good counsel well. And I should think that those who are in prosperity and take such order therein, may do much good both to themselves and to other folk.
ANTHONY: I beseech our Lord, cousin, to put this and better in the mind of every man who needeth it.
And now will I touch one word or twain of the third temptation, of which the prophet speaketh in these words: "From the business walking in the darknesses." And then will we call for our dinner, leaving the last temptation—that is, "from the incursion and the devil of the midday"—till afternoon. And then shall we with that, God willing, make an end of all this matter.
VINCENT: Our Lord reward you, good uncle, for your good labour with me. But, for our Lord's sake, take good heed, uncle, that you forbear not your dinner over-long.
ANTHONY: Fear not that, cousin, I warrant you, for this piece will I make you but short.
The prophet saith in the said psalm, "He that dwelleth in the faithful hope of God's help, he shall abide in the protection or safeguard of God in heaven. And thou who art such a one, the truth of him shall so compass thee about with a shield, that thou shalt not be afraid of the business walking about in the darknesses."
"Negotium, the business," is here, cousin, the name of the devil who is ever full of busy-ness in tempting folk to much evil business. His time of tempting is in the darknesses. For you know well that beside the full night, which is the deep dark, there are two times of darkness, the one ere the morning wax light, the other when the evening waxeth dark. Two times of like darkness are there also in the soul of man: the one ere the light of grace be well sprung up in the heart, the other when the light of grace beginneth out of the heart to walk fast away. In these two darknesses this devil who is called Business busily walketh about, and he carrieth about with him such foolish folk as will follow him and setteth them to work with many a manner of bumbling business.
He setteth some, I say, to seek the pleasures of the flesh in eating, drinking, and other filthy delight. And some he setteth about incessant seeking for these worldly goods. And of such busy folk whom this devil called Business, walking about in the darknesses, setteth to work with such business, our Saviour saith in the gospel, "He that walketh in darknesses knoweth not whither he goeth." And surely in such a state are they—they neither know which way they go, nor whither. For verily they walk round about as it were in a round maze; when they think themselves at an end of their business, they are but at the beginning again. For is not the going about the serving of the flesh a business that hath no end, but evermore from the end cometh to the beginning again? Go they never so full-fed to bed, yet evermore on the morrow, as new they are to be fed again as they were the day before. Thus fareth it by the belly; thus fareth it by those parts that are beneath the belly. And as for covetousness, it fareth like the fire—the more wood there cometh to it, the more fervent and the more greedy it is.
But now hath this maze a centre or middle place, into which these busy folk are sometimes conveyed suddenly when they think they are not yet far from the brink. The centre or middle place of this maze is hell. And into that place are these busy folk who with this devil of business walk about in this busy maze, in the darkness, sometimes suddenly conveyed, unaware whither they are going. And that may be even while they think that they have not walked far from the beginning, and that they have yet a great way to walk about before they should come to the end. But of these fleshly folk walking in this busy pleasant maze the scripture declareth the end: "They lead their life in pleasure, and at a pop down they descend into hell."
Of the covetous man saith St. Paul, "They that long to be rich do fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and harmful desires, which drown men into death and destruction." Lo, here in the middle place of this busy maze, the snare of the devil, the place of perdition and destruction, in which they fall and are caught and drowned ere they are aware!
The covetous rich man also that our Saviour speaketh of in the gospel, who had so great plenty of corn that his barns would not receive it, but intended to make his barns larger, and said unto himself that he would make merry many days—he thought, you know, that he had a great way yet to walk. But God said unto him, "Fool, this night shall they take thy soul from thee, and then all these goods that thou hast gathered, whose shall they be?" Here, you see, he fell suddenly into the deep centre of this busy maze, so that he was fallen full into it ere ever he had thought he should have come near to it.
Now this I know very well: Those who are walking about in this busy maze take not their business for any tribulation. And yet are there many of them as sore wearied in it, and sore panged and pained, their pleasures being so short, so little, and so few, and their displeasures and their griefs so great, so continual, and so many. It maketh me think on a good worshipful man who, when he divers times beheld what pain his wife took in tightly binding up her hair to make her a fair large forehead, and with tightly bracing in her body to make her middle small (both twain to her great pain) for the pride of a little foolish praise, he said unto her, "Forsooth, madam, if God give you not hell, he shall do you a great wrong. For it must needs be your own very right, for you buy it very dear and take very great pain therefore!"
Those who now lie in hell for their wretched living here do now perceive their folly in the more pain that they took here for the less pleasure. There confess they now their folly, and cry out, "We have been wearied in the way of wickedness." And yet, while they were walking in that way, they would not rest themselves, but ran on still in their weariness, and put themselves still unto more pain and more, for a little childish pleasure, short and soon gone. For that they took all that labour and pain, beside the everlasting pain that followed it for their further advantage afterward. So help me God, but I verily think many a man buyeth hell here with so much pain that he might have bought heaven with less than half!
But yet, as I say, while these fleshly and worldly busy folk are walking about in this round busy maze of the devil called Business who walketh about in these two times of darkness, their wits are so bewitched by the secret enchantment of the devil that they mark not the great long miserable weariness and pain that the devil maketh them take and endure about naught. And therefore they take it for no tribulation, so that they need no comfort. And therefore it is not for their sakes that I speak of all this, saving that it may serve them for counsel toward the perceiving of their own foolish misery, through the help of God's grace, beginning to shine upon them again. But there are very good folk and virtuous who are in the daylight of grace, and yet the devil tempteth them busily to such fleshly delight. And since they see plenty of worldly substance fall unto them, and feel the devil in like wise busily tempt them to set their hearts upon it, they are sore troubled therewith. And they begin to fear thereby that they are not with God in the light but with this devil that the prophet calleth Negotium—that is to say, Business—walking about in the two times of darknesses.
Howbeit, as I said before of those good folk and gracious who are in the worldly wealth of great power and authority and thereby fear the devil's arrow of pride, so say I now here again of these who stand in dread of fleshly foul sin and covetousness: they do well to stand ever in moderate fear, lest with waxing over-bold and setting the thing over-light, they might peradventure mishap to fall in thereto. Yet, since they are but tempted with it and follow it not, to vex and trouble themselves sorely with the fear of loss of God's favour is without necessity and not always without peril. For, as I said before, it withdraweth the mind of a man far from the spiritual consolation of the good hope that he should have in God's help. And as for those temptations, as long as he who is tempted followeth them not, the fight against them serveth him for matter of merit and reward in heaven, if he not only flee the deed, the consent, and the delectation, but also (so far as he conveniently can) flee from all occasions of them.
