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A PREFACE TO THE READER.
The Sum of the Preface.
1-8. Objections before and since the author’s death made against the publishing of this doctrine.
9-10. The first objection: Because the knowledge and practice of it belongs to few: answered.
11-15. A second objection, viz. Because suspicion may be given to Catholics of pretending to new illuminations, prejudicial to the doctrine of faith and rules of life established in the Church: answered largely, and the contrary demonstrated.
16-20. What illuminations are here meant, and how divine love, above all other things, doth most enlighten the soul.
21-22. A third objection, viz. That sectaries will here take advantage to justify their frenzies and disorders.
23-30. Four preparatory grounds laid for the clearer answering this objection.
31-32. The said objection answered. Where is contrarily proved the necessity of publishing such doctrines, as the only means to discover and disprove the false illumination of sectaries.
33-38. An exhortation to sectaries to observe the strange difference between their spirits and that of Catholics.
39-46. An explanation of certain passages in the following treatises.
47. A just request to the reader.
48. A submission of all to the See Apostolic, &c.
BELOVED CHRISTIAN READER,
Before thou proceedest to partake of what is promised thee in the frontispiece of this book, thou art entreated to permit thyself to be detained awhile in the entry. For perhaps a short delay here will make thy progress afterwards both more speedy and profitable.
2. This is to acquaint thee that the immaculate doctrine contained in this book, though it never met with any that opposed, or so much as questioned, the verities thereof, speculatively considered, yet there have not wanted some that have judged them not fit to be 8thus exposed to thy view, much doubting thou wouldst prove such an one as would make an ill use and perverse advantage from them.
3. Now the principal, yea only, point that gives some this jealousy is that which thou wilt find in the Second Section of the First Treatise, where is treated touching divine illuminations, inspirations, impulses, and other secret operations of God’s Holy Spirit in the hearts of internal lives. Concerning which the constant teaching of our Venerable Author (in brief) is this, viz. ‘That the Divine Spirit, by virtue of the said operations, is to be acknowledged our only secure Guide and Master in these secret paths of divine love, discovered in some measure in the following treatises. And consequently that the most essential, universal duty to be aspired unto by every one that pretends a desire or intention to walk in the same paths is, to give up his soul and all his faculties to God’s internal guidance and direction only, relinquishing and renouncing all other instructors and instructions, as far as they are not subordinately coöperating with this our Divine Master, for the receiving of whose celestial influences, the humble and devout scholar is obliged to prepare and dispose himself by prayer, abstraction of life, &c.; in solitude hearkening to His voice and call, and learning how to distinguish it clearly from the voice and solicitations of human reason or corrupt nature; till that by long familiarity and conversation with God, divine love alone will so clear his spiritual sight, that he will see at last no other light, nor receive motion from any other, but God only; and this in all actions, omissions, and sufferings, though in themselves of the smallest importance.’
4. This is our Venerable Author’s doctrine, everywhere in all his treatises (whatever the subject be) inculcated, and even to the wearying of the readers, continually repeated and asserted. Indeed a doctrine it is so fundamental to all his other instructions concerning prayer and mortification, &c., that the least weakening of its authority renders all the rest unprofitable.
5. But little reason there is to fear that a doctrine, which is the very soul of Christianity, can be shaken by human opposition, or disparaged by jealousy. True it is, notwithstanding, that though this fundamental verity receives testimony abundantly both from Scripture and universal tradition, though it be constantly asserted in the schools, and sprinkled everywhere in almost all mystical writers, yet scarce hath any one since the ancient fathers’ times (especially St. Augustine) so purposely, largely, and earnestly recommended it to practice. And, therefore, no great wonder it is, if such a way of delivering it hath seemed a novelty, even to those that speculatively and in theory acknowledge it to be the established 9doctrine of the Church; and whilst they willingly, and with applause, hear it asserted daily in the schools, yet meeting with it thus popularly spread, they are offended with it; I mean with the communicating it to the use and practice of the unlearned.
6. Now what it was that troubled them will appear from the only objection in the Author’s lifetime made against it, which was indeed a mere jealousy, lest this doctrine so delivered should prejudice the authority of superiors. The which objection he answered to the full satisfaction of all that were interested in the matter. The sum of which answer follows in the ninth chapter of the second section of the first treatise, and needs not to be here repeated.
7. But since his death, and especially after that, by a general unanimous agreement of all superiors among us, it had been ordained that the sum of the Author’s spiritual doctrine should, for the good of souls aspiring to contemplation, be published; but the same objection hath been renewed, and others moreover added thereto. And all of them have risen from the like ground of jealousy, not so much acknowledged to be rational by the objectors themselves (who readily subscribe to the doctrine as Catholically true and holy) as feared from others; to wit, partly from ordinary not learned Catholics, who, it is suspected, will be suspicious of a doctrine that will seem new and, however, unproper to them; but principally from strangers and enemies to the Church, especially the frantic enthusiasts of this age, who, as is feared, will conceive their frenzies and disorders justified here.
8. These things considered, both zeal to truth, duty to superiors, and charity to thee, beloved reader, obliged me before all other things to beseech thee to abstain from reading the book, unless it can be demonstrated beforehand that it was fit to come into thy hands; that the suspected inconveniences and suspicions are evidently groundless; that it would be a greater frenzy in the enthusiasts of these days, or in any seduced or seducing spirits, to claim any right in this doctrine than that which already possesses them; and, in a word, that no objections, either against the doctrine or publishing of it, either have, or, as we suppose, can rationally be devised, to make us repent the printing, or thee the reading, of the following book.
