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CHAPTER VI.

THE SKILL AND DILIGENCE WITH WHICH WE ARE TO RESIST TEMPTATIONS.

THAT crafty deceiver will not rest, but will try all means by which he may overcome and ruin thee. He will usually be most active in the beginning, or after the beginning of a better life; namely, while vicious passions and affections are still raging within thee, he will stir up the war, sometimes from within, some times from without; he will entrap then, now by prosperity, now by adversity; sometimes he will lay snares for thee by foolish joy, sometimes by untimely sadness; at one time he will aim at destroying thee through too great security, at another through too great dejection. He will sometimes retire for awhile, and cease from assailing thee, that he may soon after more grievously wound thee unawares. Sometimes he will lay his snares secretly, and, as it were, creep in by degrees under the pretext of piety; sometimes he will try to inflict a wound by breaking in openly and unexpectedly. Sometimes, when repulsed, he will come again and again to the attack, and assiduously persevere in it; that so he may conquer by very boldness one whom he could not overthrow either by force or by stratagem. Thou wilt be sometimes so perplexed, and such darkness will overshadow thy mind, that thou wilt not know what to do, nor what to think; therefore thou wilt be carried to and fro, 15and miserably agitated. Sometimes thy spirit, thy heart, and thy senses will be so constrained, depressed, and distracted, that thou wilt not wish to open thy mouth to praise God, nor wilt thou be able to attend when thou prayest. Sometimes thou wilt be so afflicted and buffeted on all sides by misfortunes, that, like one deprived of the help of God, and surrounded by the shadow and horror of death, thou wilt say with the Apostle St. Paul, “We were pressed out of mea sure above our strength, so that we were weary even of life” (1 Cor. i. 8).

Lastly, sometimes not one only, but many of these temptations, or even all at once may assail thee, if God permits it; for, unless He permits, thou wilt not be tempted; and, if He should permit, it will be for thy great advantage.

Hut do thou guard against these temptations; and, like one placed on a watch-tower, look round diligently, to see where the enemy may either rush or creep in. It is often a very frivolous thing, or even a very holy thing, which excites within us, if we are not on the watch, a great tumult, and a dangerous temptation. Therefore we must be suspicious even of those things which are not evil in themselves. Prudent circumspection is always necessary, but chiefly in the beginning of temptations. For the enemy usually keeps this order in his attacks; he first instils into our minds the simple thought of the thing coveted; then, if he sees that what he has suggested pleases us, he renders the thought vehement and complicated, binding as it were the mind with chains, and 16confining it on every side. If we resist not while we are still free, we shall with greater difficulty resist after he has thus inwardly bound us.

If, however, we have been negligent in the beginning, we must not, therefore, yield to the adversary, but by all means resist and struggle, and courageously shake off our fetters. Wherefore, as far as is in thy power, resist the beginnings of temptation; trusting not in thy own endeavours, nor in thy own efforts, but in the mercy of God: “Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it” (Psalm cxxvi. 1).

Unless He ever upholds thee, thou wilt not stand; if He withdraw His Hand, thou wilt straightway fall. But, while He is with thee by His grace, see that thou art not wanting to thyself through negligence. Join thy free will to His grace, and labour in union with it.

If it should happen to thee to fall, overcome by temptation, throw not the blame on God, nor on the devil, nor on fate; for pious Christians utterly deny and execrate those ideas of fate and fatal necessity which have been invented by the heathen or by impious Christians. As I have said, if, overcome by temptation, thou hast fallen and sinned, accuse not God, who is not the author of iniquity; but accuse thyself, who didst consent to the devil: (for no one can force thee to consent to him against thy will;) accuse thyself, I say, and quickly rise again.

For as recent wounds are easily healed by fomentations and plasters applied at once, but are cured with difficulty if the remedies are long delayed; so thou 17wilt recover thy former grace without great labour if thou dost return and do penance immediately after having allowed thyself to sin; but if thou remainest long in thy sinful state, thou wilt not easily arise from it, since the very weight of the sin and the habit of sinning depress and overpower thy interior. Lest, therefore, the devil overcome thee, do thou always fly to God, call upon Him, put thyself under the wings of His protection; groan and sigh before Him. Doing this, thou wilt not be overcome; or if thou shouldst be overthrown, arising thou wilt not perish. If great temptations encompass thee not, acknowledge the mercy of thy pitiful Father towards thee, and be grateful. Reflect that He spares thee, and removes those temptations, lest thou who art so weak shouldst fall under them.

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