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THAT NO MAN SHALL DEEM ANOTHER, BUT GIVE GOD PRAISE: AND OF EIGHT AFFECTIONS OF THE LOVE OF GOD: AND THAT WOMEN’S COMPANY BE ESCHEWED.
If any man live holily and righteously, he also despises not the worst sinners. Truly they, being tempted, fall because they have no grace of gainstanding, although by their own malice they turn themselves from good to ill. No man can work well, and love God, and be chaste, except God give it to him. Also thou that swellest in pride because thou hast done well, for thou hast restrained thyself from fleshly lusts and thou hast suffered sharp penance, wherefore thou hast taken praise from the mouth of man: have mind that, except the goodliness of Christ had overcovered thee, thou shouldest have fallen into as many ills, or into worse, than he that is fallen. Truly of thyself thou hadst no grace of gainstanding, but of Him, to Whom is said: Diligam te Domine, fortitudo mea. ’Thee, Lord my strength, I shall love.’ Wherefore, if thou have nought but that thou hast received, why pridest thou thyself as if thou hadst not received it?
I forsooth do thanks to my God; the which, without my merit, has so chastened His child—for my good and His honour—has so made His servant fear, that it seems full sweet to me to flee worldly pleasures, that are both few and soon slipping; in no mickle that I might be worthy to escape the pains of hell, that are both many and shall never end. And yet again He has so taught me, and given me virtuous teaching, that I should gladly bear this present penance and tribulation; in so mickle that I might come full lightly to everlasting delectation and most full prosperity. For if we will, in this life lightly and without great sharpness, we can perfectly repent and cleanse ourselves; as long as we, as mickle as we can, destroy vice. If we be not cleansed here, truly in the time to come, we shall find that the Apostle is true, saying these words: Horrendum est incidere in manus Dei viventis. ’Horrible is it to fall into the hands of the living God.’
Lord God, have mercy on me! My youth was fond; my childhood vain; my young age unclean. But now Lord Jesu my heart is enflamed with Thy holy love and my reins are changed; and my soul also will not now touch for bitterness what before was my food: and my affections now are such that I hate nothing but sin. Nought dread I but to grieve God: I joy not but in God: I sorrow not but for my sins: I love nothing but God: nothing I trust but Him: nothing heavies me but sin: nothing gladdens me but Christ.
Nevertheless now, lately, of three worthy women I worthily received reproof . . .2929 Here Rolle recounts three temptations he had of three women, which it has seemed best for the purpose of this book to omit. Forsooth coming to myself I do praise to God, because by their words He taught me good, and has shown to me a sweeter way than I knew before; that Christ’s grace so mickle working in me, I shall not be found worthy reproof in this way before women.
The fourth woman, to whom I was in part familiar, not reproving but as it were despising me, said: ‘Nought hast thou but fair looks and fair words, deeds hast thou none.’
And therefore I trow it is better to want their speciality than to fall into their hands, that know not, either in love nor in despite, to keep measure. This truly has happened to me because I have sought their health; not that I have unlawfully desired anything of them with whom I have for some while taken my bodily sustenance.
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