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

CHAPTER IX. Objections prevented.à

§ 1. Objections prevented.

§§ 2, 3. Difference between the terms Inspirations' (being only internal) and Calls,' which are also external.

§§ 4, 5. How inspirations direct us about external calls and obligations.

§ 6. External calls are to overrule internal.

§§ 7, 8. Authority of superiors ought to overrule inspirations, even in things not of obligation.

§ 9. Inconsiderate commands of superiors in such things to be obeyed, though superiors will be severely accountable to God.

§ 10. Decay of true spirituality arises from the ignorance or neglect of this doctrine touching attending to divine inspirations.

1. Lastly, to prevent all misunderstanding of this most holy and most necessary doctrine touching our obligation to attend unto (and to practise accordingly) the divine inspirations directing us to acts of perfection, as likewise to prevent all misapplication thereof by souls that ought and are willing to follow it, I will here take away the pretended grounds upon which some who, either out of ignorance, passion, or interest, have declared themselves to be enemies thereto, do declaim against it, supposing that they have a great advantage against it, whilst they pretend that by the teaching and practising of it great prejudice will come to the due authority of superiors, from which their subjects, following these instructions, will endeavour to exempt themselves, upon a pretext of divine inspirations to the contrary.

2. For the clearing, therefore, and dissolving of this supposed difficulty and inconvenience, we are to consider that, though in this discourse we have promiscuously used the terms of inspirations, lights, impulses, divine calls, &c., yet the former are only such operations of God as are internal; whereas the term of divine calls imports both an external ordination of God, and also His internal operation in our souls suitable to the external call. And both these are properly termed calls, because by both of them God doth signify His will to souls; for by the external ordination and commission given by God to all in lawful authority under Him, God by them doth reveal His will unto us, which we obey whilst we submit unto and execute the commands and wills of His substitutes. And by His internal operation He directs us to perform such obedience, in a spiritual manner, for the good and advancement of our souls in His divine love.

3. All laws, therefore, all constitutions, precepts, and commands of superiors, and all external or internal duties of obligation by virtue of our state of life as Christians, or moreover as religious or ecclesiastical persons, &c., are, indeed, and so to be esteemed by us, true divine calls, necessarily to be attended to, known, and performed by us.

4. And as for internal inspirations which have regard unto those external calls, the end for which they are given us is not only simply to direct and incline us to perform all our Christian, regular, or other duties with readiness and cheerfulness but to do them with perfection and purity of intention, in and for God only, as if He had immediately and visibly imposed them upon us. And forasmuch as concerns the not doing (to which I said that in a contemplative life the divine inspirations do invite us), that is meant only in matters either indifferent, or at least to the which we have no obligation by virtue of any external law. Yea, on the contrary, we may say that our holy rule (the end whereof is to dispose and lead us to a perfect union with God by contemplation) doth in general oblige us to such abstraction and not doing, wheresoever it doth not require the doing of anything of us.

5. Therefore, whatsoever internal suggestions, motions, or impulses we may find that shall be contrary or prejudicial to such external calls to obedience and regularity, we are to be so far from hearkening to them or esteeming them for divine, that we ought to despise and reject them, judging them to be no better than diabolical illusions. Yea, this is to hold, although the said external laws, commands, or observances be such as we in our private judgment cannot think to be very proper or convenient for us in particular.

6. Now the reason why no internal suggestion ought to take place of external obligations is evident and convincing; because such external calls to obedience being of themselves both manifest and certainly unquestionable tokens and expressions of the divine will, they ought not to give place to any supposed internal significations of the same will whatsoever, which are not nor can be so manifest, but rather to prescribe rules unto them and overrule them. We know the former to be God's will, and to proceed from Him, and therefore we cannot rationally believe that those things that are opposite thereto can be acceptable to Him. Besides, God's will revealed to a subject by the mouth of his superior, or by established laws, has a kind of public authority, being derived by a public person and mean, and therefore must needs take place and be preferred before an inspiration or signification of the divine will to a private person alone.

7. Yea, moreover, so indispensably careful and even scrupulous ought we to be that exterior order and due subordination appointed by God should not upon any pretence be prejudiced, that we are to regard the authority of superiors even in doing or omitting those things which are not within the compass of any special laws or commands, but are left to our own liberty and judgment. So that we ought not to put in execution anything to which we are by an internal inspiration invited or directed, without the approbation and leave (either express or interpretative) of our superior; and if the matter be of considerable moment, his express permission is requisite.

8. Yea, I will add further, that if a religious subject shall have an inspiration which he confidently believes to be divine, by which he is invited to the doing of anything, yet if his superior shall declare such an inspiration not to be divine, and forbid the executing of what it directs, the subject ought not only to obey his superior by forbearing to do according to such an inspiration, but he is also obliged to submit his judgment and to believe his superior. And this he may sincerely and securely do; because though it were so that in truth the inspiration came from God, and did direct to the doing of a thing more perfect or to a more perfect omission, yet all this is to be understood only conditionally, that is, upon supposition that a lawful superior did not judge and command otherwise. For in such a case it would be an act of greater perfection in the subject to obey him forbidding the doing or forbearing of anything, though in itself (and such prohibition not considered) more perfect. Yea, and a divine light and a new inspiration will inform and direct the subject to obey and believe the superior declaring against the former inspiration. For though nothing that a superior in such circumstances can say will make the former inspiration not to have come from God, yet his declaring against it will show it not to be of force now, since that all such inspirations do and ought to suppose the consent, or at least the nonopposition, of the superior, before they be put in practice; and therefore they are to give place to an inspiration of obeying, which is absolute. True it is that in such a case it may happen that the superior may commit a great fault, and must expect to be accountable to God for it; but howsoever, the subject, in obeying such an undue command, shall not only be innocent, but also merit thereby; because in both cases he doth well -- first, in being prepared to obey the former inspiration, which was conditional, and afterwards in contradicting that, to obey a second inspiration of submitting to his superior, which was absolute.