And this point is in those fleshly temptations a thing easy to perceive and plain enough. But in worldly business pertaining unto covetousness the thing is somewhat more dark and there is more difficulty in the perceiving. And very great troublous fear of it doth often arise in the hearts of very good folk, when the world falleth fast unto them, because of the sore words and terrible threats that God in holy scripture speaketh against those who are rich. As, where St. Paul saith, "They that will be rich fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil." And where our Saviour saith himself, "It is more easy for a camel"—or, as some say, "for a great cable rope," for "camelus" so signifieth in the Greek tongue—"to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
No marvel, now, if good folk who fear God take occasion of great dread at so dreadful words, when they see the worldly goods fall to them. And some stand in doubt whether it be lawful for them to keep any goods or not. But evermore, in all those places of scripture, the having of the worldly goods is not the thing that is rebuked and threatened, but the affection that the haver unlawfully beareth to them. For where St. Paul saith, "they that will be made rich," he speaketh not of the having but of the will and desire and affection to have, and the longing for it. For that cannot be lightly without sin. For the thing that folk sore long for, they will make many shifts to get and jeopard themselves for.
And to declare that the having of riches is not forbidden, but the inordinate affection of the mind sore set upon them, the prophet saith, "If riches flow unto you, set not your heart thereupon." And albeit that our Lord, by the said example of the camel or cable rope to come through the needle's eye, said that it is not only hard but also impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, yet he declared that though the rich man cannot get into heaven of himself, yet God, he said, can get him in well enough. For unto men he said it was impossible, but not unto God, for "unto God," he said, "all things are possible." And yet, beside that, he told of which manner of rich man he meant, who could not get into the kingdom of heaven, saying, "My babes, how hard is it for them that put their trust and confidence in their money, to enter into the kingdom of God!"
VINCENT: This is, I suppose, uncle, very true—and otherwise God forbid! For otherwise the world would be in a full hard state, if every rich man were in such danger and peril.
ANTHONY: That would it be, cousin, indeed. And so I suppose it is yet. For I fear me that to the multitude there are very few who long not sorely to be rich. And of those who so long to be, there are also very few reserved who set not their heart very sorely thereon.
VINCENT: This is, uncle, I fear me, very true, but yet not the thing that I was about to speak of. But the thing that I would have said was this: I cannot well perceive (the world being such as it is, and so many poor people in it) how any man can be rich, and keep himself rich, without danger of damnation for it.
For all the while he seeth so many poor people who lack, while he himself hath wherewith to give them. And their necessity he is bound in such case of duty to relieve, while he hath wherewith to do so—so far forth that holy St. Ambrose saith that whosoever die for default, where we might help them, we kill them. I cannot see but that every rich man hath great cause to stand in great fear of damnation, nor can I perceive, as I say, how he can be delivered of that fear as long as he keepeth his riches. And therefore, though he might keep his riches if there lacked poor men and yet stand in God's favour therewith, as Abraham did and many another holy rich man since; yet with such an abundance of poor men as there is now in every country, any man who keepeth any riches must needs have an inordinate affection unto it, since he giveth it not out unto the poor needy persons, as the duty of charity bindeth and constraineth him to.
And thus, uncle, in this world at this day, meseemeth your comfort unto good men who are rich, and are troubled with fear of damnation for the keeping, can very scantly serve.
ANTHONY: Hard is it, cousin, in many manner of things, to bid or forbid, affirm or deny, reprove or approve, a matter nakedly proposed and put forth; or precisely to say "This thing is good," or "This thing is evil," without consideration of the circumstances.
Holy St. Austine telleth of a physician who gave a man in a certain disease a medicine that helped him. The selfsame man at another time in the selfsame disease took the selfsame medicine himself, and had of it more harm than good. This he told the physician, and asked him how the harm should have happened. "That medicine," quoth he, "did thee no good but harm because thou tookest it when I gave it thee not." This answer St. Austine very well approveth, because, though the medicine were the same, yet might there be peradventure in the sickness some such difference as the patient perceived not—yea, or in the man himself, or in the place, or in the time of the year. Many things might make the hindrance, for which the physician would not then have given him the selfsame medicine that he gave him before.
To peruse every circumstance that might, cousin, in this matter be touched, and were to be considered and weighed, would indeed make this part of this devil of Business a very busy piece of work and a long one! But I shall open a little the point that you speak of, and shall show you what I think therein, with as few words as I conveniently can. And then will we go to dinner.
First, cousin, he who is a rich man and keepeth all his goods, he hath, I think, very good cause to be very afraid indeed. And yet I fear me that such folk fear the least. For they are very far from the state of good men, since, if they keep all, they are then very far from charity, and do, as you know well, either little alms or none at all.
But now our question, cousin, is not in what case that rich man standeth who keepeth all, but whether we should suffer men to stand in a perilous dread and fear for the keeping of any great part. For if, by the keeping of so much as maketh a rich man still, they stand in the state of damnation, then are the curates bound to tell them so plainly, according to the commandment of God given unto them all in the person of Ezechiel: "If, when I say to the wicked man, 'Thou shalt die,' thou do not show it unto him, nor speak unto him that he may be turned from his wicked way and live, he shall soothly die in his wickedness and his blood shall I require of thine hand."
But, cousin, though God invited men unto the following of himself in wilful poverty, by the leaving of everything at once for his sake—as the thing by which, being out of solicitude of worldly business and far from the desire of earthly commodities, they may the more speedily get and attain the state of spiritual perfection, and the hungry desire and longing for celestial things—yet doth he not command every man to do so upon the peril of damnation. For where he saith, "He that forsaketh not all that ever he hath, cannot be my disciple," he declareth well, by other words of his own in the selfsame place a little before, what he meaneth. For there saith he more, "He that cometh to me, and hateth not his father, and his mother, and his wife, and his children, and his brethren, and his sisters, yea and his own life too, cannot be my disciple." Here meaneth our Saviour Christ that no one can be his disciple unless he love him so far above all his kin, and above his own life, too, that for the love of him, rather than forsake him, he shall forsake them all. And so meaneth he by those other words that whosoever do not so renounce and forsake all that ever he hath in his own heart and affection, so that he will lose it all and let it go every whit, rather than deadly to displease God with the reserving of any one part of it, he cannot be Christ's disciple. For Christ teacheth us to love God above all things, and he loveth not God above all things who, contrary to God's pleasure, keepeth anything that he hath. For he showeth himself to set more by that thing than by God, since he is better content to lose God than it. But, as I said, to give away all, or that no man should be rich or have substance, that find I no commandment of.
There are, as our Saviour saith, in the house of his father many mansions. And happy shall he be who shall have the grace to dwell even in the lowest. It seemeth verily by the gospel that those who for God's sake patiently suffer penury, shall not only dwell in heaven above those who live here in plenty in earth, but also that heaven in some manner of wise more properly belongeth unto them and is more especially prepared for them than it is for the rich. For God in the gospel counseleth the rich folk to buy (in a manner) heaven of them, where he saith unto the rich men, "Make yourselves friends of the wicked riches, that when you fail here they may receive you into everlasting tabernacles."
But now, although this be thus, in respect of the riches and the poverty compared together, yet if a rich man and a poor man be both good men, there may be some other virtue beside in which the rich man may peradventure so excel that he may in heaven be far above that poor man who was here on earth in other virtues far under him. And the proof appeareth clear in Lazarus and Abraham.
