The Doctrine of Truth
1. Happy is he whom truth by itself doth teach, not by figures and words that pass away, but as it is in itself. Our own opinion and our own sense do often deceive us, and they discern but little. What availeth it to cavil and dispute about dark and hidden things; for ignorance of them we shall not be reproved in the day of judgment? It is great folly to neglect things that are profitable and necessary and to dwell upon those which are curious and hurtful. We have eyes and see not [cf Psalm 115:5].
2. And what have we to do with genus and species? He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh, is delivered from many opinions. From one Word are all things, and all things utter that one; and this is the Beginning, which also speaketh unto us. No man without that Word understandeth or judgeth rightly. He to Whom all things are one, He Who reduceth all things to one, and seeth all things in one; enjoys a quiet mind and remains at peace in God.
O God, Who art the truth, make me one with Thee in everlasting love. It wearieth me to read and hear many things: In Thee is all that I would have and can desire. Let all doctors hold their peace; let all creatures be silent in Thy sight; speak Thou alone unto me.
3. The more a man is at one within himself, and of single heart, so much the more and higher things doth he understand without labor; for he receiveth the light of wisdom from above. A pure, sincere, and stable spirit is not distracted, though it be employed in many works, for that it doeth all to the honor of God, and being at rest within, seeketh not itself in anything it doeth.
What hinders and troubles thee more than the mortified afflictions of thine own heart? A good and devout man arrangeth beforehand within himself those things which he ought to do. Neither do they draw him according to the desires of an inordinate inclination, but according to the direction of right reason. Who hath a greater combat than he that laboureth to overcome himself ? This ought to be our endeavor, to conquer ourselves, and daily wax stronger, and grow in holiness.
4. All perfection in this life hath some imperfection mixed with it; and, no knowledge of ours is without some darkness. A humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning. Yet learning and knowledge are not to be blamed, for that is good, and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a virtuous life are always to be preferred. But because many endeavor to get knowledge rather than to live well, they are often deceived, and reap but little or no fruit.
5. O, if men bestowed as much labor in the rooting out of vices, and the planting of virtues, as they do in moving questions, neither would there be so many evils, nor so great scandals, in the world. Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined as to what we have read, but as to what we have done; not as to how well we have spoken, but as to how religiously we have lived.
Tell me, where are all those Doctors and Masters, with whom thou wast well acquainted, whilst they lived and flourished in learning? Now others occupy their places and perhaps do scarce ever think of those who went before them. In their lifetime, they seemed something, but now they are not spoken of.
6. O, how quickly doth the glory of the world pass away! O that their life had been answerable to their learning! Then had their study and reading been to good purpose.
How many perish by reason of vain learning, who take little care to serve God. And because they rather choose to be great than humble, they become vain in their imaginations.
He is truly great who is great in charity. He is truly great that is little in himself, and that maketh no account of any height of honor. He is truly wise, that accounteth all earthly things as dung, that he may gain Christ. And he is truly learned, that doeth the will of God, and forsaketh his own will.
Art: Bringing home the calf born in the fields (circa 1860) and A Woman Baking Bread (1854), both Jean-François Millet, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.