"And I have declared unto them thy name
and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me,
may be in them and I in them."--John xvii. 26.
The advantage of humiliation.
I pray often to God that He would
keep you in the hollow of his hand. The most essential point is
lowliness. It is profitable for all things, for it produces a
teachable spirit which makes everything easy. You would be more
guilty than many others if you made any resistance to God on this
point. On the one hand, you have received abundant light and
grace on the necessity of becoming like a little child; and on
the other, no one has had an experience fitter to humiliate the
heart and destroy self-confidence. The great profit to be derived
from an experience of our weakness, is to render us lowly and
obedient. May the Lord keep you!
How to bear suffering so as to preserve our
As to our friend, I pray God to
bestow upon him a simplicity that shall give him peace. When we
are faithful in instantly dropping all superfluous and restless
reflections, which arise from a self-love as different as
possible from charity, we shall be set in a large place
even in the midst of the strait and narrow path. We shall be in
the pure liberty and innocent peace of the children of God,
without being found wanting either towards God or man.
I apply to myself the same counsel
that I give to others, and am well persuaded that I must seek my
own peace in the same direction. My heart is now suffering; but
it is the life of self that causes us pain; that which is dead
does not suffer. If we were dead, and our life were hid with
Christ in God, (Col. iii. 3,) we should no longer perceive those
pains in spirit that now afflict us. We should not only bear
bodily sufferings with equanimity, but spiritual affliction also,
that is to say, trouble sent upon the soul without its own
immediate act. But the disturbances of a restless activity, in
which the soul adds to the cross imposed by the hand of God, the
burden of an agitated resistance, and an unwillingness to suffer,
are only experienced in consequence of the remaining life of self.
A cross which comes purely from God,
and is cordially welcomed without any self-reflective acts, is at
once painful and peaceful; but one unwillingly received and
repelled by the life of nature, is doubly severe; the resistance
within is harder to bear than the cross itself. If we recognize
the hand of God, and make no opposition in the will, we have
comfort in our affliction. Happy indeed are they who can bear
their sufferings in the enjoyment of this simple peace and
perfect acquiescence in the will of God! Nothing so shortens and
soothes our pains as this spirit of non-resistance.
But we are generally desirous of
bargaining with God; we would like at least to impose the limits
and see the end of our sufferings. That same obstinate and hidden
hold of life, which renders the cross necessary, causes us to
reject it in part, and by a secret resistance, which impairs its
virtue. We have thus to go over the same ground again and again;
we suffer greatly, but to very little purpose. The Lord deliver
us from falling into that state of soul in which crosses are of
no benefit to us! God loves a cheerful giver, according to St.
Paul (2 Cor. ix. 7); ah! what must be his love to those who, in a
cheerful and absolute abandonment, resign themselves to the
entire extent of his crucifying will!
The beauty of the cross.
I cannot but wonder at the virtue
that lies in suffering; we are worth nothing without the cross. I
tremble and am in an agony while it lasts, and all my conviction
of its salutary effects vanish under the torture, but when it is
over, I look back at it with admiration, and am ashamed that I
bore it so ill. This experience of my folly is a deep lesson of
wisdom to me.
Whatever may be the state of your
sick friend, and whatever the issue of her disease, she is
blessed in being so quiet under the hand of God. If she die, she
dies to the Lord; if she live, she lives to Him. Either the
cross or death, says St. Theresa.
Nothing is beyond the necessity of
the cross but the established kingdom of God; when we bear it in
love, it is his kingdom begun, with which we must remain
satisfied while it is his pleasure. You have need of the cross as
well as I. The faithful Giver of every good gift distributes them
to each of us with his own hand, blessed be his name! Ah! how
good it is to be chastened for our profit!
The death of self.
I cannot express to you, my dear
sister, how deeply I sympathize with your afflictions; but my
grief is not unmixed with consolation. God loves you, since He
does not spare you, but lays upon you the cross of Jesus Christ.
Whatever light, whatever feeling we may possess, is all a
delusion, if it lead us not to the real and constant practice of
dying to self. We cannot die without suffering, neither can we be
said to be dead, while there is still any part in us which is
alive. That death with which God blesses the soul, pierces even
to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and
marrow. He who sees in us what we cannot see, knows full well
where the blow should fall; He takes away that which we are most
reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life, and
where there is life, is just the place where death is needed. Our
Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already
dead; if He sought to continue life, He would do so, but He seeks
to destroy, and this He can only accomplish by cutting into that
which is quick and living. You need not expect Him to attack
those gross and wicked desires which you renounced forever, when
you gave yourself away to Him, but he will prove you, perhaps, by
destroying your liberty of soul, and by depriving you of your
most spiritual consolations.
Would you resist? Ah! no! Suffer
all things! This death must be voluntary, and can only be
accomplished to that extent to which you are willing it should be.
To resist death, and repel its advances, is not being willing to
die. Give up voluntarily, then, to the good pleasure of God, all
your reliances, even the most spiritual, whenever He may seem
disposed to take them from you. What fearest thou, O thou of
little faith? Dost thou fear that He may not be able to supply to
thee from Himself, that succor which He takes away on the part of
man? And why does He take it away, except to supply it from
Himself, and to purify thee by the painful lesson? I see that
every way is shut up, and that God means to accomplish his work
in you, by cutting off every human resource. He is a jealous God;
He is not willing you should owe what He is about to perform in
you, to any other than to Himself alone.
Give yourself up to his plans--be
led whither He will by his providences. Beware how you seek aid
from man, when God forbids it--they can only give you what He
gives them for you. Why should you be troubled that you can no
longer drink from the aqueduct when you are led to the perennial
spring itself from which its waters are derived?
Peace lies in simplicity and obedience.
Cultivate peace; be deaf to your
too prolific imagination; its great activity not only injures the
health of your body, but introduces aridity into your soul. You
consume yourself to no purpose; peace and interior sweetness are
destroyed by your restlessness. Think you God can speak in those
soft and tender accents that melt the soul, in the midst of such
a tumult as you excite by your incessant hurry of thought? Be
quiet, and He will soon be heard. Indulge but a single scruple;
to be scrupulously obedient.
You ask for consolation; but you do
not perceive that you have been led to the brink of the fountain,
and refuse to drink. Peace and consolation are only to be found
in simple obedience. Be faithful in obeying without reference to
your scruples, and you will soon find that the rivers of living
water will flow according to the promise. You will receive
according to the measure of your faith; much, if you believe much;
nothing, if you believe nothing and continue to give ear to your
You dishonor true love by the
supposition that it is anxious about such trifles as continually
occupy your attention; it goes straight to God in pure simplicity.
Satan is transformed into an angel of light; he assumes the
beautiful form of a scrupulous love and a tender conscience; but
you should know by experience the trouble and danger into which
he will lead you by vehement scruples. Everything depends upon
your faithfulness in repelling his first advances.
If you become ingenuous and simple
in your desires, I think you will have been more pleasing to God
that if you had suffered a hundred martyrdoms. Turn all your
anxieties toward your delay in offering a sacrifice so right in
the sight of God. Can true love hesitate when it is required to
please its well-beloved?
The true source of peace is in the surrender
of the will.
