A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 3: ON PRAYER

3: ON PRAYER 

Prayer is an intercourse of the soul with God.* It is not a work of the head but of the heart; which ought always to continue. It is the medium through which life and food are conveyed to the soul, and the channel through which the gifts and graces of the Spirit flow and are communicated. Every secret aspiration of the soul to God is prayer: all therefore are capable of prayer, and are called to it, as all are capable of, and are called to salvation. 

Paul has enjoined us to “pray without ceasing;”(17) and Jesus said, “I say unto, all, watch and pray.”(18) Come then, all ye that are athirst, to these living waters; nor lose your precious moments in “hewing out cisterns that will not hold water.”(19) Come, ye famishing souls who find naught whereon to feed; come, and ye shall be fully satisfied. Come, ye poor afflicted ones, who groan beneath your load of wretchedness and pain, and ye shall find ease and comfort. Come, ye sick, to your Physician, and be not fearful of approaching Him because you are filled 
with diseases; expose them to His view and they shall be healed. 

Children draw near to your Father, and He will embrace you in the arms of love. Come, ye poor, stray, wandering sheep, return to your Shepherd. Come, ye who have been seeking happiness in worldly pleasures and pursuits, but have failed to find the satisfaction ye expected; come and learn how to be truly happy here, and eternally happy hereafter.—Come, sinners, to your Savior. Come, ye dull, ignorant, and illiterate; ye who think yourselves the most incapable of prayer, ye are more peculiarly called and adapted thereto. Let all, without exception, come; for Christ has called all. 

You must however learn a species of prayer which may be exercised at all times, which does not obstruct outward 
employments, and which may be equally practised by all ranks and conditions of men; by the poor as well as the rich, by the illiterate as well as the learned. It cannot, therefore, be a prayer of the head, but of the heart. It is a species of prayer which nothing can interrupt but irregular and disorderly affections. And though you may think yourselves ever so dull, and incapable of sublime attainments, yet, by prayer the possession and enjoyment of God is easily obtained; for he is more desirous to give Himself to us than we can be to receive Him. 

Prayer is the guide to perfection, and the sovereign good; it delivers us from every vice, and obtains for us every virtue: for the one great means to become perfect is to walk in the presence of Infinite Purity. He Himself has said, “Walk in my presence, and be perfect.”(20) It is only by prayer that we are brought into, and maintained in His presence; and when once we have fully known Him, and the sweetness of His love, we shall find it impossible to relish anything so much as Himself.

*”God is a Spirit; so is the mind. Bodies can have intercourse; so can souls. When minds are in an assimilating state of purity, they have union with their Maker. This was the bliss of Paradise: sin interrupted, and holiness must restore it. To the soul thus distressed, the Creator communicates Himself, in a manner which is as insensible to the natural eye, as the falling of dew, but not less refreshing in its secret powers than the dew is to vegetation.”  — Anonymous Essay on Devotion

17) I Thessalonians 5:17
18) Mark 13:33,37; 15:38
19) Jeremiah 2:13
20) Genesis 17:1

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 4: ALL ARE CAPABLE

4) ALL ARE CAPABLE OF ATTAINING TO INWARD AND SPIRITUAL PRAYER

If all were solicitous to pursue the spiritual path, shepherds, while they watched their flocks, might have the spirit of the primitive Christians, and the husbandman at the plough maintain a blessed intercourse with his Creator; the manufacturer, while he exhausted his outward man with labor, would be renewed in internal strength; every species of vice would shortly disappear, and all mankind become true followers of the good Shepherd. 

Oh, when once the heart is gained, how easily is all moral evil corrected! It is for this reason, that God, above all things, requires the heart. It is the conquest of the heart alone that can extirpate those dreadful vices which are so predominant among men; such as drunkenness, blasphemy, lewdness, envy, and theft. Christ would become the universal and peaceful Sovereign, and the hearts of all mankind would  be wholly renewed. 

The decay of internal piety is unquestionably the source of the various errors that have risen in the world; all of which would speedily be sapped and overthrown, were inward religion to be established.—If, instead of engaging our wandering brethren in vain disputes, we could but teach them simply to believe, and diligently to pray, we should lead them sweetly unto God.

Oh, how inexpressibly great is the loss sustained by mankind, from the neglect of the interior! 

Some excuse themselves by saying that this is a dangerous way; pleading the incapacity of simple persons to comprehend spiritual matters. But Isaiah said, “The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”(21) And where can be the danger of walking in the only true way,(22) which is Christ? Of giving ourselves up to Him, fixing our eye continually on Him, placing all our confidence in His grace, and turning with all the strength of our souls to His pure love? 
           
