I HAVE heretofore told thee somewhat of reforming in Faith, and also I have touched concerning thy proceeding from that reforming to a higher reforming which is in feeling. Not that I would by these discourses limit God's working by the law of my speaking, as to say that God worketh thus in a soul and no other wise. No, I mean not so, but I speak after my simple feeling that our Lord worketh thus in some creatures as I conceive. And I hope well, also, that He worketh otherwise, which passeth my wit and my feeling. Nevertheless, whether He worketh thus or otherwise by several ways, in longer time or shorter, with much travail or little, if all come to one end, that is, the perfect love of Him, then is it good enough. For if He will give one soul on one day the full grace of Contemplation, and without any travail, as He well may; as good is that to that soul as if he had been tried, pained, mortified and purified twenty years. And therefore in this manner take my sayings as I have said, and namely as I meant to say them. For now by the grace of our Lord Jesus shall I speak a little as methinketh more plainly of reforming in feeling, what it is, and how it is made, and what are spiritual feelings which a soul receiveth. Yet in the first place, that I may not be understood to make this manner of speaking of reforming of a soul in feeling as a fiction or fancy of my own, I shall ground it on St Paul's words, where he saith thus: Nolite conformari huic saeculo, &c. That is, ye that are through grace reformed in Faith, conform not yourselves henceforward to the manner of the world, in pride, in covetousness and in other sins, but be ye reformed in newness of feeling. Lo, here thou mayest see that St Paul speaketh of reforming in feeling; and what that newness of feeling is he expoundeth in another place thus: Ut impleamini in agnitione, &c. That is: We pray God that ye may be fulfilled in knowing of God's will in all understanding and in all manner of spiritual wisdom.216 This is reforming in feeling; for thou must understand that the soul hath two manners of feelings, one without by the five bodily senses; another within of the spiritual senses, which are properly the faculties of the soul -- memory, understanding and will. When these faculties are through grace fulfilled in all understanding of the will of God and spiritual wisdom, then hath the soul new gracious feelings. That this is so he showeth in another place, thus: Renovamini spiritu mentis vestri, &c. -- Be ye renewed in the spirit of your soul.217 That is, ye shall be reformed, not in bodily feeling nor in imagination, but in the upper part of your reason. And be clothed with the new man, that is shapen after God in righteousness, holiness and truth. That is, your reason, which is properly the image of God, through grace of the Holy Ghost, shall be clothed in a new light of truth, holiness and righteousness, and then is it reformed in feeling. For when the soul hath perfect knowledge of God, then is it reformed. Thus saith St Paul: Expoliantes veterem hominem, &c. -- Spoil yourself of the old man with all his deeds.218 That is, cast from you the love of the world with all worldly manners, and clothe you with the new man. That is, you shall be renewed in the knowing of God, after the likeness of Him that made you.
By these words thou mayest understand that St Paul would have men's souls reformed in perfect knowledge of God, for that is the new feeling which he speaketh of generally. And therefore upon his words I shall speak more plainly of this reforming as God shall give me grace. For there be two manners of knowing of God.
One is had principally in imagination, and little in understanding. This knowing is in chosen souls beginning and profiting in grace, who know God, and love Him humanly (not spiritually) with human affections, and with a corporal image of His Humanity, as I have spoken before.
This knowing is good, and is likened to milk, by which they are tenderly nourished as children until they be able to come to the Father's table, and take from His hand substantial bread.
Another knowing is principally felt in the understanding, and little in imagination; for the understanding is the lady, and the imagination is the maid, serving the understanding when need is. This knowing is solid bread meet for perfect souls, and is reforming in feeling.
A SOUL that is called from the love of the world, and after that is righted, tried and mortified and purified, as I have said before, our Lord Jesus of His merciful goodness reformeth it in feeling when He pleaseth. He openeth the inner eye of the soul, when He enlighteneth her reason through the touching and shining of His blessed light for to see Him and know Him, not all fully at once, but by little and little, by divers times, as the soul is able to bear it. He seeth Him not what He is, for that can no creature do in Heaven nor in earth. Nor seeth he Him as He is, for that sight is only in the bliss of Heaven. But he seeth Him that He is an unchangeable being, a supreme power, a sovereign truth, supreme goodness, a blessed life, an endless bliss. This seeth a soul, and much more that cometh withal not blindly and nakedly and unsavourly, as doth a learned man, that knoweth and seeth Him only by his learning, through might of his naked reason; but he seeth Him in understanding, that is, comforted and lighted by the gift of the Holy Ghost, with a wonderful reverence, and a secret burning love, and with a spiritual savour and heavenly delight, more clearly and more fully than can be written or spoken.
This sight, though it be but short and little, is so worthy and so mighty that it draweth and ravisheth all the affections of the soul from be holding and minding of all earthly things to itself, for to rest therein evermore if it could. And upon this kind of sight and knowing the soul groundeth all its working inward in all the affections; for then she worshippeth God in the humanity, as verity; wondereth at Him, as power and might; loveth Him, as goodness. This sight and this goodness, and this knowing of Jesus, with the blessed love that cometh out of it, may be called reforming of a soul in feeling and in faith, which I have spoken of. It is in faith, for it is dark yet in comparison of that full knowing of Jesus, with the blessed love that cometh out of it, that shall be in Heaven. For then shall we see Him, not only that He is, but as He is, as St John saith: Tunc videbimus eum sicut est -- Then shall we see Him as He is.219 Nevertheless it is in feeling also, as in regard of that blind knowing that a soul hath standing only in faith, for this soul knoweth somewhat of the very nature of Jesus as God through this gracious sight, which that other in faith knoweth not, but only believeth it to be truth.
Nevertheless, that thou mayest the better conceive what I mean, I shall show these three manners of reforming of a soul by example of three men standing in the light of the sun. Of the which one is blind, another can see, but hath his eyes stopped, the third looketh forth with full sight. The blind man hath no manner of knowledge that he is in the sun, but he believeth it if an honest man tell him so; and he betokeneth a soul that is only reformed in Faith, that believeth in God as holy Church teacheth, and understandeth not what. This sufficeth as to salvation. That other man seeth a light of the sun, but he seeth it not clearly what it is, for his eyelid letteth him that he cannot see; but he seeth through the lids of his eyes a glimmering of great light. And this man betokeneth a soul that is reformed in Faith and in feeling, and so he is Contemplative, for he seeth somewhat of the Godhead of Jesus through grace, not clearly nor fully; for the lid, that is, his bodily nature, is yet a wall betwixt his nature and the nature of Jesus God, and letteth him from the clear sight. But he seeth through this wall, after that grace toucheth him more or less, that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is sovereign goodness, and sovereign being, and a blessed life, and that all other goodness cometh from Him. Thus seeth the soul by grace, notwithstanding its bodily nature, and the more clean and subtle that the soul is made, and the more it is separated from sensuality, the sharper sight it hath and the greater love of the Divinity of Jesus. This sight is so mighty that though no other man living should believe in Jesus, nor love Him, yet would he never believe the less, nor love Him the less, for he seeth it so certainly that he cannot but believe it.
The third man that hath full sight of the sun, he believeth it not, for he seeth it fully. And he betokeneth a full blessed soul, that without any wall of his body or of sin, seeth openly the face of Jesus in the bliss of Heaven. There is no faith, and therefore he is fully reformed in feeling. There is no state above the second reforming that a soul can come to here in this life, for this is the state of perfection and the way to heavenward. Nevertheless, all the souls that are in this state are not all alike in degrees; for some have it little, short and seldom; and some longer, clearer and oftener; and some have it best of all, clearest and longest, according to the abounding of grace, and yet all these have the gift of Contemplation. For the soul hath not perfect sight of Jesus all at once, but at first a little and a little, and after that it profiteth and cometh to more feeling; and as long as it is in this life it groweth more in knowing, and in this love of Jesus. And verily I know not what can be more desirable to such a soul that hath felt a little of it, than utterly to leave it and set at nought all other things, for to hold only thereto, to have a clearer sight and clearer love of Jesus, in whom is all the Blessed Trinity.
This manner of knowing of Jesus, as I understand, is the opening of Heaven to the eye of a clean soul, of which holy men speak in their writings. Not as some imagine, that the opening of Heaven is as if a soul could see by imagination through the skies above the Firmament, how our Lord Jesus sitteth in His Majesty, in a bodily light, as much as an hundred suns. No, it is not so; no, though he see never so high on this manner, verily he seeth not the spiritual Heaven. The higher he soareth up above the sun for to see Jesus God, thus by such imagination the lower he falleth beneath the sun. Nevertheless, this kind of sight is tolerable in simple souls that can seek no better for Him that is invisible.
WHAT then is Heaven to a reasonable soul? Verily nought else but Jesus God. For if that be Heaven only that is above all things, then is God only Heaven to man's soul, for He alone is above the nature of a soul. Then if a soul can through grace have knowledge of that blessed nature of Jesus, verily he seeth Heaven, for he seeth God. Therefore there be many men that err in understanding of some words that are spoken of God, for that they understand them not spiritually.
Holy Writ saith, that a soul that will find God must lift her inward eye upward, and seek God above itself. Then some men that would do after this saying, understand this word above themselves to signify the placing or setting of a thing in place and worthiness above another, as one element or planet is above another in situation and worthiness of a bodily place. But it is not so taken spiritually; for a soul is above each bodily thing, not in place, or sight, but in purity and worthiness of nature. Right so in the same manner God is above all bodily and spiritual creatures, not in place and sight, but in purity and worthiness of His unchangeable blessed nature.
And therefore he that will wisely seek God, and find Him, he must not run out with his thoughts as if he would climb above the sun, and part the firmament, and imagine the Majesty like to a hundred suns. But he must rather draw down the sun, and all the firmament, and forget it, and cast it beneath him where he is, and set all this and all bodily things also at nought; and then, if he can, think spiritually both of himself and of God also. And if he do thus, then seeth the soul above itself, then seeth it into Heaven.
Upon this same manner shall this word within be understood. It is commonly said that a soul should see our Lord within all things and within itself. True it is, that our Lord is within all creatures, but not on that manner that a kernel is hid within the shell of a nut; or as a little bodily thing is contained within a greater. But He is within all creatures, as holding and preserving them in their being, through the subtlety and power of His own blessed nature, and purity invisible. For even as a thing that is most precious and most clean is laid innermost, right so by the same likeness it is said that the nature of God, which is most precious, most clean, most goodly, most remote from bodily substance, is hid within all things. And therefore he that will seek God within, he must first forget all bodily things, for all such things are without; and also his own body; and he must forget thinking of his own soul, and think on the uncreated nature; that is, Jesus, who made him, quickeneth him, holdeth him, and giveth him reason, memory and love, the which is within him through His power and sovereign subtlety.
Upon this manner must the soul do, when grace toucheth it, or else it will but little avail to seek Jesus, and to find Him within itself, and within all creatures as methinketh.
Also it is said in Holy Writ, that God is light. So sayeth St John: God is light. This light we must not take for a bodily light; but it must be understood thus: God is light; that is, God is truth and verity itself, for verity is spiritual light. He then that most graciously knoweth verity, best seeth God. And nevertheless it is likened to corporal light, for this reason: Right as the sun showeth to the bodily eye both itself and all bodily things thereby; even so verity, that is, God, showeth to the reason of the soul itself first, and by itself all other spiritual things that are needful to the knowing of a soul. Thus saith the Prophet: Domine in lumine tuo videbimus lumen. -- Lord, we shall see Thy light by Thy light. That is, we shall see Thee, who art verity, by Thyself.
In like manner, it is said that God is fire. Our God is wasting fire.222 That is to say, God is not elementary fire, that heateth and burneth a body, but God is love and charity. For as fire wasteth all bodily things, that can be wasted, even so the love of God burneth and wasteth all sin out of the soul and maketh it clean, as fire cleanseth all manner of metals. These words and all other that are spoken of our Lord in Holy Writ by bodily similitude, must needs be understood spiritually, else there is no savour in them. And the reason why such words are said of our Lord in Holy Writ is this, for that we are so carnal, that we cannot speak of God nor understand anything of Him, unless we be first entered by such words. But when the inner eye is open through grace to have a little sight of Jesus, then will the soul easily enough turn all such words of bodily things into spiritual understanding. This spiritual opening of the inner eye into knowing of the Divinity, I call reforming in faith and feeling. For then the soul feeleth somewhat in understanding of that thing that it had before, in naked believing, and that is the beginning of Contemplation. Of the which St Paul saith thus: Non Contemplantibus nobis quae videntur, &c. -- Our Contemplation is not on things that are seen, but on things unseen. For things that are seen are passing, but things unseen are everlasting.  To which sight every soul should desire to come. both here in part, and in the bliss of Heaven fully. For in that sight, and in that knowing of Jesus fully, consisteth the bliss of a reasonable soul and endless life. Thus saith our Lord: Haec est autem vita aeterna, &c.224 -- This is eternal life, that they know Thee the true God, and Thy Son whom Thou hast sent.
