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CHAPTER X: What virtues and Graces a Soul receiveth through opening of the inner eye into the gracious Beholding of Jesus, and how it cannot be gotten only by Man’s Labour, but through special Grace and his own Labour also
THUS worketh love in a soul, opening the ghostly eye into the beholding of Jesus by inspiration of special grace, and maketh it pure, subtle and able to the work of Contemplation. What this opening of the spiritual eye is the greatest scholar on earth cannot imagine by his wit nor show fully by his tongue; for it cannot be gotten by study, nor by man’s industry alone, but principally by grace of the Holy Ghost, and with human industry. I am afraid to speak anything of it, for methinketh that I cannot, it passeth my attempt,274274 Assay. and my lips are unclean. Nevertheless, because it seems to me that love asketh, yea, love biddeth that I should, therefore shall I say a little more of it as I hope love teacheth. This opening of the spiritual eye is that lightsome darkness and rich nought that I spake of before, and it may be called purity of spirit and spiritual rest, inward stillness and peace of conscience, highness of thought and loneliness of soul, a lively feeling of grace and retiredness 275275 Privity. of heart, the watchful sleep of the spouse and tasting of heavenly savour, burning in love and shining in light, the gate276276 Entre. of Contemplation and reforming in feeling. All these expressions are found in holy writings of divers men, for every one of them speaketh according to his feeling in grace. And though all these be divers in show of words, yet are they all one in meaning and verity; for that soul which through visiting of grace hath one of them hath all. For why? a soul sighing to see the Face of Jesus when it is touched through special grace of the Holy Ghost, it is suddenly changed, and turned from the state that it was in into another manner of feeling. It is wonderfully separated and drawn first into itself, from the love and the liking of all earthly things, so much that it hath lost the savour of the bodily life, and of all things save only Jesus. And then is it clean from all the filth of sin, so far forth that the minding of itself, and all other inordinate affections to any creature is suddenly washed and wiped away, so that there remains no middle thing or impediment betwixt Jesus and the soul, but only the bodily life, and then it is in spiritual rest. For why? all painful doubts and fears, and all other temptations of spiritual enemies are driven out of the heart, that they trouble not, nor sink not into it for the time. It is in rest from the annoyance of worldly business, and painful hindrances of wicked stirrings; but it is full busy in the free spiritual working of love. And the more it laboureth so, the more rest it feeleth.
This restful labouring is full far from fleshly idleness and from blind security. It is full of spiritual working, but it is called rest, for that grace loseth the heavy yoke of fleshly love from the soul, and maketh it mighty and free through the gift of spiritual love for to work gladly, softly and delectably in all things to which grace stirreth it to work in. And therefore it is called an holy idleness and a rest most busy, and so it is in regard of stillness from the great crying of the beastly noise of fleshly desires and unclean thoughts. This stillness is made by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost through the beholding of Jesus. For why? His voice is so sweet and so mighty that it putteth to silence in a soul all the jangling of all other speakers; for it is a voice of power,277277 Virtue. softly founded in a pure soul, of the which the Prophet saith thus: Vox Domini in virtute.—The voice of our Lord Jesus is with power.278278 Ps. 28. This voice is a lively words and speedy, as the Apostle saith: Vivus est sermo Dei, &c.—The word of the Lord is lively and powerful, more piercing than any sword is.279279 Heb. 4. Through speaking of this word is fleshly love slain, and the soul kept in silence from all wicked stirrings. Of this silence it is said in the Apocalypse thus: Factum est silentium in coelo, &c.—Silence was made in heaven as it were half an hour.280280 Apoc. 8. By Heaven is meant a pure soul lifted up through grace from earthly love to heavenly conversation, and so it is in silence. But forasmuch as that silence cannot last whole continually by reason of the corruption of the bodily nature; therefore it is compared to the time of half an hour, a very short time the soul thinketh it to be, though it be never so long; and therefore it is but half an hour.
