Let us now consider, cousin, these causes of terror and dread that you have recited, which in his persecution for the faith this midday devil may, by these Turks, rear against us to make his incursion with. For so shall we well perceive, weighing them well with reason, that, albeit they be indeed somewhat, yet (every part of the matter pondered) they shall well appear in conclusion things not so much to be dreaded and fled from as they do suddenly seem to folk at the first sight.
First let us begin at the outward goods, which are neither the proper goods of the soul nor those of the body, but are called the goods of fortune, and serve for the sustenance and commodity of man for the short season of this present life, as worldly substance, offices, honour, and authority.
What great good is there in these things of themselves, that they should be worthy so much as to bear the name by which the world, of a worldly favour, customarily calleth them? For if the having of strength make a man strong, and the having of heat make a man hot, and the having of virtue make a man virtuous, how can these things be verily and truly "goods," by the having of which he who hath them may as well be worse as better—and, as experience proveth, more often is worse than better? Why should a man greatly rejoice in that which he daily seeth most abound in the hands of many who are wicked? Do not now this great Turk and his pashas in all these advancements of fortune surmount very far above a Christian estate, and any lords living under him? And was there not, some twenty years ago, the great Sultan of Syria, who many a year together bore himself as high as the great Turk, and afterward in one summer unto the great Turk that whole empire was lost? And so may all his empire now—and shall hereafter, by God's grace—be lost into Christian men's hands likewise, when Christian people shall be amended and grow in God's favour again. But since whole kingdoms and mighty great empires are of so little surety to stand, but are so soon transferred from one man unto another, what great thing can you or I—yea, or any lord, the greatest in this land—reckon himself to have, by the possession of a heap of silver or gold? For they are but white and yellow metal, not so profitable of their own nature, save for a little glittering, as the rude rusty metal of iron.
Lands and possessions many men esteem much more yet than money, because the lands seem not so casual as money is, or plate. For though their other substance may be stolen and taken away, yet evermore they think that their land will lie still where it lay. But what are we the better that our land cannot be stirred, but will lie still where it lay, since we ourselves may be removed and not suffered to come near it? What great difference is there to us, whether our substance be movable or unmovable, since we be so movable ourselves that we may be removed from them both and lose them both twain? Yet sometimes in the money is the surety somewhat more. For when we be fain ourselves to flee, we may make shift to carry some of our money with us, whereas of our land we cannot carry one inch.
If our land be a thing of more surety than our money, how happeth it then that in this persecution we are more afraid to lose it? For if it be a thing of more surety, then can it not so soon be lost. In the transfer of these two great empires—Greece first, since I myself was born, and after Syria, since you were born too—the land was lost before the money was found!
Oh, Cousin Vincent, if the whole world were animated with a reasonable soul, as Plato thought it were, and if it had wit and understanding to mark and perceive everything, Lord God, how the ground on which a prince buildeth his palace would loud laugh its lord to scorn, when it saw him proud of his possession and heard him boast himself that he and his blood are for ever the very lords and owners of the land! For then would the ground think the while, to itself, "Ah, thou poor soul, who thinkest thou wert half a god, and art amid thy glory but a man in a gay gown! I who am the ground here, over whom thou are so proud, have had a hundred such owners of me as thou callest thyself, more than ever thou hast heard the names of. And some of them who went proudly over mine head now lie low in my belly, and my side lieth over them. And many a one shall, as thou does now, call himself mine owner after thee, who shall neither be kin to thy blood nor have heard any word of thy name."
Who owned your village, cousin, three thousand years ago?
VINCENT: Three thousand, uncle? Nay, nay, in any king, Christian or heathen, you may strike off a third part of that well enough—and, as far as I know, half of the rest, too. In far fewer years than three thousand it may well fortune that a poor ploughman's blood may come up to a kingdom, and a king's right royal kin on the other hand fall down to the plough and cart, and neither that king know that ever he came from the cart, nor that carter know that ever he came from the crown.
ANTHONY: We find, Cousin Vincent, in full ancient stories many strange changes as marvellous as that, come about in the compass of very few years, in effect. And are such things then in reason so greatly to be set by, that we should esteem the loss so great, when we see that in keeping them our surety is so little?
VINCENT: Marry, uncle, but the less surety we have to keep it, since it is a great commodity to have it, so much more the loth we are to forgo it.
ANTHONY: That reason shall I, cousin, turn against yourself. For if it be so as you say, that since the things be commodious, the less surety that you see you have of keeping them, the more cause you have to be afraid of losing them; then on the other hand the more a thing is of its nature such that its commodity bringeth a man little surety and much fear, that thing of reason the less we have cause to love. And then, the less cause we have to love a thing, the less cause have we to care for it or fear its loss, or be loth to go from it.
We shall yet, cousin, consider in these outward goods of fortune—as riches, good name, honest estimation, honourable fame, and authority—in all these things we shall, I say, consider that we love them and set by them either as things commodious unto us for the state and condition of this present life, or else as things that we purpose by the good use of them to make matter of our merit, with God's help, in the life to come.
Let us then first consider them as things set by and beloved for the pleasure and commodity of them for this present life.
Now, as for riches, if we consider it well, the commodity that we take of it is not so great as our own foolish affection and fancy maketh us imagine it. I deny not that it maketh us go much more gay and glorious in sight, garnished in silk—but wool is almost as warm! It maketh us have great plenty of many kinds of delicate and delicious victuals, and thereby to make more excess—but less exquisite and less superfluous fare, with fewer surfeits and fewer fevers too, would be almost as wholesome! Then, the labour in getting riches, the fear in keeping them, and the pain in parting from them, do more than counterweight a great part of all the pleasure and commodity that they bring.
Besides this, riches are the thing that taketh many times from its master all his pleasure and his life, too. For many a man is slain for his riches. And some keep their riches as a thing pleasant and commodious for their life, take none other pleasure of it in all their life than as though they bore the key of another man's coffer. For they are content to live miserably in neediness all their days, rather than to find it in their heart to diminish their hoard, they have such a fancy to look thereon. Yea, and some men, for fear lest thieves should steal it from them, are their own thieves and steal it from themselves. For they dare not so much as let it lie where they themselves may look on it, but put it in a pot and hide it in the ground, and there let it lie safe till they die—and sometimes seven years thereafter. And if the pot had been stolen away from that place five years before the man's death, then all the same five years he lived thereafter, thinking always that his pot lay safe still, since he never occupied it afterward, what had he been the poorer?
VINCENT: By my troth, uncle, not one penny, for aught that I perceive.
ANTHONY: Let us now consider good name, honest estimation, and honourable fame. For these three things are of their own nature one, and take their differences in effect only of the manner of the common speech in diversity of degree. For a good name may a man have, be he never so poor. Honest estimation, in the common understanding of the people, belongeth not unto any man but him that is taken for one of some countenance and possessions, and among his neighbours had in some reputation. In the word of "honourable fame," folk conceive the renown of great estates, much and far spoken of, by reason of their laudable acts.
Now, all this gear, used as a thing pleasant and commodious for this present life, may seem pleasant to him who fasteneth his fancy thereon. But of the nature of the thing itself I perceive no great commodity that it hath—I say of the nature of the thing itself, because it may by chance be some occasion of some commodity. For it may hap that for the good name the poor man hath, or for the honest estimation that a man of some possessions and substance standeth in among his neighbours, or for the honourable fame with which a great estate is renowned—it may hap, I say, that some man, bearing them the better, will therefore do them some good. And yet, as for that, like as it may sometimes so hap (and sometimes doth so hap indeed), so may it hap sometimes on the other hand (and on the other hand so it sometimes happeth indeed) that such folk are envied and hated by others, and as readily take harm by them who envy and hate them as they take good by them that love them.
But now, to speak of the thing itself in its own proper nature, what is it but a blast of another man's mouth, as soon past as spoken? He who setteth his delight on it, feedeth himself but with wind; be he never so full, he hath little substance therein. And many times shall he much deceive himself. For he shall think that many praise him who never speak word of him. And they that do, say yet much less than he thinketh and far more seldom too. For they spend not all the day, he may be sure, in talking of him alone. And those who so commend him the most will yet, I daresay, in every four-and-twenty hours, shut their eyes and forget him once! Besides this, while one speaketh well of him in one place, another sitteth and saith as ill of him in another. And finally, some who most praise him in his presence, behind his back mock him as fast and loud laugh him to scorn, and sometimes slily to his own face, too. And yet are there some fools so fed with this foolish fancy of fame that they rejoice and glory to think how they are continually praised all about, as though all the world did nothing else, day nor night, but ever sit and sing "Sanctus sanctus, sanctus" upon them!
