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Inward search

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 water.

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 it?

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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