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Chapter XV.

Showing How Christ, The Eternal Word Of The Father, Perfects His Work In The Hearts Of The Faithful, By Love And Humility.

Examine yourselves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you?—2 Cor. 13:5.

As the faithful soul is often obliged to bear the temptations and suggestions of the Evil Spirit; so, on the other hand, it receives the divine consolations from the mouth of the eternal Word speaking in it. Of this Tauler speaks: “We know,” says he, “that the eternal Word is so very near the ground of the human soul, that its own nature and being are not more essential and familiar to it, than that Word is. This eternal Word is continually speaking in man, though his perverse heart, deluded by the devil, neither hearkens nor attends to it. For the great adversary makes him deaf by his wicked insinuations, the love of the world, and carnal inclinations.” For the devil to this day tempts all men, as he did Eve (Gen. 3:4), by those things which he knows to be most agreeable to our tempers and inclinations,—by riches, honors, friendships, our own nature, the love of the creatures, and infinite other ways, in which he influences and affects our imaginations. For as he is industriously busy about us for our destruction, so he narrowly observes the particular bias of our affections, and knows all the secret arts of raising our passions; and when by thus striking our imaginations, he has discomposed our spirits, we immediately 406 become deaf to the calls of the Holy Spirit and the Word. These suggestions of Satan we must oppose; for so far as we attend to them, we are the nearer to our ruin; but if thou stop thine ears to his insinuations, and turn thyself unto God in the centre of thy soul, thou hast already conquered him. And as true friends, united in affection, are particularly delighted in mutual conversation; so if thou sincerely love God, thou shalt frequently hear his voice within thee. “If a man love me,” saith Christ, “he will keep my words” (John 14:23): not only those which he hears in the outward and visible temple and congregation of the faithful; but those also which are heard in the true temple of the soul, without which the outward hearing availeth little. And this inward voice of God thou canst not hear, unless the love of God be in thee.

2. “The most certain token of love to God,” saith St. Gregory, “is this, that we receive all the adversities which God shall think fit to lay upon us, without any impatience in thought, word, or actions. If we do this, without doubt we truly love God; if not, it is certain that we do not love him sincerely, but prefer ourselves and our own things to him; though nothing can be properly said to be a man's own but sin; everything else is God's.” Take heed, therefore, that thou prefer not even the gifts of God before Himself; whom if thou love purely and above all things, then thou shalt continually hear him speaking peace to thy soul, according to that saying of our blessed Lord, “He that loveth me, to him will I manifest myself.” John 14:21. This manifestation is made by the opening of the understanding, by the illumination of the heart, by the spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of might, and of fear (Isa. 11:2), and especially by the purifying and enlightening of the inward eyes (Eph. 1:18), to see and know Jesus Christ.

3. But as the devil is wont to stop the inward ears of men by his suggestions; so he also blinds their eyes by self-love, by the love of the world and the creatures, and by inward and outward pride. For as by true and genuine love, we hear Christ; so by faith and profound humility, we must see him; for that only can purify our hearts from vain pride. For it is not without reason that our blessed Lord tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” Matt. 5:8. And for this cause it is that God sends us so many crosses and afflictions, that we may thereby be brought into the depths of profound humility, which is an exercise more profitable to us than all the delights and glories of this world. And now, though heaven, and earth, and hell itself, should unite their forces against thee, yet bear up with constancy and patience, remembering that all shall work together for thy good; as it serves to produce in thee true humility, by which thou shalt see Christ. Look at him, O man, and consider how he that is God (John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5), most high and omnipotent, by whom were made the heavens and the earth, and who could easily again have reduced all things into nothing; yet for the sake of this wretched creature man, submitted himself to the most bitter sufferings. Phil. 2:5-8. Be thou, therefore, O sinful and wretched creature, ashamed of that pride, vainglory, and self-love, which have taken possession of thy heart. Learn to submit thyself to every cross that shall be laid upon thee, of what sort soever it be, whether 407 inward or outward; and so subject thy proud, swelling spirit to the thorny crown of Christ, that thou mayest imitate thy humble and crucified Lord by a true contempt of thyself; making this the great end and design of all thy actions, to be conformed to the meek and suffering life of the blessed Jesus, that so thou mayest come to an experimental knowledge of him. For what avail a few cold, formal reflections upon the sufferings of our Lord, whilst we are destitute of that meek and patient spirit with which he bore them? Of what benefit is it to entertain our fancies with a few dead speculations about his passion, whilst our hearts are full of pride, ambition, and worldly love? This, surely, is not the way to the true vision and experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus operates most deeply in the valley of humility. And in this consists the essence of humility, that a man look upon himself and all that he ever has, or ever can do, as nothing. For if there be any good in thee, it is not of thyself; it is the gift of God.

4. And this humility thou must practise, if ever thou expect to see Christ. For the hidden mysteries and wisdom of God are revealed to the meek and humble, but are hidden from the wise men of this world. Ps. 51:6; Matt. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:20, 26. For in this humility alone consist the knowledge and understanding of pure and divine truth, in which is the essence of eternal blessedness. In this the greatness of the divine majesty manifests itself, which the more clearly we discern, the deeper root humility takes in our souls. And the most certain sign of divine illumination is, that a man grow daily more and more humble, and be less fond of himself. For self-love and pride are the fountains of all the darkness, error, and iniquity that are in us. On the other hand, they that are truly enlightened by God, glory in contempt and sufferings, and rejoice to imitate their suffering Redeemer. This is the groundwork and spirit of Psalm 119. The royal prophet well knew that without such a thirst after godliness, no divine light and wisdom would enter the soul, and no divine answer be given to it. And this is the real purport of that long Psalm.

5. In a word, this humble and resigned state of soul, is that in which God particularly delights to operate. And he that has this, carries in his soul the comfortable presence, and in his body the suffering marks of the Lord Jesus; and considering himself as unworthy of the least of God's mercies, he uses them all with reverence and fear, having his eye, like a good servant, fixed on his Master; and therefore he is honored with His more immediate conversation, and grace.

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