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What meekness is in itself, and when it is perfect and when it is imperfect.


NOW let see first of the virtue of meekness; how that it is imperfect when it is caused of any other thing mingled with God although He be the chief; and how that it is perfect when it is caused of God by Himself. And first it is to wit, what meekness is in itself, if this matter shall clearly be seen and conceived; and thereafter may it more verily be conceived in truth of spirit what is the cause thereof.

Meekness in itself is nought else, but a true knowing and feeling of a man’s self as he is. For surely whoso might verily see and feel himself as he is, he should verily be meek. Two p. 117 things there be, the which be cause of this meekness; the which be these. One is the filth, the wretchedness, and the frailty of man, into the which he is fallen by sin; and the which always him behoveth to feel in some part the whiles he liveth in this life, be he never so holy. Another is the over‑abundant love and the worthiness of God in Himself; in beholding of the which all nature quaketh, all clerks be fools, and all saints and angels be blind. Insomuch, that were it not that through the wisdom of His Godhead He measured their beholding after their ableness in nature and in grace, I defail to say what should befall them.

This second cause is perfect; for why, it shall last without end. And the tother before is imperfect; for why, it shall not only fail at the end of this life, but full oft it may befall that a soul in this deadly body for abundance of grace in multiplying of his desire—as oft and as long as God vouchsafeth for to work it—shall have suddenly p. 118 and perfectly lost and forgotten all witting and feeling of his being, not looking after whether he have been holy or wretched. But whether this fall oft or seldom to a soul that is thus disposed, I trow that it lasteth but a full short while: and in this time it is perfectly meeked, for it knoweth and feeleth no cause but the Chief. And ever when it knoweth and feeleth the tother cause, communing therewith, although this be the chief: yet it is imperfect meekness. Nevertheless yet it is good and notwithstanding must be had; and God forbid that thou take it in any other manner than I say. p. 119

Next: Chapter 14: That without imperfect meekness coming before, it is impossible for a sinner to come to the perfect Virtue of meekness in this life