Jul
01

Practicing the Presence – Pt. 7

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This post comes from the classic Christian devotional by Bro. Lawrence (Lawrence, Brother (Nicholas Herman, c. 1605-1691) who was a monk in the 1600’s. His simple but profound writings are an encouragement to believers today who desire to discover the presence of God in the midst of any chore, circumstance or crisis. It is truly gold for those desiring to live with a greater awareness of God’s presence in their lives. There are numerous postings from this work. You can view them all under the category, PRACTICING THE PRESENCE.

The material for the PRACTICING THE PRESENCE category was acquired from the (UTF-8) free text version through Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College, http://www.ccel.org  This site is a great resource for Classic public domain materials such as this.

SECOND LETTER

Difference between himself and others. * Faith alone consistently and
persistently. * Deprecates this state being considered a delusion.

NOT finding my manner of life in books, although I have no difficulty
about it, yet, for greater security, I shall be glad to know your
thoughts concerning it.

In a conversation some days since with a person of piety, he told me
the spiritual life was a life of grace, which begins with servile fear,
which is increased by hope of eternal life, and which is consummated by
pure love; that each of these states had its different stages, by which
one arrives at last at that blessed consummation.

I have not followed all these methods. On the contrary, from I know not
what instincts, I found they discouraged me. This was the reason why,
at my entrance into religion, I took a resolution to give myself up to
GOD, as the best satisfaction I could make for my sins; and, for the
love of Him, to renounce all besides.

For the first years, I commonly employed myself during the time set
apart for devotion, with the thoughts of death, judgement, hell,
heaven, and my sins. Thus I continued some years applying my mind
carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my business, to
the presence of GOD, whom I considered always as with me, often as in
me.

At length I came insensibly to do the same thing during my set time of
prayer, which caused in me great delight and consolation. This practice
produced in me so high an esteem for GOD, that faith alone was capable
to satisfy me in that point. [I suppose he means that all distinct
notions he could form of GOD were unsatisfactory, because he perceived
them to be unworthy of GOD, and therefore his mind was not to be
satisfied but by the views of faith, which apprehends GOD as infinite
and incomprehensible, as He is in Himself, and not as He can be
conceived by human ideas.]

Such was my beginning; and yet I must tell you, that for the first ten
years I suffered much: the apprehension that I was not devoted to GOD,
as I wished to be, my past sins always present to my mind, and the
great unmerited favours which GOD did me, were the matter and source of
my sufferings. During this time I fell often, and rose again presently.
It seemed to me that the creatures, reason, and GOD Himself were
against me; And faith alone for me. I was troubled sometimes with
thoughts, that to believe I had received such favours was an effect of
my presumption, which pretended to be at once where others arrive with
difficulty; at other times that it was a wilful delusion, and that
there was no salvation for me.

When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these troubles (which
did not at all diminish the trust I had in GOD, and which served only
to increase my faith), I found myself changed all at once; and my soul,
which till that time was in trouble, felt a profound inward peace, as
if she were in her centre and place of rest.

Ever since that time I walk before GOD simply, in faith, with humility
and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think
nothing which may displease Him. I hope that when I have done what I
can, He will do with me what He pleases.

As for what passes in me at present, I cannot express it. I have no
pain or difficulty about my state, because I have no will but that of
GOD, which I endeavour to accomplish in all things, and to which I am
so resigned, that I would not take up a straw from the ground against
His order, or from any other motive but purely that of love to Him.

I have quitted all forms of devotion and set prayers but those to which
my state obliges me. And I make it my business only to persevere in His
holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a
general fond regard to GOD, which I may call an actual presence of GOD;
or, to speak better, an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of
the soul with GOD, which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly,
and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to
moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others.

In short, I am assured beyond all doubt, that my soul has been with GOD
above these thirty years. I pass over many things, that I may not be
tedious to you, yet I think it proper to inform you after what manner I
consider myself before GOD, whom I behold as my King.

I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and
corruption, and who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King;
touched with a sensible regret I confess to Him all my wickedness, I
ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands, that He may do what
He pleases with me. This King, full of mercy and goodness, very far
from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table,
serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He
converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a
thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favourite. It is
thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence.

My most usual method is this simple attention, and such a general
passionate regard to GOD; to whom I find myself often attached with
greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother’s
breast: so that if I dare use the expression, I should choose to call
this state the bosom of GOD, for the inexpressible sweetness which I
taste and experience there. If sometimes my thoughts wander from it by
necessity or infirmity, I am presently recalled by inward motions, so
charming and delicious that I am ashamed to mention them.

I desire your reverence to reflect rather upon my great wretchedness,
of which you are fully informed, than upon the great favours which GOD
does me, all unworthy and ungrateful as I am.

As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same
exercise. Sometimes I consider myself there, as a stone before a
carver, whereof he is to make a statue: presenting myself thus before
GOD, I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul, and render me
entirely like Himself.

At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit and
all my soul lift itself up without any care or effort of mine; and it
continues as it were suspended and firmly fixed in GOD, as in its
centre and place of rest.

I know that some charge this state with inactivity, delusion, and
self-love: I confess that it is a holy inactivity, and would be a happy
self-love, if the soul in that state were capable of it; because in
effect, while she is in this repose, she cannot be disturbed by such
acts as she was formerly accustomed to, and which were then her
support, but would now rather hinder than assist her.

Yet I cannot bear that this should be called delusion; because the soul
which thus enjoys GOD desires herein nothing but Him. If this be
delusion in me, it belongs to GOD to remedy it. Let Him do what He
pleases with me: I desire only Him, and to be wholly devoted to Him.

You will, however, oblige me in sending me your opinion, to which I
always pay a great deference, for I have a singular esteem for your
reverence, and am yours in our Lord.
 

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