Remain in peace; the fervor of
devotion does not depend upon yourself; all that lies in your
power is the direction of your will. Give that up to God without
reservation. The important question is not how much you enjoy
religion, but whether you will whatever God wills. Humbly confess
your faults; be detached from the world, and abandoned to God;
love Him more than yourself, and his glory more than your life;
the least you can do is to desire and ask for such a love. God
will then love you and put his peace in your heart.
True good is only reached by abandonment.
Evil is changed into good when it
is received in patience through the love of God; while good is
changed into evil when we become attached to it through the love
of self. True good lies only in detachment, and abandonment to
God. You are now in the trial; put yourself confidently and
without reserve into his hand. What would I not sacrifice to see
you once more restored in body, but heartily sick of the love of
the world! Attachment to ourselves is a thousand times more
infectious than a contagious poison, for it contains the venom of
self. I pray for you with all my heart.
Knowledge puffeth up; charity edifieth.
I am happy to hear of your frame of
mind, and to find you communicating in simplicity everything that
takes place within you. Never hesitate to write me whatever you
think God requires.
It is not at all surprising that
you have a sort of jealous ambition to advance in the spiritual
life, and to be intimate with persons of distinction who are
pious. Such things are by nature very flattering to our self-love,
and it eagerly seeks them. But we should not strive to gratify
such an ambition by making great progress in the religious life,
and by cultivating the acquaintance of persons high in honor; our
aim should be to die to the flattering delights of self-love, by
becoming humble and in love with obscurity and contempt, and to
have a single eye to God.
We may hear about perfection
without end, and become perfectly familiar with its language, and
yet be as far from its attainment as ever. Our great aim should
be, to be deaf to self, to hearken to God in silence, to renounce
every vanity, and to devote ourselves to solid virtue. Let us
speak but little and do much, without a thought as to whether we
are observed or not.
God will teach you more than the
most experienced Christians, and better than all the books that
the world has ever seen. And what is your object in such an eager
chase after knowledge? Are you not aware that all we need is to
be poor in spirit, and to know nothing but Christ and Him
crucified? Knowledge puffeth up; it is only charity
that can edify. (1 Cor. viii. 1.) Be content with charity,
then, alone. What! is it possible that the love of God, and the
abandonment of self for his sake, is only to be reached through
the acquisition of so much knowledge? You have already more than
you use, and need further illuminations much less than the
practice of what you already know. O how deceived we are, when we
suppose we are advancing, because our vain curiosity is gratified
by the enlightenment of our intellect! Be humble, and expect not
the gifts of God from man.
We are not to choose the manner in which our
blessings shall be bestowed.
You know what God requires of you;
will you refuse? You perceive that your resistance to the
drawings of his grace, arises solely from self-love: will you
suffer the refinements of pride, and the most ingenious
inventions of self, to reject the mercies of God? You who have so
many scruples in relation to the passing thought, which is
involuntary and therefore innocent, who confess so many things
that should rather be dismissed at once, have you no scruples
about your long-continued resistance to the Holy Spirit, because
He has not seen fit to confer the benefits you desire, by a
channel which was flattering to your self-love?
What matter if you received the
gifts of grace as beggars receive bread? The gifts themselves
would be neither less pure nor less precious. Your heart would
only be the more worthy of God, if, by its humility and
annihilation, it attracted the succor that He was disposed to
send. Is this the way you put off self? Is this the view that
pure faith takes of the instrument of God? Is it thus that you
die to the life of self within? To what purpose are your readings
about pure love, and your frequent devotions? How can you read
what condemns the very depths of your soul? You are influenced
not only be self-interest, but by the persuasions of pride, when
you reject the gifts of God, because they do not come in a shape
to suit your taste. How can you pray? What is the language of God
in the depths of your soul? He asks nothing but death, and you
desire nothing but life. How can you put up to Him a prayer for
his grace, with a restriction that He shall only send it by a
channel demanding no sacrifice on your part but ministering to
the gratification of your carnal pride?
The discovery and death of self.
Yes, I joyfully consent that you
call me your father! I am so and will be always; there needs only
on your part a full and confident persuasion of it, which will
come when your heart is enlarged. Self-love now shuts it up. We
are in a strait place, indeed, when we are enclosed in self, but
when we emerge from that prison, and enter into the immensity of
God and the liberty of his children, we are set at large.
I am rejoiced to find that God has
reduced you to a state of weakness. Your self-love can neither be
convinced nor vanquished by any other means, ever finding secret
resources and impenetrable retreats in your courage and ingenuity.
It was hidden from your eyes, while it fed upon the subtle poison
of an apparent generosity, by which you constantly sacrificed
yourself for others. God has forced it to cry aloud, to come
forth into open day, and display its excessive jealousy. O how
painful, but how useful, are these seasons of weakness? While any
self-love remains, we are afraid of its being revealed, but so
long as the least symptom of it lurks in the most secret recesses
of the heart, God pursues it, and by some infinitely merciful
blow, forces it into the light. The poison then becomes the
remedy; self-love, pushed to extremity, discovers itself in all
its deformity by a transport of despair, and disgraces all the
refinements, and dissipates the flattering illusions of a whole
life. God sets before your eyes your idol, self. You behold it,
and cannot turn your eyes away; and as you have no longer power
over yourself, you cannot keep the sight from others.
Thus to exhibit self-love without
its mask is the most mortifying punishment that can be inflicted.
We no longer behold it wise, discreet, polite, self-possessed,
and courageous in sacrificing itself for others; it is no longer
the self-love whose nourishment consisted in the belief that it
had need of nothing, and the persuasion that its greatness and
generosity deserved a different name. It is the selfishness of a
silly child, screaming at the loss of an apple; but it is far
more tormenting, for it also weeps from rage that it has wept; it
cannot be still, and refuses all comfort, because its venomous
character has been detected. It beholds itself foolish, rude, and
impertinent, and is forced to look its own frightful countenance
in the face. It says with Job: "For the thing which I
greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is
come unto me." (Job iii. 25.) For precisely that which
it most fears is the most necessary means of its destruction.
We have no need that God should
attack in us what has neither life nor sensibility. It is the
living only that must die, and all the rest is nought. This, then,
is what you needed, to behold a self-love convinced, sensitive,
gross, and palpable. And now all you have to do, is to be quietly
willing to look at it as it is; the moment you can do this, it
will have disappeared.
You ask for a remedy, that you may
get well. You do not need to be cured, but to be slain; seek not
impatiently for a remedy, but let death come. Be careful, however,
lest a certain courageous resolve to avail yourself of no remedy,
be itself a remedy in disguise, and give aid and comfort to this
cursed life. Seek no consolation for self-love, and do not
conceal the disease. Reveal everything in simplicity and holiness,
and then suffer yourself to die.
But this is not to be accomplished
by any exertion of strength. Weakness is become your only
possession; all strength is out of place; it only serves to
render the agony longer and more distressing. If you expire from
exhaustion, you will die so much the quicker and less violently.
A dying life must of necessity be painful. Cordials are a cruelty
to the sufferer on the wheel; he only longs for the fatal blow,
not food, nor sustenance. If it were possible to weaken him and
hasten his death, we should abridge his sufferings; but we can do
nothing; the hand alone that tied him to his torture can deliver
him from the remains of suffering life.