9. Among the said objections this one is scarce worthy to find place, which yet by some hath been urged against the publishing to all Christians’ view instructions about prayer and mystical practices proper to a few contemplative persons (for whom alone the Author intended them, without the least thought of having them communicated and exposed so generally): especially considering that this 10treatise discourses of sublime mystic matters, above the reach of vulgar capacities; and also, that whereas to such tender well-minded souls (as those were for whom the said treatises were meant) just liberty and condescendence were allowed in many cases, not to be permitted to others that either in the world, or else in a religious life, do walk in other ways; these, notwithstanding, will be apt to their own prejudice to make use of such liberty.
10. But surely, as it would be most unreasonable to forbid a physician to publish a book of remedies against some special diseases, for fear that some that are untouched of those diseases, or perhaps sick of the contrary, should hurt themselves with making use of medicines improper for them; or Molina the Carthusian to publish his excellent instructions for priests, lest lay persons should assume the privileges belonging to that sublime calling; or Alvarez de Paz to print his volumes about the duties and exercises of religious persons, because they are improper for seculars; so neither upon such grounds ought these instructions be hindered from being public. Neither ought any to fear lest ordinary Christians will foolishly apply to themselves the relaxations about confessions, &c., necessarily allowed to well-minded scrupulous souls that pursue contemplative ways in an abstracted life and solitude. Or that souls that live distracted, solicitous, active lives, as long as they live so, will judge themselves interested in the ways and exercises of internal contemplative livers. Or, in a word, that those who are yet but beginners, or have made but small proficiency in internal ways of the spirit, will be so foolishly presumptuous as to aspire to exercises more sublime than belong to them; the which they cannot do without receiving infinite prejudice by their indiscreet ambition. Add hereto, that on several occasions there have been used and inculcated in this book the best preventions, cautions, and provisions that possibly could be devised, against all misunderstanding and misapplication of any doctrines contained in it. To conclude, it may seem a sufficient safeguard for me to have herein the example of the V. R. F. A. C.,66Father Cressy here refers to Father Castaniza, a Spanish Benedictine, author of the Spiritual Conflict, which was the basis of that well known and most valuable work, the Spiritual Combat, drawn up by Father Scupoli, a Theatine. In addition to the Spiritual Conflict, Father Castaniza wrote five treatises entitled the Spiritual Conquest. This is a work of instructions for contemplatives. The fifth treatise contains ‘the choicest Maxims of Mystical Divinity,’ here also referred to. He died about the year 1599. Ziegelbauer says, ‘claruit ad annum 1599.’ This work has been recently edited by Canon Vaughan, O.S.B.—J.N.S. a person much esteemed for learning and piety, who hath 11not only published (in an additional treatise to The Conflict of the Soul) Instructions for Contemplation, but a great part of his Maxims (though brief) are very conformable to what is here expressed more largely.
11. The special feared inconveniences that may arise from the publishing of this doctrine touching divine inspiration, do regard partly some that live in the communion of the Church; but principally such as are strangers and enemies thereto. As for the former, it is suspected, that by urging so seriously the duty of attending to and following divine inspirations, some even of the more sober Catholics will be apt to be jealous, that the teachers and practisers of such a doctrine will seem thereby to exempt themselves in many things from the ordinary jurisdiction of prelates and magistrates, pretending to extraordinary illuminations and commissions, and to walking in mirabilibus super se, &c., by which a prejudice and contempt also may be cast upon the common orders and rules concerning faith and good manners established in the Church.
12. Now not to forestall what is copiously delivered in the second treatise (to wit, that due obedience to all kind of superiors is so far from being prejudiced by this doctrine, that it is only by this doctrine that it is perfectly established, and all possible suspicions, all imaginary cases to the contrary solved): hereto it is answered that, whereas it is said that by a pretending to divine illuminations, &c., a contempt may be cast upon the common doctrines and rules of faith and a good life, there is not the least ground for such an apprehension. For never did any spiritual mystic writer pretend to receive any new or formerly unknown lights or revelations in matters of faith, beyond what have been known and universally received in the Church. The lights which such persons by God’s gracious visits receive being only a clearer sight of ordinary mysteries; the which produces in them a firmer assent unto them, a greater love of them, an abhorring of all novelties of doctrines, and a most fervent zeal to the unity and peace of the Church, and to the reducing of all unbelievers, misbelievers, and schismatics, into its bosom and communion.
13. The like is to be said for the rules of practice, and a holy Christian conversation. They know no other but such as are common to all other Christians, which are revealed in the Gospel, and proposed by the pastors of God’s Church in councils, and in the writings of the holy fathers. The only advantage that in this regard is pretended to, and acquired, by attending to divine inspirations, is a more perfect use and a more faithful application of the ordinary precepts of holiness, or of counsels of perfection, to those 12who profess the embracing of such counsels: an extending of them further, and to more particulars, than it is possible to be taught by books or attained by study.
