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Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection
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SECTION I: How Lovers of this World in divers ways disenable themselves from becoming reformed in their Souls

BUT some now will say thus: I would fain love God, and be a good man, and forsake the love of the world if I might; but I have not grace for it. If I had the same grace that a good man hath, I should do as he doth; but because I have it not, I cannot, and so I need177177    It is to me to wyte no more. seek to do no more, but am excused.

Unto these men I answer thus: True it is as they say, that they have no grace, and therefore they lie still in their sin, and cannot rise out. But that availeth them not before God, for it is their own fault. They disenable themselves in divers ways, so that the light of grace cannot shine into them, nor rest in their hearts. For some are so froward that they will not have grace, nor be good men at all; for that they know well, if they should turn good men, they must part with the great liking and lust of this world, which they have in earthly things; but that they will not do, for they think they are so sweet that they will not part with them. And they must also do works of penance, as fasting, watching, praying and many other good works, in chastising of their flesh and in withdrawing of their fleshly will, and these may they not do, for they seem so sharp and so terrible to their thinking, that they shrink178178    Uggen. and loathe to think upon them, and so they cowardly and wretchedly still dwell in their sins.

Some would seem desirous of grace, and begin to dispose themselves for it, but their will is exceedingly weak, for as soon as any stirring of sin cometh, though it be contrary to the command of God, they fall presently thereto, for they are (through former custom of often falling and assenting to sin) so as it were bound and tied to sin, that they think it impossible to withstand it; and so their imagined difficulty of being able to make such resistance maketh their will weak, and smiteth it down again.

Some also feel the stirrings of grace, as when they have bitings of conscience for their evil living, and motions to leave it, but it seems so painful and grievous to them that they will not suffer it nor abide it, but fly from it and forget it if they can, so that they run to seek comfort and contentment outwardly, at such times, in fleshly creatures, to the end that they may not feel such pangs of conscience within their souls. And moreover some men are so blind and so brutish that they think there is no other life but this; nay that there is no soul other than of a beast, and that the soul of a man dieth with the body as the soul of a beast; and therefore they say: Let us eat and drink and make merry here, for of this life we are secure, we see no other heaven.

Verily such are some wretches that say thus in their hearts though they say it not with their mouths. Of which men the Prophet saith thus: The fool hath said in his heart there is no God. Such a fool is every one that loveth or liveth in sin, and chooseth the love of the world as the rest of his soul; he saith there is no God, not with his mouth, for he will speak of Him sometimes, when the world goes well with him, as it were in reverence of Him, saying: Blessed be God. And sometimes in despite, when he is angry against God or his neighbour and sweareth by his blessed body or any of his members. But he saith in his thoughts that there is no God, and that is because he imagineth that God seeth not his sin, or that He will not punish it so severely as the Scripture saith; or that He will forgive him his sin though He see it; or else that there shall no Christian be damned, do he never so ill. Or else, if he fasts the fasts of our Lady, or say every day so many prayers, or hear every day two or three Masses, or do some bodily work, as it were for the honour of God, he thinketh he shall never go to hell, do he never so much sin, and continue in it. This man saith in his heart that there is no God, but is unwise, as the Prophet saith, for he shall one day find and feel in torments that He is a God whom he forgot and set at nought; but set by the wealth of the world, as the Prophet saith: Pain only will give understanding. 179179    Jer. 28. For he that knoweth not this here, nor will know it, shall know it well when he is in torments.


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