EXTRACTS FROM AND ABRIDGMENTS OF
WHICH HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE ENGLISH TONGUE.
IN THIRTY VOLUMES:
FIRST PUBLISHED IN The, IN FIFTY VOLUMES,
BY THE REV. JOHN WESLEY, A. M.,
SOMETIME FELLOW OF LINCOLN COLLEGE, OXFORD
14, City-Road, and 66, Paternoster-Row.
Letters to the Duke of Burgundy
From M. De Fenelon
Archbishop of Cambray
Of the Love of GOD.
I BELIEVE, my LORD, the true way of loving mankind is, to love them in God, and for his sake. Men know not what it is to love God, and therefore they dread him, and keep at a distance from him. This slavish fear hinders them from understanding the sweet familiarity of children in the bosom of the tenderest of fathers. They look upon him only as an all-powerful and rigorous task-master; they are always under constraint with him,•- every thing they do is forced; it is with reluctance they do any good, that they may escape punishment; they would do evil if they durst, and could hope for impunity. The love of God appears to them a burdensome debt; they endeavor to elude it by formalities and external worship, still inclining to substitute these in the place of sincere and effectual love; they use artifices with GOD himself, to give him as little as possibly they can. O my GOD! if men knew what it is to love thee, they would seek no other life, no other joy, but thy love.
This love requires nothing of us, but to do for the sake of GOD, what reason itself should incline, us to do. We are not desired to add to the number of the good works which we have already learned to practice. All that is incumbent upon us is, to do the same things from a principle of love to GOD, that honest men of a regular life do from principles of honor, and regard to themselves. Nothing is -to be laid aside but what is wrong, which we ought to lay aside, though we had no other principle but right reason. As for the rest, let us leave all matters in that order which GOD has established in the world. Let us do the same honorable and virtuous things as formerly; but let us do them for his sake who made us, and to whom we owe all.
This love of GOD does not require of all Christians the austerities of the ancient hermits, nor their profound solitude; neither does it in ordinary cases demand shining, heroic deeds, nor renouncing lawful possessions, nor abandoning the advantages of any condition of life. It would only have us just, sober, and moderate in the proper use of all these things; it would only have its not make them our god and our happiness; but to use them according to his designs, and so as they may help to raise our affections towards him.
This love does not multiply our crosses. It finds all conditions of life already sown with all kinds of them. They arise from the infirmity of our bodies, and the passions of our souls; from our own imperfections, and those of other men with whom we live. The love of GOD causes none of these pains; on the contrary, it sweetens all our sufferings; it likewise lessens them by moderating our ardent passions, and too great sensibility, the source of all our real ills. Were the love of GOD so perfect in us, as to draw off our affections from whatever we fear to lose, or hope to gain, it would finish our griefs at once, and fill us with a blessed tranquility.
Why then so afraid of this love, which is the cause of none of our afflictions, is able to mitigate all of them, and to bring along with it into our hearts all kinds of happiness Men are much their own enemies to resist this love, and to be afraid of it. The precept of love is so far from being an additional burden to the rest, that it renders them light and easy.
What one does through fear, without love, is always tedious, hard, painful, and burdensome: what one does through love, becomes by this means agreeable, how cross soever it be to sense. The desire of pleasing that GOD whom we love, makes us, that if' we suffer, we choose to stiffer; and the suffering which one chooses, is no longer a suffering. This love unsettles and changes no part of that order which GOD has established. It-leaves the great in their grandeur, and makes them little under the hand of him who made them great. It leaves the low in the dust, and makes them satisfied to be nothing but in him. This contentment in the lowest place has no meanness in it; it makes true greatness.
This love regulates and animates all the affections we owe to creatures. We never love our neighbor so well as when we love him for the sake of GOD, and with the love of GOD. When we love men without regarding GOD, we love them for our own sakes; it is still our own interest we seek in them; either a more gross, or a more refined and disguised interest. If it is not money, or convenience, or favor, it is the pleasure of following our taste, of confiding in them, of being mutually beloved by them. These things flatter our self-love more than any sum of money can do; so that we really love ourselves when we imagine we love our friends. But, to love another for the sake of ourselves, is a very imperfect way of loving them. It is not friendship it is self-love.