Nor I say not this to the intent to comfort rich men in heaping up riches, for a little comfort will bend them enough thereto. They are not so proud-hearted and obstinate but what they would, I daresay, with right little exhortation be very conformable to that counsel! But I say this for those good men to whom God giveth substance, and the mind to dispose it well, and yet not the mind to give it all away at once, but for good causes to keep some substance still. Let them not despair of God's favour for not doing the thing which God hath given them no commandment of, nor drawn them to by any special calling.
Zachaeus, lo, who climbed up into the tree, for desire that he had to behold our Saviour: at such a time as Christ called aloud unto him and said, "Zachaeus, make haste and come down, for this day must I dwell in thy house," he was glad and touched inwardly with special grace to the profit of his soul. All the people murmured much that Christ would call him and be so familiar with him as, of his own offer, to come unto his house. For they knew him for the chief of the publicans, who were custom-men or toll-gatherers of the Emperor's duties, all which whole company were among the people sore infamous for ravine, extortion, and bribery. And then Zachaeus not only was the chief of the fellowship but also was grown greatly rich, whereby the people accounted him in their own opinion for a man very sinful and wicked. Yet he forthwith, by the instinct of the spirit of God, in reproach of all such temerarious bold and blind judgment, given upon a man whose inward mind and sudden change they cannot see, shortly proved them all deceived. And he proved that our Lord had, at those few words outwardly spoken to him, so wrought in his heart within that whatsoever he was before, he was then, unawares to them all, suddenly waxed good. For he made haste and came down, and gladly received Christ, and said, "Lo, Lord, the one half of my goods here I give unto poor people. And yet, over that, if I have in anything deceived any man, here am I ready to recompense him fourfold as much."
VINCENT: This was, uncle, a gracious hearing. But yet I marvel me somewhat, wherefore Zachaeus used his words in that manner of order. For methinketh he should first have spoken of making restitution unto those whom he had beguiled, and then spoken of giving his alms afterward. For restitution is, you know, duty, and a thing of such necessity that in respect of restitution almsdeed is but voluntary. Therefore it might seem that to put men in mind of their duty in making restitution first, and doing their alms afterward, Zachaeus would have spoken more fittingly if he had said first that he would make every man restitution whom he had wronged, and then give half in alms of that which remained afterward. For only that might he call clearly his own.
ANTHONY: This is true, cousin, where a man hath not enough to suffice for both. But he who hath, is not bound to leave his alms ungiven to the poor man who is at hand and peradventure calleth upon him, till he go seek up all his creditors and all those whom he hath wronged—who are peradventure so far asunder that, leaving the one good deed undone the while, he may, before they come together, change that good intent again and do neither the one nor the other. It is good always to be doing some good out of hand, while we think on it; grace shall the better stand with us and increase also, to go the further in the other afterward.
And this I would answer, if the man had there done the one out of hand—the giving, I mean, of half in alms—and not so much as spoken of restitution till afterward. Whereas now, though he spoke the one in order before the other (and yet all at one time) it remained still in his liberty to put them both in execution, after such order as he should then think expedient. But now, cousin, did the spirit of God temper the tongue of Zachaeus in the utterance of these words in such wise that it may well appear that the saying of the wise man is verified in them, where he saith, "To God it belongeth to govern the tongue." For here, when he said that he would give half of his goods unto poor people and yet beside that not only recompense any man whom he had wronged but more than recompense him by three times as much again, he doubly reproved the false suspicion of the people. For they accounted him for so evil that they reckoned in their mind all his goods wrongly gotten, because he was grown to substance in that office that was commonly misused with extortion. But his words declared that he was deep enough in his reckoning so that, if half his goods were given away, he would yet be well able to yield every man his due with the other half—and yet leave himself no beggar either, for he said not he would give away all.
Would God, cousin, that every rich Christian man who is reputed right worshipful—yea, and (which yet, to my mind, is more) reckoned for right honest, too—would and could do the thing that little Zachaeus, that same great publican, were he Jew or were he paynim, said that he would do: that is, with less than half his goods, to recompense every man whom he had wronged four times as much. Yea, yea, cousin, as much for as much, hardly! And then they who receive it shall be content, I dare promise for them, to let the other thrice-as-much go, and forgive it. Because that was one of the hard points of the old law, whereas Christian men must be full of forgiving, and not require and exact their amends to the uttermost.
But now, for our purpose here: He promised neither to give away all nor to become a beggar—no, nor yet to leave off his office either. For, albeit that he had not used it before peradventure in every point so pure as St. John the Baptist had taught them the lesson: "Do no more than is appointed unto you," yet he might both lawfully use his substance that he intended to reserve, and lawfully might use his office, too, in receiving the prince's duty, according to Christ's express commandment, "Give the Emperor those things that are his," refusing all extortion and bribery besides. Yet our Lord, well approving his good purpose, and exacting no further of him concerning his worldly behaviour, answered and said, "This day is health come to this house, for he too is the son of Abraham."
But now I forget not, cousin, that in effect you conceded to me thus far: that a man may be rich and yet not out of the state of grace, nor out of God's favour. Howbeit, you think that, though it may be so in some time or in some other place, yet at this time and in this place, or any other such in which there be so many poor people, upon whom you think they are bound to bestow their goods, they can keep no riches with conscience.
Verily, cousin, if that reason would hold, I daresay the world was never such anywhere that any man might have kept any substance without the danger of damnation. For since Christ's days to the world's end, we have the witness of his own word that there hath never lacked poor men nor ever shall. For he said himself, "Poor men shall you always have with you, unto whom, when you will, you may do good." So that, as I tell you, if your rule should hold, then I suppose there would be no place, in no time, since Christ's days hitherto, nor I think in as long before that either, nor never shall there be hereafter, in which any man could abide rich without the danger of eternal damnation, even for his riches alone, though he demeaned himself never so well.
But, cousin, men of substance must there be. For otherwise shall you have more beggars, perdy, than there are, and no man left able to relieve another. For this I think in my mind a very sure conclusion: If all the money that is in this country were tomorrow brought together out of every man's hand and laid all upon one heap, and then divided out unto every man alike, it would be on the morrow after worse than it was the day before. For I suppose that when it were all equally thus divided among all, the best would be left little better then than almost a beggar is now. And yet he who was a beggar before, all that he shall be the richer for, that he should thereby receive, shall not make him much above a beggar still. But many a one of the rich men, if their riches stood but in movable substance, shall be safe enough from riches, haply for all their life after!
