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

CHAPTER IX. Of scrupulosity arising from certain inward temptations.à

§ 1. Of scrupulosity arising from certain inward temptations.

§§ 2, 3. Temptations are not in themselves ill, but rather a mark of God's love. Yet they are not to be sought.

§ 4. Internal temptations very purifying.

§§ 5, 6, 7, 8. Of inward temptations resting only in the mind; and advices against them.

§ 9. Likewise touching those that cause also effects and motions in corporal nature.

§§ 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Prayer is by no means to be omitted for temptations, as being the best and securest remedy, inasmuch as all temptations are most efficaciously and perfectly resisted by conversion of the soul with love to God.

1. The special kinds of inward temptations which do ordinarily afford matter of fear and scrupulosity to well-minded tender souls are, first, either such ill imaginations or thoughts as rest in the mind alone, without any other outward effect, such are thoughts: 1. of infidelity; 2. of blasphemy; 3. of despair, &c.; or, secondly, such as withal have, or may cause an alteration in the body, such are thoughts of impurity, anger, &c.

2. Now concerning temptations in general, the devout soul is to consider that it is no sin to have them; yea, being sent us by God, they are meant for our good, and to give us occasion to merit by them. And those which God sends us are the most proper for us; for if they were in our own choice we should choose least and last of all those that are most fit to humble us, and to withdraw our affections from ourselves and creatures; so that the more displeasing to us and afflicting that any temptations are the more profitable are they. Let none, therefore, be dismayed at the approach of temptations, but since self-love cannot be cured but by application of things contrary thereto, let us accept of them as a special gift of God, assuring ourselves that it would be perilous to be long without them. And if we cannot clearly see how our present temptation can turn to our profit we ought to content ourselves that God sees it; and otherwise He who is infinite wisdom and goodness would never have permitted them to befall us; therefore let faith supply knowledge or curiosity.

3. Nevertheless, we must not voluntarily seek temptations, for (Qui amat periculum peribit in eo), He that loves danger shall perish therein,' saith the wise man. God will not deny spiritual strength to resist and make good use of temptations that by His providence befall us; yea, although it was by some precedent fault and negligence of ours that they befell us; but He has made no promise to secure us in a danger into which we voluntarily run.

4. More particularly internal temptations are more beneficial and purifying, and they do more profoundly humble us than do outward pains or persecutions: 1. because they discover unto us (not the malice of others but) our own sinful natures, prone of themselves to all abominations; 2. and by them we come to be delivered, not from other creatures, but from ourselves, in which separation our chiefest and last conquered difficulty consists; 3. they send us for remedy to none but God; for what effect can any assistance, medicines, or other helps of creatures have against our own thoughts.

5. And as for the special forenamed temptations a well-minded soul ought to consider that the simple passing of such thoughts or imaginations in the mind is no sin at all, though they should rest there never so long without advertence, but only the giving a deliberate consent unto them. Neither is it in the power of a soul either to prevent or banish them at pleasure, because the imagination is not so subject to reason as that it can be commanded to entertain no images but such as reason will allow, but it is distempered according to the disposition of the humours and spirits in the body; and sometimes the devil also is permitted to inject or raise images to the disquieting of tender souls, but he can force none to consent to the suggestions proceeding from them.

6. There is less danger of consenting unto temptations merely spiritual, such as are thoughts of blasphemy, despair, &c., and consequently less likelihood of scrupulosity from a suspicion of such consent. Though sometimes they may be so violent and so obstinately adhering that the fancy will become extremely disordered, and the soul will think herself to be in a kind of hell where there is nothing but blaspheming and hating of God.

7. Her best remedy is quietly to turn her thoughts some other way, and rather neglect than force herself to combat them with contrary thoughts, for by neglecting them the impression that they make in the imagination will be diminished. She may do well also, by words or outward gestures, to signify her renouncing and detestation of them, as in a temptation of blasphemy let her pronounce words and express postures of adoration of God, praise, love, &c.; let her be also the more diligent in frequenting the choir, continuing more carefully in postures of humility before Him. And doing thus, let her banish all suspicions of having consented as being morally impossible.

