Thursday, 17 April 2008

FOURTEENTH and FIFTEENTH LETTER

FOURTEENTH LETTER

Gratitude, for mercies to his correspondent, and measure of relief
while he has himself been near death, but with consolation in his
suffering.

I RENDER thanks to our LORD, for having relieved you a little,
according to your desire. I have been often near expiring, though I
was never so much satisfied as then. Accordingly I did not pray for
any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage,
humility, and love. Ah, how sweet is it to suffer with GOD! however
great the sufferings may be, receive them with love. "Tis paradise to
suffer and be with Him; so that if in this life we would enjoy the
peace of paradise, we must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble,
affectionate conversation with Him: we must hinder our spirits
wandering from Him upon any occasion: we must make our heart a
spiritual temple, wherein to adore Him incessantly: we must watch
continually over ourselves, that we may not do, nor say, nor think
anything that may displease Him. When our minds are thus employed
about GOD, suffering will become full of unction and consolation.

I know that to arrive at this state, the beginning is very difficult;
for we must act purely in faith. But though it is difficult, we know
also that we can do all things with the grace of GOD, which He never
refuses to them who ask it earnestly. Knock, persevere in knocking,
and I answer for it that He will open to you in His due time, and
grant you all at once what He has deferred during many years. Adieu.
Pray to Him for me, as I pray to Him for you. I hope to see Him
quickly.


FIFTEENTH LETTER

From his death-bed. * Repeats the same exhortation to knowledge,
that we may love.

GOD knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for
our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready
to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and
the bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest
afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the
wrong light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them:
when we know that it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses
us: our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter
of consolation.

Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the
more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure
of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the
greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should
love Him equally in pains and pleasures.

Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible
favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. Such favours,
though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in
one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek
Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him
alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and
perhaps offend Him? 'Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost
us dear.

Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast
everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg
this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon
see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank
Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from
His mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one
another.

[He took to his bed two days after and died within the week.]

TWELFTH and THIRTEENTH LETTER

TWELFTH LETTER

To the same correspondent probably, and expresses his own abiding
comfort through faith.

IF we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of GOD, all
bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby. GOD often permits
that we should suffer a little, to purify our souls, and oblige us to
continue with Him.

Take courage, offer Him your pains incessantly, pray to Him for
strength to endure them. Above all, get a habit of entertaining
yourself often with GOD, and forget Him the least you can. Adore Him
in your infirmities, offer yourself to Him from time to time; and, in
the height of your sufferings, beseech Him humbly and affectionately
(as a child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I
shall endeavour to assist you with my poor prayers.

GOD has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes hides Himself
from us: but faith alone, which will not fail us in time of need,
ought to be our support, and the foundation of our confidence, which
must be all in GOD.

I know not how GOD will dispose of me: I am always happy: all the
world suffer; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so
continual, and so great, that I can scarce contain them.

I would willingly ask of GOD a part of your sufferings, but that I
know my weakness, which is so great, that if He left me one moment to
myself, I should be the most wretched man alive. And yet I know not
how He can leave me alone, because faith gives me as strong a
conviction as sense can do, that He never forsakes us, till we have
first forsaken Him. Let us fear to leave Him. Let us be always with
Him. Let us live and die in His presence. Do you pray for me, as I for
you.


THIRTEENTH LETTER

he exhorts for fuller and entire confidence in God, for
body and soul.

I AM in pain to see you suffer so long; what gives me some ease, and
sweetens the feeling I have of your griefs, is that they are proofs of
GOD's love towards you: see them in that view, and you will bear them
more easily. As your case is, "tis my opinion that you should leave
off human remedies, and resign yourself entirely to the providence of
GOD; perhaps He stays only for that resignation and a perfect trust in
Him to cure you. Since notwithstanding all your cares, physic has
hitherto proved unsuccessful, and your malady still increases, it will
not be tempting GOD to abandon yourself in His hands, and expect all
from Him.

I told you, in my last, that He sometimes permits bodily diseases to
cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage then: make a virtue of
necessity: ask of GOD, not deliverance from your pains, but strength
to bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should please,
and as long as He shall please.

Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable
to GOD, and sweet to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and
when one loves GOD, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do
you so, I beseech you; comfort yourself with Him, who is the only
Physician of all our maladies. He is the FATHER of the afflicted,
always ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine:
love Him then, and seek not consolation elsewhere: I hope you will
soon receive it. Adieu. I will help you with my prayers, poor as they
are, and shall be, always, yours in our LORD.

TENTH and ELEVENTH LETTER

TENTH LETTER

Has difficulty, but sacrifices his will, to write as requested. *
The loss of a friend may lead to acquaintance with the Friend.