Ask, then, neither remedies,
sustenance, nor death; to ask death, is impatience; to ask food
or remedies, is to prolong our agony. What, then, shall we do?
Let alone; seek nothing, hold to nothing; confess everything, not
as a means of consolation, but through humility and desire to
yield. Look to me, not as a source of life, but as a means of
death. As an instrument of life would belie its purpose, if it
did not minister to life, so an instrument of death would be
falsely named, if, in lieu of slaying, it kept alive. Let me,
then, be, or at least seem to you to be, hard, unfeeling,
indifferent, pitiless, wearied, annoyed, and contemptuous. God
knows how far it is from the truth; but he permits it all to
appear; and I shall be much more serviceable to you in this false
and imaginary character than by my affection and real assistance,
for the point is not, how you are to be sustained and kept alive,
but how you are to lose all and die.
The sight of our imperfections should not take
away our peace.
There is something very hidden and
very deceptive in your suffering; for while you seem to yourself
to be wholly occupied with the glory of God, in your inmost soul
it is self alone that occasions all your trouble. You are, indeed,
desirous that God should be glorified, but that it should take
place by means of your perfection, and you thus cherish the
sentiments of self-love. It is simply a refined pretext for
dwelling in self. If you would truly derive profit from the
discovery of your imperfections, neither justify nor condemn on
their account, but quietly lay them before God, conforming your
will to his in all things that you cannot understand, and
remaining at peace; for peace is the order of God for every
condition whatever. There is, in fact, a peace of conscience
which sinners themselves should enjoy when awakened to repentance.
Their suffering should be peaceful and mingled with consolation.
Remember the beautiful word which once delighted you, that the
Lord was not in noise and confusion, but in the still, small
voice. (I Kings, xix. 11.)
Living by the cross and by faith.
Everything is a cross; I have no
joy but bitterness; but the heaviest cross must be borne in peace.
At times it can neither be borne nor dragged; we can only fall
down beneath it, overwhelmed and exhausted. I pray that God may
spare you as much as possible in apportioning your suffering; it
is our daily bread; God alone knows how much we need; and we must
live in faith upon the means of death, confident, though we see
it not, that God, with secret compassion, proportions our trials
to the unperceived succor that He administers within. This life
of faith is the most penetrating of all deaths.
Despair at our imperfection is a greater
obstacle than the imperfection itself.
Be not concerned about your defects.
Love without ceasing, and you shall be much forgiven, because you
have loved much. (Luke vii. 47.) We are apt to seek the delights
and selfish supports of love, rather than love itself. We deceive
ourselves, even in supposing we are endeavoring to love, when we
are only trying to see that we love. We are more occupied with
the love, says St. Francis of Sales, than with the Well-beloved.
If He were our only object, we should be all taken up with Him;
but when we are employed in obtaining an assurance of his love,
we are still in a measure busy with self. Our defects, regarded
in peace and in the spirit of love, are instantly consumed by
love itself; but considered in the light of self, they make us
restless, and interrupt the presence of God and the exercise of
perfect love. The chagrin we feel at our own defects, is
ordinarily a greater fault than the original defect itself. You
are wholly taken up with the less of the two faults, like a
person whom I have just seen, who, after reading the life of one
of the saints, was so enraged at his own comparative imperfection,
that he entirely abandoned the idea of living a devoted life. I
judge of your fidelity by your peace and liberty of soul; the
more peaceful and enlarged your heart, the nearer you seem to be
Pure faith sees God alone.
Be not anxious about the future; it
is opposed to grace. When God sends you consolation, regard Him
only in it, enjoy it day by day as the Israelites received their
manna, and do not endeavor to lay it up in store. There are two
peculiarities of pure faith; it sees God alone under all the
imperfect envelopes which conceal Him,
and it holds the soul incessantly in suspense. We are kept
constantly in the air, without being suffered to touch a foot to
solid ground. The comfort of the present instant will be wholly
inappropriate to the next; we must let God act with the most
perfect freedom, in whatever belongs to Him, and think only of
being faithful in all that depends upon ourselves. This momentary
dependence, this darkness and this peace of the soul, under the
utter uncertainty of the future, is a true martyrdom, which take
place silently and without any stir. It is death by a slow fire;
and the end comes so imperceptibly and interiorly, that it is
often almost as much hidden from the sufferer himself, as from
those who are unacquainted with his state. When God removes his
gifts from you, He knows how and when to replace them, either by
others or by Himself. He can raise up children from the very
Eat then your daily bread without thought for the morrow; "sufficient
unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matt. vi. 34.) To-morrow
will take thought for the things of itself. He who feeds you to-day,
is the same to whom you will look for food to-morrow; manna shall
fall again from heaven in the midst of the desert, before the
children of God shall want any good thing.
Our knowledge stands in the way of our
Live in peace, my dear young lady,
without any thought for the future; perhaps there will be none
for you. You have no present, even, of your own, for you must
only use it in accordance with the designs of God, to whom it
truly belongs. Continue the good works that occupy you, since you
have an attraction that way, and can readily accomplish them.
Avoid distractions, and the consequences of your excessive
vivacity, and, above all things, be faithful to the present
moment, and you will receive all necessary grace.
It is not enough to be detached
from the world; we must become lowly also; in detachment, we
renounce the things without, in lowliness, we abandon self. Every
shadow of perceptible pride must be left behind, and the pride of
wisdom and virtue is more dangerous than that of worldly fortune,
as it has a show of right, and is more refined.
We must be lowly-minded in all
points, and appropriate nothing to ourselves, our virtue and
courage least of all. You rest too much in your own courage,
disinterestedness, and uprightness. The babe owns nothing; it
treats a diamond and an apple alike. Be a babe; have nothing of
your own; forget yourself; give way on all occasions; let the
smallest be greater than you.
Pray simply from the heart, from
pure love, and not from the head, from the intellect alone.
Your true instruction is to be
found in spoliation, deep recollection, silence of the whole soul
before God, in renouncing your own spirit, and, in the love of
lowliness, obscurity, feebleness, and annihilation. This
ignorance is the accomplished teacher of all truth; knowledge
cannot attain to it, or can reach it but superficially.
Those who endeavor to injure us are to be
loved and welcomed as the hand of God.
I sympathize, as I ought, in all
your troubles, but I can do nothing else except pray God that He
would console you. You have great need of the gift of his Spirit
to sustain you in your difficulties, and to restrain your natural
vivacity under the trials which are so fitted to excite it. As to
the letter touching your birth, I think you should lay it before
God alone, and beg his mercy upon him who has sought to injure
I have always perceived, or thought
that I perceived, that you were sensitive on that point. God
always attacks us on our weak side; we do not aim to kill a
person by striking a blow at his insensible parts, such as the
hair or nails, but by endeavoring to reach at once the noble
organs, the immediate seats of life. When God would have us die
to self, he always touches the tenderest spot, that which is
fullest of life. It is thus that he distributes crosses. Suffer
yourself to be humbled. Silence and peace under humiliation are
the true good of the soul; we are tempted, under a thousand
specious pretexts, to speak humbly; but it is far better to be
humbly silent. The humility that can yet talk, has need of
careful watching; self-love derives comfort from its outward
Do not suffer yourself to get
excited by what is said about you. Let the world talk; do you
strive to do the will of God; as for that of men, you could never
succeed in doing it to their satisfaction, and it is not worth
the pains. A moment of silence, of peace, and of union to God,
will amply recompense you for every calumny that shall be uttered
against you. We must love our fellows, without expecting
friendship from them; they leave us and return, they go and come;
let them do as they will; it is but a feather, the sport of the
wind. See God only in them; it is He that afflicts or consoles us,
by means of them, according as we have need.