And into this pleasant frenzy of much foolish vainglory are there some men brought sometimes by those whom they themselves do (in a manner) hire to flatter them. And they would not be content if a man should do otherwise, but would be right angry—not only if a man told them truth when they do evil indeed, but also if they praise it but slenderly.
VINCENT: Forsooth, uncle, this is very truth. I have been ere this, and not very long ago, where I saw so proper experience of this point that I must stop your tale long enough to tell you mine.
ANTHONY: I pray you, cousin, tell on.
VINCENT: When I was first in Germany, uncle, it happed me to be somewhat favoured by a great man of the church and a great estate, one of the greatest in all that country there. And indeed, whosoever could spend as much as he could for one thing and another, would be a right great estate in any country of Christendom. But vainglorious was he, very far above all measure. And that was great pity, for it did harm and made him abuse many great gifts that God had given him. Never was he satiated with hearing his own praise.
So happed it one day, that he had in a great audience made an oration in a certain manner, in which he liked himself so well that at his dinner he thought he sat on thorns till he might hear how those who sat with him at his board would commend it. He sat musing a while, devising, as I thought afterward, upon some pretty proper way to bring it in withal. And at last, for lack of a better, lest he should have forborne the matter too long, he brought it even bluntly forth and asked us all who sat at his board's end—for at his own place in the midst there sat but himself alone—how well we liked his oration that he had made that day. But in faith, uncle, when that problem was once proposed, till it was full answered, no man, I believe, ate one morsel of meat more—every man was fallen in so deep a study for the finding of some exquisite praise. For he who should have brought out but a vulgar and common commendation, would have thought himself shamed for ever. Ten said we our sentences, by row as we sat, from the lowest unto the highest in good order, as though it had been a great matter of the common weal in a right solemn council. When it came to my part—I say it not, uncle, for a boast—methought that, by our Lady, for my part, I quit myself well enough! And I liked myself the better because methought that, being but a foreigner, my words went yet with some grace in the German tongue, in which, letting my Latin alone, it pleased me to show my skill. And I hoped to be liked the better because I saw that he who sat next to me, and should say his sentence after me, was an unlearned priest, for he could speak no Latin at all. But when he came forth for his part with my lord's commendation, the wily fox had been so well accustomed in court to the craft of flattery that he went beyond me by far. And then might I see by him what excellence a right mean wit may come to in one craft, if in all his life he studieth and busieth his wit about no more but that one. But I made afterward a solemn vow unto myself that if ever he and I were matched together at that board again, when we should fall to our flattery I would flatter in Latin, that he might contend with me no more. For though I could be content to be outrun by a horse, yet would I no more abide it to be outrun by an ass.
But, uncle, here began now the game: he that sat highest and was to speak last, was a great beneficed man, and not only a doctor but also somewhat learned indeed in the laws of the church. A world was it to see how he marked every man's word who spoke before him! And it seemed that the more proper every word was, the worse he liked it, for the cumbrance that he had to study out a better one to surpass it. The man even sweated with the labour, so that he was fain now and then to wipe his face. Howbeit, in conclusion, when it came to his course, we who had spoken before him had so taken up all among us before that we had not left him one wise word to speak afterward.
ANTHONY: Alas, good man—among so many of you, some good fellow should have lent him one!
VINCENT: It needed not, as it happened, uncle. For he found out such a shift that in his flattering he surpassed us all.
ANTHONY: Why, what said he, cousin?
VINCENT: By our Lady, uncle, not one word. But he did as I believe Pliny telleth of Apelles the painter, in the picture that he painted of the sacrifice and death of Iphigenia, in the making of the sorrowful countenances of the noble men of Greece who beheld it. He reserved the countenance of King Agamemnon her father for the last, lest, if he made his visage before, he must in some of the others afterward either have made the visage less dolorous than he could, and thereby have forborne some part of his praise, or, doing the uttermost of his craft, might have happed to make some other look more heavily for the pity of her pain than her own father, which would have been yet a far greater fault in his painting. When he came, therefore, to the making of her father's face last of all, he had spent out so much of his craft and skill that he could devise no manner of new heavy cheer and countenance for him but what he had made there aleady in some of the others a much more heavy one before. And therefore, to the intent that no man should see what manner of countenance it was that her father had, the painter was fain to paint him holding his face in his handkerchief!
The like pageant (in a manner) played us there this good ancient honourable flatterer. For when he saw that he could find no words of praise that would surpass all that had been spoken before already, the wily fox would speak never a word. But as one who were ravished heavenward with the wonder of the wisdom and eloquence that my lord's grace had uttered in that oration, he set up a long sigh with an "Oh!" from the bottom of his breast, and held up both his hands, and lifted up his head, and cast up his eyes into the welkin, and wept.
ANTHONY: Forsooth, cousin, he played his part very properly. But was that great prelate's oration, cousin, at all praiseworthy? For you can tell, I see well. For you would not, I suppose, play as Juvenal merrily describeth the blind senator, one of the flatterers of Tiberius the emperor, who among the rest so magnified the great fish that the emperor had sent for them to show them. This blind senator—Montanus, I believe they called him—marvelled at the fish as much as any that marvelled most. And many things he spoke of it, with some of his words directed unto it, looking himself toward his left side, while the fish lay on his right side! You would not, I am sure, cousin, have taken upon you to praise it so, unless you had heard it.
VINCENT: I heard it, uncle, indeed, and, to say the truth, it was not to dispraise. Howbeit, surely, somewhat less praise might have served it—less by a great deal more than half. But this I am sure: had it been the worst that ever was made, the praise would not have been the less by one hair. For those who used to praise him to his face never considered how much the thing deserved, but how great a laud and praise they themselves could give his good Grace.
ANTHONY: Surely, cousin, as Terence saith, such folk make men of fools even stark mad. And much cause have their lords to be right angry with them.
VINCENT: God hath indeed, and is, I daresay. But as for their lords, uncle, if they would afterward wax angry with them for it, they would, to my mind, do them very great wrong. For it is one of the things that they specially keep them for. For those who are of such vainglorious mind, be they lords or be they meaner men, can be much better contented to have their devices commended than amended. And though they require their servant and their friend never so specially to tell them the very truth, yet shall he better please them if he speak them fair than if he telleth them the truth.
For they be in the condition that Marciall speaketh of in an epigram, unto a friend of his who required his judgment how he liked his verses, but prayed him in any wise to tell him even the very truth. To him, Marciall made answer in this wise:
"The very truth of me thou dost require. The very truth is this, my friend dear: The very truth thou wouldst not gladly hear."
And in good faith, uncle, the selfsame prelate that I told you my tale of—I dare be bold to swear it, I know it so surely—had one time drawn up a certain treaty that was to serve for a league between that country and a great prince. In this treaty he himself thought that he had devised his articles so wisely and composed them so well, that all the world would approve them. Thereupon, longing sore to be praised, he called unto him a friend of his, a man well learned and of good worship, and very well expert in those matters, as one who had been divers times ambassador for that country and had made many such treaties himself. When he gave him the treaty and he had read it, he asked him how he liked it, and said, "But I pray you heartily, tell me the very truth." And that he spake so heartily that the other thought he would fain have heard the truth, and in that trust he told him a fault in the treaty. And at the hearing of it he swore in great anger, "By the mass, thou art a very fool!" The other afterward told me that he would never tell him the truth again.
ANTHONY: Without question, cousin, I cannot greatly blame him. And thus they themselves make every man mock them, flatter them, and deceive them—those, I say, who are of such a vainglorious mind. For if they be content to hear the truth, let them then make much of those who tell them the truth, and withdraw their ears from them who falsely flatter them, and they shall be more truly served than with twenty requests praying men to tell them true.
