004) Forth Conversation


The manner of going to God. þ Hearty renunciation. þ Prayer and praise
prevent discouragement. þ Sanctification in common business. þ Prayer
and the presence of God. þ The whole substance of religion. þ
Self-estimation þ Further personal experience.
He discoursed with me very frequently, and with great openness of heart,
concerning his manner of going to GOD, whereof some part is related
already.
He told me, that all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything
which we are sensible does not lead to GOD; that we might accustom
ourselves to a continual conversation with Him, with freedom and in sim-
plicity. That we need only to recognize GOD intimately present with us,
to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance
for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing
those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him
before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.
That in this conversation with GOD, we are also employed in praising,
adoring, and loving him incessantly, for His infinite goodness and
perfection.
That, without being discouraged on account of our sins, we should pray
for His grace with a perfect confidence, as relying upon the infinite
merits of our LORD. That GOD never failed offering us His grace at each
action; that he distinctly perceived it, and never failed of it, unless
when his thoughts had wandered from a sense of GOD’s Presence, or he had
forgot to ask His assistance.
That GOD always gave us light in our doubts, when we had no other design
but to please Him.
That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in
doing that for GOD’s sake, which we commonly do for our own. That it
was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end,
addicting themselves to certain works, which they performed very
imperfectly, by reason of their human or selfish regards.
That the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD, was that of
doing our common business without any view of pleasing men, [Gal. i.
10; Eph. vi. 5, 6.] and (as far as we are capable) purely for the
love of GOD.
That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to
differ from other times. that we are as strictly obliged to adhere to
GOD by action in the time of action, as by prayer in its season.
That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD, his
soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and
that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no
difference, because he still continued with GOD, praising and blessing
Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy;
yet hoped that GOD would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should
grow stronger.
That we ought, once for all, heartily to put our whole trust in GOD, and
make a total surrender of ourselves to Him, secure that He would not
deceive us.
That we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of
GOD, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which
it is performed. That we should not wonder if, in the beginning, we
often failed in our endeavours, but that at last we should gain a habit,
which will naturally produce its acts in us, without our care, and to
our exceeding great delight.
That the whole substance of religion was faith, hope, and charity; by
the practice of which we become united to the will of GOD: that all
beside is indifferent and to be used as a means, that we may arrive at
our end, and be swallowed up therein, by faith and charity.
That all things are possible to him who believes, that they are less
difficult to him who hopes, they are more easy to him who loves, and
still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice of these three
virtues.
That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this
life, the most perfect worshippers of GOD we can possibly be, as we hope
to be through all eternity.
That when we enter upon the spiritual we should consider, and examine to
the bottom, what we are. And then we should find ourselves worthy of
all contempt, and such as do not deserve the name of Christians, subject
to all kinds of misery, and numberless accidents, which trouble us, and
cause perpetual vicissitudes in our health, in our humours, in our
internal and external dispositions: in fine, persons whom GOD would
humble by many pains and labours, as well within as without. After
this, we should not wonder that troubles, temptations, oppositions and
contradictions, happen to us from men. We ought, on the contrary, to
submit ourselves to them, and bear them as long as GOD pleases, as
things highly advantageous to us.
That the greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it
is upon Divine grace.
Being questioned by one of his own society (to whom he was obliged to
open himself) by what means he had attained such an habitual sense of
GOD? he told him that, since his first coming to the monastery, he had
considered GOD as the end of all his thoughts and desires, as the mark
to which they should tend, and in which they should terminate.
That in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours appointed for
private prayer in thinking of GOD, so as to convince his mind of, and to
impress deeply upon his heart, the Divine existence, rather by devout
sentiments, and submission to the lights of faith, than by studied
reasonings and elaborate meditations. That by this short and sure
method, he exercised himself in the knowledge and love of GOD, resolving
to use his utmost endeavour to live in a continual sense of His
Presence, and, if possible, never to forget Him more.
That when he had thus in prayer filled his mind with great sentiments of
that infinite Being, he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for
he was cook to the society); there having first considered severally
the things his office required, and when and how each thing was to be
done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after
his work, in prayer.
That, when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in
Him, “O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to
Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to
grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou
prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my
affections.”
As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with
his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.
When he had finished, he examined himself how he had discharged his
duty; if he found well, he returned thanks to GOD; if otherwise, he
asked pardon; and without being discouraged, he set his mind right
again, and continued his exercise of the presence of GOD, as if he had
never deviated from it. “Thus,” said he, “by rising after my falls, and
by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state,
wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of GOD, as it was
at first to accustom myself to it.”
As Bro. Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence
of GOD, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others; but
his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could
propose. His very countenance was edifying; such a sweet and calm
devotion appearing in it, as could not but affect the beholders. And it
was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen, he
still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never
hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even
uninterrupted composure and tranquillity of spirit. “The time of
business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer;
and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at
the same time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great
tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”

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