The simple, so far from being incapable of this perfection, are by their docility, innocence and humility; peculiarly adapted and qualified for its attainment; and as they are not accustomed to reasoning, they are less employed in speculations, less tenacious of their own opinions. Even from their want of learning, they submit more freely to the teachings of the Divine Spirit; whereas others, who are blinded by self-sufficiency  and enslaved by prejudice, give great resistance to the operations of Grace.

We are told in Scripture that, unto the simple, God “Giveth understanding to the simple,”(23) and we are also assured that He careth for them: “The Lord preserves the simple.(24) Christ said, “Suffer little children to come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.”(25) The simple are incapable of reasoning, teach them, therefore, the prayer of the art, not of the head; the prayer of the Spirit, not of man’s invention.  

Alas! By wanting them to pray in elaborate forms, and to be curiously critical therein, we create their chief obstacles.—The children have been led astray from the best of Fathers, by endeavoring to teach them too refined, too, polished a language. 
 
The simple and undisguised emotions of filial love are infinitely more expressive than the most studied language. The spirit of God needs none of our arrangements and methods: when it pleaseth Him, He turns shepherds into prophets; and, so far from excluding any from the temple of prayer, He throws wide open the gates, that all may enter in; while “Wisdom crieth, ‘Who is simple, let him turn in hither; as for him that wants understanding,’ she says to him, ‘Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.”(26)

To seek God in his heart, to think of Him, to return to Him whenever he finds he has wandered from Him, and to do and suffer all things with a single eye to please Him, is the natural and ready process; it is leading the soul to the very source of Grace, in which is to found all that is necessary for sanctification.
 
O that all would at once put themselves into this way, that Christ’s kingdom might be established in their hearts! For as it is the heart alone that can oppose His sovereignty, it is by the subjection of the heart that His sovereignty is most highly exalted. And since none can attain this blessed state, save those whom God himself leads and places therein, we do not pretend to introduce any into it, but only to point out the shortest and safest road that leads to it: beseeching you not to be retarded in your progress by any external exercises; not to rest in the shadow instead of the substance. If the water of eternal life is shown to some thirsty souls, how inexpressibly cruel would it be, confining them to a round of external forms, to prevent their approaching it, so that their longing shall never be satisfied, but they shall perish with thirst! 

O ye blind and foolish men, who pride yourselves on science, wisdom, wit and power! How well do you verify what God has said, that His secrets are hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed to the little ones – the babes!(27)

21) Isaiah 35:8
22) John 14:6
23) Psalm 119:130
24) Psalm 116:6
25) Matthew 19:14
26) Proverbs 9:3-5
27) Matthew 11:25

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 5: ON ATTAINING TO TRUE PRAYER

5) ON ATTAINING TO TRUE PRAYER

The sort of prayer to which we have alluded is that of inward silence; where the soul, abstracted from all outward things, in holy stillness, humble reverence, and lively faith, waits patiently to feel the Divine Presence, and lively faith, and waits patiently to receive the precious influence of the Holy Spirit. And when you retire for this purpose, which should be your frequent practice, you should consider yourselves as being placed in the Divine presence, looking with a single eye to Him, resigning yourselves entirely into His hands, to receive from Him whatsoever He may be pleased to dispense to you; calmly endeavoring, at the same time, to fix your minds in peace and silence; quitting all your own reasonings, and not willingly thinking on anything, how good and how profitable however it may appear to be. And should any vain thoughts present themselves, you should gently turn from them; and thus faithfully and patiently wait to feel the Divine Presence.

If, while you are thus engaged, something of inward stillness, or a degree of the softening influence of the Divine Spirit, is mercifully granted you, you should prize these manifestations of the presence of God in your souls; and be carefully and, reverently attentive thereto; being cautious, however, not to endeavor to increase them by your activity; for, by so doing, you will draw the mind off from that state of holy stillness and humble watchfulness, which you should be solicitous as much as possible to maintain; by fanning the flame there is danger of extinguishing it, and thus depriving the soul of that nourishment which was intended for it.

A lively sense of this Presence will extricate us speedily from numberless mental wanderings, remove us far from external objects, and bring us near to that Almighty Power, which is to be found in our inmost centre; which is the temple in which He dwelleth(28). And when we are thus fully turned inward, and warmly penetrated with a sense of His presence, we should in stillness and repose, with reverence, confidence, and love, wait for the blessed food of which we have tasted, to sink deep into the soul.

The prayer of inward silence is the easiest and most profitable path, because, with a simple view, or attention to God, the soul becomes like a humble supplicant before its Lord; or as a child that casts itself into the safe bosom of its mother. It is also the most secure, because it is abstracted from the operations of the imagination; which is often beguiled into extravagancies, and is easily bewildered and deceived; the soul being thereby deprived of its peace.

