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FOURTH MEDITATION.

TEACHING THE SINNER TO BESTIR HIMSELF FOR THE AMENDMENT OF HIS SINS.

[§ 19. The necessity and the benefit of careful self-examination.] O soul of mine, so wretched and so soiled, recall to thee and carefully compose all thy bodily senses; and with more than usual care look and see how grievously thou art wounded and laid low. For since thy Creator, in His in finite goodness, grants thee life, since in His ineffable compassion He so patiently and all so tenderly awaits thy amendment, and a suitable satisfaction, be not slow and indolent in the curing of thy wounds, in the correcting of thy sins, in the reconciling of thy offended Creator, and in the making friends to thee of all His saints, whom by thy offences against their Creator and thine, their Lord and thine, thou hast turned into thy foes. If thou hadst always remained upright and pure, upright and pure as thy Creator made thee, if thou hadst always—as thou couldest well have done, hadst 54thou chosen—conformed thyself to His will without defection, thou wouldest now be running, happy and joyful, a happy and joyful course through this present life; the which course run through and finished, thou wouldest find assured to thee, happy and joyful, by His help, the possession of that happy and joyful life which has no end. But now, since, all wretched and unhappy, thou hast set at naught the will of thy Creator, and clung wretchedly and unhappily to thine own carnal pleasures; if, carefully refusing to pamper thyself, carefully refusing to spare thyself in what evils soever and what iniquities soever thou dost find that thou art entangled; if, seeing them and repenting of them, thou art setting thyself in earnest to return into the path of satisfaction and amendment; if so, then, by way of a beginning, throw away one thing from thine inmost self; I mean this, the willing inclination to sin; throw it away, and embrace and do what thou so well knowest will be pleasing to thy Creator.

But it may be that thou sayest to thyself, beholding the enormity of thy sins, and despairing of indulgence and remission—it may be that thou sayest, having regard to thy habitual offences and their foulness, ‘How can I possibly henceforth 55have strength enough to amend my ways? I that am acting against the will of God, now well-nigh a lifetime; I whose whole being is set on the gratification of all kinds of wicked desires, and the doing of all kinds of wicked deeds; I that lie here hardened in sins, like some stone which iron cannot cut and fire cannot melt? For when with more than ordinary care I contemplate the justice of my Creator, and review the evil deeds which ever and anon I have committed, I am certain that nothing awaits me but the torments which evil deeds deserve.’ True, true enough is what thou sayest; for God, just judge and lover of equity that He is, ordains torments as the punishment of sins and evil deeds. But nevertheless, according to the measure of that very justice which makes Him punish those who persist in wickedness, does He repay with an ever-enduring guerdon those w r ho repent of their evil deeds, and do what is good.

For this reason did I just now admonish thee to examine thine inmost parts and all thy doings in His sight with special care; and with no less care to fix thine eye on the issue to which thy doings tend. If thou persevere in this, and persevere too in bruising thy hard heart with hammers of iron, as it were, by these reviews—if so, I verily 56believe that thou wilt thus do what, unless thou art mad, will yield thee as its return happiness and endless joys, and wilt rid thyself of that whence thou hast been meriting misery and torments.

[§ 20. The goodness of God, and the malignity of the Devil.] For this reason do I again and yet again admonish thee unintermittingly to recollect how sweet and how good is thy Creator towards thee; how great was His goodness in creating thee when thou wast not, and in making thee, instead of a dumb brute or an insensible creature, a being such as could understand and love Him, and, joyful and eternal, share His eternity with Him; how great His goodness in loving thee with such excess of love as that, though He knew that thou wouldest do many things against His will, He yet re fused not to create thee, and lo, thou art; how great His goodness in awaiting thine amendment with such gentle forbearance, so mercifully and compassionately does He still bear with thee! Yes, He awaits; thy Creator awaits thy improvement, as I said;. for He who was pleased to make thee, never, never wishes to destroy thee; rather would He have thee return to His all-merciful compassion; rather would He reward thee, cleansed and 57amended by true repentance, with that happy and eternal life which thou hadst lost through sin.