I HAVE had a good deal of difficulty to bring myself to write to M. -,
and I do it now purely because you and Madam desire me. Pray write the
directions and send it to him. I am very well pleased with the trust
which you have in GOD: I wish that He may increase it in you more and
more: we cannot have too much in so good and faithful a Friend, who
will never fail us in this world nor in the next.

If M. - makes his advantage of the loss he has had, and puts all his
confidence in GOD, He will soon give him another friend, more powerful
and more inclined to serve him. He disposes of hearts as He pleases.
Perhaps M. - was too much attached to him he has lost. We ought to
love our friends, but without encroaching upon the love of GOD, which
must be the principal.

Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is, to think often
on GOD, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your
diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone.
You would think it rude to leave a friend alone, who came to visit
you: why then must GOD be neglected? Do not then forget Him, but think
on Him often, adore Him continually live and die with Him; this is the
glorious employment of a Christian; in a word, this is our profession,
if we do not know it we must learn it. I will endeavour to help you
with my prayers, and am yours in our LORD.
ELEVENTH LETTER

To one who is in great pain. God is the Physician of body and of
soul. * Feels that he would gladly suffer at His wish.

I DO not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray
GOD earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear
them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you
fastened to the cross: He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy
those who suffer with Him: accustom yourself to suffer in that manner,
and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He
shall judge to be necessary for you. The men of the world do not
comprehend these truths, nor is it to be wondered at, since they
suffer like what they are, and not like Christians: they consider
sickness as a pain to nature, and not as a favour from GOD; and seeing
it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress.
But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the
effects of His mercy, and the means which He employs for their
salvation, commonly find in it great sweetness and sensible
consolation.

I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense)
nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in
health. Rely upon no other Physician, for, according to my
apprehension, He reserves your cure to Himself. Put then all your
trust in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your
recovery, which we often retard, by putting greater confidence in
physic than in GOD.

Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as He
permits. When pains come from GOD, He only can cure them. He often
sends diseases of the body, to cure those of the soul. Comfort
yourself with the sovereign Physician both of soul and body.

I foresee that you will tell me that I am very much at my ease, that I
eat and drink at the table of the LORD. YOU have reason: but think you
that it would be a small pain to the greatest criminal in the world,
to eat at the king's table, and be served by him, and notwithstanding
such favours to be without assurance of pardon? I believe he would
feel exceeding great uneasiness, and such as nothing could moderate,
but only his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you,
that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, yet my sins,
ever present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon,
torment me, though in truth that torment itself is pleasing.

Be satisfied with the condition in which GOD places you: however happy
you may think me, I envy you. Pains and suffering would be a paradise
to me, while I should suffer with my GOD; and the greatest pleasure
would be hell to me, if I could relish them without Him; all my
consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.

I must, in a little time, go to GOD. What comforts me in this life is,
that I now see Him by faith; and I see Him in such a manner as might
make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith
teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of faith, I will
live and die with Him.

Continue then always with GOD: "tis the only support and comfort for
your affliction. I shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my
service.

Eighth and Ninth Letter

EIGHTH LETTER

Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer.

YOU tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled
with wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving; but as the will
is mistress of all our faculties, she must recall them, and carry them
to GOD, as their last end.

When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection,
at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits
of wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and
commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.

I believe one remedy for this is, to confess our faults, and to humble
ourselves before GOD. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words
in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of
wandering: hold yourself in prayer before GOD, like a dumb or
paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate: let it be your business to keep
your mind in the presence of the LORD. If it sometimes wander, and
withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that;
trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind, than to
re-collect it; the will must bring it back in tranquillity; if you
persevere in this manner, GOD will have pity on you.

One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and
preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at
other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of GOD; and
being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep
your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from
its wanderings.

I have told you already at large, in my former letters, of the
advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of GOD: let
us set about it seriously and pray for one another.

NINTH LETTER

Enclosing a letter to a corresponding sister, whom he regards with
respect tinged with fear. * His old theme concisely put.

THE enclosed is an answer to that which I received from - ; pray
deliver it to her. She seems to me full of good will, but she would go
faster than grace. One does not

become holy all at once. I recommend her to you: we ought to help one
another by our advice, and yet more by our good examples. You will
oblige me to let me hear of her from time to time, and whether she be
very fervent and very obedient.

Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to
please GOD, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. You and
I have lived above forty years in religion [i.e., a monastic life].
Have we employed them in loving and serving GOD, who by His mercy has
called us to this state and for that very end? I am filled with shame
and confusion, when I reflect on the one hand upon the great favours
which GOD has done, and incessantly continues to do, me; and on the
other, upon the ill use I have made of them, and my small advancement
in the way of perfection.

Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in
earnest, let us repair the lost time, let us return with a full
assurance to that FATHER of mercies, who is always ready to receive us
affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce, for the
love of Him, all that is not Himself; He deserves infinitely more. Let
us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him: I doubt
not but we shall soon find the effects of it, in receiving the
abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without
which we can do nothing but sin.

We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life, without the actual
and continual help of GOD; let us then pray to Him for it continually.
How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him
but in thinking of Him often? And how can we often think of Him, but
by a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am
always saying the same thing: it is true, for this is the best and
easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world
to it. We must know before we can love. In order to know GOD, we must
often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also
think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. This is
an argument which well deserves your consideration.

SEVENTH LETTER

At the age of nearly fourscore exhorts his correspondent, who is
sixty-four, to live and die with God and promises and asks for
prayer.

I PITY you much. It will be of great importance if you can leave the
care of your affairs to, and spend the remainder of your life only in
worshipping GOD. He requires no great matters of us; a little
remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to
pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and
sometimes to return Him thanks for the favours He has given you, and
still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console
yourself with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him,
sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least
little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry
very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.

It is not necessary for being with GOD to be always at church; we may
make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to
converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is
capable of such familiar conversation with GOD, some more, some less:
He knows what we can do. Let us begin then; perhaps He expects but one
generous resolution on our part. Have courage. We have but little time
to live; you are near sixty-four, and I am almost eighty. Let us live
and die with GOD: sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us, while
we are with Him: and the greatest pleasures will be, without Him, a
cruel punishment to us. May He be blessed for all. Amen.

Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg His grace, to
offer Him your heart from time to time, in the midst of your business,
even every moment if you can. Do not always scrupulously confine
yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotion; but act
with a general confidence in GOD, with love and humility. You may
assure - of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and yours
particularly.

SIXTH LETTER

To a member of the order who had received from him a book, and to
whom he again enlarges on his favourite topic. * Encouragement to
persevere.

I HAVE received from Mrs. - the things which you gave her for me. I
wonder that you have not given me your thoughts of the little book I
sent to you, and which you must have received. Pray set heartily about
the practice of it in your old age; it is better late than never.

I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the
practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired
with Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can; and while
I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is
insupportable.

This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is, however, proper
to deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are
innocent and lawful: for GOD will not permit that a soul which desires
to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with
Him; that is more than reasonable.

I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon
ourselves. No, we must serve GOD in a holy freedom, we must do our
business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet; recalling our mind
to GOD mildly and with tranquillity, as often as we find it wandering
from Him.

It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in GOD, laying aside
all other cares, and even some particular forms of devotion, though
very good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in
unreasonably: because those devotions are only means to attain to the
end; so when by this exercise of the presence of GOD we are with Him
who is our end, it is then useless to return to the means; but we may
continue with Him our commerce of love, persevering in His holy
presence: one while by an act of praise, of adoration, or of desire;
one while by an act of resignation, or thanksgiving; and in all the
manner which our spirit can invent.

Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from
nature; you must do yourself violence. At the first, one often thinks
it lost time; but you must go on, and resolve to persevere in it to
death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur. I
recommend myself to the prayers of your holy society, and yours in
particular. I am yours in our LORD.

FIFTH LETTER

Prayer for a sister who is about to make a vow and profession. * A
fresh insisting upon the necessity and virtue of practising the
Presence of God.

I RECEIVED this day two books and a letter from Sister, who is
preparing to make her profession, and upon that account desires the
prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I perceive that
she reckons much upon them; pray do not disappoint her. Beg of GOD
that she may make her sacrifice in the view of His love alone, and
with a firm resolution to be wholly devoted to Him.

I will send you one of those books which treat of the presence of GOD;
a subject which, in my opinion, contains the whole spiritual life; and
it seems to me that whoever duly practises it will soon become
spiritual.

I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of
all other things; because GOD will possess the heart alone; and as He
cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so
neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be
left vacant to Him.

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful,
than that of a continual conversation with GOD: those only can
comprehend it who practise and experience it; yet I do not advise you
to do it from that motive; it is not pleasure which we ought to seek
in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and
because GOD would have us.

Were I a preacher, I should above all other things preach the practice
of the presence of GOD; and were I a director, I should advise all the
world to do it: so necessary do I think it, and so easy too.

Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of GOD,
we should never lose sight of Him, no, not for a moment. Believe me;
make immediately a holy and firm resolution never more wilfully to
forget Him, and to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence,
deprived for the love of Him, if He thinks fit, of all consolations.

Set heartily about this work, and if you do it as you ought, be
assured that you will soon find the effects of it. I will assist you
with my prayers, poor as they are: I recommend myself earnestly to
yours, and those of your holy society.