BUT now perhaps thou wonderest why, since this knowing of God is the bliss and end of a Soul, why I have said heretofore that a soul should covet nought else but only the love of God, and speak nothing of this sight that a soul should covet it.
Unto this I may answer, that the sight of Jesus is the full bliss of a soul; but not only for the sight, but also for the blessed love that cometh out of that sight. And because that love cometh out of knowing, and not knowing out of love; therefore it is said, that in knowing, and in sight principally of God with love is the bliss of a soul; and the more He is known, the better He is loved. But forasmuch as a soul cannot arrive to this knowing, and the love that cometh out of it, without love, therefore I say that thou must covet love; for love is a cause why a soul cometh to this knowing, and to the love that cometh out of it. And in what manner that is, I shall tell thee more plainly.
Holy writers say, and true it is, that there be two sorts of spiritual love: One is called Created, and the other Uncreated. Love uncreated is God Himself, the Third Person in the Trinity, that is the Holy Ghost. He is love uncreated, and unmade; as St John saith: God is love.225 That is, the Holy Ghost. Love created is the affection of the soul produced by the Holy Ghost out of the sight and the knowing of Verity; that is, God stirred up, and set upon him. This love is called created, for it is made by the Holy Ghost. This love is not God in Himself, for it is made: but it is the love of the soul felt by the sight of Jesus, and stirred up towards Him only. Now may you see that created love is not the cause why a soul cometh to the spiritual sight of Jesus. And some men think that they could love God so fervently, as it were by their own strength, that they might be worthy to have the spiritual knowing of Him. No, it is not so; but love uncreated, that is, God Himself, is cause of all this knowing. For a blind wretched soul is so far from the clear knowing, and the blessed feeling of His love, through sin and frailty of its corporal nature, that it could never come to it, if it were not for the endless greatness of the love of God. But because He loveth us so much, therefore giveth He us His love, that is the Holy Ghost. He is both the giver and the gift, and maketh us then by that gift for to know and love Him.
Lo, this is the love that I spake of, that thou shouldst only covet and desire this uncreated love, that is, the Holy Ghost; for verily a less thing or a less gift than He is cannot avail us, to bring us to the blessed sight of Jesus. And therefore ought we fully to desire and ask of Jesus only this gift of love, that He would for the greatness of His so blessed love touch our hearts with His invisible light to the knowledge of Himself, and make us partakers of His love; that as He loveth us, so we might love Him again. Thus saith St John: Nos diligamus Deum, &c. -- Let us love God now, for He loved us first.226 He loved us much when He made us after His likeness; but He loved us more when He bought us with His precious Blood, by voluntary undertaking of death in His Humanity from the power of the enemy and the pains of Hell; but He loveth us most when He giveth us the gift of the Holy Ghost, that is, love, by the which we know Him and love Him, and are made secure that we are His sons chosen to salvation. For this love are we more bound to Him than for any other love that ever He showed to us, either in our making or redeeming. For though He had made us and bought us, if He did not save us withal, what would our making or redeeming profit us? Verily right nought.
Therefore the greatest token of love showed to us, as methinketh, is this: That He giveth Himself in His Godhead to our souls. He gave Himself, first, in His manhood to us for our ransom, when He offered Himself to the Father of Heaven upon the altar of the Cross.
This was a right fair gift, and a right great token of love. But when He giveth Himself in His Godhead spiritually to our souls for our salvation, and maketh us to know Him and to love Him, then loveth He us fully; for then giveth He Himself to us, and more cannot He give us, nor could less suffice us. And for this cause it is said that the justifying of a sinful soul through forgiveness of sins is attributed and appropriated principally to the working of the Holy Ghost; for the Holy Ghost is love. And in the justifying of a sinner, our Lord Jesus showeth to a soul most of His love, for He putteth away all sin, and uniteth it to Him and that is the best thing that He can do to a soul; and therefore it is attributed to the Holy Ghost. The making of the soul is attributed to the Father, as to the sovereign might and power that He showeth in making of it. The redeeming of it is attributed to the Son, as to the sovereign skill and wisdom that He showed in His Manhood; for He overcame the enemy principally through wisdom, and not through strength. But the justifying and full saving of a soul through forgiveness of sins is appropriated to the Third Person, that is, the Holy Ghost, for therein showeth Jesus most love unto man's soul, and for that thing should He be most loved of us again. His making is common to us and all unreasonable creatures; for as He made us of nought, so made He them, and therefore this is a work of greatest might, but not of greatest love. Also the Redemption is common to us and all reasonable souls, as to Jews and Saracens, and to false Christian men; for He died for all souls alike, and bought them if they would have the perfect love of it. And also it is sufficient for the restoring of all, though it be so that all have it not. And this work had most of wisdom, not most of love. But the justifying and sanctifying of our souls through the gift of the Holy Ghost, that is only the work of love, and is not common, but a special gift only to chosen souls. And verily that is most the working of love to us that are His chosen children.
This is the love of God that I spake of, which thou shouldst covet and desire; for this love is God Himself and the Holy Ghost. This love uncreated, when it is given to us, it worketh in our souls all that good is, and all that belongeth to goodness. This love loveth us before we love Him, for it cleanseth us first from our sins, it maketh us to love Him, and maketh our wills strong to withstand all sins, and stirreth us up to exercise ourselves through divers exercises both bodily and ghostly in all virtues. It stirreth us up also to forsake sin and carnal affections and worldly fears. It keepeth us from malicious temptations of the enemy, and driveth us out from business and vanities of the world, and from the conversation of worldly lovers. All this doth the uncreated love of God, when He giveth Himself to us; we do right nought but suffer Him and assent to Him; for that is the most that we do to assent willingly to His gracious working in us. And yet is not that will from and of ourselves but of His making, so that methinketh He doth in us all that is well done, and yet we see it not.
And He not only doth all thus, but afterwards this love doth more; for He openeth the eye of the soul, and showeth to the soul the sight of Jesus wonderfully, and the knowledge of Him as well as the soul can suffer it by little and little; and by that sight He ravisheth all the affections of the soul to Him, and then beginneth the soul to know Him spiritually and to love Him burningly. Then seeth the soul somewhat of the nature of the blessed Divinity of Jesus, how that He is all, and that He worketh all, and that all good deeds that are done and good thoughts are only of Him; for He is all-sovereign might and all-sovereign verity and all-sovereign goodness. And therefore every good deed is done of Him and by Him. And He alone shall have the worship and the thanks for all good deeds, and nothing else but He; for though wretched men steal His worship here for a while, yet at the last end shall verity show full well that Jesus did all, and man did right nought of himself. And then shall the thieves of God's goods that are not reconciled to Him here in this life be judged to death for their sins. And Jesus shall be fully worshipped and thanked of all blessed creatures for His working. This love is nothing else but Jesus Himself, that for love worketh all this in man's soul and reformeth it in feeling to His likeness, as I have said before, and somewhat more shall say. This love bringeth into the soul the perfection of all virtues, and maketh it all clean and true, soft and easy, and turneth it all into love and into liking. And in what manner He doth that I shall tell thee a little hereafter. This love draweth the soul from vain beholding of worldly things into Contemplation of spiritual creatures and of the secrets of God, from sensuality into spirituality, from earthly feeling into heavenly savour.
THEREFORE I may truly say, that he that hath most of this love here in this life, most pleaseth God, and shall have most clear sight of Him, and most fully love Him in the bliss of Heaven, for that he hath the greatest gift of love here in earth. This love cannot be had by a man's own travail, as some imagine. It is freely had by the gracious gift of Jesus after much bodily and spiritual pains going before. For there are some lovers of God that make themselves to love God as it were by their own might; for they strain themselves through great violence, and pant so strongly, that they burst into bodily fervours, as if they would draw God down from Heaven to them. And they say in their hearts and with their mouth: Ah, Lord! I love Thee, and I will love Thee, and I will suffer death for the love of Thee. And in this manner of working they feel great fervour and much grace. And true it is, I think, this working good and meritorious, if it be well tempered with humility and discretion. But yet these men love not, nor have the gift of love on that manner that I speak of, neither do they ask it so. For a soul that hath the gift of love through gracious beholding of Jesus, as I mean, or that soul that hath it not yet, but would have it, she is not busy to strain herself above her strength, as it were by bodily might, for to have it by bodily fervours, and so far to feel the love of God, but thinketh herself to be right nought, and that she can do right nought of herself; but as it were a dead thing, only depending and borne up by the mercy of God. She seeth well that Jesus is all, and doth all, and, therefore, asketh she nought else but the gift of love; for since the soul seeth that her own love is nought, therefore she desireth His love, for that is enough. Therefore she prayeth and desireth that the love of God should touch her with His blessed light, that she may see a little of Him by His gracious presence, for then should she love Him; and so by this way cometh the gift of love, which is God, into a soul. The more that a soul noughteth itself through grace by sight of this verity, sometime without any fervour showed outwardly, and the less that it thinketh that it loveth or seeth God, the nearer it approacheth for to perceive the gift of this blessed love; for then is love master, and worketh in the soul, and maketh it forget itself, and for to see and look on only how love worketh; and then is the soul more suffering than doing, and that is pure love. Thus St Paul meant when he said thus: Quicumque spiritu Dei aguntur, &c. -- They that are wrought by the spirit of God are God's sons.231 That is, souls that are made so humble, and so pliable to God, that they work not of themselves, but suffer the Holy Ghost to stir and work in them the feelings of love with a sweet chord to His stirrings. These are in a special manner God's sons most like unto Him.
Other souls that cannot love thus, but travail themselves by their own afflictions, and stir themselves through their own thinking of God and bodily exercise, for to draw out of themselves, by mastery, the feeling of love, by fervours and other bodily signs, these love not spiritually. They do well and meritoriously, if so be they understand humbly that this their working is not the kindly gracious feeling of love, but is a human acting of the soul at the bidding of reason. And, nevertheless, through the goodness of God, because the soul doth as much as in it is, these human affections of the soul stirred into God by man's working are turned into spiritual affections, and are meritorious, as if they had been done spiritually in the first beginning. And this is a great courtesy of our Lord showed to humble souls, which turneth all these human affections of natural love into the affection and into the reward of His own love, as if He had wrought them all fully by Himself. And so these human affections thus turned may be called affections of spiritual love through purchase, not through kindly bringing forth of the Holy Ghost. I say not that a soul can work such human affections only of itself without grace; for I wot well that St Paul saith that we can do just nought, nor think anything that is good of ourselves without grace. Non enim quod sumus sufficientes, &c. -- Not as if we were sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but all our sufficiency is of God.234 For God worketh in all both good work and good will, as St Paul saith: It as God that worketh in us both to will and to do, according to His good pleasure.235 But I say that such affections are good, being made by the will and endeavours of a soul according to the general grace that He giveth to all chosen souls, not of special grace made spiritually by the touching of His gracious presence, as He worketh in His perfect love, as I said before; for in unperfect lovers love worketh at a distance by human affections; but in perfect lovers love worketh nearly by her own spiritual affections, and killeth in a soul, for the time, all other affections, both carnal, natural and human; and that is properly the working of love by itself. Thus love may be had in some measure, in part, here in a pure soul through the spiritual sight of Jesus; but in the bliss of Heaven it is fulfilled by clear sight in His Godhead; for there shall no affections be felt in a soul but such as are divine and spiritual.