King Ladislaus—our Lord absolve his soul!—used much this manner among his servants. When one of them praised any deed of his or any quality in him, if he perceived that they said but the truth he would let it pass by uncontrolled. But when he saw that they set a gloss on it for his praise of their own making besides, then would he shortly say unto them, "I pray thee, good fellow, when thou sayest grace at my board, never bring in a Gloria Patri without a sicut erat. Any act that ever I did, if thou report it again to mine honour with a Gloria Patri, never report it but with a sicut erat—that is, even as it was and none otherwise. And lift me not up with lies, for I love it not." If men would use this way with them that this noble king used, it would diminish much of their false flattery.
I can well approve that men should commend such things as they see praiseworthy in other men—keeping them within the bounds of truth—to give them the greater courage to the increase of them. For men keep still in that point one quality of children, that praise must prick them forth. But better it were to do well and look for none. Howbeit, those who cannot find it in their hearts to commend another man's good deed show themselves either envious or else of nature very cold and dull. But without question, he who putteth his pleasure in the praise of the people hath but a foolish fancy. For if his finger do but ache of a hot blain, a great many men's mouths blowing out his praise will scantly do him, among them all, so much ease as to have one boy blow on his finger!
Let us now consider likewise what great worldly wealth ariseth unto men by great offices and authority—to those worldly-disposed people, I say, who desire them for no better purpose. For of those who desire them for better, we shall speak after anon.
The great thing that they all chiefly like therein is that they may bear a rule, command and control other men, and live uncommanded and uncontrolled themselves. And yet this commodity took I so little heed of, that I never was aware it was so great, until a good friend of ours merrily told me once that his wife once in a great anger taught it to him. For when her husband had no desire to grow greatly upward in the world, nor would labour for office of authority, and beside that forsook a right worshipful office when it was offered him, she fell in hand with him, he told me. And she all berated him, and asked him, "What will you do, that you will not put yourself forth as other folk do? Will you sit by the fire and make goslings in the ashes with a stick, as children do? Would God I were a man—look what I would do!" "Why, wife," quoth her husband, "what would you do?" "What? By God, go forward with the best! For, as my mother was wont to say—God have mercy on her soul—it is evermore better to rule than to be ruled. And therefore, by God, I would not, I warrant you, be so foolish as to be ruled where I might rule." "By my troth, wife," quoth her husband, "in this I daresay you say truth, for I never found you willing to be ruled yet."
VINCENT: Well, uncle, I follow you now, well enough! She is indeed a stout master-woman. And in good faith, for aught that I can see, even that same womanish mind of hers is the greatest commodity that men reckon upon in offices of authority.
ANTHONY: By my troth, and methinketh there are very few who attain any great commodity therein. For first there is, in every kingdom, but one who can have an office of such authority that no man may command him or control him. No officer can stand in that position but the king himself; he only, uncontrolled or uncommanded, may control and command all. Now, of all the rest, each is under him. And yet almost every one is under more commanders and controllers, too, than one. And many a man who is in a great office commandeth fewer things and less labour to many men who are under him than someone that is over him commandeth him alone.
VINCENT: Yet it doth them good, uncle, that men must make courtesy to them and salute them with reverence and stand bareheaded before them, or unto some of them peradventure kneel, too.
ANTHONY: Well, cousin, in some part they do but play at gleek—they receive reverence, and to their cost they pay honour again therefor. For except, as I said, a king alone, the greatest in authority under him receiveth not so much reverence from any man as according to reason he himself doth honour to the king. Nor twenty men's courtesies do him not so much pleasure as his own once kneeling doth him pain if his knee hap to be sore. And I once knew a great officer of the king's to say—and in good faith I believe he said but as he thought—that twenty men standing bareheaded before him kept not his head half so warm as to keep on his own cap. And he never took so much ease with their being bareheaded before him, as he once caught grief with a cough that came upon him by standing long bareheaded before the king.
But let it be that these commodities be somewhat, such as they be. Yet then consider whether any incommodities be so joined with them that a man might almost as well lack both as have both. Goeth everything evermore as every one of them would have it? That would be as hard as to please all the people at once with one weather, since in one house the husband would have fair weather for his corn and his wife would have rain for her leeks! So those who are in authority are not all evermore of one mind, but sometimes there is variance among them, either for the respect of profit or the contention of rule, or for maintenance of causes, sundry parts for their sundry friends, and it cannot be that both the parties can have their own way. Nor often are they content who see their conclusions fail, but they take the missing of their intent ten times more displeasantly than poor men do. And this goeth not only for men of mean authority, but unto the very greatest. The princes themselves cannot have, you know, all their will. For how would it be possible, since almost every one of them would, if he could, be lord over all the rest? Then many men, under their princes in authority, are in such a position that many bear them privy malice and envy in heart. And many falsely speak them full fair and praise them with their mouth, who when there happeth any great fall unto them, bark and bite upon them like dogs.
Finally, there is the cost and charge, the danger and peril of war, in which their part is more than a poor man's is, since that matter dependeth more upon them. And many a poor ploughman may sit still by the fire while they must arise and walk.
And sometimes their authority falleth by change of their master's mind. And of that we see daily, in one place or another, such examples and so many that the parable of that philosopher can lack no testimony, who likened the servants of great princes unto the counters with which men do reckon accounts. For like as that counter that standeth sometimes for a farthing is suddenly set up and standeth for a thousand pound, and afterward as soon is set down beneath to stand for a farthing again; so fareth it sometimes with those who seek the way to rise and grow up in authority by the favour of great princes—as they rise up high, so fall they down again as low.
Howbeit, though a man escape all such adventures, and abide in great authority till he die, yet then at least every man must leave at last. And that which we call "at last" hath no very long time to it. Let a man reckon his years that are past of his age ere ever he can get up aloft; and let him, when he hath it first in his fist, reckon how long he shall be likely to live thereafter; and I daresay that then the most part shall have little cause to rejoice. They shall see the time likely to be so short that their honour and authority by nature shall endure, beside the manifold chances by which they may lose it sooner. And then, when they see that they must needs leave it—the thing which they did much more set their hearts upon than ever they had reasonable cause—what sorrow they take for it, that shall I not need to tell you.
And thus it seemeth unto me, cousin, in good faith, that since in the having of authority the profit is not great, and the displeasures neither small nor few; and since of the losing there are so many sundry chances and by no means a man can keep it long; and since to part from it is such a painful grief: I can see no very great cause for which, as a high worldly commodity, men should greatly desire it.
And thus far have we considered hitherto, in these outward goods that are called the gifts of fortune, only the slender commodity that worldly-minded men have by them. But now, if we consider further what harm to the soul they take by them who desire them only for the wretched wealth of this world, then shall we well perceive how far more happy is he who well loseth them than he who ill findeth them.
These things are such as are of their own nature indifferent—that is, of themselves neither good nor bad—but are matter that may serve to the one or the other according as men will use them. Yet need we little doubt but that for those who desire them only for their worldly pleasure and for no further godly purpose the devil shall soon turn them from things indifferent and make them things very evil. For though they be indifferent of their nature, yet cannot the use of them lightly stand indifferent, but must be determinately either good or bad. And therefore he who desireth them only for worldly pleasure, desireth them not for any good. And for better purpose than he desireth them, to better use is he not likely to put them. And therefore will he use them not unto good but consequently to evil.
And for example, first consider it in riches, and in him who longeth for them as for things of temporal commodity and not for any godly purpose. What good they shall do him, St. Paul declareth, when he writeth unto Timothy, "They that long to be rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many desires unprofitable and noxious, which drown men into death and into perdition." And the holy scripture saith also in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Proverbs, "He that gathereth treasures shall be shoved into the snares of death." So that whereas God saith by the mouth of St. Paul that they shall fall into the devil's snare, he saith in the other place that they shall be pushed and shoved in by violence. And of truth, while a man desireth riches not for any good godly purpose but only for worldly wealth, it must needs be that he shall have little conscience in the getting. But, by all evil ways that he can invent, shall he labour to get them. And then shall he either niggardly heap them up together, which is, as you well know, damnable; or else shall he wastefully misspend them upon worldly pomp, pride, and gluttony, with occasion of many sins more, and that is yet much more damnable.
As for fame and glory desired only for worldly pleasure, they do unto the soul inestimable harm. For they set men's hearts upon high devices and desires of such things as are immoderate and outrageous. And by help of false flatterers, they puff up a man in pride and make a brittle man—lately made of earth, that shall again shortly be laid full low in earth and there lie and rot and turn again into earth—take himself in the meantime for a god here upon earth and think to win himself to be lord of all the earth. This maketh battles between these great princes, with much trouble to much people, and great effusion of blood, and one king looking to reign in five realms, who cannot well rule one. For how many hath now this great Turk? And yet he aspireth to more. And those that he hath, he ordereth evilly—and yet he ordereth himself worst.
