How the habitual sense of God’s Presence was found.
SINCE you desire so earnestly that I should communicate to you the
method by which I arrived at that habitual sense of GOD’s Presence,
which our LORD, of His mercy, has been pleased to vouchsafe to me; I
must tell you, that it is with great difficulty that I am prevailed on
by your importunities; and now I do it only upon the terms, that you
show my letter to nobody. If I knew that you would let it be seen, all
the desire that I have for your advancement would not be able to
determine me to it. The account I can give you is:
Having found in many books different methods of going to GOD, and
divers practices of the spiritual life, I thought this would serve
rather to puzzle me, than facilitate what I sought after, which was
nothing but how to become wholly GOD’s.
This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given
myself wholly to GOD, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins,
I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I
began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world. Sometimes
I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his
judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my FATHER, as my GOD:
I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy
Presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I
found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it,
notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling
or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made
this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of
prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height
of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable
of interrupting my thought of GOD.
Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion;
and though I have done it very imperfectly, yet I have found great
advantages by it. These, I well know, are to be imputed to the mere
mercy and goodness of GOD, because we can do nothing without Him; and I
still less than any. But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in His
holy Presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our
offending Him, and doing anything that may displease Him, at least
wilfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so
speak, a familiarity with GOD, wherewith we ask, and that successfully,
the graces we stand in need of. In fine, by often repeating these acts,
they become habitual, and the presence of GOD is rendered as it were
natural to us. Give Him thanks, if you please, with me, for His great
goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the
many favours He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all
things praise Him. Amen.
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
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.
For a soldier friend whom he encourages to trust in God.
WE have a GOD who is infinitely gracious, and knows all our wants. I
always thought that He would reduce you to extremity. He will come in
His own time, and when you least expect it. Hope in Him more than ever:
thank Him with me for the favours He does you, particularly for the
fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions: it is a
plain mark of the care He takes of you; comfort yourself then with Him,
and give thanks for all.
I admire also the fortitude and bravery of M. GOD has given him a good
disposition, and a good will; but there is in him still a little of the
world, and a great deal of youth. I hope the affliction which GOD has
sent him will prove a wholesome remedy to him, and make him enter into
himself; it is an accident very proper to engage him to put all his
trust in Him, who accompanies him everywhere: let him think of Him the
oftenest he can, especially in the greatest dangers. A little lifting
up the heart suffices; a little remembrance of GOD, one act of inward
worship, though upon a march, and sword in hand, are prayers which,
however short, are nevertheless very acceptable to GOD; and far from
lessening a soldier’s courage in occasions of danger, they best serve
to fortify it.
Let him then think of GOD the most he can; let him accustom himself, by
degrees, to this small but holy exercise; nobody perceives it, and
nothing is easier than to repeat often in the day these little internal
adorations. Recommend to him, if you please, that he think of GOD the
most he can, in the manner here directed; it is very fit and most
necessary for a soldier, who is daily exposed to dangers of life, and
often of his salvation. I hope that GOD will assist him and all the
family, to whom I present my service, being theirs and yours.
Writes of himself as of a third person, and encourages his
correspondent to press on to fuller practising of the Presence of God.
I HAVE taken this opportunity to communicate to you the sentiments of
one of our society concerning the admirable effects and continual
assistances which he receives from the presence of GOD. Let you and me
both profit by them.
You must know, his continual care has been, for above forty years past
that he has spent in religion, to be always with GOD; and to do
nothing, say nothing, and think nothing which may displease Him; and
this without any other view than purely for the love of Him, and
because He deserves infinitely more.
He is now so accustomed to that Divine presence, that he receives from
it continual succours upon all occasions. For about thirty years, his
soul has been filled with joys so continual, and sometimes so great,
that he is forced to use means to moderate them, and to hinder their
If sometimes he is a little too much absent from that Divine presence,
GOD presently makes Himself to be felt in his soul to recall him; which
often happens when he is most engaged in his outward business: he
answers with exact fidelity to these inward drawings, either by an
elevation of his heart towards GOD, or by a meek and fond regard to
Him, or by such words as love forms upon these occasions; as for
instance, My GOD, here I am all devoted to Thee: LORD, make me
according to Thy heart. And then it seems to him (as in effect he feels
it) that this GOD of love, satisfied with such few words, reposes
again, and rests in the depth and centre of his soul. The experience of
these things gives him such an assurance that GOD is always in the
depth or bottom of his soul, and renders him incapable of doubting it,
upon any account whatever.
Judge by this what content and satisfaction he enjoys, while he
continually finds in himself so great a treasure: he is no longer in an
anxious search after it, but has it open before him, and may take what
he pleases of it.
He complains much of our blindness; and cries often that we are to be
pitied who content ourselves with so little. GOD, saith he, has
infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible
devotion which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder GOD, and
stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated
with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favours
plentifully; there they flow like a torrent, which, after being
forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a
passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.
Yes, we often stop this torrent, by the little value we set upon it.
But let us stop it no more: let us enter into ourselves and break down
the bank which hinders it. Let us make way for grace; let us redeem the
lost time, for perhaps we have but little left; death follows us close,
let us be well prepared for it; for we die but once, and a miscarriage
there is irretrievable.
I say again, let us enter into ourselves. The time presses: there is no
room for delay; our souls are at stake. I believe you have taken such
effectual measures, that you will not be surprised. I commend you for
it, it is the one thing necessary: we must, nevertheless, always work
at it, because not to advance, in the spiritual life, is to go back.
But those who have the gale of the HOLY SPIRIT go forward even in
sleep. If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms,
let us awake the LORD, who reposes in it, and He will quickly calm the
I have taken the liberty to impart to you these good sentiments, that
you may compare them with your own: they will serve again to kindle and
inflame them, if by misfortune (which GOD forbid, for it would be
indeed a great misfortune) they should be, though never so little,
cooled. Let us then both recall our first fervours. Let us profit by
the example and the sentiments of this brother, who is little known of
the world, but known of GOD, and extremely caressed by Him. I will pray
for you; do you pray instantly for me, who am yours in our LORD.
Prayer for a sister who is about to make a vow and profession. * A
fresh insisting upon the necessity and virtue of practising the
Presence of God.
I RECEIVED this day two books and a letter from Sister, who is
preparing to make her profession, and upon that account desires the
prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I perceive that
she reckons much upon them; pray do not disappoint her. Beg of GOD that
she may make her sacrifice in the view of His love alone, and with a
firm resolution to be wholly devoted to Him.
I will send you one of those books which treat of the presence of GOD;
a subject which, in my opinion, contains the whole spiritual life; and
it seems to me that whoever duly practises it will soon become
I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of
all other things; because GOD will possess the heart alone; and as He
cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so neither
can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left
vacant to Him.
There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful,
than that of a continual conversation with GOD: those only can
comprehend it who practise and experience it; yet I do not advise you
to do it from that motive; it is not pleasure which we ought to seek in
this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because
GOD would have us.
Were I a preacher, I should above all other things preach the practice
of the presence of GOD; and were I a director, I should advise all the
world to do it: so necessary do I think it, and so easy too.
Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of GOD, we
should never lose sight of Him, no, not for a moment. Believe me; make
immediately a holy and firm resolution never more wilfully to forget
Him, and to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence,
deprived for the love of Him, if He thinks fit, of all consolations.
Set heartily about this work, and if you do it as you ought, be assured
that you will soon find the effects of it. I will assist you with my
prayers, poor as they are: I recommend myself earnestly to yours, and
those of your holy society.