And then hath it peace in conscience. For why? Grace putteth out the gnawing, pricking, striving and fighting of sins, and bringeth in peace and concord, and maketh Jesus and a soul both one in full agreement of will. There is no upbraiding of sins, nor sharp reproving of faults made at that time in a soul, for they have kissed and are made friends, and all is forgiven that was done amiss.
Thus feeleth the soul, then, with great humble security and great spiritual gladness, and conceiveth a full great281281 Boldness. certainty of salvation by this accordmaking; for it heareth a secret witnessing of the Holy Ghost to the conscience, that he is a chosen son to a heavenly heritage. Thus St Paul saith: Ipse Spiritus testimonium perhibet spiritui nostro, &c.—The Holy Spirit beareth witness to our spirit that we are God’s sons.282282 Rom. 8.
This witnessing of conscience verily felt through grace is the very joy of the soul, as the Apostle saith: Gloria mea est testimonium, &c.—My joy is the witness of my conscience:283283 2 Cor. 1. and that is, when it witnesseth peace and accord, true love and friendship betwixt Jesus and a soul. And when it is in this peace, then is it in highness of thought.
When the soul is bound with the love of the world, then is it beneath all creatures; for everything goeth over it, and beareth it down by mastery, that it cannot see Jesus nor love Him. For even as the love of the world is vain and fleshly, right so the beholding and thinking and using of all creatures is fleshly; and that is a thraldom of the soul. But then through opening of the spiritual eye into Jesus the love is turned, and the soul is raised up according to its own nature above all bodily creatures. And then the beholding and thinking, and the using of them is spiritual, for the love is spiritual. The soul hath then great disdain to be obedient284284 Buxom. to the love of worldly things, for it is high set above them through grace. It setteth nought by all the world. For why? It will all pass away and perish. Unto this highness of heart, as long as the soul is kept therein, cometh no error nor deceit of the enemy; for Jesus is really in sight of the soul at that time, and all other things are beneath it. Of this the Prophet speaketh thus: Accedat homo ad cor altum et exaltabitur Deus.—Let a man come to a high heart, and God shall be exalted.285285 Ps. 63. That is, a man that through grace cometh to the highness of thought shall see that Jesus is only exalted above all creatures, and he in Him.
And then is the soul thus set aloft, estranged from the fellowship of worldly lovers, though his body be in the midst among them, full far is he parted from carnal affections of creatures. He careth not though he never see man, nor speak with him, nor have comfort from him, that he might for ever continue in that spiritual feeling. He feeleth so great familiarity286286 Homeliness. of the blessed presence of our Lord Jesus, and so much savour of Him, that he can easily for love of Him forget the fleshly affection and the fleshly mind of all creatures. I say not that he shall not love nor think of other creatures, that he shall think on them in fitting time, and see them and love them spiritually and freely, not fleshly and painfully as he did before. Of this loneliness speaketh the Prophet thus: Ducam eam in solitudinem, &c.—I will lead her into solitude,287287 Oneliness. and I will speak to her heart.288288 Osee 2. That is, the grace of Jesus leadeth the soul from troublesome289289 Noyous. company of fleshly desires into loneliness of thought, and maketh it forget the liking of the world, and soundeth by sweetness of His inspiration words of love in the ears of the heart. A soul is thus lonely when it loveth Jesus, and attendeth fully to Him, and he hath lost the savour and the comfort of the world; and that it may better keep this loneliness, it fleeth the company of men as much as it can; and seeketh loneliness of body, which helpeth much to the loneliness of the soul, and to the free working of love, the less hindrance that it hath from without of vain janglings, or from within of vain thinking, the more free it is in spiritual beholding. And so it is in retiredness290290 Privity. of heart.
