Of the Teaching of Truth
Happy and blessed is he whom truth teaches and informs, not by symbols and deceitful voices, but as the truth is. Our opinion, our intelligence, and our understanding often deceive us, for we do not see the truth. Of what use is the knowledge of such things as will neither help us on the day of judgment if we know them, nor hurt us if we do not know them? It is, therefore, great folly to be negligent of such things as are profitable and necessary to us, and to labor for such things as are worthless and to be condemned. Truly, if we so act, we have eyes but see not.
And of what avail is knowledge of the variety and operations of creatures? Truly, nothing. He to whom the everlasting Word, that is, Jesus, speaks, is freed of many vain opinions. From that Word all things proceed and all things openly show and cry that He is God. Without Him, no man understands the truth, or judges rightly. But a person to whom all things are one, and he who draws all things into one and establishes all things in one and desires nothing but one, may quickly be made firm in heart and fully at peace in God.
O Truth that is God, make us one with You in perfect charity, for all that I read, hear, or see without You is grievous to me; in You is all that I will or can desire! Let all learned ones be quiet in Your presence and let all creatures keep themselves in silence and do You only, Lord, speak to my soul. The more a man is one with You, and the more he is gathered together in You, the more he understands without labor high secret mysteries, for he has received from above the light of understanding. A clean, pure and constant heart is not broken or easily overcome by spiritual labors, for he is clearly mortified to himself. Therefore, he desires to be free from following his own will. What hinders you more than your own affections not fully mortified to the will of the spirit? Truly, nothing more.
A good devout man so orders his outward business that it does not draw him to love of it; rather, he compels his business to be obedient to the will of the spirit and to the right judgment of reason. Who wages a stronger battle than he who labors to overcome himself? And it should be our daily desire to overcome ourselves, so that we may be made stronger in the spirit and go daily from better to better. Every perfection in this life has some imperfection attached to it, and there is no knowledge in this world that is not mixed with some blindness or ignorance. Therefore, a humble knowledge of ourselves is a surer way to God than is the search for depth of learning.
Well-ordered learning is not to be belittled, for it is good and comes from God, but a clean conscience and a virtuous life are much better and more to be desired. Because some men study to have learning rather than to live well, they err many times, and bring forth little good fruit or none. Oh, if they would be as busy to avoid sin and plant virtues in their souls as the are to dispute questions, there would not be so many evil things seen in the world, or so much evil example given to the people, or so much dissolute living in religion. On the day of judgment we will not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have discoursed, but how religiously we have lived.
Tell me, where now are all the great students and famous scholars who you have known? When alive, they flourished greatly in their learning, but now, others have succeeded to their posts and promotions, and I cannot tell whether their successors give them a thought. In their lifetime they were considered great in the world; now, little is spoken of them. Oh, how swiftly the glory of this world, with all its false, deceitful pleasures passes away. Would to God their life had accorded well with their learning, for then would they have studied and read well. How many perish daily in this world by vain learning who care little for a good life and for the service of God. And because they desire to be great in the world rather than to be humble, they vanish away in their learning as smoke in the air.
He is truly great who has great charity. And he is great who is little in his own sight and who sets at naught all worldly honor. And he is very wise who accounts all worldly pleasures as vile dung, so that he may win Christ. And he is very will taught who forsakes his own will and follows the will of God.