It may be asked, What is the right way, then, of loving our friends It is to love them in their due order after GOD; it is to love Go-n in them; to love what he has given them, and to bear, for his sake, with the want of what he has thought fit to deny them. When we love our friends for our own sakes, self-love is impatient, delicate, jealous, full of wants, and void of merit, always suspicious both of itself and its friends; it grows weary and disgusted; it soon sees an end of what it entertained the highest thoughts of; it meets with disappointments everywhere: it would always have perfection, but can never find it; it grows angry, it changes, it can rest in nothing. But the love of God loves its friends without views of self-interest, and so loves them patiently with all their faults; it seeks no more but what God has given them; it looks to nothing in them but God and his gifts; it is pleased with every thing, because it loves what GOD has made, and bears with what he has not made, but permitted, and would have us to permit likewise, in compliance with his designs.
The love of God never looks for absolute perfection in the creatures. It knows this is to be found in God alone; it takes great pleasure in saying to GOD, "Who is like unto thee" It says to every thing that has imperfection in it, Thou art not my God. As it expects perfection in no creature, it is never disappointed. It loves GOD, and his gifts, in every creature, according to the degree of goodness in every one; it has a less love to that which is less good, and a greater to that which is better; it has some love to every thing, because every thing has some little good in it, which is the gift of GOD; and the very worst men are capable, while they continue in life, of becoming good, and of receiving the gifts they are destitute of at present.
For the sake of GOD, it loves all his works; all that he has commanded us to love. It raises and heightens its affection towards such objects as GOD would have it to prefer to others. In a mortal father, it looks to its Father in heaven; in a kinsman or friend, it considers the strict ties formed by Providence. The stricter these ties are in the order of Providence, the love of God makes them so much more strong and intimate. Can one love GOD, without loving the objects he has commanded one to love They are his workmanship; he has ordered us to love them: shall we not do so
Indeed, we should far rather die than love any thing better than him. He has told us in the Gospel, " If any man love father or mother more than me, he is not worthy of me." _ GOD forbid I should love better than him, what I love only for his sake; but upon his account I love with my heart whatever represents him to me, whatever contains his gifts, whatever he designs I should love. This solid principle of love makes me resolve never to be wanting in any duty, either to my neighbors or my friends.
Their imperfections cannot surprise me, for I expect nothing but imperfection in every thing which is not my God. I see nothing, but him, in whatever has the least degree of goodness. It is he whom I love in his creatures, and nothing can alter this love. This love is not indeed always tender and affecting; but it is real, cordial, faithful, constant, and active; and I prefer it in my last and sincerest choice to every other love. It has also its tendernesses and its transports. If a soul was wholly addicted to GOD, it would no longer be subject to that dryness which is owing only to- the delicacies and inequalities of self-love. As it would love only for the sake of GOD, it would love as God does, with an admirable love; for "GOD is love," as the Apostle John says. Its bowels would be an inexhaustible source of living waters, according to the promise. Love would, for the sake of others, "hear all things, endure all things, hope all things;" it would overcome all difficulties, it would diffuse itself from the bottom of the heart, even upon the external senses; it would compassionate the pains of others, and make no account of its own; it would wait for them, it would accommodate itself to them, it would humble itself to the low, it would raise itself up to the great; it would "weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice;" it would "become all things to all men," not by a forced appearance and dry affectation, but from the abundance of the heart, in which the love of GOD would be a living source of all the tenderest, strongest, and most condescending affections. Nothing is so cold, dry, hard, and reserved, as a heart that loves itself in all things. Nothing is so tender, open, lively, sweet, and loving, as a heart possessed and animated with divine love.
NEVER did any thing give me such comfort, as the letter I have received. Thanks be to him who can alone work in the heart what he pleases, for his own glory. He must needs love you much, since he maintains his love in your soul, while you are surrounded with whatever tends to extinguish it. Love him then above all things, and fear nothing but not to love him. He himself shall be your light, your strength, your life, your all. O how rich and powerful is a heart amidst adversities, when it carries this treasure within it! You must learn to seek him in your heart with the simplicity of a child, a tender familiarity and a confidence that charms so good a father.
Be not discouraged at your weaknesses: there is a way of supporting them without indulging them, and of correcting them without impatience. God will show you this peaceable and effectual way, if you seek it with an entire diffidence in yourself, and walk in the presence of GOD like ABRAHAM.
