§§ 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. The great danger of souls unprovided for sickness, especially of tepid souls in a religious state.
§§ 9, 10, 11. How sickness is to be accepted.
§§ 12, 13. Of a certain great temptation in sickness.
§ 14. A sick person is God's prisoner.
§ 15. Spiritual exercises by no means to be neglected in sickness.
§ 16. How mortification is then to be practised in internal temptations.
§§ 17, 18. How fear of death, and uncertainty of what follows, is to be mortified.
§§ 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. It is for our good to be ignorant of our future state.
§§ 26, 27. Of temptations to infidelity, despair, &c. A story out of Cardinal Bellarmine.
§§ 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33. How mortification about sensual pleasures is then to be exercised.
§§ 34, 35, 36. Solicitude about health misbecomes religious persons.
§ 37. In sickness and pains we are best sensible of our Lord's sufferings.
§ 38. Advices to those that attend on the sick.
§§ 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45. A sick person's chief care must be not to neglect internal prayer.
§§ 46, 47. Prayer is the universal remedy against all temptations, afflictions, &c.
§ 48. A soul shall be judged according to her state in sickness.
1. The second state (before mentioned) that requires a more than ordinary care and provision (as seeming less proper for internal exercises) is the state of sickness; which, though it do exact a greater solicitude and vigilance, as being a disposition to a condition irreversible, yet in itself it is a more secure state than that of external employments, inasmuch as those are such as are apt to draw our affections from God to sensual objects; whereas in sickness all things do rather drive a soul to seek and adhere unto God, since all other comforts do fail her, and all pleasures become distasteful to her. Moreover, in sickness there are continual occasions of high resignations, and far less solicitudes about temporal matters; for the chief business of a sick person is forbearing and holding of patience; in a word, it is rather a not doing than doing.
2. Now, since it concerns a soul most deeply to be well-disposed in sickness, my purpose is to give some general advices to souls already practised in internal ways, and they shall be such as chiefly have a reference to prayer and mortification; the which advices, notwithstanding, our sick person ought only so far to make use of as he finds them proper for his spirit and case.
3. It was not without just reason that an ancient holy man said that a religious spiritual life is a continual meditation of death, because the principal end of all our exercises is to prepare ourselves against the day of our great account, to the end we may give it with joy and not with fear.
4. If, when sickness is come, a soul be to learn how she ought to behave herself, it will go hard with her, by reason that then such a soul will be in great blindness of understanding and deadness of will. All her thoughts and care will be employed in seeking to avoid pain, to pass away the tedious time, and to recover; and if any good thoughts come into her mind, it is fear that principally raises them; hence it is that serious conversion is seldom given in sickness, when passions do swell, and immortifications come thick upon one another; and a soul that in health hath neglected God and despised the means of conversion, cannot with any reason or confidence expect an extraordinary or miraculous grace to work a sudden cordial conversion. If that one's whole life spent in painful mortifications and serious recollections be but even little enough to conquer the perverseness of our wills and the glueyness of our affections adhering to sensual objects, what may be expected from a few interrupted inefficacious prayers or purposes in sickness, suggested merely by fear upon the approaches of death and judgment, whilst there still remains in the heart a secret love to those sinful delights that must now be forsaken? Upon which grounds St. Jerome hath a terrible saying, that among those that defer their conversion till their death, scarce one of a hundred thousand is saved.
5. And I believe the case of such a soul in religion is more perilous, because having enjoyed so great helps to a holy life, she has with so unpardonable an ingratitude neglected them; whereas a secular person, being touched in sickness, may resolve to seek those means of abstraction of life, a renouncing of the world, prayer, &c., the want of which was the principal cause (it may be) of his deordinations. Upon which grounds alone St. Bernard saith that he would give absolution presently to the greatest sinner (in sickness) if he would promise (upon supposition of recovery) to quit the world and embrace a penitential life in religion, because it is not possible to promise or perform a greater satisfaction. But I doubt whether he would be so indulgent to an unconverted religious person that can promise no higher state than he is in already, with so little good effect to his soul.