Men cannot, you know, live here in this world unless some one man provide a means of living for many others. Every man cannot have a ship of his own, nor every man be a merchant without a stock. And these things, you know, must needs be had. Nor can every man have a plough by himself. And who could live by the tailor's craft, if no man were able to have a gown made? Who could live by masonry, or who could live a carpenter, if no man were able to build either church or house? Who would be the makers of any manner of cloth, if there lacked men of substance to set sundry sorts to work? Some man who hath not two ducats in his house would do better to lose them both and leave himself not a farthing, but utterly lose all his own, rather than that some rich man by whom he is weekly set to work should lose one half of his money. For then would he himself be likely to lack work. For surely the rich man's substance is the wellspring of the poor man's living. And therefore here would it fare by the poor man as it fared by the woman in one of AEsop's fables. She had a hen that laid her every day a golden egg, till on a day she thought she would have a great many eggs at once. And therefore she killed her hen and found but one or twain in her belly, so that for a few she lost many.
But now, cousin, to come to your doubt how it can be that a man may with conscience keep riches with him, when he seeth so many poor men on whom he may bestow them. Verily, that might he not with conscience do, if he must bestow it upon as many as he can. And so much of truth every rich man do, if all the poor folk that he seeth are so specially by God's commandment committed unto his charge alone that, because our Saviour said, "Give to every man who asketh thee," therefore he is bound to give out still to every beggar who will ask him, as long as any penny lasteth in his purse. But verily, cousin, that saying hath (as St. Austine saith other places in scripture have) need of interpretation. For, as holy St. Austine saith, though Christ say, "Give to every man who asketh thee," he saith not yet, "Give them all that they will ask thee." But surely they would be the same, if he meant to bind me by commandment to give every man without exception something. For so should I leave myself nothing.
Our Saviour, in that place of the sixth chapter of St. Luke, speaketh both of the contempt that we should have in heart of these worldly things, and also of the manner that men should use toward their enemies. For there he biddeth us love our enemies, give good words for evil, and not only suffer injuries patiently (both the taking away of our goods and harm done unto our body), but also be ready to suffer the double, and over that to do good in return to those who do us the harm. And among these things he biddeth us give to every man who asketh, meaning that when we can conveniently do a man good, we should not refuse it, whatsoever manner of man he may be, though he were our mortal enemy, if we see that unless we help him ourselves, the person of that man should stand in peril of perishing. And therefore saith St. Paul, "If thine enemy be in hunger, give him meat."
But now, though I be bound to give every manner of man in some manner of his necessity, were he my friend or my foe, Christian man or heathen, yet am I not bound alike unto all men, nor unto any many in every case alike. But, as I began to tell you, the differences of the circumstances make great change in the matter. St. Paul saith, "He that provideth not for those that are his, is worse than an infidel." Those are ours who are belonging to our charge, either by nature or by law, or any commandment of God. By nature, as our children; by law, as our servants in our household. Albeit these two sorts be not ours all alike, yet would I think that the least ours of the twain—that is, the servants—if they need, and lack, we are bound to look to them and provide for their need, and see, so far as we can, that they lack not the things that should serve for their necessity while they dwell in our service. Meseemeth also that if they fall sick in our service, so that they cannot do the service that we retain them for, yet may we not in any wise turn them out of doors and cast them up comfortless, while they are not able to labour and help themselves. For this would be a thing against all humanity. And surely, if a man were but a wayfarer whom I received into my house as a guest, if he fell sick there and his money be gone, I reckon myself bound to keep him still, and rather to beg about for his relief than to cast him out in that condition to the peril of his life, whatsoever loss I should happen to sustain in the keeping of him. For when God hath by such chance sent him to me and there once matched me with him, I reckon myself surely charged with him until I may, without peril of his life, be well and conveniently discharged of him.
By God's commandment our parents are in our charge, for by nature we are in theirs. Since, as St. Paul saith, it is not the children's part to provide for the parents but the parents' to provide for the children. Provide, I mean, conveniently—good learning or good occupations to get their living by, with truth and the favour of God—but not to make provision for them of such manner of living as they should live the worse toward God for. But rather, if they see by their manner that too much would make them wicked, the father should then give them a great deal less. But although nature put not the parents in the children's charge, yet not only God commandeth but the order of nature compelleth, that the children should both in reverent behaviour honour their father and mother, and also in all their necessity maintain them. And yet, as much as God and nature both bind us to the sustenance of our father, his need may be so little (though it be somewhat) and another man's so great, that both nature and God also would that I should, in such unequal need, relieve that urgent necessity of a stranger—yea, my foe, and God's enemy too, the very Turk or Saracen—before a little need, and unlikely to do great harm, in my father and my mother too. For so ought they both twain themselves to be well content that I should.
But now, cousin, outside of such extreme need well perceived and known unto myself, I am not bound to give to every beggar who will ask; nor to believe every imposter that I meet in the street who will say himself that he is very sick; nor to reckon all the poor folk committed by God only so to my charge alone, that no other man should give them anything of his until I have first given out all mine. Nor am I bound either to have so evil opinion of all other folk save myself as to think that, unless I help, the poor folk shall all fail at once, for God hath left in all this quarter no more good folk now but me! I may think better of my neighbours and worse of myself than that, and yet come to heaven, by God's grace, well enough.
VINCENT: Marry, uncle, but some man will peradventure be right content, in such cases, to think his neighbours very charitable, to the intent that he may think himself at liberty to give nothing at all.
ANTHONY: That is, cousin, very true. Some will be content either to think so, or to make as though they thought so. But those are they who are content to give naught because they are naught! But our question is, cousin, not of them, but of good folk who, by the keeping of worldly goods, stand in great fear to offend God. For the quieting of their conscience speak we now, to the intent that they may perceive what manner of having of worldly goods, and keeping of them, may stand with the state of grace.
Now think I, cousin, that if a man keep riches about him for a glory and royalty of the world, taking a great delight in the consideration of it and liking himself for it, and taking him who is poorer for the lack of it as one far worse than himself, such a mind is very vain foolish pride and such a man is very wicked indeed. But on the other hand, there may be a man—such as would God there were many!—who hath no love unto riches, but having it fall abundantly unto him, taketh for his own part no great pleasure of it, but, as though he had it not, keepeth himself in like abstinence and penance privily as he would do in case he had it not. And, in such things as he doth openly, he may bestow somewhat more liberally upon himself in his house after some manner of the world, lest he should give other folk occasion to marvel and muse and talk of his manner and misreport him for a hypocrite. And therein, between God and him, he may truly protest and testify, as did the good queen Hester, that he doth it not for any desire thereof in the satisfying of his own pleasure, but would with as good will or better forbear the possession of riches, saving them—as perhaps in keeping a good household in good Christian order and fashion, and in setting other folk to work with such things as they gain their living the better by his means. If there be such a man, his having of riches methinketh I might in a manner match in merit with another man's forsaking of all. Or so would it be if there were no other circumstances more pleasing unto God added further unto the forsaking besides, as perhaps for the more fervent contemplation by reason of the solicitude of all worldly business being left off, which was the thing that made Mary Magdalene's part the better. For otherwise would Christ have given her much more thanks to go about and be busy in the helping her sister Martha to dress his dinner, than to take her stool and sit down at her ease and do naught.