For GOD's sake, let prayer nourish your heart, as food does your body. Let prayer at certain stated times, be a source of the presence of God through the day; and let a frequent recollection of the presence of GOD be a renewal of prayer. This short and affectionate view of GOD revives the whole man, calms the passions, carries light and counsel along with it on important occasions, and gradually subdues the temper; so that one possesses his soul in patience, or rather suffers it to be possessed by God. "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." I entreat you pray a little at least every morning, in some. bit of stolen time. This will nourish you through the whole day: Pray more with the heart than the understanding; more in the way of simple affection than reasoning. Few regular connected thoughts, but a great deal of faith and love.
You must read too; but it must be such things as tend to give you recollection, and encouragement, and familiarity with God. Fear not to attend the sacraments when you have occasion and inclination. Let not things of small importance deprive you of that bread from heaven. Beware of ostentation: at the same time, never be ashamed of Him who alone is your true glory.
What gives me wonderful hopes, is, that I see by your letter, you are sensible of your weaknesses, and humbly acknowledge them. O how strong is he in GOD, who feels he is weak in himself! " When I am weak, then am I strong." Dread sin more than a thousand deaths: but if you unhappily fall into it, make haste to return to the Father of Mercies, and the GOD of all consolation, who stretches out his arms to receive you; and open your wounded heart to him who can heal you. Above all things, be humble and lowly: " I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight.' Mind your duty: govern your temper and inclinations: I speak to you only of GOD and yourself; no matter for me. I thank God my heart is at peace: my severest suffering is my not seeing you: but I carry you continually with me into the presence of GOD, where I am nearer unto you than the external senses can make me. I would give a thousand lives as a drop of water, to see you such as God would have you. Amen, Amen.
FROM B. LAURENCE, TO THE REV.
NOT finding my manner of life in books, although I have no difficulty about it, yet for greater security, I shall be glad to know your thoughts concerning it.
In a-conversation some days since with a person of piety, he told me, the spiritual life was a life of grace, which begins with servile fear, which is increased by hope of eternal life, and which is consummated by pure love. That each of these states had its different stages, by which one arrives at last at that blessed consummation. I have not followed all these methods: on the contrary, I found they discouraged me. This was the reason why, at my entrance into religion, I took a resolution to give myself up to God, and for the love of him to renounce all besides.
For the first years I commonly employed myself, during the time set apart for devotion, with the thoughts of death, of judgment, hell, heaven, and my sins. Thus I continued some years, applying my mind carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my business, to the presence of God, whom I considered always as with me, often as in me.
Such was my beginning: and yet I must tell you, that for the first ten years I suffered much: the apprehension that I was not devoted to God, as I wished to be, my past sins always present to my, mind, and the great unmerited favors which GOD did me, were the matter and source of my sufferings. During this time I fell often, and rose again presently: It seemed to- me, that the creatures, reason, and GOD himself, were against me, and faith alone for me. I was troubled sometimes with thoughts, that to believe I had received such favors was presumption, which pretended to be at once where others arrive with difficulty; at other times, that it was a willful delusion, and that there was no salvation for me.
When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these troubles, (which did not at all diminish the trust I had in GOD,) I found myself changed all at once; and my soul, which, until that time, was in trouble, felt a profound inward peace, as if she were in her centre and place of rest.
Ever since that time, I work before GOD simply in faith, with humility and love: and I apply myself diligently to do nothing, say nothing, and think nothing, which may displease him.
As for what passes within me at present, I cannot express it. I have no pain or difficulty about my state, because I have no will but that of God, which I endeavor to accomplish in all things, and to which I am so resigned, that I would not take up a straw from the ground against his order, or from any other motive but purely that of love to him.
I have quitted all forms of devotion and set prayers, but those to which my state obliges me. And I make it my business to persevere in his holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general loving regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of GOD; or to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God, which often causes joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to prevent their appearance to others. In short, I am assured beyond all doubt, that my soul has been with GOD above these thirty years. I pass over many things, that I may not be tedious to you: yet I think it proper to inform you, after what manner I consider myself before GOD, whom I behold as my King.