8. Certain it is that however troublesome and horrid soever such temptations may seem to be, yet they, being quietly resisted, or rather neglected, do wonderfully purify the soul, establishing Divine love most firmly and deeply in the spirit. Moreover, by occasion of them the superior soul is enabled to transcend all the disorders and tumults in inferior nature, adhering to God during the greatest contradictions of sensuality.

9. As for the other sort of inferior temptations, which are more gross, causing oft disorderly motions and effects in corporal nature, it will be more difficult to persuade timorous souls that they have not consented, both by reason that such imaginations are more pertinacious and sticking to the corporal humours and spirits, and also because inferior nature is powerfully inclined to a liking of them, insomuch as that real effects and alterations may be wrought in the body before that reason be fully awake to resist them; yea, and after the resistance made by reason, yet such images continuing in the fancy and such motions in the body, the mind will be stupefied, and the resistance of reason will ofttimes be so feeble as that in the opinion of the person it will pass for no resistance at all; yea, rather the soul will be persuaded that she has deliberately consented, considering the continuance of them, after that she was fully awake, and had reflected on them.

10. Notwithstanding, unless in such souls the reason do not only reflect upon the sinfulness of such impure thoughts, if consented to, but likewise unless in the very same instant that she makes such a reflection the will be deliberately moved to the approving of them, they may be assured that there has passed no culpable consent to them. Again, if the general disposition of such souls be such as that seldom or never either speeches or deliberate actions do proceed from them comformable to such impure imaginations, they may confidently judge that there is no danger of having incurred a mortal sin.

11. Above all things the devout soul is to be careful that she be not disheartened by occasion of such temptations from pursuing constantly her appointed recollections the best she can, notwithstanding that then, above all other times, such thoughts will throng into her mind, so that she will think it almost unlawful to appear before God, being full of such impure images. But she is to consider that now is the proper time to show her fidelity to God. No thanks to her if she adhere to God when nature makes no opposition, but rather finds a gust in it. But if amidst these tempests of corrupt nature she will firmly adhere to God when such adhesion becomes so extremely painful to her, this is thanksworthy; then she will show herself a valiant soldier of our Lord, and worthy of that testimony that He gives of her, who has judged her fit and capable of encountering such furious enemies.

12. A great blessing and happiness it is that in all internal confusions, obscurities, &c., we can always make an election of God with the superior will, which being effectually done, whatsoever disorders are in the imagination or in inferior nature, they do rather increase than prejudice our merit.

13. Indeed this is that great, most efficacious, and universal remedy against all temptations, to wit, an actual conversion of the soul to God in prayer; for thereby the soul being united to God, either she will lose the image and memory of the temptation for the present, or, however, she doth with far more efficacy oppose and work contrary to such temptations, than if she had fixed her eyes with a direct renouncing and detestation of them; for in an actual union with God is included a virtual detestation of all things contrary to Him, both for present and future, and also thereby the soul adheres to her only good, with whom they are absolutely inconsistent.

14. This remedy, therefore, which contains in it all the virtue of all other particular remedies, is often and seriously to be recommended to internal contemplative livers (for, indeed, none but such as live abstracted lives can, without great force and difficulty, be in a disposition at pleasure to introvert and recollect themselves). However, let every soul that is capable thereof use it. It is the plainest, easiest, securest, and most infallible cure of all others.

15. Those that are thoroughly practised in prayer cannot only be united in will to God, but perceive themselves to be so united, whilst in the mean time both the representation of these temptations remain in the imagination and understanding, and much trouble likewise in inferior nature, all which, notwithstanding, are not any hindrance or prejudice to such union; yea, by occasion of these things a more perfect and intense union may be caused.

16. The light obtained by prayer for the discovering of the causes, grounds, and remedies of such temptations, and the grace to resist them, is wonderful and incredible to those that do not practise prayer; by neglect of which many live in the midst of temptations, and yet do not know them to be such, or knowing them, yet have no strength nor will to resist them. But most certain it is, that a soul which duly prosecutes internal prayer, according to her present abilities, can scarce possibly be overcome with a temptation as habitually to yield to it, or, however, to die in it. Indeed, there is no security that a soul ordinarily is capable of in this life but by the means of prayer.

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