ASK, then, of God nothing but this gift of love, which is the Holy Ghost. For among all the gifts that our Lord giveth there is none so good, nor so profitable, so worthy nor so excellent as this is. For there is no gift of God that is both the giver and the gift, but this gift of love; and, therefore, it is the best and the worthiest. The gift of prophecy, the gift of working miracles, the gift of great knowledge and counsel, and the gift of great fasting, or of great penance doing, or any other such, are great gifts of the Holy Ghost, but they are not the Holy Ghost, for a reprobate and damnable soul may have all these gifts as well as an elect soul. And, therefore, all these kinds of gifts are not greatly to be desired or cared for much. But the gift of love is the Holy Ghost, God Himself, and Him can no soul have and withal be damned; for that gift alone saveth from damnation, and maketh it God's son, and a receiver of the heavenly heritage. And that love, as I have said before, is not the affection of love that is created in a soul, but it is the Holy Ghost Himself, that is, love uncreated, that saveth a soul. For He first giveth Himself to that soul before the soul loveth Him, and He formeth the affection in the soul, and maketh the soul to love Him only for Himself. And not only so, but also by this gift the soul loveth itself, and her neighbour as herself only for God. And this is the gift of love that maketh the distinction betwixt chosen and reprobate souls. And this gift maketh perfect peace betwixt God and a soul, and uniteth all blessed creatures wholly in God; for it maketh Jesus for to love us, and us Him also, and each of us to love one another in Him.
Covet this gift of love principally, as I have said; for if He please out of His grace to give it thee on that manner, it shall open and enlighten the reason of thy soul, to see verity, that is God, and spiritual things. And it shall stir up thy affections wholly and fully for to love Him. And it shall work in thy soul only as He will, and thou shalt behold Jesus reverently, with softness of love, and see how He worketh. Thus commanded He by His Prophet that we should do, saying thus: Vaacaate et videte quoniam ego sum Deus. -- Cease ye, and see that I am God.238 That is, ye that are reformed in feeling, and have your inner eye opened into sight of spiritual things, cease ye sometime from outward working, and see that I am God. That is, see only how I, Jesus, God and Man, do; behold ye Me, for I do all, I am love, and for love I do all that I do, and ye do nought. And that this is truth, I shall show you, for there is no good deed done by you, nor good thought felt in you, but what is done by Me. That is, through power and wisdom and love mightily, wisely and lovely, else it is no good deed. But now it is true that I, Jesus, am both power and wisdom and blessed love, and ye are naught, for I am God. Therefore may you easily see that I do all your good deeds, and all your good thoughts, and all your good loves in you, and ye do right nought. And yet, nevertheless, be all these good deeds called yours. Not because ye work them principally, but for that I give them unto you for love that I bear to you. And, therefore, since I am Jesus, and for love do all this, cease then ye from beholding of yourselves, and set yourselves at nought, and look on Me, and see that I am God, for I do all this. This is somewhat of the meaning of that verse of David before said.
See then and behold what love worketh in a chosen soul, which he reformeth in feeling to his likeness, when the reason is enlightened to the spiritual knowing of Jesus, and to the feeling of His love. Then bringeth love into the soul the perfection of virtues, and turneth them all into quietness, and into liking, as it were, without working of the soul; for the soul striveth not much for the getting of them, as it did before; but it hath them easily, and feeleth them restfully, only through the gift of love, that is, the Holy Ghost. And that is a very great comfort, and gladness unspeakable, when she feeleth suddenly in herself (and scarce knows how) the virtues of humility and patience, sobriety and staidness, chastity and purity and love to her neighbour. And all other virtues which were sometimes travaillous, painful and hard for to keep, are now turned into easiness, and liking, and into wonderful lightness, insomuch that she thinketh it no mastery nor difficulty to keep every virtue, but it is most pleasing to him to keep it, and all this is made by love.
Other men that stand in the way of common charity, and are not yet got so far in grace, but work under the command of reason, they strive and fight all day against sins for the procuring of virtues; and sometimes they be above, and sometimes beneath as wrestlers are.
These men do full well, they have virtues in reason, and will, not in savour, nor in love. For they fight with themselves as it were by their own might for them; therefore cannot they fully have rest, nor perfectly the higher hand. Nevertheless they shall have great reward, but they are not yet humble enough. They have not yet put themselves altogether into God's hand, for they see Him not yet. But a soul that hath spiritual sight of Jesus taketh no great care of striving for virtues for that time. He is not busy about them particularly, but he maketh it all his business to keep that sight, and that beholding of Jesus which it hath for to hold the mind stably thereto, and bind his love only to it, that it fall not from it, but forget all other things as much as it can. And when it doth thus, then is Jesus verily Master against all sins, and overshadoweth it with His blessed presence, and getteth it all virtues. And the soul is so comforted and so borne up with the restful feeling of love that it hath of the sight of Jesus, that it feeleth no great disease outwardly. And thus doth love generally slay all sins in a soul, and reformeth it in the new feelings of virtues.
NEVERTHELESS I shall tell thee more particularly how love killeth sins in a soul, and reformeth virtues. And first of Pride, and the virtue contrary thereto, namely, Humility. Thou must understand that there be two kinds of Humility; one is had by working of reason; another is felt by the special gift of love. Both are of love, but the former love worketh by, and with the reason of the soul, and the latter love worketh by herself. The first is imperfect, the other is perfect. The first a man feeleth from the beholding of his own sins and wretchedness, through the which beholding he thinketh himself unworthy to have any gift of grace, or any reward of God, but thinketh it enough that He would of His great mercy, grant him forgiveness of his sins. And also he thinketh himself, because of his sins, to be worse than the greatest sinner that liveth, and that every man doth better than he. And by such beholding thrusteth he himself down in his thoughts under all men. And he is busy to withstand the stirrings of pride as much as he can, both bodily and spiritual pride, and despiseth himself so that he assenteth not to the feelings of pride. And if his heart be taken sometimes with it, that it be defiled with vain joy of worship and praise from others; or from the conceit of his wit, or of any other thing, as soon as he perceiveth it he is displeased with himself, and hath sorrow for it in heart, and asketh forgiveness for it of God, and showeth himself to his confessor, and accuseth himself humbly, and receiveth his penance. This is good humility, but it is not yet perfect humility; for it is of souls that are beginning and profiting in grace caused by the beholding of their sins. Love worketh this humility by reason.
Perfect humility a soul feeleth from the sight and spiritual knowing of Jesus; for when the Holy Ghost lighteneth the reason into the sight of verity, how Jesus is all, and that He doth all, the soul hath so great love and so great joy in that spiritual sight (for it is really so indeed) that it forgetteth itself, fully leaneth to Jesus with all the love that it hath to behold Him. It taketh no heed of any unworthiness of itself, nor of sins aforedone, but setteth at nought itself, with all the sins, and all the good deeds that ever it did, as if there were nothing but Jesus. Thus was David humble when he said thus: Et substantia mea tanquam nihilum ante Te. -- And my substance is as nothing before Thee.247 That is, Lord Jesus, the sight of why blessed uncreated substance and of Thine endless Being showeth well unto me that my substance and being of my soul is as nought in regard of Thee.
Also, such a soul in respect to his neighbour hath no regard to him, nor judging of him, whether he be better or worse than himself; for he esteemeth himself and all other men to be all alike, and to be just nought of themselves in regard of God (and this is very so). For all the goodness that is wrought in himself, or in others, is only of God, whom he beholdeth as all in all. And therefore setteth he all other creatures at nought, as he doth himself. Thus humble was the Prophet when he said thus: Omnes gentes quasi non sint sic sunt coram eo, &c. -- All nations are before our Lord as if they were not, and are reputed as nothing, and as a vain thing. That is, in comparison of the endless Being, and the unchangeable nature of God, mankind is as nought; for of nought was it made, and to nought shall it return, unless He keep it in its being that made it of nought. This is truth, and this should make a soul humble, if by grace it could see this truth. Therefore when once love openeth the inner eye of the soul, for to see this truth, with other circumstances that attend it, then beginneth the soul to be really humble; for then through the sight of God it feeleth and seeth itself as it is; and then doth the soul forsake the beholding and leaning upon itself; and fully falleth to the beholding of Jesus. And when it doth so, then setteth the soul nought by all the joy and worship of the world, for the joy of worldly worship is so little, and so nought, in regard of that joy and of that love that it feeleth in the spiritual sight of Jesus and knowledge of the truth that, though it might have it without any sin, he would have nothing to do with it. No, though men would worship him, praise him, and favour him, or set him in great state, it would nothing at all please him. No, though he had great skill in all the seven liberal sciences, and of all skill under the sun, or had power to work all manner of miracles, yet would he take no more delight in all this, nor no more savour than to gnaw on a dry stick. He had rather forget all this, and to be alone out of the sight of the world, than to think of them and be worshipped of all men; for the heart of a true lover of Jesus is made so much, and so large through a little sight of Him, and a little feeling of His spiritual love, that all the liking and all the joy of all the earth cannot suffice to fill a corner of it. And then appeareth it well that these wretched worldly lovers, that are, as it were, ravished with the love of their own worship, and pursue after it to have it with all the might and all the wit they have, they have no taste of this Humility, but are wondrous far from it. But the lover of Jesus hath this humility lastingly, and that not with heaviness and striving for it, but with liking and gladness. The which gladness he hath not therefore, because he forsaketh the worship of the world, for that were a proud humility belonging to an hypocrite; but because he hath a sight and a spiritual knowing of the verity and worthiness of Jesus through the gift of the Holy Ghost. That reverend sight, and that lovely beholding of Jesus comforteth his love so wonderfully, and beareth it up so mightily and so easily, that verily it cannot like, nor fully rest in any earthly joy, nor would he if he could. He maketh no matter whether men praise him or dispraise him, worship him or despise him, as to himself he sets it not to heart, neither to be well pleased (for his greater humiliation) when men despise him, nor to be displeased when men worship him or praise him. He had rather forget both the one and the other, and only think on Jesus, and get humility by that way. And that is much the securer way whosoever can attain to it. Thus did David when he said: Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, &c. -- My eyes are always to the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. For when he doth so, then forsaketh he utterly himself, and casteth himself wholly under Jesus, and then is he in a secure guard; for the shield of Truth which he holdeth keepeth him so well that he shall not be hurt through any stirring of pride, as long as he holdeth himself within the shield. As the Prophet saith: Scuto circumdabit te veritas ejus, &c. -- Verity shall compass thee with a shield.256 And that is, if thou, leaving all other things, only beholdest Him; for then shalt thou not dread for the night's dread; that is, thou shalt not fear the spirit of pride, whether he come by night or by day, as the next verse saith thus: A sagitta volante in die -- From the arrow that flieth by day. Pride cometh by night to assail a soul when it is despised and contemned of other men, that thereby it should fall into heaviness and into sorrow. It cometh also as an arrow flying on the day, when a man is praised and worshipped of all men; whether it be for wordly doing or spiritual, that he should have vain joy in himself, and to rest therein, and false gladness in a thing that is passing. This is a sharp arrow and a perilous, it fleeth swiftly, and it striketh softly, but it woundeth deadly. But the lover of Jesus, that stably beholdeth by devout prayers, and busy thinking on him, is so encompassed with the safe shield of Truth that he dreadeth it not; for this arrow cannot enter into his soul. Nay, though it come it hurteth him not, but glanceth away and passeth forth.
And thus is the soul made humble, as I understand, by the working of the Holy Ghost, that is, the gift of love; for He openeth the eye of the soul to see and love Jesus, and He keepeth the soul in that sight restfully and securely; and He slayeth all the stirrings of pride wonderfully and privily and softly, and the soul knoweth not how. And also He bringeth in by that way verily and lovely the virtue of humility. All this doth love, but not in all lovers alike fully; for some have this grace but short and little, as it were in the beginning of it, and a little assaying toward it; for the conscience is not yet cleansed fully through grace. And some have it more fully, for they have clearer sight of Jesus, and they feel more of this love. And some have it most fully, for they have the full gift of Contemplation. Nevertheless, he that hath the least on this manner that I have said, I hope verily he hath the gift of perfect humility, for he hath the gift of perfect love.
LOVE, where it worketh, worketh wisely and easily in a soul; for he slayeth mightily anger and envy, and all passions of wrath and melancholy in it, and bringeth into the soul the virtues of patience and mildness, peaceableness and amity to his neighbour. It is full hard and a great mastery for a man that standeth only in working of his own reason to keep patience, holy rest and softness in heart and charity to his neighbour, when they use him hardly and do him wrong, that he do not through motion or rising of anger or bitterness within him something against them, either by word or deed, or both. (And nevertheless though a man be stirred and troubled in himself, and made unrestful, if so be it passeth not too much the bounds of reason, and that he keep his hands and his tongue, and be ready to forgive the trespass when forgiveness is asked, yet this man hath the virtue of patience, though it be but weak and nakedly. Forasmuch as he desires to have it, and laboureth busily in restraining his unruly passions to the end that he may have it, and also is sorry that he hath it not as he should.) But to a true lover of Jesus it is no great mastery for to suffer all this; for why? Love fighteth for him, and slayeth wondrous easily such stirrings of wrath and of melancholy; and maketh his soul so easy and so peaceable, so suffering and so goodly, through the spiritual sight of Jesus, with the feeling of His blessed love, that though he be despised and contemned of other men, or suffer wrong or harm, shame or villainy, he heedeth it not, he is not much stirred against them; he will not be angered nor stirred against them, for, if he were much stirred, he should forego the comfort which he feeleth within his soul, but that will he not. He can lightlier forget all the wrong that is done him than another man can forgive it, though forgiveness was asked him; and so he had rather forget it; for he thinketh it most easy to him. And love doth all this, for love openeth the eye of the soul to the sight of Jesus, and establisheth it with the pleasure and content of love that it feeleth by that sight, and comforteth it so mightily that it taketh no heed whatever men jangle or do against him; it resteth nothing upon him; the greatest harm that he can suffer is a forbearing of the spiritual sight of Jesus; and therefore it is better for him to suffer all harms than that alone. All this can the soul do well and easily without great disturbing of this spiritual sight, when the grievances fall outwardly and touch not the body, as do backbitings or scornings or spoiling of his goods. All these grieve him nought; but it goeth somewhat nearer when his flesh is touched, and he feeleth smart, then is it harder.
Nevertheless, though it be hard and impossible to the frail nature of man to suffer bodily penance gladly and patiently, without bitter stirrings of ire, anger and melancholy, and yet it is not impossible to love, that is, the Holy Ghost for to work this in a soul, when He toucheth it with the blessed gift of love. But He giveth a soul that is in that plight mightily the feelings of love, and wonderfully fasteneth it to Jesus, and separateth it very far from sensuality through His secret might, and comforteth it so sweetly by His blessed presence that the soul feeleth little pain or else none at all in the sensual part; and this is a special grace given to the holy Martyrs.
This grace had the Apostles, as holy Writ saith of them thus: Ibant Apostoli gaudentes, &c. -- The Apostles went from the Council rejoicing, when they were beaten with scourges, and they were glad that they were accounted worthy to suffer any bodily pain for the love of Jesus. They were not stirred to anger, nor to bitterness, to be revenged on the Jews that beat them, as a worldly man would be when he suffered a little harm, were it never so little, from his neighbour. Nay, they were not stirred to any pride, nor highness of mind, nor to disdain or judge the Jews, as hypocrites and heretics are who will suffer much bodily pain, and are sometimes ready to suffer death with great gladness and with mighty will, as it were in the name of Jesus, for love of Him. Verily, that love and that gladness that they have in suffering of bodily mischief is not of the Holy Ghost, it cometh not from the fire that burneth on the High Altar of Heaven, but it is feigned by the enemy, inflamed of hell; for it is fully mingled with the height of pride, and of presumption of themselves, of despite and judging and disdaining of those that thus punish them. They imagine that all this is charity, and that they suffer all that for the love of God, but they are beguiled by the mid-day fiend.
A true lover of Jesus, when he suffereth harm from his neighbour, is so strengthened through grace of the Holy Ghost, and is made so humble, so patient, so peaceable, and that so really, that what harm or wrong soever he suffereth from his neighbour, he still preserveth his humility, he despiseth him not, he judgeth him not, but he prayeth for him in his heart, and hath pity and compassion on him much more tenderly than of another man that never did him harm; and verily loveth him better, and more fervently desireth the salvation of his soul, because he seeth that we shall have so much spiritual profit out of that evil deed of that man though it be against his will. But this love and this meekness is wrought only by the Holy Ghost above the nature of man in them whom He maketh true lovers of Jesus.
COVETOUSNESS also is slain in a soul by the working of love, for it maketh the soul so covetous of spiritual good and so inflamed to heavenly riches that it setteth right nought by all earthly things. It hath no more joy in the having of a precious stone than a chalk-stone; no more love hath he in an hundred pounds than in a pound of lead. It setteth all things that must perish at one price; he heedeth no more the one than the other, as to his love; for he knows well that all these earthly things which worldly men set so great price by and love so dearly must pass away and turn to nothing, both the thing itself and the love of it. And therefore he worketh his thoughts betimes into that judgement and esteem of them which they must come to hereafter, and so accounteth them as nought. And when worldly lovers strive and fight and plead for earthly goods, who may first have them; the lover of Jesus striveth with no man, but keepeth himself in peace, and is well contented with that which he hath, and will strive for no more; for he thinketh that he needs no more of all the riches on earth than a scanty bodily sustenance for to sustain his bodily life withal, as long as it pleaseth God, and that he can easily have. And therefore would he have no more than he barely needeth for the time, that he may freely be discharged from the trouble of keeping and spending of it, and fully give his heart and his business about the seeking of Jesus for to find Him in cleanness of spirit; for that is all his covetousness; for why? -- only the clean in heart shall see Him.
Also, the fleshly love of father and mother and other worldly friends hangeth not upon him. It is even cut from his heart with the sword of spiritual love, so that he hath no more affection to father or mother, or to any worldly friend than he hath to another man, except he see or feel in them more grace or more virtue than in other men, or except that his father or mother hath the selfsame grace that some other men have. But if they be not so, then loveth he other men better than them, and that is charity. And thus doth God's love slay covetousness of the world, and bringeth into the soul poverty of spirit. And that doth love, not only in them that have right nought of worldly goods, but also in some creatures that are in great worldly state and have earthly riches to spend. Love slayeth in some of them covetousness so far forth that they have no more liking nor savour in having of them than of a straw. No, though it should so happen that they should lose them through default of those that should look after them, yet set they nought thereby. For why? -- the heart of God's lover is, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, taken so fully with the sight of the love of another thing, which is Jesus, and that is so precious and so worthy that it will receive no other love to rest in it that is contrary thereto.
And not only doth love this, but also it slayeth the liking of Lechery and all other bodily uncleanness, and bringeth into the soul true chastity, and turneth it into liking. For the soul feeleth so great delight in the sight of Jesus that it liketh for to be chaste, and it is no great difficulty to it to keep chastity, for therein is most ease and most rest.
And in the same manner the gift of love slayeth the lusts of Gluttony, and maketh the soul sober and temperate, and beareth it up so mightily that it cannot rest in the liking of meat and drink. But it taketh such meat and drink, whatever it be, as least hindereth or chargeth the bodily complexion, if it can easily come by it; nor for the love of itself, but for the love of God. On this wise the lover of God seeth well that he needeth to sustain his bodily life with meat and drink, as long as God will suffer them to continue together. Here, then, will be the discretion of the lover of Jesus, as far as I understand that hath feeling and working in love, that in what manner he may best keep his grace whole, and be least letted from working in it through taking of bodily sustenance, so shall he do. That kind of meat, which least letteth and least troubleth the heart, and may keep the body in strength, be it flesh, be it fish, be it bread and ale, that I suppose the soul chooseth for to have, if it can come thereby. For the whole business of the soul is to think on Jesus with reverent love, constantly, without letting of anything, if that it might. And therefore since it must needs be letted somewhat and hindered the less it is letted and hindered by meat or drink or any other thing the better it is. It had rather use the best meat and most costly if it less hinder the keeping of his heart, than to take only bread and water, if that hinder him more; for he hath no regard for to get great merit by the pain of fasting, and be put thereby from softness and quietness of heart, but all his business is for to keep his heart as stably as he can in the sight of Jesus and in the feeling of His love. And surely I am of the opinion that he may with less lust and liking use the best meat, that is good in its kind, than another man that worketh all by reason without the special gift of love can use the worst. Ever excepting such meat as is dressed with art and curiosity only for lust, for such manner of meat cannot at all accord with him. And also on the other side, if little meat, as only bread and beer, most helpeth and quieteth his heart, and keepeth it most in peace, that is most acceptable to him for to use; and, namely, if he feel his bodily strength sustained thereby, and have the gift of love withal.
And yet doth love more, for it slayeth sloth and fleshly idleness, and maketh the soul to be occupied in goodness, and, namely, inwardly in beholding of him, by virtue whereof the soul hath savour and spiritual delight in praying, in meditating, and in all manner of doing that belongeth to him to do according to the state he is in, without heaviness or painful bitterness, whether he be religious or secular.
Also, it slayeth the vain likings of the five bodily senses. As first of the sight of the eyes, so that the soul hath no liking in the sight of any worldly thing, but feeleth rather pain and disease in beholding of it, be it never so fair, never so precious, never so wonderful. And, therefore, as worldly lovers run out sometimes for to see new things, for to wonder at them, and so for to feed their hearts with the vain sight of them; right so a lover of Jesus is busy for to run away, and withdraw himself from the sight of such manner of things, that the inner sight be not letted; for he spiritually seeth another manner of thing, which is fairer and more wonderful, and that would he not forbear.
Right on the self-same wise is it of speaking and hearing. It is a pain to the soul of a lover of Jesus for to speak or hear anything that might let the freedom of his heart from thinking on Jesus, whatever song, or melody, or music outward it be, if it hinder the thought that it cannot freely and restfully pray, or think on him, it liketh him right nought. And the more delectable it is to other men, the more unsavoury it is to him. And also to hear any manner of speaking of other men, unless it be somewhat touching the working of his soul into the love of Jesus, it liketh him right nought, he is right soon weary of it. He had rather be in peace, and hear right nought, nay speak right nought, than for to hear the speaking and the teaching of the greatest Clerk on earth, with all the reasons that he can say to him by human wit, except he can speak feelingly and stirringly of the love of Jesus; for there lies his skill principally. And therefore would not he speak of anything else, nor hear, nor see anything, but what might help him, and further him into more knowledge, and to better feeling of Him.
Of worldly speech it is no doubt that he hath no savour in speaking, nor in hearing of it, nor in worldly tales, nor tidings, nor in any such vain jangling that belongeth not to Him. And the same is of smelling and tasting. The more the thoughts are distracted and broken from spiritual rest by the use either of smelling, or tasting, or of any of the senses, the more he avoideth it. The less that he feeleth of them, the better he is. And if he could live in the body without the feeling of any of them he would never feel them, for they trouble the heart oft-times, and put it from rest; but they cannot fully be eschewed. Nevertheless the love of Jesus is sometimes so mighty in a soul, that it overcometh and slayeth all that is contrary thereto for a time.
THUS worketh love in a soul, opening the ghostly eye into the beholding of Jesus by inspiration of special grace, and maketh it pure, subtle and able to the work of Contemplation. What this opening of the spiritual eye is the greatest scholar on earth cannot imagine by his wit nor show fully by his tongue; for it cannot be gotten by study, nor by man's industry alone, but principally by grace of the Holy Ghost, and with human industry. I am afraid to speak anything of it, for methinketh that I cannot, it passeth my attempt, and my lips are unclean. Nevertheless, because it seems to me that love asketh, yea, love biddeth that I should, therefore shall I say a little more of it as I hope love teacheth. This opening of the spiritual eye is that lightsome darkness and rich nought that I spake of before, and it may be called purity of spirit and spiritual rest, inward stillness and peace of conscience, highness of thought and loneliness of soul, a lively feeling of grace and retiredness of heart, the watchful sleep of the spouse and tasting of heavenly savour, burning in love and shining in light, the gate of Contemplation and reforming in feeling. All these expressions are found in holy writings of divers men, for every one of them speaketh according to his feeling in grace. And though all these be divers in show of words, yet are they all one in meaning and verity; for that soul which through visiting of grace hath one of them hath all. For why? a soul sighing to see the Face of Jesus when it is touched through special grace of the Holy Ghost, it is suddenly changed, and turned from the state that it was in into another manner of feeling. It is wonderfully separated and drawn first into itself, from the love and the liking of all earthly things, so much that it hath lost the savour of the bodily life, and of all things save only Jesus. And then is it clean from all the filth of sin, so far forth that the minding of itself, and all other inordinate affections to any creature is suddenly washed and wiped away, so that there remains no middle thing or impediment betwixt Jesus and the soul, but only the bodily life, and then it is in spiritual rest. For why? all painful doubts and fears, and all other temptations of spiritual enemies are driven out of the heart, that they trouble not, nor sink not into it for the time. It is in rest from the annoyance of worldly business, and painful hindrances of wicked stirrings; but it is full busy in the free spiritual working of love. And the more it laboureth so, the more rest it feeleth.