14. All Christians know that to blaspheme, to lie, to defraud, to be rebellious, unchaste, revengeful, &c., are sins odious to God; and that the contrary virtues are to be practised. Yea, moreover, they know that we are obliged to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength; that we ought in all things to intend His love and honour, &c. Moreover, all know that besides the essentially necessary Christian duties, there are other counsels of perfection, which belong to those upon whom God hath bestowed an extraordinary vocation and grace, enabling them to cast from them all secular anxieties and other impediments to perfect charity, and to put themselves in a condition of solitude, obedience, &c.; the which affords them the best expedients and helps for the increasing of divine love and conformity to His will, even in the smallest matters. All this in gross is known to all Christians of any reasonable capacity and good education.
15. But yet the wisest, the most subtle and learned Christians will never be able, by any human endeavours of study or meditation, to put in practice even those essential precepts after a perfect manner; that is, with an intention not only right, but also pure and deiform. And much less will they by such weak helps, be enabled to discern in a thousand particular cases and circumstances what is most perfect, most acceptable to God, and conformable to His divine will. As for example: 1. How when two good or indifferent things are proposed, to make choice or preference of that which, in the present disposition of the soul, will prove most advantageous to perfection. 2. How to spiritualise even the ordinary indifferent occurrences of our life, daily and hourly. 3. How to perceive what manner and degree of prayer is most proper and profitable to the soul in her present state. 4. Or what mortifications are in the present circumstances most advantageous. 5. Or how to discern the state, inclinations, and spiritual necessities of other souls committed to our charge. 6. Or lastly, to discover a thousand secret subtleties, close interests, and reservations of our corrupt nature, which mingle themselves, more or less, almost in all our best actions, &c. In these and a thousand like cases, not all the reading or study in the world will enable souls to carry themselves perfectly in the execution of those precepts or counsels, which in gross all know to be necessary, at least to the attaining to perfection. But a distinct actual supernatural light and grace is necessary; and this not to teach us new precepts or furnish us with new counsels, but 13circumstantially to apply those which are common and universally known. For want of which light it is that the true way to perfection is almost unknown, even to those who profess the seeking of perfection, and fill the world with books and instructions about it.
16. By what other means, then, is such light to be had? Surely by no other but by the exercise of divine love, which is most perfectly performed in internal prayer, in attention to and union with God in spirit. What an expert, persuading, and subtle master love is, beyond study or consideration, we see even in natural and secular businesses. One that is immersed in sensual love to any person, has no need of instructions or books to teach him the art of loving. We see how skilful on a sudden such an one becomes in the ways how to please the person beloved. He loses not, neither out of ignorance nor negligence, the least opportunity to ingratiate himself. He understands the mind and intention of the other by the least signs; the motion of a hand, the cast of an eye is sufficient to inform him, and set him on work to attempt anything, or procure anything that may content the party. The like subtlety and perspicacity we may see in those earthy souls which cleave with an earnest affection unto riches. What subtle ways do they find out to increase their wealth! Such trifling inconsiderable things they make use of for that purpose, as another would not take notice of, or could not see how to make profit by them. They have almost a prophetical spirit to foresee dangers where none are, and advantages probable or possible to happen many years after.
17. Now how comes it to pass that the eyes of love are so quick-sighted? Surely by this: that where love to any particular object is predominant, it subdues all other affections to all other objects, which would distract the thoughts, and seduce the will from contemplating and adhering to the thing so beloved.
18. Upon such grounds, therefore, as these it is, that St. Augustine calls Divine Love (Luminosissimam Charitatem) most full of light, and most enlightening. For a soul that truly loves God with a love worthy of Him, having the mind cleared from all strange images, and the will purified from all strange affections, is thereby enabled purely to contemplate God without any distraction at all. And being desirous in all things to please Him, knows how to make advantage of all occurrences. Light and darkness, consolations and desolations, pains and pleasures, all these contribute to the advancing of this love. Yea, there is nothing so indifferent, or, in its own nature, so inconsiderable, but that such a soul can perceive how use may be made of it to please God thereby.
19. Now since pure love is exercised immediately to God only 14in pure prayer, by which alone the spirit is united to Him, hence it is that prayer is the only efficacious instrument to obtain supernatural light, according to the saying of David: Accedite ad Deum, et illuminamini: Approach unto God (by prayer), and (ye shall) be enlightened.77 Ps. xxxiii. 6. And hence also it is, that the same holy prophet so earnestly and frequently (above twenty times in one Psalm, 118) prays for such light to understand and discover the wonderful things of God’s Law. And what were those wonderful things? Surely not to be informed that murder and adultery were sins; or generally that God was to be loved with the whole soul; for much more knowledge he had than this before he prayed. But being desirous to give himself wholly to God, and to perform His will alone in all things, he so often makes use of prayer for the obtaining an extraordinary light (to be had no other way but by prayer) that he might thereby be enabled to discover and find out the Divine Will in all manner of cases and doubtful circumstances.
20. Now only such inspirations and such illuminations as these do spiritual persons pretend to by the means of prayer and attending to God. And if they do exercise prayer with a due fervour and constancy, these they shall most certainly enjoy, and that in such a measure that whereas the greatest part of ordinary good Christians are so dim-sighted as to see the Divine Will only in circumstances where there is a necessary obligation (so that they spend the far greatest part of their lives in actions that do no way advance them in Divine Love, being wrought chiefly in virtue of the principle of self-love and interests of nature), those that are perfectly internal livers, being clouded by no vain images, and distracted by no inferior affections, do see the Divine Will clearly in the minutest affairs, which they accordingly make advantage of to improve themselves in the love of God. And, according to the degrees of love, so proportionably are the degrees of light. And thus, I suppose, the pretended inconveniences suspected to flow from the publishing of this doctrine will appear to be only pretended and causelessly feared.
