Archive for June, 2000

07) Seventh Letter

At the age of nearly fourscore exhorts his correspondent, who is
sixty-four, to live and die with God and promises and asks for prayer.
I PITY you much. It will be of great importance if you can leave the
care of your affairs to, and spend the remainder of your life only in
worshipping GOD. He requires no great matters of us; a little
remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to
pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and
sometimes to return Him thanks for the favours He has given you, and
still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself
with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes
even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least little
remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very
loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.
It is not necessary for being with GOD to be always at church; we may
make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to
converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable
of such familiar conversation with GOD, some more, some less: He knows
what we can do. Let us begin then; perhaps He expects but one generous
resolution on our part. Have courage. We have but little time to live;
you are near sixty-four, and I am almost eighty. Let us live and die
with GOD: sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us, while we are
with Him: and the greatest pleasures will be, without Him, a cruel
punishment to us. May He be blessed for all. Amen.
Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg His grace, to
offer Him your heart from time to time, in the midst of your business,
even every moment if you can. Do not always scrupulously confine
yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotion; but act
with a general confidence in GOD, with love and humility. You may
assure þ- of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and yours
particularly.

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06) Sixth Letter

To a member of the order who had received from him a book, and to whom
he again enlarges on his favourite topic. þ Encouragement to persevere.
I HAVE received from Mrs. þ- the things which you gave her for me. I
wonder that you have not given me your thoughts of the little book I
sent to you, and which you must have received. Pray set heartily about
the practice of it in your old age; it is better late than never.
I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the
practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with
Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am
so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is
insupportable.
This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is, however, proper to
deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are
innocent and lawful: for GOD will not permit that a soul which desires
to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with Him;
that is more than reasonable.
I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon
ourselves. No, we must serve GOD in a holy freedom, we must do our
business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet; recalling our mind to
GOD mildly and with tranquillity, as often as we find it wandering from
Him.
It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in GOD, laying aside
all other cares, and even some particular forms of devotion, though very
good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in unreasonably:
because those devotions are only means to attain to the end; so when by
this exercise of the presence of GOD we are with Him who is our end, it
is then useless to return to the means; but we may continue with Him
our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence: one while by an
act of praise, of adoration, or of desire; one while by an act of
resignation, or thanksgiving; and in all the manner which our spirit
can invent.
Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from
nature; you must do yourself violence. At the first, one often thinks
it lost time; but you must go on, and resolve to persevere in it to
death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur. I recommend
myself to the prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I
am yours in our LORD.

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08) Eighth Letter

EIGHTH LETTER
Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer.
YOU tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with
wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving; but as the will is
mistress of all our faculties, she must recall them, and carry them to
GOD, as their last end.
When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection,
at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of
wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and commonly
draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.
I believe one remedy for this is, to confess our faults, and to humble
ourselves before GOD. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words
in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of
wandering: hold yourself in prayer before GOD, like a dumb or paralytic
beggar at a rich man’s gate: let it be your business to keep your mind
in the presence of the LORD. If it sometimes wander, and withdraw
itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and
disquiet serve rather to distract the mind, than to re-collect it; the
will must bring it back in tranquillity; if you persevere in this
manner, GOD will have pity on you.
One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and
preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at
other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of GOD; and
being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep
your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its
wanderings.
I have told you already at large, in my former letters, of the
advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of GOD: let
us set about it seriously and pray for one another.

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10) Tenth Letter

Has difficulty, but sacrifices his will, to write as requested. þ The
loss of a friend may lead to acquaintance with the Friend.
I HAVE had a good deal of difficulty to bring myself to write to M. þ ,
and I do it now purely because you and Madam desire me. Pray write the
directions and send it to him. I am very well pleased with the trust
which you have in GOD: I wish that He may increase it in you more and
more: we cannot have too much in so good and faithful a Friend, who
will never fail us in this world nor in the next.
If M. þ makes his advantage of the loss he has had, and puts all his
confidence in GOD, He will soon give him another friend, more powerful
and more inclined to serve him. He disposes of hearts as He pleases.
Perhaps M. þ was too much attached to him he has lost. We ought to
love our friends, but without encroaching upon the love of GOD, which
must be the principal.
Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is, to think often
on GOD, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions.
He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone. You would
think it rude to leave a friend alone, who came to visit you: why then
must GOD be neglected? Do not then forget Him, but think on Him often,
adore Him continually live and die with Him; this is the glorious
employment of a Christian; in a word, this is our profession, if we do
not know it we must learn it. I will endeavour to help you with my
prayers, and am yours in our LORD.

