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

CHAPTER I. In internal contemplative ways a guide is necessary, and why? §§ 2à

§ 1. In internal contemplative ways a guide is necessary, and why?

§§ 2, 3, 4. All good Christians have within their souls two internal guides.1. The spirit of corrupt nature, which is never wholly expelled.2. The Spirit of God. And these teach contrarily, and for contrary ends.

§§ 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Divine inspirations, beyond the light of common grace, are to be our light in internal ways.

§§ 10, 11. In what special things such inspirations do direct internal livers.

§§ 12, 13. They ordinarily teach rather cessation and not doing than much doing.

§§ 14, 15. Extraordinary inspirations, illuminations, &c., not pretended to.

1. Having hitherto treated of a contemplative life in general, the nature and end of it, together with the necessary disposition required in souls that, according to their vocation or profession, are desirous to pursue the exercises belonging thereto, the next thing that in relation to the said state deserves our consideration is the guide whose directions we may and ought to follow therein; for certainly a guide must needs be had, since it is evident that in our present state of corrupt nature, we have no light so much as to discover that there is any such way, and much less to direct and enable us to walk in paths so much above, yea, so directly contrary to the designs and interests of nature.

2. Now, since in every good, faithful, and true Christian (as truth and experience teach) there are two internal lights and teachers, to wit, 1. the spirit of corrupt nature; 2. the Divine Spirit, both which, in all our deliberate actions, do offer themselves, and even strive for mastery, contending whether of them, with the exclusion of the other, shall lead us in the ways proper and pleasing to each, the which ways, as also the ends to which they conduct, are directly contrary to one another; for the spirit of corrupt nature only teaches us such things as are for the present pleasing or profitable to our carnal desires or sensual and secular designs, but pernicious to the soul or spirit; the which, following the light of nature, runs into endless errors and labyrinths, all which lead us from God and true happiness unto eternal misery. On the other side, the Spirit of God, discovering unto us the folly and danger of following so blind and pernicious a guide as nature is; teaches us that our happiness consists in forsaking such a wandering guide, and treading paths quite contrary; in renouncing present sensual pleasures and commodities so far as they are a hindrance (yea, not an advancement) to our knowing of God and spiritual things, the which only must be the object of all our desires and endeavours, and whereby only we shall arrive to eternal happiness and union with God.

3. Besides these two guides, we neither have nor can have any other within us, and with both these good Christians are continually attended. Whatsoever, therefore, is not the teaching of the Divine Spirit is the suggestion of the false teacher, who is His and our enemy, the which took possession of the souls of men upon Adam's transgression, whose fault was the not attending to the teaching of God's Holy Spirit (which then was the only internal teacher), but instead thereof, hearkening to the flattering temptations of his wife, seduced by the devil. And from Adam this false light is communicated to all his posterity, so as naturally we have no other. But the new heavenly teacher, the Holy Spirit, is freely given us by means of the divine word and sacraments; it being a new divine principle imprinted in our spirits, raising them to God, and continually soliciting us to walk in His ways.

4. Our misery is, that whereas by mortal sins the divine light is for the time wholly extinguished, so as to the producing of any considerable good effect upon the will, it is not so on the other side, that by grace the false teacher should be totally expelled or silenced, but it remains even in the most perfect, and God knows even the best are too much inclined often to hearken to it. Those that are less perfect, though in matters of necessary duty and obligation they follow the conduct of the Divine Spirit, yet in lesser matters they for the most part are moved with no other principle than that of corrupt nature, by which they incur defects, the which, though in themselves venial, yet do much obscure the divine light, and weaken its efficacy. Yea, even in those things wherein such imperfect souls do for the substance of the action and its essentials follow the direction of God's Spirit, yet, by mixing of sensual interests and ends, suggested by the false teacher, they do diminish its lustre, beauty, and value. And so subtle is the spirit of nature, that it oft makes its false suggestions pass for divine inspirations, and seldom misses the insinuating its poison in some degree, either into the beginning or continuation of our best actions.

