SUCH WAS THE PRAYER that was given me at once, far above ecstasies, transports or visions. All these gifts are less pure, and more subject to illusion or deceits from the enemy.
Visions are in the inferior powers of the soul, and cannot produce true union. The soul must not dwell or rely upon them, or be retarded by them; they are but favors and gifts. The Giver alone must be our object and aim.
It is of such that Paul speaks, "Satan transforms himself into an angel of light," II Cor. 11:18; which is generally the case with such as are fond of visions, and lay a stress on them; because they are apt to convey a vanity to the soul, or at least hinder it from humbly attending to God only.
Ecstacies arise from a sensible relish. They may be termed a kind of spiritual sensuality, wherein the soul letting itself go too far, by reason of the sweetness it finds in them, falls imperceptibly into decay. The crafty enemy presents such sort of interior elevations and raptures for baits to entrap the soul, to fill it with vanity and self-love, to fix its esteem and attention on the gifts of God, and to hinder it from following Jesus Christ in the way of renunciation and of death to all things.
And as to distinct interior words, they too are subject to illusion; the enemy can form and counterfeit them. Or if they come from a good angel (for God Himself never speaks thus) we may mistake and misapprehend them. They are spoken in a divine manner, but we construe them in a human and carnal manner.
But the immediate word of God has neither tone nor articulation. It is mute, silent, and unutterable. It is Jesus Christ Himself, the real and essential Word who in the center of the soul that is disposed for receiving Him, never one moment ceases from His living, fruitful, and divine operation.
Oh, thou Word made flesh, whose silence is inexpressible eloquence, Thou canst never be misapprehended or mistaken. Thou becomest the life of our life, and the soul of our soul. How infinitely is thy language elevated above all the utterances of human and finite articulation. Thy adorable power, all efficacious in the soul that has received it, communicates itself through them to others. As a divine seed it becomes fruitful to eternal life.
The revelations of things to come are also very dangerous. The Devil can counterfeit them, as he did formerly in the heathen temples, where he uttered oracles. Frequently they raise false ideas, vain hopes, and frivolous expectations. They take up the mind with future events, hinder it from dying to self, and prevent it following Jesus Christ in His poverty, abnegation, and death.
Widely different is the revelation of Jesus Christ, made to the soul when the eternal Word is communicated. (Gal 1:16.) It makes us new creatures, created anew in Him. This revelation is what the Devil cannot counterfeit. From hence proceeds the only safe transport of ecstasy, which is operated by naked faith alone, and dying even to the gifts of God. As long as the soul continues resting in gifts, it does not fully renounce itself. Never passing into God the soul loses the real enjoyment of the Giver, by attachments to the gifts. This is truly an unutterable loss.
Lest I should let my mind go after these gifts, and steal myself from thy love, O my God, Thou wast pleased to fix me in a continual adherence to Thyself alone. Souls thus directed get the shortest way. They are to expect great sufferings, especially if they are mighty in faith, in mortification and deadness to all but God. A pure and disinterested love, and intenseness of mind for the advancement of thy interest alone. These are the dispositions Thou didst implant in me, and even a fervent desire of suffering for Thee. The cross, which I had hitherto borne only with resignation, was become my delight, and the special object of my rejoicing.