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09) Ninth Letter

Enclosing a letter to a corresponding sister, whom he regards with
respect tinged with fear. þ His old theme concisely put.
THE enclosed is an answer to that which I received from þ ; pray
deliver it to her. She seems to me full of good will, but she would go
faster than grace. One does not
become holy all at once. I recommend her to you: we ought to help one
another by our advice, and yet more by our good examples. You will
oblige me to let me hear of her from time to time, and whether she be
very fervent and very obedient.
Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please
GOD, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. You and I have
lived above forty years in religion [i.e., a monastic life]. Have we
employed them in loving and serving GOD, who by His mercy has called us
to this state and for that very end? I am filled with shame and
confusion, when I reflect on the one hand upon the great favours which
GOD has done, and incessantly continues to do, me; and on the other,
upon the ill use I have made of them, and my small advancement in the
way of perfection.
Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in
earnest, let us repair the lost time, let us return with a full
assurance to that FATHER of mercies, who is always ready to receive us
affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce, for the
love of Him, all that is not Himself; He deserves infinitely more. Let
us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him: I doubt
not but we shall soon find the effects of it, in receiving the abundance
of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without which we can
do nothing but sin.
We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life, without the actual
and continual help of GOD; let us then pray to Him for it continually.
How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him
but in thinking of Him often? And how can we often think of Him, but by
a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am
always saying the same thing: it is true, for this is the best and
easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to
it. We must know before we can love. In order to know GOD, we must
often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also
think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. This is an
argument which well deserves your consideration.

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11) Eleventh Letter

To one who is in great pain. God is the Physician of body and of soul.
þ Feels that he would gladly suffer at His wish.
I DO not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray GOD
earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as
long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to
the cross: He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy those who
suffer with Him: accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek
from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He shall judge
to be necessary for you. The men of the world do not comprehend these
truths, nor is it to be wondered at, since they suffer like what they
are, and not like Christians: they consider sickness as a pain to
nature, and not as a favour from GOD; and seeing it only in that light,
they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider
sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effects of His mercy,
and the means which He employs for their salvation, commonly find in it
great sweetness and sensible consolation.
I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense)
nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in
health. Rely upon no other Physician, for, according to my
apprehension, He reserves your cure to Himself. Put then all your trust
in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery, which
we often retard, by putting greater confidence in physic than in GOD.
Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as He
permits. When pains come from GOD, He only can cure them. He often
sends diseases of the body, to cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself
with the sovereign Physician both of soul and body.
I foresee that you will tell me that I am very much at my ease, that I
eat and drink at the table of the LORD. YOU have reason: but think you
that it would be a small pain to the greatest criminal in the world, to
eat at the king’s table, and be served by him, and notwithstanding such
favours to be without assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel
exceeding great uneasiness, and such as nothing could moderate, but only
his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. So I assure you, that
whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King, yet my sins, ever
present before my eyes, as well as the uncertainty of my pardon, torment
me, though in truth that torment itself is pleasing.
Be satisfied with the condition in which GOD places you: however happy
you may think me, I envy you. Pains and suffering would be a paradise
to me, while I should suffer with my GOD; and the greatest pleasure
would be hell to me, if I could relish them without Him; all my
consolation would be to suffer something for His sake.
I must, in a little time, go to GOD. What comforts me in this life is,
that I now see Him by faith; and I see Him in such a manner as might
make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith
teaches us, and, in that assurance and that practice of faith, I will
live and die with Him.
Continue then always with GOD: “tis the only support and comfort for
your affliction. I shall beseech Him to be with you. I present my
service.

