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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : An Epistle on Charity.

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

An Epistle on Charity.

By what tokens thou shalt know if thou lovest thine enemy: and what example thou shalt take from Christ to love him.

And if thou beest not stirred against the person by anger or fell outward cheer, and have no privy hate in thine heart for to despise him, or judge him, or for to set him at naught: and the more shame and villany he does to thee in word or in deed, the more pity and compassion thou hast of him as thou wouldest have of a man who was out of his mind, and thou thinkest thou canst not find in thine heart to hate him, for love is so good in itself, but prayest for him, and helpest him, and desirest his amending, not only with thy mouth as hypocrites do, but with thy affection of love in thine heart, then hast thou perfect charity to thy fellow-Christian. This charity had S. Stephen, perfectly, when he prayed for them who stoned him to death. This charity, Christ counselled to all who would be His perfect followers, when He said thus: |Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.| And therefore, if thou wilt follow Christ, be like Him in power. Learn to love thine enemies, and sinful men, for all those are thy fellow-Christians. Look and bethink thee how Christ loved Judas, who was both His bodily enemy and a sinful caitiff: how goodly Christ was to him; how benign; how courteous; how humble to him whom He knew to be damnable; and nevertheless, He chose him for His Apostle, and sent him to preach with the other Apostles; He gave him power to work miracles: He shewed to him the same good cheer in word and deed; also with His precious Body; and preached to him as He did to the other Apostles: He condemned him not openly, nor abused, nor despised him, nor ever spake evil of him: and yet even though He had done all that, He would but have said the truth! And above all, when Judas took Him, He kissed him and called him His friend. All this charity, Christ shewed to Judas whom He knew to be damnable. In no manner of feigning or flattering, but in soothfastness of good love and clean charity. For though it were truth that Judas was unworthy to have any gift of GOD, or any sign of love, because of his wickedness; nevertheless, it was worthy and reasonable that our Lord should appear as He is.

He is love and goodness, and therefore it belongs to Him to shew love and goodness to all His creatures, as He did to Judas. Follow after, somewhat if thou canst; for though thou beest shut in a house with thy body, nevertheless in thine heart, where the place of love is, thou shalt be able to have part of such a love to thy fellow Christians as I speak of. Whoso deems himself to be a perfect follower of JESUS Christ's teaching and living, as some men deem that they be, inasmuch as one teaches and preaches, and is poor in worldly goods as Christ was, and cannot follow Christ in His love and charity, to love his fellow-Christians, every man, good and ill, friends and foes, without feigning, flattering, despising in heart, angriness and melancholious reproving, soothly, he beguiles himself: the dearer he deems himself to be, the further he is. For Christ said to those who would be His followers, thus: |This is My commandment, that ye love mutually as I have loved you.|

|This is My bidding, that ye love together as I love you, for if ye love as I loved, then are ye My disciples.| He that is meek soothfastly, or would be meek, can love his fellow-Christians: and none save he.

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