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Holy Wisdom Or Directions For The Prayer Of Contemplation by Ven. F. Augustine Baker

CHAPTER I. Continual union in spirit with God the end of man's creationà

§§ 1-3. Continual union in spirit with God the end of man's creation, and practised by Adam in innocence.

§§ 4.5. Man's fall and misery through sin.

§§ 6, 7. Which is transfused into us and all his posterity.

§§ 8, 9. The reparation of mankind by Christ.

§§ 10, 11. That all Christians are obliged to aspire to perfection in divine love by the ways of prayer, &c., as Adam did.

1. It was only infinite goodness that moved Almighty God to create the world of nothing, and particularly in this inferior visible world, to create man after His own image and similitude, consisting of a frail earthly body, which is the prison of an immortal, intellectual spirit, to the end that by his understanding, which is capable of an unlimited knowledge, and by his will, which cannot be replenished with any object of goodness less than infinite, he might so govern and order himself, and all other visible creatures, as thereby to arrive unto the end for which he was made, to wit, eternal beatitude both in soul and body in heaven, the which consists in a returning to the divine principle from whom he flowed, and an inconceivably happy union with Him, both in mind, contemplating eternally His infinite perfections, and in will and affections eternally loving, admiring, and enjoying the said perfections.

2. Now to the end that man might not (except by his own free and willful choice of misery) fail from attaining to the only universal end of his creation, God was pleased to the natural vast capacity of man's understanding and will to add a supernatural light, illustrating his mind to believe and know Him, and divine charity in the will, which was as it were a weight to incline and draw the soul, without any defect or interruption to love God, and Him only. So that by a continual presence of this light, and an uninterrupted exercise of this love, the soul of man would in time have attained to such a measure of perfection of union with God in this world, as without dying to merit a translation from hence to heaven, there eternally to enjoy a far more incomprehensibly perfect and beatifying union with God.

3. Hence it appears that the means to happiness, and the end itself, are essentially the same thing, to wit, union of the spirit with God, and differ only in degrees. And the union which Adam during his state of innocence did and would always have practised was in a sort perpetual, never being interrupted (except perhaps in sleep). For, loving God only and purely for Himself, he had no strange affection to distract him, and the images of creatures, which either by his consideration of them, or operations about them, did adhere to his internal senses, did not at all divert his mind from God, because he contemplated them only in order to God; or rather he contemplated God alone in them, loving and serving Him only in all his reflections on them, or workings about them. So that creatures and all offices towards them served as steps to raise Adam to a more sublime and more intimate union with God; the which was both his duty and his present happiness, besides that it was a disposition to his future eternal beatitude.

4. But our first parents by a willful contempt and transgression of that one most easy command, which God for a trial of their obedience had imposed on them, not only broke the foresaid union, and deprived themselves of the hope of enjoying God eternally in the future life, but moreover were utterly divested of all supernatural graces, and extremely weakened and disordered in all their natural gifts. So that having lost that divine light, by which their understandings had been illustrated, and that divine love by which their wills and affections adhered continually to God, they were rendered incapable either of contemplating God (except only as a severe judge and avenger), or consequently of affording Him any degree of love. On the contrary, both their minds and affections were only employed on themselves, or on creatures, for their own natural, carnal interests or pleasure; and this with such a violent obstinacy and firmness, that it was impossible for them by any force left in corrupt nature to raise their love towards God, being once so impetuously precipitated from Him towards themselves.

5. All these miserable depravations having been caused in all the powers and faculties of their souls by the forbidden fruit, the which utterly and irreparably disordered that most healthful, exact temper of their bodily constitutions; insomuch as the spirits and humours, &c., which before did nothing at all hinder their exercisings and operations towards God, but did much promote them, now did wholly dispose them to love and seek themselves only, with an utter aversion from God, and the accomplishing of His divine will; and all circumstant creatures, instead of being steps to raise them towards God, on the contrary more and more seduced their affections from Him, and raised all other inordinate passions displeasing to Him. Hereby in lieu of that peaceable and happy condition which they before enjoyed in this world by a continual union with God (the which was to be perfected eternally in the world to come), they became disquieted, distracted, and even torn asunder with a multitude of passions and designs, oft contrary to one another, but all of them much more opposite to God; so that by falling from unity to a miserable multiplicity, and from peace to an endless war, they were therein captived by the devil, readily yielding to all his suggestions, hateful to and hating God, and so contracted not only an unavoidable necessity of a corporal death, but also the guilt and right to an eternal separation from God after death in that lake of fire and brimstone burning for ever, and prepared for the devil and his angels.

