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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : THIRD PART OF THE BOOK.

The Form Of Perfect Living And Other Prose Treatises by Richard Rolle

THIRD PART OF THE BOOK.

The third and the last part of this book teaches a man to bear himself, wheresoever he comes, and whatsoever he does: that it be to the praise of GOD, and an example of good to all who see him: for thus the Apostle counsels: |Let everything be done honestly and in order|; that is |all that ye do, look ye do it honestly and orderly.| Then at the first, let every lover of GOD see that ye yearn not to mingle with the world, that hinders and deceives all who deal with it, and hinders them from the many good deeds they might do. And the man who will nowhere rest but aye rake about; their eyes see many things, that the eye sends to the heart, and such come not out easily when they are once imprinted. S. Bernard complains of the harms that he felt in the world whilst he was therein, and says |the world surrounded me and weighed me down|: that is |The world has besieged me on every side; and through the gates of my five wits it shot at me and wounded me full sore; and through the wounds, death presses in, to slay my sorry soul. Mine eyes look, and my thought changes and kindles me in sin. Mine ears hear and my heart bows me thereto. I smell with my nose, and it pleases my thoughts. With my mouth I speak, and in my speech I please or beguile others: and with a little over-soft feeling, lust kindles in my flesh; and the fiend, my foe, whom I cannot see, stands ever against me with his bow bent.| Therefore, if necessity make man to go into this world, where are so many stirrings to sin, with great fear shall he go, as into a battle to fight his foes. It needs he be well armed against the arrows of his foe, that severely shoots at him; and the more may he dread him because he cannot see him: with foot-traps and snares is the way set full. Therefore, let him who shall go forth, arm him with GOD'S holy fear. GOD warned His disciples to be wary in the world when He said thus: |Soothly the world shall withstand you with temptations.| Therefore, if thou must go out, for thine own profit or that of others, colour not thy going with any false hue, to feign for thyself an occasion to dally with the world, for pleasure or command, or to be known with praise before others....

And therefore they make a show with words and feign as they can, to be holden holy of all who see them, that give themselves to dalliance with the world, more than needs, as to buying, selling or quarrelling about earthly things. And all their outward bearing so accords with the world that David says: |They have mixed themselves with the peoples; they partake of their works|: that is, they mingle them with the folk of the world, who have no knowledge of GOD, and such works as they see them do, such works they do. Therefore, when thou needest to go forth, cross thyself with the holy name of JESUS, Mary's Son, who died on the Rood for thee, for then thou art more secure, whithersoever thou goest, as S. Austin said to his brother, when they went forth. And S. John says: |Whitherso thou goest, and whatsoever thou doest, thy forehead and thy breast mark thou with the cross; for there is no other mark the fiend so greatly dreads.| See that thine outer-clothing be not over-loathsome, nor over-curious, in shape nor in hue. Keep thy limbs to their business, to which they were made, and do not cast thine eyes about like a child; flourish not thine hands, and leap not with thy feet. When the heart of man is out of ward, the limbs sometimes fail in their office. And, as thou orderest thine outward bearing when thou goest forth, also look thou that thou beest devout within, and specially in praying to and praising the Lord. If in going out, thou canst not rest in saying thy prayers, go the softlier. Many things hinder thee in toiling to pray; weariness of limbs; men thou meetest who speak to thee; then thy five wits fleet out of ward, and then the devotion of him who prays, cools. When walking thou hast said thy prayers that thou art bound to say, lift up thy heart to GOD, and pray to Him in thy thoughts in a blessed recollection: think on the good things GOD has done for thee, and shall do if thou truly servest Him: think on His biddings and do them indeed according to thy might, for so GOD bids thee when He thus says: -- |The words which I command thee shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt relate them to thy sons: and thou shall meditate on them, sitting in thine house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and arising.| Or in working, tell fair tales to thy fellows, or something from Holy Writ that may soften your way, or glad you in GOD. And sometimes say the Seven Psalms for the quick and the dead, that GOD give grace to the quick and rest to the dead. When thou comest to the town to ease thy body, seek where thou mayst most worthily dwell for thy condition and in most peace: and where thou mayst most profit to thyself and others. Let flesh-lust and vanity entice thee to no place: but inquire where any is who most loves GOD, and thither draw thou. Seek not where thou mayst be fed best, for there peradventure are many stirrings to sin. Harbour thee with no woman unless thou knowest good of them for a long time. When thou art come to the house thou shalt rest in, hold thy wits inward in GOD'S holy fear; so that thine outer bearing be so ruled with grace that thou mayst stir to good all whom thou seest, and through GOD'S grace destroy mirkness of sin, and so fulfil GOD'S teaching, who says thus, |So let your light shine before men, that they seeing your good works may glorify your Father Who is in heaven.| And S. Gregory says: |Neither is it greatly praiseworthy to be good with the good, but to be good with the evil; for even as it is of more heinous guilt not to be good among the good, so is it of unwearied honour to have stood for the good among the evil.|

Keep well thine eyes when thou art come to harbour, from all things that may kindle sin and make thine eyes forward, as Job did, who said |I make a covenant with mine eyes lest I should think upon a maid.| After sight, comes thought, and thereafter deed, and therefore said the prophet Jeremiah, |Mine eye hath laid waste my soul.| When so holy a prophet lamented him of his eyesight, sorely may another complain who oft sins therewith. Augustine: |Shameless eye is the messenger of shameless heart.| Gregory: |It is not lawful to look after that which it is not lawful to desire.| David: |Turn away mine eyes that they may not see vanity.| Look also that thou hearest nothing that may stir thee to sin, as unclean words, backbiting, false judgments, great oaths, controversy, striving and other such vices. Also at thy meat, bear thyself orderly, and hold thee in measure, and seek after no dainties, but be pleased with common meats. Consider in speaking, to whom, what, when, how, of whom, and where: and have thyself so orderly that thou beest not like other worldly men, but fulfil the Apostle's words; |Be not conformed to this world, because your conversation is in heaven.|

Though our body be in this world as a clot of earth, it is needful that our spirit which was bought with the dear-worthy blood of GOD Almighty be with mind and will in heaven, not soil itself here with sin, as swine do in a ditch. And whatsoever thou doest, and wheresoever thou comest, do as the Apostle teaches: |Shew thyself to all men as an example of good works,| for through a good example GOD is worshipped and praised, men are helped and taught and strengthened in their belief. Bear thee so that men who dwell with you may say of you as was said of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, |The gods are made like men, and have come down to us.| DEO gracias.

FOOTNOTES:

Rolle's free rendering of the Latin is added here from the Thornton MS. It does not occur in the Arundel MS.

The MS. is defective.

On the 18th leaf of the MS. containing Our Daily Work begins Richard Rolle's Meditations on the Passion. A rendering of this is given in Fr. R. H. Benson's A Book of the Love of JESUS.

A meat-time between sunrise and noon, or between noon and sunset.

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