It will at first be difficult, from the habit the mind will have acquired of being always from home, roving here and there, and from subject to subject, to restrain it, and free it from those wanderings which are an impediment to prayer. Indeed those wanderings of the imagination, with which beginners are for some time tried, are permitted in order to prove their faith, exercise their patience, and to show them how little they can perform of themselves; as well as to teach them to depend upon an Almighty Power alone for strength to overcome all their difficulties; for by (his own) strength shall no man prevail;”(29) and if they place all their hope in Him, and faithfully persevere, every obstacle will be gradually removed, and they will find that they will be enabled to approach Him with facility, and that inward silence is not only attended with much less difficulty, but at times will be found to be easy, sweet, and delightful. They will know that this is the true way of finding God; and feel “His name to be as ointment poured forth.(30)

And although we should at all times be very watchful and diligent in recalling our wandering thoughts, restraining them, as much as may be, in due subjection; yet a direct contest with them only serves to augment and irritate them; whereas, by calling to mind that we are in the Divine Presence, and endeavoring to sink down under a sense and perception thereof, simply turning inwards, we wage insensibly a very advantageous, though indirect, war with them.

Those who have not learned to read are not, on that account, excluded from prayer; for the great Teacher who teaches all things is Christ Himself.(31) They should learn this fundamental rule, that “the kingdom of God is within them;”(32) and only there it must be sought.

“The kingdom of God is within you”, said the blessed Jesus: Abandon, therefore, the cares and pleasures of this world and turn to the Lord with the whole heart and the soul shall find rest.(33) If we withdraw our attention from outward things, and keep it fixed on the internal Teacher, endeavoring to obey Him in whatever He may require of us, we will soon perceive the coming of the kingdom of God: for the kingdom of God(34) is that “peace and joy in the Holy Ghost;”(35) which cannot be received by sensual and worldly men.

It is for want of inward retirement, and prayer, that our lives are so imperfect, and that we are neither penetrated nor warmed with the divine light of truth, Christ the light.(36) We should therefore be in the daily practice of it; and there are none so much occupied, as to not be able to find time for inward retirement. The less we practice silent prayer, the less desire we have for it; for our minds, being set upon outward things, we contract at last such habit, that it is very hard to turn them inward.

“The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.”(37) The silence of all our earthly thoughts and desires is absolutely indispensable, if we would hear the secret voice of the Divine Instructor. Hearing is a sense formed to receive sounds, and is rather passive than active, admitting, but not communicating, sensation: and if we would hear, we must lend the ear for that purpose; so, Christ the Eternal Word, without whose divine internal speaking the soul is dead, dark, and barren, when He would speak within us, requires the most silent attention to his all-quickening and efficacious voice.

We should forget ourselves and all self-interest, and listen and be attentive to the inspeaking voice. Outward silence is very requisite for the cultivation and improvement of inward; and, indeed, it is impossible we should become internal, without the love and practice of outward silence and retirement.  And unquestionably our being thus internally engaged is wholly incompatible with being busied, and employed with the numerous trifles that surround us.

When through inadvertency or unfaithfulness we become dissipated, or as it were un centered, it is of immediate importance to turn again gently and peacefully inward; and thus we may learn to preserve the spirit and unction of prayer throughout the day; for if the prayer of inward silence were wholly confined to any appointed hour we should reap but little fruit.

It is of greatest importance for the soul to go to prayer with confidence; and such a pure and disinterested love, as seeks nothing from the Father, but the ability to please Him, and to do His will: for a child who only proportions his diligence to his hope of reward, renders himself unworthy of all reward. Go then, to prayer, not that you may enjoy spiritual delights, but that you may be full or empty, just as it pleases God. This will preserve you in an evenness of spirit, either in desertion or in consolation, and will prevent your being surprised at dryness, or the apparent repulses of Him who is altogether love.

Constant prayer is to keep the heart always right towards God. Strive then not to allow your minds to be too much entangled with outward things, endeavoring to be totally resigned to the Divine Will; that God may do with you and yours according to His heavenly pleasure relying on Him as on a kind and loving father; and though you be taken up with your outward affairs, and your minds thereby prevented from being actually fixed on Him, even then you will always carry a fire about you that will never go out; but which, on the contrary, will nourish a secret prayer, that will be like a lamp continually lit before the throne of God.
            
A son who loves his father does not always think distinctly of him; many objects draw away his mind, but these never interrupt the filial love; whenever his father returns into his thoughts, he loves him and he feels, in the very inmost of his heart, that he has never discontinued one moment to love him, though he has ceased to think of him. In this manner should we love our heavenly Father. It is by coming under the influence of the Divine Spirit that we are enabled to call God Father, and that we can indeed become His sons.