21. But the other objection at first sight seems more considerable, as implying a far greater and more certain inconvenience and danger that may ensue upon the publishing of this doctrine concerning divine inspirations, illuminations, and calls. For thus they argue. It is to be feared that the fanatic sectaries which now swarm in England more than ever, will be ready to take advantage from hence to justify all their frenzies and disorders; all which they impute with all confidence to divine inspirations, illuminations, and 15impulses. For can we forbid them to practise what we ourselves teach to be a Christian duty? And yet it is apparent what fearful and execrable effects the practice of this pretended duty doth produce among them. It was by inspiration, say they, that their progenitors did break out of the Church; and by inspiration they do still introduce endlessly new fancies and practices. It is by inspiration that they endanger the ruin of Christianity itself by infinite schisms and pestilent reformations. It is by inspiration that they employ the Gospel to destroy the Gospel; from thence preaching heresies in churches and chambers, sedition in states, rebellion against princes and prelates; so destroying all order, unity, and peace everywhere. These things considered, what can be more reasonable than that we should take heed how we furnish them thus with arms to maintain themselves, and to fight against God and His Church?
22. This is the objection which, though it have a fearful show, yet, being well examined, it will prove no less weakly grounded than the former. For the demonstrating, therefore, of the inconsequence of it, I will, by way of preparation, lay down these following undeniable principles, briefly mentioned before, viz.
23. First, that divine inspirations are so absolutely necessary in precepts for the avoiding of sin, and in counsels for the gaining of perfection, that without them no action of ours can be good or meritorious. Yea, the duties of obligation which we perform, or counsels of perfection freely obeyed by us, are only so far acceptable to God as they proceed from His inspirations and motions of His Holy Spirit. This is not only an undoubted verity, but one of the most fundamental verities of the Christian religion, which attributes all good in us to the Divine Grace. And what is grace but the divine inspiration of love spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, as St. Augustine saith? To this verity give evident witness those expressions of the Church in her public devotions ‘Da, Domine, famulis tuis, ut quæ a te jussa agnovimus, implere cœlesti inspiratione valeamus;’ that is, ‘Grant, O Lord, unto Thy servants, that those things which we acknowledge to have been commanded by Thee, we may, by Thy heavenly inspiration, accomplish.’ And again: ‘Auge populi tui vota placatus; quia in nullo fidelium nisi ex tua inspiratione proveniunt quarumlibet incrementa virtutum;’ that is, ‘Increase in mercy, O Lord, the desires of Thy servants; for not the least progress in any virtues can be made by any of Thy faithful servants by any other means, but only by Thy (divine) inspirations.’
24. The second ground is consequent on the former, viz. that 16since such absolute necessity there is of divine inspirations, the necessity obliging us to correspond unto them is, and must needs be, equal. For, from no other root, but the neglect of this obligation, doth or can proceed all our mischief. The guilt of such neglect is so much the greater inasmuch as the gift of God’s Holy Spirit imprinted in the hearts of His servants is of such an active nature that, were it not that the spirit of corrupt nature, cherished by us, doth deafen its call and weaken its efficacy, it would continually, being wakened by every occasion, incite us to love God only, and to raise up our souls to Him. Now by such neglect, we are said in Holy Scriptures to contristate the Holy Ghost; and by oft contristating Him we shall, in the end, come to quench Him. And the first indignation of God against such negligent despisers of His holy inspirations and calls is powerfully expressed in those words of his: Quia vocavi et renuistis, &c.: Because I have called, and ye refused, I stretched forth My hand, and there was none that regarded, I also will laugh at your destruction, and I will mock when that which ye did fear shall happen unto you, &c. Then shall they call on Me, and I will not hear: they shall rise early, and they shall not find Me (Prov. i. 24-28). Now though it be not indeed a mortal sin to resist the motion of the Divine Spirit inciting us to actions which are not of essential obligation, yet so doing we do contristate God’s Spirit, and more indispose ourselves afterwards to observe and follow its directions. And mortal sins are seldom rushed into upon the sudden: they begin with lesser resistances, by which the mind is more obscured and less capable to obey it in greater matters. But as for perfect souls, they are in continual attendance and obedience thereto, being in continual prayer, or in good works and exercises begun and performed in virtue of prayer, and also accompanied by prayer.
25. The third preparatory ground follows, which is this: that since these so necessary internal inspirations must necessarily be hearkened to and corresponded with, and since there may be false suggestions, either of the devil or of our corrupt nature, which may counterfeit or subtly pretend to a divine original, therefore it is necessary that some possible, yea satisfactory, means should be afforded how to distinguish between true and false inspirations. For otherwise we shall have an impossible obligation to obey we know not whom, nor what. We shall be in as much danger to be actuated by the devil, and used as instruments of his illusions, as of the saving influxes of God’s Holy Spirit; and consequently shall not be able to distinguish the way between heaven and hell.
