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CHAPTER V: Of an evil Day and a good Night, and what they mean, and how the Love of the World is likened to an evil Day, and the love of God to a good Night
IF thou wouldst know then what this desire is, verily it is Jesus, for He worketh this desire in thee, and giveth it thee; and He it is that desireth in thee, and He it is that is desired; He is all, and He doth all, if thou couldst see Him. Thou dost nothing, but sufferest Him to work in thy soul, and assentest to Him with great gladness of heart, that He will vouchsafe to do so in thee. Thou art nothing else but a reasonable instrument by which and in which He worketh; and therefore when thou feelest thy thoughts, through the touching of grace, taken up with the desire of Jesus, with a mighty devout will for to please Him and love Him, then think that thou hast Jesus, for He it is that thou desirest. Behold Him well, for He goeth before thee, not in bodily shape, but insensibly, by secret presence of His power. Therefore see Him spiritually if thou canst, and fasten all thy thoughts and affections to Him, and follow Him wheresoever He goeth; for He will lead thee the right way to Jerusalem, that is to the sight of peace and contemplation. Thus prayed the Prophet to the Father of Heaven, saying: Send out Thy light and Thy truth (that is Thy Son Jesus), and He shall lead me (by desire in me) to Thy holy hill and to Thy tabernacles.187187 Ps. 42. That is, to the feeling of perfect love and height of Contemplation.
Of this desire the Prophet Isaias speaketh thus: Memoriale tuum, &c. Lord Jesus, the remembrance of Thee is imprinted in the desire of my soul, for my soul hath desired Thee in the night, and my spirit hath coveted Thee in all its thoughts.188188 Is. 26. The Prophet saith he desired God all in the night, being a space betwixt two days; for when one day is ended another day beginneth not presently, but first cometh night which parteth the days, being sometimes long and sometimes short, and then after that cometh another day. The Prophet meaneth not only of this manner of night, but he meaneth a spiritual night. Thou shalt understand that there be two days or two lights. The first is a false light, the second a true light. The false light is the love of this worlds which a man hath in himself through the corruption of nature. The true light is the perfect love of Jesus felt through grace in a man’s soul. The love of this world is a false light, for it passeth away and lasteth not, and so it performeth not that which it promiseth. This light did the enemy promise to Adam when he stirred him to sin, and said thus: Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods. And therein he said truth. For when Adam had sinned, forthwith his inner eye was shut, and spiritual light withdrawn, and his outward eye was opened, and he felt and saw a new light of fleshly liking and worldly love which he saw not before. And so saw he a new day, but this was an evil day, for this was it that Job cursed, when he said thus: Let the day perish wherein I was born.189189 Job 3. He cursed not the day running on in the year which God made, but he cursed this day which man made, that is the concupiscence and the love of this world in the which he was born, though he felt it not. That day and that light he asked of God that it might perish and last no longer. But the everlasting love of Jesus is a true day and a blessed light; for God is both love and light, and He is everlasting, as St John saith: He that loveth God dwelleth in the light. 190190 St John 1. And now, what man perceiveth and seeth the love of this world to be false and failing, and therefore will forsake it and seek the love of Jesus, yet may he not for all that presently feel the love of Him, but he must abide awhile in the night, for he cannot suddenly come from that one light to that other, that is from the love of the world to perfect love of God. This night is nought else but a forbearing and a withdrawing of the thought and of the soul from earthly things by great desire and yearning for to love and see and feel Jesus and spiritual things. This is the night; for even as the night is dark, and doth hide all bodily things, and a time of ceasing from all bodily works; even so a man that setteth himself fully to think on Jesus, and to desire only the love of Him, is careful to hide his thoughts from vain beholding and perceiving, and his affections from fleshly liking and loving of all bodily creatures, whereby his thoughts may become free and not be subject, nor his affections bound or pinned to, or troubled with anything lower or worse than himself. And if he come to this pass then is it night with him, for then he is in darkness. But this is a good night and a light darkness, for it is a stopping out of the false love of this world, and it is an approaching of the true day. And verily the darker that this night is the nearer is the true day of the love of Jesus; for the more that a soul can, through longing after God, be hid from the noise191191 Din. and stirrings of fleshly affections and unclean thoughts, the nearer is she to feel the light of the love of Him, for it is even at her. Thus seemeth the Prophet to mean, when he saith: When I sit in darkness our Lord is my light. That is, when my soul is hid from all stirrings of sin as it were in sleep, then is our Lord my light, for then approacheth He by His grace to show me His light, nevertheless this