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

CHAPTER VI. A confirmation of what hath been said, particularly of the necessity of a strong resolutionà

A confirmation of what hath been said, particularly of the necessity of a strong resolution and courage to persevere, shown by the parable of a pilgrim travelling to Jerusalem, out of Scala Perfectionis.

1. Now, for a further confirmation and more effectual recommendation of what hath hitherto been delivered touching the nature of a contemplative life in general, the supereminent nobleness of its end, the great difficulties to be expected in it, and the absolute necessity of a firm courage to persevere and continually to make progress in it, whatsoever it costs us (without which resolution it is in vain to set one step forward in these ways), I will here annex a passage extracted out of that excellent treatise called Scala Perfectionis, written by that eminent contemplative, Dr. Walter Hilton, a Carthusian monk, in which, under the parable of a devout pilgrim desirous to travel to Jerusalem (which he interprets the vision of peace or contemplation), he delivers instructions very proper and efficacious touching the behaviour requisite in a devout soul for such a journey; the true sense of which advices I will take liberty so to deliver briefly as, notwithstanding, not to omit any important matter there more largely, and according to the old fashion, expressed.

2. |There was a man,| saith he, |that had a great desire to go to Jerusalem; and because he knew not the right way, he addressed himself for advice to one that he hoped was not unskillful in it, and asked him whether there was any way passable thither. The other answered, that the way thither was both long and full of very great difficulties; yea, that there were many ways that seemed and promised to lead thither, but the dangers of them were too great. Nevertheless, one way he knew which, if he would diligently pursue according to the directions and marks that he would give him, -- though, said he, I cannot promise thee a security from many frights, beatings, and other ill-usage and temptations of all kinds; but if thou canst have courage and patience enough to suffer them without quarrelling, or resisting, or troubling thyself, and so pass on, having this only in thy mind, and sometimes on thy tongue, I have nought, I am nought, I desire nought but to be at Jerusalem, -- my life for thine, thou wilt escape safe with thy life and in a competent time arrive thither.

3. |The pilgrim, overjoyed with these news, answered: So I may have my life safe, and may at last come to the place that I above all things only desire, I care not what miseries I suffer in the way. Therefore let me know only what course I am to take, and, God willing, I will not fail to observe carefully your directions. The guide replied: Since thou hast so good a will, though I myself never was so happy as to be in Jerusalem, notwithstanding, be confident that by the instructions that I shall give thee, if thou wilt follow them, thou shalt come safe to thy journey's end.

4. |Now the advice that I am to give thee in brief is this: Before thou set the first step into the highway that leads thither, thou must be firmly grounded in the true Catholic faith; moreover, whatsoever sins thou findest in thy conscience, thou must seek to purge them away by hearty penance and absolution, according to the laws of the Church. This being done, begin thy journey in God's name, but be sure to go furnished with two necessary instruments, humility and charity, both which are contained in the forementioned speech, which must always be ready in thy mind: I am nought, I have nought, I desire but only one thing, and that is our Lord Jesus, and to be with him in peace at Jerusalem. The meaning and virtue of these words therefore thou must have continually, at least in thy thoughts, either expressly or virtually; humility says, I am nought, I have nought; love says, I desire nought but Jesus. These two companions thou must never part from; neither will they willingly be separated from one another, for they accord very lovingly together. And the deeper thou groundest thyself in humility, the higher thou raisest thyself in charity; for the more thou seest and feelest thyself to be nothing, with the more fervent love wilt thou desire Jesus, that by Him, who is all, thou mayest become something.

5. |Now this same humility is to be exercised, not so much in considering thine own self, thy sinfulness, and misery (though to do thus at the first be very good and profitable), but rather in a quiet loving sight of the infinite endless being and goodness of Jesus; the which beholding of Jesus must be either through grace in a savourous feeling knowledge of him, or at least in a full and firm faith in Him. And such a beholding, when thou shalt attain to it, will work in thy mind a far more pure, spiritual, solid, and perfect humility, than the former way of beholding thyself, the which produces a humility more gross, boisterous, and unquiet. By that thou wilt see and feel thyself, not only to be the most wretched filthy creature in the world, but also in the very substance of thy soul (setting aside the foulness of sin) to be a mere nothing, for truly, in and of thyself and in regard to Jesus (who really and in truth is all), thou art a mere nothing; and till thou hast the love of Jesus, yea, and feelest that thou hast His love, although thou hast done to thy seeming never so many good deeds both outward and inward, yet in truth thou hast nothing at all, for nothing will abide in thy soul and fill it but the love of Jesus. Therefore, cast all other things behind thee, and forget them, that thou mayest have that which is best of all; and thus doing, thou wilt become a true pilgrim that leaves behind him houses, and wife, and children, and friends, and goods, and makes himself poor and bare of all things, that he may go on his journey lightly and merrily without hindrance.