True religion is a heaven-born thing, it is an emanation of the truth and goodness of God upon the spirits of men, whereby they are formed into a similitude and likeness of Him, and become “partakers of the Divine nature.”(38) A true Christian is every way of a most noble extraction, of a heavenly and divine pedigree, being born, as John expressed it, “from above.”(39) And in another place he said, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”(40)

lf considerations such as these are not sufficient to convince us of the folly of our attachment to perishing things, and to stimulate us to press after those which obtain for us such great and glorious privileges; we must, indeed, be sunk into a state of deep and deplorable insensibility; out of which, even if one were to rise from the dead”(41) for that purpose, it would be impossible to arouse us.

28) I Corinthians 6:19
29) I Samuel 2:9
30) Song of Songs 1:3
31) John 14:26
32) Luke 17:21
33) Matthew 11:28-29
34) Matthew 6:10
35) Romans 14:17
36) John 1:9
37) Habakkuk 2:20
38) II Peter 1:4
39) John 3:3
40) I John 1:1
41) Luke 16:31

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 6: ON SPIRITUAL DRYNESS

6) ON SPIRITUAL DRYNESS 

No sooner shall we have given ourselves up to serve the Lord in this inward way, than He will begin to purify us and try our faith, in order to draw us nearer to Himself. And, for this purpose, He will lead us through the paths of dryness and desertion; so that, when we endeavor to fix our minds in silence, in order to feel after our God, we will not experience the comfort and refreshment we expected; but, on the contrary, will be more than usually beset with a multitude of troublesome and importunate imaginations; insomuch, that we shall begin to think that we labor to no purpose, and that the prayer of internal silence is an attainment to which we need not aspire, seeing that our imagination is so ungovernable, and our minds so void of good. But this state of dryness is very profitable, if it be suffered with patience. 

The Lord makes use of the veil of dryness, to the end we may not know what He is working in us, and so we may be humble; because if we felt, and knew, what He was working in our souls, satisfaction and presumption would get in; we should imagine we were doing some good thing; and this self-complacency would prevent our spiritual advancement. 

And, though in the prayer of mental stillness, we may feel ourselves to be in a dry and comfortless state, not being able to get rid of our troublesome thoughts, nor experience any light, consolation, or spiritual feeling; yet let us not be afflicted, nor desist from our undertaking; but resign ourselves at that time with vigor, and patiently persevere as in His presence; for while we persevere in that manner, our souls will be internally improved. 

We need not believe that when we come from prayer in the same manner as we began it, without feeling, ourselves 
profited thereby, that we have been toiling in vain. True prayer consists, not in enjoying the light, and having 
knowledge of spiritual things, but in enduring with patience, and persevering in faith and silence; believing that 
we are in the Lord’s presence, turning to Him our hearts with tranquility and simplicity of mind. 

We must be aware that nature is always an enemy to the spirit; and that when she is deprived of sensible pleasures; she remains weak, melancholy, and full of irksomeness. Hence, from the uneasiness of thoughts, the lassitude of body, importunate sleep, and our inability to curb the senses, every one of which would follow its, own pleasure, we will often feel impatient again to mingle in the concerns of time. Happy are we if we can persevere, amidst this desert trial! Remember, that “they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”(42) 
 
The prayer of internal silence may be well typified by that wrestling, which the Scriptures say the patriarch Jacob had all night with God, until the day broke, and He blessed him. Wherefore, the soul is to persevere, and wrestle with the difficulties that it will meet with in inward prayer without desisting, until the Son 0f internal light begins to appear, and the Lord gives it His blessing.

If you go to prayer with the spirit and intention of praying, so long as you retract not that intention, although through misery and frailty, your thoughts may wander, you will, nevertheless, pray in spirit and truth. Almighty Power, in due time, will help you overcome your flesh’s affections and lusts. Distrust Him not, therefore, but only yourselves; and remember that, as the Apostle saith, He is the father of mercies, and God of all comforts.(43) His comforts are sometimes withdrawn, but His mercies endure forever. He hath deprived you of what was sweet and sensible in His grace, because you required to be humble.

Be of good courage, then, and though it may seem to you that you toil without gaining much advantage, yet you 
remember that we must plough and sow before we can reap; and if you persevere in faith and patience, you will reap an abundant reward for all your labors. Would you be so unreasonable as to expect to find without seeking; or for 
it to be opened to you, without taking the pains to knock? As well might the husbandman might expect to see his 
fields waving with grain, without his having been at the trouble to put the seed in the ground.

It is no hard matter to adhere to God while you are in the enjoyment of His comforts and consolations; but if you 
would prove your fidelity to Him, you must be willing to follow Him through the paths of dryness and desertion. 

The truth of a friend is not known while he is receiving favors and benefits; but if he remain faithful to us when we treat him with coldness and neglect, it will be proof of the sincerity of his attachment.