5. From these unquestionable grounds thus truly laid, it follows evidently that in all good actions, and especially in the internal ways of the spirit which conduct to contemplation and perfection, God alone is our only master and director; and creatures, when He is pleased to use them, are only His instruments. So that all other teachers whatsoever, whether the light of reason, or external directors, or rules prescribed in books, &c., are no further nor otherwise to be followed or hearkened to, than as they are subordinate and conformable to the internal directions and inspirations of God's Holy Spirit, or as God invites, instructs, and moves us to have recourse unto them, by them to be informed in His will, and by Him enabled to perform it; and that if they be made use of any other ways, they will certainly mislead us.

6. This is by all mystical writers acknowledged so fundamental a truth, that without acknowledging it and working according to it, it is in vain to enter into the exercises of an internal contemplative life. So that to say (as too commonly it is said by authors who pretend to be spiritual, but have no taste of these mystic matters), take all your instructions from without, from external teachers or books, is all one as to say, have nothing at all to do with the ways of contemplation, which can be taught by no other but God, or by those whom God especially instructs and appoints determinately for the disciple's present exigency. So that it is God only that internally teaches both the teacher and disciple, and His inspirations are the only lesson for both. All our light, therefore, is from divine illumination, and all our strength as to these things is from the divine operation of the Holy Ghost on our wills and affections.

7. Now, to the end that this so important a verity may more distinctly be declared and more firmly imprinted in the minds of all those that desire to be God's scholars in the internal ways of His divine love, they are to take notice that the inspirations which are here acknowledged to be the only safe rule of all our actions, though of the same nature, yet do extend further, and to more and other particular objects, than the divine light or grace, by which good Christians, living common lives in the world, are led, extends to; yea, than it does even in those that seek perfection by the exercises of an active life.

8. The light and virtue of common grace afford generally, to all good Christians that seriously endeavour to save their souls, such internal illuminations and motions as are sufficient to direct them for the resisting of any sinful temptation, or to perform any necessary act of virtue, in circumstances wherein they are obliged, though this direction be oft obeyed with many circumstantial defects, and their actions are so far and no further meritorious and pleasing to God than as they proceed from such internal grace or inspiration. But as for other actions, which in their own nature are not absolutely of necessary obligation, the which, notwithstanding, might be made instrumental to the advancing and perfecting of holiness in their souls (such as are the ordinary and usually esteemed indifferent actions of their lives), to a due improvement of such actions, they have neither the light nor the strength, or very seldom, by reason that they live distracted lives, not using such solitude and recollection as are necessary for the disposing of souls to the receiving such an extraordinary light and virtue. And as for those that tend to perfection by active exercises, even the more perfect, although they attain thereby a far greater measure of light and grace, by which they perform their necessary duties of holiness more perfectly and with a more pure intention, and likewise make far greater benefit for their advancement by actions and occurrences more indifferent; yet they also, for want of habitual introversion and recollectedness of mind, do pass over without benefit the greatest part of their ordinary actions.

9. But as for contemplative livers, those I mean that have made a sufficient progress towards perfection, besides the common grace, light, or inspirations necessary for a due performance of essential duties, the which they enjoy in a far more sublime manner and degree, so as to purify their actions from a world of secret impurities, and subtle mixture of the interests and ends of corrupt nature, invisible to all other souls -- besides this light, I say (which is presupposed and prerequired), they walk in a continual supernatural light, and are guided by assiduous inspirations in regard of their most ordinary, and, in themselves, indifferent actions and occurrences, in all which they clearly see how they are to behave themselves, so as to do the will of God, and by them also to improve themselves in the divine love; the which extraordinary light is communicated unto them only by virtue of their almost continual recollectedness, introversion, and attention to God in their spirits.