6. |Well, now thou art in thy way travelling towards Jerusalem; the which travelling consists in working inwardly, and (when need is) outwardly too, such works as are suitable to thy condition and state, and such as will help and increase in thee this gracious desire that thou hast to love Jesus only. Let thy works be what they will, thinking, or reading, or preaching, or labouring, &c.; if thou findest that they draw thy mind from worldly vanity, and confirm thy heart and will more to the love of Jesus, it is good and profitable for thee to use them. And if thou findest that through custom such works do in time lose their savour and virtue to increase this love, and that it seems to thee that thou feelest more grace and spiritual profit in some other, take these other and leave those, for though the inclination and desire of thy heart to Jesus must ever be unchangeable, nevertheless thy spiritual works thou shalt use in thy manner of praying, reading, &c., to the end to feed and strengthen this desire, may well be changed, according as thou feelest thyself by grace disposed in the applying of thy heart. Bind not thyself, therefore, unchangeably to voluntary customs, for that will hinder the freedom of thy heart to love Jesus, if grace would visit thee specially.

7. |Before thou hast made many steps in the way, thou must expect a world of enemies of several kinds, that will beset thee round about, and all of them will endeavour busily to hinder thee from going forward; yea, and if they can by any means, they will, either by persuasions, flatteries, or violence, force thee to return home again to those vanities that thou hast forsaken. For there is nothing grieves them so much as to see a resolute desire in thy heart to love Jesus, and to travail to find Him. Therefore they will all conspire to put out of thy heart that good desire and love in which all virtues are comprised.

8. |Thy first enemies that will assault thee will be fleshly desires and vain fears of thy corrupt heart; and with these there will join unclean spirits, that with sights and temptations will seek to allure thy heart to them, and to withdraw it from Jesus. But whatsoever they say, believe them not; but betake thyself to thy old only secure remedy, answering ever thus, I am nought, I have nought, and I desire nought, but only the love of Jesus, and so hold forth on thy way desiring Jesus only.

9. |If they endeavour to put dreads and scruples into thy mind, and would make thee believe that thou hast not done penance enough, as thou oughtest for thy sins, but that some old sins remain in thy heart not yet confessed, or not sufficiently confessed and absolved, and that therefore thou must needs return home and do penance better before thou have the boldness to go to Jesus, do not believe a word of all that they say, for thou art sufficiently acquitted of thy sins, and there is no need at all that thou shouldst stay to ransack thy conscience, for this will now but do thee harm, and either put thee quite out of thy, way or at least unprofitably delay thy travailing in it.

10. |If they shall tell thee that thou art not worthy to have the love of Jesus, or to see Jesus, and therefore that thou oughtest not to be so presumptuous to desire and seek after it, believe them not, but go on and say: It is not because I am worthy, but because I am unworthy, that I therefore desire to have the love of Jesus, for if once I had it, it would make me worthy. I will therefore never cease desiring it till I have obtained it. For, for it only was I created, therefore, say and do what you will, I will desire it continually, I will never cease to pray for it, and so doing I hope to obtain it.

11. |If thou meetest with any that seem friends unto thee, and that in kindness would stop thy progress by entertaining thee, and seeking to draw thee to sensual mirth by vain discourses and carnal solaces, whereby thou wilt be in danger to forget thy pilgrimage, give a deaf ear to them, answer them not; think only on this, That thou wouldest fain be at Jerusalem. And if they proffer thee gifts and preferments, heed them not, but think ever on Jerusalem.

12. |And if men despise thee, or lay any false calumnies to thy charge, giving thee ill names; if they go about to defraud thee or rob thee; yea, if they beat thee and use thee despitefully and cruelly, for thy life contend not with them, strive not against them, nor be angry with them, but content thyself with the harm received, and go on quietly as if nought were done, that thou take no further harm; think only on this, that to be at Jerusalem deserves to be purchased with all this ill-usage or more, and that there thou shalt be sufficiently repaired for all thy losses, and recompensed for all hard usages by the way.

13. |If thine enemies see that thou growest courageous and bold, and that thou wilt neither be seduced by flatteries nor disheartened with the pains and troubles of thy journey, but rather well contented with them, then they will begin to be afraid of thee; yet for all that, they will never cease pursuing thee -- they will follow thee all along the way, watching all advantages against thee; and ever and anon they will set upon thee, seeking either with flatteries or frights to stop thee, and drive thee back if they can. But fear them not; hold on thy way, and have nothing in thy mind but Jerusalem and Jesus, whom thou wilt find there.