Though Almighty Goodness has no other desire than to impart Himself to those that love and seek Him, yet He 
frequently conceals Himself from us, that we may be roused from sloth, and induced to seek Him with fidelity and 
love. But, with what abundant goodness does He recompense our faithfulness! And how sweetly are these apparent 
withdrawings of Himself succeeded by the consolations of His love! David said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feel upon a rock, and established my goings. And He has put a new song in my mouth; even praise unto our God.”(44) 

In seasons of the withdrawings of His presence, we are apt to believe that it will be a proof of our fidelity, and 
evidenced by the ardor of our love, to seek Him by an exertion of our own strength and activity; and that this 
exertion will induce Him the more speedily to return. But this is not the right procedure when we are in this 
state: with patient resignation, with self-abasement, with the reiterated breathings of an ardent, but peaceful 
affection, and with reverential silence, we must wait the return of our Beloved. Thus only we shall demonstrate that we seek nothing but Himself, and his good pleasure; and not the selfish delights of our own sensations. 

It is very common for us, when we feel the sweetness of the grace of God, to fancy that we love Him; but it is 
only in the withdrawings of His presence that our love can be tried, and the measure of it known. It is at these 
seasons that we are convinced of the weakness and misery of our nature, and how incapable we are, of ourselves, to 
think or do any good. There are many who, when they experience meltings of heart, shedding of tears, and other sensible delights, imagine that they are favorites of the Almighty, and that then they truly possess Him; and so pass all their lives in seeking after those pleasurable sensations. But they should be cautious lest they deceive 
themselves, for these consolations, when they proceed from nature, and are occasioned by their own reflections, or 
self-admirings, hinder them from discerning the true light, or making one step towards perfection. You should therefore be attentive to distinguish those meltings of the affections from the operations which purely proceed from the Divine Spirit; leaving yourselves to be led forward by Him, who will be your light in the midst of darkness and dryness. 

It is of no small advantage, patiently to suffer the want of consolation, and the trouble and importunities of a wandering imagination: it is an offering up of one’s self in a whole burnt offering and sacrifice. And as many times as you exercise yourselves, calmly to reject your vain thoughts, and peacefully to endure your dark and desolate state, so many crowns will the Lord set upon your heads. 

It is of great importance that you endeavor, at all times to keep your hearts in peace; that you may keep pure that temple of God. The way to keep it in peace is to enter into it by means of inward silence. When you see yourselves more sharply assaulted, retreat into that region of peace; and you will find a fortress that will enable you to triumph over all your enemies, visible and invisible, and over all their snares and temptations. 

Within your own soul resides Divine Aid, and Sovereign Succor. Retreat within it, and all will be quiet, secure, peaceable, and calm. Thus, by means of mental silence, which can only be attained by Divine Help, you may look for tranquility in tumult; solitude in company, light in darkness; forgetfulness in pressures; vigor in despondency; courage in fear; resistance in temptation; peace in war; and quiet in tribulation.

42) Isaiah 40:31
43) II Corinthians 1:3
44) Psalms 40:1-3

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 7: ON DEFECTS AND INFIRMITIES

7) ON DEFECTS AND INFIRMITIES

Should we so far get off our guard, as again to wander among externals in search of happiness, or sink into dissipation, or commit a fault, we must instantly turn inward; for having departed thereby from our God, we should as soon as possible return unto Him, and patiently suffer whatever sensations He is pleased to impress: for He has declared, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” (45)

On the commission of a fault, it is of great importance to guard against vexation and disquietude, which spring from a secret root of pride, and a love of our own excellence; we are hurt by feeling what we are; and if we discourage ourselves, or despond, we are the more enfeebled; and from our reflections on the fault, a chagrin arises, which is often worse than the fault itself.

The truly humble soul is not surprised at its defects or failings; and the more miserable and wretched it beholds itself, the more does it abandon itself unto God, and press for nearer and more intimate alliance with Him, that it may avail itself of an eternal strength. We should the rather be induced to act thus, as He Himself hath said: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye.” (46)

45) Revelations 3:19
46) Psalm 32:8

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – 8: ON TEMPTATIONS AND TRIBULATIONS

8) ON TEMPTATIONS AND TRIBULATIONS

We are at times so base, proud, and ambitious; and so full of our own appetites, our own judgment and opinions, that if temptations and tribulations were not permitted to try, humble and purify us, we should never arrive at a state of acceptance.

The Lord, seeing our misery, and perverse inclinations, and being thereby moved to compassion, withdraws His strength from us, that we may feel our own weakness; suffering us to be assaulted by violent and painful suggestions of impatience and pride, and diverse other temptations; and some, who have long been in the practice of sin, by gluttony, luxury, rage, swearing, despair; and a great many other besetments; in order that they may know themselves, and be humble. With the temptations, Infinite Goodness humbles our pride giving us, in that, the most wholesome medicine.          