I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and corruption, and who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King: touched with a sensible regret, I confess to him all my wickedness, I ask his forgiveness, I abandon myself in his hands, that he may do what he pleases with me. This King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at his table, serves me with his own Bands, gives me the key of his treasures; he converses and delights himself with me incessantly in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me, in all respects, as his favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in his holy presence. My most usual method is this simple attention, and such a general passionate regard to GOD; to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight, than that of an infant at the mother's breast: So that, if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call this state the breasts of GOD, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there.
If sometimes my thoughts wander from it by necessity or infirmity, I am presently recalled by inward motions, so charming and delicious, that I am ashamed to mention them. I desire your reverence to reflect rather upon my great wretchedness, of which you are fully; informed, than upon the great favors which GOD does me, all unworthy and ungrateful as I am.
As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise; sometimes I consider myself there as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue: Presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire him to make his perfect image in my soul, and render me entirely like himself.
At other times, when -I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit, all my. soul, lift itself up without any care or effort of mine: and it continues as it were suspended, and firmly fixed in GOD, as in its centre and place of rest.
I cannot bear that this should be called delusion; because the soul which. thus enjoys GOD, desires herein nothing but him. If this be delusion in me, it belongs to him to remedy it. Let him do what he pleases, with me I desire only him, and to be wholly devoted to him. You will however, oblige me in sending me your opinion, to which I always pay a great deference, for I have, a singular esteem for your reverence, and am in our LORD,
I no not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray GOD earnestly, that he would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as he pleases. Comfort yourself with him who holds you fastened to the cross: he will loose you when he thinks fit. Happy those who suffer with him: accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from him the strength to endure as much, and as long as he shall judge to be necessary for you. The men of the world do not comprehend these truths, nor is it to be wondered at, since they suffer like what they are, and not like Christians: They consider sickness as a pain to nature, and not as a favor from GOD; and seeing it only in that light, they find nothing -in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effect of his mercy, and, the means which he employs for our salvation, commonly find in it great sweetness and consolation.
I wish you could convince yourself, that GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us, and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health. Rely upon no other physician, for, according to my apprehension, he reserves your cure to himself. Put, then, all your trust in him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery, which we often retard, by putting greater confidence in physic than in GOD.
Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as he permits. When pains come from GOD, he only can cure them: he often sends diseases of the body, to cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician both of soul and body.
Be satisfied with the condition in which GOD places you: however happy you may think me, I envy you. Pains and sufferings would be a paradise to me, while I should suffer with my God: and the greatest pleasures would be hell to me, if I could relish them without him; all my consolation would be to sutler something for his sake. I must in a little time, go to God. What comforts me in this life is, that I now see him by faith, and I see him in such a manner as might make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith teaches us; and in that assurance, and in that practice of faith, I will live and die with him.
Continue then always with GOD; it is the only support and comfort for your affliction. I shall beseech him to be with you.
IF we were all accustomed to the exercise of the presence of GOD, all bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby: GOD often permits that we should suffer a little to purify our souls, and oblige us to continue with him.
Take courage, offer him your pains incessantly, pray to him for strength to endure them. Above all, pray for grace to entertain yourself often with GOD, and forget him the least you can. Adore him in your infirmities, offer yourself to him from tine to time; and in the height of your sufferings, beseech him humbly and affectionately, (as a child his father,) to make you conformable to his holy will. I shall endeavor to assist you with my poor prayers.
I know not how GOD will dispose of me, I am always happy: all the world suffer, and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual, and so great, that I can scarce contain them.
I would willingly ask. of GOD apart of your sufferings, but that I know my weakness, -which is so great, that if he left me one moment to myself, I should be the most wretched man alive: and yet I know not how he can leave me alone, because faith gives me as strong a conviction as sense can do, and he never forsakes us, until we have first forsaken him. Let us fear to leave him: let us be always with him: let us live and die in his presence. Do you pray for me, as I for you.
I RENDER thanks to -our LORD, for having relieved you a little, according to your desire. I have been often near expiring, though I was never so - much satisfied as then. Accordingly 1 did not pray for any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and love. Ah, how sweet is it to suffer with GOD! However great the sufferings may be, receive them with love. It is paradise to suffer and be with him: so that if in this life we would enjoy the peace of paradise, we must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with him: we must hinder our spirits wandering from him upon any occasion: we must make our heart a spiritual temple, wherein to adore him incessantly: we must watch continually over ourselves, that we may not do, nor say, nor think, any thing that may displease him. When our minds are thus employed about God, suffering will become full of consolation.