Now, if he who hath these goods and riches by him, have not haply fully so perfect a mind, but somewhat loveth to keep himself from lack; and if he be not, so fully as a pure Christian fashion requireth, determined to abandon his pleasure—well, what will you more? The man is so much the less perfect than I would that he were, and haply than he himself would wish, if it were as easy to be it as to wish it. But yet is he not forthwith in the state of damnation, for all that. No more than every man is forthwith in a state of damnation who, forsaking all and entering into religion, is not yet always so clear purified from worldly affections as he himself would very fain that he were, and much bewaileth that he is not. Many a man, who hath in the world willingly forsaken the likelihood of right worshipful offices, hath afterward had much ado to keep himself from the desire of the office of cellarer or sexton, to bear yet at least some rule and authority, though it were but among the bellies. But God is more merciful to man's imperfection—if the man know it, and acknowledge it, and mislike it, and little by little labour to amend it—than to reject and cast off to the devil him who, according as his frailty can bear and suffer, hath a general intent and purpose to please him and to prefer or set by nothing in this world before him.
And therefore, cousin, to make an end of this piece withal—of this devil, I mean, whom the prophet calleth "Business walking in the darknesses": If a man have a mind to serve God and please him, and would rather lose all the goods he hath than wittingly to do deadly sin; and if he would, without murmur or grudge, give it every whit away in case God should so command him, and intend to take it patiently if God would take it from him; and if he would be glad to use it unto God's pleasure, and do his diligence to know and be taught what manner of using of it God would be pleased with; and if he be glad to follow therein, from time to time, the counsel of good virtuous men, though he neither give away all at once, nor give to every man who asketh him neither; and though every man should fear and think in this world that all the good that he doth or can do is a great deal too little—yet, for all that fear, let that man dwell in the faithful hope of God's help! And then shall the truth of God so compass him about, as the prophet saith, with a shield, that he shall not so need to dread the snares and the temptations of this devil whom the prophet calleth "Business walking about in the darknesses." But he shall, for all the having of riches and worldly substance, so avoid his snares and temptations, that he shall in conclusion, by the great grace and almighty mercy of God, get into heaven well enough.
And now was I, cousin, after this piece thus ended, about to bid them bring in our dinner. But now shall I not need to, lo, for here they come with it already.
VINCENT: Forsooth, good uncle, God disposeth and timeth your matter and your dinner both, I trust. For the end of your good tale—for which our Lord reward you!—and the beginning here of your good dinner too (from which it would be more than pity that you should any longer have tarried) meet even at the close together.
ANTHONY: Well, cousin, now will we say grace. And then for a while will we leave talking and essay how our dinner shall please us, and how fair we can fall to feeding. After that, you know my customary guise (for "manner" I cannot call it, because the guise is unmannerly) to bid you not farewell but steal away from you to sleep. But you know I am not wont to sleep long in the afternoon, but even a little to forget the world. And when I wake, I will again come to you. And then is, God willing, all this long day ours, in which we shall have time enough to talk much more than shall suffice for the finishing of this one part of our matter that now alone remaineth.
VINCENT: I pray you, good uncle, keep your customary manner, for "manner" may you call it well enough. For as it would be against good manners to look that a man should kneel down for courtesy when his knee is sore, so is it very good manners that a man of your age (aggrieved with such sundry sicknesses besides, that suffer you not always to sleep when you should) should not let his sleep slip away but should take it when he can. And I will, uncle, in the meanwhile steal from you, too, and speed a little errand and return to you again.
ANTHONY: Stay as long as you will, and when you have dined go at your pleasure. But I pray you, tarry not long.
VINCENT: You shall not need, uncle, to put me in mind of that, I would so fain have up the rest of our matter.
VINCENT: I have tarried somewhat the longer, uncle, partly because I was loth to come over-soon, lest my soon-coming might have happed to have made you wake too soon. But I tarried especially for the reason that I was delayed by someone who showed me a letter, dated at Constantinople, by which it appeareth that the great Turk prepareth a marvellous mighty army. And yet whither he will go with it, that can there yet no man tell. But I fear in good faith, uncle, that his voyage shall be hither. Howbeit, he who wrote the letter saith that it is secretly said in Constantinople that a great part of his army shall be shipped and sent either into Naples or into Sicily.
ANTHONY: It may fortune, cousin, that the letter of a Venetian, dated at Constantinople, was devised at Venice. From thence come there some letters—and sometimes from Rome, too, and sometimes also from some other places—all stuffed full of such tidings that the Turk is ready to do some great exploit. These tidings they blow about for the furtherance of some such affairs as they have themselves then in hand.
The Turk hath also so many men of arms in his retinue at his continual charge that, lest they should lie still and do nothing, but peradventure fall in devising of some novelties among themselves, he is fain yearly to make some assembly and some changing of them from one place unto another, and part some asunder, that they wax not over-well acquainted by dwelling over-long together. By these ways also, he maketh those that he intendeth suddenly to invade indeed, to look the less for it, and thereby to make the less preparation before. For they see him so many times make a great visage of war when he intendeth it not, but then, at one time or another, they suddenly feel it when they fear it not.
Howbeit, cousin, it is of very truth full likely that into this realm of Hungary he will not fail to come. For neither is there any country throughout Christendom that lieth so convenient for him, nor never was there any time till now in which he might so well and surely win it. For now we call him in ourselves, God save us, as AEsop telleth that the sheep took in the wolf among them to keep them from the dogs.
VINCENT: Then are there, good uncle, all those tribulations very like to fall upon us here, that I spoke of in the beginning of our first communication here the other day.
ANTHONY: Very truth it is, cousin, that so there will of likelihood in a while, but not forthwith all at first. For since he cometh under the colour of aid for the one against the other, he will somewhat see the proof before he fully show himself. But in conclusion, if he be able to get it for that one, you shall see him so handle it that he shall not fail to get it from him, and that forthwith out of hand, ere ever he suffer him to settle himself over-sure therein.
VINCENT: Yet say they, uncle, that he useth not to force any man to forsake his faith.
ANTHONY: Not any man, cousin? They say more than they can make good, those who tell you so. He maketh a solemn oath, among the ceremonies of that feast in which he first taketh upon him his authority, that he will diminish the faith of Christ, in all that he possibly can, and dilate the faith of Mahomet. But yet hath he not used to force every whole country at once to forsake their faith. For of some countries hath he been content only to take a tribute yearly and let them then live as they will. Out of some he taketh the whole people away, dispersing them for slaves among many sundry countries of his, very far from their own, without any sufferance of regress. In some countries, so great and populous that they cannot well be carried and conveyed thence, he destroyeth the gentlefolk and giveth the lands partly to such as he bringeth and partly to such as willingly will deny their faith, and keepeth the others in such misery that they might as well (in a manner) be dead at once. In rest he suffereth else no Christian man almost, but those that resort as merchants or those that offer themselves to serve him in his war.