“All our righteousness,” as Isaiah saith, “are as filthy rags;”(47) through the vanity, conceitedness, and self-love, with which they are defiled. It is, therefore, necessary that they should be purified with the fire of temptation and tribulation; that so they may be clean, pure, perfect, and acceptable in the sight of God.(48)

The Lord polishes the soul which He draws to Himself, with the rough file of temptation; freeing it thereby from the rust of many evil passions and propensities. — By means of temptation and tribulation He humbles, subjects, and exercises it; showing it its own weakness and misery. It is thus that He purifies and strips the heart, in order that all its operations may be pure, and of inestimable value.  Oh, how happy would you be, if you could quietly believe that all the trials and temptations, wherewith you are assaulted, are permitted for your gain and spiritual profit!

But you will perhaps say that when you are molested by others, or wronged and injured by your neighbor, that this cannot be for your spiritual advantage; seeing that it is the effect of their faults and malice. This is no other than a cunning and hidden device of the enemy; because, though God wills not the sin of another, yet He wills His own effects in you; and the trouble which accrues to you from another’s fault should improve you by increasing your patience, and exercising your forbearance and charity.

Consider, how the Lord makes use of the faults of others for the good of your souls. Oh, the greatness of the divine wisdom! Who can pry into the depth of the secret and extraordinary means, and the hidden ways, whereby He guides the soul which He desires to purge, transform, and dignify?       

It is often the greatest temptation to be without temptation; because we are then most liable to fall into a state of lukewarmness; wherefore we ought not to repine when it assaults us; but with resignation, peace, and constancy, shut our hearts against it. If we would serve God; and arrive at the sublime region of internal peace, we must pass through this rugged path of temptation and tribulation; and therein become polished, purged; renewed and purified.    

A direct contest and struggle with temptations rather serves to augment them; and withdraws the soul from that adherence to God, which it should ever be its principal occupation to strive after and maintain. The surest and safest method of conquest is simply to turn away from the evil, and draw yet nearer and closer to our Sure Refuge: a little child, on perceiving a monster, does not wait to fight with it, and will scarcely turn its eyes towards it; but quickly shrinks into the bosom of its mother, in total confidence of safety: so, likewise, should the soul turn from the dangers of temptation to its God. “God is in the midst of her,” saith the psalmist, “she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early.”(49) The name of the Lord is a strong tower, to which the righteous flee and are safe.”(50)

If we do otherwise, and in our weakness attempt to attack our enemies, we shall frequently feel ourselves wounded, if not totally defeated: but, by casting ourselves into the presence of God, and relying solely on Him, we shall find supplies of strength for our support. This was the succor sought for by David: “I have set” saith he, “the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad and my glory rejoices: my flesh, also, shall rest in hope.”(51) And, it is said in Exodus, “The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”(52)

Although “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man;”(53) yet it is evident that temptations are permitted for our good, and, if rightly endured, tend to our refinement; “therefore, count it all joy, when you fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.”(54) And in all our besetments, however painful they may feel to us, or of whatever nature they may be, we should remember that it is said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.”(55)

You cannot be hurt by men or devils, if you keep always near to God: for, “who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good.”(56) But if you are hurt, it is your pride, your passions, and your many unsubdued evil propensities, that rise up and injure you; and as long as these remain, the enemy will make use of them, and seek to draw your minds away from adherence to an All-sufficient Preserver.

“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”(57) Therefore, know your own state, and the need you have to be purified by means of temptation, and keep always on the watch, lest the unwearied enemy gain access to your souls by his insinuations and pleasing allurements, which he will suit to your present situation and condition: for, in your passage through life, there are many things which he will offer you as temptations; endeavoring to produce in you an inordinate inclination and desire for them; which if you give way to while you are in this manner tempted, great will be the danger of your being wholly overcome.

If the malignant enemy is not resisted in his first attack, he enters by gradual advances, and takes entire possession of the heart: and so long as opposition is deferred by habitual negligence, the power of opposing becomes every day less, and the strength of the adversary proportionally greater. Therefore, when you feel in yourselves a strong and eager desire after anything whatsoever, and find your inclinations carry you too precipitately to do it, strive to moderate yourselves by retreating inward, and seeking after tranquility of mind. To do all things well, we must do them as in the Divine presence, otherwise we shall soon get off our right center, and be in danger of being wholly overthrown.

Oh blessed soul! If you wouldst but be content and quiet the fire of temptation and tribulation, and suffer thyself to be fully proved and tried, in patiently enduring the assaults of the enemy and the desertion of the heavenly good, how soon would you find yourself rich in celestial pleasures! How soon wouldst the divine bounty make a rich throne in thy soul, and a goodly habitation for thee to refresh and solace thyself in. Know, that although the Lord may for a season visit, yet He taketh up His abode in none but peaceful souls; and those in whom the fire of temptation and tribulation have consumed all their corrupt propensities; the Lord reposeth not Himself any where, but where quietness reigns, and self-love is banished.

