Friday, July 21, 2006

ANTHONY: Cousin, it would be a long work to per use every comfort that a man may well take in tribulation. For as many comforts, you know, may a man take thereof, as there be good commodities therein. And of those there are surely so many that it would be very long to rehearse and treat of them. But me seemeth we cannot lightly better perceive what profit and commodity, and thereby what comfort, they may take of it who have it, than if we well consider what harm the lack of it is, and thereby what discomfort the lack should be to them that never have it.

So is it now that all holy men agree, and all the scripture is full, and our own experience proveth before our eyes, that we are not come into this wretched world to dwell here. We have not, as St. Paul saith, our dwelling-city here, but we are seeking for the city that is to come. And St. Paul telleth us that we do seek for it, because he would put us in mind that we should seek for it, as good folk who fain would come thither. For surely whosoever setteth so little by it that he careth not to seek for it, it will I fear be long ere he come to it, and marvellous great grace if ever hecome thither. "Run," saith St. Paul, "so that you may get it." If it must then be gotten with running, when shall he come at it who lifteth not one step toward it?

Now, because this world is, as I tell you, not our eternal dwelling, but our little-while wandering, God would that we should use it as folk who were weary of it. And he would that we should in this vale of labour, toil, tears, and misery not look for rest and ease, game, pleasure, wealth, and felicity. For those who do so fare like a foolish fellow who, going towards his own house where he should be wealthy, would for a tapster's pleasure become a hostler by the way, and die in a stable, and never come home.

And would God that those that drown themselves in the desire of this world's wretched wealth, were not yet more fools than he! But alas, their folly as far surpasseth the foolishness of that silly fellow as there is difference between the height of heaven and the very depth of hell. For our Saviour saith, "Woe may you be that laugh now, for you shall wail and weep." And "There is a time of weeping," saith the scripture, "and there is a time of laughing."But, as you see, he setteth the weeping time before, for that is the time of this wretched world, and the laughing time shall come after in heaven. There is also a time of sowing and a time of reaping, too. Now must we in this world sow, that we may in the other world reap. And in this short sowing time of this weeping world, must we water our seed with the showers of our tears. And then shall we have in heaven a merry laughing harvest forever."They went forth and sowed their seeds weeping," saith the prophet.But what, saith he, shall follow thereof? "They shall come again more than laughing, with great joy and exultation, with their handfuls of corn in their hands." Lo, they that in their going home towards heaven sow their seeds with weeping, shall at the day of judgment come to their bodies again with everlasting plentifullaughing. And to prove that this life is no laughing time, but rather the time of weeping, we find that our Saviour himself wept twice or thrice, but never find we that he laughed so much as once.I will not swear that he never did, but at least he left us no example of it. But on the other hand, he left us example of weeping.

Of weeping have we matter enough, both for our own sins and for other folk's, too. For surely so should we do--be wail their wretched sins, and not be glad to detract them nor envy the meither. Alas, poor souls, what cause is there to envy them who are ever wealthy in this world, and ever out of tribulation? Of them Job saith, "They lead all their days in wealth, and in a moment of an hour descend into their graves and are painfully buried in hell." St. Paul saith unto the Hebrews that those whom God loveth he chastiseth, "And he scourgeth every son of his that he receiveth." St. Paul saith also, "By many tribulations must we go into the kingdom of God." And no marvel, for our Saviour Christ said of himself unto his two disciples that were going into the village of Emaus, "Know you not that Christ must suffer and so go into his kingdom?" And would we who are servants look for more privilege in our master's house than our master himself? Would we get into his kingdom with ease, when he himself got not into his own but by pain? His kingdom hath he ordained for his disciples, and he saith unto us all, "If any man will be my disciple, let him learn of me to do as I have done, take his cross of tribulation upon his back and follow me." He saith not here, lo, "Let him laugh and make merry." Now if heaven serve but for Christ's disciples, and if they be those who take their cross of tribulation, when shall these folk come there who never have tribulation? And if itbe true, as St. Paul saith, that God chastiseth all them that he loveth and scourgeth every child whom he receiveth, and that to heaven shall not come but such as he loveth and receiveth, when shall they come thither whom he never chastiseth, nor never doth vouchsafe to defile his hands upon them or give them so much as one lash? And if we cannot (as St. Paul saith we cannot) come to heaven but by many tribulations, how shall they come thither who never have none at all? Thus see we well, by the very scripture itself,how true the words are of old holy saints, who with one voice (in a manner) say all one thing--that is, that we shall not have continual wealth both in this world and in the other too. And therefore those who in this world without any tribulation enjoy their long continual course of never-interrupted prosperity have a great cause of fear and discomfort lest they be far fallen out of God's favour, and stand deep in his indignation and displeasure.For he never sendeth them tribulation, which he is ever wont to send them whom he loveth. But they that are in tribulation, I say,have on the other hand a great cause to take in their grief great inward comfort and spiritual consolation.

(St. Thomas More, A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation)