Chapter 11

Reflections

'Most of the preceding advices are strongly enforced in the following reflections; which I recommend to your deep and frequent consideration, next to the Holy Scriptures :--

'(1) The sea is an excellent figure of the fulness of God, and that of the blessed Spirit. For as the rivers all return into the sea, so the bodies, the souls, and the good works of the righteous return into God, to live there in His eternal repose.

'Although all the graces of God depend on His mere bounty, yet is He pleased generally to attach them to the prayers, the instructions, and the holiness of those with whom we are. By strong though invisible attractions He draws some souls, through their intercourse with others.

'The sympathies formed by grace far surpass those formed by nature. 'The truly devout show that passions as naturally flow from true as from false love; so deeply sensible are they of the goods and evils of those whom they love for God's sake. But this can only be comprehended by those who understand the language of love.

'The bottom of the soul may be in repose even while we are in many outward troubles; just as the bottom of the sea is calm, while the surface is strongly agitated. 'The best helps to growth in grace are the ill usage, the affronts, and the losses which befall us. We should receive them with all thankfulness, as preferable to all others, were it only on this account,-that our will has no part therein.

'The readiest way to escape from our sufferings is, to be willing they should endure as long as God pleases. 'If we suffer persecution and affliction in a right manner, we attain a larger measure of conformity to Christ, by a due improvement of one of these occasions, than we could have done merely by imitating His mercy, in abundance of good works.

'One of the greatest evidences of God's love to those that love Him is, to send them afflictions, with grace to bear them. 'Even in the greatest afflictions, we ought to testify to God, that, in receiving them from His hand, we feel pleasure in the midst of the pain, from being afflicted by Him who loved us, and whom we love.

'The readiest way which God takes to draw a man to Himself is, to afflict him in that he loves most, and with good reason; and to cause this affliction to arise from some good action done with a single eye; because nothing can more clearly show him the emptiness of what is most lovely and desirable in the world.

'(2) True resignation consists in a thorough conformity to the whole will of God, who wills and does all (excepting sin) which comes to pass in the world. In order to do this, we have only to embrace all events, good and bad, as His will.

'In the greatest afflictions which can befall the just, either from heaven or earth, they remain immovable in peace, and perfectly submissive to God by an inward, loving regard to Him, uniting in one all the powers of their souls.

'We ought quietly to suffer whatever befalls us; to bear the defects of others and our own, to confess them to God in secret prayer, or with groans which cannot be uttered; but never to speak a sharp or peevish word, nor to murmur or repine; but thoroughly willing that God should treat you in the manner that pleases Him. We are His lambs, and therefore ought to be ready to suffer, even to the death, without complaining.

'We are to bear with those we cannot amend, and to be content with offering them to God. This is true resignation. And since He has borne our infirmities, we may well bear those of each other for His sake.

'To abandon all, to strip one's self of all, in order to seek and to follow Jesus Christ naked to Bethlehem, where He was born; naked to the hall where He was scourged; and naked to Calvary, where He died on the cross, is so great a mercy, that neither the thing, nor the knowledge of it, is given to any, but through faith in the Son of God.

'(3) There is no love of God without patience, and no patience without lowliness and sweetness of spirit. 'Humility and patience are the surest proof of the increase of love. 'Humility alone unites patience with love; without which it is impossible to draw profit from suffering; or, indeed, to avoid complaint, especially when we think we have no occasion for what men make us suffer. 'True humility is a kind of self-annihilation; and this is the centre of all virtues.

'A soul returned to God ought to be attentive to everything which is said to him, on the head of salvation, with a desire to profit thereby. 'Of the sins which God has pardoned, let nothing remain but a deeper humility in the heart, and a stricter regulation in our words, in our actions, and in our sufferings.

'(4) The bearing men, and suffering evils in meekness and silence, is the sum of a Christian life. 'God is the first object of our love: its next office is, to bear the defects of others. And we should begin the practice of this amidst our own household. 'We should chiefly exercise our love towards them who most shock either our way of thinking, or our temper, or our knowledge, or the desire we have that others should be as virtuous as we wish to be ourselves.

'(5) God hardly gives His Spirit even to those whom He has established in grace, if they do not pray for it on all occasions, not only once, but many times. 'God does nothing but in answer to prayer; and even they who have been converted to God, without praying for it themselves (which is exceeding rare), were not without the prayers of others. Every new victory which a soul gains is the effect of a new prayer.

'On every occasion of uneasiness we should retire to prayer, that we may give place to the grace and light of God, and then form our resolutions, without being in any pain about what success they may have. 'In the greatest temptations, a single look to Christ and the barely pronouncing His name, suffices to overcome the wicked one, so it be done with confidence and calmness of spirit.

'God's command to "pray without ceasing" is founded on the necessity we have of His grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air. 'Whether we think of or speak to God, whether we act or suffer for Him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than His love, and the desire of pleasing Him.

'All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.. 'Prayer continues in the desire of the heart though the understanding be employed on outward things.

'In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer. 'As the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so our vehement love may be termed crying after God. 'God only requires of His adult children that their hearts be truly purified, and that they offer Him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most perfect prayers that can spring from it.

'(6) It is scarce conceivable how strait the way is wherein God leads them that follow Him; and how dependent on Him we must be, unless we are wanting in our faithfulness to Him.

