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Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection
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SECTION III: How a Man shall know how much Wrath and Envy is hid in the ground of his Heart, and how he may know whether he loves his Enemies, and the Examples we have thereof in our Saviour

Now turn we again to this image. If thou wilt, try how much anger and envy is hid in thy heart, which thou feelest and perceivest not. Look well and behold thyself wisely when such stirrings of anger and envy against thy neighbour spring out of thy heart. The more that thou art stirred by melancholy or wicked will against him, the more is this image in thee. For the more thou grudgest by impatience, either against God for any tribulation or sickness, or other bodily disease sent by Him, or against thy neighbour, for aught that he doth against thee, the less is the image of Jesus reformed in thee. I say not that such grudgings or fleshly angriness are deadly sins; but I say that they hinder the cleanness of heart and peace of conscience, that thou canst not have perfect charity, by the which thou shouldst come to life Contemplative. For that end is the purpose of all my saying, that thou shouldst not only cleanse thy heart from deadly sins, but also from venial as much as thou canst; and that the ground of sin might by grace of Jesus Christ be somewhat shaked in thee.

For though it be so that thou feelest no evil against thy neighbour for a time, yet art thou not secure that the ground of anger is quenched in thee; neither yet art thou lord and master of the virtue of charity. For let him but touch thee a little angrily, or by a shrewd word, and thou shalt see presently whether thy heart be yet made whole by perfect charity. The more thou art stirred and evil-willed against his person, the further art thou from charity. And if thou be nothing stirred against his person, neither by any angry carriage or gesture outwardly, nor by any privy hate in thy heart, either to despise or judge him, or undervalue, or set him at nought; but the more shame or villainy he doth to thee by word or deed, the more pity and compassion thou hast of him, as thou wouldst have of a man that were out of his wits, and thinkest that thou canst not find in thy heart to hate him (because love is so good in itself) but pray for him and help him and desire his amendment, not only with thy mouth, as hypocrites can do, but with affection of love in thy heart; then hast thou perfect charity to thy neighbour.

This charity had St Stephen perfectly when he prayed for them that stoned him to death. This charity counselled Christ to those that would be His perfect followers when He said thus: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that persecute you.136136    S. Matt. 5. And, therefore, if thou wilt be one of Christ’s followers, be like Him in this craft. Learn to love thine enemies and sinful men, for all these are thy neighbours. Look and bethink thee how Christ loved Judas, who was both His deadly enemy and a sinful caitiff; how goodly Christ was to him, how benign, how courteous, and how lowly to him whom He knew to be damnable. And nevertheless He chose him to be His apostle, and sent him to preach with His other apostles. He gave him power to work miracles; He showed the same good cheer to him in word and deed as He did to other apostles. He washed his feet, and fed him with His precious Blood, and preached to him as He did to His other apostles. He bewrayed him not openly (for He did it privily); He miscalled him not, despised him not, never spake evil of him; notwithstanding if He had done all these things, He had said nothing but truth. Moreover, when Judas took Him, He kissed him, and called him His friend. All this charity showed Christ unto Judas, whom He knew to be damnable; and this He did in no way of counterfeiting or flattering, but in reality and truth of good love and clean charity. For though it was true that Judas was not worthy to have any gift from God, or any sign of love for his wickedness; nevertheless, it was worthy and seemly that our Lord should show Himself to be that which He is, and that is love and goodness to all His creatures, as He was to Judas. I say not that He loved him for his sin, nor that He loved him as one of His chosen, as He did St Peter; but He loved him inasmuch as he was His creature, and showed him tokens of love, if he would have been mended thereby. Follow thou His example somewhat as much as thou canst; for though thou art shut up in a house as to thy body, nevertheless in thy heart (where the seat of love is) thou mayest have part in such love to thy neighbour, as I have spoken of.

Whoso thinkest himself to be in his life a perfect lover and follower of Christ’s teaching (as some men perhaps esteem themselves to be, because they preach and teach, and are poor in worldly goods, as Christ was) and cannot follow Christ in this love and charity, to love their neighbours, even every man, both good and bad, friend and foe, without feigning or flattery, or despising him in his heart, without angriness or malicious reproving, soothly he beguileth himself. The nearer he thinketh himself to be to Christ’s example, the further is he off; for Christ said to them that would be His disciples, thus: This is My bidding, that you should love one another as I have loved you.137137    St John 13. For if ye love as I have loved, then are ye My disciples.

But now thou wilt say: How shall I love him that is bad as well and truly as him that is good?

To this I say thus: That thou shalt love both good and bad in charity, but not for the same cause as I shall tell how. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Now, thou shalt love thyself only in God, or else for God. In God thou lovest thyself, when thou art righteous and virtuous through grace, and lovest not thyself but only for that righteousness and virtues that God giveth thee, then lovest thou thyself in God, for thou lovest not thyself, but God. Also, thou lovest thyself for God, when being in deadly sin thou desirest to be made righteous and virtuous, for then thou lovest not thyself as thou art (for thou art unrighteous), but as thou wouldst be. Right so shalt thou love thy neighbour. If he be good and righteous thou shalt love him by charity in God only; in that he is good and righteous; for then lovest thou God (who is goodness and righteousness) in him, and so thou lovest him more than if he were bad or in deadly sin. As, for example, thy enemies who hate thee, or any other of whom thou hast full evidence they are not in grace; yet notwithstanding shalt thou love them, not as they are, nor as good and righteous men (for they are bad and unrighteous), but thou shalt love them for God, that they may be good and righteous. And so shalt thou hate nothing in them, but that thing which is contrary to righteousness, and that is sin. This is as I understand the doctrine of St Augustine, for to distinguish the love of the man from the hatred of his sin, and the love of thy neighbour. He that is humble, or desires truly to be humble, can thus love his neighbour, and none but he.


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