Then, offices of authority: If men desire them only for their worldly fancies, who can look that ever they shall occupy them well, and not rather abuse their authority and do thereby great hurt? For then shall they fall from indifference and maintain false suits for their friends. And they shall bear up their servants, and such as depend upon them, with bearing down of other innocent folk, who are not so able to do hurt as easy to take harm. Then the laws that are made against malefactors shall they make, as an old philosopher said, to be much like unto cobwebs, in which the little gnats and flies stick still and hang fast, but the great humble-bees break them and fly quite through. And then the laws that are made as a buckler in the defence of innocents, those shall they make serve for a sword to cut and sore wound them with—and therewith wound they their own souls sorer.
And thus you see, cousin, that of all these outward goods which men call the goods of fortune, there is never one that, unto those who long for it not for any godly purpose but only for their worldly welath, hath any great commodity to the body. And yet are they all, beside that, very deadly destruction unto the soul.
VINCENT: Verily, good uncle, this thing is so plainly true that no man can with any good reason deny it. But I think also, uncle, that no man will do so. For I see no man who will confess, for very shame, that he desireth riches, honour, renown, and offices of authority only for his worldly pleasure. For every man would fain seem as holy as a horse. And therefore will every man say—and would it were so believed, too—that he desireth these things, though for his worldly wealth a little so, yet principally to merit thereby through doing some good with them.
ANTHONY: This is, cousin, very surely so, that so doth every man say. But first he who in the desire of these things hath his respect unto his worldly wealth, as you say, "but a little so," so much as he himself thinketh but a little, may soon prove a great deal too much. And many men will say so, too, who have principal respect unto their worldly commodity, and toward God little or none at all. And yet they pretend the contrary, and that unto their own harm. For "God cannot be mocked."
And some peradventure know not well their own affection themselves. But there lieth more imperfection secretly in their affection than they themselves are well aware of, which only God beholdeth. And therefore saith the prophet unto God, "Mine imperfection have thine eyes beheld." And therefore the prophet prayeth, "From mine hidden sins cleanse thou me, good Lord."
But now, cousin, this tribulation of the Turk: If he so persecute us for the faith that those who will forsake their faith shall keep their goods, and those shall lose their goods who will not leave their faith—lo, this manner of persecution shall try them like a touchstone. For it shall show the feigned from the true-minded, and it shall also teach them who think they mean better than they do indeed, better to discern themselves. For there are some who think they mean well, while they frame themselves a conscience, and ever keep still a great heap of superfluous substance by them, thinking ever still that they will bethink themselves upon some good deed on which they will well bestow it once—or else that their executors shall! But now, if they lie not unto themselves, but keep their goods for any good purpose to the pleasure of God indeed, then shall they, in this persecution, for the pleasure of God in keeping his faith, be glad to depart from them.
And therefore, as for all these things—the loss, I mean, of all these outward things that men call the gifts of fortune—this is, methinketh, in this Turk's persecution for the faith, consolation great and sufficient: Every man who hath them either setteth by them for the world or for God. He who setteth by them for the world hath, as I have showed you, little profit by them to the body and great harm unto the soul. And therefore, he might well, if he were wise, reckon that he won by the loss, although he lost them but by some common cause. And much more happy can he then be, since he loseth them by such a meritorious means. And on the other hand, he who keepeth them for some good purpose, intending to bestow them for the pleasure of God, the loss of them in this Turk's persecution for keeping of the faith can be no manner of grief to him. For by so parting from them he bestoweth them in such wise unto God's pleasure that at the time when he loseth them by no way could he bestow them unto his high pleasure better. For though it would have been peradventure better to have bestowed them well before, yet since he kept them for some good purpose he would not have left them unbestowed if he had foreknown the chance. But being now prevented so by persecution that he cannot bestow them in that other good way that he would have, yet since he parteth from them because he will not part from the faith, though the devil's escheator violently take them from him, yet willingly giveth he them to God.
VINCENT: In good faith, good uncle, I can deny none of this. And indeed, unto those who were despoiled and robbed by the Turk's overrunning of the country, and all their substance movable and unmovable bereft and lost already, their persons only fled and safe, I think that these considerations—considering also that, as you lately said, their sorrow could not amend their chance—might unto them be good occasion of comfort, and cause them, as you said, to make a virtue of necessity.
But in the case, uncle, that we now speak of, they have yet their substance untouched in their own hands, and the keeping or the losing shall both hang in their own hands, by the Turk's offer, upon the retaining or the renouncing of the Christian faith. Here, uncle, I find it, as you said, that this temptation is most sore and most perilous. For I fear me that we shall find few of such as have much to lose who shall find it in their hearts so suddenly to forsake their goods, with all those other things before rehearsed on which their worldly wealth dependeth.
ANTHONY: That fear I much, cousin, too. But thereby shall it well appear, as I said, that, seemed they never so good and virtuous before, and flattered they themselves with never so gay a gloss of good and gracious purpose that they kept their goods for, yet were their hearts inwardly in the deep sight of God not sound and sure such as they should be (and as peradventure some had themselves thought they were) but like a puff-ring of Paris—hollow, light, and counterfeit indeed.
And yet, they being even such, this would I fain ask one of them. And I pray you, cousin, take you his person upon you, and in this case answer for him. "What hindereth you," would I ask, "your Lordship," (for we will take no small man for an example in this part, nor him who would have little to lose, for methinketh such a one who would cast away God for a little, would be so far from all profit, that he would not be worth talking with). "What hindereth you," I say, therefore, "that you be not gladly content, without any deliberation at all, in this kind of persecution, rather than to leave your faith, to let go all that ever you have at once?"
VINCENT: Since you put it unto me, uncle, to make the matter more plain, that I should play that great man's part who is so wealthy and hath so much to lose, albeit that I cannot be very sure of another man's mind, nor of what another man would say, yet as far as mine own mind can conjecture, I shall answer in his person what I think would be his hindrance. And therefore to your question I answer that there hindereth me the thing that you yourself may lightly guess: the losing of the many commodities which I now have—riches and substance, lands and great possessions of inheritance, with great rule and authority here in my country. All of which things the great Turk granteth me to keep still in peace and have them enhanced, too, if I will forsake the faith of Christ. Yea, I may say to you, I have a motion secretly made me further, to keep all this yet better cheap; that is, not to be compelled utterly to forsake Christ nor all the whole Christian faith, but only some such parts of it as may not stand with Mahomet's law. And only granting Mahomet for a true prophet and serving the Turk truly in his wars against all Christian kings, I shall not be hindered to praise Christ also, and to call him a good man, and worship and serve him too.
ANTHONY: Nay, nay, my lord—Christ hath not so great need of your Lordship as, rather than to lose your service, he would fall at such covenants with you as to take your service at halves, to serve him and his enemy both! He hath given you plain warning already by St. Paul that he will have in your service no parting-fellow: "What fellowship is there between light and darkness? Between Christ and Belial?" And he hath also plainly told you himself by his own mouth, "No man can serve two lords at once." He will have you believe all that he telleth you, and do all that he biddeth you, and forbear all that he forbiddeth you, without any manner of exception. Break one of his commandments, and you break all. Forsake one point of his faith, and you forsake all, as for any thanks that you get of him for the rest. And therefore, if you devise, as it were, indentures between God and you—what you will do for him and what you will not do, as though he should hold himself content with such service of yours as you yourself care to appoint him—if you make, I say, such indentures, you shall seal both the parts yourself, and you get no agreement thereto from him.
And this I say: Though the Turk would make such an appointment with you as you speak of, and would, when he had made it, keep it—whereas he would not, I warrant you, leave you so when he had once brought you so far forth. But he would, little by little, ere he left you, make you deny Christ altogether and take Mahomet in his stead. And so doth he in the beginning, when he will not have you believe him to be God. For surely, if he were not God, he would be no good man either, since he plainly said he was God. But through he would go never so far forth with you, yet Christ will, as I said, not take your service by halves, but will that you shall love him with all your whole heart. And because, while he was living here fifteen hundred years ago, he foresaw this mind of yours that you have now, with which you would fain serve him in some such fashion that you might keep your worldly substance still, but rather forsake his service than put all your substance from you, he telleth you plainly fifteen hundred years ago with his own mouth that he will have no such service of you, saying, "You cannot serve both God and your riches together."