This restful labouring is full far from fleshly idleness and from blind security. It is full of spiritual working, but it is called rest, for that grace loseth the heavy yoke of fleshly love from the soul, and maketh it mighty and free through the gift of spiritual love for to work gladly, softly and delectably in all things to which grace stirreth it to work in. And therefore it is called an holy idleness and a rest most busy, and so it is in regard of stillness from the great crying of the beastly noise of fleshly desires and unclean thoughts. This stillness is made by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost through the beholding of Jesus. For why? His voice is so sweet and so mighty that it putteth to silence in a soul all the jangling of all other speakers; for it is a voice of power, softly founded in a pure soul, of the which the Prophet saith thus: Vox Domini in virtute. -- The voice of our Lord Jesus is with power. This voice is a lively words and speedy, as the Apostle saith: Vivus est sermo Dei, &c. -- The word of the Lord is lively and powerful, more piercing than any sword is.279 Through speaking of this word is fleshly love slain, and the soul kept in silence from all wicked stirrings. Of this silence it is said in the Apocalypse thus: Factum est silentium in coelo, &c. -- Silence was made in heaven as it were half an hour. By Heaven is meant a pure soul lifted up through grace from earthly love to heavenly conversation, and so it is in silence. But forasmuch as that silence cannot last whole continually by reason of the corruption of the bodily nature; therefore it is compared to the time of half an hour, a very short time the soul thinketh it to be, though it be never so long; and therefore it is but half an hour.
And then hath it peace in conscience. For why? Grace putteth out the gnawing, pricking, striving and fighting of sins, and bringeth in peace and concord, and maketh Jesus and a soul both one in full agreement of will. There is no upbraiding of sins, nor sharp reproving of faults made at that time in a soul, for they have kissed and are made friends, and all is forgiven that was done amiss.
Thus feeleth the soul, then, with great humble security and great spiritual gladness, and conceiveth a full great certainty of salvation by this accordmaking; for it heareth a secret witnessing of the Holy Ghost to the conscience, that he is a chosen son to a heavenly heritage. Thus St Paul saith: Ipse Spiritus testimonium perhibet spiritui nostro, &c. -- The Holy Spirit beareth witness to our spirit that we are God's sons.282
This witnessing of conscience verily felt through grace is the very joy of the soul, as the Apostle saith: Gloria mea est testimonium, &c. -- My joy is the witness of my conscience: and that is, when it witnesseth peace and accord, true love and friendship betwixt Jesus and a soul. And when it is in this peace, then is it in highness of thought.
When the soul is bound with the love of the world, then is it beneath all creatures; for everything goeth over it, and beareth it down by mastery, that it cannot see Jesus nor love Him. For even as the love of the world is vain and fleshly, right so the beholding and thinking and using of all creatures is fleshly; and that is a thraldom of the soul. But then through opening of the spiritual eye into Jesus the love is turned, and the soul is raised up according to its own nature above all bodily creatures. And then the beholding and thinking, and the using of them is spiritual, for the love is spiritual. The soul hath then great disdain to be obedient to the love of worldly things, for it is high set above them through grace. It setteth nought by all the world. For why? It will all pass away and perish. Unto this highness of heart, as long as the soul is kept therein, cometh no error nor deceit of the enemy; for Jesus is really in sight of the soul at that time, and all other things are beneath it. Of this the Prophet speaketh thus: Accedat homo ad cor altum et exaltabitur Deus. -- Let a man come to a high heart, and God shall be exalted. That is, a man that through grace cometh to the highness of thought shall see that Jesus is only exalted above all creatures, and he in Him.
And then is the soul thus set aloft, estranged from the fellowship of worldly lovers, though his body be in the midst among them, full far is he parted from carnal affections of creatures. He careth not though he never see man, nor speak with him, nor have comfort from him, that he might for ever continue in that spiritual feeling. He feeleth so great familiarity of the blessed presence of our Lord Jesus, and so much savour of Him, that he can easily for love of Him forget the fleshly affection and the fleshly mind of all creatures. I say not that he shall not love nor think of other creatures, that he shall think on them in fitting time, and see them and love them spiritually and freely, not fleshly and painfully as he did before. Of this loneliness speaketh the Prophet thus: Ducam eam in solitudinem, &c. -- I will lead her into solitude, and I will speak to her heart.288 That is, the grace of Jesus leadeth the soul from troublesome company of fleshly desires into loneliness of thought, and maketh it forget the liking of the world, and soundeth by sweetness of His inspiration words of love in the ears of the heart. A soul is thus lonely when it loveth Jesus, and attendeth fully to Him, and he hath lost the savour and the comfort of the world; and that it may better keep this loneliness, it fleeth the company of men as much as it can; and seeketh loneliness of body, which helpeth much to the loneliness of the soul, and to the free working of love, the less hindrance that it hath from without of vain janglings, or from within of vain thinking, the more free it is in spiritual beholding. And so it is in retiredness of heart.
A soul is all without, whilst it is overlaid and blinded with worldly love, it is as common as the highway, for every stirring which cometh from the flesh or from the fiend sinketh in or goeth through it. But then through grace it is drawn into the privy-chamber, into the sight of our Lord Jesus, and heareth His privy counsel, and is wonderfully comforted in the hearing. Of this speaketh the Prophet thus: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi. -- My privity to me, my privity to me.291 That is, the lover of Jesus, through inspiration of grace, taken up from outward feeling of worldly love, and ravished into the privity of spiritual love, yieldeth thanks to Him, saying thus: My privity to me. That is, my Lord Jesus, Thy privity is showed to me, and privily hid from all lovers of the world; for it is called hidden Manna, which may easier be asked than told what it is. And that our Lord Jesus promiseth to His lover, saying thus: Dabo sibi Manna absconditum, &c. -- I will give her the hidden Manna which no man knoweth but he that taketh it. This Manna is heavenly meat, and angels' food, as the Scripture saith; for angels are fully fed and filled with clear sight in burning love of our Lord Jesus, and that is Manna; for we may ask what it is, but cannot know what it is. But the lover of Jesus is not yet filled here, but is fed with a little taste of it, whilst he is bound in this bodily life.
This tasting of this Manna is a lively feeling of grace had through the opening of the spiritual eye. And this grace is not another grace from that which a chosen soul feeleth in the beginning of his conversion; but it is the self-same grace, only it is otherwise felt and showed to a soul. For why? Grace groweth with a soul, and the soul groweth with grace. And the clearer that a soul is parted from the love of the world, the more mighty is its grace, the more inward and more spiritual is the showing of the presence of our Lord Jesus come to be. So that the same grace which at first turneth him from sin, and maketh him beginning and profiting by gifts of virtue and exercise of good works, maketh him also perfect. And that grace is called a lively feeling of grace; for he that hath it feeleth it well, and knoweth well by experience that he is in grace. It is full lively to him; for it quickeneth the soul wonderfully, and maketh it so whole that it feeleth no painful disease of the body, though it be feeble and sickly. For why? Then is the body most mighty, most whole and most restful, and the soul also. Without this grace the soul cannot live but in pain; for it thinketh that it can keep it for ever, and nothing can put it away; but it is not so, for it passeth away full easily. Nevertheless though the sovereign feeling passeth away, and is withdrawn, the virtue of it stayeth still, and keepeth the soul in sobriety, and maketh it to desire the coming again thereof.
And this is the waking sleep of the Spouse, of the which the Scripture thus: Ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat. -- I sleep, and my heart waketh. That is, I sleep spiritually when through grace the love of the world is slain in me, and wicked stirrings of fleshly desires are dead, insomuch that I scarce feel them. I am not held by them, my heart is made free. And then it waketh, for it is quick and ready to love Jesus, and see Him. The more I sleep from outward things, the more am I awake in knowing of Jesus and of inward things. I cannot be awake to Jesus, except I sleep to the world. And therefore the grace of the Holy Ghost, shutting the fleshly eye, causeth the soul to sleep from worldly vanities, and opening the spiritual eye, keepeth it awake to the sight of God's majesty covered under the cloud of His precious Humanity. As the Gospel saith of the Apostles, when they were with our Lord Jesus in His transfiguration, first they slept: Et evigilantes viderunt majestatem. -- They waking beheld His glory.296 By sleep of the Apostles is understood the dying of worldly love through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; by their awaking is understood their Contemplation of Jesus. Through this sleep the soul is brought into rest from the noise of fleshly lust, and through waking is raised up to the sight of Jesus and spiritual things. The more that the eyes are shut in this manner of sleep from the appetite of earthly things, the sharper is the inner sight in lovely beholding of heavenly beauty. This sleeping and this waking doth love work through the light of grace in the soul of the lover of our Lord Jesus.
SHOW me then a soul that through inspiration of grace hath this opening of the spiritual sight into the beholding of Jesus that is separated and drawn out from the love of the world, so far forth that it hath purity and privity of spirit, spiritual rest, inward silence and peace of conscience, highness of thought, loneliness and privity of heart, the waking sleep of the Spouse, that hath lost the liking and joys of the world, taken with delight of heavenly savour, ever thirsting and softly hasting after that blessed presence of Jesus; and I dare boldly pronounce that this soul burneth all in love, and shineth in spiritual light, worthy to come to the name and to the worship of the Spouse; for it is reformed in feeling, made able and ready to Contemplation. These are the tokens of inspiration in opening of the spiritual eye. For when the eye is opened, the soul is in full feeling of all the aforesaid virtues for that time.
Nevertheless it falleth out oftentimes that grace withdraweth in part by reason of the corruption of man's frailty, and suffereth then the soul to fall into itself in sensuality, as it was before; and then is the soul in pain and in sorrow, for it is blind and unsavoury and can do no good. It is weak and impotent, encumbered with the body and all the bodily senses. It seeketh and desireth after the grace of Jesus again, and it cannot find it; for the Scripture saith thus of our Lord: Postquam vultum suum absconderit, &c. -- When our Lord hath hid His face, there is none that can behold Him. When He showeth His face, the soul cannot but see Him, for He is light; and when He hideth Himself, it cannot see Him, for the soul is dark.
His hiding is but a subtle trying of the soul. His showing is a wonderful merciful goodness in comfort of the soul. Wonder not though the feelings of grace be sometimes withdrawn from a lover of Jesus; for holy Writ saith the same of the Spouse, that it fareth thus with her: Quaesivi et non inveni illum, &c. -- I sought Him, and I found Him not; I called, and He answered not.303 That is, when I fall down to my frailty and sin, then grace withdraweth; for my falling is the cause thereof, and not His flying, but then feel I pain of my wretchedness in His absence. And, therefore, I sought Him by great desire of heart, and He gave to me not so much as a feeble answer. And then I cried with all my soul: Revertere, dilecte mi -- Turn again, Thou my beloved.304 And yet He seemed as if He heard me not. The painful feeling of myself, and the assailing of fleshly loves and fears in this time, and the wanting of my spiritual strength is a continual crying of my soul to Jesus. And nevertheless our Lord maketh strange, and cometh not, cry I never so fast; for He is sure enough of His lover, that he will not turn again to worldly loves quite; he can have no savour in them, and, therefore, stayeth He the longer.
But at the last when He pleaseth, He cometh again full of grace and faithfulness, and visiteth the soul that languisheth through desire, by sighings of love after His presence, and toucheth it, and anointeth it full gently with the oil of gladness, and maketh it suddenly whole from all pain. And then crieth the soul to Jesus in a spiritual voice with a glad heart thus: Oleum effusum Nomen tuum. -- Thy Name is as oil poured out.307 Thy Name is Jesus, that is, health. Then as long as I feel my soul sore and sick by reason of sin, pained with the heavy burthen of my body, sorrowful and fearful for perils and wretchedness of this life, so long, Lord Jesus, Thy Name is oil shut up, not poured forth. But when I feel my soul suddenly touched with the light of Thy grace, healed and cured from all the filth of sin, and comforted in love and in light with spiritual strength and gladness unspeakable, then can I say with lusty, loving and spiritual might to Thee: Thy Name, O Jesu, is to me oil poured forth. For by the effect of Thy gracious visitation I feel well the true exposition of Thy Name, that Thou art Jesus, health, for only Thy gracious presence healeth me from sorrow and from sin.
