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WE MUST DAILY CALL TO MIND THE MANIFOLD SINS WHICH WE HAVE COMMITTED.
AND every day, or certainly very often, when occasion shall serve, let him recollect himself; and with a profound humility, firmly proposing amendment, let him call to mind and particularly confess before our Lord the sins of his forepassed life, and especially those by which he hath grievously offended the divine goodness. But it will be indiscreet to dwell long upon those that belong to the frailty of the flesh, lest the remembrance of them, and the longer treating of the old sin, breed a new sin by unlawful delight. In which confession, contrition, and sensible devotion, let him accustom himself to lament more that he hath behaved himself contumeliously and ungratefully towards his Father and Creator, than that he hath brought himself in danger of eternal punishment47
In the forms of lamentation and godly complaints which we have prescribed, he need not care for running over many sentences. But let him take what he will, and as many as he will, observing no order if he make choice of only one, two, or three, whichsoever they be, he may repeat again and again, he shall do well. We would that he should do freely according to his devotion, and always avoiding confusion and perplexity. I know one, that being externally busied in his conversion to our Lord’s Passion among chaste discourses took delight to call to mind these few words, or the like: O good JESUS, O pious Pastor, O sweet Master! good JESUS, have mercy on me! pious Pastor, direct me! sweet Master, teach me! my Lord, help me! Another there was that did take delight to run over, sometimes more, sometimes fewer, of the aforesaid lamentations, and express them in diversity of words according to his affection. Let our young beginner, as I have said, be free in these things, and let him stir himself to compunction and diligence in his spiritual purpose by meditating, if he please, upon death, purgatory, judgement, hell, and heaven.
Which kind of meditation, by how much the 48nearer it draweth to liberal fear and the love of God, by so much it is the more acceptable to our Lord, and more effectual for the purifying of the soul. Again, by how much the more it participateth of base and servile fear, by so much it is the less profitable. By liberal fear we fear to sin, lest we offend our most bountiful Lord God, and so lose His favour and familiarity. By servile fear we fear to do ill, lest we should undergo damnation and punishment. Nevertheless, it is good to be withdrawn from sinning by servile fear, but so that we stay not there, but pass on to liberal fear. In meditating on eternal glory, let him go thus, or in the like manner, to work: Oh, how blessed is the heavenly Jerusalem, the walls whereof consist of most precious stones; the gates thereof .shine with the most divine pearls; the streets whereof are paved with most pure gold; the gardens similarly being decked with flowers most incomprehensibly flourishing. There the sound of joy is perpetual; there the canticle of gladness is ever sung by an unwearied choir; there the rejoicing of exultation is always renewed; there the instruments of the Saints do always resound; there cinnamon and balm incessantly breathe forth 49an unspeakable odour of sweetness; there is peace and rest overcoming all sense; there is temperateness and calmness beyond all human reach; there is eternal day and one spirit of all; there is sure security, secure eternity, eternal tranquillity, quiet happiness, happy sweetness, and sweet mirth; there the just shall shine as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Oh, what happiness is it to be among the choirs of Angels, to have perpetual fellowship with the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, with the holy Confessors and Virgins, and with the most glorious Mother of God! Not to fear, not to be sorrowful, not to be in anguish, not to be grieved, not to be troubled with tediousness, to endure no labour, no impediment, no loathsomeness, no necessity! Oh, what a wealth of consolation, what a sea of delights, what an abundance of joys, what profundity of most pure pleasure will it be to behold that incircumscriptible light, to see that most amiable brightness, to see that unspeakable glory of the most high Trinity, to see the God of Gods in Sion, to see Him not a riddle, but face to face, to see also the glorified Humanity of the only-begotten God! For if the visible bravery of the heavens be a 50beautiful sight, or to behold the glittering clearness of the stars, to see the glorious beauty of the sun, to see the shining of the pale-faced moon, to consider the grateful light of the air, to contemplate the elegant neatness of birds, flowers, grass, and colours, to listen to the sweet chanting of the nightingales and larks, to hear the melodious harmony of harp and lute, to smell the fragrant roses and lilies, to draw the breath that spices and perfume send forth, to taste the deliciousness of divers palate-pleasing fruits; if, I say, there be so great pleasure in these things, what a torrent of most sincere delight will it be perfectly to contemplate that immense beauty, and perfectly to taste that infinite sweetness from whence all beauty, all sweetness of things created floweth down to us. The spring-tide representeth unto us the state of eternal felicity, and the future resurrection; for when we see heaven, earth, trees, and all things else with a certain new grace to be decked with admirable ornaments; notwithstanding, there is greater difference between that which it representeth than between noon and midnight. Blessed, therefore, yea, thrice blessed, is that heavenly Jerusalem where nothing wanteth that may 51please, and whence all things are banished that may displease, where Almighty God is happily praised for ever. Let him learn purely to frequent the joys of this supernal city, to love and desire them, yet not so much for his own profit, as for the profit and honour of God. Although, indeed, the meditation of eternal life may be more sincerely practical by him that hath been a proficient in internal conversation, than by him that hath scarcely attained to the beginning of his own mortification, and knoweth better how to seek himself than God. In our above-related meditation let a novice exercise himself continually for the space of one, three, or six months, yea, for a whole year or more; until he perceive within himself an absolute contempt of the world and himself, and that he beginneth to feel the fervent purpose of a spiritual life to take root in him. Some are with more difficulty, some more easily turned to the better. And some, whom it pleaseth God out of His most infinite favour most liberally to prevent, are presently changed. In the meantime he may also employ himself in thanksgiving, in praising God, and other prayers; but let his chief employment be in reasonable mourning for, and persecuting 52of, his sins. Let him not be troubled if he cannot draw tears externally, for he lacketh not tears internally that truly hateth all sin and iniquity.
Now after he hath in some measure reformed the image of God within himself by healthful bitterness of mourning and contrition, he may with greater confidence and profit imitate the above proposed example of exercise.
Therefore let him take courage, and fervently prepare himself for a more intimate familiarity with the heavenly Bridegroom. But as long as he is weak or cold he shall kindle in himself the fire of divine love by serious meditation on the Incarnation or Passion of the only-begotten Son of God, sweetly conferring with his soul concerning these things. By which meditation being once inflamed, let him compose himself by prayer and aspiration, desiring by them to unite his spirit to. the chiefest good. If he often persist by this means to draw his heart to the love of God, he shall soon bring himself to that pass that presently, at the first convention of his mind or aspiration, without any premeditation he may be able to separate himself from creatures and their imagination, and plunge himself in the 53sweetness of divine love. Then he shall not so much need to remember each particular sin of his life past in his penance before God, and with sorrow to direct the insight of his heart unto Him, for so might his freedom and affection towards good be hindered; but rather let him lovingly direct his heart to God Himself, detesting whatsoever may separate or withdraw him from Him. Neither do we mean that he should negligently forget his sins, but so to remember them that the remembrance hinder not a greater profit; therefore let him confess them daily to God, rather summarily than particularly.
Truly we have a more present remedy against lesser sins when we turn to God by a sweet and effectual affection of love, than when we tediously busy ourselves in the consideration of them and severe punishment of them. Let him therefore cast them away into the bottomless depth of God’s divine mercy and goodness, that, like a sparkle of fire in the midst of the sea, they may there perish. Let him endeavour to reject quite and clean all inordinate pusillanimity, and superfluous scruples of conscience, and perplexed diffidence, whensoever 54they arise. For unless they be presently lopped of they do divers ways choke up the alacrity of the mind, and very much hinder our internal going forward.55
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