And therefore, this thing being established for a plain conclusion, which you must needs grant if you have faith—and if you be gone from that ground of faith already, then is all our disputation, you know, at an end. For how should you then rather lose your goods than forsake your faith, if you have lost your faith and let it go already? This point, I say, therefore, being put first for a ground, between us both twain agreed, that you have yet the faith still and intend to keep it always still in your heart, and are only in doubt whether you will lose all your worldly substance rather than forsake your faith in your word alone; now shall I reply to the point of your answer, wherein you tell me the lothness of the loss and the comfort of the keeping hinder you from forgoing your goods and move you rather to forsake your faith.
I let pass all that I have spoken of the small commodity of them unto your body and of the great harm that the having of them doth to your soul. And since the promise of the Turk, made unto you for the keeping of them, is the thing that moveth you and maketh you thus to doubt, I ask you first whereby you know that, when you have done all that he will have you do against Christ, to the harm of your soul—whereby know you, I say, that he will keep you his promise in these things that he promiseth you concerning the retaining of your well-beloved worldly wealth, for the pleasure of your body?
VINCENT: What surety can a man have of such a great prince except his promise, which for his own honour it cannot become him to break?
ANTHONY: I have known him, and his father before him too, to break more promises than five, as great as this is that he should here make with you. Who shall come and cast it in his teeth, and tell him it is a shame for him to be so fickle and so false of his promise? And then what careth he for those words that he knoweth well he shall never hear? Not very much, though they were told him too!
If you might come afterward and complain your grief unto his own person yourself, you should find him as shamefast as a friend of mine, a merchant, once found the Sultan of Syria. Being certain years about his merchandise in that country, he gave to the Sultan a great sum of money for a certain office for him there for the while. But he had scantly granted him this and put it in his hand when, ere ever it was worth aught to him, the Sultan suddenly sold it to another of his own sect, and put our Hungarian out. Then came he to him and humbly put him in remembrance of his grant, spoken with his own mouth and signed with his own hand. Thereunto the Sultan answered him, with a grim countenance, "I will have thee know, good-for-nothing, that neither my mouth nor mine hand shall be master over me, to bind all my body at their pleasure. But I will be lord and master over them both, that whatsoever the one say and the other write, I will be at mine own liberty to do what I like myself, and ask them both no leave. And therefore, go get thee hence out of my countries, knave!" Think you now, my lord, that Sultan and this Turk, being both of one false sect, you may not find them both alike false of their promise?
VINCENT: That must I needs jeopard, for other surety can there none be had.
ANTHONY: An unwise jeoparding, to put your soul in peril of damnation for the keeping of your bodily pleasures, and yet without surety to jeopard them too!
But yet go a little further, lo. Suppose me that you might be very sure that the Turk would break no promise with you. Are you then sure enough to retain all your substance still?
VINCENT: Yea, then.
ANTHONY: What if a man should ask you how long?
VINCENT: How long? As long as I live.
ANTHONY: Well, let it be so, then. But yet, as far as I can see, though the great Turk favour you never so much and let you keep your goods as long as ever you live, yet if it hap that you be this day fifty years old, all the favour he can show you cannot make you one day younger tomorrow. But every day shall you wax older than the day before, and then within a while must you, for all his favour, lose all.
VINCENT: Well, a man would be glad, for all that, to be sure not to lack while he liveth.
ANTHONY: Well, then, if the great Turk give you your goods, can there then in all your life none other take them from you again?
VINCENT: Verily, I suppose not.
ANTHONY: May he not lose this country again unto Christian men, and you, with the taking of this way, fall in the same peril then that you would now eschew?
VINCENT: Forsooth, I think that if he get it once, he will never lose it after again in our days.
ANTHONY: Yes, by God's grace. But yet if he lose it after our day, there goeth your children's inheritance away again! But be it now that he could never lose it; could none take your substance from you then?
VINCENT: No, in good faith, none.
ANTHONY: No, none at all? Not God?
VINCENT: God? Why, yes, perdy. Who doubteth of that?
ANTHONY: Who? Marry, he who doubteth whether there be any God or no. And that there lacketh not some such, the prophet testifieth where he said, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." With the mouth the most foolish will forbear to say it unto other folk, but in the heart they forbear not to say it softly to themselves. And I fear me there be many more such fools than every man would think. And they would not hesitate to say it openly, too, if they forbore it not more for dread or for shame of men than for any fear of God. But now those who are so frantic foolish as to think there were no God, and yet in their words confess him, though (as St. Paul saith) in their deeds they deny him—we shall let them pass till it please God to show himself unto them, either inwardly, in time, by his merciful grace, or else outwardly, but over-late for them, by his terrible judgment.
But unto you, my Lord, since you believe and confess, as a wise man should, that though the Turk keep you his promise in letting you keep your substance, because you do him pleasure in the forsaking of your faith, yet God, whose faith you forsake, and thereby do him displeasure, may so take them from you that the great Turk, with all the power he hath, is not able to keep you them—why will you be so unwise with the loss of your soul to please the great Turk for your goods, since you know well that God whom you displease therewith may take them from you too?
Besides this, since you believe there is a God, you cannot but believe also that the great Turk cannot take your goods from you without his will or sufferance, no more than the devil could from Job. And think you then that, if he will suffer the Turk to take away your goods albeit that by the keeping and confessing of his faith you please him, he will, when you displease him by forsaking his faith, suffer you to rejoice or enjoy any benefit of those goods that you get or keep thereby?
VINCENT: God is gracious, and though men offend him, yet he suffereth them many times to live in prosperity long after.
ANTHONY: Long after? Nay, by my troth, that doth he no man! For how can that be, that he should suffer you to live in prosperity long after, when your whole life is but short in all-together, and either almost half of it or more than half, you think yourself, I daresay, spent out already before? Can you burn out half a short candle, and then have a long one left of the rest?
There cannot in this world be a worse mind than for a man to delight and take comfort in any commodity that he taketh by sinful means. For it is the very straight way toward the taking of boldness and courage in sin, and finally to falling into infidelity and thinking that God careth not or regardeth not what things men do here nor of what mind we be. But unto such-minded folk speaketh holy scripture in this wise: "Say not, I have sinned and yet there hath happed me none harm, for God suffereth before he strike." But, as St. Austine saith, the longer he tarrieth ere he strike, the sorer is the stroke when he striketh.
And therefore, if you will do well, reckon yourself very sure that when you deadly displease God for the getting or the keeping of your goods, God shall not suffer those goods to do you good. But either he shall shortly take them from you, or else suffer you to keep them for a little while to your more harm and afterward, when you least look for it, take you away from them.
And then, what a heap of heaviness will there enter into your heart, when you shall see that you shall so suddenly go from your goods and leave them here in the earth in one place, and that your body shall be put in the earth in another place, and—which then shall be the most heaviness of all—when you shall fear (and not without great cause) that your soul first forthwith, and after that at the final judgment your body, shall be driven down deep toward the centre of the earth into the fiery pit and dungeon of the devil of hell, there to tarry in torment, world without end! What goods of this world can any man imagine, the pleasure and commodity of which could be such in a thousand years as to be able to recompense that intolerable pain that there is to be suffered in one year? Yea, or in one day or one hour, either? And then what a madness is it, for the poor pleasure of your worldly goods of so few years, to cast yourself both body and soul into the everlasting fire of hell, which is not diminished by the amount of a moment by lying there the space of a hundred thousand years?
And therefore our Saviour, in few words, concluded and confuted all these follies of those who, for the short use of this worldly substance, forsake him and his faith and sell their souls unto the devil for ever. For he saith, "What availeth it a man if he won all the whole world, and lost his soul?" This would be, methinketh, cause and occasion enough, to him who had never so much part of this world in his hand, to be content rather to lose it all than for the retaining or increasing of his worldly goods to lose and destroy his soul.
VINCENT: This is, good uncle, in good faith very true. And what other thing any of them who would not for this be content, have to allege in reason for the defence of their folly, that can I not imagine. I care not in this matter to play the part any longer, but I pray God give me the grace to play the contrary part in deed. And I pray that I may never, for any goods or substance of this wretched world, forsake my faith toward God either in heart or tongue. And I trust in his great goodness that so I never shall.
