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362

CHAPTER XIV.

A SHORT METHOD TO KNOW GOD'S WILL.

S. Basil says that God's will is made clear unto us by his ordinances or commandments, and that then there is no deliberation to be made, for we are simply to do what is ordained; but that for the rest we have freedom to choose what seems good according to our liking; though we are not to do all that is lawful but only what is expedient, and to clearly discern what is expedient we are to follow the advice of our spiritual father.

But, Theotimus, I am to warn you of a troublesome temptation which often crosses the way of such souls as have a great desire to do what is most according to God's will. For the enemy at every turn puts them in doubt whether it is God's will for them to do one thing rather than another; as for example, whether they should eat with a friend or no, whether they should wear grey or black clothes, whether they should fast Friday or Saturday, whether they should take recreation or abstain from it; and in this they lose much time, and while they are busy and anxious to find out what is the better, they unprofitably let slip the time for doing many good things, the effecting of which would be far more to God's glory, than this distinguishing between the good and the better, which has taken up their time, could possibly be.

We are not accustomed to weigh little money, but only valuable pieces: trading would be too troublesome and would devour too much time, if we were to weigh pence, halfpence, farthings and half-farthings. So we are not to weigh every petty action to know whether it be of more value than others; yea there is often a kind of superstition in trying to make this examination; for to what end should we puzzle to know whether it were better to hear Mass in one church than in another, to spin than to sew, to give alms to a man rather than a woman? It is not good service to a master to spend as much time in considering what is to be done, as in doing the things which are to be done. We are to proportion our attention to the importance of what we undertake. It would be an ill-regulated carefulness to take as 363much trouble in deliberating over a journey of one day as over one of three or four hundred leagues.

The choice of one's vocation, the plan of some business of great consequence, of some work occupying much time, of some very great expenditure, the change of abode, the choice of society, and the like, deserve to be seriously pondered, in order to see what is most according to the will of God. But in little daily matters, in which even a mistake is neither of moment nor irreparable, what need is there to make a business of them, to scrutinize them, or to importunately ask advice about them? To what end should I put myself upon the rack to learn whether God would rather that I should say the Rosary or Our Lady's Office, since there can be no such difference between them, that a great examination need be held; that I should rather go to visit the sick in the hospital than to Vespers, that I should rather go to a sermon than to a church where there is an Indulgence? Commonly there is no such importance in the one more than the other that it is worth while to make any great deliberation. We must walk in good faith and without minute consideration in such matters, and, as S. Basil says, freely choose as we like, so as not to weary our spirit, lose our time, or put ourselves in danger of disquiet, scruples, and superstition. But I mean always where there is no great disproportion between the two works, and where there is nothing of consideration on one side more than on the other.

And even in matters of moment we are to use a great humility, and not to think we can find out God's will by force of examination and subtlety of discourse; but having implored the light of the Holy Ghost, applied our consideration to the seeking of his good-pleasure, taken the counsel of our director, and, perhaps, of two or three other spiritual persons, we must resolve and determine in the name of God, and must not afterwards question our choice, but devoutly, peacefully, and firmly keep and pursue it. And although the difficulties, temptations and the variety of circumstances which occur in the course of executing our design, might cause us some doubt as to whether we had made a good choice, yet we must remain settled, and not regard all this, but consider that if we had made another 364choice we had perhaps been a hundred times worse; to say nothing of our not knowing whether it be God's will that we should be exercised in consolation or desolation, in peace or war. The resolution being once holily taken, we are never to doubt of the holiness of the execution; for unless we fail it cannot fail. To act otherwise is a mark of great self-love, or of childishness, weakness and silliness of spirit.

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