night is sometime painful. As first, when a man is very foul, and is not used through grace to be often in this darkness, but would fain have it, and be in it, and therefore he setteth his thoughts and his desires to Godward as much as he can, he would not feel nor think but only of Him, and because he cannot easily have it, therefore it is painful for the custom and familiarity192192 Homeliness. that he hath formerly had with the sins of the world, and of fleshly affections and earthly things; and his daily fleshly deeds press so upon him, and continually strike in, and through force draw down the soul to them, that he cannot well be hid from them so soon as he would. Therefore this darkness is painful to him, and especially when grace toucheth him not abundantly, instilling some extraordinary devotion into him. Nevertheless if it be so with thee, be not too sad or heavy for it, nor strive much as though thou wouldst by force drive them out of thy thoughts, for thou canst not do so; but do thou rather expect grace, suffer quietly, and force not thyself too much. But slyly (if thou canst) draw thy desire and spiritual eye to Jesus, as if thou didst not care for them. For be thou assured, when thou wouldest desire Jesus, and think only of Him, and thou art not able freely to do so, for the pressing in of such worldly thoughts, thou art certainly coming out of the false day and art entering into this darkness. But thy darkness is not restful, not quiet to thee by reason of thy uncleanness and unacquaintedness with it, and therefore use it often, and in process of time through feeling of grace it will be more easy and more restful to thee, and that is when thy soul through grace is made so free, and so able and so good and so gathered into itself that it listeth to think on just nothing, then is it in a good darkness. This nothing I mean thus: that a soul may through grace be gathered into itself freely and wholly, and not be driven against its will, nor drawn down by force for to think, or like, or love with cleaving of affection to any sin, or any earthly thing vainly, then thinketh the soul just nought, for then it thinketh of no earthly thing cleavingly. This is a rich nought, and this nought and this night is a great ease to the soul that desireth the love of Jesus, it is in ease as to the thoughts of any earthly thing, nevertheless it is full busy to think on Him.
What thing then maketh this darkness? Verily nought else but a gracious desire to have the love of Jesus, for that desire and that longing that it hath at that time to the love of God, for to see Him and have Him, driveth out of the heart all worldly vanities and fleshly affections, and gathereth the soul into itself, and busieth it only in thinking how it may come to the love of Him. And at that time she may freely and devoutedly behold Jesus, whether she would pray or meditate, and so it bringeth her to this right nothing; and verily it is not altogether dark nor nothing when it thinketh thus; for though it be dark from false light, it is not altogether dark from the true light. For Jesus, that is both love and light, is in this darkness, whether it be painful or restful. If it be painful, then is Jesus in the soul, as travelling in the desire and longing after light, but He is not yet as resting in love, nor as showering His light. And therefore it is called night and darkness, inasmuch as the soul is hid from the false light of the world, and hath not yet a full feeling of true light, but is in expecting of that blessed love of God which it desireth.
Therefore if thou wouldst know when thou art in this secure darkness, and when not, thou mayest try it thus, and seek no further. When thou feelest thy intent and thy will fully set for to desire God, and think only on Him, thou mayest, as it were, at first ask thyself in thy own thoughts whether thou covetest to have anything of this life for love of the thing itself, or for to have the using of any of thy bodily senses in any creature. And then if the eye answer then thus: I would see just nothing, and thy mouth: I would savour just nothing, and thine ear: I would hear just nothing; and thy body: I would feel just nothing; and after that, thy heart say: I would think just nothing of earthly things, nor of bodily deeds, nor would have my affections fastened fleshly to any creature but only in God and to Godwards, if I could; and when they all answer thus to thee, and do it full readily being touched by grace, then art thou entered somewhat into this darkness. For though withal thou feel and perceive within thee the presentations and profferings of vain thoughts, and pressing in of fleshly affections; nevertheless thou art in this profitable darkness, if it be so that thy thoughts be not fixed to them; for such vain imaginations that fall into the heart unadvisedly, they trouble indeed this darkness, and somewhat molest the soul because it would be hid from them, but cannot; but they do not take away the profit of this darkness, for the soul shall by this means in time come to restful darkness. And then is this darkness restful when the soul is hid for a time from the painful feeling of all such vain thoughts, and is rested only in the desire and longing after Jesus, with a spiritual beholding of Him, as it shall be said hereafter; but this lasteth whole and entire but a short time, yet though it be but for a short time, yet it is full profitable.
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