6. Now the whole stock of human nature being thus totally and universally depraved in our first parents, it could not by any possible natural means be avoided, but that all their posterity should be equally infected and poisoned with all these disorders, all which were increased and daily heightened by ill education and actual transgressions. And consequently the same guilt both of temporal and eternal death was withal transfused upon them.

7. But Almighty God, the Father of mercies, pitying His own creatures thus ingulfed in utter misery by the fault of Adam, seduced by his and our common enemy, did in His most unspeakable mercy, freely and unasked, provide and ordain His own coeternal Son to be a Saviour unto mankind; who by His most bitter sufferings and death redeemed us from the guilt of eternal death; and by His glorious life and resurrection, having obtained a power of sending the Holy Ghost (communicated to us in His word and sacraments, &c.), He hath rectified all these disorders, shedding forth a new heavenly light to cure the blindness of our understandings, and divine charity in our hearts, the which abateth that inordinate self-love formerly reigning in us, and hereby He reinstates us (coöperating with His divine grace, and persevering therein) to a new right unto eternal happiness, (perhaps) more sublime than man in innocency was destined to.

8. Notwithstanding, it was not the good will and pleasure of God by this reparation to restore us to the same state of perfect holiness wherein Adam lived in paradise. And this we ought to ascribe to His infinite wisdom, and also to His unspeakable goodness towards us; for certainly, if we had been once more left, as Adam was, in the free power of our own wills, that is, in so casual an estate as Adam was, and assisted and fortified with no stronger an aid than the primitive grace, we should again have irreparably forfeited all our happiness, and plunged ourselves far more deeply in endless misery.

9. Therefore, Almighty God thought fit for our humiliation, and to keep us in continual vigilance and fear, as also thereby daily to refresh the memory of our primitive guilt, and our thankfulness for His inestimable goodness, to leave us in a necessity of incurring temporal death, which we are not now to look on as a punishment of sin, so much as a freedom from sin, and a gate and entrance to eternal glory. Moreover, though by His grace He hath abolished the guilt of original sin, yet He hath suffered still to remain in us many bitter effects of it, the which shall never in this life be so wholly extinguished by grace, or our holy endeavours, but that some degrees of ignorance and inclinations to that pernicious love of ourselves will remain in us; by which means we are preserved from our greatest enemy, pride, and also forced to a continual watchfulness and combat against ourselves, and our spiritual enemies; always distrusting ourselves and relying upon the medicinal omnipotent regenerating grace of Christ, far more helpful to us than the grace of innocency was, in that it not only more powerfully inclines our wills and conquers the actual resistance of them, by making them freely coöperate with it, whensoever they do coöperate (for it takes not away our liberty to resist), but likewise after it hath been weakened by venial sins, and extinguished by mortal, it is again and again renewed by the means of the sacraments and prayer, &c.

10. Our duty therefore in our present state, and the employment of our whole lives, must be constantly and fervently to coöperate with divine grace, thereby endeavouring not only to get victory over self-love, pride, sensuality, &c., by humility, divine love, and all other virtues; but also not to content ourselves with any limited degrees of piety and holiness, but daily to aspire, according to our abilities assisted with grace by the same ways to the same perfection for which we were first created, and which was practised by Adam in innocence; to wit, an utter extinguishing of self-love and all affection to creatures, except in order to God, and as they may be instrumental to beget and increase divine love in us; and a continual uninterrupted union in spirit with God, by faith contemplating Him, and by love ever adhering to Him.

11. This, I say, is the duty and indispensable obligation of all Christians, of what condition soever, not only seriously to aspire to the divine love, but also to the perfection thereof suitably to their several states and vocations, for it is morally impossible for a soul to love God, as He ought to be loved (that is, as the only object of her love, and as the only universal end of her being and life, for the procuring of an inseparable union with whom and for no other reason the use and comfort of creatures was permitted and given to her), I say, it is morally impossible for such a soul so loving God deliberately and habitually to yield to the love of anything but God only, and in order to Him; or to stop in any inferior degree of love to Him. The frailty of nature and many unavoidable distractions and temptations may and generally do hinder most souls from attaining or even approaching to such perfection, to such uninterrupted attention and union with God, as was practised by Adam in innocency, and by a few perfect souls in all ages; but nothing but the want of true sincere love will hinder the aspiring thereto, according to the measure and strength of grace that each soul in her order enjoys. And both reason and experience witness this truth in all manner of loves, lawful or unlawful; for we see that wheresoever the love to riches, honour, empire, or pleasure is the tyrannising affection, so as to cause the person to place his supposed happiness in any of these, such persons neither will nor can, being so disposed, willfully surcease a continual progress in pursuing their designs endlessly; neither can they admit an habitual and deliberate adherence with affection to any other object, though (not ruinous, but) in an inferior degree prejudicial to what they principally affect.

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