6. Yet God forbid that from hence any should advisedly give way to despair, or deliberately refuse to humble themselves, to mortify their inordinate affections, or to pray the best they can. Good purposes and actions performed merely out of fear will produce some good effect, and God's goodness (which is incomprehensible) may change fear into love, how imperfect soever.
7. Now though the case of tepid livers be not altogether so miserable, yet it is infinitely perilous, and the issue extremely to be suspected; for though they cannot be charged with many great sins of commission, yet their whole life has been a continual omission of duties to which their profession did in a special manner oblige them, and now what other new motive can they have to relinquish their negligence but only fear also? Or what prayers are they likely to make, when their necessity is so great and the helps to prayer so small?
8. The only secure way, therefore, to prevent the incurring this hazardous state in sickness is, during health to combat against tepidity, and by diligent prayer to provide one's self of internal strength and grace; for such souls by a prosecution of their accustomed duties of mortification and prayer make good use of their sickness and gain extremely by it; they are not forward to promise great matters (as tepid souls usually do, though they perform but little); they have forethought of sickness, and the temptations accompanying it, and now call to mind and execute former resolutions made to improve for their soul's advancement, all states and conditions; and by occasion of their present corporal infirmity or pains to fortify in their minds the virtue of patience, resignation, contempt of the world, and adhesion to God, this sickness proves to them a greater blessing than health; and if they do recover, they do yet more seriously and fervently perform their former exercises.
9. When sickness is actually come, a soul is to accept and embrace it as a special gift of God; yea, though such sickness happened through the person's own intemperance or other fault, as a malefactor is obliged with resignation to accept of death deserved for some crime. He ought, indeed, to be penitent and sorry for the faults which were the cause of such an harmful effect; but the effect itself he ought to consider as proceeding from the divine will and providence; yea, in such cases a soul may even rejoice that God is so merciful as to bring on her the smart and punishment of her sins in this world, giving her withal a profitable occasion to exercise her resignation, from whence she may infer a hope that He will therefore spare her after this life.
10. A soul must not forbear this willing acceptation of sickness, &c., because perhaps she finds great resistance thereto in sensuality; yea, she ought therefore the rather to accept it, as knowing that it is the superior will and not the will of sensuality that meriteth or demeriteth; and so doing, the repugnance of sensuality will, as well as the sickness, turn to the merit and advancement of the soul
11. Now a soul must not content herself for once or twice to accept sickness, but she must practise this almost continually, and especially when any extraordinary pain or irksomeness does afflict her. And such acceptation must be not only for the present, but with a mind willingly to submit to the divine will, if His pleasure were that such pains should continue never so long.
12. She must particularly take heed of one notable temptation which often befalls good but imperfect souls, by means of which they yield too freely to impatience in sickness, which is this: nature being soon weary of suffering, will suggest unto the soul to justify impatience, among other incommodities of sickness this one, that thereby she is put in an incapacity to pray, or otherwise to serve God or her neighbour, upon which she will be apt to desire health with impatience, falsely justifying herself for such impatience, as if she did not so for the satisfaction of nature, but to the end she may perform spiritual duties more perfectly; but this is a mere delusion, for that is the true and perfect way of serving God which is suitable to the present condition wherein God hath placed a soul; and an imperfect interrupted prayer made with resignation in the midst of pains or troubles sent by God, is perhaps more efficacious to procure the good of the soul than the highest elevations exercised otherwise.
13. It is no great matter though the soul herself do not distinctly and clearly see how her present sufferings (external or internal) may be profitable to her; she is to refer all things to the infinite wisdom and goodness of God, who can bring light out of darkness; and therefore she must be contented (if such be His will) to be blindfolded, and humbly to remain in her simplicity, and in a reverential awe and admiration of the inscrutable ways of the divine providence.
14. A sick person is to account himself after an especial manner in God's hands as His prisoner, chained, as it were, by his own weakness, disabled from the ordinary solaces of conversation, walking, &c., debarred from eating what pleases the palate, become profitable to none, troublesome and chargeable to many, exposed ofttimes to bitter pains and sharper remedies of such pains, &c.; a grievous indeed, but yet a happy prison this is to a soul that will make a good use of it; for unless the internal taste of the soul also be depraved, she may by this occasion infinitely increase in spiritual liberty, health, and strength, by accepting with indifference these incommodities, and mortifying her natural exorbitant desire of remedies, not desiring to escape, but when and after what manner God shall ordain.
