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Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection
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CHAPTER IX: That this Image is both fair and foul whilst it is in this Life here, though it be reformed; and of the Differences of the secret Feelings of those that be reformed and those that be not

FAIR is a man’s soul, and foul is a man’s soul. Fair, inasmuch as it is reformed in faith to the likeness of God. But foul, inasmuch as it is mingled with sensual feelings and inordinate motions of this image of sin. Foul it is without, like a beast; fair within, like an Angel. Foul in the feeling of sensuality, fair in truth of reason. Foul for the fleshly appetites, fair for the good will. Thus is a chosen soul both fair and foul, according to the saying of Holy Writ: I am black, but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, and as the curtains of Solomon.170170    Cant. 1. That is, O ye Angels of Heaven, that are daughters of the high Jerusalem, wonder not at me, nor despise me for my black shadow. For though I be black without, because of my fleshly nature, as the tents of Kedar, yet am I full fair within, as the Curtains of Solomon, in that I am reformed to the image of God. By Kedar is understood a reprobate soul, which is the tent of the devil. By Solomon is understood our Lord Jesus, for He is peace, or peaceable. By the curtain of Solomon is understood a blessed Angel, in whom our Lord dwelleth, and is hid in him.

Now may a chosen soul with humble trust in God, and joy of heart, say thus: Though I be black, because of my body of sin, like a reprobate soul, that is one of the tabernacles of the fiend; yet within am I fair (through faith and good will) like an Angel of Heaven. For so saith he in another place: Look not upon me, because that I am black, for that the sun hath altered my colour.171171    Cant. 1. The sun maketh a skin swarth only without and not within; and it betokeneth this fleshly life. Therefore thus saith the chosen soul: Rebuke me not because I am swarth, for the swartness I have is all without, by the touching and carrying about me this image of sin; but it is nothing within. And, therefore, soothly though it be so that a chosen soul, reformed in faith, dwell in this body of sin, and feel the same fleshly stirrings, and use the same bodily works, as doth a tabernacle of Kedar so far forth that in man’s judgement there be no difference betwixt the one and the other, yet within in their souls, and in the sight of God there is a full great difference.172172    Twining. But to know this, which is the one, and which is the other, is only kept to God; for it passeth man’s judgement and man’s feeling. And, therefore, we ought not to judge any man evil, for that thing that may be used both evil and well.

A soul that is not reformed is so fully taken up with the love of the world, and so much over laid with the liking of his flesh in all his sensuality, that he chooseth it as a full rest of his heart, and in the secret desires thereof nothing else would he have, but only that he might ever be sure thereof; he feeleth within him no liquor of grace, moving him to loathe his fleshly life, nor to desire Heaven or bliss. And, therefore, we may say that he beareth not this image of sin, but is borne of it; like a man that is sick and so weak that he cannot bear himself, and, therefore, is laid on a bed, and borne in a litter. Right so, such a sinful soul is so weak and impotent, for lack of grace, that he can neither move hand nor foot to do any good deed, nor to resist (by displeasing of will) the least motion of sin, when it cometh, but falls down thereto, just like a beast upon carrion. But a soul that is reformed, though he use his fleshly senses and feel fleshly stirrings, yet he loatheth them in his heart, for he would not for any good rest in them fully, but fleeth any such rest in them, as the biting of an adder, and had rather have his rest and the love of his heart in God, if he could; and sometimes actually aspireth thereto, and often grudgeth at the fleeing of the pleasures of this life, for love of the life everlasting. This soul is not borne by this image of sin, like a sick man, though he feel it; but he beareth it, for through grace he is made mighty and strong to suffer and bear his body, with all the evil stirrings of it, without hurting or defiling himself, inasmuch as he loveth them not, nor followeth them, nor consenteth to deadly sins, as another doth.

This was bodily fulfilled in the gospel by a man sick of the palsy, who was so feeble that he could not go, and therefore was laid and borne in a litter, and brought to our Lord; and then he saw him in that misery, of His goodness He said to him: Arise, and take up thy bed, and go home to thy house;173173    St John 5. and so he did, and was whole. And soothly, right as this man bare upon his back, when he was made whole, the bed that before bare him; right so it may be said in the spiritual sense, that a soul, reformed in faith, heareth this image of sin, which bare him before. And therefore be not too much adread of thy blackness that thou hast by bearing of this image of sin; but only for the shame of the discomfort that thou hast from the beholding of it, and also for the upbraiding that thou feelest in thy heart of thy ghostly enemies, when they say to thee thus: Where is they Lord Jesus? What seekest thou? Where is the fairness that thou speakest of? What feelest thou else but blindness of sin? Where is that image of God, that thou sayest is reformed in thee? Comfort thyself, and be faithful stiffly, as I said before, and if thou do so, thou shalt, by this faith, destroy all the temptations of thy enemies. Thus saith St Paul: Take unto you the buckler of faith, with which thou shalt be able to quench all the burning darts of the enemy.174174    Ephes. 6.


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