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Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection
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CHAPTER IX: Of the Difference that is betwixt the Second and Third Sort of Contemplation

THE foresaid second sort of Contemplation may be termed a burning love in Devotion, and is the lower; this third a burning love in Contemplation, and is the higher. That is sweeter to the bodily feeling, this to the spiritual feeling inwardly, and is more worthy, more spiritual, more wonderful. For, indeed, it is a foretaste (so little as it is) and an earnest or handsell4747    Hansel, a first gift. of the sight or Contemplation of heavenly joy, not clearly, but half in darkness, which shall be perfected and made a clear light and sight in the bliss of heaven; as St Paul saith: Now we see as through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face.4848    1 Cor. 13. This is the enlightening of the understanding in delights of loving, whereof David saith in the Psalter: Et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis—My night is my light in my delight.4949    Ps. 138. The other is milk for children, but this solid meat for perfect men, that have their senses exercised (as St Paul saith) for the discerning of good from evil.

To the perfection of this high Contemplation may no man come till he be first reformed in soul to the likeness of Jesus in the perfection of virtues: nor can any man living in mortal body have it continually and habitually in the height of it, but by times when he is visited. And as I conceive by the writing of holy men, it is a full short time, for soon after he returneth to a sobriety of bodily feeling; and of all this work charity is the cause. Thus, as I understand St Paul speaks of himself: For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God, or whether we be sober, it is for your cause; it is the love of Christ that constraineth us;5050    2 Cor. 5:13-14. that is, whether we overpass our bodily senses in Contemplation, or we are more sober to you in our bodily feeling, the love of Christ straineth us. Of this part of Contemplation and of reforming to God speaketh St Paul openly, thus: But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of our Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.5151    2 Cor. 3:18. Which is as much as if in the person of himself and all perfect men he had said thus: We, first being reformed in virtues, and having the face of our soul uncovered by opening of our spiritual eye, behold as in a mirror the heavenly joy, being withal fulshaped and oned to the image of our Lord, from clearness of faith into clearness of understanding, or else from clearness of desire into that of blessed love; and all this is wrought in a man’s soul by the spirit of our Lord, as saith St Paul.

This part of Contemplation God giveth where He will, to learned and unlearned, to men and to women, to them that are in government, and to solitary also. But it is special, and not common. And although a man who all his lifetime is active happen to have the gift of it through special grace or favour, yet the fulness of it may no man have, but he that is solitary and in life contemplative.


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