Quietness in God our true resource.
Warmth of imagination, ardor of
feeling, acuteness of reasoning, and fluency of expression, can
do but little. The true agent is a perfect abandonment before God,
in which we do everything by the light which He gives, and are
content with the success which He bestows. This continual death
is a blessed life known to few. A single word, uttered from this
rest, will do more, even in outward affairs, than all our most
eager and officious care. It is the Spirit of God that then
speaks the word, and it loses none of its force and authority,
but enlightens, persuades, moves, and edifies. We have
accomplished everything, and have scarce said anything.
On the other hand, if left to the
excitability of our natural temperament, we talk forever,
indulging in a thousand subtle and superfluous reflections; we
are constantly afraid of not saying or doing enough; we get angry,
excited, exhausted, distracted, and finally make no headway. Your
disposition has an especial need of these maxims; they are as
necessary for your body as your soul, and your physician, and
your spiritual adviser should act together.
Let the water flow beneath the
bridge; let men be men, that is to say, weak, vain, inconstant,
unjust, false, and presumptuous; let the world be the world still;
you cannot prevent it. Let every one follow his own inclination
and habits; you cannot recast them, and the best course is, to
let them be as they are and bear with them. Do not think it
strange when you witness unreasonableness and injustice; rest in
peace in the bosom of God; He sees it all more clearly than you
do, and yet permits it. Be content to do quietly and gently what
it becomes you to do, and let everything else be to you as though
it were not.
True friendships are founded only in God.
We must be content with what God
gives, without having any choice of our own. It is right that his
will should be done, not ours; and that his should become ours
without the least reservation, in order that it may be done on
earth as it is done in heaven. This is a hundred times more
valuable an attainment than to be engaged in the view or
consolation of self.
O how near are we to each other
when we are all united in God! How well do we converse when we
have but a single will and a single thought in Him who is all
things in us! Would you find your true friends, then? Seek them
only in Him who is the single source of true and eternal
friendship. Would you speak with or hear from them? Sink in
silence into the bosom of Him who is the word, the life, and the
soul of all those who speak and live the truth. You will find in
Him not only every want supplied, but everything perfect, which
you find so imperfect in the creatures in whom you confide.
The cross a source of our pleasure.
I sympathize with all your
distresses; but we must carry the cross with Christ in this
transitory life. We shall soon have no time to suffer; we shall
reign with God our consolation, who will have wiped away our
tears with his own hand, and from before whose presence pain and
sighing shall forever flee away. While this fleeting moment of
trial is permitted us, let us not lose the slightest portion of
the worth of the cross. Let us suffer in humility and in peace;
our self-love exaggerates our distresses, and magnifies them in
our imagination. A cross borne in simplicity, without the
interference of self-love to augment it, is only half a cross.
Suffering in this simplicity of love, we are not only happy in
spite of the cross, but because of it; for love is pleased in
suffering for the Well-beloved, and the cross which forms us into
his image is a consoling bond of love.
The absence of feeling and the revelation of
self no sufficient causes of distress.
I pray God that this new year may
be full of grace and blessing to you. I am not surprised that you
do not enjoy recollection as you did on being delivered from a
long and painful agitation. Everything is liable to be exhausted.
A lively disposition, accustomed to active exertion, soon
languishes in solitude and inaction. For a great number of years
you have been necessarily much distracted by external activity,
and it was this circumstance that made me fear the effect of the
life of abandonment upon you. You were at first in the fervor of
your beginnings, when no difficulties appear formidable. You said
with Peter, it is good for us to be here; but it is often with us
as it was with him, that we know not what we say. (Mark ix. 56.)
In our moments of enjoyment, we feel as if we could do everything;
in the time of temptation and discouragement, we think we can do
nothing, and believe that all is lost. But we are alike deceived
You should not be disturbed at any
distraction that you may experience; the cause of it lay
concealed within even when you felt such zeal for recollection.
Your temperament and habits all conduce to making you active and
eager. It was only weariness and exhaustion that caused you to
relish an opposite life. But, by fidelity to grace, you will
gradually become permanently introduced into the experience of
which you have had a momentary taste. God bestowed it that you
might see whither He would lead you; He then takes it away, that
we may be made sensible that it does not belong to us; that we
are neither able to procure nor preserve it, and that it is a
gift of grace that must be asked in all humility.
Be not amazed at finding yourself
sensitive, impatient, haughty, self-willed; you must be made to
perceive that such is your natural disposition. We must bear the
yoke of the daily confusion of our sins, says St. Augustine. We
must be made to feel our weakness, our wretchedness, our
inability to correct ourselves. We must despair of our own heart,
and have no hope but in God. We must bear with ourselves, without
flattering, and without neglecting a single effort for our
We must be instructed as to our
true character, while waiting for God's time to take it away. Let
us become lowly under his all-powerful hand; yielding and
manageable as often as we perceive any resistance in our will. Be
silent as much as you can. Be in no haste to judge; suspend your
decisions, your likes and dislikes. Stop at once when you become
aware that your activity is hurried, and do not be too eager even
for good things.
The imperfection of others to be borne in love.
It is a long while since I renewed
the assurance of my attachment to you in our Lord. It is,
nevertheless, greater than ever. I desire with all my heart that
you may always find in your household the peace and consolation
which you enjoyed in the beginning. To be content with even the
best of people, we must be contented with little and bear a great
deal. Those who are most perfect, have many imperfections, and we
have great faults, so that between the two, mutual toleration
becomes very difficult. We must bear one another's burdens, and
so fulfil the law of Christ, (Gal. vi. 2,) thus setting off one
against the other in love. Peace and unanimity will be much aided
by frequent silence, habitual recollection, prayer, self-abandonment,
renunciation of all vain criticisms, and a faithful departure
from the vain reflections of a jealous and difficult self-love.
To how much trouble would this simplicity put an end! Happy he
who neither listens to self nor to the tales of others!
Be content with leading a simple
life, according to your condition. Be obedient, and bear your
daily cross; you need it, and it is bestowed by the pure mercy of
God. The grand point is to despise self from the heart, and to be
willing to be despised, if God permits it. Feed upon Him alone;
St. Augustine says that his mother lived upon prayer; do you do
so likewise, and die to everything else. We can only live to God
by the continual death of self.
The fear of death not taken away by our own
courage, but by the grace of God.
I am not in the least surprised to
learn that your impression of death becomes more lively, in
proportion as age and infirmity bring it nearer. I experience the
same thing. There is an age at which death is forced upon our
consideration more frequently, by more irresistible reflections,
and by a time of retirement in which we have fewer distractions.
