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 Volume 1.5 This View’s Prose March 11, 2002 


    To Set the World at Nought    
         
   

A godly meditation, written by Sir Thomas More Knight while he was prisoner in the Tower of London in the year of our Lord 1534.1

Give me Thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought;2

To set my mind fast3 upon Thee,
And not to hang upon the blast4 of men’s mouths;

To be content to be solitary;
Not to long for worldly company;

Little and little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the business5 thereof;

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly fantasies6
   
may be to me displeasant;7

Gladly to be thinking of God,
Pituously to call for His help;

To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love Him;

To know mine own vility8 and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself
    under the mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed;
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here;
To be joyful of tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last thing9 in remembrance,
To have ever afore10 mine eye
    my death that is ever at hand;

To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;

To pray for pardon before the judge come,
To have continually in mind the passion
    that Christ suffered for me;

For His benefits uncessantly11 to give Him thanks,
To buy12 the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain confabulations13
To eschew light14 foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations15 not necessary — to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all,
to set the loss at right nought16
   
for the winning17 of Christ:

To think my most18 enemies my best friends;
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done
    him so much good with their love and favor
       as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds19 are more to be desired of every man
   than all the treasure of all the princes and kings,
      Christian and heathen, were it gathered and
         laid together all upon one heap.

1. This heading is from the 1557 English Works, but the text of the prayer given here is taken directly from More’s handwritten version in the margins of a book of hours he had with him in the Tower.
2. set... naught: have no esteem for the world.
3. firmly.
4. utterance.
5. activity.
6. delusions.
7. disagreeable.
8. baseness.
9. last thing: last judgment.
10. before.
11. continually.
12. redeem.
13. conversations.
14. frivolous.
15. pleasurable employments.
16. right nought: absolutely nothing.
17. gaining.
18. greatest.
19. attitudes.

   
         
   

St. Thomas More (1478-1535)

   
    The Tower Works: Devotional Writings pp. 301ff
(footnotes by editor Gary Haupt)
   

    A Smooth and Easy Life    
         
   

A like absence of love is shown in our proneness to be taken up and engrossed with trifles. Why is it that we are so open to the power of excitement? why is it that we are looking out for novelties? why is it that we complain of want of variety in a religious life? why that we cannot bear to go on in an ordinary round of duties year after year? why is it that lowly duties, such as condescending to men of low estate, are distasteful and irksome? why is it that we need powerful preaching, or interesting and touching books, in order to keep our thoughts and feelings on God? why is it that our faith is so dispirited and weakened by hearing casual objections urged against the doctrine of Christ? why is it that we are so impatient that objections should be answered? why are we so afraid of worldly events, or the opinions of men? why do we so dread their censure or ridicule? — Clearly because we are deficient in love. He who loves, cares little for any thing else. The world may go as it will; he sees and hears it not, for his thoughts are drawn another way; he is solicitous mainly to walk with God, and to be found with God; and is in perfect peace because he is stayed in Him.

And here we have an additional proof how weak our love is; viz. when we consider how little adequate our professed principles are found to be, to support us in affliction. I suppose it often happens to men to feel this, when some reverse or unexpected distress comes upon them. They indeed most especially will feel it, of course, who have let their words, nay their thoughts, much outrun their hearts; but numbers will feel it too, who have tried to make their reason and affections keep pace with each other. We are told of the righteous man, that “he will not be afraid of any evil tidings, for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord. His heart is established, and will not shrink.” Such must be the case of every one who realizes his own words, when he talks of the shortness of life, the wearisomeness of the world, and the security of heaven. Yet how cold and dreary do all such topics prove, when a man comes into trouble? and why, except that he has been after all set upon things visible, not on God, while he has been speaking of things invisible? There has been much profession and little love.

These are some of the proofs which are continually brought home to us, if we attend to ourselves, of our want of love to God; and they will readily suggest others to us. If I must, before concluding, remark upon the mode of overcoming the evil, I must say plainly this, that, fanciful though it may appear at first sight to say so, the comforts of life are the main cause of it; and, much as we may lament and struggle against it, till we learn to dispense with them in good measure, we shall not overcome it. Till we, in a certain sense, detach ourselves from our bodies, our minds will not be in a state to receive divine impressions, and to exert heavenly aspirations. A smooth and easy life, an uninterrupted enjoyment of the goods of Providence, full meals, soft raiment, well-furnished homes, the pleasures of sense, the feeling of security, the consciousness of wealth, — these, and the like, if we are not careful, choke up all the avenues of the soul, through which the light and breath of heaven might come to us.

A hard life is, alas! no certain method of becoming spiritually minded, but it is one out of the means by which Almighty God makes us so. We must, at least at seasons, defraud ourselves of nature, if we would not be defrauded of grace. If we attempt to force our minds into a loving and devotional temper, without this preparation, it is too plain what will follow, — the grossness and coarseness, the affectation, the effeminacy, the unreality, the presumption, the hollowness, (suffer me, my brethren, while I say plainly, but seriously, what I mean,) in a word, what Scripture calls the Hypocrisy, which we see around us; that state of mind in which the reason, seeing what we should be, and the conscience enjoining it, and the heart being unequal to it, some or other pretence is set up, by way of compromise, that men may say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

[Quoting Psalm 92:7-8 and Jeremiah 6:14.]

   
         
   

Ven. John Henry, Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)

   
    from Love, the One Thing Needful
Parochial and Plain Sermons Volume V Sermon 23
   

    The Defense of Liberty    
         
    What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises.
   
         
    Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
   
    from Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858
Collected Works
Volume III p. 95
   



The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”