In the previous discourse, the greatness of God's depths has been as it were enjoyed by foretaste, and with honour due has been besought rather than declared, since that unspeakable quality of God is more for pondering than preaching, and except for those things which either Law or Prophets or Gospel or Apostles tell, there should be from others a profound silence on the Trinity. For only God's witness is to be believed about God, that is about Himself, Who has furnished a witness either in the Law or Prophet or Gospel or Apostle, or in the Spirit to each spiritual man about Himself, through Himself or through an angel. But human argument or skill or any vainglorious philosophy, which is unsound even on the nature of the world, cannot be our teacher about God, but is to be regarded as sacrilegious and impious to God. For indeed I ask, my brethren, whence could those vain, too wicked and impious men, who either do not know themselves, or do not understand the fact of their existencenot to mention the other creatures, whose nature they cannot follow to the least extentwhence could they have known the one invisible God, the co-eternal Trinity, embracing all things beneath, above, within, without, even up to the standard required for discussion,
p.69not to say as far as a finished definition of God? Therefore with due honour committing these things to silence as they are unspeakable, let us begin to talk about a matter which is clear and pleasing to the ineffable God, not daring like others, for whom we must feel shame, to seek concerning things too high, according to that saying of the Sage, Seek not things too high for thee,
Ecclus. 3. 22but rather preaching on the edification of our souls; we do not dare at the beginning to lay our own poor foundations, but seek the authority of a greater teacher, I mean the most perspicuous and polished doctrine of St. Faustus, from whose words we have chosen a few suitably enough for opening our work, for in fact he taught us when, though unworthy, we were entrusted to his care, out of the same stock of advice of which we wish to speak, and as he is my senior in time, deserts, and knowledge, let him speak first as if in my defence to attack all ignorant and degenerate men.
He says: 'If the tiller of the soil and farmer of the land, who is preparing his field for sowing seed, does not think it enough for him to have cleft that earth with sturdy share and softened the hard sods by frequent ploughing, but over and above is anxious to clean that field of useless grass, to free it of harmful rubble, and to pluck up and destroy the growth of thorns and roots, in the belief that his land will never yield good seed unless it is clear of bad grass, thinking that that prophetic word applies to himself', Break up your fallow ground and sow not over thorns;
Ierem. 4. 3how much more ought we to clean the field of our heart from the harmful motions of the vices, and to believe that it is not enough for us to till our body's clay with the toil of fasts and vigils, unless we are anxious above all to correct our vices and form our characters, seeing we believe our hope of harvest is laid up not on earth but in heaven? Therefore let us seek above all to root out the vices and plant the virtues; let us root out pride and sow humility, let us pluck up wrath and lay down patience, let us prune envy and plant good-will.
sq. cf. Paen. Venniani 29But if the flesh is harrowed and the soul does not bear fruit, it is as if a field were continually ploughed and yet the crop never grew, or as if a man fashioned a statue of gold on the outside and of clay within. For what use is it if without the city walls war is being waged, while within it suffers ruin?' As if a man dug outside his vineyard and right on its boundary, while leaving it, untilled within, to thorns and thistles! For of what use is the religion of the outward man, if there is not also shown an improvement in the inner? That person can be false and a thief, that person is false
p.71and a hypocrite, who displays one quality in his bearing and another in his character. Then let us not be like whited sepulchres,
Matt. 23. 27let us study to show ourselves splendid and adorned within and not without; for true religion resides in lowliness not of habit but of heart. For where else does the Lord dwell, save in the heart of the truly humble, according to that saying of Isaiah, But on whom shall I look, or with whom shall I abide, save with the humble and peaceable and with him who fears My words?
Isa. 66. 2Therefore whoever wishes to be made God's dwelling-place, should strive to make himself humble and peaceable, that he may be known to be God's servant, not by his greed for talk and pliability of mien, but by the reality of his lowliness; for goodness of heart requires no false unction of talk. Idle then is a religion decorated with prostrations of the body, equally idle is the mere mortification of the flesh, and the hollow devotion of the outward man, unless it be accompanied by a fruitful moderation of the mind. What use is it for the passions to be assailed by a servant, when they are found to be in league with the master? Then, lest perhaps we should labour without fruit, let us take pains to be freed from our vices by God's help, that thereafter we can be adorned with virtues. Thus let us cleanse ourselves as far as we are able from every taint of vices, from pride first, from ill-will, from anger, from blasphemy, from injustice, from spite, from melancholy, from vain glory, from covetousness, from malice, from all bitterness; that we may be possessed by lowliness, gentleness, kindness, courtesy, sobriety, mercy, justice, joy, and love.
But what do we do? We catalogue these qualities as if they were all alike, and as if they were equally harmless we leave them uncultivated and undivided. We are delighted by reading them, distracted by rooting them out. Will it save us to hear of things which we clearly do not have within us? If they are always read to us and never improved by us, will we be profited by the constant reading of things which are rooted out from us but slowly? Will a man by talk alone cleanse his house from some disfigurement, or move the dusty piles of squalid rubble by mere speech? Or can anyone without sweat accomplish even what appertains to daily life? Therefore, while we cleanse the house of the inner man, we need patience and application and toil and unwearied zeal, that we may show patience in injuries, application in religion, toil in business, zeal in progress. While we preach often we improve slowly; often are we offended, seldom patient, often conquered, seldom conquerors, often led astray, seldom wise. Then what will help us, like weak and unskilled fighters whose weapons turn and wound them,
cf. Caesar. Arelat. Serm. 196. 1while it is no credit to hear these things, but to accomplish them? For the law does not make
p.73holy by hearing, but doubtless by performance; each should honour the Lord, not simply by words and bodily toil, but by ripeness of character and purity of heart. And let it not be said of us, This people honours Me with the lips, but their heart is far off from Me.
3 Matt. 15. 8And when you hear of battle, trust that wounds and pursuit are there; and so long as each cannot enjoy peace from the seven hostile nations that attack him, let him remain girt and not cease to, strive, till by God's gift and a manful struggle he stands king and ruler of the seven nations. For none is crowned save him [who] has striven lawfully.
2 Tim. 2. 5and none strives lawfully in his first contest. We must therefore strive first, then stand and apply ourselves in warfare, that later we may strive lawfully. Would that we also strove lawfully, that we might also deserve the crown; and as we are in the same hosting and under the same arms, would daily so contend with our enemies, that we turned our weapons, not against ourselves, but on our foes. With God's grace long experience of war will teach this, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is honour, glory, and virtue unto ages of ages.