Tenth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Luc.18. v. 9. Monday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GIOTTO di Bondone
No. 41 The Seven Virtues: Fortitude
Luke 18:9-14At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves as being just and despised others. Two men went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and began to pray thus within himself: ‘O God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men, robbers, dishonest, adulterers, or even like this publican. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I possess.’ But the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went back to his home justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
The second Virtue that challengeth Humility for her, is Fortitude; she pleadeth her right thus: All temptations are either by reason of prosperity or adversity, both which the just man doth overcome by the help of Humility.
In Adversity she considereth that all adversities are inflicted upon us for our sins, and that we deserve far greater,and if any man be endued with the grace to live without mortal sin, yet not without venial; of which St.John affirmeth, if any man say he is without sin, he seduceth himself, & the truth is not in him,and he considereth that even for venial sins, if they be not purged here in this life, there is a severe Purgatory in the next, where the uttermost farthing must be paid, that being a prison of Gods justice, & therefor thinketh it a great favor of God to pay that debt here, in mild and merciful manner, which great rigor of Gods justice; and by this consideration be overcometh all his adversities, with fortitude & patience.
In Prosperity, Humility is as it were an armor of proof for a prosperous man to defend himself from Pride, Arrogance, & Vainglory.
The third Virtue that challengeth Humility to be hers, is Prudence, in Latin Prudentia,which according to the etymology of the word signifies Provida scientia, that is to say, a Provident Science, or knowledge of things to come, whereby a man may provide wisely for himself.
As spectacles unto old men make things seem bigger then they be, but to young men less: so Pride maketh all our works, actions and virtues, though never so little,seem great, and humility though never so great, little: whence it proceedeth that a proud man thinketh his virtues great provideth no better for himself, but the humble that thinketh his virtues little or nothing, is still providing more & more, wherein he shows himself prudent and wise, so that Humility pertaineth to the virtue of Prudence.
This virtue had St Francis in a high degree, who would say to his brethren every day, and from day today, behold brethren hitherto we have done nothing (in spiritual matters, when indeed they had done much) let us now begin, and go forward, & so they provided themselves of good store of merits, for the time to come, and left unto us examples to do the like: and if you ask, how he attained unto this sovereign virtue of Humility, it was partly by proposing before before his eyes the perfections and virtues of the most high and eminent servants of God, as St.Anthony, St. Hilarion, and the like, and especially the infinite perfections of Jesus Christ, in comparison of whom he thought his own nothing, and that he had not so much as begun to imitate the same.
Like unto one that coming out of the bright sun into his house, at noon day, his eyes are so dazzled that he seeth nothing but darkness therein: & partly he considered the vices and imperfections of them that were evil, or rather most evil, thinking verily, that, if God had withdrawn his grace from him he should have been worse then any of them, and so by both these ways provoke themselves to go forward in virtue.
This lesson the Pharisee had not learned. Many when they pray, which is a kind of begging, convert their eyes not as St. Francis did, to their own badness, & goodness of others, but to their own goodness and badness of others in comparison of themselves, as the Pharisee did, & so do rather show how rich they are, then how poor & needy; but beggars do not use to show how little need they have, or that they have less need then others, but show their wants, & infirmities, and make the most of them,least they be sent empty away.
The fourth virtue that challengeth Humility to be hers, is Justice, whose office it is to give every one his own,which to do between God & us, is a special effect of humility.
For by humility we come to see all our defects and faults,and seeing them we attribute them to ourselves; and to God, the honor and praise of our good deeds, by whose grace and assistance only, we are able to do them.
These and all other virtues do challenge the virtues of Humility to be theirs.
For all virtues consisting in the mean between two extremes,humility being the virtue that helpeth us to keep the mean,we can acquire no virtue but by the help of Humility, and having acquired it, cannot conserve it without the same.
A man that hath Virtues without humility, is like one that carrieth an open vessel of ashes in his hands in a great wind,the wind bloweth away the ashes into the air, and some of them into his eyes, that he cannot see his way:so without Humility the wind of pride and vainglory bloweth away the merit of a mans virtue,and the virtues themselves blind the eyes of his soul,that he cannot see to walk in the right way.