15. But to speak more particularly touching the duties of a soul during sickness, she is to assure herself of this one thing, whether she think that her sickness may justify her neglect of her spiritual exercises of mortification and prayer (the essential duties of an internal life); if these be not continued as well in sickness as health, the soul herself will become the more sick of the two, and exposed to greater danger than the body; for most certainly, if sickness do not produce good effects of patience and resignation, &c., in the soul, it will produce the quite contrary, and such effects cannot be produced but only by the exercise of mortification and prayer.
16. First, therefore, for mortification, this is indeed the proper time wherein it is most seasonable and necessary. Store of matter for that virtue is almost incessantly afforded; pains, weakness, &c., in the body, and grief, fear, and other disquieting passions in the mind, which are oft more insupportable than outward torments; all these temptations the soul must be armed against.
17. Now among all internal temptations, the greatest and most painful is fear of death, and especially of the consequences of it -- judgment and hell -- without which, death to a faithful Christian could not rationally be object of fear, as he that knows it to be the universal inheritance of mankind, and to Christians the door of eternal happiness. In case, therefore, that such fear of death do remain in inferior nature, the superior reason ought to contradict it and use it as a subject of a very healthful mortification.
18. But as for the other far more considerable, more inward and painful subject of fear -- which is the uncertainty of a future eternal condition after death, which doth usually much afflict and deject imperfect souls that are conscious of their manifold defects, small satisfaction paid for them, great weakness of divine love (a proof whereof is this very fear, which would be expelled if charity were perfect) -- it is a hard matter to encourage such souls against it, or to persuade them to mortify it and resign themselves willingly to support it, it being indeed very profitable and healthful to the soul. On the contrary, they think resignation in this case to be scarce a fitting or lawful thing, though most certainly it is so.
19. I do not say that such souls ought to bring themselves to an indifference what way they shall be disposed of after death. But the point of resignation lies in this, that a soul ought to content herself not to know how and in what manner God will dispose of her after death. Her anchor is hope, which she ought to cherish and fortify all she can, and the best way for souls to fortify that is to make as few reflections on themselves as may be, and to employ all their thoughts and affections directly upon God. It is divine love alone that is at least the principal virtue that brings souls to beatitude, and therefore fearful souls, though they were in as dangerous a state as they suspect, must needs rationally argue thus: that the way to procure and strengthen love is by fixing their minds upon the mercies, goodness, and perfections of God, and to contradict or forget all arguments or motives of servile fear, the greatest enemy of love. What folly is it, because they are imperfect, therefore wilfully to continue in their imperfections by nourishing fear! Surely, at the close of our lives we ought to practise after the best manner we can the best actions, and most acceptable to God, which is to relinquish ourselves, and to contemplate, trust, rely, and roll ourselves upon Him.
20. Let the afflicted soul, therefore, herein as in all other matters, not only with patience support such an ignorance, but with an amorous resignation congratulate with God His eternal most secret purposes and decrees concerning her, both for time and eternity, freely consenting and agreeing to the will of God that such secrets should be reserved to His own breast, hidden from our knowledge, therein acknowledging His divine wisdom and goodness, which moved Him (doubtless for our good) to conceal from us those things, the knowledge of which would have bred security, negligence, and perhaps pride, in our corrupt hearts. Let her desire be to know nothing, and to have nothing but what, when, and in what manner it, doth please Almighty God.
21. Such behaviour of hers towards her Creator and Redeemer (to whom she belongs both for her being and manner of it), as it is most just and reasonable, so it will make her most acceptable to God, and in conclusion, most assuredly bring her to happiness; whereas to be dejected and disquieted because God will not reveal His secret purposes to her is most unreasonable, and can proceed from no other ground but natural pride and self-love. And to give a deliberate scope to unquietness so grounded is both dishonourable to God and utterly useless to the soul herself; for assuredly God will not, to satisfy the inordinate desires of nature, alter the course of His divine providence.
