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CONTAINING COUNSELS CONCERNING THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE.
EVERYBODY grants that we must guard against the desire for evil things, since evil desires make evil men. But I say yet further, my daughter, do not desire dangerous things, such as balls or pleasures, office or honour, visions or ecstacies. Do not long after things afar off; such, I mean, as cannot happen till a distant time, as some do who by this means wear themselves out and expend their energies uselessly, fostering a dangerous spirit of distraction. If a young man gives way to overweening longings for an employment he cannot obtain yet a while, what good will it do him? If a married woman sets her heart on becoming a religious, or if I crave to buy my neighbour's estate, he not being willing to sell it, is it not mere waste of time? If, when sick, I am restlessly anxious to preach or celebrate, to visit other sick people, or generally to do work befitting the strong, is it not an unprofitable desire, inasmuch as I have no power to fulfil it? and meanwhile these useless wishes take the place of such as I ought to have,-- namely, to be patient, resigned, self-denying, obedient, gentle under suffering,--which are what God requires of me under the circumstances. We are too apt to be like a sickly woman, craving ripe cherries in autumn and grapes in spring. I can never think it well for one whose vocation is clear to waste time in wishing for some different manner of life than that which is adapted to his duty, or practices unsuitable to his present position--it is mere idling, and will make him slack in his needful work. If I long after a Carthusian solitude, I am losing my time, and such longing usurps the place of that which I ought to entertain--to fulfil my actual duties rightly. No indeed, I would not even have people wish for more wit or better judgment, for such desires are frivolous, and take the place of the wish every one ought to possess of improving what he has. We ought not to desire ways of serving God which He does not open to us, but rather desire to use what we have rightly. Of course I mean by this, real earnest desires, not common superficial wishes, which do no harm if not too frequently indulged.
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