But as for those Christian countries that he useth not only for tributaries, as he doth Chios, Cyprus, or Crete, but reckoneth for clear conquest and utterly taketh for his own, as Morea, Greece, and Macedonia, and such others—and as I verily think he will Hungary, if he get it—in all those he useth Christian people after sundry fashions. He letteth them dwell there, indeed, because they would be too many to carry all away, and too many to kill them all, too, unless he should either leave the land dispeopled and desolate or else, from some other countries of his own, should convey the people thither (which would not be well done) to people that land with. There, lo, those who will not be turned from their faith, of which God—lauded be his holy name!—keepeth very many, he suffereth to dwell still in peace. But yet is their peace for all that not very peaceable. For he suffereth them to have no lands of their own, honourable offices they bear none; with occasions of his wars, he plucketh them unto the bare bones with taxes and tallages. Their children he chooseth where he will in their youth, and taketh them from their parents, conveying them whither he will, where their friends never see them after, and abuseth them as he will. Some young maidens he maketh harlots, some young men he bringeth up in war, and some young children he causeth to be gelded—not their stones cut out as the custom was of old, but their whole members cut off by the body; how few escape and live he little careth, for he will have enough! And all whom he so taketh young, to any use of his own, are betaken unto such Turks or false renegades to keep, that they are turned from the faith of Christ every one. Or else they are so handled that, as for this world, they come to an evil end. For, besides many other contumelies and despites that the Turks and the false renegade Christians many times do to good Christian people who still persevere and abide by the faith, they find the means sometimes to make some false knaves say that they heard such-and-such a Christian man speak opprobrious words against Mahomet. And upon that point, falsely testified, they will take occasion to compel him to forsake the faith of Christ and turn to the profession of their shameful superstitious sect, or else will they put him to death with cruel intolerable torments.
VINCENT: Our Lord, uncle, for his mighty mercy, keep those wretches hence! For, by my troth, if they hap to come hither, methinketh I see many more tokens than one that we shall have some of our own folk here ready to fall in with them.
For as before a great storm the sea beginneth sometimes to work and roar in itself, ere ever the winds wax boisterous, so methinketh I hear at mine ear some of our own here among us, who within these few years could no more have borne the name of Turk than the name of devil, begin now to find little fault in them—yea, and some to praise them little by little, as they can, more glad to find faults at every state of Christendom: priests, princes, rites, ceremonies, sacraments, laws, and customs spiritual, temporal, and all.
ANTHONY: In good faith, cousin, so begin we to fare here indeed, and that but even now of late. For since the title of the crown hath come in question, the good rule of this realm hath very sore decayed, as little a while as it is. And undoubtedly Hungary shall never do well as long as men's minds hearken after novelty and have their hearts hanging upon a change. And much the worse I like it, when their words walk so large toward the favour of the Turk's sect, which they were ever wont to have in so great abomination, as every true-minded Christian man—and Christian woman, too—must have.
I am of such age as you see, and verily from as far as I can remember, it hath been marked and often proved true, that when children in Buda have fallen in a fancy by themselves to draw together and in their playing make as it were corpses carried to church, and sing after their childish fashion the tune of the dirge, great death hath followed shortly thereafter. And twice or thrice I can remember in my day when children in divers parts of this realm have gathered themselves in sundry companies and made as it were troops and battles. And after their battles in sport, in which some children have yet taken great hurt, there hath fallen true battle and deadly war indeed. These tokens were somewhat like your example of the sea, since they are tokens going before, of things that afterward follow, through some secret motion or instinct of which the cause is unknown.
But, by St. Mary, cousin, these tokens like I much worse—these tokens, I say, not of children's play nor of children's songs, but old knaves' large open words, so boldly spoken in the favour of Mahomet's sect in this realm of Hungary, which hath been ever hitherto a very sure key of Christendom. And without doubt if Hungary be lost and the Turk have it once fast in his possession, he shall, ere it be long afterward, have an open ready way into almost all the rest of Christendom. Though he win it not all in a week, the great part will be won, I fear me, within very few years after.
VINCENT: But yet evermore I trust in Christ, good uncle, that he shall not suffer that abominable sect of his mortal enemies in such wise to prevail against his Christian countries.
ANTHONY: That is very well said, cousin. Let us have our sure hope in him, and then shall we be very sure that we shall not be deceived. For we shall have either the thing that we hope for, or a better thing in its stead. For, as for the thing itself that we pray for and hope to have, God will not always send it to us. And therefore, as I said in our first communication, in all things save only for heaven, our prayer and our hope may never be too precise, although the thing may be lawful to ask.
Verily, if we people of the Christian nations were such as would God we were, I would little fear all the preparations that the great Turk could make. No, nor yet, being as bad as we are, I doubt not at all but that in conclusion, however base Christendom be brought, it shall spring up again, till the time be come very near to the day of judgment, some tokens of which methinketh are not come yet. But somewhat before that time shall Christendom be straitened sore, and brought into so narrow a compass that, according to Christ's words, "When the Son of Man shall come again"—that is, to the day of general judgment—"thinkest thou that he shall find faith in the earth?" as who should say, "but a little." For, as appeareth in the Apocalypse and other places of scripture, the faith shall be at that time so far faded that he shall, for the love of his elect, lest they should fall and perish too, abridge those days and accelerate his coming. But, as I say, methinketh I miss yet in my mind some of those tokens that shall, by the scripture, come a good while before that. And among others, the coming in of the Jews and the dilating of Christendom again before the world come to that strait. So I say that for mine own mind I have little doubt that this ungracious sect of Mahomet shall have a foul fall, and Christendom spring and spread, flower and increase again. Howbeit, the pleasure and comfort shall they see who shall be born after we are buried, I fear me, both twain. For God giveth us great likelihood that for our sinful wretched living he goeth about to make these infidels, who are his open professed enemies, the sorrowful scourge of correction over evil Christian people who should be faithful and who are of truth his falsely professing friends.
And surely, cousin, albeit that methinketh I see divers evil tokens of this misery coming to us, yet can there not, to my mind, be a worse prognostication of it than this ungracious token that you note here yourself. For undoubtedly, cousin, this new manner of men's favourable fashion in their language toward these ungracious Turks declareth plainly not only that their minds give them that hither shall he come, but also that they can be content both to live under him and, beside that, to fall from the true faith of Christ into Mahomet's false abominable sect.
VINCENT: Verily, mine uncle, as I go about more than you, so must I needs hear more (which is a heavy hearing in mine ear) the manner of men in this matter, which increaseth about us here—I trust that in other places of this realm, by God's grace, it is otherwise. But in this quarter here about us, many of these fellows who are fit for the war were wont at first, as it were in sport, to talk as though they looked for a day when, with a turn to the Turk's faith, they should be made masters here of true Christian men's bodies and owners of all their goods. And, in a while after that, they began to talk so half between game and earnest—and now, by our Lady, not far from fair flat earnest indeed.