I know that to arrive at this state, the beginning is very difficult; for we must act purely in faith. But though it is difficult, we know also that we can do all things with the grace of GOD, which he never refuses to them who ask it earnestly. Knock, persevere in knocking, and I answer for it, that he will open to you in his due time, and grant you all at once, what he has deferred during many years. Adieu: Pray to him for me, as I pray to him for you. I hope to see him quickly.
God knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that he does is for our good. If we knew how much he loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally, and with indifference, from his hands, the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from him, The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in a wrong light: when we see them in the hand of God, who dispenses them; when we know it is our loving father who abases and distresses us, our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.
Let all our employment be to know God: the more one knows him, the more one desires to know him: and as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of God were great, we should love him equally in pains and pleasures. Let us not amuse ourselves, to seek or to love God merely for any sensible favors, (how `elevated soever,) which he has or may do us. Such favors, though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD, as faith does in one simple act. Let us seek him often by faith. Do we not deserve blame, if we leave him to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please him, and perhaps offend him It is to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear.
Let us begin to be devoted to him in good earnest. Let us cast every thing besides out of our hearts: he would possess them alone: beg this favor of him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank him sufficiently for the relaxation he has vouchsafed you. I hope from his mercy the favor to see him within. a few days. Let us pray for one another: I am, in our LORD, Yours) &c.
B. LAURENCE TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.
The first time I saw B. LAURENCE, was upon the 3d of August, 1666. He told me, that GOD had done him a singular favor in his conversion at the age of eighteen. That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the providence and power of GOD, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had ever cooled at all, in above forty years that he had lived since.
That he had been footman to Mr. FIEUBERT, the Treasurer, and that he was a great awkward fellow, who broke every thing. That he had desired to be received into a monastery, thinking that his bones would there be broken for his awkwardness, and the faults he should commit, and so he should sacrifice to GOD his life, with its pleasures; but that GOD had disappointed him, he having met with nothing but satisfaction in that state.
That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD's presence, by continually conversing with him. That it were a shame to quit his conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries.
That we ought to quicken our faith; that it was lamentable we had so little; and that instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct, men amused themselves with trivial devotions, which changed daily. That the way of faith was the spirit Of the Church, and that this alone was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection.
That we ought to give ourselves up to GOD, with regard to things temporal and spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the Fulfilling his- will, whether he lead us by suffering or consolation; for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned. That there needed fidelity in those drynesses, or insensibilities and irksomenesses in prayer, by which, GOD tries our love to him; that then was the time for us to make good and effectual acts of resignation, whereof one alone would oftentimes- very much promote our spiritual advancement.
That as for the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from wondering at them, that on the contrary, he was surprised there were not more, considering the malice sinners were capable of. That to arrive at such resignation as GOD required, we should watch attentively over all the passions, which mingle as well in spiritual things, as those of a grosser nature; that GOD would give light concerning those passions, to those who truly desire to serve him. That if this was my design, viz., sincerely to serve GOD, I might come to him (B. LAWRENCE) as often as I pleased, without any fear of being troublesome; but if not, that I ought no more to visit him.
CONVERSATION 2: Sept. 28, 1666.
THAT he had always been governed by love, without selfish views; and that having resolved to make the love of GOD the end of all his actions, he had found reasons to be well satisfied with his method; that he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of GOD, seeking him alone, and nothing else.
That he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned; that all the men in the world could not have persuaded him to the contrary, but that he had thus reasoned with himself about it: "I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of GOD, and I have endeavored to act only for him; whatever becomes of me, whether I be lost or saved, I will always continue to act purely for the love of God. I shall have this good at least, that until death I shall have done all that is in me to love him. That this trouble of mind had lasted four years, during which time he had suffered much.
That since that time he had passed his life in perfect liberty, and continual joy; that he placed his sins betwixt him and his GOD, as it were to tell him, that he did not deserve his, favors, but that GOD still continued to bestow them in abundance. That he expected, after the pleasant days God had given him, he should have his turn of pain and suffering; but that he was not uneasy about it, knowing very well, that as he could do nothing of himself, GOD would not fail to give him the strength to bear them.
That when an occasion of practicing some virtue offered; he addressed himself to GOD, saying, ' LORD, I cannot do this unless thou enables me;' and that then he received strength sufficient.