9. As it concerns, therefore, particular souls to depend principally upon their internal director, so likewise are superiors and spiritual guides no less obliged to penetrate into the dispositions of their subjects and disciples, and to discover by what special ways the Spirit of God conducts them, and suitably thereto to conform themselves and to comply with the intention of the Divine Spirit. And this duty our holy patriarch, in the 64th chapter of his Rule, requires from all abbots or superiors, forbidding them to use rigour in the correction of their subjects, or so rudely to scour the vessels as thereby to endanger the breaking of them. He would not have them likewise to be restlessly suspicious and jealous over their subjects, but in their impositions to use great discretion (which he calls the mother of virtues), considering each one's ability, and saying with Jacob, If I force my flocks to travel beyond their strength, they will all of them die at once,' &c. If the superior, therefore, in a humour of commanding, on his own head, should impose commands on his subjects without any regard to the divine will and guidance, such commands will probably prove unprosperous as to the subject, and certainly very dangerous to the superior. Yet so it may be, that the subject may reap spiritual profit by them; for then it may please God to give him an interior enablement to turn such undue commands to his own good and advancement, by increasing in him the habit of resignation and humility. It will, indeed, be very hard for imperfect souls to reap benefit by such inconsiderate superiors; but as for perfect ones, they have both light and spiritual strength to convert all the most unreasonable commands of superiors to the benefit and advancement of their own souls.

10. In case a superior should forbid a subject to pray at this or that time, or should command him to spend no longer than such a small space of time in internal prayer as would not suffice for his advancement in the internal ways of the spirit, the Rule of Perfection requires the subject to obey his superior; yet he may with all humility remonstrate to him his spiritual necessities, acquainting him with the great benefit that his soul finds in a constant performance of his recollections, and in attending to divine inspirations, and what prejudice it might be to him to be forbidden or abridged of them. But if the superior do persist, he must be obeyed, and God will some other way supply the loss the subject finds in such particular obediences. Now though a superior can no more forbid in general the use of internal prayer and of observing divine inspirations than he can forbid the loving or obeying of God, yet whether prayer shall be exercised at such certain appointed times, or for such a determinate space of tune, that is within the limits of a superior's authority; and how he employs that authority, it will concern him to consider. For if he guides souls according to his own will and not God's (and surely God's internal inspirations are His will), besides the guilt that he shall contract by the abusing of his authority, he must expect that all the harm or prejudice that his subjects' souls, through his miscarriage, shall incur, will be heaped and multiplied upon his soul.

11. But concerning the duties and obligations of superiors towards souls whose profession is to tread these internal ways of contemplation, more shall be said hereafter in its proper place; where it shall be demonstrated, that these instructions are so far from prejudicing their authority, that true cordial obedience will never, nor can be, perfectly performed to them but by such souls as are most zealous and constant in the essential duties of prayer and attending to the inspirations of God's Holy Spirit.

12. To conclude this whole discourse concerning divine inspirations: As these advices are not curiously to be applied to the practice of fearful scrupulous souls, whose unquiet thoughts make them in a manner incapable of either light or impulses of God's spirit in matters about which their scrupulosity is exercised, so in those cases they are to follow instructions peculiarly proper to them. But forasmuch as concerns all other well-disposed souls that lead contemplative lives, this doctrine ought to be seriously recommended to them, and they are to be taught how to practise it. For by this and no other way can they assuredly understand or perform the divine will, in which alone consists spiritual perfection. By these inspirations alone the interior is regulated, without which all exterior good carriage is little available to perfection. No external director can order the interior operations of the soul, either in prayer or mortification; none but God alone, who knows and searches the hearts of men. And His principal way of directing is by His inspirations, which, by the acknowledgment of all good Christians, are necessary, to every action to make it good or meritorious. These inspirations, therefore, we must follow; therefore they may be known, for we cannot be obliged to follow an invisible and undiscernible light, we know not what. And if they may be known, surely the rules here prescribed for that purpose (to wit, abstraction of life, and pure, resigned prayer) are the most secure and most efficacious means to come to that knowledge, and to procure grace to work accordingly.

13. And it may very reasonably be believed that the principal ground and reason why true spirituality is in these days so rare, and why matters go so amiss among souls that pretend to aspire to contemplation, is because this most necessary duty of observing and following divine inspirations is either unknown or wilfully misunderstood, and suspected (if not derided) by some who, in popular opinion, are held and desire to pass for chief masters in spirituality. And no wonder is it that such should be disaffected to this doctrine, of the perfect practice whereof themselves are incapable, by reason of their distractive employments and imperfect degree of prayer; and consequently, neither can they, nor perhaps if they could would they, teach it to others, since thereby many souls would quickly be discharged from any necessity of continuing in a dependence on their managing and directions.

14. If any there be that, notwithstanding all that hath been here written touching divine inspirations and the necessity of attending to them, shall yet be unsatisfied, or at least suspect that the publishing of such doctrine may not be convenient -- such a one, for further satisfaction, may consult the Appendix adjoined at the end of the treatises.

[The Appendix here promised was not given. But, as will be seen at the end, Father Cressy partly supplies the omission in an Advertisement and a Postscript to the Reader. -- J. N. S.]

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