ANTHONY: Though I go out but little, cousin, yet hear I sometimes—when I say little!—almost as much as that. But since there is no man to whom we can complain for redress, what remedy is there but patience, and to sit still and hold our peace? For of these two who strive which of them both shall reign over us—and each of them calleth himself king, and both twain put the people to pain—one is, as you know well, too far from our quarter here to help us in this behalf. And the other, since he looketh for the Turk's aid, either will not, or (I suppose) dare not find any fault with them that favour the Turk and his sect. For of natural Turks this country lacketh none now; they are living here under divers pretexts, and of everything they advertise the great Turk full surely. And therefore, cousin, albeit that I would advise every man to pray still and call unto God to hold his gracious hand over us and keep away this wretchedness if his pleasure be, yet would I further advise every good Christian body to remember and consider that it is very likely to come. And therefore I would advise him to make his reckoning and count his pennyworths before, and I would advise every man (and every woman, too) to appoint with God's help in their own mind beforehand what they intend to do if the very worst should befall.
VINCENT: Well fare your heart, good uncle, for this good counsel of yours! For surely methinketh that this is marvellous good.
But yet heard I once a right learned and very good man say that it would be great folly, and very perilous too, if a man should think upon any such thing or imagine any such question in his mind, for fear of double peril that may follow thereupon. For he shall be likely to answer himself that he will rather suffer any painful death than forsake his faith, and by that bold appointment should he fall into the fault of St. Peter, who of oversight made a proud promise and soon had a foul fall. Or else would he be likely to think that rather than abide the pain he would forsake God indeed, and by that mind should he sin deadly through his own folly, whereas he needeth not do so, since he shall peradventure never come in the peril to be put thereto. And therefore it would be most wisdom never to think upon any such manner of question.
ANTHONY: I believe well, cousin, that you have heard some men who would so say. For I can show almost as much as that left in writing by a very good man and a great solemn doctor. But yet, cousin, although I should happen to find one or two more, as good men and as well learned too, who would both twain say and write the same, yet would I not fear for my part to counsel my friend to the contrary.
For, cousin, if his mind answer him as St. Peter answered Christ, that he will rather die than forsake him, though he say therein more unto himself than he should be peradventure able to make good if it came to the point, yet I perceive not that he doth in that thought any deadly displeasure unto God. For St. Peter, though he said more than he could perform, yet in his so saying offended not God greatly neither. But his offence was when he did not afterward so well as he said before. But now may this man be likely never to fall in the peril of breaking that appointment, since of some ten thousand that shall so examine themselves, never one shall fall in the peril. And yet for them to have that good purpose all their life seemeth me no more harm in the meanwhile than for a poor beggar who hath never a penny to think that, if he had great substance, he would give great alms for God's sake.
But now is all the peril if the man answer himself that he would in such case rather forsake the faith of Christ with his mouth and keep it still in his heart than for the confessing of it to endure a painful death. For by this mind he falleth in deadly sin, which he never would have fallen in if he had never put himself the question. But in good faith methinketh that he who, upon that question put unto himself by himself, will make himself that answer, hath the habit of faith so faint and so cold that, for the better knowledge of himself and of his necessity to pray for more strength of grace, he had need to have the question put to him either by himself or by some other man.
Besides this, to counsel a man never to think on that question is, to my mind, as reasonable as the medicine that I have heard taught someone for the toothache: to go thrice about a churchyard, and never think on a fox-tail! For if the counsel be not given them, it cannot serve them. And if it be given them, it must put the point of the matter in their mind. And forthwith to reject it, and think therein neither one thing nor the other, is a thing that may be sooner bidden than obeyed.
I think also that very few men can escape it. For though they would never think on it by themselves, yet in one place or another where they shall happen to come in company, they shall have the question by adventure so proposed and put forth that—like as, while a man heareth someone talking to him, he can close his eyes if he will, but he cannot make himself sleep—so shall they, whether they will or not, think one thing or the other therein.
Finally, when Christ spoke so often and so plain of the matter, that every man should, upon pain of damnation, openly confess his faith if men took him and by dread of death would drive him to the contrary, it seemeth me (in a manner) implied that we are bound conditionally to have evermore that mind—actually sometimes, and evermore habitually—that if the case should so befall, then with God's help so we would do. And thus much methinketh necessary, for every man and woman to be always of this mind and often to think thereon. And where they find, in the thinking thereon, that their hearts shudder and shrink in the remembrance of the pain that their imagination representeth to the mind, then must they call to mind and remember the great pain and torment that Christ suffered for them, and heartily pray for grace that, if the case should so befall, God should give them strength to stand. And thus, with exercise of such meditation, through men should never stand full out of fear of falling, yet must they persevere in good hope and in full purpose of standing.
And this seemeth to me, cousin, so far forth the mind that every Christian man and woman must needs have, that methinketh every curate should often counsel all his parishioners, beginning in their tender youth, to know this point and think on it, and little by little from their very childhood accustom them sweetly and pleasantly in the meditation thereof. Thereby the goodness of God shall not fail so to inspire the grace of his Holy Spirit into their hearts, in reward of that virtuous diligence, that through such actual meditation he shall confirm them in such a sure habit of spiritual faithful strength, that all the devils in hell, with all the wrestling that they can make, shall never be able to wrest it out of their heart.
VINCENT: By my troth, uncle, methinketh that you say very well.
ANTHONY: I say surely, cousin, as I think. And yet all this have I said concerning them that dwell in such places that they are never like in their lives to come in the danger to be put to the proof. Howbeit, many a man may think himself far from it, who yet may fortune to come to it by some chance or other, either for the truth of faith or for the truth of justice, which go almost all alike.
But now you and I, cousin, and all our friends here, are far in another point. For we are so likely to fall in the experience of it soon, that it would have been more timely for us, all other things set aside, to have devised upon this matter, and firmly to have settled ourselves upon a false point long ago, than to begin to commune and counsel upon it now.
VINCENT: In good faith, uncle, you say therein very truth, and would God it had come sooner in my mind. But yet is it better late than never. And I trust God shall yet give us respite and time. And that we lose no part thereof, uncle, I pray you proceed now with your good counsel therein.
ANTHONY: Very gladly, cousin, shall I now go forth in the fourth temptation, which alone remaineth to be treated of, and properly pertaineth wholly unto this present purpose.
The fourth temptation, cousin, that the prophet speaketh of in the fore-remembered psalm is plain open persecution. And it is touched in these words: "Ab incursu et demonio meridiano."
And of all his temptations, this is the most perilous, the most bitter, the most sharp, and the most rigorous. For in other temptations he useth either pleasant allectives unto sin, or other secret sleights and snares; and cometh in the night and stealeth on in the dark unaware; or in some other part of the day flieth and passeth by like an arrow; so shaping himself sometimes in one fashion, sometimes in another, and dissimulating himself and his high mortal malice, that a man is thereby so blinded and beguiled that he cannot sometimes perceive well what he is. But in this temptation, this plain open persecution for the faith, he cometh even in the very midday—that is, even upon those who have a high light of faith shining in their hearts—and he openly suffereth himself to be perceived so plainly, by his fierce malicious persecution against the faithful Christians, for hatred of Christ's true Catholic faith, that no man having faith can doubt what he is. For in this temptation he showeth himself such as the prophet nameth him, "the midday devil," so lightsomely can he be seen with the eye of the faithful soul, by his fierce furious assault and incursion. For therefore saith the prophet that the truth of God shall compass that man round about who dwelleth in the faithful hope of his help with a shield "from the incursion and the devil of the midday," because this kind of persecution is not a wily temptation but a furious force and a terrible incursion. In other of his temptations, he stealeth on like a fox, but in this Turk's persecution for the faith, he runneth on roaring with assault like a ramping lion.