God makes use of this rough trial to undeceive us in respect to
our courage, to make us feel our weakness, and to keep us in all
humility in his own hands.
Nothing is more humiliating than a
troubled imagination, in which we search in vain for our former
confidence in God. This is the crucible of humiliation, in which
the heart is purified by a sense of its weakness and unworthiness.
In his sight shall no man living be justified (Psalm cxliii. 2);
yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight, (Job xv. 15,) and in
many things we offend all. (James iii. 2.) We behold our faults
and not our virtues; which latter it would be even dangerous to
behold, if they are real.
We must go straight on through this
deprivation without interruption, just as we were endeavoring to
walk in the way of God, before being disturbed. If we should
perceive any fault that needs correction, we must be faithful to
the light given us, but do it carefully, lest we be led into
false scruples. We must then remain at peace, not listening to
the voice of self-love, mourning over our approaching death, but
detach ourselves from life, offering it in sacrifice to God, and
confidently abandon ourselves to Him. St. Ambrose was asked, when
dying, whether he was not afraid of the judgments of God; "We
have a good master," said he, and so must we reply to
ourselves. We need to die in the most impenetrable uncertainty,
not only as to God's judgment upon us, but as to our own
characters. We must, as St. Augustine has it, be so reduced as to
have nothing to present before God but our wretchedness and
his mercy. Our wretchedness is the proper object of his mercy,
and his mercy is all our merit. In your hours of sadness, read
whatever will strengthen your confidence and establish your heart.
"Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a
clean heart." (Psalm lxxiii. 1.) Pray for this cleanness
of heart, which is so pleasing in his sight, and which renders
Him so compassionate to our failings.
Sensitiveness under reproof the surest sign we
I greatly desire that you may have
interior peace. You know that it cannot be found, except in
lowliness of mind, and lowliness is not real, except it be
produced by God upon every proper occasion. These occasions are
chiefly when we are blamed by someone who disapproves of us, and
when we experience inward weakness. We must accustom ourselves to
bearing both these trials.
We are truly lowly when we are no
longer taken by surprise at finding ourselves corrected from
without and incorrigible within. We are then like little children,
below everything, and are willing to be so; we feel that our
reprovers are right, but that we are unable to overcome ourselves,
in order to correct our faults. Then we despair of ourselves, and
expect nothing except from God; the reproofs of others, harsh and
unfeeling as they may be, seem to us less than we deserve; if we
cannot bear them, we condemn our sensitiveness more than all our
other imperfections. Correction cannot then make us more humble
than it finds us. The interior rebellion, far from hindering the
profit of the correction, convinces us of its absolute necessity;
in truth, the reproof would not have been felt, if it had not cut
into some living part; had death been there, we should not have
perceived it; and thus the more acutely we feel, the more
certainly we know that the correction was necessary.
I beg your forgiveness if I have
said anything too harsh; but do not doubt my affection for you,
and count as nothing everything that comes from me. See only the
hand of God, which makes use of the awkwardness of mine, to deal
you a painful blow. The pain proves that I have touched a sore
spot. Yield to God, acquiesce in all his dealings, and you will
soon be at rest and in harmony within. You know well enough how
to give this advice to others; the occasion is important,
critical. O what grace will descend upon you, if you will bear,
like a little child, all the means God employs to humiliate and
dispossess you of your senses and will! I pray that he may so
diminish you that you can no longer be found at all.
Imperfection only is intolerant of
It has seemed to me that you have
need of more enlargedness of heart in relation to the defects of
others. I know that you cannot help seeing them when they come
before you, nor prevent the opinions you involuntarily form
concerning the motives of some of those about you. You cannot
even get rid of a certain degree of trouble which these things
cause you. It will be enough if you are willing to bear with
those defects which are unmistakable, refrain from condemning
those which are doubtful, and not suffer yourself to be so
afflicted by them as to cause a coolness of feeling between you.
Perfection is easily tolerant of
the imperfections of others; it becomes all things to all men. We
must not be surprised at the greatest defects in good souls, and
must quietly let them alone until God gives the signal of gradual
removal; otherwise we shall pull up the wheat with the tares. God
leaves, in the most advanced souls, certain weaknesses entirely
disproportioned to their eminent state. As workmen, in excavating
the soil from a field, leave certain pillars of earth which
indicate the original level of the surface, and serve to measure
the amount of material removed--God, in the same way, leaves
pillars of testimony to the extent of his work in the most pious
Such persons must labor, each one
in his degree, for his own correction, and you must labor to bear
with their weaknesses. You know from experience the bitterness of
the work of correction; strive then to find means to make it less
bitter to others. You have not an eager zeal to correct, but a
sensitiveness that easily shuts up your heart.
I pray you more than ever not to
spare my faults. If you should think you see one, which is not
really there, there is no harm done; if I find that your counsel
wounds me, my sensitiveness demonstrates that you have discovered
a sore spot; but if not, you will have done me an excellent
kindness in exercising my humility, and accustoming me to reproof.
I ought to be more lowly than others in proportion as I am higher
in position, and God demands of me a more absolute death to
everything. I need this simplicity, and I trust it will be the
means of cementing rather than of weakening our attachment.
We should listen to God and not to self-love.
I beseech you not to listen to self.
Self-love whispers in one ear and the love of God in the other;
the first is restless, bold, eager, and impetuous; the other is
simple, peaceful, and speaks but a few words in a mild and gentle
voice. The moment we attend to the voice of self crying in our
ear, we can no longer hear the modest tones of holy love. Each
speaks only of its single object. Self-love entertains us with
self, which, according to it, is never sufficiently well attended
to; it talks of friendship, regard, esteem, and is in despair at
everything but flattery. The love of God, on the other hand,
desires that self should be forgotten, that it should be trodden
under foot and broken as an idol, and that God should become the
self of espoused souls, and occupy them as others are occupied by
self. Let the vain, complaining babbler, self-love, be silenced,
that in the stillness of the heart we may listen to that other
love that only speaks when addressed.
Absolute trust the shortest road to God.
I have no doubt but that God
constantly treats you as one of his friends, that is, with
crosses, sufferings, and humiliations. The ways and means of God
to draw souls to Himself, accomplish his design much more rapidly
and effectually than all the efforts of the creature; for they
destroy self-love at its very root, where, with all our pains, we
could scarce discover it. God knows all its windings, and attacks
it in its strongest holds.
If we had strength and faith enough
to trust ourselves entirely to God, and follow Him simply
wherever He should lead us, we should have no need of any great
effort of mind to reach perfection. But as we are so weak in
faith, as to require to know all the way without trusting in God,
our road is lengthened and our spiritual affairs get behind.
Abandon yourself as absolutely as possible to God, and continue
to do so to your latest breath, and He will never desert you.
The time of temptation and distress is no time
to form resolves.