22. It did not hinder or abate the tranquillity of Adam's state in innocence that he was uncertain of perseverance, yea, though he knew that one sin committed would exclude him utterly from his present happiness; whereas, in our present state, after thousands of sins, one act of true conversion to God and amorous resignation to His will is able to restore us.
23. Let the soul withal consider that He which hath denied unto her an assurance and forbidden her to presume, hath yet commanded her to hope, and to comfort herself in that hope. Let her therefore frequently and seriously exercise acts of hope (how little gust soever sensuality finds in them; for the greater repugnance there is in inferior nature, the more generous are such acts and more acceptable to God), which acts are to be grounded not upon any conceits of our own innocency or worth; for if the soul were never so perfect, yet a conceit of her own innocency would be but a rotten foundation of hope, which should regard only the free mercies of God, the merits of His Son, &c.
24. Moreover, let her exercise these acts, not as acts of her own will, but (far more perfectly and divinely) as acts of God's own will, who hath commanded us thus to hope. She may withal, if need be, make use of considerations and motives in the understanding, by reading or hearing comfortable promises in Scripture, &c., to incline the will to conform itself to the divine will; to which conformity when a soul shall once perfectly be brought, there remains to her no hell nor purgatory, no more than to God Himself; for where there is no propriety of will there is nothing but the divine will, which is God Himself, and according to the measure of this conformity such will be the measure of our happiness.
25. As for other internal pains and anguishes arising from other grounds, as scrupulosities about confessions, &c.: the instructions formerly delivered in the second treatise are to be made use of, especially those of submitting absolutely to the advice of a spiritual director, and of transcending all imaginations and all risings in inferior nature; and surely now, above all other times, the soul is to be careful not to yield to the suggestions of fear, which is the only temptation left by which the devil can disquiet tender souls (to whom now pleasures and ambition, &c., have lost all taste), and so draw them from God and resignation to Him, from confidence in His mercies, &c., for which virtues this of all other is the most proper season.
26. And as concerning temptations to infidelity, despair, &c., besides what has been already said, I will only add these two advices: l . that the soul be sure to avoid all inventing of reasons or disputes to oppose the temptations; 2. to turn the mind neglectingly from the said temptations, and to fix it with resignation and confidence on God. These, indeed, are the only proper remedies for souls, especially those that walk in internal ways, for these require no study nor subtlety of wit to encounter the enemy, who is able to entangle even the most learned that in confidence of their abilities dare contest with him; and yet these remedies are sufficient to quench even his most fiery darts. And, moreover, this one expedient of turning the mind from all objects but God, and adhering to Him, is an universal remedy, always ready at hand, being the usual exercise of those souls for whom these instructions were principally written.
27. To this purpose Cardinal Bellarmine (in his book De Arte bene Moriendi) from Barocius, Bishop of Padua, relates a sad story of two doctors in that university, famous for scholastic controversy, the one whereof, after his death, did (according to a mutual agreement formerly made) appear to his friend after a most affrightening manner, all burning in flames, giving this account of the causes that brought him to that woful condition. A little before my expiring' (said he) the devil suggested to me doubts and arguments against the Divinity of our Lord, the which I, out of confidence in my own abilities, undertaking to resolve, found myself so pressed with new replies that in the end, being quite overcome, I renounced the Catholic doctrine of the Church, and assented to the Arian heresy, and in that state (a just judgment for my pride) I expired, so receiving this reward of heresy.' The living companion, astonished with this relation, revealed the case to some pious friends from whom he received advices directly conformable to these here before delivered; and thereupon spending the remainder of his time more in prayer and penance than study, and not long after approaching to his end, the same temptation assaulted him; for the devil requiring of him an account of his faith, could get no other answer of him but this: I believe what the Church teacheth;' and being thereupon asked what the Church taught, he answered, The Church teacheth that which I believe;' the which words he often repeated in the hearing of those that assisted him, by which means he eluded the subtlety of the enemy, and (as afterwards appearing to some of those his counsellors, in a glorious manner, he manifested) passed to heaven.
