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CHAPTER IV: Of three Sorts that be of Contemplation and of the First of them

CONTEMPLATIVE life hath three parts. The first consisteth in knowing God, and of spiritual things gotten by reason and discourse, by teaching of men, and by study in holy Scripture, without spiritual gust, or affection, or inward relish felt by them; for they have it not by the special gift of the Holy Ghost, as persons truly spiritual have their knowledge, which, therefore, is very tasteful to them in their interior.

This part have especially in them learned men and great scholars, who, through long study and travail in holy Writ, attain to this knowledge more or less by the abilities of their natural wit, which God giveth to every one, more or less, that hath use of reason.

This knowledge is good, and may be called a kind or part of Contemplation, inasmuch as it is a sight of verity and a knowledge of spiritual things. Nevertheless it is but a figure and shadow of true Contemplation, since it hath no spiritual gust or taste in God, nor inward sweetness, which none feels but he that is in great love of charity; for it is the proper Well or Spring of our Lord, to which no alien is admitted. But the aforesaid manner of knowing is common both to good and bad, seeing it may be had without charity, and therefore it is not very contemplation. Of this kind of knowledge St Paul speaketh thus: If I knew all mysteries and all knowledge, and have not charity, I am nothing.4242    1 Cor. 13.

Nevertheless, if they that have it keep themselves in humility and charity, and according to their might fly worldly and fleshly sins, it is to them a good way, and a great disposing to true Contemplation if they desire and pray devoutly after the grace of the Holy Ghost. Other men have this knowledge, and turn it to pride and vain-glory, or unto covetousness and desire of worldly dignities, worships and riches, not humbly using it to the glory of God, nor charitably to the soul’s good of their brethren. Some of them fall either into heresies and errors, or into other open sins, by which they discredit themselves and the holy Church. Of this knowledge St Paul speaks in these words: knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifies.4343    1 Cor. 8. This I knowledge alone lifteth up the heart to pride; but mix it with charity, and then it turns to edification.

This knowledge alone is but water, unsavoury and cold. And, therefore, if they that have it would humbly offer it up to our Lord, and pray for His grace, He would by His blessing turn their water into wine, as He did at the prayer of His Mother at the marriage feast; that is to say, He would turn their unsavoury knowledge into true wisdom, and their cold naked reason into spiritual light and burning love, by the gift of the Holy Ghost.


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