Happy is that soul that is ever fed with feeling of love in His presence, or is borne up by desire to Him in His absence. A wise lover is he, and well taught, that soberly and reverently behaveth himself in His presence, and lovely beholdeth Him without dissolute lightness, and patiently and easily beareth His absence without venomous despair and over painful bitterness.
This changeability of the absence and presence of Jesus, which a soul feeleth, is neither the perfection of the soul nor is it contrary to the grace of perfection or of Contemplation, but only a state of less perfection; for the more letting that a soul hath of itself from the constant feeling of grace, the less is the grace; and yet, nevertheless, is the grace in itself grace of Contemplation. This changeability of absence and presence falleth as well in the state of perfection as in the state of beginning, but after another manner; for even as there is diversity of feeling in the presence of grace betwixt these two states, right so is there in the absence of grace. And, therefore, he that knoweth not the absence of grace is apt to be deceived. And he that maketh not much of the presence of grace is unthankful to the visiting thereof, whether he be in the state of beginners or of the perfect. Nevertheless, the more stableness that there is in grace unhurt and unbroken, the lovelier is the soul, and more like unto Him in whom is no changeableness,311 as the Apostle saith. And it is very meet that the Spouse should be like her Bridegroom Jesus in manners and in virtues, fully according to Him in stableness of perfect love. But that falleth out seldom here in Spouses of this life; for he that perceiveth no changeableness in the feeling of his grace, but is all alike, whole, stable, unbroken and unhurt, as he thinketh, he is either very perfect or very blind. He is perfect if he be sequestered from all carnal affections and inclinations to creatures, and hath all hindrances of corruption and of sin betwixt Jesus and his soul broken away, and is fully united to Him with softness of love. But this is only from grace above man's nature. Or he is very blind if he imagineth himself to be in grace without spiritual feeling of God's inspiration, and setteth himself in a way of stableness, as if he were ever in feeling and in working of special grace, imagining all to be grace which he doth and feeleth, both inwardly and outwardly, thinking that whatsoever he doth or speaketh is grace, holding himself unchangeable in speciality of grace. If there be any such, as I hope there is none, he is full blind in feeling of grace.
But thou mayest object: That we ought to live only by Faith, and not covet spiritual feelings, nor regard them if they come; for the Apostle saith: The just shall live by faith.315
Unto this I answer that bodily feelings, be they never so comfortable, are not to be desired nor regarded much if they come; but spiritual feelings, such as I have spoken of, if they come in that manner as I have said, should ever be desired. I mean the killing of all worldly love, the opening of the spiritual eye, purity of spirit, peace of conscience and all other spoken of before. We should ever covet to feel the lively inspiration of grace made by the spiritual presence of Jesus in our souls, if we could. And for to have Him in our sight with reverence, and ever feel the sweetness of His love by a wonderful familiarity of His presence. This should be our life and our feeling in grace after the measure of His gift in whom all grace is, to some more and to some less; for His presence is felt in divers manners as He pleaseth. And in this we should live and work that which belongeth to us to work, for without this we should not be able to live spiritually. For as the soul is the life of the body, right so is Jesus the life of the soul by His gracious presence.
And, nevertheless, this manner of feeling, though it be never so much, is but in faith in comparison of that which shall be of the selfsame Jesus in the bliss of Heaven. Lo, this feeling should we desire; for every reasonable soul ought to covet, with all its power, to approach to Jesus, and to be united to Him through feeling of His gracious invisible presence. How that presence is felt may better be known by experience than by any writing; for it is the life and the love, the might and the light, the joy and the rest of a chosen soul. And therefore, he that hath once truly felt it cannot forbear it without pain, neither can he choose but desire it, it is so good in itself and so comfortable. What is more comfortable here for a soul than to be drawn out through grace from the noisomeness of worldly business and filth of desires, and from vain affection of all creatures, into rest and softness of spiritual love, secretly perceiving the gracious presence of Jesus, and feelingly fed with the savour of His invisible blessed Face? Verily, I think nothing can make the soul of a lover full of mirth but the gracious presence of Jesus, as He can show Himself to a pure soul; such an one is never heavy, never sorry but when he is with himself in sensuality. He is never full glad, nor merry, but when he is out of himself as being with Jesus in spirit.
And yet is that no full mirth, for there ever hangeth a heavy lump of bodily corruption on his soul, and beareth it down, and hindereth much the spiritual gladness, and this must ever be whilst it is here in this life. But whereas I have before spoken of the changeability of grace, how it cometh and goeth, that thou mistake me not; thou must understand that I mean not of common grace, that is had and felt in faith and in goodwill to God; without having and lusting of which, and continuing in it, none can be saved, for it is in the least chosen soul that liveth. But I mean of special grace felt by inspiration of the Holy Ghost in that manner as I have said before. Common grace, which is Charity, lasteth whole whatsoever a man doth, as long as his will and his intent is true to God, which will of his keepeth him from sinning deadly, and the deed that he wittingly doth is not forbidden under a mortal sin; for this grace is not lost but by mortal sins. And then is a sin mortal when his conscience witnesseth with deliberation that it is mortal sin, and yet nevertheless he doth it; or else his conscience is so blinded that he holdeth it no deadly sin, although he doth the deed wilfully, which is forbidden by God and holy Church as a deadly sin.
Special grace felt through the invisible presence of Jesus, which maketh a soul a perfect lover, lasteth not ever alike whole in the height of feeling, but changeably cometh and goeth, as I have said before. Thus our Lord saith: Spiritus ubi vult spirat, &c. -- The spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He cometh, nor whither He goeth. He cometh secretly sometimes when thou art least aware of Him, but thou shalt know Him full well ere He go; for He wonderfully stirreth and mightily turneth thy heart into the beholding of His goodness, and then doth thy heart melt delectably as wax against the fire into softness of His love, and this is the voice that He soundeth. But then He goeth ere thou perceivest, for He withdraweth Himself somewhat, not wholly altogether, but from excess into moderation. The height of feeling passeth, but the substance and the effect of Grace dwelleth still. And that is as long as the soul of a lover keepeth himself pure, and falleth not wilfully into wretchedness or carelessness in sensuality, nor to outward vanity, as sometimes it doth (though it have no delight therein) out of frailty. This is the changeability of grace which I meant and spake of.
THE soul of a man, whilst it is not touched with special grace, is blunt and gross for spiritual work, and can do nought therein. It skilleth not thereof by reason of its weakness. It is both old and dry, undevout and unsavoury in itself. But then cometh the light of grace, and through touching maketh it sharp and subtle, ready and able to spiritual work, and giveth it a great freedom and a perfect readiness in will to be pliable to all the stirrings of grace, ready to work after that grace stirreth the soul. For by opening of the spiritual eye it is wholly applied to grace, ready to pray. And how the soul then prayeth I shall tell thee.
The most special prayer that the soul useth and hath most comfort in, I suppose, is the Pater noster or else Psalms of the Psalter. The Pater noster for unlearned men; and Psalms and Hymns and other service of holy Church for the learned. The soul prayeth, therefore, not in that manner as it did before, after the common way of men by highness of voice, or by reasonable speaking out; but in full great stillness of voice and softness of heart. For why? His mind is not troubled nor hindered with outward things, but wholly gathered together into itself. And the soul is set, as it were, in the spiritual presence of Jesus, and, therefore, every word and every syllable is sounded savourly, sweetly and delectably, with full accord of mouth and of heart. For why? The soul is then turned all into the fire of love. And, therefore, every word that it secretly prayeth is like a spark rising out of a burning fire, which heateth all the powers of the soul, and turneth them into love, and enlighteneth them so comfortably that the soul listeth ever to pray and to do nothing else. The more it prayeth the better it may, and the mightier it is. For grace helpeth the soul well, and maketh all things light and easy, that it delighteth to chant and sing the praises of God with spiritual mirth in heavenly delight. This spiritual work is the food of the soul, and this prayer is of great virtue, for it wasteth and bringeth to nought all secret and open temptations of the enemy, and slayeth all the mind and all the liking of the world and of fleshly sins. It beareth up the body and the soul from painful feeling of the wretchedness of this life. It keepeth the soul in the feeling of grace and working of love, and nourisheth it ever alike hot, as sticks nourisheth the fire. It putteth away all irksomeness and heaviness of heart, and holdeth it in strength and spiritual gladness.
Of this prayer speaketh David thus: Dirigatur oratio mea sicut incensum &c. -- Let my prayer be dressed as incense in Thy sight. For even as incense that is cast into the fire maketh a sweet smell by the smoke rising up to the air, right so a Psalm savourly and softly sung or said in a burning heart, giveth up a sweet smell to the face of our Lord Jesus, and to all the Court of Heaven. There dare no flesh-fly rest upon the pot's brink boiling on the fire. Even so can no fleshly delight rest upon a clean soul, that is all bilapped and warmed in the fire of love, boiling and blowing up Psalms and prayers to Jesus. This prayer is always heard of Jesus. It yieldeth grace to Jesus, and receiveth grace again. It maketh a soul familiar, and, as it were, hail-fellow with Jesus, and with all the Angels in Heaven, use it who so can. The work is good and gracious in itself. And though it be not altogether perfect Contemplation in itself, nor the working of love by itself, nevertheless it is in part Contemplation. For why? It cannot be exercised in this manner but by plenty of grace through opening of the spiritual eye. And, therefore, a soul that hath this freedom and this gracious feeling in praying with spiritual savour and heavenly delight hath the grace of Contemplation in the manner as it is.
This prayer is a rich offering filled all with fatness of devotion, received by Angels and presented to the face of Jesus. The prayer of other men, who are busy in active works, is made of two words; for they oftentimes form in their hearts one word through thinking of worldly business, and speak with their mouth another word of the Psalm sung or said. Yet, nevertheless, if his intent be true his prayer is good and acceptable, though it lack savour and sweetness. But this prayer of a Contemplative man is made but of one word; for as it is formed in the heart, right so doth it wholly sound in the mouth, as it were nothing but one and the same thing, both which formeth it and which soundeth it. And verily no more it is, for the soul, through grace, is made whole in itself so far parted from sensuality, that it is master of the body, and then is the body nothing else but as an instrument and a trumpet of the soul in the which the soul bloweth sweet notes of spiritual prayers to Jesus. This is the trumpet that David spake of thus: Buccinate in neomenia, &c. -- Blow ye the trumpet in the new moon. That is, ye souls that are reformed in spiritual life through opening of the inner eye, blow ye devoutly the sounding of Psalms with the trumpet of your bodily tongue. And, therefore, since this prayer is pleasant to Jesus, and so profitable to the soul, it is good for him who is new converted to God (and desires to please Him, and coveteth to have some quaint feeling of grace) to covet this feeling, that he may through grace come to this liberty of spirit and offer his prayers and his Psalms to Jesus continually and stably and devoutly, with whole mind and burning affection towards Him, so that he may be ready for it through custom when grace will stir him up thereto. This is a secure feeling, and a true one. If thou canst attain unto it and keep it, thou shalt not need to run about here and there and ask questions of every spiritual man what thou shouldst do, how thou shouldst love God, and how thou shouldst serve God, and speak of spiritual matters, that pass thy understanding, as perhaps some do: Such kind of doings are not profitable unless in case of necessity. Keep thee to thy prayers, quietly at first with thy own great industry, that thou mayest afterwards come to this restful feeling of spiritual prayer, and that shall teach thee wisdom enough in verity without feigning or fancy; and hold thee on in such prayer if thou hast gotten it and leave it not; but if grace come otherwise, and removeth it from thee for a time, causing thee to work on another manner, then mayest thou leave it for a time, and after return again thereto. And he that hath this grace in prayer asketh not whereupon he should set the point of his thought in his prayer, whether upon the words that he speaketh, or else on God, or on the Name of Jesus, as some ask, for this feeling of grace will teach him well enough. For why? The soul is turned into the eye, and sharply beholdeth the face of Jesus, and is ascertained that it is Jesus that it feeleth and seeth. I do not mean Jesus as He is in Himself, in fulness of His blessed Godhead; but I mean Jesus, as He is pleased to show Himself to a clean soul, yet in the body according to the cleanness that it hath. For thou must know that every feeling of grace is Jesus, and may be called Jesus. And according as the grace is more or less, so feeleth the soul more or less of Jesus. Yea, the first feeling of special grace in a beginner, which is called grace of compunction and contrition for his sins, is verily Jesus. For why? He causeth that contrition in a soul by His presence. But Jesus is then very grossly and rudely felt, very far from this spiritual subtlety; for the soul can nor may do no better by reason of its uncleanness. Nevertheless, afterward, if the soul profit and increase in virtues and in cleanness, the same Jesus, and none other, is seen and felt by the same soul when it is touched with grace; but that is more spiritually, and nearer to His Divinity. And verily that is the chiefest thing that Jesus loveth in a soul, that it may be made spiritual and divine in sight and in love, like to Him in grace, as He is by nature; for that shall be the end of all lovers.
