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earthly man. My beast had an advantage in his first hold,

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"But envy and pride, the evils most prone to follow good works, had no place amongst them. He that was weaker in ascetic exercises entertained no thought of malice against him of brighter example. Nor again was he, that had accomplished great feats, deceived and puffed up by arrogance to despise his weaker brethren, or set at nought his neighbour, or boast of his rigours, or glory in his achievements. He that excelled in virtue ascribed nothing to his own labours, but all to the power of God, in humility of mind persuading himself that his labours were nought and that he was debtor even for more, as saith the Lord, `When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."' Others again persuaded themselves that they had not done even the things which they were commanded to do, but that the things left undone outnumbered the things already well done. Again, he that was far behind in austerity, perchance through bodily weakness, would disparage and blame himself, attributing his failure to slothfulness of mind rather than to natural frailty. So each excelled each, and all excelled all in this sweet reasonableness. But the spirit of vain glory and pleasing of men -- what place had it among them? For they had fled from the world, and were dwelling in the desert, to the end that they might show their virtues not to men, but to God, from whom also they hope to receive the rewards of their good deeds, well aware that religious exercises performed for vain glory go without recompense; for these are done for the praise of men and not for God. Whence all that do thus are doubly defrauded: they waste their body, and receive no reward. But they who yearn for glory above, and strive thereafter, despise all earthly and human glory.

earthly man. My beast had an advantage in his first hold,

"As to their dwellings, some monks finish the contest in utter retirement and solitude, having removed themselves far from the haunts of men throughout the whole of their earthly life-time, and having drawn nigh to God. Others build their homes at a distance one from another, but meet on the Lord's Day at one Church, and communicate of the Holy Mysteries, I mean the unbloody Sacrifice of the undefiled Body and precious Blood of Christ, which the Lord gave to the Faithful for the remission of sins, for the enlightenment and sanctification of soul and body. They entertain one another with the exercises of the divine Oracles and moral exhortations, and make public the secret wiles of their adversaries, that none, through ignorance of the manner of wrestling, may be caught thus. Then turn they again, each to his own home, eagerly storing the honey of virtue in the cells of their hearts, and husbanding sweet fruits worthy of the heavenly board.

earthly man. My beast had an advantage in his first hold,

"Others again spend their life in monasteries. These gather in multitudes in one spot, and range themselves under one superior and president, the best of their number, slaying all self-will with the sword of obedience. Of their own free choice they consider themselves as slaves bought at a price, and no longer live for themselves, but for him, to whom, for Christ his sake, they have become obedient; or rather, to speak more properly, they live no more for themselves, but Christ liveth in them, whom to follow, they renounce all. This is retirement, a voluntary hatred of the world, and denial of nature by desire of things above nature. These men therefore live the lives of Angels on earth, chanting psalms and hymns with one consent unto the Lord, and purchasing for themselves the title of Confessors by labours of obedience. And in them is fulfilled the word of the Lord, when he saith, `Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' By this number he limiteth not the gathering together in his name, but by `two or three' signifieth that the number is indefinite. For, whether there be many, or few, gathered together because of his holy name, serving him with fervent zeal, there we believe him to be present in the midst of his servants.

earthly man. My beast had an advantage in his first hold,

"By these ensamples and such like assemblies men of earth and clay imitate the life of heavenly beings, in fastings and prayers and watchings, in hot tears and sober sorrow, as soldiers in the field with death before their eyes, in meekness and gentleness, in silence of the lips, in poverty and want, in chastity and temperance, in humbleness and quietude of mind, in perfect charity toward God and their neighbour, carrying their present life down to the grave, and becoming Angels in their ways. Wherefore God hath graced them with miracles, signs and various virtues and made the voice of their marvellous life to be sounded forth to the ends of the world. If I open my mouth to declare in every point the life of one of them who is said to have been the founder of the monastic life, Antony by name, by this one tree thou shalt assuredly know the sweet fruits of other trees of the like kind and form, and shalt know what a foundation of religious life that great man laid, and what a roof he built, and what gifts he merited to receive from the Saviour. After him many fought the like fight and won like crowns and guerdons.

"Blessed, yea, thrice blessed, are they that have loved God, and, for his love's sake, have counted every thing as nothing worth. For they wept and mourned, day and night, that they might gain everlasting comfort: they humbled themselves willingly, that there they might be exalted: they afflicted the flesh with hunger and thirst and vigil, that there they might come to the pleasures and joys of Paradise. By their purity of heart they became a tabernacle of the Holy Ghost, as it is written, `I will dwell in them and walk in them.' They crucified themselves unto the world, that they might stand at the right hand of the Crucified: they girt their loins with truth, and alway had their lamps ready, looking for the coming of the immortal bridegroom. The eye of their mind being enlightened, they continually looked forward to that awful hour, and kept the contemplation of future happiness and everlasting punishment immovable from their hearts, and pained themselves to labour, that they might not lose eternal glory. They became passionless as the Angels, and now they weave the dance in their fellowship, whose lives also they imitated. Blessed, yea, thrice blessed are they, because with sure spiritual vision they discerned the vanity of this present world and the uncertainty and inconstancy of mortal fortune, and cast it aside, and laid up for themselves everlasting blessings, and laid hold of that life which never faileth, nor is broken by death.