ANTHONY: Methinketh, cousin, that this persecution shall not only, as I said before, try men's hearts when it cometh and make them know their own affections—whether they have a corrupt greedy covetous mind or not—but also the very fame and expectation of it may teach them this lesson, ere ever the thing fall upon them itself. And this may be to their no little fruit, if they have the wit and the grace to take it in time while they can. For now may they find sure places to lay their treasure in, so that all the Turk's army shall never find it out.
VINCENT: Marry, uncle, that way they will not forget, I warrant you, as near as their wits will serve them. But yet have I known some who have ere this thought that they had hid their money safe and sure enough, digging it full deep in the ground, and yet have missed it when they came again and found it digged out and carried away to their hands.
ANTHONY: Nay, from their hands, I think you would say. And it was no marvel. For some such have I known, too, but they have hid their goods foolishly in such place as they were well warned before that they should not. And that were they warned by him whom they well knew for such a one as knew well enough what would come of it.
VINCENT: Then were they more than mad. But did he tell them too where they should have hid it, to make it sure?
ANTHONY: Yea, by St. Mary, did he! For else he would have told them but half a tale. But he told them a whole tale, bidding them that they should in no wise hide their treasure in the ground. And he showed them a good cause, for there thieves dig it out and steal it away.
VINCENT: Why, where should they hide it, then, said he? For thieves may hap to find it out in any place.
ANTHONY: Forsooth, he counselled them to hide their treasure in heaven and there lay it up, for there it shall lie safe. For thither, he said, there can no thief come, till he have left his theft and become a true man first. And he who gave this counsel knew well enough what he said, for it was our Saviour himself, who in the sixth chapter of St. Matthew saith, "Hoard not up your treasures in earth, where the rust and the moth fret it out and where thieves dig it out and steal it away. But hoard up your treasures in heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth fret them out, and where thieves dig them not out nor steal them away. For where thy treasure is, there is thine heart too."
If we would well consider these words of our Saviour Christ, methinketh we should need no more counsel at all, nor no more comfort either, concerning the loss of our temporal substance in this Turk's persecution for the faith. For here our Lord in these words teacheth us where we may lay up our substance safe, before the persecution come. If we put it into the poor men's bosoms, there shall it lie safe, for who would go search a beggar's bag for money? If we deliver it to the poor for Christ's sake, we deliver it unto Christ himself. And then what persecutor can there be, so strong as to take it out of his hand?
VINCENT: These things, uncle, are undoubtedly so true that no man can with words wrestle therewith. But yet ever there hangeth in a man's heart a lothness to lack a living!
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ANTHONY: There doth indeed, in theirs who either never or but seldom hear any good counsel against it, or who, when they hear it, hearken to it but as they would to an idle tale, rather for a pastime or for the sake of manners than for any substantial intent and purpose to follow good advice and take any fruit by it. But verily, if we would lay not only our ear but also our heart to it, and consider that the saying of our Saviour Christ is not a poet's fable or a harper's song but the very holy word of almighty God himself, we would be full sore ashamed of ourselves—and well we might! And we would be full sorry too, when we felt in our affection those words to have in our hearts no more strength and weight but what we remain still of the same dull mind as we did before we heard them.
This manner of ours, in whose breasts the great good counsel of God no better settleth nor taketh no better root, may well declare to us that the thorns and briars and brambles of our worldly substance grow so thick and spring up so high in the ground of our hearts that they strangle, as the Gospel saith, the word of God that was sown therein. And therefore is God a very good lord unto us, when he causeth, like a good husbandman, his folk to come on the field—for the persecutors are his folk, to this purpose—and with their hooks and their stocking-irons to grub up these wicked weeds and bushes of our earthly substance and carry them quite away from us, that the word of God sown in our hearts may have room there, and a glade round about for the warm sun of grace to come to it and make it grow. For surely those words of our Saviour shall we find full true, "Where thy treasure is, there is also thine heart." If we lay up our treasure in earth, in earth shall be our hearts. If we send our treasure into heaven, in heaven shall we have our hearts. And surely, the greatest comfort any man can have in his tribulation is to have his heart in heaven.
If thine heart were indeed out of this world and in heaven, all the kinds of torments that all this world could devise could put thee to no pain here. Let us then send our hearts hence thither in such a manner as we may, by sending hither our worldly substance hence. And let us never doubt but we shall, that once done, find our hearts so conversant in heaven, with the glad consideration of our following the gracious counsel of Christ, that the comfort of his Holy Spirit, inspired in us for that, shall mitigate, diminish, assuage, and (in a manner) quench the great furious fervour of the pain that we shall happen to have by his loving sufferance of our further merit in our tribulation.
If we saw that we should be within a while driven out of this land, and fain to fly into another, we would think that a man were mad who would not be content to forbear his goods here for the while and send them before him into that land where he saw he should live all the rest of his life. So may we verily think yet ourselves much more mad—seeing that we are sure it cannot be long ere we shall be sent, spite of our teeth, out of this world—if the fear of a little lack or the love to see our goods here about us and the lothness to part from them for this little while that we may keep them here, shall be able to keep us from the sure sending them before us into the other world. For we may be sure to live there wealthily with them if we send them thither, or else shortly leave them here behind us and then stand in great jeopardy there to live wretches for ever.
VINCENT: In good faith, good uncle, methinketh that concerning the loss of these outward things, these considerations are so sufficient comforts, that for mine own part I would methinketh desire no more, save only grace well to remember them.
ANTHONY: Much less than this may serve, cousin, with calling and trusting upon God's help, without which much more than this cannot serve. But the fervour of the Christian faith so sore fainteth nowadays and decayeth, coming from hot unto luke-warm and from luke-warm almost to key-cold, that men must now be fain to lay many dry sticks to it, as to a fire that is almost out, and use much blowing at it.
But else I think, by my troth, that unto a warm faithful man one thing alone, of which we have spoken yet no word, would be comfort enough in this kind of persecution, against the loss of all his goods.
VINCENT: What thing may that be, uncle?
ANTHONY: In good faith, cousin, even the bare remembrance of the poverty that our Saviour willingly suffered for us. For I verily suppose that if there were a great king who had so tender love for a servant of his that he had, to help him out of danger, forsaken and lost all his worldly wealth and royalty and become poor and needy for his sake, that servant could scantly be found who would be of such a base unnatural heart that if he himself came afterward to some substance he would not with better will lose it all again than shamefully to forsake such a master.
And therefore, as I say, I surely suppose that if we would well remember and inwardly consider the great goodness of our Saviour toward us, when we were not yet his poor sinful servants but rather his adversaries and his enemies, and what wealth of this world he willingly forsook for our sakes—for he was indeed universal king of this world, and so having the power in his own hand to have used it if he had wished, instead of which, to make us rich in heaven, he lived here in neediness and poverty all his life and neither would have authority nor keep either lands or goods. If we would remember this, the deep consideration and earnest advisement of this one point alone would be able to make any true Christian man or woman well content rather for his sake in return to give up all that ever God hath lent them (and lent them he hath, all that they have) than unkindly and unfaithfully to forsake him. And him they forsake if, for fear, they forsake the confessing of his Christian faith.
And therefore, to finish this piece withal, concerning the dread of losing our outward worldly goods, let us consider the slender commodity that they bring; with what labour they are bought; what a little while they abide with whomsoever they abide with longest; what pain their pleasure is mingled with; what harm the love of them doth unto the soul; what loss is in the keeping if Christ's faith is refused for them; what winning is in the loss, if we lose them for God's sake; how much more profitable they are when well given than when ill kept; and finally what ingratitude it would be if we would not forsake them for Christ's sake rather than for them to forsake Christ unfaithfully, who while he lived for our sake forsook all the world, beside the suffering of shameful and painful death, of which we shall speak afterward.
If we will consider well these things, I say, and will pray God with his holy hand to print them in our hearts, and will abide and dwell still in the hope of his help, his truth shall, as the prophet saith, so compass us about with a shield that we shall not need to be afraid of this incursion of this midday devil—this plain open persecution of the Turk—for any loss that we can take by the bereaving from us of our wretched worldly goods. For their short and small pleasure in this life forborne, we shall be with heavenly substance everlastingly recompensed by God, in joyful bliss and glory.
