Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 4, Chapter 1

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 4, Chapter 1



CHAPTER I. We must not trifle with the Words of Worldly Wisdom.

DIRECTLY that your worldly friends perceive that you aim at leading a
devout life, they will let loose endless shafts of mockery and
misrepresentation upon you; the more malicious will attribute your
change to hypocrisy, designing, or bigotry; they will affirm that the
world having looked coldly upon you, failing its favour you turn to
God; while your friends will make a series of what, from their point of
view, are prudent and charitable remonstrances. They will tell you that
you are growing morbid; that you will lose your worldly credit, and
will make yourself unacceptable to the world; they will prognosticate
your premature old age, the ruin of your material prosperity; they will
tell you that in the world you must live as the world does; that you
can be saved without all this fuss; and much more of the like nature.

My daughter, all this is vain and foolish talk: these people have no
real regard either for your bodily health or your material prosperity.
“If ye were of the world,” the Saviour has said, “the world would love
his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out
of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” [179]

We have all seen men, and women too, pass the whole night, even several
in succession, playing at chess or cards; and what can be a more
dismal, unwholesome thing than that? But the world has not a word to
say against it, and their friends are nowise troubled. But give up an
hour to meditation, or get up rather earlier than usual to prepare for
Holy Communion, and they will send for the doctor to cure you of
hypochondria or jaundice! People spend every night for a month dancing,
and no one will complain of being the worse; but if they keep the one
watch of Christmas Eve, we shall hear of endless colds and maladies the
next day! Is it not as plain as possible that the world is an unjust
judge; indulgent and kindly to its own children, harsh and uncharitable
to the children of God? We cannot stand well with the world save by
renouncing His approval. It is not possible to satisfy the world’s
unreasonable demands: “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor
drinking wine; and ye say he hath a devil. The Son of Man is come
eating and drinking, and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a
winebibber, the friend of publicans and sinners.” [180] Even so, my
child, if we give in to the world, and laugh, dance, and play as it
does, it will affect to be scandalized; if we refuse to do so, it will
accuse us of being hypocritical or morbid. If we adorn ourselves after
its fashion, it will put some evil construction on what we do; if we go
in plain attire, it will accuse us of meanness; our cheerfulness will
be called dissipation; our mortification dulness; and ever casting its
evil eye upon us, nothing we can do will please it. It exaggerates our
failings, and publishes them abroad as sins; it represents our venial
sins as mortal, and our sins of infirmity as malicious. S. Paul says
that charity is kind, but the world is unkind; charity thinks no evil,
but the world thinks evil of every one, and if it cannot find fault
with our actions, it is sure at least to impute bad motives to
them,–whether the sheep be black or white, horned or no, the wolf will
devour them if he can. Do what we will, the world must wage war upon
us. If we spend any length of time in confession, it will speculate on
what we have so much to say about! if we are brief, it will suggest
that we are keeping back something! It spies out our every act, and at
the most trifling angry word, sets us down as intolerable. Attention to
business is avarice, meekness mere silliness; whereas the wrath of
worldly people is to be reckoned as generosity, their avarice, economy,
their mean deeds, honourable. There are always spiders at hand to spoil
the honey-bee’s comb.

Let us leave the blind world to make as much noise as it may,–like a
bat molesting the songbirds of day; let us be firm in our ways,
unchangeable in our resolutions, and perseverance will be the test of
our self-surrender to God, and our deliberate choice of the devout

The planets and a wandering comet shine with much the same brightness,
but the comet’s is a passing blaze, which does not linger long, while
the planets cease not to display their brightness. Even so hypocrisy
and real goodness have much outward resemblance; but one is easily
known from the other, inasmuch as hypocrisy is short-lived, and
disperses like a mist, while real goodness is firm and abiding. There
is no surer groundwork for the beginnings of a devout life than the
endurance of misrepresentation and calumny, since thereby we escape the
danger of vainglory and pride, which are like the midwives of Egypt,
who were bidden by Pharaoh to kill the male children born to Israel
directly after their birth. We are crucified to the world, and the
world must be as crucified to us. It esteems us as fools, let us esteem
it as mad.

[179] S. John xv. 19.

[180] S. Luke vii. 33, 34.