28. In the next place, as touching mortification to be practised about external things, it is a duty so necessary in all states, that it belongs as well to the infirmary as the refectory; for in all manner of things and occurrences in this life there lies a snare to be avoided, and an enemy to be combated; so that whosoever out of slothfulness shall forbear to continue the practice of mortification, will the next day be more averted from it, nature getting strength against the spirit.
29. Inasmuch, therefore, as sickness is a temptation and a snare, it is by consequence (well used) an occasion of victory against impatience and self-love, and of advancement in spiritual perfection.
30. More particularly the exercises of mortification proper in the time of sickness are: 1. not to be drawn by the pains and incommodities of it to impatience; 2. not to yield to an immoderate satisfaction of nature, when it suggests a desire either of seeking improper or unlawful remedies, or when pleasing nourishment, refreshment, &c., are offered to us; 3. to take heed of spiritual sloth, and neglect of our devotion to God (of which we will speak when we treat of the duty of prayer).
31. As concerning the mortification of impatience, by restraining the tongue from breaking out into complaints or murmurings, and the mind from yielding to melancholy and discontent, enough hath been said in the second treatise, which may easily be applied to the present subject of sickness. I will therefore only add these two advices: 1. That the infirm person would consider that impatience in sickness is not only harmful to the soul, but likewise to the body too; as, on the contrary, patience, peacefulness of mind, and a mortifying temperance, which are heavenly ornaments of the soul, are withal very efficacious means to restore health, inasmuch as thereby neither will the patient out of immortification refuse bitter things which are advantageous to health, nor greedily seek pleasing things which are harmful.2. That patience ought to be preserved at least in the superior soul, although violence of pain should force the patient to groan, or it may be to cry out (which, if they afford ease, are not wholly to be condemned).
32. Next, touching the mortification and moderation of the sensual appetite to be practised in sickness. In the first place, it cannot be denied that it is lawful and fitting for a sick person to desire and seek remedies proper in that case. Yet this is to be done without too much solicitude and disquietness of mind; and in case such remedies cannot be had, a contented submission of mind in the want or refusal of them is of admirable virtue to advance the soul; since necessity declares such a want to be the will of God, and this for the soul's greater good. A most perfect example hereof we have in our Lord, who, among the other insupportable torments of the cross, was most grievously afflicted with thirst, in which case He demanded refreshment, but all assuagement being denied Him, yea, gall being presented to Him to inflame His thirst, He complained not at all.
33. In the second place, it is to be considered that though the same manner of exercising temperance by repressing sensuality in the interior disposition of the soul be alike to be practised in health and sickness, yet there is a difference as in regard of the matters about which such temperance is to be exercised; for those meats and solaces which would misbecome a spiritual person in health may be very allowable and expedient in sickness; only care ought to be had that the yielding to some reasonable pleasure and recreation of the senses may be, by the direction of the spirit, according to spiritual discretion, for the good of the spirit, so as not to hinder internal exercises of the soul, and because such is God's will. And not that an undue liberty should be allowed upon the pretence of sickness to give the reins to sensual appetite, so as to make the state of sickness more easy and pleasurable, perhaps, than that of health. It is nothing considerable, as in itself, whether the body have ease or no; all the matter is how it fares with the spirit. If bodily ease may indeed be a help to the spirit, it is to be admitted for that purpose; for, as St. Bernardsays, as man was not made for the woman, but the woman for man, so spiritual exercises were not made for corporal, but corporal for spiritual.
34. Notwithstanding, there is beyond this a perfection to be recommended to the imitation of such internal livers whose grace and fervour have rendered them in a capacity of aspiring to it, the which the same St. Bernard hath both by his instructions and admirable example delivered. Hippocrates, saith he, doth teach to save lives in this world, but Christ and His apostles do teach to lose lives: he that will save his life shall lose it. Now which of these two masters do ye choose to follow? Truly that religious man plainly shows whom he chooses for his master, who saith, this meat is ill for the eyes, that for the head, the other for the stomach, &c. Now such niceness as this our Holy Father so earnestly protests against, as almost to deny the use of physic to be lawful, the only proper medicinal remedy for religious persons being abstinence; yea, it is observed that he purposely made choice of unwholesome places to build his monasteries in, as being desirous that his religious should rather be infirm than robust.