VINCENT: Forsooth, uncle, as for these outward goods, you have said enough. No man can be sure what strength he shall have or how faint and feeble he may find himself when he shall come to the point, and therefore I can make no warranty of myself, seeing that St. Peter so suddenly fainted at a woman's word and so cowardly forsook his master, for whom he had so boldly fought within so few hours before, and by that fall in forsaking well perceived that he had been too rash in his promise and was well worthy to take a fall for putting so full trust in himself. Yet in good faith methinketh now (and God will, I trust, help me to keep this thought still) that if the Turk should take all that I have, unto my very shirt, unless I would forsake my faith, and should offer it all to me again with five times as much if I would fall into his sect, I would not once stick at it—rather to forsake it every whit, than to forsake any point of Christ's holy faith.
But surely, good uncle, when I bethink me further on the grief and the pain that may turn unto my flesh, here find I the fear that forceth my heart to tremble.
ANTHONY: Neither have I cause to marvel at that, nor have you, cousin, cause to be dismayed for it. The great horror and fear that our Saviour had in his own flesh, against his painful passion, maketh me little to marvel. And I may well make you take this comfort, too, that for no such manner of grudging felt in your sensual parts, the flesh shrinking in the meditation of pain and death, your reason shall give over, but resist it and manly master it. And though you would fain fly from the painful death and be loth to come to it, yet may the meditation of our Saviour's great grievous agony move you. And he himself shall, if you so desire him, not fail to work with you therein, and to get and give you the grace to submit and conform your will unto his, as he did his unto his Father. And thereupon shall you be so comforted with the secret inward inspiration of his Holy Spirit, as he was with the personal presence of that angel who after his agony came and comforted him. And so shall you as his true disciple follow him, and with good will, without grudge, do as he did, and take your cross of pain and suffering upon your back and die for the truth with him, and thereby reign with him crowned in eternal glory.
And this I say to give you warning of the truth, to the intent that when a man feeleth such a horror of death in his heart, he should not thereby stand in outrageous fear that he were falling. For many such a man standeth, for all that fear, full fast, and finally better abideth the brunt, when God is so good unto him as to bring him to it and encourage him therein, than doth some other man who in the beginning feeleth no fear at all. And yet may he never be brought to the brunt, and most often so it is. For God, having many mansions, and all wonderful wealthful, in his Father's house, exalteth not every good man up to the glory of a martyr. But foreseeing their infirmity, that though they be of good will before and peradventure of right good courage too, they would yet play St. Peter if they were brought to the point, and thereby bring their souls into the peril of eternal damnation, he provideth otherwise for them before they come there. And he findeth a way that men shall not have the mind to lay any hands upon them, as he found for his disciples when he himself was willingly taken. Or else, if they set hands on them, he findeth a way that they shall have no power to hold them, as he found for St. John the Evangelist, who let his sheet fall from him, upon which they caught hold, and so fled himself naked away and escaped from them. Or, though they hold them and bring them to prison too, yet God sometimes delivereth them hence, as he did St. Peter. And sometimes he taketh them to him out of the prison into heaven, and suffereth them not to come to their torment at all, as he hath done by many a good holy man. And some he suffereth to be brought into the torments and yet suffereth them not to die in them, but to live many years afterward and die their natural death, as he did by St. John the Evangelist and by many another more, as we may well see both by sundry stories and in the epistles of St. Ciprian also. And therefore, which way God will take with us, we cannot tell.
But surely, if we be true Christian men, this can we well tell: that without any bold warranty of ourselves or foolish trust in our own strength, we are bound upon pain of damnation not to be of the contrary mind but what we will with his help, however loth we feel in our flesh thereto, rather than forsake him or his faith before the world—which if we do, he hath promised to forsake us before his Father and all his holy company of heaven—rather, I say, than we would do so, we would with his help endure and sustain for his sake all the tormentry that the devil with all his faithless tormentors in this world would devise. And then, if we be of this mind, and submit our will unto his, and call and pray for his grace, we can tell well enough that he will never suffer them to put more upon us than his grace will make us able to bear, but will also with their temptation provide for us a sure way. For "God is faithful," saith St. Paul, "who suffereth you not to be tempted above what you can bear, but giveth also with the temptation a way out." For either, as I said, he will keep us out of their hands, though he before suffered us to be afraid of them to prove our faith (that we may have, by the examination of our mind, some comfort in hope of his grace and some fear of our own frailty to drive us to call for grace), or else, if we call into their hands, provided that we fall not from the trust of him nor cease to call for his help, his truth shall, as the prophet saith, so compass us about with a shield that we shall not need to fear this incursion of this midday devil. For these Turks his tormentors, who shall enter this land and persecute us, shall either not have the power to touch our bodies at all, or else the short pain that they shall put into our bodies shall turn us to eternal profit both in our souls and in our bodies too. And therefore, cousin, to begin with, let us be of good comfort. For we are by our faith very sure that holy scripture is the very word of God, and that the word of God cannot but be true. And we see by the mouth of his holy prophet and by the mouth of his blessed apostle also that God hath made us faithful promise that he will not suffer us to be tempted above our power, but will both provide a way out for us and also compass us round about with his shield and defend us that we shall have no cause to fear this midday devil with all his persecution. We cannot therefore but be very sure (unless we are very shamefully cowardous of heart and out of measure faint in faith toward God, and in love less than luke-warm or waxed even key-cold) we may be very sure, I say, either that God will not suffer the Turks to invade this land; or that, if they do, God shall provide such resistance that they shall not prevail; or that, if they prevail, yet if we take the way that I have told you we shall by their persecution take little harm or rather none harm at all, but that which shall seem harm indeed be to us no harm at all but good. For if God make us and keep us good men, as he hath promised to do if we pray well therefore, then saith holy scripture, "Unto good folk all things turn them to good."
And therefore, cousin, since God knoweth what shall happen and not we, let us in the meanwhile with a good hope in the help of God's grace have a good purpose of standing sure by his holy faith against all persecutions. And if we should hereafter, either for fear or pain or for lack of his grace lost in our own default, mishap to decline from his good purpose—which our Lord forbid—yet we would have won the well-spent time beforehand, to the diminishment of our pain, and God would also be much the more likely to lift us up after our fall and give us his grace again. Howbeit, if this persecution come, we are, by this meditation and well-continued intent and purpose beforehand, the better strengthened and confirmed, and much more likely to stand indeed. And if it so fortune, as with God's grace at men's good prayers and amendment of our evil lives it may well fortune, that the Turks shall either be well withstood and vanquished or peradventure not invade us at all, then shall we, perdy, by this good purpose get ourselves of God a very good cheap thank!
And on the other hand, while we now think on it—and not to think on it, in so great likelihood of it, I suppose no wise man can—if we should for the fear of worldly loss or bodily pain, framed in our own minds, think that we would give over and to save our goods and lives forsake our Saviour by denial of his faith, then whether the Turks come or come not, we are meanwhile gone from God. And then if they come not indeed, or come and are driven to flight, what a shame should that be to us, before the face of God, in so shameful cowardly wise to forsake him for fear of that pain that we never felt or that never was befalling us!
VINCENT: By my troth, uncle, I thank you. Methinketh that though you never said more in the matter, yet have you, even with this that you have spoken here already of the fear of bodily pain in this persecution, marvellously comforted mine heart.
ANTHONY: I am glad, cousin, if your heart have taken comfort thereby. But if you so have, give God the thanks and not me, for that work is his and not mine. For neither am I able to say any good thing except by him, nor can all the good words in the world—no, not the holy words of God himself, and spoken also with his own holy mouth—profit a man with the sound entering at his ear, unless the Spirit of God also inwardly work in his soul. But that is his goodness ever ready to do, unless there be hindrance through the untowardness of our own froward will.
And now, being somewhat in comfort and courage before, we may the more quietly consider everything, which is somewhat more hard and difficult to do when the heart is before taken up and oppressed with the troublous affection of heavy sorrowful fear. Let us therefore examine now the weight and the substance of those bodily pains which you rehearsed before as the sorest part of this persecution. They were, if I remember you right, thraldom, imprisonment, and painful and shameful death. And first let us, as reason is, begin with the thraldom, for that was, as I remember it, the first.
