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It is hard to conquer in small things, petty irritations, worries, cares of this world, likes and dislikes—all of these being subtle temptations, and all selfish. For instance, very often I find the human voice the most horrible thing that I know! I will be in a beautiful state of mind, and people around me will drag me from it with their maddening inanities of conversation. This one will speak of the weather, and that one of food; another of scandal, another of amusements. They will talk of their love for a dog, for a horse, for golf, for men or women; but never do I hear at any time, or anywhere, anyone speak of their love for God. I must listen to all their loves, but if I should venture to speak of mine they would look at me amazed; indeed, I never should dare to do it. And this is perhaps the greatest weakness that I have to fight against now, and one that spoils the harmony of the mind more than any other—that I cannot always control myself from secret though unspoken irritation, impatience, and criticisms; and to criticise is to judge, and in this there is wrong, and the smallest breeze of wrong is enough to blow to—even to close—the door into that other lovely world. And not only this, but every such failure is a disappointment to the Beloved. Many times I say to Him, "What canst Thou do with us all, Beloved—such a mass of selfish, foolish, blundering, sinful creatures, all hanging and pulling on to Thee at the same moment?" And I will be filled with a passionate desire to so progress that I may stand a little alone and not be a perpetual drag upon Him, and, feeling strong, perhaps I will say: "I will give up my share of Thee to someone else, and not draw upon Thee for a little while, my Beloved Lord." But oh, in less than an hour, if He should take me at my word! I could cry and moan like a small child, in my horrible emptiness and longing for Him. And where now is my strength?—I have not an ounce of it without Him! By this I learn in my own person how He is life itself to us, in all ways. He is the air, the bread, and the blood of the soul, and no one can live without at every moment drawing upon Him, though they do it insensibly. What a weight to carry, what a burden, this whole hungry clamouring mass of disobedient men and women! Oh, my Beloved, how frequently I weep for all Thy bitter disappointment—never ending!
But this we may be sure of—that all the marvels of His grace are not poured out on some poor scrappit for no other reason than to give him pleasure. There is a vast purpose behind it all, and by keenest attention we must pick up this purpose, understand it, and do it. This is the true work of man, to love God with all the heart and mind and soul and strength, and not those material works with which we all so easily satisfy ourselves and our consciences, and our bodily needs.
He has marvellous ways (and very difficult to the beginner) of conveying His wishes. To my finding, the inward life of us is like a perpetual interchange of conversation between the heart and its many desires and the mind (which for myself I put into three parts—the intelligence, the will, the reason). Now, all these parts of my heart and of my mind formerly occupied themselves entirely with worldly things, passing from one thing to another in most disorderly fashion; but now they occupy themselves (save for bodily necessities) solely with Him. There is a perpetual smooth and beautiful conversation between them to Him and of Him; and suddenly He will seem to enter into this conversation, suggesting thoughts which are not mine.
Often He will stab the soul, but not with words, also the heart; and I have known such communications lie for weeks before they could be taken up by the mind, turned into words, and finally as words be digested by the reason. And another way to the soul only—rare, untransferable to words, and therefore not transmittable to others or to the reason. This way causes the creature a great amazement, and is like a flooding or moving of whiteness, or an inwardly-felt phosphorescence; it is a vitalising ministration greatly enjoyed by the soul. This is not any ecstasy, and is exceedingly swift; the soul must be at high attention to receive this, yet neither anticipates nor asks for it, but is in the act of giving great and joyful adoration.
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I do not remember when I first became fully conscious that the centre or seat of my emotions was changed, and that I now responded to all the experiences of life only with the higher parts of me.
This change I found inexplicable and remarkable, for it was fundamental, and yet neither intended nor thought of by me. With this alteration in the physical correspondences to life came a corresponding alteration in the spiritual of me.
Formerly I supposed that the soul dwelt in, or was even a part of, the mind. Now, though the mind must be filled wholly with God, and all other things whatsoever put out of it if we would contemplate Him or respond to Him, yet neither the brain nor the intelligence of the creature can come into any contact with Him; and this I soon learnt.