If from chaos, His omnipotence has produced so many wonders in the creation of the world, what will He not do in your soul, created after His own image and likeness, if thou keep constant, quiet, and resigned, with a true sense of thy own nothingness?

“Cast not, therefore, away thy confidence, which hath great recompense of reward,”(58) but keep constant; O blessed soul! Keep constant, for it will not be as thou imaginest; nor art thou at any time nearer to God, than in such times of desertion, and trial of thy faith; for although the sun is hid in the clouds, yet it changes not its place, nor loses any part of its brightness. The Lord permits these painful temptations and desertions to purge and polish, to cleanse and disrobe of self; that thou mayest become of these trials entirely His, and give thyself up to wholly serve Him.

Oh, how much is there to be purified in a soul that must arrive at the holy mountain of perfection, and of transformation with God! For whilest any portion of evil, any thing of self, remains in us, we must be subject to temptation. When self is annihilated, there is then nothing left for the tempter to act upon. Oh, how resigned, naked, denied, annihilated, ought the soul to be, that would not hinder the entrance of the Divine Lord, nor His continual communion with it.

47) Isaiah 64:6
48) James 1:2-4
49) Psalm 46:5
50) Proverbs 18:10
51) Psalm 16:8-9
52) Exodus 14:14
53) James 1:13
54) James 1:2
55) James 1:12
56) I Peter 3:13
57) James 1:14
58) Hebrews 10:35

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – 9: ON SELF-DENIAL 

9: ON SELF-DENIAL 

He who expects to arrive at perfection, or a union of the soul with God, by means of consolation or comfort, will find himself mistaken. For, having sinned, we must expect to suffer, and be in some measure purified, before we can in any degree fitted for a union with God, or permitted to taste of the joy of His presence.

Be ye patient therefore under all the sufferings which your Father is pleased to send you. If your love to Him is pure, you will not seek Him less in suffering than in consolation. Be not like those, who give themselves to Him at one season, and withdraw from Him at another. They give themselves only to be caressed; and wrest themselves back again, when they come to be crucified; or at least turn to the world for consolation. 

No, you will not find consolation in aught but a free and full surrender of your will to the Divine Will. Who savoureth not the cross, savoureth not the things that be of God;(59) and a heart that savors the cross finds the bitterest things to be sweet; “to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”(60) 

We may be assured, that there is an internal advancement, where there is an advancement in the way of submission to the cross. 

As soon as anything presents itself as a suffering, and you feel a repugnance against it, resign yourselves immediately unto God with respect to it, giving yourselves up to Him in sacrifice; and you will find that, when the cross arrives, it will not be so very burdensome, because you had disposed yourselves to a willing reception of it. Jesus Himself was willing to suffer its utmost rigors. We often bear the cross in weakness, at other times in strength: all should be equal to us in the will of God. 

If any other way but bearing the cross, and dying to his own will, could have redeemed man from a fallen and corrupt state, Jesus would have taught it, and established it by His example. But of all that desire to follow Him, He has required the bearing of the cross; and without exception has said to all; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”(61) Why then do you fear to take up the cross, which will direct you to the path which leads to the kingdom of God? 

From the cross are derived heavenly meekness, true fortitude, the joys of the spirit, the conquest of self, the perfection of holiness! There is no redemption, no hope of the continuation of the Divine Life in us, but by our taking up the cross to our carnal appetites and inclinations: for all consists in the death of self, and there is no means to obtain life and peace, but by thus dying to corruption. 

Why do you seek any other path to glory, but that in which you are called to follow the “Captain of your Salvation?” His life was a continual cross, and desirest thou a perpetuity of repose and joy? The more perfectly you die to yourselves, the more truly will you begin to live to God; if you would then enjoy true peace here, and obtain hereafter the unfading crown of glory, it is necessary that in every place, and in all events, you should bear the cross willingly. To suffer, therefore, is your portion; and to suffer patiently, and willingly, is the great testimony of your love and allegiance to your Lord. 

Prepare then your spirit to suffer patiently the many inconveniences and troubles of this life; For these you will find, and can never avoid, though you run to the ends of the earth, or hide yourself in its deepest caverns; and it is patient suffering only that can either disarm their power, or heal the wounds they have made.  But while every tribulation is painful and grievous, and it is your desire to avoid it, you cannot but be wretched; and what you labour to shun will follow you wherever you go.—The patient enduring of the cross, and the death of self upon it, are the indispensable duty of fallen man; and it is thus only he can be delivered from this darkness, corruption and misery, and be restored to the possession of life, light, and peace. 