"These then are the marvellous holy men whose examples we, that are poor and vile, strive to imitate, but cannot attain to the high level of the life of these heavenly citizens. Nevertheless, so far as is possible for our weakness and feeble power, we take the stamp of their lives, and wear their habit: even though we fail to equal their works; for we are assured that this holy profession is a means to perfection and an aid to the incorruption given us by holy baptism. So, following the teachings of these blessed Saints, we utterly renounce these corruptible and perishable things of life, wherein may be found nothing stable or constant, or that continueth in one stay; but all things are vanity and vexation of spirit, and many are the changes that they bring in a moment; for they are slighter than dreams and a shadow, or the breeze that bloweth the air. Small and short-lived is their charm, that is after all no charm, but illusion and deception of the wickedness of the world; which world we have been taught to love not at all, but rather to hate with all our heart. Yea, and verily it is worthy of hatred and abhorrence; for whatsoever gifts it giveth to its friends, these in turn in passion it taketh away, and shall hand over its victims, stripped of all good things, clad in the garment of shame, and bound under heavy burdens, to eternal tribulation. And those again whom it exalteth, it quickly abaseth to the utmost wretchedness, making them a foot-stool and a laughing stock for their enemies. Such are its charms, such its bounties. For it is an enemy of its friends, and traitor to such as carry out its wishes: dasheth to dire destruction all them that lean upon it, and enervateth those that put their trust therein. It maketh covenants with fools and fair false promises, only that it may allure them to itself. But, as they have dealt treacherously, it proveth itself treacherous and false in fulfilling none of its pledges. To-day it tickleth their gullet with pleasant dainties; to-morrow it maketh them nought but a gobbet for their enemies. To-day it maketh a man a king: to-morrow it delivereth him into bitter servitude. To-day its thrall is fattening on a thousand good things; to-morrow he is a beggar, and drudge of drudges. To-day it placeth on his head a crown of glory; to-morrow it dasheth his face upon the ground. To-day it adorneth his neck with brilliant badges of dignity; to-morrow it humbleth him with a collar of iron. For a little while it causeth him to be the desire of all men; but after a time it maketh him their hate and abomination. To-day it gladdeneth him: but to-morrow it weareth him to a shadow with lamentations and wailings. What is the end thereof, thou shalt hear. Ruthlessly it bringeth its former lovers to dwell in hell. Such is ever its mind, such its purposes. It lamenteth not its departed, nor pitieth the survivor. For after that it hath cruelly duped and entangled in its meshes the one party, it immediately transferreth the resources of its ingenuity against the other, not willing that any should escape its cruel snares,

"These men that have foolishly alienated themselves from a good and kind master, to seek the service of so harsh and savage a lord, that are all agog for present joys and are glued thereto, that take never a thought for the future, that always grasp after bodily enjoyments, but suffer their souls to waste with hunger, and to be worn with myriad ills, these I consider to be like a man flying before the face of a rampant unicorn, who, unable to endure the sound of the beast's cry, and its terrible bellowing, to avoid being devoured, ran away at full speed. But while he ran hastily, he fell into a great pit; and as he fell, he stretched forth his hands, and laid hold on a tree, to which he held tightly. There he established some sort of foot-hold and thought himself from that moment in peace and safety. But he looked and descried two mice, the one white, the other black, that never ceased to gnaw the root of the tree whereon he hung, and were all but on the point of severing it. Then he looked down to the bottom of the pit and espied below a dragon, breathing fire, fearful for eye to see, exceeding fierce and grim, with terrible wide jaws, all agape to swallow him. Again looking closely at the ledge whereon his feet rested, he discerned four heads of asps projecting from the wall whereon he was perched. Then he lift up his eyes and saw that from the branches of the tree there dropped a little honey. And thereat he ceased to think of the troubles whereby he was surrounded; how, outside, the unicorn was madly raging to devour him: how, below, the fierce dragon was yawning to swallow him: how the tree, which he had clutched, was all but severed; and how his feet rested on slippery, treacherous ground. Yea, he forgat, without care, all those sights of awe and terror, and his whole mind hung on the sweetness of that tiny drop of honey.

"This is the likeness of those who cleave to the deceitfulness of this present life, -- the interpretation whereof I will declare to thee anon. The unicorn is the type of death, ever in eager pursuit to overtake the race of Adam. The pit is the world, full of all manner of ills and deadly snares. The tree, which was being continually fretted by the two mice, to which the man clung, is the course of every man's life, that spendeth and consuming itself hour by hour, day and night, and gradually draweth nigh its severance. The fourfold asps signify the structure of man's body upon four treacherous and unstable elements which, being disordered and disturbed, bring that body to destruction. Furthermore, the fiery cruel dragon betokeneth the maw of hell that is hungry to receive those who choose present pleasures rather than future blessings. The dropping of honey denoteth the sweetness of the delights of the world, whereby it deceiveth its own friends, nor suffereth them to take timely thought for their salvation."