10. More particularly by this internal divine light an internal liver is or may be directed: 1. In the manner and circumstances, when, where, and how any virtue may most profitably and perfectly be exercised; for as for the substantial act of such a virtue, and the necessary obliging circumstances in which it cannot, without mortal sin, be omitted, the light of common sanctifying grace will suffice to direct.2. In the manner, frequency, length, change, and other circumstances of internal prayer.3. In actions or omissions, which, absolutely considered, may, seem in themselves indifferent, and at the present there may be, as to ordinary light, an uncertainty whether the doing or omission is the more perfect. This is discovered to the soul by these supernatural inspirations and light: such actions or omissions are, for example, reading, study of such or such matters, walking, conversing, staying in or quitting solitude in one's cell, taking a journey, undertaking or refusing an employment, accepting or refusing invitations, &c.; in all which things well-minded souls, by solitude and introversion disposing themselves, will not fail to have a supernatural light and impulse communicated to them, which will enable them to make choice of that side of the doubt, which, if they correspond thereto, will most advance them in spirit, and suit with the divine will; whereas, without such light, generally souls are directed by an obscure light and impulse of nature and carnal ends or interests, without the least benefit of their spirit, yea, to their greater distraction and dissipation.

11. Generally and ordinarily speaking, when there is proposed the doing or not doing of any external work, and that both of them are in themselves lawful, the divine inspiration in contemplative souls moves to the not doing; because the abstaining from much external working, and the increasing in internal solitude of spirit, is more suitable to their present state, and to that abstraction of life which they profess -- except when the doing may prove a more beneficial mortification to self-love, or other inordinate affection of corrupt nature.

12. The special points and matters of omissions, which (among others) are usually the objects of such divine calls and inspirations, may be such as these, viz.: 1. To eschew unnecessary, though permitted, conversations and correspondences with others, either by speaking or writing.2. To be very wary and sparing in the use of the tongue.3. Not solicitously to avoid occasions of mortifications or afflictions 4. To avoid the encumbering ourselves with business not pertaining to us.5. To fly honours, offices, care over others, and the like.6. Not to crave this or that unnecessary thing or commodity, but to be content without them.7. Not to question or expostulate why such a thing was said or done, but to hold patience, and to let things be as they are.8. Not to complain of or accuse any.9. In cases of supportable and not harmful oppressions, to abstain from appeals to higher superiors.10. To avoid the voluntary causing or procuring a change in our present condition, employment, place, &c.11. To quiet and compose all manner of passions rising in the heart, and all troubles in mind, and to preserve the soul in peace, tranquillity, and cheerfulness in God's service.12. To avoid such things or doings as will distract our minds with dissipating images.13. To forbear and break off all particular partial friendships and compliances.14. To preserve convenient liberty of spirit, and to abstain from encumbering or ensnaring ourselves by any voluntary assumed tasks, obligations, &c., though in matters in themselves good, but which may, becoming obligatory, prove hindrances to better things.15. In a word, the divine inspirations, of which we here treat, do ever tend to a simplicity in thoughts, words, and deeds, and to all things which may advance the more perfect exercise of obedience, humility, resignation, purity of prayer, purity of intention, &c., so that whatsoever is contrary to any of these is to be rejected as a diabolical suggestion.

13. As for extraordinary supernatural inspirations, illuminations, apparitions, voices, conversations with spirits, messages from heaven, &c., a spiritual internal liver is forbidden to pretend to, or so much as desire them; yea, rather to pray against them, lest he should abuse them to vanity and pride; and, moreover, never to admit or esteem them for such, and much less to put in execution anything that seems to be such a way commanded, till they have been first examined, judged, and approved by superiors, &c. But of this particular we shall speak more hereafter.

14. The divine inspirations, lights, impulses, or calls, of which we here speak, are: 1. either such as are immediately communicated to the soul alone; 2. or also mediately with the concurrence of some other person or thing, to wit, by the mean of an external director; or also by the use and reading or hearing read spiritual or other pious books. We will, in the first place, treat of this latter way of understanding the divine will, because it is both more easy to be discerned, and also it is the way by which commonly imperfect souls are first instructed.

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