16. ON THE POSSESSION OF PEACE AND REST BEFORE GOD
The soul that is faithful in the exercise of that love and adherence to God already described is astonished to feel Him gradually taking possession of its whole being; and now enjoys a continual sense of that presence which is become, as it were, natural to it. This presence diffuses an unusual serenity throughout all our faculties — it calms the mind, and gives sweet repose and quiet, even in the midst of our daily labors; but then we must be resigned to Him without reserve.
We must, however, urge it as a matter of the highest importance, to cease from self-action and self-exertion, that Divine Power may act alone; He saith by the mouth of His prophet David, “Be still, and know that I am God.”(88) Yet those greatly err, who accuse this species of prayer of idleness, a charge that can only arise form inexperience. If they would but make some efforts towards the attainment of it, they would soon experience the contrary or what they suppose, and find their accusation groundless.
This appearance of inaction is, indeed, not the consequence of sterility and want, but of fruitfulness and abundance; this will be clearly known by the experienced soul, which will know and feel, that its silence is full and unctuous, and the result of causes totally the reverse of apathy and barrenness. The interior is not a stronghold to be taken by storm and violence; but a Kingdom of Peace, which is to be gained only by love. Let us then give ourselves up to God without apprehension of danger. He will love us, and enable us to love him; and that love, increasing daily, will produce in us all other virtues. He alone can replenish our hearts which the world has agitated and intoxicated, but never could fill. He will take nothing from us but that makes us unhappy.
We shall only be made to alter a little in our actions, and correct the motive of them, by making all referable to Him. Then the most ordinary and seemingly indifferent actions will become exercises of virtue, and sources of consolation. We shall behold in peace the approach of death, as the beginning of life immortal; and as Paul said, We shall not be unclothed; but clothed upon, and mortality shall be swallowed up of life.”(89)
Let us therefore no longer fear to commit ourselves wholly to Him. What risk do we run, in depending solely on His goodness? Ah! He will not deceive us, unless by bestowing an abundance beyond our highest hopes: but those who expect all from themselves will inevitably be deceived, and must suffer this rebuke by the prophet Isaiah: Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that you have kindled.— This shall ye have of my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.(90)
The soul advanced thus far has no need of any other preparative other than quietude: for now the Divine Presence, which is the great effect, or rather the continuation of prayer, begins to be powerfully felt, and the soul experiences what the apostle Paul saith, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.(91) The soul certainly enjoys transcendent blessedness, and feels that it is no longer she or he that lives, but Christ that liveth in the her; and that the only way to find Him is to turn the mind inward.(92) We no sooner do this, than we are filled with the consolations of His presence: we are so amazed at so great a blessing, and enjoy an internal converse, which external matters cannot interrupt.
The same may be said of this species of prayer, that is said of wisdom: “All good things come together with her.” For the virtues now flow from us into action with so much sweetness and facility, that thy appear natural and spontaneous.
88) Psalm 46:10
89) 2 Corinthians 5:4
90) Isaiah 50:11
91) 1 Corithians 2:9
92) Galatians 2:20