VINCENT: I pray you, good uncle, say then somewhat of that. For methinketh, uncle, that captivity is a marvellous heavy thing, namely when they shall (as they most commonly do) carry us far from home into a strange unknown land.
ANTHONY: I cannot deny that some grief it is, cousin, indeed. But yet, as for me, it is not half so much as it would be if they could carry me out into any such unknown country that God could not know where nor find the means to come at me!
But now in good faith, cousin, if my migration into a strange country were any great grief unto me, the fault should be much in myself. For since I am very sure that whithersoever man convey me, God is no more verily here than he shall be there, if I get (as I can, if I will) the grace to set mine whole heart upon him and long for nothing but him, it can then make no matter to my mind, whether they carry me hence or leave me here. And then, if I find my mind much offended therewith, that I am not still here in mine own country, I must consider that the cause of my grief is mine own wrong imagination, whereby I beguile myself with an untrue persuasion, thinking that this were mine own country. Whereas in truth it is not so, for, as St. Paul saith, "We have here no city nor dwelling-country at all, but we seek for one that we shall come to." And in whatsoever country we walk in this world, we are but as pilgrims and wayfaring men. And if I should take any country for mine own, it must be the country to which I come and not the country from which I came. That country, which shall be to me then for a while so strange, shall yet perdy be no more strange to me—nor longer strange to me, neither—than was mine own native country when first I came into it. And therefore if my being far from hence be very grievous to me, and I find it a great pain that I am not where I wish to be, that grief shall in great part grow for lack of sure setting and settling my mind in God, where it should be. And when I mend that fault of mine, I shall soon ease my grief.
Now, as for all the other griefs and pains that are in captivity, thraldom, and bondage, I cannot deny that many there are and great. Howbeit, they seem yet somewhat the more—what say I, "somewhat"? I may say a great deal the more—because we took our former liberty for a great deal more than indeed it was.
Let us therefore consider the matter thus: Captivity, bondage, or thraldom, what is it but the violent restraint of a man, being so subdued under the dominion, rule, and power of another that he must do whatever the other please to command him, and may not do at his liberty such things as he please himself? Now, when we shall be carried away by a Turk and be fain to be occupied about such things as he please to set us, we shall lament the loss of our liberty and think we bear a heavy burden of our servile condition. And we shall have, I grant well, many times great occasion to do so. But yet we should, I suppose, set somewhat the less by it, if we would remember well what liberty that was that we lost, and take it for no larger than it was indeed. For we reckon as though we might before do what we would, but in that we deceive ourselves. For what free man is there so free that he can be suffered to do what he please? In many things God hath restrained us by his high commandment—so many, that of those things which we would otherwise do, I daresay it be more than half. Howbeit, because (God forgive us) we forbear so little for all that, but do what we please as though we heard him not, we reckon our liberty never the less. But then is our liberty much restrained by the laws made by man, for the quiet and politic governance of the people. And these too would, I suppose, hinder our liberty but little, were it not for the fear of the penalties that fall thereupon. Look then, whether other men who have authority over us never command us some business which we dare not but do, and therefore often do it full sore against our wills. Some such service is sometimes so painful and so perilous too, that no lord can command his bondsmen worse, and seldom doth command him half so sore. Let every free man who reckoneth his liberty to stand in doing what he please, consider well these points, and I daresay he shall then find his liberty much less than he took it for before.
And yet have I left untouched the bondage that almost every man is in who boasteth himself for free—the bondage, I mean, of sin. And that it be a true bondage, I shall have our Saviour himself to bear me good record. For he saith, "Every man who committeth sin is the thrall, or the bondsman, of sin." And then if this be thus (as it must needs be, since God saith it is so), who is there then who can make so much boast of his liberty that he should take it for so sore a thing and so strange to become through chance of war, bondsman unto a man, since he is already through sin become willingly thrall and bondsman unto the devil?
Let us look well how many things, and of what vile wretched sort, the devil driveth us to do daily, through the rash turns of our blind affections, which we are fain to follow, for our faultful lack of grace, and are too feeble to refrain. And then shall we find in our natural freedom our bondservice such that never was there any man lord of any so vile a bondsman that he ever would command him to so shameful service. And let us, in the doing of our service to the man that we be slave unto, remember what we were wont to do about the same time of day while we were at our free liberty before, and would be well likely, if we were at liberty, to do again. And we shall peradventure perceive that it were better for us to do this business than that. Now we shall have great occasion of comfort, if we consider that our servitude, though in the account of the world it seem to come by chance of war, cometh unto us yet in very deed by the provident hand of God, and that for our great good if we will take it well, both in remission of sins and also as matter of our merit.
The greatest grief that is in bondage or captivity, I believe, is this: that we are forced to do such labour as with our good will we would not. But then against that grief, Seneca teacheth us a good remedy: "Endeavour thyself evermore that thou do nothing against thy will, but the things that we see we shall needs do, let us always put our good will thereto."
VINCENT: That is soon said, uncle, but it is hard to do.
ANTHONY: Our froward mind maketh every good thing hard, and that to our own more hurt and harm. But in this case, if we will be good Christian men, we shall have great cause gladly to be content, for the great comfort that we may take thereby. For we remember that in the patient and glad doing of our service unto that man for God's sake, according to his high commandment by the mouth of St. Paul, "Servi obedite dominis carnalibus," we shall have our thanks and our whole reward of God.
Finally, if we remember the great humble meekness of our Saviour Christ himself—that he, being very almighty God, "humbled himself and took the form of a bondsman or slave," rather than that his Father should forsake us—we may think ourselves very ungrateful caitiffs (and very frantic fools, too) if, rather than to endure this worldly bondage for awhile, we would forsake him who hath by his own death delivered us out of everlasting bondage to the devil, and who will for our short bondage give us everlasting liberty.
VINCENT: Well fare you, good uncle, this is very well said! Albeit that bondage is a condition that every man of any spirit would be very glad to eschew and very loth to fall in, yet have you well made it so open that it is a thing neither so strange nor so sore as it before seemed to me. And specially is it far from such as any man who hath any wit should, for fear of it, shrink from the confession of his faith. And now, therefore, I pray you, speak somewhat of imprisonment.
ANTHONY: That shall I, cousin, with good will. And first, if we could consider what thing imprisonment is of its own nature methinketh we should not have so great horror of it. For of itself it is, perdy, but a restraint of liberty, which hindereth a man from going whither he would.
VINCENT: Yes, by St. Mary, uncle, but methinketh it is much more sorry than that. For beside the hindrance and restraint of liberty, it hath many more displeasures and very sore griefs knit and adjoined to it.
ANTHONY: That is, cousin, very true indeed. And those pains, among many sorer than those, thought I not afterward to forget. Howbeit, I purpose now to consider first imprisonment as imprisonment alone, without any other incommodity besides. For a man may be imprisoned, perdy, and yet not set in the stocks or collared fast by the neck. And a man may be let walk at large where he will, and yet have a pair of fetters fast riveted on his legs. For in this country, you know, and Seville and Portugal too, so go all the slaves. Howbeit, because for such things men's hearts have such horror of it, albeit that I am not so mad as to go about to prove that bodily pain were no pain, yet since it is because of this manner of pains that we so especially abhor the state and condition of prisoners, methinketh we should well perceive that a great part of our horror groweth of our own fancy. Let us call to mind and consider the state and condition of many other folk in whose state and condition we would wish ourselves to stand, taking them for no prisoners at all, who stand yet for all that in many of the selfsame points that we abhor imprisonment for. Let us therefore consider these things in order. First, those other kinds of grief that come with imprisonment are but accidents unto it. And yet they are neither such accidents as be proper unto it, since they may almost all befall man without it; nor are they such accidents as be inseparable from it, since imprisonment may fall to a man and none of them therein. We will, I say, therefore begin by considering what manner of pain or incommodity we should reckon imprisonment to be of itself and of its own nature alone. And then in the course of our communication, you shall as you please increase and aggravate the cause of your horror with the terror of those painful accidents.
VINCENT: I am sorry that I did interrupt your tale, for you were about, I see well, to take an orderly way therein. And as you yourself have devised, so I beseech you proceed. For though I reckon imprisonment much the sorer thing by sore and hard handling therein, yet reckon I not the imprisonment of itself any less than a thing very tedious, although it were used in the most favourable manner that it possibly could be.