Knowing then the excellencies of the Father’s love, having no other desire but that of ardently reaching after Him, of dwelling ever with Him, and of sinking into nothingness before Him, we should accept indiscriminately all His dispensations, whether obscurity or illumination, fruitfulness or barrenness, weakness or strength, sweetness bitterness, temptations, wanderings, pain, weariness, or doubtings; and none of all these should retard our course. 

59) Matthew 16:23
60) Proverbs 27:7
61) Matthew 16:24

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 10: ON MORTIFICATION

10: ON MORTIFICATION 

All endeavors merely to rectify the exterior, impel the soul yet farther outward into that about which it is so warmly and zealously engaged; and thus its powers are diffused and scattered abroad; for its application being immediately directed to externals it thus invigorates those very senses it is aiming to subdue.

This species of mortification can never subdue passions, or lessen their activity. The only method to affect this is inward silence; by which the soul is turned wholly and altogether inward, to possess a present God. If it direct all its vigor and energy towards this centre of its being, the simple act separates and withdraws it from the senses; the exercising of all its powers internally leaves the senses faint and impotent; and the nearer it draws to God, the farther it is separated from the senses, and the less are the passions influenced by them. 

In mortification of the eye and ear, which continually supply the busy imagination with new subjects, there is little danger of falling into excess: we have only to follow where the Divine Spirit guides. 

The soul has double advantage by proceeding thus: for, in withdrawing from outward objects, it draws the nearer to God; and the nearer its approaches are made to Him, besides the secret sustaining power and virtue it receives, it is farther removed from sin; so that, at length, to have the mind turned inward, becomes, as it were, habitual.

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 11: ON RESIGNATION

11: ON RESIGNATION

We should give up our whole existence unto God, from the strong and positive conviction, that while we are faithfully endeavoring to follow Him, the occurrence of every moment is agreeable to His immediate will and permission, and just such as our state requires. This conviction will make us resigned in all things; and accepting of all that happens, not as from the creature, but as from Himself.

But I entreat you, who sincerely wish to give up yourself to God, that after you have made the donation, you will not snatch yourselves back again: remember, a gift, once presented, is no longer at the disposal of the donor. Resignation is a matter of the greatest importance in our progress; it is the key to the inner court; so that whoever knows truly how to resign himself, soon becomes perfect: we must, therefore, continue steadfast and immovable therein; and not listen to the voice of natural reason. Great faith produces great resignation; we must confide in God, hoping against hope. (62)

Resignation is casting off all selfish care, that we may be altogether at the Divine disposal. All Christians are exhorted to resignation; for it is said to all, Be not anxious for tomorrow; for your heavenly Father knows all that is necessary for you.(63) In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.(64) “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”(65) “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgments as the noonday.”(66)

This virtue is practiced by continually losing our own will in the will of God; by being resigned in all things, leaving what is past, in oblivion, what is to come, after having faithfully done our part, to His direction, and devoting the present moment to Him, by attributing nothing that befalls us to the creature, but regarding all things as in His ordering, and looking upon all, excepting only our sins, as infallibly proceeding from Him. Surrender yourselves, then, to be led and disposed of, just as He pleaseth.

We must willingly cooperate with, and second, the designs of God, which tend to divest us of all our own operations, that in the place thereof His may be instituted. Let this, then, be done in you; and suffer not yourselves to be attached to anything, however good it may appear; for it is no longer good, if it in any measure turns you aside from that which God wills of you.

The Divine will is preferable to all things else. And it is our conformity to this yoke that introduces us into the regions of internal peace. Hence, we may know that the rebellion of our will is the chief occasion of all our disquiet, and that this is the cause why we suffer so many straits and perturbations. Oh! If we did but submit our wills to the Divine Will, and to all its disposals, what tranquility should we feel! What sweet peace! What inward serenity! What supreme felicity and foretastes of blessedness! Let us shake off, then, all attachment to the interests of self, and live on faith and resignation alone.

62) Romans 4:18
63) Matthew 6:32,34
64) Proverbs 3:6
65) Proverbs 16:3
66) Psalm 37:5-6

A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE – CH 12: ON VIRTUE

12: ON VIRTUE

It is thus that we acquire virtue with facility and certainty; for as God is the fountain and principle of all virtue, in proportion as we approach to the possession of Him; in like proportion do we rise into the most eminent virtues. Indeed, he that hath God, hath all things; and he that hath Him not, hath nothing. All virtue is but as a mask, an outside appearance, mutable as our garments, if it does not spring up from this divine source; and then, indeed, it is genuine, essential, and permanent. “The King’s daughter,” saith David, “is all glorious within.”(67)

67) Psalm 45:13