35. However, in the choice and use of diet or physic every one must follow that divine light of discretion which God gives them, always avoiding superfluities, and sometimes contenting themselves with the want even of necessaries. They must account themselves obliged to continue the practice of the same internal duties, though after another manner, increasing the mortification of the will (which is a mortification far more pure and perfect), though they be forced to allow a little more to the body; their minds are to be set upon the benefits which sickness brings with it, and to use all endeavours to possess themselves of them; considering: 1. that they have a continual occasion of exercising patience and resignation (the greatest blessings that a soul is capable of); 2. that they have opportunity for more free, pure, and less distracted recollections, so that their prayer and mortifications do inseparably attend one another; 3. in a word, they are now in such a state by which the greatest saints have more surely and more speedily advanced themselves to perfection, than by many years' voluntary external and corporal labours and austerities.
36. Thaulerus hath a saying, that the condition of the dearest and most perfect servants of God is to have their souls full of the divine love and their bodies full of pains, and that when they feel no pain or other afflictions, they greatly apprehend lest God have forgotten them; but their comfort returns when God visits them with any corporal or worldly afflictions; then they even feel that it stands well with them, for then they are in a state that of all other doth best dispose for the divine union.
37. The sufferings of our Lord are never as perfectly understood by reading or meditation, as when devout souls themselves taste of the like; then they see and comfortably taste His love to them. If their pains be supportable, they do invite them to unite themselves to God by express acts of resignation; but if they be so excessive that they become incapable of making express formal prayers, then the very suffering of those pains with patience and peace of mind is a most sublime and efficacious prayer. Then is the proper season for those (gemitus inenarrabiles) those groans which cannot be uttered, which, as St. Paul saith, the Holy Spirit suggests to suffering, humble, and devout souls.
38. And here, by the way, I would recommend to those charitable persons that do attend on the sick, a care to behave themselves as becomes them in those mortifications that attend such an office; that they would bear with the passionate humours of their patients, and not judge them for small excesses; that they would freely and charitably administer what shall be requisite to their present state, being assured that God will never be wanting to those that have left all for Him, and now depend only upon Him; He will rather enrich them more for their charity than suffer them to be endangered by it. It may be it is for the sick patient's sake that the healthful enjoy a comfortable subsistence. Let them herein imitate the tenderness of our Holy Father to the sick, and his care likewise, to admonish their attendants of their duty (as in the 36th chapter of his Rule).
39. But above all things a devout soul ought to judge that God hath sent her the most profitable trial of sickness, not to the end to discharge her of her daily recollections, but rather that she may pursue them after a more efficacious manner. Probably she will not be able to observe exactly her former appointed times of prayer, as also through disturbance of humours and spirits she will find great distractions; yet, if lifting up her spirit as well as she can, she offer both her pains and distractions to God, and withal, if in times out of prayer, she be watchful over herself not to give way either to the inordinate appetites or impatience of nature, but to be in a continual state of resignation, she will have little reason to complain of the imperfections of her prayer.
40. A soul can have no excuse for neglecting this most necessary duty of prayer, the times of which may more securely be observed in sickness than in health; for who would trouble or interrupt such an one against his will, or who would not permit him to be alone or to rest whensoever he has no mind to continue conversation? However, if the devout soul should stand in need, she may and ought to use all lawful foresight, industry, excuses, and sleights that may be, to prevent the being hindered or interrupted.
41. Now because physic, inwardly taken, does much encumber the stomach and indispose for prayer, therefore I would advise the sick person: 1. not to be forward to seek or accept of all receipts that friends and visitants are apt to prescribe; 2. when he is to take physic (whether in the morning or evening) so to order his times as not to take it till he have performed his recollection; 3. not to receive physic, no, nor repasts, often or more than shall be necessary; not too much neglecting the body, but yet being careful rather to attend to the necessities of the spirit. Let our patient therefore stoutly resist the invitations and tendernesses of friends that are apt to urge him to eat more or oftener than shall be needful. And whatsoever he shall receive, let him take it in the name of God and for His sake, neither with avidity, if it be pleasing to nature, nor with murmuring, if displeasing.