26. Neither will it suffice to say, that we do sufficiently perform 17God’s will when we perform the commands of God expressed clearly in Scripture, likewise the precepts of the Church, and of all our lawful superiors. For neither will the doing of these things without an interior influx of grace avail us, since the devil can be content, yea will suggest the exercise of the greatest virtues to hearts which he knows will intend only the satisfaction of natural pride, or the interests of self-love, in them. And, besides, neither can any of these external rules extend to all our actions, so as to regulate them in order to contemplation and perfection.
27. The fourth and last ground to be premised is this: that since it is necessary to be enabled to distinguish the true inspirations of God from the false suggestions of our enemy, the only means imaginable that can be proper, natural, and efficacious to obtain such a supernatural light to discern God’s will in all things is pure spiritual prayer exercised by a soul living an abstracted, internal, recollected life, spent in a continual attendance on God, &c.
28. This is a way suitable to reason, conformable to Scriptures and the doctrine of the holy fathers, and delivered both by ancient and modern mystic authors, as might copiously be demonstrated if there were any cause to think, that to pray perfectly, and by prayer to obtain divine grace, were suspicious exercises to any. In a word, this is a way, the which practised according to the instructions here delivered, all manner of good and no possible inconvenience can flow from it.
29. Here is no pretending to new or strange revelations: no walking in mirabilibus super se: no zealous seditious reformations, nor the least prejudice done or intended to peace, unity, humility, obedience, or any other divine virtue. Yea, on the contrary, all these heavenly graces are hereby not only fortified and increased, but by no other means can be perfectly obtained.
30. And indeed, since in a world of passages in Holy Scriptures we find ourselves obliged to a double duty, the one whereof perhaps in popular judgments seems to entrench upon the other, and yet neither of them is in due place and circumstances to be omitted, namely, obedience both to God’s Holy Spirit inwardly directing, and also to superior outwardly commanding; by what other way can we reconcile such seemingly different and, as it may fall out, contrary precepts, but by joining this doctrine to that concerning outward obedience? Which is here done, and done without the least prejudice to either; yea manifestly to the advantage of both in their due circumstances. If, then, for any outward carnal respects, we shall conceal or discountenance this most necessary duty of following the inspirations of God, we shall efface the proper character 18of God’s servants, who are said to be such as are led by the Spirit of God,88Rom. viii. 14. and that by the unction are taught in all things.991 John ii. 27. Again, if, on pretence of following inspirations and internal lights which cannot be so absolutely certain, we shall transgress the most evident certain commands of lawful superiors, which are, therefore, God’s also, there would quickly follow an end of all order, peace, and government. What other means, therefore, is left to comply with both these, but to obey God both ways; that is, commanding most certainly when His will is revealed by superiors; and also very securely when, in other internal things, or which tend to perfection, without the least wrong, yea to the great advantage of superiors, He doth communicate His light and directions to us? So as that saying of the Apostles with which they silenced the whole Jewish Sanhedrim, namely, that God is rather to be obeyed than man,1010Acts iv. 19. commanding contrary to God, holds only when it can evidently be demonstrated (as the Apostles then did by miracles) that such a command did indeed come from God, or that the thing commanded by man is certainly unlawful.
31. These things considered, in all reason we ought to be so far from being deterred from publishing such instructions as these, because forsooth the frantic spirits of this age do falsely make pretended inspirations the cause and ground of all the miseries and mischiefs of late happening in our nation, &c., that for this very reason and motive every one ought to publish such wholesome doctrines, the which are the only possible means to undeceive them. For what other way does there remain to convince them of their errors and seductions, dangerous to all mankind, but most certainly pernicious to their own souls? Shall we tell them that there are no inspirations at all? We shall, in so doing, betray the Christian religion. Shall we say, though there be inspirations, yet they are never to be marked, never obeyed nor complied withal? Besides the ridiculous falseness of the assertion, which will expose us to their most just contempt and hatred, they will overwhelm us with unanswerable texts of Scripture and passages from the holy fathers. What other thing then can be done, but that (acknowledging both that there are inspirations, and that we are obliged to correspond unto them) we should inform those unhappy souls how to dispose themselves so as to be out of danger of diabolical illusions, and to be in a capacity of receiving inspirations truly divine? As likewise with what caution and prudence, but withal with what fidelity, they ought to comply with them. But especially we ought to demonstrate and inculcate this fundamental verity, that the general 19and most certain precepts of humility, obedience, unity, and peace must never receive any prejudice by any pretended inspirations or illuminations; since those which are truly from God do establish and increase all these virtues; yea, that the external order, authority, and subordination established by God in His Church (by which alone it becomes one body, and not a monstrous heap of unlike, unproportionable members, fighting with and devouring one another) must be the rule by which to examine, and the judge to pronounce sentence for or against all manner of inspirations.
32. Therefore, instead of a human fruitless policy of hiding such divine fundamental practical truths as these, let us sincerely, faithfully, and plentifully teach them. And though it can never be prevented but that the devil will suggest to proud, ambitious, covetous, or sensual spirits to draw poison from the most perfect doctrines of Catholic Faith, yet then at least he and they will be the less able to seduce well-meaning souls to join with them; yea, by God’s grace and benediction upon His truth faithfully taught, they will lose many such already seduced, when all their pretended lights being confronted before the Sun of divine verity and holiness, will either vanish quite away, or manifestly discover themselves to be the sulphurous gloomy lights of such wandering falling stars as are mentioned by St. Jude, to whom the tempest of darkness is reserved for ever.1111Jude 13.
