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§ 1. We do not here treat of all kinds of mortification or virtues; but principally such as are most proper and most necessary to be known and practised in order to an internal life.
§§ 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Several advices and observations touching virtues in general.
1. Hitherto we have treated of the first instrument and mean of perfection, to wit, Mortification; at least, so far as we conceived proper to the design of this book, that is, in order to internal prayer of contemplation. And therefore it is that we have not enlarged the discourse to comprehend universally all moral virtues (the which are mortifications to all our distempered affections), but only such as are more peculiar to religious or internal livers. For the rest the reader is referred to other books of Christian morality, which abundantly treat of that subject, the doctrine of which may be applied to the present purpose, if reflection be made on the advices which have already been given concerning the special virtues hitherto treated of. To the which I will, for conclusion of this treatise, add a few more touching virtues in general.
2. The first advice is this, that before a soul can attain to perfect contemplation it is necessary that she be adorned with all sorts of Christian virtues, not one excepted, according to the saying of the Psalmist: Ibunt de virtute in virtutem: videbitur Deus Deorum in Sion—that is, They shall go from one virtue to another, and then (and not till then) the God of gods shall be contemplated in Sion. So that if a soul make a stop at any virtue, or willingly favour herself in any inordinate affection, it will not be possible for her to ascend to the top of the mountain where God is seen.332
3. The second regards the manner of attaining to virtues; for we are not so to understand these words of the Psalmist as if a soul’s progress to perfection was by a successive gaining of one virtue after another; for example, first possessing herself of the virtue of temperance, and, having got that, then proceeding to patience, humility, chastity, &c. But they are all in the root gotten together, and we make no progress in one virtue, but withal we make a proportionable progress in all the rest. And the reason is, because charity is the root of all Christian virtues, they being only such duties as charity (which alone directs us to God, our last end) would and doth dictate to be practised on several and different occasions.
4. True it is that, either by our natural tempers or by having more frequent trials and occasions of exercising some virtues, certain passions opposite to them may be, according to the material disposition in corporal nature, more subdued and regulated than others; yet, in regard of the disposition of the spiritual soul (that is, the judgment of the mind and resolution of the will), the soul (according to the merit of the object) is equally (by an equality of proportion) inclined to all good, and equally averted from all ill. Because divine love is equally inconsistent with all mortal sins, and doth combat and subdue self-love in all its branches. Our progress, therefore, expressed in the phrase de virtute in virtutem, is to be understood to be from a lower and more imperfect degree of charity, and all its virtues, to a higher, till we come to the mount of perfection.
5. The third advice is, that this progress and increase in virtues is neither equal at all times—for the soul, by resisting stronger temptations and in virtue of more efficacious prayer, doth make greater strides and paces—neither is it always observable either by the traveller himself or others. Yea, it is neither necessary nor perhaps convenient that we should much heed the rules that are given by some for examination of our proficiency. Such inquiry seems not very suitable to humility, and probably will not produce any good effect in us; it may suffice us that we go on, and that God knows perfectly our growth in piety and love, and will most assuredly reward us proportionally, 333though we should be never so ignorant to what degree of perfection we are arrived.
6. Fourthly, all increase of sanctifying grace, by whatsoever instruments it be produced, as by regular austerities, temperance, exercises of mortification, &c., is performed according to the good internal dispositions and actuations of soul accompanying the use of them. Yea, the same may also, in a certain proportion, be affirmed even of the sacraments themselves (in adultis), the which, although, by their own intrinsical virtue, and (as the Council of Trent, sess. vii. can. 8, expresses it) ex opere operato, they do confer a peculiar grace and aid, and this, quantum est a parte Dei, at all times and on all persons that duly receive them (see sess. vii. can. 6 and 7), yet, withal, the quantity and measure of the said grace is in the same council (sess. vi. cap. 7) said to be (Secundum propriam cujusque dispositionem et coöperationem) according to the peculiar disposition and coöperation of each person respectively; that is, those that come with more (or less) perfect, intense, continued, and multiplied internal acts of faith, hope, charity, devotion, &c., do accordingly receive a more (or less) plentiful measure of sacramental grace. Now what are all these dispositions and preparations but the exercising of internal prayer? Whence appears how wonderful an influence internal prayer, both by way of merit or impetration, and likewise by a direct efficiency, hath in the producing and increase of divine virtues in the soul.
