ORDER OF ST. BENEDICT,
AND TO ALL OUR VERY REV. FATHER SUPERIORS IN THE SAME.
VERY REV. FATHERS,
Such being the distemper of this age, that only good books, and such as are most proper to cure in the very root its disorders, do stand in need of protection, you cannot in justice, as it seems to me, refuse yours to this, the composing and publishing whereof at this time was an effect of your V. R. Paternities' order and commands. Now those very commands, with so much advice and zeal unanimously made, are a very strong proof that this book (for as much as concerns the substantial doctrine therein contained) is such an one, so perfectly good and medicinal, as that I need not doubt, and indeed should be sorry, it should have any other fate than the hatred of all those who love darkness more than light. As for whatsoever faults may have happened through my want of skill in the compiling, I do not desire such patrons to them. Yet truly there hath not been wanting all the diligence and care that I was capable of, to provide that so excellent instructions should not be too much disparaged by the second copying and new fashion and dress upon them. The pains herein taken will appear to be not very ordinary to any one that shall consider how difficult a matter it is out of such a world of Treatises (written upon particular subjects for the special necessities and use of certain devout persons, without any eye or design in the author of affording materials for an entire body of spirituality) to frame such a body not at all defective, and with parts not unproportionable. Now I must confess that though conscience alone and duty to your VV. RR. Paternities would have had sufficient influence on me to prevent negligence, yet I had moreover one motive besides to heighten my diligence which was gratitude. For to the admiration and love of these excellent instructions I owe not only the hastening of my reconciliation to the Catholic Church (as on this very day, being the Vigil of the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, in the Office of the Holy Inquisition at Rome), but also the happiness of being a member (though unworthy) of your holy congregation. It may notwithstanding fall out, that with all my endeavours I may fail of giving satisfaction in the point of art; but that I have not been wanting in the principal condition of faithfulness, besides the testimony of my own conscience, I have that also of persons learned and pious, to whom the writings of the venerable author have been perfectly known and familiar.
It will doubtless seem strange to others, but not to your Paternity (V. R. F. President) that so perfect instructions for contemplation should proceed from one that had spent almost his whole life in the laborious employment of the Apostolic Mission. But your V. R. Paternity by experience knows that those who sincerely give themselves to seek Almighty God by pure spiritual prayer, whatever their employments be, will, without any prejudice to them, never want opportunities to meet and converse with Him in solitude. Now from such conversations it is that there do proceed from the Father of Lights such illustrations as not only give a splendour to the persons themselves, but by reflection also serve to guide others.
The solitude that our Venerable Author enjoyed was, by his own election, among friends, penitents, and disciples. But God's Holy Spirit led your V. R. Paternity into a desert far more full of horror indeed, but withal far more instructive: a solitude of prisons and dungeons, among enemies to religion and humanity, where yet by the light and force not only of your learning, but also your devotion, &c., you could found churches of converts.
A more sufficient and proper patron, therefore, and judge, could not be found than your V. R. Paternity of instructions of this nature. So that from you it is that all others, your religious subjects, receiving them, will through God's grace daily with their increasing fervour, by their good practice and example, recommend them to others also.
VV. RR. Fathers,
Your VV. RR. Paternities' in all duty and service in our Lord,
Br. SERENUS CRESSY.
From my cell in the Convent of St. Gregory's
Nos, .F LAURENTIUS REYNER, Congregationis Anglicanæ Ordinis S. Benedicti Præses Generalis, visis testimoniis et approbationibus RR. PP. Congregationis nostræ, BENEDICTI STAPLETONI, S. Theologiæ Doctoris et Definitoris dictæ Congregationis, &c., et LEANDRI a S. Augustino S. Theologiæ Professoris, &c., quibus cura examinandi librum quemdam Spiritualem Anglice scriptum, cui Titulus, Sancta Sophia, or Directions, &c., a nobis demandata fuerat: ad Dei honorem et gloriam, Ecclesiæ Sanctæ Catholicæ bonum, animarumque, uti speramus, in sancto Dei amore profectum notabilem, ut dictus liber præli beneficio mundo publicetur per præsentes licentiam damus.
In cujus rei testimonium his subscripsimus, et sigillum nostrum apposuimus.
Parisiis in Monasterio nostro S. Edmundi Regis et Martyris, in suburbiis S. Jacobi, Maii 4, A.D.1657.
Fr. LAURENTIUS REYNER, Præses qui supra licet indignus.
De Mandato R. Adm. P. Præsidis,
Fr. AUGUSTINUS CONSTABLE, Secretarius.
Legi diligenter Librum cui titulus Sancta Sophia. or Directions, &c.: Anglice scriptum: in eoque nihil reperi quod orthodoxæ Fidei aut bonis moribus adversetur: Testor etiam nihil in hoc libro contineri præter regulas et præcepta ad vitæ contemplativæ perfectionem ducentia: Ea vero tame doctrinæ soliditate, perspicuitate, tamque insigni methodo tractari, ut non solum piissimi Auctoris Sanctitas, et in conductu Animarum ad perfectionis apicem peritia, necnon ipsius collectoris diligentia et styli nitor abunde comprobentur; verum etiam summo cum perfectioris vitæ studiosorum fructu in lucem emittendum nullo modo dubitem. Insuper Auctoris mentem videtur adeo assecutus præfatus collector, ut qui in Auctoris doctrine suet versati genuinum illius foetum necessario agnoscere debeant.
