Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 18

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII. How to receive Inspirations.

BY inspirations I mean all drawings, feelings, interior reproaches,
lights and intuitions, with which God moves us, preventing our hearts
by His Fatherly love and care, and awakening, exciting, urging, and
attracting them to goodness, to Heavenly love, to good resolutions, in
short, to whatever tends to our eternal welfare. This it is of which we
read in the Canticles, when the Bridegroom knocks at the door, awakens
His beloved, calls upon her, seeks her, bids her eat of His honey,
gather the fruit and flowers of His garden, and let Him hear her voice,
which is sweet to Him. [45]

Let me make use of an illustration of my meaning. In contracting a
marriage, the bride must be a party to three separate acts: first, the
bridegroom is proposed to her; secondly, she entertains the proposal;
and thirdly, she gives her consent. Just so when God intends to perform
some act of love in us, by us, and with us; He first suggests it by His
inspiration; secondly, we receive that inspiration; and thirdly, we
consent to it: for, like as we fall into sin by three steps,
temptation, delectation, and consent, so there are three steps whereby
we ascend to virtue; inspiration, as opposed to temptation; delectation
in God’s inspiration, as opposed to that of temptation; and consent to
the one instead of to the other. Were God’s inspirations to last all
our lives, we should be nowise more acceptable to Him, unless we took
pleasure therein; on the contrary, we should rather offend Him as did
the Israelites, of whom He says that they “grieved Him for forty years
long, refusing to hear His pleadings, so that at last” I “sware in My
wrath that they should not enter into My rest.” [46] And (to recur to
my first illustration) one who has long been devoted to his lady-love,
would feel greatly injured if, after all, she would not consent to the
alliance he seeks.

The delight we take in God’s inspirations is an important step gained
towards His Glory, and we begin at once to please Him thereby; for
although such delectation is not the same thing as a full consent, it
shows a strong tendency thereto; and if it is a good and profitable
sign when we take pleasure in hearing God’s Word, which is, so to say,
an external inspiration, still more is it good and acceptable in His
Sight when we take delight in His interior inspirations. Such is the
delight of which the Bride says, “My soul melted within me when my
Beloved spake.” [47] And so, too, the earthly lover is well satisfied
when he sees that his lady-love finds pleasure in his attentions.

But, after all, consent only perfects the good action; for if we are
inspired of God, and take pleasure in that inspiration, and yet,
nevertheless, refuse our consent to His inspiration, we are acting a
very contemptuous, offensive part towards Him. We read of the Bride,
that although the voice of her Beloved touched her heart, she made
trivial excuses, and delayed opening the door to Him, and so He
withdrew Himself and “was gone.” [48] And the earthly lover, who had
long sought a lady, and seemed acceptable to her, would have the more
ground for complaint if at last he was spurned and dismissed, than if
he had never been favourably received.

Do you, my daughter, resolve to accept whatever inspirations God may
vouchsafe you, heartily; and when they offer themselves, receive them
as the ambassadors of your Heavenly King, seeking alliance with you.
Hearken gently to their propositions, foster the love with which you
are inspired, and cherish the holy Guest. Give your consent, and let it
be a full, loving, stedfast consent to His holy inspirations; for, so
doing, God will reckon your affection as a favour, although truly we
can confer none upon Him. But, before consenting to inspirations which
have respect to important or extraordinary things, guard against
self-deception, by consulting your spiritual guide, and let him examine
whether the inspiration be real or no; and that the rather, because
when the enemy sees a soul ready to hearken to inspirations, he is wont
to set false delusions in the way to deceive it,–a snare you will not
fall into so long as you humbly obey your guide.

Consent once given, you must carefully seek to produce the intended
results, and carry out the inspiration, the crown of true virtue; for
to give consent, without producing the result thereof, were like
planting a vine without meaning it to bear fruit. All this will be
greatly promoted by careful attention to your morning exercises, and
the spiritual retirement already mentioned, because therein you learn
to carry general principles to a special application.

[45] Cant. v. vii. ii.

[46] Ps. xcv. 10, 11.

[47] In the English version this passage is, “My soul failed when he
spake.” (Cant. V. 6.) But in the Vulgate it is in the far more
expressive form quoted by S. Francis de Sales, “Anima mea liquefacta
est, ut locutus est.”

[48] Cant. v. 6.