Your excessive distress is like a
summer torrent, which must be suffered to run away. Nothing makes
any impression upon you, and you think you have the most
substantial evidence for the most imaginary states; it is the
ordinary result of great suffering. God permits you,
notwithstanding your excellent faculties, to be blind to what
lies immediately before you, and to think you see clearly what
does not exist at all. God will be glorified in your heart, if
you will be faithful in yielding to his designs. But nothing
would be more injudicious than the forming of resolutions in a
state of distress, which is manifestly accompanied by an
inability to do anything according to God.
When you shall have become calm,
then do in a spirit of recollection, what you shall perceive to
be nearest the will of God respecting you. Return gradually to
devotion, simplicity, and the oblivion of self. Commune and
listen to God, and be deaf to self. Then do all that is in your
heart, for I have no fear that a spirit of that sort will permit
you to take any wrong step. But to suppose that we are sane when
we are in the very agony of distress, and under the influence of
a violent temptation of self-love, is to ensure our being led
astray. Ask any experienced adviser, and he will tell you that
you are to make no resolutions until you have re-entered into
peace and recollection. You will learn from him that the readiest
way to self-deception is, to trust to ourselves in a state of
suffering, in which nature is so unreasonable and irritated.
You will say that I desire to
prevent you doing as you ought, if I forbid your doing it at the
only moment when you are capable of it. God forbid! I neither
desire to permit nor hinder: my only wish is so to advise you
that you shall not be found wanting toward God. Now it is as
clear as day, that you would fall in that respect, if you took
counsel at the hands of a self-love wounded to the quick, and an
irritation verging upon despair. Would you change anything to
gratify your self-love, when God does not desire it? God forbid!
Wait, then, until you shall be in a condition to be advised. To
enjoy the true advantages of illumination, we must be equally
ready for every alternative, and must have nothing which we are
not cheerfully disposed at once to sacrifice for His sake.
Who has love, has all.
I have thought frequently, since
yesterday, on the matters you communicated to me, and I have
increasing confidence that God will sustain you. Though you take
no great pleasure in religious exercises, you must not neglect to
be faithful in them, as far as your health will permit. A
convalescent has but little appetite, but he must eat to sustain
It would be very serviceable to you,
if you could occasionally have a few minutes of Christian
converse with such of your family as you can confide in, and, as
to the choice, be guided in perfect liberty by your impressions
at the moment. God does not call you by any lively emotions, and
I heartily rejoice at it, if you will but remain faithful; for a
fidelity, unsustained by delights, is far purer, and safer from
danger, than one accompanied by those tender feelings, which may
be seated too exclusively in the imagination. A little reading
and recollection every day, will be the means of insensibly
giving you light and strength for all the sacrifices God will
require of you. Love Him, and I will acquit you of everything
else; for everything else will come by love. I do not ask from
you a love tender and emotional, but only that your will should
lean towards love, and that, notwithstanding all the corrupt
desires of your heart, you should prefer God before self and the
Weakness preferable to strength, and practice
better than knowledge.
I am told, my dear child in our
Lord, that you are suffering from sickness. I suffer with you,
for I love you dearly; but I cannot but kiss the hand that smites
you, and I pray you to kiss it lovingly with me. You have
heretofore abused your health and the pleasures derived from it;
this weakness and its attendant pains are the natural consequence
of such a course.
I pray God only that He may depress
your spirit even more than your body, and while He comforts the
latter according to your need, that He may entirely vanquish the
former. O how strong we are when we begin to perceive that we are
but weakness and infirmity! Then we are ever ready to believe
that we are mistaken, and to correct ourselves while confessing
it; our minds are ever open to the illumination of others; then
we are authoritative in nothing, and say the most decided things
with simplicity and deference for others; then we do not object
to be judged, and submit without hesitation to the censure of the
first comer. At the same time, we judge no one without absolute
necessity; we speak only to those who desire it, mentioning the
imperfections we seem to have discovered, without dogmatism, and
rather to gratify their wishes than from a desire to be believed
or create a reputation for wisdom.
I pray God that He may keep you
faithful to his grace, and that He who hath begun a good work in
you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. i. 6.)
We must bear with ourselves with patience and without flattery,
and remain in unceasing subjection to every means of overcoming
our thoughts and inward repugnances; we shall thus become more
pliable to the impressions of grace in the practice of the gospel.
But let this work be done quietly and peacefully, and let it not
be entered upon too eagerly, as though it could all be
accomplished in a single day. Let us reason little, but do
much. If we are not careful, the acquisition of knowledge will so
occupy this life that we shall need another to reduce our
acquirements into practice. We are in danger of believing
ourselves advanced towards perfection in proportion to our
knowledge of the way; but all
our beautiful theories, far from assisting in the death of self,
only serve to nourish the life of Adam in us by a secret delight
and confidence in our illumination. Be quit then of all trust in
your own power and in your own knowledge of the way, and you will
make a great stride towards perfection. Humility and self-distrust,
with a frank ingenuousness, are fundamental virtues for you.
Beware of the pride of reasoning; the true
guide to knowledge is love.
Your mind is too much occupied with
exterior things, and still worse, with argumentation, to be able
to act with a frequent thought of God. I am always afraid of your
excessive inclination to reason; it is a hinderance to that
recollection and silence in which He reveals Himself. Be humble,
simple, and sincerely abstracted with men; be recollected, calm,
and devoid of reasonings before God. The persons who have
heretofore had most influence with you, have been infinitely dry,
reasoning, critical, and opposed to a true interior life. However
little you might listen to them, you would hear only endless
reasonings and a dangerous curiosity, which would insensibly draw
you out of Grace and plunge you into the depths of Nature. Habits
of long standing are easily revived; and the changes which cause
us to revert to our original position are less easily perceived,
because they are natural to our constitution. Distrust them, then;
and beware of beginnings which, in fact, include the end.
It is now four months since I have
had any leisure for study; but I am very happy to forego study,
and not to cling to anything, when providence would take it away.
It may be that during the coming winter I shall have leisure for
my library, but I shall enter it then, keeping one foot on the
threshold, ready to leave it at the slightest intimation. The
mind must keep fasts as well as the body. I have no desire to
write, or speak, or to be spoken about, or to reason, or to
persuade any. I live every day aridly enough, and with certain
exterior inconveniences which beset me; but I amuse myself
whenever I have an opportunity, if I need recreation. Those who
make almanacs upon me, and are afraid of me, are sadly deceived.
God bless them! I am far from being so foolish as to incommode
myself for the sake of annoying them. I would say to them as
Abraham said to Lot: Is not the whole land before thee? If
you go to the east, I will go to the west. (Gen. xiii. 9.)
Happy he who is indeed free! The
Son of God alone can make us free; but He can only do it by
snapping every bond; and how is this to be done? By that sword
which divides husband and wife, father and son, brother and
sister. The world is then no longer of any account; but, as long
as it is anything to us, so long our freedom is but a word, and
we are as easily captured as a bird whose leg is fastened by a
thread. He seems to be free; the string is not visible; but he
can only fly its length, and he is a prisoner. You see the moral.
What I would have you possess is more valuable than all you are
fearful of losing. Be faithful in what you know, that you may be
entrusted with more. Distrust your intellect, which has so often
misled you. My own has been such a deceiver, that I no longer
count upon it. Be simple, and firm in your simplicity. "The
fashion of this world passeth away." (1 Cor. vii. 31.)
