Take no greater care than to correct your will and inward
disposition. In this consists all the power of Christian piety.
All outwardness without inwardness is nothing.
Whatever is not inside the heart does not exist in actual fact. Virtue is not
true virtue when it is not within the heart. Therefore correct your heart and
your will, and you shall be good and your outward deeds will be good, for the
inward is the beginning of the outward. When evil is not in the heart, then it
will not appear outwardly. The hands will not do evil, the feet will not walk
toward evil, the tongue and lips will not speak evil, the eyes will not look
upon evil and so on, when the will and the heart do not desire it.
And thus pure streams flow from a spring when the
source itself is pure. Likewise good works come forth from the heart when the
heart is good, but there cannot be good works without a good heart, just as
from a putrid and noisome spring nothing else can flow but putrid and noisome
Therefore correct your heart and will and you
shall be good, you shall be a true Christian, you shall be a new creature. For
all good or evil is from the will and from the heart. When the heart and the
will are good, then the whole man is good.
A heart which is obedient and in conformity with
the will of God is good. A heart which opposes and is contrary to the will of
God is evil. Faith makes a well-intentioned heart. "Faith is the mother of
a good will," says St. Ambrose, therefore where there is no
well-intentioned heart, there is also no faith.
Take care, Christian, to correct yourself within
and to be good, and you shall be truly good, otherwise whatever you may do, you
will be, as always, evil. Hence, you see that faith renews a man and is the
root of good works.
It is not possible to correct yourself rightly if
you do not recognize the evil hidden in your heart and the calamities that
proceed from it. An unrecognized disease remains untreated. The beginning of
health is to know your disease, and the beginning of blessedness is to know
your misfortune and wretchedness. For who having recognized his illness does
not seek healing, and who knowing his misfortune does not seek deliverance from
Therefore, recognize the evil that hides itself
within you as a deadly poison, and you will hasten to be delivered from it. And
the more you recognize it, the more zealously you will seek deliverance. The
evil hidden in the human heart is conceit, self-will, envy, wrath, avarice,
impurity, and every abominable thing. From these things proceed all iniquity as
a foul stream flows from a noisome spring. Look often into your heart and
little by little you will come to understand this.
An untreated disease threatens death, likewise
this evil, when it remains uncorrected, threatens eternal death. From the
recognition of this evil proceeds the recognition of your misfortune and
wretchedness. From the recognition of misfortune and wretchedness proceed the
fear of eternity, humility, sighing, and the desire and zeal for deliverance
from misfortune. God "giveth grace unto the humble" (Jas.
4:6), which corrects and renews a man. So the man who knows himself begins to
correct himself and gets progressively better. Know yourself, then, and you
shall correct yourself.
Temptations and trials show what hides in the
heart of a man. Temptation is similar to the medicine called an emetic. An
emetic reveals what is hidden in the stomach. So temptations and trials make
manifest what is inside a man. The holy word of God and other Christian books
point out the corruption of our nature, but we recognize it by actual
experience or deed in temptations and trials.
Thus vainglory becomes apparent through the
deprivation of glory, avarice through the deprivation of riches, envy through
the success of one's neighbor, and anger through disappointment. If, then, you
fall into various temptations, O Christian, this all happens by God's
permission for your great benefit, that you may thereby know what is hidden in
your heart, and so knowing it you may correct yourself. Many flatter themselves
and consider themselves to be good, humble, and meek, but they will discover
the contrary under temptation. Do not become despondent in temptations, then,
but give all the more thanks to God that He thus brings you to knowledge of
yourself and wishes you to be corrected and be saved.
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