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Fire of Love
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CHAPTER V

WHEREFORE IT IS BETTER TO TAKE ENTENT TO THE LOVE OF GOD THAN TO KNOWLEDGE OR DISPUTATION

In all things that we work or think be we more taking heed to the love of God than to knowledge or disputation. Love truly delights the soul and makes conscience sweet, drawing it from love of lusty things here beneath, and from desire of man’s own excellence. Knowledge without charity builds not to endless health but puffs up to most wretched undoing.

Be our souls therefore strong in the taking of hard labours for God; and be they wise with heavenly, not worldly, savour. May they desire to be lightened with endless wisdom, and to be inflamed by that fire with which some are stirred to love and desire our Maker only, and mightily are made strong to the despising of all transitory things. Not counting their greatest solace in these things that abide not, for they here have no dwelling, but without ceasing they seek the heavenly place not made with hands, and cry: Mihi vivere Christus est, et mori lucrum. ‘Christ to me is life, and great winning to die.’

He forsooth truly loves God that consents to no wicked likings. Certainly man is far from Christ’s love in as mickle as he delights himself in worldly things. Wherefore if thou love God thy work shows that; for he is never proved to love God whiles he is made to consent to wicked desires.

Therefore to all that are in this exile this I dare show: that all they that will not love the Maker of all things shall be cast into endless darkness; and there shall they that would not here be lightened with the love of their Gainbuyer feel the burning withouten end of the fire of hell. They shall be sundered from the company of singers, in charity with their Maker; and busily shall they sorrow cast out from the mirth of those singing in Jesu, wanting in the clearness and the joy of them that shall be crowned. For liever had they tarry a little while in worldly softness than suffer penance that their sins might be cleansed, and they might come full of piety before the Defender of all good.

Truly, in this vale of weeping, they have been delighted in the slippery way and the broad; where is no place of gladness but of labour, wherefore in torments withouten release they shall sorrow: when the poor, which were arrayed with virtues, shall be born to everlasting peace and be made glad in the delight of full truly seeing the Life-giving Godhead. And in ghostly heat they have happily flourished, although they have taken no solace in the worthy height of this world, nor have sown pride among foolish wise men; but they have borne griefs from wicked men, and have excluded temptations from the soul that they might be holden in peace at the throne of the Trinity. And they have truly voided old unthriftiness of venomous life, clearly and most gladly praising ghostly beauty; and plays of softness, which youth accepts and unwise worldly men desire, they have deems worthy reproof, thinking with continuance of the song full of charity ascending to our Maker.

For which thing the receivers of the joy of love, conceiving heat that may not be consumed, join together in song of clear chorus; and in lovely harmony and friendly mirth have they set a heavenly shadow against all heat of lechery and filth. Wherefore in this burning of sweetest love they are taken up to the beholding of their Beloved, and by means of this most happy flame they are flourishing in virtue, and freely enjoy their Maker: and their mind, changed, now passes into the melody that lasts. And from henceforth their thoughts become song, and heaviness being cast out, the hall of their soul is fulfilled with wonderful music, so that it has entirely lost the former pricking and evermore abides whole in high sweetness, full marvellously singing in heavenly sweet meditation.

Furthermore when they go from this hardness and from the diseases that happen here, then the time comes that they shall be taken, and withouten doubt be born withouten sorrow to God, and have their seats among the seraphim; for they are altogether set on fire with the most high fire of love, burning within their souls. So sweetly and devoutly have they loved God that whatsoever they have felt in themselves was ghostly heat, heavenly song and godly sweetness. Herefore it is truly that they die without heaviness, soothly passing with joy; and are lift up unto so great a degree in endless worship, and are crowned in the contemplation of the great plenteousness of their Maker, singing with clearest choirs; the which also more burningly desire after that Godhead that rules all things.

And forsooth though now they clearly behold the chere of truth, and are moistened with the most delectable sweetness of the Godhead, yet no marvel if after a little while they shall be made more marvellous: when the bodies of the saints, that are at this time holden in earth, shall be raised from their graves, and their souls shall be knitted to them in the last examination. Then forsooth shall they take principality among the peoples, and the unrighteous shall they deem to be damned; and they shall show that the meanly good were blessed to come to Blissfulness. The general doom thus done, soothly they shall be borne into everlasting song, and go up with Christ to the height of truth, enjoying the Face of God in love withouten end.

By this it is shown that everlasting sweetness moistens their minds, the which binds the bands of true charity, unable to be loosed. Wherefore let us seek rather that the love of Christ burn within us than that we take heed to unprofitable disputation. Whiles truly we take heed to unmannerly seeking, we feel not the sweetness of the eternal savour. Wherefore many now so mickle savour in the burning of knowledge and not of love, that plainly they know not what love is, or of what savour; although the labour of all their study ought to spread unto this end, that they might burn in the love of God. Alas, for shame! An old wife is more expert in God’s love, and less in worldly pleasure, than the great divine, whose study is vain. For why, for vanity he studies, that he may appear glorious and so be known, and may get rents and dignities: the which is worthy to be held a fool, and not wise.

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