We shall vanish with it, if we make ourselves like it by reason
of vanity; but the truth of God remains forever, and we shall
dwell with it if it alone occupies our attention.
Again I warn you, beware of
philosophers and great reasoners. They will always be a snare to
you, and will do you more harm than you will know how to do them
good. They linger and pine away in discussing exterior trifles,
and never reach the knowledge of the truth. Their curiosity is an
insatiable spiritual avarice. They are like those conquerors who
ravage world without possessing it. Solomon, after a deep
experience of it, testifies to the vanity of their researches.
We should never study but on an
express intimation of Providence; and we should do it as we go to
market, to buy the provision necessary for each day's wants. Then,
too, we must study in the spirit of prayer. God is, at the same
time, the Truth and the Love. We can only know the truth in
proportion as we love--when we love it, we understand it well. If
we do not love Love, we do not know Love. He who loves much, and
remains humble and lowly in his ignorance, is the well-beloved
one of the Truth; he knows what philosophers not only are
ignorant of, but do not desire to know. Would that you might
obtain that knowledge which is reserved for babes and the
simple-minded, while it is hid from the wise and prudent. (Matt.
The gifts of God not to be rejected on account
of the channel that brings them.
I am glad you find in the person of
whom you speak, the qualities you were in search of. God puts
what He pleases where He pleases. Naaman could not be healed by
all the waters of Syria, but must apply to those of Palestine.
What does it matter from what quarter our light and help come?
The source is the important point, not the conduit; that is the
best channel which most exercises our faith, puts to shame our
human wisdom, makes us simple and humble, and undeceives us in
respect to our own power. Receive, then, whatever He bestows, in
dependence upon the Spirit that bloweth where it listeth. We know
not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth. (John iii. 8.) But we
need not seek to know the secrets of God; let us only be obedient
to what He reveals.
Too much reasoning is a great
distraction. Those who reason--the indevout wise--quench the
inward spirit as the wind extinguishes a candle. After being with
them for awhile, we perceive our hearts dry, and our mind off its
centre. Shun intercourse with such men; they are full of danger
There are some who appear
recollected, but whose appearance deceives us. It is easy to
mistake a certain warmth of the imagination for recollection.
Such persons are eager in the pursuit of some outward good, to
which they are attached; they are distracted by this anxious
desire; they are perpetually occupied in discussions and
reasonings, but know nothing of that inward peace and silence,
that listens to God. They are more dangerous than others, because
their distraction is more disguised. Search their depths, and you
will find them restless, fault-finding, eager, constantly
occupied without, harsh and crude in all their desires, sensitive,
full of their own thoughts, and impatient of the slightest
contradiction; in a word, spiritual busy-bodies, annoyed at
everything, and almost always annoying.
Poverty and spoliation the way of Christ.
Everything contributes to prove you;
but God who loves you, will not suffer your temptations to exceed
your strength. He will make use of the trial for your advancement.
But we must not look inwards with curiosity to behold our
progress, our strength, or the hand of God, which is not the less
efficient because it is invisible. Its principal operations are
conducted in secrecy, for we should never die to self, if He
always visibly stretched out his hand to save us. God would then
sanctify us in light, life, and the possession of every spiritual
grace; but not upon the cross, in darkness, privation, nakedness
and death. The directions of Christ are not, if any one will come
after me, let him enjoy himself, let him be gorgeously apparelled,
let him be intoxicated with delight, as was Peter on the mount,
let him be glad in his perfection in me and in himself, let him
behold himself, and be assured that he is perfect; on the
contrary, his words are; If any one will come after me, I
will show him the road he must take; let him deny himself,
take up his cross and follow me in a path beside precipices,
where he will see nothing but death on every hand. (Matt. xvi. 24.)
St. Paul declares that we desire to be clothed upon, and that it
is necessary, on the contrary, to be stripped to very nakedness,
that we may then put on Christ.
Suffer Him, then, to despoil self-love
of every adornment, even to the inmost covering under which it
lurks, that you may receive the robe whitened by the blood of the
Lamb, and having no other purity than his. O happy soul, that no
longer possesses anything of its own, nor even anything borrowed,
and that abandons itself to the Well-beloved, being jealous of
every beauty but his? O spouse, how beautiful art thou, when thou
hast no longer anything of thing own! Thou shalt be altogether
the delight of the bridegroom, when He shall be all thy
comeliness! Then He will love thee without measure, because it
will be Himself that He loves in thee.
Hear these things and believe them.
This pure truth shall be bitter in your mouth and belly, but it
shall feed your heart upon that death which is the only true life.
Give faith to this, and listen not to self; it is the grand
seducer, more powerful than the serpent that deceived our mother.
Happy the soul that hearkens in all simplicity to the voice that
forbids its hearing or compassionating self!
The will of God our only treasure.
I desire that you may have that
absolute simplicity of abandonment that never measures its own
extent, nor excepts anything in the present life, no matter how
dear to our self-love. All illusions come, not from such an
abandonment as this, but from one attended by secret reservations.
Be as lowly and simple in the midst
of the most exacting society as in your own closet. Do nothing
from the reasonings of wisdom, nor from natural pleasure, but all
from submission to the Spirit of life and death; death to self,
and life in God. Let there be no enthusiasm, no search after
certainty within, no looking forwards for better things, as if
the present, bitter as it is, were not sufficient to those whose
sole treasure is the will of God, and as if you would indemnify
self-love for the sadness of the present by the prospects of the
future! We deserve to meet with disappointment when we seek such
vain consolation. Let us receive everything in lowliness of
spirit, seeking nothing from curiosity, and withholding nothing
from a disguised selfishness. Let God work, and think only of
dying to the present moment without reservation, as though it
were the whole of eternity.
Abandonment not a heroic sacrifice, but a
simple sinking into the will of God.
Your sole task, my dear daughter,
is, to bear your infirmities both of body and mind. When I am
weak, says the Apostle, then am I strong; strength is
made perfect in weakness. We are only strong in God in proportion
as we are weak in ourselves; your feebleness will be your
strength if you accept it in all lowliness.
We are tempted to believe that
weakness and lowliness are incompatible with abandonment, because
this latter is represented as a generous act of the soul by which
it testifies its great love, and makes the most heroic sacrifices.
But a true abandonment does not at all correspond to this
flattering description; it is a simple resting in the love of God,
as an infant lies in its mother's arms. A perfect abandonment
must even go so far as to abandon its abandonment. We renounce
ourselves without knowing it; if we knew it, it would no longer
be complete, for there can be no greater support than a
consciousness that we are wholly given up.
Abandonment consist, not in doing
great things for self to take delight in, but simply in suffering
our weakness and infirmity, in letting everything alone. It is
peaceful, for it would no longer be sincere, if we were still
restless about anything we had renounced. It is thus that
abandonment is the source of true peace; if we have not peace, it
is because our abandonment is exceedingly imperfect.
Daily dying takes the place of final death.
We must bear our crosses; self is
the greatest of them; we are not entirely rid of it until we can
tolerate ourselves as simply and patiently as we do our neighbor.