Then mayest thou be secure, that at what time thou feelest thy soul stirred by grace, specially in that manner as I have said before, by opening of thy spiritual eye that thou seest and feelest Jesus, hold Him fast whilst thou may, and keep thyself in grace, and let Him not easily go from thee. Look after none other Jesus but that same, by feeling of that self-same grace more divinely that it may increase in thee more and more. And be not afraid, though Jesus whom thou feelest be not Jesus as He is in His full Godhead, that thou therefore mayest be deceived if thou trust to that feeling. But trust thou well, if thou be a lover of Jesus, that thy feeling is true, and that Jesus is truly felt and seen of thee through His grace as thou canst see Him here. And therefore trust fully to thy feeling when it is gracious and spiritual, and keep it tenderly, and have great dainty, not of thyself, but of it, that thou mayest see and feel Jesus still better and better. For grace shall ever teach thee by itself, if thou wilt fall thereto, till thou come to the end.
But perchance thou beginnest to wonder why I say one time that grace worketh all this, and another time that love worketh, or God worketh?
Unto this I answer thus: That when I say that grace worketh, I mean both love, and Jesus, and God; for all is one, and nought but one; Jesus is love, Jesus is grace, Jesus is God. And because He worketh all in us by His grace for love, as He is God, therefore may I use which of these four words I list after my stirring in this writing.
WHEN a soul thus feeleth Jesus in prayer, he thinketh that he shall never feel otherwise. Nevertheless it happeneth that sometimes grace putteth vocal prayer to silence, and stirreth the soul to see and to feel Jesus in another manner. And that manner is first to see Jesus in the holy Scriptures; for Jesus, who is all truth, is hid and covered therein, folded in a soft Syndon, under fair words, that He cannot be known nor felt but of a clean heart. For why? Truth will not show itself to enemies, but to friends, that love and desire it with an humble heart. For Truth and Humility are full true sisters, fastened together in love and charity, and there is no distance of counsel betwixt them two. Humility presumeth upon Truth, and not at all on itself; and Truth esteemeth well of Humility, so they accord well together. Then forasmuch as the soul of a lover is made humble through inspiration of grace by opening of the spiritual eye, and seeth that it is nought of itself, but only hangeth on the mercy and the goodness of Jesus perpetually, being borne up by the favour and help of Him only, and truly desiring His presence, therefore seeth it Jesus; for it seeth the truth of holy Scriptures wonderfully showed and opened above study and industry and reason of man's natural wit. And that may well be called the feeling and the perceiving of Jesus. For Jesus is the fountain of Wisdom, and by pouring down of His Wisdom into a clean soul, by little and little, He maketh the soul wise enough for to understand all holy Scripture; not all at once in special beholding, but through that grace the soul receiveth a new ability and a gracious habit to understand it, particularly when it cometh to mind. This opening and this cleanness of understanding is made by the spiritual presence of Jesus: for right as the Gospel saith of the two Disciples going to Emmaus, burning in desire and speaking of our Lord Jesus, our Lord appeared to them presently as a pilgrim, and taught them the prophecies of Himself. And as the Gospel saith: Aperuit illis sensum, &c. -- He opened their wits that they might understand the Scriptures.328 Right so the spiritual presence of Jesus openeth the wit of His lover, that it burneth in desire to Him and bringeth to His mind by ministration of Angels, the words and sentences of holy Writ unsought and unconsidered one after another and expoundeth them readily, be they never so hard nor so secret. The harder they be, and farther from man's understanding by reason, the more delectable is the true showing of them. When Jesus is the teacher, it is expounded and declared literally, morally, mystically, and heavenly, if the matter will bear it. By the literal (which is the easiest and plainest) corporal nature is comforted. By the moral, the soul is informed concerning vices and virtues, to be able wisely to distinguish the one from the other. By the mystical it is enlightened to see the works of Jesus in holy Church, readily to apply the words of holy Writ to Christ our head, and to holy Church, which is His mystical body. The fourth, which is heavenly, belongeth only to the working of love, and that is, when all truth in holy Writ is applied to love. And because this is most like to heavenly feeling, therefore I call it heavenly.
The lover of Jesus is His friend, not for that he deserveth it, but because Jesus of His merciful goodness maketh him His friend by true accord. And therefore to him He showeth His secrets, as to a true friend that pleaseth Him by love, not serveth Him through fear in slavery. Thus He saith Himself to His Apostles: Jam vos dixi amicos quia quaecumque audivi a Patre meo nota feci vobis. -- Now have I called you friends, for I have made known unto you all that I have heard of the Father.329 To a clean soul whose palate is purified from filth of fleshly love, holy Writ is lively food and sustenance delectable, It savoureth wonderful sweetly when it is well chewed by spiritual understanding. For why? The spirit of life is hid therein, that quickeneth all the powers of the soul, and filleth them full of sweetness of heavenly savour and spiritual delight. But verily he must have white teeth, and sharp, and well picked, that can bite of this spiritual bread; for fleshly lovers and heretics may not touch the inward flour of it. Their teeth are bloody, and full of filth, therefore must they be fasting from feeling of this bread. By teeth I understand the inward senses of the soul, which in fleshly lovers and heretics are bloody, full of sin and worldly vanities. They would, but they cannot come through curiosity to the truth in knowing of holy Writ; for their senses are corrupted by original and actual sin, and are not yet healed through grace. And therefore they do but gnaw upon the outward bark, speak they never so much thereof. The inner savour within they taste not of. They be not humble, they be not pure for to see it. They be not friends to Jesus, and therefore He showeth them not His counsel. The mystery of holy Writ is closed under a key, and sealed with a signet of Jesus' finger, which is the Holy Ghost, and therefore without His love and His leave may none come in. He alone hath the key of skill in His keeping, as holy Writ saith, and He Himself is the key: and He letteth in whom He will by inspiration of His grace, and breaketh not the seal.
And this doth Jesus to His lovers, but not to all alike, but to them that are specially inspired for to seek Truth in holy Writ, with great devotion in praying, and with much business in studying going before. These may come to the finding of it, when our Lord will be pleased to show it. See now, then, how grace openeth the spiritual eye, and Heareth the senses of the soul wonderfully above the frailty of corrupt nature. It giveth the soul a new ability whether it will read holy Writ, or hear it, or meditate in it, for to understand truly and savourly the truth of it in the manner aforesaid; and also for to turn readily all reasons and words that are literally spoken in spiritual understanding. And that is no great wonder, for the same Spirit that made the Scriptures, expoundeth it and declareth it to a clean soul for its comfort -- namely, the Holy Ghost.
And this grace may be, and is, as well in laymen as in the learned, as to the substance and true feeling of the verity and spiritual savour of it in general, though they see not so many reasons in special; for that needeth not. And when the soul is thus enabled, and enlightened through grace, then he chooseth to be alone sometimes, out of the letting and meddling with all creatures, that he may freely exercise his instrument, which I call his reason of beholding of verity which is contained in holy Scriptures. And then will there fall into his mind words and reasons and senses enough to busy him, and that full orderly and full seriously. And what comfort and spiritual delight, what savour and sweetness a soul can then feel in that spiritual exercise through divers illuminations, inward perceivings, secret knowings and sudden touchings of the Holy Ghost, a soul can only know by experience, and not otherwise. And I hope that he shall not err, if so be his teeth, that is his inward senses, be kept white and clean from spiritual pride, and from curiosity of his natural wit. I believe David felt full great delight in this manner of working, when he said thus: Quam dulci faucibus meis eloquia Tua, &c. -- How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! sweeter than honey to my mouth.332 That is, Lord Jesus, Thy holy words endited in holy Writ, brought to my mind by grace, are sweeter to my taste, that is the affections of my soul, than honey is to my mouth. Verily this is a fair work without painful travail for to see Jesus thus. This is one manner of sight of Jesus, as I said before; not as He is, but clothed under the likeness of works and of words, per speculum, in aenigmate. -- In a glass, and by a likeness, as the Apostle saith. Jesus is endless might, wisdom and goodness, righteousness, truth, holiness and mercy. And what this Jesus is in Himself can no soul see nor hear; but by the effects of His working may be seen through the light of grace. As thus, His might is seen by making of all creatures of nothing; His wisdom in orderly disposing of them; His goodness in saving of them; His mercy in forgiveness of sins; His holiness in gifts of grace; His righteousness in severely punishing of sin; His gentleness in true rewarding of good works. And all this is expressed in holy Writ, and this a soul seeth there with all other attributes that pertain thereto. And be thou well assured, that such gracious knowings in holy Writ, or in other writings, which are made by the assistance of God's grace, are nought else but sweet letters sent and made betwixt a loving soul and Jesus the beloved. Or else, that I may speak trulier, betwixt Jesus the true lover and the souls beloved of Him. He hath full great tenderness of love to all his chosen children, that are here closed in clay of this bodily life. And therefore, though He be absent from them, high, hid above in the bosom of the Father, filled with the delights of the Blessed Godhead, yet notwithstanding He thinketh upon them, and visiteth them full oft through His gracious spiritual presence, and comforteth them by His letters of holy Writ, and driveth out of their hearts heaviness and wearisomeness, doubts and fears, and maketh them truly glad and merry in Him, believing in all His promises, and humbly continuing fulfilling His will.
St Paul saith thus: Quaecumque scripta sunt, &c. -- Whatsoever things are written, are written for our instruction, that we might have hope through the comfort of the Scriptures. And this is another work of Contemplation, to see Jesus in the Scriptures after the opening of the spiritual eye. The cleaner the sight is in beholding, the more comforted is the affection in tasting. A full little savour felt in a clean soul of holy Writ in this manner abovesaid, should make the soul set little price by knowing of all the seven liberal arts, or of all the world, or all worldly wisdom; for the end of this knowing is the salvation of a man's soul in everlasting life; and the end of that other knowledge, as to himself, is but vanity and a fading delight, unless by grace it be turned to this end.
LO, these are fair new feelings in a clean soul; and if a soul were filled with such, it might be said, and that truly, that it were reformed somewhat in feeling, but not yet fully; for why? Yet Jesus showeth more, and leadeth the soul inward, and beginneth to speak more familiarly and more lovely to a soul, and maketh it more ready to follow the stirrings of grace. For the Prophet saith: Quocumque ibat spiritus, illuc gradiebantur et rotae sequentes eum. -- Whithersoever the spirit went, thither went the wheels following him.334 By wheels are understood the true lovers of Jesus, for they are round in virtue, without angle of frowardness; and lightly whirling through readiness of will after the stirrings of grace; for according as grace stirreth and teacheth, so they follow and work, as the Prophet saith.