Correspondence with the Divine is accomplished for the creature through the heart and by the uppermost part of the breast, this latter place (above the heart and below the mind) is the dwelling-place of the celestial spark of the soul, which lies, as it were, between two fires—that of the heart and that of the mind, responding directly to neither of these, but to God only.
Before I was touched upon the hill I was not aware of the locality of any part of my soul, neither was there anything which could convince me that I even possessed a soul. I did no more than believe and suppose that I did possess one. But the soul, once revived, becomes the most powerful and vivid part of our being; we are not able any longer to mistake its possession or position in the body. She is indeed the wonderful and lovely mistress of us, with which alone we can unlock the mysteries of God's love.
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How poor and cold a thing is mere belief! No longer do I believe in Jesus Christ: I do possess Him. So complete is the change that He brings about in us that I now only count my life and my time from the first day of this new God-consciousness that I received upon the hill, for that was the first day of my real life; just as formerly I would count my time from the first day of my physical birth, and from that on to my falling in love and to my marriage, which once seemed to me to be the most important dates.
Whilst these changes were taking place in me I would often be filled with uneasiness and some alarm; asking myself what all this could mean, and if it could be the way of martyrs or saints, for I had no courage or liking to be one or the other and was very frightened of suffering. And I think my cunning heart would have liked to take all the sweets and leave the bitter. How well He knew this, and how exquisitely He handled me, never forcing, only looking at me, inviting me with those marvellous perfections of His! How could I possibly resist Him? All the while, all my waking hours, I felt that strange, new, incomprehensible, steady, insistent drawing and urgency of the Spirit in me. Little by little I went—and still go—towards perfection, whilst my cowardly heart endured many fears, but these are now past. It was not any desire for my own salvation; to this I have never given so much as two thoughts. It was the irresistible attraction of our marvellous and beautiful God. He lured, He drew me with His loveliness, His holy perfections, His unutterable purity. I longed to please Him. The whole earth was filled with the glamour of Him, and I filled with horror to see how utterly unlike—apart from the glorious Beloved—I was. How frightful my blemishes, which must stink in His nostrils! Think of it! To stink in the nostrils of the Beloved! What lover could endure to do such a thing? No effort could be too great or painful to beautify oneself for Him. In this there is no virtue; it is the driving necessity of love, a necessity known by every lover worthy of the name on earth. To please and obey this ineffable and exquisite Being!—the privilege intoxicated me more and more.
All these changes in my heart and mind continually filled me with surprise, for I was never pious, though inwardly and secretly I had so ardently sought Him. I was attentive, humble, and reverent, nothing more.
But though I had perhaps little or no piety, and never read a single religious book, I had had a deep thirst for the perfect and the holy and the pure, as I seemed unable to find them here on the earth. In the quiet solemnity of church, or under the blue skies, I could detach myself from my surroundings and reach up and out with wistful dimness towards the ineffable holiness and purity of God—God who, for me at least, remained persistently so unattainable.
And yet one blessed day I was to find Him suddenly, all in one glorious hour, no longer unattainable but immanently, marvellously near, and willing to remain for me so strangely permanently near that I must sing silently to Him from my heart all the day long—sing to Him silently, because even the faintest whisper would feel too gross and loud between my soul and Him. And in hours when I fall from this wonderful estate I think I come very near hell, so awful is my loss.
Our greatest need is to relearn the will of God. For we are so separated from Him that we now look upon His Will as on a cross, as an incomprehensible sacrifice, as but self-abnegation, pain, and gloom. We repudiate it in terror.
If we have the will to relearn His Will, we stand still and think of it, we walk to seek it, we try to accept it, trembling we bow down to it with obedience and many tears; and behold! it changes to an Invitation, a sigh of beauty, a breath of spring, the song of birds, the faces of flowers, the ever-ascending spiral of the mating of all loves, the sunshine of the Universe; and at last, intoxicated with happiness, we say: "My God, my Love, I sip and drink Thy Will as an ambrosial Wine!"
Source: Project Gutenberg