33. Oh, therefore, that it were God’s blessed will that they would be persuaded to examine themselves and their instincts by such characters, such signs so manifestly Christian, holy, perfect, and secure as are here contained in this treatise, and accordingly judge of their and our inspirations! 1. In the first place, here the only proper disposition towards the receiving of supernatural irradiations from God’s Holy Spirit is an abstraction of life, a sequestration from all businesses that concern others, and an attendance to God alone in the depth of the spirit; whereas their lights never come more frequently than when either being alone they yield to discontented, unquiet passions and murmurings about the behaviour and actions of others; or, when in close meetings and conspiracies, they vent such passions by invectives against the governors of the Church or State. 2. The lights here desired and prayed for are such as do expel all images of creatures, and do calm all manner of passions, to the end that the soul, being in a vacuity, may be more capable of receiving and entertaining God in the pure fund of the spirit. Whereas their lights fill them with all tumultuous disquieting images and phantasms concerning the supposed miscarriages of all others 20but themselves: and not only heighten their passions, but urge them to most terrible desolating effects. 3. The prayer here acknowledged to be the most effectual instrument to procure divine light is a pure, recollected, intime prayer of the spirit. Whereas the prayer they glory in is only an acquired ability and sleight to talk earnestly to God before others, and oft thereby to communicate their passions and discontents to their brethren. 4. Here are no new speculative verities or revelations of mysteries pretended: no private newly-found-out interpretations of Scripture bragged of. Whereas amongst them every day produces a new fancy, which must gather new company. 5. Here the established order of God’s Church, and the unity essential thereto, is not prejudiced. Yea, the inspirations expected and obtained by pure internal prayer do more firmly and unalterably fix souls under this obedience, and to this order and unity; insomuch as whatsoever pretended lights do endanger the dissolving of unity, or do cross lawful authority, or shall be rejected by it, they are presently suspected and extinguished. Whereas those men’s lights teach them nothing so much as to contemn and oppose all external authority, and to dissipate unity, dispersing the body of Christianity into innumerable sects and conventicles. 6. Our lights teach us to attend only to God and our own souls, and never to interest ourselves in any care or employment about others, till evidently God’s inspirations force us, and external authority obliges us thereto. Whereas their lights render them incapable of solitude, and thrust them abroad to be reformers of others, being themselves impatient of all reformation and contradiction. 7. Our lights make us to fear and avoid all supereminence and judicature, all sensual pleasures, desires of wealth, honours, &c. Whereas their lights engage them violently and deeply in all these carnal and secular ways, and (for the attaining to these) in tumults, sedition, bloodshed, and war; in a word, in all manner of actions and designs most contrary to the spirit of Christianity. 8. And, lastly, our lights, if they should chance sometimes to be mistaken by us, no harm at all would accrue to others, and not any considerable prejudice to ourselves; because, as hath been said, the matters in which they direct us are in their nature indifferent, and are ordered only towards a more perfect loving of God, and withdrawing us from creatures. Whereas all the miseries, and almost all the disorders and enormous vices, of the nations are the effects of their misleading lights.
34. Thus stands the case between Catholic inspirations and the pretended inspirations of sectaries. Such is that spirit of charity and peace, and so divine are the effects of it directing the minds of 21good, humble, obedient, and devout Catholics; and such is the spirit of disorder, revenge, wrath, rebellion, &c., and so dismal are the effects of that spirit wherewith self-opinionated, presumptuous, frantic sectaries are agitated! What resemblance, what agreement can there be between these two? This evil spirit, though it sacrilegiously usurps the name, yet it does not so much as counterfeit the operations of the Good One. Or if with the name it do sometimes seem to counterfeit some outward resemblances, and to some persons show demure looks, &c., yet the equivocation and hypocrisy is so gross and palpable that they must put out their eyes that perceive it not.
35. Shall we, then, extinguish, and in some sort exorcise, the good Divine Spirit, for fear it should raise up the evil one with it? Or rather shall we not confidently assure ourselves that, upon the appearing of the Good One, the evil one will either vanish, or the hideousness of it will affright all from hearkening to it? Shall we forbid the sun to rise, because in some unclean, rotten marshes some fogs will arise with it? We may as well annul the Sacraments, forbid prayer, extinguish the Scriptures, &c.; for from all these the devil has maliciously taken advantage to pervert and damn thousands of souls.
36. No doubt it is but that among those seduced and seducing people great numbers there are who, if they were charitably instructed in such ways of discerning spirits, they would be surprised and would start to see to what kinds of directors and guides they have unwaringly committed their souls. If such as these could be persuaded (and I beseech God they may), even whilst they are yet out of the Church, for a while to suspend the pursuance of their busy designs and reforming of others, and retiring themselves into solitude, would allow themselves the leisure to turn their eyes inward into their own spirits, and practise as well as they can the humble, self-renouncing, resigned way of spiritual prayer taught in this book, thereby to procure from God such lights as then may be trusted to, neither they nor we should ever repent that the publishing such doctrines as these gave them a happy occasion to do so.
37. And what greater satisfaction can Catholics have in their ways! And what greater advantage can they have over all those that are out of the Church than this proof made good by universal experience, viz. that whosoever sincerely and constantly gives himself to the practice of such perfect prayer as is here taught, if he be already a Catholic, he will most certainly ever remain so; and if he be not yet in the Church, he will be afraid of remaining his own pastor and guide? For never did any Catholic that exercised 22spiritual prayer cease to be a Catholic till he first ceased so to pray. And the spirit of such prayer, in any perfection, never rested upon any soul that was out of the Catholic Church.