But first, they have a full secure experience, and a true knowing of the voice of grace, ere they do so; that they be not deceived by their own feigning, or by the mid-day fiend. Our Lord Jesus saith thus of His lovers: Oves meae vocem meam audiunt, &c. -- My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they know Me.335 The privy voice of Jesus is full true, and it maketh a soul true; there is no feigning in it, nor on fancy, nor pride, nor hyprocrisy; but gentleness, humility, peace, love and charity. And it is full of life, love and grace. And therefore when it soundeth in a soul, it is of so great power sometimes, that the soul suddenly layeth aside all that was in hand, as praying, speaking, reading or thinking; in the manner abovesaid, and all manner of bodily work, and listeneth thereto fully, hearing and perceiving in rest and in love the sweet sound of this spiritual voice, as it were ravished from the mind of all earthly things, and then in this quiet, Jesus sometimes showeth Himself as an awful master, and sometimes as a reverend Father, and sometimes as a lovely Spouse. And it keepeth a soul in a wonderful reverence, and in a lovely beholding of Him, that the soul liketh well then, and never so well as then; for it feeleth so great security, and so great rest in Jesus, and so much savour of His goodness, that it would ever be so, and never do other work. It thinketh that it toucheth Jesus, and through virtue of that unspeakable touching, it is made whole and stable in itself, reverently beholding Jesus only, as if there were nothing but Jesus, one thing, and himself another, borne up only by the savour and the wonderful goodness of Him; that is that thing which he feeleth and seeth. And this feeling is ofttimes without special beholding of holy Writ, and with but few words formed in the mind; only there falls in among sweet words, according to the feeling either of loving, or worshipping, or admiring, or otherwise sounding, as the heart liketh. The soul is very much separated from love or liking of the world, through virtue of this gracious feeling, and also very much from minding of the world in that time. It taketh no heed thereof, for it hath no time thereto. But then sometimes anon, together with this, falleth into a soul divers illuminations through grace, which I call the speakings of Jesus, and the sight of spiritual things; for be thou assured, that all the business that Jesus maketh about a soul, is for to make it a true perfect spouse to Him in the height and the fulness of love, and that cannot be done suddenly. Therefore Jesus, who is love, and of all lovers the wisest, proveth by many ways, and by many wonderful means, ere this can come about. And therefore that it may come to the effect of true espousing, He hath such gracious speakings of a wooer to a chosen soul. He sheweth His privy jewels; many things He giveth, and more He promiseth; and showeth courteous dalliance. He often visiteth her with much grace and spiritual comfort, as I have said before; but how He doth this in particular, I cannot fully tell thee, for it needeth not. Nevertheless somewhat shall I say, according as grace enableth me.
The drawing of a soul fully to perfect love, is, first by the showing of spiritual things to a clean soul, when the spiritual eye is opened; not that a soul should rest therein, and make an end there, but should by that search Him and love Him who is highest of all, without any beholding of any other thing than He.
But thou wilt ask, what are these spiritual things, because I speak so oft of spiritual things?
To this I say that spiritual things may be said all the truth of holy Scripture. And therefore a soul that through light of grace can see the truth of Scripture, seeth spiritual things, as I have said before.
NEVERTHELESS, other spiritual things there be also, which through light of grace are showed to the soul, and are these: the nature of all reasonable souls, and the gracious workings of our Lord Jesus in them; the nature of angels, both good and bad, and their workings, and the knowledge of the Blessed Trinity, according as grace teacheth. Holy Writ saith of the Spouse thus in the Canticles: Surgam et circuibo civitatem, &c. -- I will arise, and go about the city, and will seek Him whom my soul loveth. That is, I will rise into highness of thought, and go about the city. By this city is understood the University of all creatures, corporal and spiritual, ordered and ruled under God by laws of nature, of reason and of grace. I go about this city when I behold the natures and causes of bodily creatures, the gifts of grace, and the blisses of spiritual creatures. And in all these I seek Him whom my soul loveth. It is pleasant looking with the inner eye on Jesus in bodily creatures, to see His power, His wisdom and His goodness in ordering of their natures; but it is much more beautiful to look on Jesus in spiritual creatures: First in reasonable souls, both elect and reprobate, to see the merciful calling of them to election, how He turneth them from sin by the light of His grace, how He helpeth them, teacheth them, chasteneth them, comforteth them; He sanctifieth, cleanseth and feedeth them; how He maketh them burning in love and in light through plenty of His grace. And thus doth He, not to one soul only, but to all His chosen according to the measure of His grace.
Also concerning the reprobate, he seeth how justly he forsaketh them, and leaveth them in their sins, and doth them no wrong. How He rewardeth them in this world, suffering them to have the fulfilling of their own will, and after to punish them endlessly. Lo, this is a little beholding of holy Church, whilst it is militant in this life, by seeing how black and how foul it seemeth in souls that are reprobate; and how fair and how lovely it is in chosen souls.
And all this spiritual sight is nought else but the sight of Jesus, not in Himself but in His merciful secret works, and in His righteous judgements every day showed, remembered and renewed to reasonable souls. Moreover, to see with the spiritual eye the pains of the reprobate and the joy and bliss of chosen souls is full comfortable. For truth cannot be seen in a clean soul without great delight and wonderful content of blessed burning love.
Also the sight of the nature of Angels, first of the damned, then of the blessed; as it is a full pleasant contemplation concerning the devil in a clean soul. When grace bringeth the fiend into the sight of the soul, as a clumsy caitiff bound by the power of Jesus that he cannot hurt; then the soul beholdeth him not bodily, but spiritually, seeing his nature and his malice, and turneth him upside down and spoileth him and rendeth him all to nought, scorneth him and despiseth him, and setteth nought by his malice. Thus biddeth holy Writ, when it saith thus: Verte impium, et not erit. -- Turn the wicked, that is, the fiend, upside down, and he shall be as nought. Much wonder hath the soul that the fiend hath so much malice and so little might. There is no creature so weak as he is; and therefore it is great cowardice that men fear him so much. He can do nothing without leave of our Lord Jesus, not so much as enter into a swine, as the Gospel saith, much less can he do then to annoy any man.
And therefore if our Lord Jesus give him leave to tempt us, it is full worthily and mercifully done, that he doth so; and therefore welcome be our Lord Jesus by Himself, and by all His messengers. The soul feareth no more the blustering of the fiend than the stirring of a mouse. Wondrous wroth is the fiend when we say nay to his temptations, but his mouth is stopped with his own malice. His hands are bound like a thieve's, worthy to be judged and hanged in hell. And then the soul accuseth him, and doth justly condemn him according to his deserts. Wonder not at this saying, for St Paul meant the same, when he saith thus: Fratres, nescitis, &c. -- Brethren, know ye not that we shall judge the angels? namely, those that are wicked spirits through malice that were made good angels by nature. As who should say, yes; this judging is figured before the day of judgement in Contemplative souls, for they feel a little tasting in likeness of all that shall be done afterwards of our Lord Jesus openly in truth. Shamed and troubled is the fiend greatly in himself, when he is thus used by a clean soul. He would fain fly away, but he cannot, for the power of the Highest holdeth him still, and that grieveth him more than all the fire of hell. Then falleth the soul wonderfully humble under Jesus with hearty praises, for that He so mightily saveth a simple soul from all the malice of so cruel an enemy by His great mercy.
AND then after this by the selfsame light may the soul spiritually see the beauty of the Angels, the worthiness of their nature, the subtlety of their substance, their confirming in grace, their fulness in endless bliss, the diversity of their orders; the distinctions of persons, how they all live in light of endless truth; and how they burn all in love of the Holy Ghost, according to the worthiness of their orders; how they see and love and praise Jesus in blessed rest without ceasing. There is no sight of a body, nor any figure in imagination, in this manner of working, but all spiritual, and of spiritual creatures.
Then beginneth the soul to have great acquaintance and great fellowship with the blessed spirits. They are full tender and full busy about such a soul to help it, they are masters to teach it. And often by their spiritual presence and touching of their light drive out fancies from the soul. They enlighten the soul graciously; they comfort the soul with sweet words suddenly sounded in a clean heart, and if any disease fall spiritually, they serve the soul and minister to it all that it needeth. Thus St Paul said of them: Know ye not that they are all ministering spirits, sent for them who shall be heirs of salvation? As if he had said thus: Know ye that all this spiritual working of words and of reasons, brought to the mind, and such fair likeness are made by the ministry of Angels, when the light of grace abundantly shineth in a clean soul. It cannot be told by tongue the feelings, the enlightenings, the graces and the comforts in special that clean souls perceive by the favourable fellowship of blessed Angels. The soul is so well pleased with beholding what they do that it would willingly attend to nothing else.
But then with the help of Angels the soul yet seeth more; for knowing in a clean soul riseth higher above all this, and that is to behold the blessed nature of Jesus. First of His glorious humanity, how it is worthily exalted above the nature of Angels, and afterwards of His blessed Divinity, for by knowing of creatures is known the Creator; and then beginneth the soul to perceive a little of the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity. And this it may do well enough, for the light of grace going before, she cannot err as long as she holdeth her in that light. Then is opened really to the eye of the soul the unity in substance, and distinction of persons in the Blessed Trinity, as it may be seen in this life, and much other truth of the Blessed Trinity pertinent to this matter; the which is openly declared and shown by writings of holy doctors of holy Church. And be you assured that one and the same verity concerning the Blessed Trinity that these holy doctors, inspired through grace, writ in their books for the strengthening of our truth, a clean soul may see in knowing through the same light of grace. I will not express too much of this matter here in particular, for it needeth not.
Wondrous great love feedeth the soul with heavenly delight in feeling of this truth, when it is wrought through special grace; for love and light go both together in a clean soul. There is no love that riseth out of knowing, and from special beholding that can sooner touch our Lord than this can. For why? This knowing of Jesus, God and Man, is alone in itself the worthiest and the highest, if it be specially shown by the light of grace. And therefore is the fire of flaming love hereof more burning than it is of any creature, corporal or incorporal. And all these gracious knowings of the university of all creatures felt in a soul in manner abovesaid, and of our Lord Jesus, the maker and keeper of all this fair university, I call fair words, and sweet speakings of our Lord Jesus to a soul, which He means to make His true Spouse. He showeth His mysteries, proffereth rich gifts out of His treasury, and arrayeth the soul with them full beautifully. She need not thenceforward be ashamed of the company of her fellows, to appear before the face of Jesus her Spouse. All this lovely dalliance of private conference betwixt Jesus and a soul may be called a hidden word; of the which Scripture saith thus: Porro ad me dictum est verbum absconditum, &c. -- Moreover to me there was spoken a secret word, and the veins of His whispering mine ear hath perceived.343 The inspiration of Jesus is a hidden word, for it is privily hid from all lovers of the world, and shown to His lovers; through which a clean soul perceiveth readily the veins of His whispering, that is the special showings of His truth; for every gracious knowing of truth felt with inward savour and spiritual delight is a privy whispering of Jesus in the ear of a clean soul. He must have much cleanness and humility and all other virtues, and must be half deaf to the noise of worldly janglings, that will wisely perceive those sweet spiritual whisperings, that is the voice of Jesus. Of the which David saith thus: Vox Domini praeparantis cervos, &c. -- The voice of the Lord prepareth harts, and shall discover thick woods. That is, the inspiration of Jesus maketh souls light as deer, that start from the ground over bushes and briars of all worldly vanities; and He showeth to them the thickets, that is, His mysteries, which cannot be perceived but by a sharp eye. These beholdings, solidly grounded in grace and humility, make a soul wise and burning in desire to the face of Jesus. These are the spiritual things that I spake of before, and they be called new gracious feelings; and I do but touch them a little for direction of a soul; for a soul that is pure, stirred up by grace to use this working, may see more of such spiritual matter in an hour than can be writ in a great book.
Thus finisheth this present book, which expoundeth many notable doctrines in Contemplation, which to me seemeth right expedient to those that set their felicity in busying themselves specially for their souls' health.
The following verses form the colophon to Wynkyn de Worde's edition of the "Scale," and are reprinted from the 1659 edition.
Infinite laud with thankings manifold,
I yield to God, me succouring with His grace;
This Book to finish, which as ye behold,
Scale of Perfection's called in every place:
Whereof th' Author Walter Hilton was,
And Wynkin de Word this hath set in print;
In William Caxton's house, so fell the case,
God rest his soul, in joy there may it stint.
This heavenly Book more precious than gold
Was lately directed with great humility,
For godly pleasure thereon to behold,
Unto the right noble Margaret as ye see,
The King's Mother of excellent bounty,
Harry the seventh, that Jesus him preserve,
This mighty Princess hath commanded me
T'imprint this Book, her grace for to deserve.
In novitate sensus. Rom. 12.
219St John 3.
1 St John 1.
2 Cor. 4.
224St John 17.
2251 St John 4.
2261 St. John 4.
2341 Cor. 3.
2 Cor. 1.
St John 3.
1 John 4.
328St Luke 24.
329St John 15.
1 Cor. 13.
335St John 10.
St Matt. 8.
1 Cor. 4:3.