Think, therefore, and think again and again, of thy Creator’s kindness to thee; and, as is right, raise thyself and all thy powers to the contemplation of His unspeakable love. For the love of Him brooks no foulness of vice, and consents to no pleasure bred of carnal desires. For where love of Him reigns, there utmost peace abides, and deepest calm, and perfect readiness to do and think all that may tend to the attainment of eternal happiness. Know well that in all thy actions and all thy thoughts there are two round about thee, and very close to thee; one thy friend, the other thy foe. Thy friend is thy Creator, who rejoices in all thy good works; whilst thy foe, the devil, is mortified at those same good works of thine. The devil, ever laying snares for thee as he does, is rejoiced if he see thee do evil deeds, and give heed to vain and foolish thoughts, whence he may be able to find accusation against thee before the Great Judge, and drag thee, thus accused and hence condemned, down with himself into perdition. The devil, ever eager for the destruction of the faithful, not only accuses them of the ills they really do, he even tries to set a stain on 58their good deeds and their right thoughts by making out of them material for his false charges. But be thou, on thy side, upon thy guard against his subtle tricks, and against his wiles so full of all deception; be on thy guard, be solicitous; and call upon thy Creator and thy dearest Lord not to let thee be led astray by the wiles and the deceptions of the foe. O, fly under the shadow of His wings from the face of the wicked who afflict thee (Ps. xvi. 8, 9), and who make it their aim, having afflicted and supplanted thee, to drag thee away to death and eternal ruin. Thy Creator and thy Lord is merciful and compassionate, far, far beyond the reach of words or even thoughts; so much so, that never does He destroy any man but through the man’s own great fault and own great sin.

[§ 21. The compassion of Jesus.] Earthly parents, father and mother, in our flesh, are wont to feel great compassion and sympathy for their offspring; and if they find them afflicted with pain of any kind, or any bodily inconvenience, are ready enough to spend both themselves and their fortunes, should reason so require, for their children’s recovery to ease and soundness. Ofttimes, 59too, many dumb animals even do not shrink from facing death itself for their young; and only too willingly go to meet it, that their offspring may escape it, Whence, now, comes this to man and to the brute? Whence comes this natural sympathy, but from Him who is the Father of sympathy and compassion; who wills not that any should perish, and rejoices not in the destruction of them that die? Our Creator, therefore, the Fountain of compassion, the Fountain of mercy, when He sees us His children stained with any sinful contagion, or hurt well nigh to death with the many and deep wounds that crime has made, displays towards us greater devotion in curing our sins, in healing our sickness, in cleansing away the leprosy and filth of our misdeeds, in wiping out the soils of our vain thoughts, than does earthly father for his children, or reasonless brute for its young. Nor is it enough for Him simply to cure our sicknesses, and so dismiss us; when we are healed, He makes us His own close familiars, and afterwards folds us tenderly in His arms as His own dearest children; ay, He embraces us and kisses us, and then soothes and consoles away all our infirmities, and all the sinful leprosy we had contracted by our folly, and entirely forgets all the injuries we 60once did Him by spurning Him in His consolations. He clothes us with honour in this present life, and crowns us with glory in the next; He makes us kings; and, as to our soul, her He makes a queen, whence He admonishes us as kings, already made so in the psalm: ‘And now, O ye kings, understand; receive instruction, you that judge the earth’ (Ps. ii. 10). For we then are kings indeed, when we rule our inordinate motions, and reduce them to reason and the will of our Creator; we receive instruction when we judge the earth, that is to say, when, if we see that our heart desires earthly things, we compel it to contemn the earthly and to love the heavenly. Our soul becomes a queen; for arrayed in varied robes—that is to say, adorned with divers virtuous gifts—she is wedded in mind’s continuous act and habit to Christ her Spouse who is in heaven, even whilst she sojourns here on earth. It was not enough for our Creator to create us, and to govern us when created, and to send angels, as often as need was, to defend us; but He in His own Person, taking our form to Him, taking our nature to Him, out of pity for the work of His hands, came down to us, looked carefully at our wounds, touched them, felt them; and, moved with pity for the 61misery which He saw enthralled us, grieved over us, and sighed in His inmost soul. He pitied, grieved, and sighed for us; and then of that very Flesh which He had assumed for our sake, made as it were a healing ointment, and applied it to our griefs, and restored us from our sickness back to perfect health. And, that He might in this mystery show how much He loved us, He gave us that very Flesh which He had assumed for us, that we might eat It; and onwards to this day fails not to administer It to us in the sacrifice of His altar.

Thou, then, my soul, consoled and animated by the sweet recollection of all these mercies, pray to thy Lord, pray to thy Creator; invoke all His saints to thy assistance, that, aided and consoled by their intercession, thou mayest gain of Him who made thee grace so to live in this thy present state, so to purge away thy iniquities by true repentance and confession, as that, thy transitory passage run, thou mayest merit to mount up to joys eternal; by His help who liveth and reigneth God to eternal ages. Amen.

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