'It is hardly credible of how great consequence before God the smallest things are; and what great inconveniences sometimes follow those which appear to be light faults. 'As a very little dust will disorder a clock, and the least sand will obscure our sight, so the least grain of sin which is upon the heart will hinder its right motion towards God.

'We ought to be in the church as the saints are in heaven, and in. the house as the holiest men are in the church: doing our work in the house as we pray in the church; worshipping God from the ground of the heart. 'We should be continually labouring to cut off all the useless things that surround us; and God usually retrenches the superfluities of our souls in the same proportion as we do those of our bodies. 'The best means of resisting the devil is, to destroy whatever of the world remains in us, in order to raise for God, upon its ruins, a building all of love. Then shall we begin, in this fleeting life, to love God as we shall love Him in eternity.

'We scarce conceive how easy it is to rob God of His due, in our friendship with the most virtuous persons, until they are torn from us by death. But if this loss produce lasting sorrow, that is a clear proof that we had before two treasures, between which we divided our heart.

'(7) If, after having renounced all, we do not watch incessantly, and beseech God to accompany our vigilance with His, we shall be again entangled and overcome.

'As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations. 'It is good to renew ourselves, from time to time, by closely examining the state of our souls, as if we had never done it before; for nothing tends more to the full assurance of faith, than to keep ourselves by this means in humility, and the exercise of all good works.

'To continual watchfulness and prayer ought to be added continual employment. For grace flies a vacuum as well as nature; and the devil fills whatever God does not fill. 'There is no faithfulness like that which ought to be between a guide of souls and the person directed by him. They ought continually to regard each other in God, and closely to examine themselves, whether all their thoughts are pure, and all their words directed with Christian discretion. Other affairs are only the things of men; but these are peculiarly the things of God.

'(8) The words of St. Paul, "No man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost," show us the necessity of eyeing God in our good works, and even in our minutest thoughts: knowing that none are pleasing to Him but those which He forms in us and with us. From hence we learn that we cannot serve Him, unless He use our tongue, hands and heart, to do by Himself and His Spirit whatever He would have us to do.

'If we were not utterly impotent, our good works would be our own property; whereas now they belong wholly to God, because they proceed from Him and His grace: while raising our works, and making them all divine, He honours Himself in us through them.

'One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And since He is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve Him in our neighbour: which He receives as if done to Himself in person, standing visibly before us.

'God does not love men that are inconstant, nor good works that are intermitted . Nothing is pleasing to Him but what has a resemblance of His own immutability, 'A constant attention to the work which God entrusts us with is a mark of solid piety.

'Love fasts when it can, and as much as it can. It leads to all the ordinances of God, and employs itself in all the outward works whereof it is capable. It flies, as it were, like Elijah over the plain, to find God upon His holy mountain.

'God is so great, that He communicates greatness to the least thing that is done for His service. 'Happy are they who are sick, yea or lose their life, for having done a good work. 'God frequently conceals the part which His children have in the conversion of other souls. Yet one may boldly say, that person who long groans before Him for the conversion of another, whenever that soul is converted to God, is one of the chief causes of it.

'Charity cannot be practised right, unless, first, we exercise it the moment God gives the occasion; and, secondly, retire the instant after to offer it to God by humble thanksgiving. And this for three reasons--First, to render Him what we have received from Him. The second, to avoid the dangerous temptation which springs from the very goodness of these works. And the third, to unite ourselves to God, in whom the soul expands itself in prayer, with all the graces we have received, and the good works we have done, to draw from Him new strength against the bad effects which these very works may produce in us, if we do not make use of the antidotes which God has ordained against these poisons. The true means to be filled anew with the riches of grace is thus to strip ourselves of it; and without this it is extremely difficult not to grow faint in the practice of good works.

'Good works do not receive theirlast perfection till they, as it were, lose themselves in God. This is a kind of death to them, resembling that of our bodies, which will not attain their highest life, their immortality, till they lose themselves in the glory of our souls, or rather of God, wherewith they shall be filled. And it is only what they had of earthly and mortal which good works lose by this spiritual death.

'Fire is the symbol of love; and the love of God is the principle and the end of all our good works. But truth surpasses figure; and the fire of divine love has this advantage over material fire, that it can reascend to its source, and raise thither with it all the good works which it produces. And by this means it prevents their being corrupted by pride, vanity, or any evil mixture. But this cannot be done otherwise than by making these good works in a spiritual manner die in God, by a deep gratitude, which plunges the soul in Him as in an abyss, with all that it is, and all the grace and works for which it is indebted to Him; a gratitude whereby the soul seems to empty itself of them, that they may return to their source, as rivers seem willing to empty themselves when they pour themselves with all their waters into the sea.

'When we have received any favour from God, we ought to retire, if not into our closets, into our hearts, and say, "I come, Lord, to restore to Thee what Thou hast given; and I freely relinquish it, to enter again into my own nothingness. For what is the most perfect .creature in heaven or earth in Thy presence, but a void capable of being filled with Thee and by Thee; as the air which is void and dark is capable of being filled with the light of the sun, who withdraws it every day to restore it the next, there being nothing in the air that either appropriates this light or resists it? Oh, give me the same facility of receiving and restoring Thy grace and good works! I say, Thine; for I acknowledge the root from which they spring is in Thee, and not in me." '

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