42. It will be exceeding difficult during pain or any great infirmity to use discoursive meditation; the exercise of acts of the will (and much more, of aspirations) is a far more proper prayer in such a case. Therefore it is good even for those who are not yet so fully ripe for the exercise of acts as to make them their constant exercise, yet to use them sometimes in time of health, to the end that if they be overtaken with sickness, they may not be to seek for their exercise.
43. Among express voluntary acts the exercise of total resignation is the most perfect, and generally the most profitable; yet a soul in sickness, if she find herself indisposed for such acts, may content herself with acts of an inferior nature, yea, with devotions to any particular saints, to her angel guardian, and specially to our blessed Lady.
44. Those that are only infirm and languishing are (forasmuch as concerns the nature of their prayer) in a case little different from that they were in during health. Those whose sufferings are from outward pain merely, without sickness, may happen to have their prayer altered to the better by means of such pains, which themselves may prove a very profitable prayer, if the patient, with quietness and submission to the divine will, do offer such pains continually to God.
45. But as for sicknesses more inward, they do more indispose the patient to prayer, besides the great distractions that come from physic, blood-letting, diet, &c., so that none can prescribe any certain advices. The well-meaning soul therefore must, and with a moderate attention may, herself observe all circumstances, and, accordingly, for the manner practise both mortification and prayer. She will easily discern at what times, how long, and in what manner she ought to pray, as likewise wherein she is to mortify herself, and how far she may yield to the desires and necessities of nature. The truth is, the cases not only of several persons in several sicknesses, but even of the same person in the same sickness, are so wonderfully various, that it is impossible to fit advices for all; all that an instructor can say to the purpose is, that prayer and mortification are absolutely necessary to a soul as well in sickness as health; but for the special manner and matter, her own judgment and discretion, but especially the Spirit of God, must teach her, and doubtless will, if she attend to His holy inspirations.
46. I said before that the universal remedy against all inward temptations was actual prayer and conversion of the soul to God, which remedy is good for all souls in what state soever; but more proper for such as practise internal contemplative exercises (who are not now in a disposition to invent motives and arguments to contradict such temptations), but most necessary for the fearful and scrupulous. Notwithstanding, I would not oblige all imperfect souls, upon every thought of a temptation, to recur always to their prayer, but only when necessity and a just fear of being overcome shall require it. Otherwise, being in no such fear, they may content themselves with some intermitted elevations of their minds to God, deferring their prayer till their next appointed recollection; for it would be too great a burden imposed on such souls as without some difficulty cannot enter into serious introversion, to bind them hereto upon every assault of an inward temptation, when a moderate care not to yield to the temptation will suffice.
47. God seldom sends great sicknesses to spiritual persons in the beginning of their course, before they have gotten a reasonable habitude of prayer to make good use thereof, lest thereby they should become disabled to pray; but after such an habitude gotten, if sickness come, it will advance their prayer; and as their bodily strength decays, their prayer proportionably will grow more easy, profound, and spiritual; but it is to be doubted that the prayer of meditation will be little bettered by sickness.
48. I will conclude this point of sickness with proposing one special consideration, which ought to induce souls to be careful that they do not deliberately turn sickness into a liberty of sense or spirit, by omitting or neglecting prayer and mortification; and it is this: In all sickness there is at least some degree of peril of being taken out of this life, which event, if it should happen to a soul whilst she continues in such a tepid, negligent state, God will assuredly judge her according to her present state in which depth finds her; yea, she will be in danger to lose the fruit that she might expect from all her former good purposes and resolutions, or at least to suspect that such purposes were not sincere and cordial, since now, the proper time of putting them in execution being come, they are ineffectual. (And above all other, the case of scrupulous souls would be miserable, if they should neglect to combat their scrupulosities by a simple obedience and transcending of their fears.) On the contrary, it is certain that a soul cannot possibly have a firmer ground of assurance of eternal happiness than a sanctified use of sickness.