This temptation is, of all temptations, also the most perilous. For in temptations of prosperity he useth only delectable allectives to move a man to sin; and in other kinds of tribulation and adversity he useth only grief and pain to pull a man into murmuring, impatience, and blasphemy. But in this kind of persecution for the faith of Christ he useth both twain—that is, both his allectives of quiet and rest by deliverance from death and pain, with other pleasures also of this present life, and besides that the terror and infliction of intolerable pain and torment.
In other tribulation—as loss, or sickness, or death of our friends—-though the pain be peradventure as great and sometimes greater too, yet is not the peril nowhere nigh half so much. For in other tribulations, as I said before, that necessity that the man must perforce abide and endure the pain, wax he never so wroth and impatient with it, is a great reason to move him to keep his patience in it and be content with it and thank God for it and of necessity make a virtue, that he may be rewarded for it. But in this temptation, this persecution for the faith—I mean not by fight in the field, by which the faithful man standeth at his defence and putteth the faithless in half the fear and half the harm too; but I mean where he is taken and held, and may for the forswearing or denying of his faith be delivered and suffered to live in rest and some in great worldly wealth also. In this case, I say, since he needeth not to suffer this trouble and pain unless he will, there is a marvellous great occasion for him to fall into the sin that the devil would drive him to—that is, the forsaking of the faith.
And therefore, I say, of all the devil's temptations, this temptation, this persecution for the faith, is the most perilous.
VINCENT: The more perilous, uncle, this temptation is—as indeed, of all the temptations, the most perilous it is—the more need have those who stand in peril of it to be well armed against it beforehand, with substantial advice and good counsel. For so may we the better bear that tribulation when it cometh, with the comfort and consolation thereof, and the better withstand the temptation.
ANTHONY: You say, Cousin Vincent, therein very truth. And I am content therefore to fall in hand with it.
But forasmuch, cousin, as methinketh that of this tribulation you are somewhat more afraid than I—and of truth somewhat more excusable it is in you than it would be in me, mine age considered and the sorrow that I have suffered already, with some other considerations upon my part besides—rehearse you therefore the griefs and pains that you think in this tribulation possible to fall unto you. And I shall against each of them give you counsel and rehearse you such occasion of comfort and consolation as my poor wit and learning can call unto my mind.
VINCENT: In good faith, uncle, I am not wholly afraid in this case only for myself, but well you know I have cause to care also for many others, and that folk of sundry sorts, men and women both, and that not all of one age.
ANTHONY: All that you have cause to fear for, cousin, for all of them, have I cause to fear with you, too, since almost all your kinsfolk are likewise kin to me. Howbeit, to say the truth, every man hath cause in this case to fear both for himself and for every other. For since, as the scripture saith, "God hath given every man care and charge of his neighbour," there is no man who hath any spark of Christian love and charity in his breast but what, in a matter of such peril as this is, in which the soul of man standeth in so great danger to be lost, he must needs care and take thought not only for his friends but also for his very foes. We shall therefore, cousin, not rehearse your harms or mine that may befall in this persecution, but all the great harms in general, as near as we can call to mind, that may happen unto any man.
Since a man is made of the body and the soul, all the harm that any man can take, it must needs be in one of these two, either immediately or by the means of some such thing as serveth for the pleasure, welfare, or commodity of one of these two.
As for the soul first, we shall need no rehearsal of any harm that may attain to it by this kind of tribulation, unless by some inordinate love and affection that the soul bear to the body, she consent to slide from the faith and thereby do herself harm. Now there remains the body, and these outward things of fortune which serve for the maintenance of the body and minister matter of pleasure to the soul also, through the delight that she hath in the body for the while that she is matched with it.
Consider first the loss of those outward things, as being somewhat less in weight than the body itself. What may a man lose in them, and thereby what pain may he suffer?
VINCENT: He may lose, uncle, money, plate, and other movable substance (of which I should somewhat lose myself); then, offices and authority; and finally all the lands of his inheritance for ever that he himself and his heirs perpetually might otherwise enjoy. And of all these things, uncle, you know well that I myself have some—little, in respect of that which some others have here, but yet somewhat more than he who hath most here would be well content to lose.
Upon the loss of these things follow neediness and poverty; the pain of lacking, the shame of begging (of which twain I know not which is the most wretched necessity); besides, the grief and heaviness of heart, in beholding good men and faithful and his dear friends bewrapped in like misery, and ungracious wretches and infidels and his mortal enemies enjoying the commodities that he himself and his friends have lost.
Now, for the body very few words should serve us. For therein I see none other harm but loss of liberty, labour, imprisonment, and painful and shameful death.
ANTHONY: There needeth not much more, cousin, as the world is now. For I fear me that less than a fourth part of this will make many a man sore stagger in his faith, and some fall quite from it, who yet at this day, before he come to the proof, thinketh himself that he would stand very fast. And I beseech our Lord that all those who so think, and who would yet when they were brought to the point fall from the faith for fear or pain, may get of God the grace to think still as they do and not to be brought to the essay, where pain or fear would show them, as it showed St. Peter, how far they are deceived now.
But now, cousin, against these terrible things, what way shall we take in giving men counsel of comfort? If the faith were in our days as fervent as it hath been ere this in times past, little counsel and little comfort would suffice. We should not much need with words and reasoning to extenuate and diminish the vigour and asperity of the pains. For of old times, the greater and the more bitter the pain were, the more ready was the fervour of faith to suffer it. And surely, cousin, I doubt little in my mind but what, if a man had in his heart so deep a desire and love—longing to be with God in heaven, to have the fruition of his glorious face—as had those holy men who are martyrs in old time, he would no more now stick at the pain that he must pass between than those old holy martyrs did at that time. But alas, our faint and feeble faith, with our love to God less than lukewarm because of the fiery affection that we bear to our own filthy flesh, maketh us so dull in the desire of heaven that the sudden dread of every bodily pain woundeth us to the heart and striketh our devotion dead. And therefore hath every man, cousin, as I said before, much the more need to think upon this thing many a time and oft aforehand, ere any such peril befall, by much devising upon it before they see cause to fear it. Since the thing shall not appear so terrible unto them, reason shall better enter, and through grace working with their diligence, engender and set sure, not a sudden slight affection of suffering for God's sake, but, by a long continuance, a strong deep-rooted habit—not like a reed ready to wave with every wind, nor like a rootless tree scantly set up on end in a loose heap of light sand, that will with a blast or two be blown down.