14. |If thy desire of Jesus still continues and grows more strong, so that it makes thee go on thy ways courageously, they will then tell thee that it may very well happen that thou wilt fall into corporal sickness, and perhaps such a sickness as will bring strange fancies into thy mind, and melancholic apprehensions; or perhaps thou wilt fall into great want, and no man will offer to help thee, by occasion of which misfortunes thou wilt be grievously tempted by thy ghostly enemies, the which will then insult over thee, and tell thee that thy folly and proud presumption have brought thee to this miserable pass, that thou canst neither help thyself, nor will any man help thee, but rather hinder those that would. And all this they will do to the end to increase thy melancholic and unquiet apprehensions, or to provoke thee to anger or malice against thy Christian brethren, or to murmur against Jesus, who, perhaps for thy trial, seems to hide His face from thee. But still neglect all these suggestions as though thou heardest them not. Be angry with nobody but thyself. And as for all thy diseases, poverty, and whatsoever other sufferings (for who can reckon all that may befall thee?), take Jesus in thy mind, think on the lesson that thou art taught, and say, I am nought, I have nought, I care for nought in this world, and I desire nought but the love of Jesus, that I may see him in peace at Jerusalem.

15. |But if it shall happen sometimes, as likely it will, that through some of these temptations and thy own frailty, thou stumble and perhaps fall down, and get some harm thereby, or that thou for some time be turned a little out of the right way, as soon as possibly may be come again to thyself, get up again and return into the right way, using such remedies for thy hurt as the Church ordains; and do not trouble thyself over much or over long with thinking unquietly on thy past misfortune and pain -- abide not in such thoughts, for that will do thee more harm, and give advantage to thine enemies. Therefore, make haste to go on in thy travail and working again, as if nothing had happened. Keep but Jesus in thy mind, and a desire to gain His love, and nothing shall be able to hurt thee.

16. |At last, when thine enemies perceive that thy will to Jesus is so strong that thou wilt not spare neither for poverty nor mischief, for sickness nor fancies, for doubts nor fears, for life nor death, no, nor for sins neither, but ever forth thou wilt go on with that one thing of seeking the love of Jesus, and with nothing else; and that thou despisest and scarce markest anything that they say to the contrary, but holdest on in thy praying and other spiritual works (yet always with discretion and submission), then they grow even enraged, and will spare no manner of most cruel usage. They will come closer to thee than ever before, and betake themselves to their last and most dangerous assault, and that is, to bring into the sight of thy mind all thy good deeds and virtues, showing thee that all men praise thee, and love thee, and bear thee great veneration for thy sanctity, &c. And all this they do to the end to raise vain joy and pride in thy heart. But if thou tenderest thy life, thou wilt hold all this flattery and falsehood to be a deadly poison to thy soul, mingled with honey; therefore, away with it; cast it from thee, saying, thou wilt have none of it, but thou wouldest be at Jerusalem.

17. |And to the end, to put thyself out of the danger and reach of all such temptations, suffer not thy thoughts willingly to run about the world, but draw them all inwards, fixing their upon one only thing, which is Jesus: set thyself to think only on Him, to know Him, to love Him; and after thou hast for a good time brought thyself to do thus, then whatsoever thou seest or feelest inwardly that is not He, will be unwelcome and painful to thee, because it will stand in thy way to the seeing and seeking of Him whom thou only desirest.

18. |But yet, if there be any work or outward business which thou art obliged to do, or that charity or present necessity requires of thee, either concerning thyself or thy Christian brother, fail not to do it; dispatch it as well and as soon as well thou canst, and let it not tarry long in thy thoughts, for it will but hinder thee in thy principal business. But if it be any other matter of no necessity, or that concerns thee not in particular, trouble not thyself nor distract thy thoughts about it, but rid it quickly out of thy heart, saying still thus, I am nought, I can do nought, I have nought, and nought do I desire to have, but only Jesus and his love.

19. |Thou wilt be forced, as all other pilgrims are, to take ofttimes, by the way, refreshments, meats and drink and sleep, yea, and sometimes innocent recreations; in all which things rise discretion, and take heed of foolish scrupulosity about them. Fear not that they will be much a hindrance to thee, for though they seem to stay thee for a while, they will further thee and give thee strength to walk on more courageously for a good long time after.

20. |To conclude, remember that thy principal aim, and indeed only business, is to knit thy thoughts to the desire of Jesus -- to strengthen this desire daily by prayer and other spiritual workings, to the end it may never go out of thy heart. And whatsoever thou findest proper to increase that desire, be it praying or reading, speaking or being silent, travailing or reposing, make use of it for the time, as long as thy soul finds savour in it, and as long as it increases this desire of having or enjoying nothing but the love of Jesus, and the blessed sight of Jesus in true peace in Jerusalem; and be assured that this good desire thus cherished and continually increased will bring thee safe unto the end of thy pilgrimage.|

21. This is the substance of the parable of the Spiritual Pilgrim travailing in the ways of contemplation; the which I have more largely set down because, by the contexture of it, not only we see confirmed what is already written before, but also we have a draught and scheme represented, according to which all the following instructions will be conformably answerable.

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