That when he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God, ' I shall never do otherwise, if thou leave me to myself; it is thou must hinder my falling, and mend what is amiss.' That after this, he soon found. himself in peace. That we ought to act with GOD- in the greatest simplicity, speaking to him frankly and plainly, and imploring his assistance in our affairs, just as they happen. That GOD never failed to grant it, as he had often experienced.
That he had been lately sent into Burgundy, to buy the provision of wine for the Society; which was a very unwelcome task to him, because he had no turn for business, and because he was lame, and could not go about the boat, but by rolling over the casks. ` That however he gave himself no uneasiness about it, nor about the purchase of the wine. That he said to GOD, It was His business he was about; and that he afterward found it very well performed. That he had been sent into Auvergne the year before upon the same account; that he could not tell how the matter passed, but that it proved very well.
So likewise in his business in the kitchen, (to which he had naturally a great aversion,) having accustomed himself to do every thing there for the love of GOD, and with prayer upon all occasions, for his grace to do his work well, he had found every thing easy, during fifteen years that he had been employed there.
That he was very well pleased with the post he was in now; but that he was as ready to quit that as the former, since he was always pleasing himself in every condition, by doing little things for the love of God. That he retired to pray, according to the directions of his Superior; but that he did not want such retirement, because his greatest business did not divert him from God.
That he was very sensible of his faults, but he was not discouraged by them; that he confessed them to GOD, and when he had so done, he peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.
That in his trouble of mind he had consulted nobody; but knowing only by the light of faith, that God was present, he contented himself with directing all his actions to him; 1: e., doing them with a desire to please him, let what would come of it. That useless thoughts spoil all; that the mischief began there: but that we ought to reject them as soon as we perceived their impertinence to the matter in hand, or our salvation, and return to our communion with GOD.
That all bodily mortifications, and other exercises, are useless, but as 'they serve to arrive at union with GOD by love; that he had well considered this, and found it the shortest way to go straight to him by a continual exercise of love, and doing all things for his sake.
That we ought to make a great difference between the acts of the understanding and those of the will; that the first were comparatively of little value, and the others all. That our only business was, to love and delight ourselves in GOD.
That all possible kinds of mortification, if they were void of the love of God, could not profit us. That we ought without anxiety to expect the pardon of our sins from the blood of JESUS CHRIST, only endeavoring to love him with all our hearts. That GOD seemed to have granted the greatest favors to the greatest sinners, as more signal monuments of his mercy.
That the greatest pains or pleasures of this world, were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in his spiritual state; so that he was careful for nothing, and feared nothing, desiring one only thing of God, viz., that he might not offend him.
That he had no scruples; ' for,' said he, ' when I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so; I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself. If I fail not, then I give GOD thanks, acknowledging that it comes from him.
Nov. 22, 1666.
HE told me, that be had no other care, but faithfully to reject every other thought,' that he might perform all his actions for the love of GOD. That when sometimes he had not thought of GOD for a good while, he did not disquiet himself for it; but after having acknowledged his wretchedness to GOD, he returned to him, with so much the greater trust in him, by how much he found himself more wretched to have forgotten him. That the trust we put in God honors him much, and draws down great graces.
That it was impossible, not only that God should deceive, but also that he should long let a soul suffer, which is perfectly resigned to him5 and resolved to endure every thing for his sake.
That from the same experience, when he had business to do, he did not think of it beforehand; but when it was time to do it, he found in GOD, as in a clear mirror, all that was fit for him to do. That of late he had acted thus, without anticipating care; but before the experience above-mentioned, he had used it in his affairs.
When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him, that it was difficult for him to contain himself. That he was more united to God in his outward employments, than when he left them, for, retirement. That he expected hereafter some great pain of body or mind; that the worst that could happen to him was, to lose that sense of God which he had enjoyed so long; but that the goodness of GOD assured him he would not forsake, him utterly, and that be would give him strength to bear whatever evil he permitted to happen to him; and therefore that he feared nothing, and had no occasion to consult with any body about his state. That when he. had attempted to do it, he had always come away more perplexed, and that as he was conscious of his readiness to lay down his life for the love of GOD, he had no apprehension of danger. That perfect resignation to GOD was the sure way to heaven, a way in which we had always sufficient light for our conduct. That in the beginning of the spiritual life, we ought to be faithful in doing our duty, and denying ourselves; but after that, unspeakable pleasures followed. That in difficulties we need only have recourse to JESUS CHRIST, and beg his grace, with which every thing became easy.