Datum in Monasterio nostro S. Gregorii, Duaci, 21 April A.D.1657.
Fr. BENEDICTUS STAPLETON, Sac. Theol. Doctor.
Perlegi librum cui titulus Sancta Sophia, &c., Anglice scriptum testorque in eo nihil reperiri, quod orthodoxæ Fidei aut bonis moribus adversetur; Rut quod ad statum, regimen, vel negotia cujusvis Reipublicæ quovis modo pertineat. Sed unaquæque paging solam pietatem Theoricam spirat, quam sublimi quidem, modestissime tamen ac tutissime via accurate docet; et a SS. Patrum vestigiis nunquam recedit. Ita testor.
In Conventu nostro S. Greg. Duaci, 20 Apr. A.D.1657.
Fr. LEANDER A S. AUGUSTINO, S. Theol Professor
Cum liber hie cui titulus Sancta Sophia, &c., Anglice scriptus diligenter perlectus fuerit ab eximio et R. Patre Benedicto Stapleton, S. Theologiæ Doctore, et R. P. Leandro a S. Augustino, S. Theologiæ in Collegio Vedastino Duaci Professor: iidemque idiomatis Anglicani optime periti fidem faciant nihil in eodem hoc libro reperiri, quod orthodoxæ fidei, aut bonis moribus adversetur, vel quod ad statum, regimen, aut negotia cujusvis regni aut reipublicea quovis modo pertinet: sed solummodo contineri sanctissimas regulas, et solidissima præcepta ad vitæ contemplativæ perfectionem conducentia: ideo eundem hunc librum prælo dignum esse, et publici boni causa, in lucem emitti posse censui.
Duaci, 28 Aprilis A.D.1657.
MARTINUS DENYS, S. Theol. Doctor, ejusdemque regius et ordinarius Duaci Professor.
NICOLAUS LE LONG, S. Theologiæ Doctor, ejusdemque,
Many grave authors have written of this subject, but in my opinion none more clearly (and with such brevity) than the R. Father Augustine Baker, of the holy Order of St. Benedict, sometime spiritual director to the English Benedictine Dames at Cambray. Who in his several treatises abridged in this book, entitled Sancta Sophia, probably out of his own experience, hath methodically, solidly, clearly, and piously set forth such efficacious instructions for the attaining of true perfection, that all devout souls aspiring thereto, especially religious persons (whose daily practice of meditation and continual exercises tending to that end will, if well applied, much advance them), by their practice with great facility, may attain great perfection. Let them, therefore, read diligently the preface and first treatise, and practise exactly what is contained in the second; and I dare promise them by God's grace a happy progress in the third.
Wherefore I judge the work worthy to be published, as containing nothing opposite to the doctrine of the Church; but on the contrary, very profitable rules and rare instructions of piety and true devotion.
Given at Doway, in the Convent of the English Recollects, this 2d of July 1657.
Br. ANGELUS FRANCIS, Lector Jubilate, and Episcopal Censurer of Books.
I have read three treatises of that V. F. A. Baker, of an Internal Life, Mortification, and Prayer; and do approve and esteem of it as of a work that may much promote the perfection of a religious state and lead others to a competent reasonable participation of it, though living in the world. And, reader, if thou art seriously resolved to attempt this principal and main work of thy salvation, thou wilt find nothing to displease thee; but very many advices and instructions to advance thee in the way to perfection. But if spiritual conversation internally with Almighty God be either insipid or unsavoury to thy ill-affected palate, thou wilt easily find little straws, motes, or hairs to pick quarrel with, and cast away such food as this; and I wish thee to take heed, thou dost not cast more away.
Given this 21st of July, in our English College of Doway, A.D.1657.
T. PRODGER, Prof. of Divinity.
To the foregoing approbations I esteemed it much for my advantage to adjoin the following testimony of my sincerity and faithfulness in delivering the doctrine of our V. Author. The excellent person from whom the letter came will, I hope, pardon this publishing, without a commission from herself, what she privately directed to me; since it is done for the better recommendation of the doctrine so worthily esteemed by her.
TO THE REV. F. SERENUS CRESSY.
I must acknowledge the particular obligation that our convent hath to your R. P., for the great diligence you have used, and the very much labour you have bestowed in compiling the abridgment of our Venerable and dear Father Baker's works, so exactly conformable to the sense and meaning of the Author; and as we well know the pains you have taken in perusing seriously all his books several times, and in collecting the substance of each, digesting and reducing them into a most convenient order and method; and that you refused not to undergo the labour to go through all this a second time, to give the most full satisfaction in rendering your abridgment more entirely conformable to his writings in the very expression as much as might be; so we may very well believe that it hath pleased God to assist very much your unwearied industry, since not any that hath read your book, and is versed in the Author's works, hath found any objections to make either of anything wanting or differing from him; but all acknowledge that you have most faithfully, clearly, and substantially delivered his doctrine. We cannot, therefore, but hope God will be the reward of your fidelity, care, and pains, in a work so acceptable to Him, as we shall not fail to pray; and none shall esteem themselves more obliged to testify their gratitude than,
S. CATHARINE DE S. MARIA, Abbess Unworthy.
Cambray, July 7th, 1657.