If We refuse the Way of Virtue because it is Painful, for the Same Cause ought We to refuse the Way of Sin.
Whoso to virtue esteems hard the way Because we must have war continual Against the world, the flesh, the devil, that aye Enforce themselves to make us bond and thrall, Let him remember that choose what may he shall, Even after the world, yet must he need sustain Sorrow, adversity, labor, grief, and pain.
The Second Rule.
Think in this wretched world’s busy woe The battle more sharp and longer is, I wis With more labor and less fruit also In which the end of labor, labor is. And when the world hath left us after this Void of all virtue: the reward when we die Is nought but fire and pain perpetually.
The Third Rule.
Consider well that folly it is and vain
To look for heaven with pleasure and delight.
Since Christ our Lord and sovereign captain
Ascended never but by manly fight
And bitter passion; then were it no right
That any servant, ye will yourself record,
Should stand in better condition than his lord.
The Fourth Rule.
Think how that we not only should not grudge
But also be glad and joyful of this fight,
And long therefore-although we could not judge
How that thereby redound unto us might
Any profit, but only for delight-
To be conformed and like in some behavior
To Jesu Christ our blessed Lord and Savoir.
As often as thou dost war and strive, By the resistance of any sinful motion, Against any of thy sensual wits five,
Cast in thy mind as oft with good devotion How thou resemblest Christ: as with sour potion If thou pain thy taste: remember therewithal How Christ for thee tasted eysell and gall.
If thou withdraw thine hands and forbear The ravishing of anything: remember then How His innocent hands nailed were. If thou be tempt with pride: think how that when He was in form of God, yet of a bondman He took the shape and humbled Himself for thee To the most odious and vile death of a tree.
Consider when thou art moved to be wroth He Who that was God, and of all men the best, Seeing Himself scorned and scourged both, And as a thief between two thieves thrests With all rebuke and shame: yet from his breast Came never sign of wrath or of disdain, But patiently endured all the pain.
Thus every snare and engine of the devil If thou this wise peruse them by and by There can be none so cursed or so evil But to some virtue thou mayst it apply. For oft thou shalt, resisting valiantly
The fiend’s might and subtle fiery dart, Our Savior Christ resemble in some part.
The Fifth Rule.
Remember well that we in no wise must, Neither in the foresaid spiritual armor Nor any other remedy, put our trust, But only in the virtue of our Savior:
For He it is by Whose mighty power
The world was vanquished and its prince cast out
Which reigned before in all the earth about.
In Him let us trust to overcome all evil, In Him let us put our hope and confidence To subdue the flesh and master the devil, To Him be all honor and lowly reverence; Oft should we require with all our diligence With prayer, with tears, and lamentable plaints The aid of His grace and His holy saints.
The Sixth Rule.
One sin vanquished, look thou not tarry,
But lie in await for another very hour,
For as a wood lion, the fiend, our adversary,
Runneth about seeking whom he may devour;
Wherefore continually upon thy tower,
Lest he thee unpurveyed and unready catch,
Thou must with the prophet stand and keep watch.
The Seventh Rule.
Enforce thyself not only for to stand Unvanquished against the devil’s might, But over that take valiantly on hand To vanquish him and put him unto flight:
And that is when of the same deed, thought or sight By which he would have thee with sin contract, Thou takest occasion of some good virtuous act.
Sometime he secretly casteth in thy mind
Some laudable deed to stir thee to pride,
As vainglory maketh many a man blind.
But let humility be thy sure guide,
Thy good work to God let it be applied,
Think it not thine but a gift of His
Of Whose grace undoubtedly all goodness is.
The Eighth Rule.
In time of battle so put thyself in preace
As though thou shouldest after that victory
Enjoy forever a perpetual peace:
For God of His goodness and liberal mercy
May grant the gift, and also thy proud enemy,
Confounded and rebuked by thy battle,
Shall thee no more haply for very shame assail.
But when thou mayest once the triumph obtain Prepare thyself and trim thee in thy gear As thou shouldest incontinent fight again, For if thou be ready, the devil will thee fear: Wherefore in any wise so even thou thee bear That thou remember and have ever in memory In victory battle, in battle victory.
The Ninth Rule.
If thou think thyself well fenced and sure
Against every subtle suggestion of vice, Consider frail glass may no distress endure, And great adventurers often curse the dice: Jeopard not too far therefore and ye be wise, But evermore eschew the occasions of sin, For he that loveth peril shall perish therein.
The Tenth Rule.
In all temptation withstand the beginning – The cursed infants of wretched Babylon! To suffer them wax is a jeopardous thing: Beat out their brains therefore at the stone: Perilous is the canker that catcheth the bone: Too late cometh the medicine if thou let the sore By long continuance increase more and more.
The Eleventh Rule.
Though in the time of the battle and war
The conflict seem bitter, sharp and sour,
Yet consider it is more pleasure far
Over the devil to be a conqueror
Than is in the use of thy beastly pleasure:
Of virtue more joy the conscience hath within
Than outward the body of all his filthy sin.
In this point many men err for negligence
For they compare not the joy of the victory
To the sensual pleasure of their concupiscence,
But like rude beasts unadvisedly
Lacking discretion they compare and apply
Of their foul sin the voluptuous delight
To the laborious travail of the conflict and fight.
And yet alas he that oft hath known
What grief it is by long experience
Of his cruel enemy to be overthrown,
Should once at the leastwise do his diligence
To prove and essay with manly defense
What pleasure there is, what honor, peace and rest
In glorious victory, triumph and conquest.
The Twelfth Rule.
Though thou be tempted, despair thee nothing: Remember the glorious apostle Saint Paul When he had seen God in His perfect being, Lest such revelation should his heart extol, His flesh was suffered to rebel against his soul: This did almighty God of His goodness provide To preserve His servant from the danger of pride.
And here take heed that he whom God did love, And for His most especial vessel chose, Ravished into the third heaven above, Yet stood in peril lest pride might him depose: Well ought we then our hearts fence and close Against vainglory, the mother of reprief, The very crop and root of all mischief.
Against this pomp and wretched worlds gloss Consider how Christ the Lord, sovereign power, Humbled Himself for us unto the cross: And peradventure death within one hour Shall us bereave wealth, riches and honor: And bring us down full low both small and great To vile carrion and wretched worms meat.