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13) Thirteenth Letter

To the same he exhorts for fuller and entire confidence in God, for body
and soul.
I AM in pain to see you suffer so long; what gives me some ease, and
sweetens the feeling I have of your griefs, is that they are proofs of
GOD’s love towards you: see them in that view, and you will bear them
more easily. As your case is, “tis my opinion that you should leave off
human remedies, and resign yourself entirely to the providence of GOD;
perhaps He stays only for that resignation and a perfect trust in Him to
cure you. Since notwithstanding all your cares, physic has hitherto
proved unsuccessful, and your malady still increases, it will not be
tempting GOD to abandon yourself in His hands, and expect all from Him.
I told you, in my last, that He sometimes permits bodily diseases to
cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage then: make a virtue of
necessity: ask of GOD, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to
bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should please, and as
long as He shall please.
Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable
to GOD, and sweet to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and
when one loves GOD, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do
you so, I beseech you; comfort yourself with Him, who is the only
Physician of all our maladies. He is the FATHER of the afflicted,
always ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine:
love Him then, and seek not consolation elsewhere: I hope you will soon
receive it. Adieu. I will help you with my prayers, poor as they are,
and shall be, always, yours in our LORD.

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12) Twelfth Letter

To the same correspondent probably, and expresses his own abiding
comfort through faith.
IF we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of GOD, all
bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby. GOD often permits
that we should suffer a little, to purify our souls, and oblige us to
continue with Him.
Take courage, offer Him your pains incessantly, pray to Him for strength
to endure them. Above all, get a habit of entertaining yourself often
with GOD, and forget Him the least you can. Adore Him in your
infirmities, offer yourself to Him from time to time; and, in the
height of your sufferings, beseech Him humbly and affectionately (as a
child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I shall
endeavour to assist you with my poor prayers.
GOD has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes hides Himself
from us: but faith alone, which will not fail us in time of need, ought
to be our support, and the foundation of our confidence, which must be
all in GOD.
I know not how GOD will dispose of me: I am always happy: all the
world suffer; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so
continual, and so great, that I can scarce contain them.
I would willingly ask of GOD a part of your sufferings, but that I know
my weakness, which is so great, that if He left me one moment to myself,
I should be the most wretched man alive. And yet I know not how He can
leave me alone, because faith gives me as strong a conviction as sense
can do, that He never forsakes us, till we have first forsaken Him. Let
us fear to leave Him. Let us be always with Him. Let us live and die
in His presence. Do you pray for me, as I for you.

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14) Fourteenth Letter

Gratitude, for mercies to his correspondent, and measure of relief while
he has himself been near death, but with consolation in his suffering.
I RENDER thanks to our LORD, for having relieved you a little, according
to your desire. I have been often near expiring, though I was never so
much satisfied as then. Accordingly I did not pray for any relief, but
I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and love. Ah,
how sweet is it to suffer with GOD! however great the sufferings may
be, receive them with love. “Tis paradise to suffer and be with Him;
so that if in this life we would enjoy the peace of paradise, we must
accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with
Him: we must hinder our spirits wandering from Him upon any occasion:
we must make our heart a spiritual temple, wherein to adore Him
incessantly: we must watch continually over ourselves, that we may not
do, nor say, nor think anything that may displease Him. When our minds
are thus employed about GOD, suffering will become full of unction and
consolation.
I know that to arrive at this state, the beginning is very difficult;
for we must act purely in faith. But though it is difficult, we know
also that we can do all things with the grace of GOD, which He never
refuses to them who ask it earnestly. Knock, persevere in knocking, and
I answer for it that He will open to you in His due time, and grant you
all at once what He has deferred during many years. Adieu. Pray to Him
for me, as I pray to Him for you. I hope to see Him quickly.

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15) Fifteenth Letter

From his death-bed. þ Repeats the same exhortation to knowledge, that
we may love.
GOD knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our
good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to
receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the
bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions
never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When
we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that
it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings
will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.
Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more
one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of
love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater
will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him
equally in pains and pleasures.
Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible
favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. Such favours,
though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in
one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek
Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him
alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and
perhaps offend Him? ‘Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost
us dear.
Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast
everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg
this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon
see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank Him
sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from His
mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one
another.
[He took to his bed two days after and died within the week.]

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