THE DEVOUT ENJOY COMPLETE PEACE
As I had formerly had observed much confusion and toil, anxiety and care, terrors and fears everywhere and among all professions in the world, so I have now found peace of mind and good cheer in all those who have surrendered themselves to God. For they feel no terror before God, being fully conscious of the kindly disposition of His heart toward them, nor do they find anything in themselves that causes them grief: for they lack no good thing, as has already been shown, neither do they suffer discomfort on account of their circumstances, not caring anything about them.
2 DISREGARD OF THE WORLD'S DERISION. It is indeed true that the wicked world gives them no peace, but heaps spite and ridicule upon them and tears, plucks, beats, and spits upon them, trips them up, and afflicts the with worst it can devise. I saw many instances of this kind of mistreatment, but we have learned that it was done by the command of supreme Lord, for thos who wish to become good must first suffer themselves to be the laughing-stock of the world. For the nature of the world is such that what is wisdom before God is to it sheer foolishness. Thus I noticed that many who were endowed with the most splendid gifts of God were treated with contempt and ridicule, and that often even among their own. It happens sometimes, I say; but I observed that they care for nothing for the contempt, but glory in the fact that the world holds its nose in their presence as it from stench, and averts its eyes from them as from a loathsome sight, scorns them as fools, and executes them as criminals. For they have made it their password whereby they recognize each other, to be rejected by the world for Christ's sake. Furthermore, they hold that whoever cannot bear wrong cheerfully, possesses not the spirit of Christ fully. Thus regarding the matter, they encourage each other therewith. Likewise, they point out that the world may be recompensed by the bountiful goodness of God. Thus the ridicule, hatred, injury, and harm meted out to us by the world shall be turned to our profit.
3 THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IS UNCONCERNED. Then I understood why these genuine Christians do not admit of the distinction between what the worlds calls fortune and misfortune, wealth and poverty, honor and dishonor: saying, that whatever comes from the hand of God is all good, fair, and profitable. Therefore, they grieve over nothing, neither are they hesitant or evasive about anything. Whether you order a genuine Christian to govern or to serve, to command or to obey, to teach others or to be taught, to enjoy abundance or to suffer want, it is all the same to him: he will go on with the same expression of face, caring only to be pleasing to God. They say that the world is not so great that it cannot be endured, nor so precious that it cannot be dispensed with. Therefore, they are not afflicted either with the longing for, or the loss of, anything. If someone strikes them on the right cheek, they cheerfully turn to him the left also; if someone disputes with them the possession of their coat, they surrender to him their cloak also; leaving all things ultimately to God, their witness and their judge, in the assurance that all these things shall in due time be settled justly.
4 WHAT HE SEES OUTWARDLY. Neither does a devout man of God permit himself to be disquieted by the condition of the nations of the world. He indeed dislikes many things, but is not destraught or tormented thereby. What cannot forward let it fall backward; what cannot stand, let it fall; and what cannot or will not survive, let it perish. Why should a Christian torment himself over it, if his conscience be right and he has the grace of God in his heart? If men will not conform themselves to our customs, let us conform ourselves to theirs as far as our consciences permit. It is true that the world goes from bad to worse, but will our fretting improve it?
5 HE CARES NOT FOR THE QUARREL OF THE WORLD. If the mighty of this world quarrel and haggle over crowns and sceptres, so that bloodshed and devastation of lands and countries result, the enlightened Christian is not afflicted within himself even over such calamities. He maintains that it is of little or no importance who rules the world. For as the world can never destroy the Church, even if Satan himself should hold its sceptre; so, on the other hand, even if a crowned angel were to hold sway over it, it would not cease to be wordly. For even then those desiring to practice genuine piety must endure sufferings. They deem it, therefore, immaterial who occupies the throne of the world, save that when it is one of the devout (as actual experience has taught), many flatterers and hypocrites unite themselves with the company of the devout and by this admixture cause the piety of the rest to grow lukewarm. On the contrary, in times of overt persecution the pious serve God with fervent zeal. Particularly when one considers that in times of peace many hide under the pretence of general welfare, religion, honesty, and liberties, who, if they wer to be exposed, would be found to seek the kingdom, liberties, and glory not of Christ, but of themselves. A Christian, therefore, leaves such matters to take care of themselves as they can or will, being content to enjoy God and His grace within his heart.
6 ABOUT THE SUFFERINGS THAT BEFALL THE CHURCH. Neither do the temptations surrounding the Church disquiet enlightened souls. For they know that they shall ultimately triumph. But this cannot be obtained without a victory, and a victory cannot be won without a battle, and a battle cannot be fought without enemies and without a sharp conflict with them. Therefore, they confront courageously all that befalls them or others, being certain that the victory belongs to God who conducts all things as He has predetermined them, even though rocks, mountains, deserts, seas, and chasms should obstruct His way; for, in the end they all must fall back. They also know that the raging of enemies against God must in the end contribute to His greater glory. For if a thing undertaken for the glory of God should meet with no opposition, it might be regarded as of human initiation and of human accomplishmet; but on the contrary case, the more furiously the world with all its devils offers resistance, the clearer does the power of God appear.
Chapter 49 ||| Labyrinth index page