Of three hindrances which resist the coming of the Holy Ghost in three classes of men.
John xvi. 7.-"It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you."
OBSERVE, dear children, how high and in what way man must be carried up to reach the state of his highest blessedness; for this can only be through a real abandonment of those things which are especially pleasant and lovely to him and his nature. To all these he must wholly die, and must let them go, however good, and holy, and spiritual, and precious he may deem them. For if it was necessary that Christ's disciples should be deprived of His lovely, holy, gracious humanity, to be fitted for receiving the Holy Ghost, no man, it is certain, can be a recipient of Divine grace whose heart is possest by any creature.
Now we find three sorts of hindrances in three different classes of men. The first are sinful persons, or open sinners, who are hindered by the creature, in that they make use thereof against God, according to their own will. These people go astray in God's way. David says, "Cursed are they who err in God's way," that is, in the creature. There are also sundry good folks, who spend too much care upon the necessaries of this life, or look too much for pleasure to outward things. Against these Christ says, "He who loves his life shall lose it;" that is, carnal love; he who holds this too dear loses his life; "and he who hates his life shall receive everlasting life;" that is, they who resist their disorderly lusts and desires, and do not follow them.
The second hindrance is when good people are kept back in true spirituality through the misuse of the seven sacraments. He who dwells with pleasure on the sign of a holy sacrament, does not get to the inward truth; for the sacraments all lead to the pure truth. Marriage is a sign of the union of the Divine and human natures, and also of the union of the soul with God: but he who would stop at the sign alone is hindered by his outward senses from reaching the eternal truth; for this is not a true marriage. There are also some who make too much of repentance and confession, and cleave to the sign, and do not strive to reach the pure truth. Against these Christ says, "He who is washed needeth not save to wash his feet;" that is, he who has once been washed with a hearty repentance and sincere confession needs nothing more than that he confess his daily sins, and not his old sins, which he has already repented of and confest; but he must wash his feet-that is, his desires and conscience; these he must purify from his daily sins. Moreover many good men, by spending too much anxiety on outward gestures towards the sacred Body of our Lord, hinder themselves in divers ways, so that they cannot receive Him spiritually, and enter inwardly into the truth; for this is a desire after a real union, and not in appearance merely. Hence they do not receive the sacrament worthily; for all sacraments are the sign of spiritual truth.
Here it is to be remembered that we ought to worship God in all places and at all times. He who will worship the Father must concentrate his whole mind in aspiration and faith. These are the highest powers of the soul; for they are above time, and know nothing of time nor of the body. So St. Paul tells us, "that we ought to rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks." Now, those pray without ceasing who do all their works alike for the love of God, and not for any selfish enjoyment, and humbly bow down before God, and let Him work alone. When the highest powers of the soul are thus gathered together in prayer, the soul becomes inspired, and if henceforward the spirit cleave unto God with an entire union of the will, it is "made a partaker of the Divine nature," and then, for the first time, does the man offer up true worship, for he has attained the end for which he was created.
But there are some, ay, many people, who do not rightly worship the Father in the truth. For so soon as a man prays to God for any creature, he prays for his own harm; for since a creature is a creature, it bears its own bitterness and disquiet, pain and evil, about it: therefore such people meet their deserts when they have trouble and bitterness, for they have prayed for it. He who seeks God, if he seeks anything beside God, will not find Him; but he who seeks God alone in the truth, will find Him, and all that God can give, with Him.
Again, many good people hinder themselves in their perfection by this, that they look solely to the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they give themselves too much to visions: that is to say, that they are too fond of contemplating the images of outward things in their minds, whether it be angels or men, or the humanity of Christ, and believe what they are told when they hear that they are specially favoured, or of other men's faults or virtues, or hear that God purposes to do something by their means. Herein they are often deceived, for God never does anything through any creature, but only through His own pure goodness. And He even said to His disciples, "It is good for you that I go away;" forasmuch as to them that wish to be His disciples in high perfection, His humanity is a hindrance if they fix upon it, and cleave unto it with especial delight; for they ought to follow God in all His ways; therefore His humanity should lead them onward to His Deity. For Christ said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Greatly then do they err who suppose that they can do anything good of themselves; for Christ says that of Himself He did nothing.
Christ's true humanity we are to worship only in its union with His Deity; for the man Christ is truly God, and God is truly Man. Therefore we are not to trouble ourselves about any creature, but solely to seek God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our only Way to the Father. Now even if we come into the Way of truth, which is Christ, yet we are not perfectly blessed, although we behold the Truth of God: for while we are beholding, we are not one with that which we behold; so long as there is anything in our perceptions or understanding, we are not one with the One; for where there is nothing but One, we can see nothing but One: for we cannot see God except in blindness, or know Him except in ignorance. St. Augustine says that no soul can come to God unless it go to God without a creature, and taste Him without a likeness. Therefore, because the soul is a creature, it must cast itself out of itself, and in its hour of contemplation must cast out all saints and angels; for these are all creatures, and hinder the soul in its union with God. For it should be bare of all things, without need of anything, and then it can come to God in His likeness; for nothing unites so much as likeness, and receives its colour so soon; for God will then give Himself to the faculties of the soul, so that the soul grows in the likeness of God and takes His colour. The image lies in the soul's powers, the likeness in its virtues, the Divine colour in its union; and thus its union becomes so intimate that it does not work its works in the form of a creature, but in its divine form, wherein it is united to God; nay, that its works are taken from it, and God works all its works in His form. And then, while it beholds God, and thus becomes more united with Him, the union may become such, that God altogether pours Himself into it, and draws it so entirely into Himself that it no longer has any distinct perception of virtue or vice, or recognises any marks by which it knows what it is itself. But God regards the soul as a creature. Therefore let the light of grace overpower the light of nature in you; for the higher knowledge the soul attains in the light of grace, the darker does it deem the light of nature. If, then, it would know the real truth, it should observe whether it is drawn away from all things, whether it has lost itself, whether it loves God with His love, whether it be not hindered by any things, and whether God alone lives in it: if so, it has lost itself, as Mary lost Jesus, when He went into the school of His Father's highest doctrine; therefore He heeded not His mother. Thus it happens to the noblest soul that goes into God's school; there it learns to know what God is, in His Deity and in the Trinity, and what He is in His humanity, and to know the all-gracious Will of God. That man is most truly of God who works all his works out of love, and gives up his will to the will of his Heavenly Father.
That we may attain thereunto, being delivered from all hindrances, may God grant us. Amen!