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Chapter XI.

God, The Light Of The Soul, Directing Us Not To Judge Our Neighbors.

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.—1 John 1:5.

God is the supreme, most pure, and beauteous light; flaming with an ardent desire of enlightening the souls of men, and uniting himself to them, if not hindered by the darkness which men “love rather than light.” John 1:5; 3:19. But the darkness of the soul is the love of itself, and the love of the world, which obstruct the operations of God in us. Wherefore, if the soul would be a partaker of this divine light, let her take care not to be overcome by the love of the creatures, by covetousness, anger, self-love, ambition, and the lust of the flesh; for all these are the darkness of the world, in which the god of this world ruleth. 2 Cor. 4:4. A man must then forsake himself and all creatures, yea, everything that is not God; this is called the forsaking “all that he hath.” Luke 14:33. Such a soul is fixed entirely upon God, and is enlightened by his truth; and if by the will of Providence he be required to engage in worldly affairs, he does it with humility and fear, still keeping the centre of his soul free from the creature and the world; so that the emanations of divine light are not obstructed, but flow in perpetual streams from their fountain, which is God.

2. This inward light breaks forth into external actions, so that whatsoever a man says, or does, or suffers, is no longer an act of his own, but of God, to whom he has surrendered and 400 dedicated himself. For how can he act, who is merely passive? So then, whatsoever impression or impulse thou findest in thyself, whether it be a devout desire, a good intention, an inclination to prayer or thanksgiving, all is from God, and not from thyself. Submit thyself, therefore, to the mighty hand of God, and suffer him to accomplish his will in thee; for so whatsoever thou doest, is in him, and through him, and he worketh in thee. For it is a necessary condition of all good works that they ultimately regard God, and be wrought in him. John 3:21. Hence we should live in him, pray in him, and do everything in him. One such work wrought in God, however insignificant it may be in the eye of the world, is of more value in the sight of God, than all the actions wrought in human strength. This is the spring of true virtue, the essence of which is, that it should begin and end in God. But in proportion as the love of the world and the creature prevails in thee, thou art farther removed from God: whilst the nearer God is to the ground of thy heart, the more deeply and plentifully will he shine forth, and manifest himself by works of charity and compassion towards thy neighbor. For our blessed Saviour tells us, “I am the light of the world.” John 8:12. In him, therefore, let us act. Let us cleave to the love of this our Head, that we may be enlightened in Christ.

3. For of all our actions those only may be called “light,” which proceed from God and diffuse themselves through the darkness and miseries of our neighbors, in patience, in meekness, in humility, in consolation, in compassion, in gentle reproofs, and charitable censures. Whereas from an arrogant love of censuring others arise self-esteem, a high mind, contempt, and insolence toward our neighbors. This is the root of innumerable sins. But as the light of the Holy Spirit cannot enter into such souls, so where he inhabits, these vices have no place. The man of God judges not his neighbor, unless compelled by necessity; and even then he does it with great gentleness, and in the proper time and place; lest while he attempt to cure one wound, he should make ten, by an unseasonable and improper application. One thing ought carefully to be observed in reproving our neighbor, namely, that we should not publish such uncharitable reflections upon him, as may in any way injure his reputation, either in his spiritual or temporal concerns; but on the contrary, every one should keep himself within the bounds of meekness and charity, lest he endanger his own humility and poverty of spirit. They that delight in uncharitable censures and railing accusations, are like the old serpent; their very breath is infected with his poison, whilst, like him, they delight in being accusers of the brethren. Whilst they know not themselves, they will dare to censure and judge their neighbors. Consider, O man, thy perverse heart, and judge thyself, but no one else. Luke 6:37. The false light of nature misleads thee, and draws thee blindly into pride, self-love, and rash censures of others. But know that this is not the light of God, but the very darkness of Satan.

4. But the true and divine light always discovers itself in modesty and humility. It hunts not after the empty applause of men, but seeks after God, from whom it proceeded, and into whom it longs and labors to 401 return. Such a man thinks himself the weakest, vilest, and most ignorant of all men; being fully persuaded that whatever good there is in him, it is not his but God's. Above all things, therefore, endeavor to know thyself, and trouble not thyself about thy neighbor, particularly his faults; lest in the bitterness of thine heart thou be tempted to condemn him; for thereby thou canst do great harm to thine own soul. Turn away, then, thy eyes, for God's sake, from any vices of thy neighbor, and turn into thyself, and see whether thou art not, or hast not been as deep in the mire as he. And if this appear to be the case, consider it in the order of Providence as an opportunity of reading thy own defects in the life of thy neighbor, and as a means of bringing thee to the knowledge of thyself, to true repentance and amendment of life. Then turn thine eyes upon thy neighbor, and pray to God for him, that He would be pleased, of his fatherly compassion, to grant unto him also the same knowledge and amendment of life. The man that is thus disposed, profits by his neighbor's faults, and is preserved from the sin of rashly judging or condemning him.

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