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

CHAPTER VIII. Sufficient assurance may be had that inspirations are from God.à

§§ 1, 2, 3. Sufficient assurance may be had that inspirations are from God.

§§ 4, 5, 6, 7. A soul, therefore, may securely commit herself to God's guidance; and why?

§ 8. No danger if a soul should sometimes be mistaken, taking that for an inspiration which is not so.

1. Now all these instructions and exhortations to attend unto and depend on the divine inspirations would be vain; yea, all the promises of God, that He would give His Holy Spirit to those that pray for it as they ought, would be as vain, if there were no means to be assured of such inspirations that they are from God -- by an assurance, I mean, of hope: for a certainty of faith (without extraordinary revelation) cannot be had of such matters which necesssarily suppose the like assurance of being in the state of grace. Hence it is that Thaulerus, Blosius, Michael Constantiensis, &c., do teach us how we may discern, and with confidence judge resolutely what is a divine inspiration; saying, That the devout soul which proceeds with recollection and resignation in all doubtful matters of importance, may and ought to take that to be the divine will, to which she is interiorly moved in or after her recollection (when as passions do not prevail in her), so long as the matter is not otherwise contrary to external obedience, or other law of God or man.

2. For it is certain, yea, and faith obliges us to believe, that in all the good actions we do, or good thoughts we entertain, we so do and think in virtue only of a precedent and concomitant illumination of our understanding and inclining of our will, both which are immediately caused by God. Reason, likewise, and experience tell us, that whilst vain or sinful distracting images or inordinate passions cloud the mind, God's illuminations are either unperceived or neglected by us, and His motions ineffectual. If ever, therefore, the soul be in a fit disposition to receive those blessed effects of God's Holy Spirit, and if ever God will make good His so serious and frequent promises, it is then when by a profound recollection, an humble soul withdraws all her affections from herself and all other creatures, yea, and endeavours to expel all the images of them, transcending all created things, and raising herself according to her power to a strict union with Him, and withal pours forth her desire to be informed in His will, only intending thereby His glory and the increase of His divine love.

3. Now though imperfect souls, not being able as yet to drive away distracting images and to still all unruly passions, are forced to content themselves with their natural light in many matters of less importance, so that a great part of their ordinary actions do not at all contribute to their advancement in spirit, yet perfect souls walk almost continually in a supernatural light, perceiving and resisting the subtle insinuations of self-love, and not suffering themselves hastily to be pushed forwards to actions, before they have consulted their internal guide, and much less contrary to His directions.

4. Most securely, therefore, may we, yea, with all confidence ought we to yield ourselves to be disposed of by God, and to follow Him in any ways that He will lead us, both for the exterior and interior, through light and darkness, through bitter and sweet. And what doubt can there be of erring, having such a guide, which always leads the soul through the paths of mortification and renunciation of self-will? although sometimes some special ways may to our or others' natural judgments seem strange and perhaps impertinent.

5. The grounds of which duty and the security attending it are these: 1. Because we, through the ignorance of our interior complexion and temper of soul, as likewise of our present wants (incomprehensible to human knowledge got by sense), can neither know the special ways either of prayer or mortification proper to us; nor can we be assured that others do sufficiently know them; whereas, of God's omniscience and equally infinite goodness, none can doubt.2. Because, the end whereto we aspire being supernatural, consequently the ways leading thereunto, and the light directing in those ways, must likewise be supernatural.3. Because if we knew the most proper and most direct ways leading to contemplation and divine union, yet they being most contrary to our natural inclinations, without a divine impulse we should not choose the fittest, that is, those which are the most opposite to our nature.

6. Yet we are to consider that there are degrees of security, according to the several manners by which God communicates unto us His inspirations. For, 1. Though in sensible devotion the good thoughts and affections given us are in themselves and according to their substance the effects of God's Spirit, and ought with all security to be complied withal (yet with discretion, so as that out of gluttonous pleasure conceived by them we do not yield unto them so far as thereby to weaken our heads or prejudice our healths), notwithstanding the resolutions of undertaking any practices for the future, grounded on such sensible devotion, are to be mistrusted, as having in them more of nature and self-love, and wanting sincerity or resignation. Besides that the senses being principal workers, the reason is rather obscured than illuminated thereby; yea, and by God's permission, the devil may have some influence in such devotion and subsequent resolutions.2. Of the like uncertain nature may the seeming inspirations or lights be, which are gotten by the working of the imagination and discourse upon the matter, either in prayer or out of it; the person thereupon concluding this or that side to be more likely to be God's will.3. But if without such working of the imagination, or if after it, the soul in recollected prayer made with resignation and submission of her natural judgment, and renouncing all interests of nature, comes, as it were, unexpectedly to have one part of the question presented to her mind as truth and as God's will, God then giving a clarity to the reason to see that which it saw not before, or otherwise than it saw it; or if the soul do find a blind and reasonless motion in the will to one side of the matter: in such cases the soul may most securely and confidently judge it to be a divine inspiration and motion, being wrought without any trouble in the exercise of the imagination, senses, or passions.

7. Let not a soul, therefore, be discouraged from committing herself to God's internal direction, though it should happen that those who pass for the most spiritual persons, and that are most forward to usurp the conducting of souls to perfection (whilst themselves know no further than the exercises of the imagination), should declaim against it, and out of an apprehension that it would be a disparagement to them if God should be acknowledged the principal guide, they should accuse the doctrine here delivered as fantastical, unsafe, and pretending to enthusiasms. No wonder is it if such, being strangers to the contemplative ways of the spirit, should be ignorant of these secret paths by which God leads souls to perfection; in the which none can tread, or at least make any considerable progress, till, quitting a servile dependence on external teachers, they rely only upon the divine guidance. And for this purpose devout souls are seriously and oft to be exhorted to keep themselves in a disposition of as much abstraction both external and internal as may be, to the end they may be enabled to hear and discern the divine voice; to the directions of which if they will in practice faithfully correspond, God will be wanting to them in nothing.

8. And for a further security that there can scarce happen any considerable danger to a soul proceeding this way for knowing the divine will, though she should sometimes mistake in the thing itself, both she and also the opposers of this doctrine are to consider that (as hath formerly been said) the only matters that are here supposed to be proposed for a resolution are, and must be, of the nature of those things which of themselves and in the general are indifferent, but yet which, being well chosen, may and will advance the soul; for in no other things but such can there be any doubt. And surely if we be capable of knowing God's will in such things (as who can question it?), certainly the proceeding thus with indifference and resignation, and without suddenness of resolution or motion of natural passions, or self-love, is the most secure and most assured way to come to that knowledge.

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