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CHAPTER X: How it falleth out sometimes that Souls that are but beginning or profiting in Grace seem to have more Love, as to outward tokens thereof, than some have that be perfect, and yet it is not really so in their Interior

BUT now thou wilt say, how can this be true? For there be many souls newly turned to God that have many spiritual feelings; some have great compunction for their sins, and some have great devotions and fervours in their prayers, and often have sundry teachings of spiritual light in understanding, and some men have other kind of feelings of comfortable heat and great sweetness; and yet these souls never come fully into this restful darkness, which I speak of, with fervent desire and lasting love and thought on God. And hereupon thou askest whether these souls be reformed in feeling or no. And it seemeth yes, inasmuch as they have such great spiritual feelings, which other men who stand only in faith feel not.

Unto this I answer, as methinketh, that these spiritual feelings, whether they stand in compunction or devotion, or in spiritual imagination, are not the feelings which a soul shall have and feel in the grace of Contemplation. I say not but that they are true and graciously given of God. But these souls that feel such are not yet reformed in feeling, nor have as yet the gift of perfection nor the spiritual burning love of Jesus as they may arrive to. And nevertheless, it often seemeth otherwise that such souls feel more of the love of God than others that have the gift of perfection, inasmuch as the feeling showeth more outwardly by great fervour of bodily tokens in weeping, praying, kneeling and speaking, and other bodily stirrings, so far forth that it seemeth to another man that they were even ravished in love. Though I, for my part, do not think them so, for I will understand that these kind of feelings and fervours of devotion and compunction that these men feel are gracious gifts of God sent into chosen souls to draw them out of worldly love and fleshly lust, which hath long time been rooted in their hearts, from the which love they would not be drawn out but by such feeble motions of great fervours.

And the reason why this fervour is so much in outward showing is not only from the greatness of that love which they have, but from the littleness and weakness of their soul, that cannot bear a little touching of God; for it is yet, as it were, fleshly, fastened to the flesh, and never was yet parted from it by spiritual mortification; and therefore the least touching of love, and the least sparkle of spiritual light sent from Heaven into such a soul is so much and so comfortable and so delectable above all the likings that ever it felt before in fleshly love of earthly things, that she is, as it were, overcome with it. And also it is so new and so sudden and so unaccustomed to her that she is not able to bear it, but bursteth and breaketh out into weeping, sobbing and other bodily stirrings. Just as a barrel that is old, when it receiveth new wine that is fresh and strong, the barrel swelleth out and is ready to cleave and burst until the wine hath boiled and purged out all uncleanness; but as soon as the wine is fined and cleared, then it standeth still and the barrel whole; just so a soul that is old through sin, when it receiveth a little of the love of God, which is so fresh and strong that the body is in point to cleave and to break were it not that God keepeth it whole. But yet it bursteth out at the eyes by weeping, and at the mouth by speaking, which is more for weakness and feebleness of the soul than through greatness of love. For afterward, when love hath boiled all uncleanness out of the soul by such great fervours, then is the love clear and standeth still. And then is both the body and the soul much more in peace. And yet hath the soul much more love than it had before, though it show less outwardly; for it is now all whole in rest within, and but little in outward showing of fervour. And therefore I say that these souls that feel such great bodily fervours, though they be in much grace, are not yet reformed in feeling, but they are greatly disposed towards it. For I trow that such a man, namely, that hath been greatly defiled in sin, shall not be reformed in feeling, unless he be first burnt and purified with such great compunctions going before.

Another soul that never was much defiled with the love of the world, but hath ever been kept from great sins in innocency, may lightlier and more privily, without great fervour showed outwardly, come to this reforming. Then is this true, as I hope, that such comforts and fervours that a soul feeleth in a state of its beginning, or of its profiting, are, as it were, his spiritual food sent from Heaven for to strengthen him in his journey. Even as a Pilgrim travelleth all day meatless and drinkless, and is near-at-hand overcome with weariness, falleth at last to a good inn, and there hath he meat and drink, and is well refreshed for the time, right so is it spiritually. A devout soul, that will forsake the love of the world, and would fain love God and setteth all her business thereto, prayeth and exerciseth all day bodily and spiritually, and sometimes feeleth no comfort nor savour in devotion; then our Lord, having pity on all His creatures, that they should not perish for want, nor fall into heaviness or grudging, sendeth to it, among other things, His spiritual food, and comforteth it in devotion as He pleaseth. And when the soul feeleth any comfort, then doth she hold herself well paid for all her travail and all the suffering it had on the day, when it fareth well at night by feeling of any grace.

Also in the same manner falleth it out with other souls that are profiting and proceeding well forward in grace. These feel oftentimes gracious touchings of the Holy Ghost in their soul, both in understanding and sight of spiritual things and in affection of love. But yet be they not reformed in feeling, nor are they yet perfect, for why? All such feelings come to them in that state as it were unawares, for they come to them ere they think of them, and go from them before they think; and they cannot come by such things again, nor wot they where they may find them; for they have not as yet any familiarity with them, of thought and lasting desire in Jesus. Nor is the eye of their soul opened to the beholding of spiritual things, but they draw well toward it; and therefore they are not yet reformed in feeling nor have yet the full gift of Contemplation.

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