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The best way to baffle the Craft of the Enemy, is to be Subjected to a Ghostly Father.
1. It is every way convenient, to choose a Master experienced in the inward way, because God will not do all, what he did to St. Catharine of Siena, whom he took by the Hand, and immediately taught the mystical Way. If in the Progress of Nature there is a necessity of a Guide; how must it be in the Progress of Grace? If in the outward and visible waies there is need of a Master; how must it be for the internal and secret? If it must be so for the Moral, Scholastic and Exposive, Theology, which are plainly taught; how must it be for that which is mystical, secret, reserved and obscure? If in external and political Actions and Practices it is so; how must it be in the internal Transactions with God.
2. A Guide is in like manner necessary for resisting and overcoming the Craft and Wiles of Satan. St. Austin gave many Reasons why God appointed that in his Church, Doctors and Teachers, men of the same nature with others, should, for Light and Doctrin, have the Precedency: The chief is, to free us from the craft and cunning of the Enemy; for should we be left to our own Dictates and Natural Impulse, for the conduct of our Actions, we would trip and stumble every foot, and at length fall head-long into the Pit; as it happens to Hereticks and proud People: Now if we had had Angels given to us for Masters, then would the Devils have dazled our Eyes by transforming themselves into Angels of Light: therefore it was convenient that for Guides and Counsellors, God should given us men like our selves. And if such a Guide be expert, he’ll soon know the tricks and subtilties of the Devil; which being once known, as wanting substance, they soon evanish.
3. A Ghostly Father ought to come from the Hand of God, and therefore without previous Circumspection and Prayer; he is not to be chosen but being once chosen, he is not to be left, but for most urgent reasons; such as are for not knowing the Waies and States, through which God guides the Soul; because no man can teach what he does not know, according to that true Maxim of Philosophy.
4. And if he conceive not (as St. Paul saith) the things of the Spirit, that will be Ignorance in him; because they are to be examined Spiritually, and he wants experience: but the spiritual and expert Man sees every thing clearly, and judges of it as it is. If a Guide then wants experience, it is a chief reason why one should leave him, and chuse another more expert; because without such a one, the Soul will not profit.
5. To pass from a bad into a good state, there is no necessity of Counsel; but to change what is good into better, there is need of time, prayer and advice; because every thing which is best in is self, is not best for every one in particular; nor is every thing that is good for one, good for all: Non omnibus omnia expediunt. Some are called for the outward and ordinary Way; others for the internal and extraordinary, and all are not in the same state; so that there being so many and various persons who are ingaged in the mystical way, it is impossible for one to make a step in those secret and internal Paths without an experienced Guide, because instead of going right, he’ll tumble into a Precipice.
6. When a Soul walks with Fear; doubting if it walk safely, and desires to be clearly rid of these fears and doubtings, the securest way is to submit to a Ghostly Father; because by the internal Light he clearly discovers what is Temptation, and what Inspiration, and distinguishes the motions that spring from Nature, from the Devil, and from the Soul it self, which ought totally to be subjected to him who hath experience, and he can discover the engagements, the Idols and bad habits that hinder the Souls flight; which by this means will not only be delivered from the Snares of the Devil, but will proceed more in one Year, than it could have proceeded in a thousand, with other Guides of no Experience.
7. In the Life of the Illuminated Father, Frier John Tauler, it is related what that Layman who went before him in the State of Perfection, says of himself, How that being taken off from the World, and desirous to be Holy, he gave himself to great abstinence, till at length being extenuated and weak, he fell into a Dream, and heard a voice from Heaven which said to him, Man, if thou voluntary kill thy self, before the time, thou shalt pay dear to thy self for it. Being full of terror, he went into a Desait, and there imparted the way he had taken, and his Abstinence to a holy Anchorite, who, by the favour of Heaven, freed him from that Diabolical Delusion. He told him, That he followed that course of Abstinence that he might please God. But the Anchorite having asked him, By what Advice he did it? And he having made answer By none. The Anchorite replied, That is was a manifest Temptation of the Devil. From that time forward, he opened his Eyes, and knowing his own Perdition, lived alwaies by the Direction of a Spiritual Father; and he himself affirmed, That in seven years space he gave him greater Light, than all printed Books whatsoever could do.
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