That many do not advance in the Christian progress, because they stick in penances, and particular exercises, while they neglect the love of GOD, which is the end; that this appeared plainly by their works, and was the reason why we see so little solid virtue.
That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but him, or for his sake, and to love him only.
CONVERSATION 4: Nov. 25, 1667.
HE discoursed with me very fervently, and with great openness of heart, concerning his manner of going to GOD. He told me, that all consisted in one hearty renunciation of every thing which we are sensible does not lead to GOD; that we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with him, with freedom and simplicity. That we need only to recognize God intimately present within us, to address ourselves to him every moment; that we may beg his assistance for knowing his will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see he requires of us; offering them to him before we do them, and giving him thanks when we have done. That in this continual conversation with God, we are also employed in praising, adoring, and loving him incessantly, for his infinite goodness and perfection. That without being discouraged on account of our defects, we should pray for his grace with a perfect confidence, as relying upon the infinite merits of our LORD. That GOD never failed offering us his grace at each action; that he distinctly perceived it, and never failed of t, unless when his thoughts had wandered from a sense of GOD's presence, or he had forgotten to ask his assistance.
That GOD always gave us light in our doubts, when we had no other design but to please him. That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for GOD's sake, which we commonly do for our own. That the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD, was that of doing our common business without any. view of pleasing men, and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of GOD.
That it was a great delusion, to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times; that we were as strictly obliged to adhere to GOD by action, in the time of action, as by prayer in its season.
That when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising him and blessing him with all his might; so that he passed his life in continual joy; yet hoped that GOD. would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should grow stronger.
That we ought once for all, heartily to put our whole trust in GOD, and make a total surrender of ourselves to him, secure that he would not deceive us.
That we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of GOD, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. That we should not wonder if in the beginning we often failed in our endeavors, but that at last we should receive grace, which will naturally produce its fruits in us, to our exceeding great delight.
That the whole substance of religion was faith, hope, and charity; by the practice of which we become united to GOD. That all beside is indifferent, and to be used only as means, that we may arrive at our end, and be swallowed up therein.
That "all things are possible to him who believes," that they are easy to him who hopes, and pleasant to hint who loves.
That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is, to become in this life the most perfect worshippers of GOD we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity. That when we enter upon the spiritual life, we should consider and examine to the bottom what we are; and then we should find ourselves worthy of all contempt, and such as do not deserve the name of Christians; subject to all kinds of misery, and numberless accidents, which trouble us, and cause perpetual vicissitudes in our health, in our humors, in our internal and external dispositions; in fine, persons whom GOD would humble by many pains and labors, as well within as without. After this, we should not wonder that troubles, temptations, oppositions, and contradictions, happen to us from men; we ought, on the contrary, to submit ourselves to them, and bear them as long as God pleases, as things highly advantageous to us.
That the greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependant it is upon divine grace. Being questioned by one of his own society, (to whom he was obliged to open himself,) by what means he had attained such an habitual sense of God He told him, that since his first coming to the monastery, he had considered GOD as the end of all his thoughts and desires, as the mark to which they should tend, and in which they should terminate.
That when he had thus in prayer filled his mind with great sentiments of that infinite Being, he went to his work appointed in the kitchen; (for he was cook to the society;) there having first. considered severally the things his office required, and when, and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after his work, in prayer.
That when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in him, ' O my GOD, since thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech thee to grant me the grace to continue in thy presence; and to this end, do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.'
As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring his grace, and offering to him all his actions.
When he had finished, he examined himself how he had discharged his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to GOD; if otherwise, he asked pardon; and without being discouraged, he set his mind right again, and continued his exercise of the presence of GOD. ' Thus,' said he, ' by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, 1 am come to a state, wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of GOD, as at first it was to accustom myself to it.
As B. LAURENCE had found such advantage in walking in the presence of GOD, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others. But his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was edifying; such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it, as could not but affect the beholders; and it was observed, that in the greatest burry of business in the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. ' The time of business,' said he, ' does not, with me, differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and hurry of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great tranquility as if 'I were upon my knees at the sacrament.