38. And this, I suppose, may suffice not only to justify the truth and innocency of this our doctrine concerning divine inspirations, &c., but also the lawfulness, yea conveniency, yea even the necessity of publishing it to the world; and this for those very reasons wherewith others would deter us. For the objectors are afraid of the publication of it, lest frantic sectaries should think themselves justified in their pretences; and, on the contrary, I conceive the publication necessary, lest they should think themselves justified in their pretences, which, till they see how unlike to true divine lights and inspirations theirs are, they may have some show for. I do not intend, when I call it our doctrine, to appropriate it to any person or community; for it is the very same that hath in all ages been taught by all saints experienced in internal ways, as will be demonstrated by infinite testimonies ancient and modern, if God shall engage us to such a labour by the opposition of any one. True it is, that the pious and sublime Author of the treatises here abridged hath (doubtless by the guidance and assistance of a supernatural light) spent more thoughts about this subject, and taken more pains in encouraging well-minded souls to fit themselves for the receiving of such light, in distinguishing it from false lights, and in showing the blessed effects of it, &c., than perhaps any other author formerly did. And that is all. For the doctrine in substance is as old as Christianity itself, and cannot seem strange or new but only to such to whom in these days antiquity seemeth the greatest novelty.
39. Having thus, by declaring the insufficiency of these objections against the publishing of the following instructions, opened the barriers to give this book a free scope to range abroad at liberty; and my only intention being (for God’s glory) to benefit thy soul, dear reader; for as for the mean or sinister ends of gaining credit or esteem with others thereby, the ambition is so unworthy of my profession, and withal so poor and unreasonable, considering that I can appropriate nothing to myself but a little pains in transcribing and digesting another man’s labours, that I cannot think myself liable to any suspicion with thee in that regard; therefore, to the end I may, according to the utmost of my ability, facilitate the receiving good to thy spirit hereby, though I have no more objections to answer, yet by conversing with certain pious and learned persons to whose perusal and judgment this book was presented. having found that some few passages in it were not so very clearly expressed, but that even an uninterested and dispassionate reader 23might, perhaps, stop a little at them, I thought it expedient to let thee, good reader, be acquainted what satisfaction I gave to them.
40. One point that seemed to require explanation is that (1st treat. 2d sec. 2d chap.) where is treated of what care a spiritual disciple ought to take in the choice of a fit director. For to leave a matter of such importance to the election of an inexperienced, and perhaps young and ignorant, soul, seemed to them neither convenient nor prudent. Besides that in religious communities such a permission would be an infringing of all due order and submission to superiors. But hereto was replied: 1. That religious persons were expressly excepted in the book; 2. and as for others, this very same advice was long since given by the Bishop of Geneva, Avila, &c. True it is, notwithstanding, that there may oft be found in the world many good devout souls that yet are not very capable of making a good choice. However, even such, as far as is allowed, ought to use their best endeavours, hoping that God will bless such their care for the advancement of their spirits. Notwithstanding such ought withal to take heed that from too nice a curiosity in choosing, there do not follow any disquiet in the families where they live, if several persons should be zealous each for a particular director; as St. Jerome chides a mother and a daughter that upon such an occasion separated from one another. Therefore in such a case a good soul that will prefer peace before contenting her mind may, of all others, rely upon God, assuring herself that He will in a special manner assist and conduct her, supplying all other wants. And particularly such an extraordinary divine assistance may be most confidently expected by well-disposed souls in religious communities, where such freedom of choosing is not permitted. For, as Rusbrochius saith, God will rather send an Angel from heaven than that such humble, obedient, and sincere souls relying upon Him shall want due helps. Therefore, such as forbear a solicitous searching after a director, either for the preventing inconveniences, or out of an humble, sincere apprehension of the danger of erring in the choice, or a religious regard to the prejudice it might cause in a community to peace and good order, &c., such may well hope that God will not permit them to be losers thereby. Yea, moreover, such as in the fore-named cases think they have a true occasion, and that they may justly do it for the quieting of their consciences, resolving of their doubts, &c., had need be very wary that they proceed sincerely, and that they really seek their spiritual profit, and not natural contentment. For, as our Venerable Father Baker in a certain place adviseth, it is not sufficient to any souls, that it is permitted by the laws of the Church at certain times to require a 24special director (upon a consideration of the expedience and necessity that some souls in some circumstances may have), but they are to consider whether their case have these circumstances, and whether they do truly make use of the said permission for the right end.