If we die in part every day of our lives, we shall have but
little to do on the last. What we so much dread in the future
will cause us no fear when it comes, if we do not suffer its
terrors to be exaggerated by the restless anxieties of self-love.
Bear with yourself, and consent in all lowliness to be supported
by your neighbor. O how utterly will these little daily deaths
destroy the power of the final dying!
Suffering belongs to the living, not the dead.
Many are deceived when they suppose
that the death of self is the cause of all the agony they feel,
but their suffering is only caused by the remains of life. Pain
is seated in the living, not the dead parts; the more suddenly
and completely we expire, the less pain do we experience. Death
is only painful to him who resist it; the imagination exaggerates
its terrors; the spirit argues endlessly to show the propriety of
the life of self; self-love fights against death, like a sick man
in the last struggle. But we must die inwardly as well as
outwardly; the sentence of death has gone forth against the
spirit as well as against the body. Our great care should be that
the spirit die first, and then our bodily death will be but a
falling asleep. Happy they who sleep this sleep of peace!
The limits of our grace are those of our
I sympathize sincerely with the
sufferings of your dear sick one, and with the pain of those whom
God has placed about her to help her bear the cross. Let her not
distrust God, and He will proportion her suffering to the
patience which He will bestow. No one can do this but He who made
all hearts, and whose office it is to renew them by his grace.
The man in whom He operates, knows nothing of the proper
proportions; and, seeing the extent, neither of his future trials,
nor of the grace prepared to meet them, he is tempted to
discouragement and despair. Like a man who had never seen the
ocean, he stands, at the coming in of the tide, between the water
and an impassable wall of rock, and thinks he perceives the
terrible certainty that the approaching waves must surely engulf
him; he does not see that he stands within the point, at which
God, with unerring finger, has drawn their boundry-line, and
beyond which they shall not pass.
God proves the righteous as with
the ocean; he stirs it up, and makes its great billows seem to
threaten our destruction, but He is always at hand to say, thus
far shalt thou go and no farther. "God is faithful, who
will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." (1
Cor. x. 13.)
Resisting God, an effectual bar to grace.
You perceive, by the light of God,
in the depth of your conscience, what grace demands of you, but
you resist Him. Hence your distress. You begin to say within, it
is impossible for me to undertake to do what is required of me;
this is a temptation to despair. Despair as much as you please of
self, but never of God; He is all good and all powerful, and will
grant you according to your faith. If you will believe all things,
all things shall be yours, and you shall remove mountains. If you
believe nothing, you shall have nothing, but you alone will be to
blame. Look at Mary, who, when the most incredible thing in the
world was proposed to her, did not hesitate, but exclaimed; "be
it unto me according to thy word." (Luke i. 38.)
Open, then your heart. It is now so
shut up, that you not only have not the power to do what is
required of you, but you do not even desire to have it; you have
no wish that your heart should be enlarged, and you fear that it
will be. How can grace find room in so straitened a heart? All
that I ask of you is, that you will rest in a teachable spirit of
faith, and that you will not listen to self. Simply acquiesce in
everything with lowliness of mind, and receive peace through
recollection, and everything will be gradually accomplished for
you; those things which, in your hour of temptation, seemed the
greatest difficulties, will be insensibly smoothed away.
God speaks more effectually in the soul, than
Nothing gives me more satisfaction
than to see you simple and peaceful. Simplicity brings back the
state of Paradise. We have no great pleasures, and suffer some
pain; but we have no desire for the former, and we receive the
latter with thanksgiving. This interior harmony, and this
exemption from the fears and tormenting desires of self-love,
create a satisfaction in the will, which is above all the joys of
intoxicating delights. Dwell, then, in your terrestrial paradise,
and take good care not to leave it from a vain desire of knowing
good and evil.
We are never less alone than when
we are in the society of a single faithful friend; never less
deserted, than when we are carried in the arms of the All-powerful.
Nothing is more affecting than the instant succor of God. What He
sends by means of his creatures, contracts no virtue from that
foul and barren channel; it owes everything to the source. And so,
when the fountain breaks forth within the heart itself, we have
no need of the creature. "God, who at sundry times and in
divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the
prophets, hath, in these last days, spoken unto us by his Son."
(Heb. i. 1,2.) Shall we then feel any regret that the feeble
voice of the prophets has ceased? O how pure and powerful is the
immediate voice of God in the soul! It is certain whenever
Providence cuts off all the channels.
The circumcision of the heart.
Our eagerness to serve others,
frequently arises from mere natural generosity and a refined self-love;
it may soon turn into dislike and despair. But true charity is
simple, and ever the same towards the neighbor, because it is
humble, and never thinks of self. Whatever is not included in
this pure charity, must be cut off.
It is by the circumcision of the
heart that we are made children and inheritors of the faith of
Abraham, in order that we may, like him, quit our native country
without knowing whither we go. Blessed lot! to leave all and
deliver ourselves up to the jealousy of God, the knife of
circumcision! Our own hand can effect nothing but superficial
reforms; we do not know ourselves, and cannot tell where to
strike; we should never light upon the spot that the hand of God
so readily finds. Self-love arrests our hand and spares itself;
it has not the courage to wound itself to the quick. And besides,
the choice of the spot and the preparation for the blow, deaden
its force. But the hand of God strikes in unexpected places, it
finds the very joint of the harness, and leaves nothing unscathed.
Self-love then becomes the patient; let it cry out, but see to it
that it does not stir under the hand of God, lest it interfere
with the success of the operation. It must remain motionless
beneath the knife; all that is required is fidelity in not
refusing a single stroke.
I am greatly attached to John the
Baptist, who wholly forgot himself that he might think only of
Christ; he pointed to Him, he was but the voice of one crying in
the wilderness to prepare the way, he sent Him all his disciples,
and it was this conduct, far more than his solitary and austere
life, that entitled him to be called the greatest among them that
are born of women.
 The man that
looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heavens espy.--Herbert.
Pure faith cannot see the neighbor that
succeeds, as he blindly thinks, in injuring us, nor the disease
that attacks our bodies; that would be to stay its eye upon the
glass, in which it would see a thousand flaws and imperfections
that would annoy it and destroy its peace; it looks right through
and discovers God; and what He permits, it cannot but joyfully
 This seems
one of the most common as well as most serious mistakes to which
spiritual persons are liable. God gives the knowledge and desires
us to put it in practice; but the moment we see it, we are so
carried away with delight, that we forget that there is anything
else to be done; whereas we have comparatively slender reason to
rejoice until it is put in vital operation in the life. Ye see,
says the Saviour, but do not perceive; ye hear, but do not
understand. Food, lying undigested in the stomach, is not only of
no service to the body, but, if not removed, will become a
serious injury; it is only when it is assimilated and mingled
with the blood, and when it appears by its good effects in our
hands, feet, head, and trunk, that it can be said to have become
our own. To have a divine truth in the intellect, is indeed
matter of thanksgiving; but it will avail only to our
condemnation, if it be not also loved in the heart and acted in
the life. Let us remember that it is not the knowledge of the way
that God desires in us, but the practice of it; not light, but
love. For though I understand all mysteries and all knowledge--and
have not charity--I am nothing. (1 Cor. xiii. 2.)--Editor.