7 . Fifthly, if a soul out of the times of prayer shall in occasions (for example) of contradictions, persecutions, &c., neglect to exercise patience, she must necessarily exercise impatience, and, by consequence, will make little or no progress by her prayer; yet, if then she shall use any reasonable care, diligence, or watchfulness over herself, though not for the getting of much, yet not to lose much out of prayer, God will, by means of her prayer seriously prosecuted, infuse such a measure of grace as will cause a progress, notwithstanding frequent failings through frailty or inadvertence, &c., but it will be late ere the effects of such infusion will appear.
8. Sixthly, increase in virtue doth purely depend on the 334free grace and good pleasure of God conferring the said grace in prayer, &c., in a measure as Himself pleaseth, and also by His holy Providence, administering occasions severally of exercising several virtues, the which occasions ordinarily are not at all in our own power or disposal.
9. Seventhly, according to our progress in virtues so is our progress in prayer; and till the soul be in a very high degree purified from self-love she is incapable of that perfect degree of prayer which is called contemplation. According to that saying of our Saviour (Matt. v.), Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt; that is, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ And the reason is evident, because until the internal eye of the soul be cleansed from the mists of passion and inordinate affections, it neither will nor can fix itself upon so pure and divine an object. True it is, that in every the most imperfect degree of prayer (by which the soul is proportionally purified) God is, in some qualified sense, contemplated. But we do not apply the term Contemplation except only to the most sublime degree of prayer; the which yet is never so perfectly absolute in this life but that it may, without limitation, increase; because the soul is never so perfectly freed from the bitter fruits of original sin (ignorance and concupiscence), but there will ever remain matter and exercise for further mortification or purification.
10. Eighthly, virtues are in no other state of life so perfectly established in the depth and centre of the spirit as in a contemplative state, because all the exercises thereof do principally and directly regard the exaltation, spiritualising, and purification of the spirit by a continual application, adhesion, and union of it to God, the Fountain of light and purity.
11. Lastly, by the means of contemplative prayer in an internal life, virtues are most easily obtained, most securely possessed, and most perfectly practised. In an active life a person that aspires to perfection therein stands in need of many things to enable him for the practice of the duties disposing thereto; for the exercise of external works of charity there are needful riches or friends, &c.; and for spiritual almsgiving there is required 335learning, study, disputation, &c.; and if by the help of these there be acquired an established habit of solid charity, it is not very securely possessed in the midst of so many distractions, solicitudes, and temptations. But a contemplative life (as St. Thomas, 22 q. 182 a. i. c., observes, even from Aristotle himself) stands in need of very few things, being to itself sufficient. Such a person alone, without needing either assistance or favour from abroad, can both purchase and exercise all virtues; yea, and liberally dispense all kinds of charity to others also. For by prayer alone, exercised in solitude, he can employ and engage God’s omnipotence, wisdom, and all the treasures of His riches for the supplying all the necessities, external and internal, of His Church. The light that is gotten by prayer will be more than equivalent to long and laborious study (not sanctified with prayer) for the enabling him to discharge efficaciously a pastoral charge over souls when they shall be committed to him, though no doubt prayer will also incite to sufficient study. And in the mean time, though he were deprived of all conversations and books—yea, fettered and buried in the obscurity of a dungeon—prayer alone would be a sufficient entertainment to him. There he would find God and His Holy Spirit as present and as bountiful to him as ever; yea, the greater solitude there is, at the more freedom is the soul to run speedily and lightly in the course of virtues, for nothing doth indeed fetter her but self-love and propriety. And lastly, virtues once gotten are evidently most securely possessed in solitude, from whence all distraction and almost all temptations are excluded.
THE END OF THE SECOND TREATISE OF MORTIFICATION.336
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