41. A second point in the same chapter supposed to require explanation was that assertion, that a devout soul once set in a good and proper way of prayer, after she has made some progress in it, ought not to have recourse ordinarily to a director, but that she should practise the following of God’s directions, &c. On the contrary, it was supposed that until a soul have made some considerable progress in the prayer of the will, she would not be subject to illusions, and, therefore, had thenceforward most need of advice from a prudent guide. But this difficulty is cleared towards the latter end of the third treatise, where it is taught that in the case and peril of illusion upon an opinion of some extraordinary illuminations, &c., it is necessary that souls, though never so much advanced, should distrust their own judgment, and never presume to add belief unto, and much less put in execution anything suggested by, any illuminations (true or pretended) without the advice and consent of superiors and directors. But, as for the ordinary practices of an internal life, as prayer and mortification, &c., it is very requisite that souls should be taught, as soon as may be, to quit an assiduous dependence on external guides, from whence would follow nothing but solicitudes, distractions, &c. There is a parallel advice, though in somewhat a different case in the 3d treat. 4th sec., 3d chap. §§ 36, 37, where, in a discourse concerning rapts and the like extraordinary favours, it is said of perfect souls that they may judge of those matters by their own supernatural light, &c., and that they are not so absolutely obliged to resign their judgments and wills to others as utterly to neglect their own proper call received from God, &c. By which words it is not meant that any souls, though never so perfect, should be exempted from the obligation of submission to superiors, judging or ordaining, concerning such divine favours; but only that such perfect souls need not so often have recourse for advice about such matters, but may proceed by that divine light communicated to them; whereas the imperfect ought neither to yield belief nor execution further than they have advice and order for. Now who would find fault with St. Teresa, St. Catherine of Sienna, &c., if they should forbear consultations after every rapt of revelation, having formerly been sufficiently warranted by superiors, &c.?
42. In consequence to the story of V. R. F. Balthasar Alvarez’s account given of his prayer to his general (mentioned in the 3d 25treatise, 1st sect. 7th chap. at the end), where a relation is made of the general’s orders, requiring all superiors to direct and assist the younger religious among them, so as that they might highly esteem and in their practice follow the manner of prayer most suitable to their institute, and prescribed in their exercises, I think myself obliged to acquaint thee, dear reader, that by two books published of late by two Rev. Fathers of the Society, and perused by me since the writing and printing of that passage, I find that the said orders of the general are not, at least of late, so rigidly interpreted as formerly they were.
43. The authors of the said books written in French are R. F. Ant. Civorá and R. F. Andr. Baiole, in which the whole doctrine of this book, especially concerning the excellency of affective prayer beyond discoursive, is most copiously and strongly asserted. Yea and moreover the instructions concerning the necessity of attending to and following divine inspirations, as likewise ways prescribed to distinguish them from false suggestions of the devil or corrupt nature, are so largely, clearly, and even in the very phrases of this book delivered by the former of the two in his book called Les Secrets de la Science des Saints (tr. iii. cap. ix. from p. 402 to p. 486), that, it not being credible that he had seen our V. F. A. Baker’s writings, we may rationally infer that what he writes with such extraordinary exactness proceeded from a deep and experimental knowledge of these internal and secret paths of contemplation.
44. So that no doubt there are many devout persons in the society who, not being engaged in many external employments, and enjoying consequently both a solitude and liberty of spirit greater perhaps than will be afforded in many communities by profession purely contemplative, do permit themselves to the divine conduct, and make wonderful progress in these divine ways.
45. True indeed it is that the other author (F. Andr. Baiole) seems to maintain that the spiritual exercises, according to the intention of St. Ignatius, will, by practice, become a prayer of contemplation and mystic union, an assertion in which I have not yet found any to join with him. But, however, he shows in his book (styled La Vie Intárieure ) that he had a true notion of the prayer of mystic union. And that being so, he may freely enjoy the contentment of the former supposition.
48. Besides these, there may possibly be other passages that thou also, devout reader, if thou hadst had the perusal before the impression, wouldst perhaps have given us occasion to explain or interpret more at large. If it prove so, all we can do is to refer 26them to thine own candour and charity, promising upon a re-impression all satisfaction possible; and in the mean time requesting that our own good intention and the judgment of our superiors and approvers may be our safeguard. Only one suit we make unto thee (most reasonable and just), which is, that thou wouldst not proceed to the censure of any passage till thou hast read the whole book. The same points and matters do occasionally come in several places, and it would have been too great a tiring of thee to repeat in every place all the circumstances and phrases necessary for explanation or prevention of suspicions and objections. If it be for thine own good principally that thou art a reader, we shall stand in little need of preparing thee with apologies. And if it be for our hurt that thou art a reader, we thank God we are not guilty of the least ill design to make us fear, except only in thy behalf. All that we have to say is, God Almighty make thee (whosoever thou art) a practiser of the good that thou wilt certainly find in the following treatises; and then we shall have no cause to apprehend either for thee or ourselves.
47. Thus, truly, for aught appears to me, devout reader, thou mayest freely, and without the least apprehension of any danger, peruse and make thy best benefit of these following instructions; the which, moreover, as thou seest, have passed the censure and deserved the approbations of several pious and learned persons. Whatever opinion thou shalt, after reading, have of them, at least I will oblige thee to acknowledge that here (in the treatises that follow) is no manner of covert indirect meaning or design (according to the fashion nowadays) to broach any bold new-fangled inventions, and much less of maintaining unduly what shall be duly found fault with, since they are exposed to the common view by one that (as he hitherto hath so) here he doth (and by God’s grace ever will) submit himself and his writings to the authority and judgment of the See Apostolic in the first place, and next to all other his superiors. This I profess, as is the duty of an humble, obedient son of the Church. And this, if I did not moreover expressly signify with reference to the doctrines contained in the following treatises, I could not avoid some degree of guilt and imputation of not delivering candidly and faithfully our Venerable Author’s sense, who in many places protesteth the like submission of all his writings to all lawful authority whatsoever.
Farewell, dear reader. Oremus invicem, ut salvemur. AMEN2728
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