The Dryness of Preachers, and the Various Evils which Arise from their Failing to Teach Heart-Prayer --Exhortation to Pastors to Lead People Towards this Form Of
If all those who are working for the conquest of souls sought to win them by the heart, leading them first of all to prayer and to the inner life, they would see many and lasting conversions. But so long as they only address themselves to the outside, and instead of drawing people to Christ by occupying their hearts with Him, they only give them a thousand precepts for outward observances, they will see but little fruit, and that will not be lasting.

When once the heart is won, other defects are easily corrected. This is why God particularly asks for the heart. By this means alone would be prevented the drunkenness, blasphemy, lewdness, enmity, and robbery which are prevalent in the world. Jesus Christ would reign universally, and the Church everywhere would be revived.

Error only takes possession of the soul in the absence of faith and prayer. If men could be taught to believe simply and to pray, instead of disputing amongst themselves, they would be gently led to Christ.

Oh, how inestimable is the loss of those who neglect the inner life! Oh, what an account will they have to render to God who have the charge of souls, for not having discovered this hidden treasure to all those whom they serve in the ministry of the Word!

The excuse given is that there is danger in this way, or that ignorant people are incapable of spiritual things. The oracle of truth assures us that God has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them to babes. And what danger can there be in walking in the only true way, which is Jesus Christ, in giving ourselves to Him, looking to Him continually, putting all our trust in His grace, and tending, with all the forces of our souls, to His pure love?

Far from the simple ones being incapable of this perfection, they are the most suitable for it, because they are more docile, more humble, and more innocent; and as they do not reason, they are not so attached to their own light. Having no science, they more readily suffer themselves to be guided by the Spirit of God: while others who are blind in their own sufficiency resist the divine inspiration.

God tells us, too, that it is to the simple He gives understanding by the entrance of His Word (Ps. cxix.130). "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Ps. xix.7). "The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me" (Ps. cxvi.6).

O ye who have the oversight of souls! see that you do not prevent the little ones from going to Christ. His words to His disciples were, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke xviii.16). Jesus only said this to His disciples, because they wished to keep the children away from Him. Often the remedy is applied to the body, when the disease is at the heart. The reason why we have so little success in seeking to reform men, is that we direct our efforts to the outside, and all that we can do there soon passes off. But if we were to give them first the key of the interior, the outside would be reformed at once with a natural facility.

And this is very easy. To teach them to seek God in their heart, to think of Him, to return to Him when they find they have turned away, to do all and suffer all for the sake of pleasing Him -- this is to direct them to the source of all grace, and to make them find there all that is necessary for their sanctification. O you who serve souls! I conjure you to put them first of all into this way, which is Jesus Christ; and it is He who conjures you to do this by the blood He has shed for the souls He confides to your care. "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem" (Isa. xl.2, marg.) O dispensers of His grace, preachers of His Word, ministers of sacraments! establish His kingdom; and, in order to establish it truly, make it reign over HEARTS. For as it is the heart alone which can oppose His empire, it is by the subjection of the heart that His sovereignty is most honoured. Alas! we seek to make studied prayers; and by wishing to arrange them too much, we render them impossible. We have alienated children from the best of Fathers, in seeking to teach them a polished language. Go, poor children, and speak to your Heavenly Father in your natural language: however uncultivated it may be, it is not so to Him. A father loves best the speech which is put in disorder by love and respect, because he sees that it comes from the heart: it is more to him than a dry harangue, vain and unfruitful though well studied. Oh, how certain glances of love charm and ravish Him! They express infinitely more than all language and reason. By wishing to teach how to love Love Himself with method, much of this love has been lost. Oh! it is not necessary to teach the art of loving. The language of love is barbarous to him who does not love; and we cannot learn to love God better than by loving Him. The Spirit of God does not need our arrangements; He takes shepherds at His pleasure to make them prophets; and, far from closing the palace of prayer to any, as it is imagined, He leaves the doors open to all, and Wisdom is ordered to cry in the public places, "Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled" (Prov. ix.4, 5). Did not Christ thank His Father that He had hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and had revealed them to babes? (Matt. xi.25.)

chapter xvii distinction between exterior
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