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Declaring how the Soul putting it self in the Presence of God, with perfect Resignation, by the pure act of Faith, walks always in virtual and acquired contemplation.
99. Thou wilt tell me (as many Souls have told me) that though by a perfect Resignation thou hast put thy self in the Presence of God, by means of pure Faith, as hath been already hinted, yet thou doest not merit nor emprove, because thy thoughts are so distracted, that thou canst not be fixed upon God.
100. Be not disconsolate, for thou do’st not lose time, nor merit, neither desist thou from Prayer; because it is not necessary, that during the whole time of recollection, thou should’st actually think on God; it is enough that thou hast been attentive in the beginning; provided thou discontinue not thy purpose, nor revoke the actual attention which thou hadst. As he, who hears Mass, and says the Divine Office, performs his Duty very well, by vertue of that primary actual attention, though afterwards he persevere not, in keeping his thoughts actually fixed on God.
101. This the Angelical Doctor St. Thomas confirms, in the following words (2.2.quæst.82.art. 13. ad I.): That first intention only and thinking of God when one Prays, has force and value enough to make the Prayer, during all the rest of the time it continues, to be true, impetratory and meritorious, though all that while there be no actual contemplation on God. See now if the Saint could speak more clearly to our purpose!
102. So that (in the Judgement of that Saint) the Prayer still continues, though the Imagination may ramble upon infinite numbers of thoughts, provided one consent not to it, shift not Place, intermit not the Prayer, nor change the first Intention of being with God. And it is certain, that he changes it not, whil’st he does not leave his Place. Hence it follows in sound Doctrine, that one may persevere in Prayer, though the Imagination be carried about with various and unvoluntary thoughts. He prays in Spirit and Truth (says the Saint in the fore-cited place) whoever goest to Prayer with the Spirit and Intention of Praying, though afterwards through Misery and Frailty his Thoughts may straggle. Evagatio vero mentis quæ fit præter propositum, orationis fructum non tollit.
103. But thou’lt say, at least, art thou not to remember when thou art in the presence of God, and often say to him, Lord abide within me; and I will give my self wholly up to thee? I answer that there is no necessity for that, seeing thou hast a design to Pray, and for that end went’st to that place. Faith and Intention are sufficient, and these always continue; nay, the more simple that remembrance be, without words, or thoughts, the more pure, spiritual, internal, and worthy of God it is.
104. Would it not be impertinent and disrespectful, if being in the Presence of a King, thou should’st ever now and then say to him, Sir, I believe Your Majesty is here? It’s the very same thing. By the eye of pure Faith the Soul sees God, believes in him, and is in his Presence, and so when the Soul believes, it has no need to say, My God thou art here; but to believe as it does believe, seeing when Prayer-time is come, Faith and Intention guide and conduct it to contemplate God by means of pure Faith, and perfect Resignation.
105. So that, so long as thou retractest not that Faith, and Intention of being resigned, thou walkest always in Faith and Resignation, and consequently in Prayer, and in virtual and acquired Contemplation, although thou perceive it not, remember it not, neither exertest new Acts and Reflections thereon; after the example of a Christian, a Wife, and a Monk; who, though they exert us new Acts and Remembrances, the one as to his Profession, saying, I am a Monk, the other as to her Matrimony, saying I am a Wife, and the third as to his Baptism, saying, I am a Christian, they cease not for all that from being, the one Baptized, the other Married, and the third Professed. The Christian shall only be obliged to do good Works in Confirmation of his Faith; and to believe more with the Heart, than with the Mouth: The Wife ought to give demonstrations of the Fidelity which she promised to her Husband: And the Monk of the Obedience which he made profession of to his Superiour.
106. In the same manner, the inward Soul being once resolved to Believe, that God is in it, and that it will not desire nor act any thing but through God, ought to rest satisfied in that Faith and intention, in all its Works and Exercises, without forming or repeating new Acts of the same Faith, nor of such a Resignation.
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