A soul is all without, whilst it is overlaid and blinded with worldly love, it is as common as the highway, for every stirring which cometh from the flesh or from the fiend sinketh in or goeth through it. But then through grace it is drawn into the privy-chamber, into the sight of our Lord Jesus, and heareth His privy counsel, and is wonderfully comforted in the hearing. Of this speaketh the Prophet thus: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi.—My privity to me, my privity to me.291291 Isa. 24. That is, the lover of Jesus, through inspiration of grace, taken up from outward feeling of worldly love, and ravished into the privity of spiritual love, yieldeth thanks to Him, saying thus: My privity to me. That is, my Lord Jesus, Thy privity is showed to me, and privily hid from all lovers of the world; for it is called hidden Manna, which may easier be asked than told what it is. And that our Lord Jesus promiseth to His lover, saying thus: Dabo sibi Manna absconditum, &c.—I will give her the hidden Manna which no man knoweth but he that taketh it.292292 Apoc. 2. This Manna is heavenly meat, and angels’ food, as the Scripture saith; for angels are fully fed and filled with clear sight in burning love of our Lord Jesus, and that is Manna; for we may ask what it is, but cannot know what it is. But the lover of Jesus is not yet filled here, but is fed with a little taste of it, whilst he is bound in this bodily life.
This tasting of this Manna is a lively feeling of grace had through the opening of the spiritual eye. And this grace is not another grace from that which a chosen soul feeleth in the beginning of his conversion; but it is the self-same grace, only it is otherwise felt and showed to a soul. For why? Grace groweth with a soul, and the soul groweth with grace. And the clearer that a soul is parted from the love of the world, the more mighty is its grace, the more inward and more spiritual is the showing of the presence of our Lord Jesus come to be. So that the same grace which at first turneth him from sin, and maketh him beginning and profiting by gifts of virtue and exercise of good works, maketh him also perfect. And that grace is called a lively feeling of grace; for he that hath it feeleth it well, and knoweth well by experience that he is in grace. It is full lively to him; for it quickeneth the soul wonderfully, and maketh it so whole that it feeleth no painful disease of the body, though it be feeble and sickly. For why? Then is the body most mighty, most whole and most restful, and the soul also. Without this grace the soul cannot live but in pain; for it thinketh that it can keep it for ever, and nothing can put it away; but it is not so, for it passeth away full easily. Nevertheless though the sovereign feeling passeth away, and is withdrawn, the virtue293293 Relief. of it stayeth still, and keepeth the soul in sobriety,294294 Sadness. and maketh it to desire the coming again thereof.
And this is the waking sleep of the Spouse, of the which the Scripture thus: Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat.—I sleep, and my heart waketh.295295 Cant. 5. That is, I sleep spiritually when through grace the love of the world is slain in me, and wicked stirrings of fleshly desires are dead, insomuch that I scarce feel them. I am not held by them, my heart is made free. And then it waketh, for it is quick and ready to love Jesus, and see Him. The more I sleep from outward things, the more am I awake in knowing of Jesus and of inward things. I cannot be awake to Jesus, except I sleep to the world. And therefore the grace of the Holy Ghost, shutting the fleshly eye, causeth the soul to sleep from worldly vanities, and opening the spiritual eye, keepeth it awake to the sight of God’s majesty covered under the cloud of His precious Humanity. As the Gospel saith of the Apostles, when they were with our Lord Jesus in His transfiguration, first they slept: Et evigilantes viderunt majestatem.—They waking beheld His glory.296296 Luke 9. By sleep of the Apostles is understood the dying of worldly love through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; by their awaking is understood their Contemplation of Jesus. Through this sleep the soul is brought into rest from the noise of fleshly lust, and through waking is raised up to the sight of Jesus and spiritual things. The more that the eyes are shut297297 Spered. in this manner of sleep from the appetite of earthly things, the sharper is the inner sight in lovely beholding of heavenly beauty.298298 Fairhead. This sleeping and this waking doth love work through the light of grace in the soul of the lover of our Lord Jesus.
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