TUESDAY, FIRST WEEK IN LENT
ON THE EXAMINATION OF THE STATE OF OUR INTERIOR
Consider first, the dreadful mischiefs that follow from our not knowing the true state of our own souls! Alas! what would it avail us to have all other sciences, and to know all things else, if we should not know what passes within ourselves, and so should want this most necessary of all sciences, the knowledge of ourselves? Ah! how many are there in the world who pass their whole lives in mortal sin, and yet, for want of looking into themselves, are not aware of it! How many imagine themselves to be alive, 'and have the name of being alive, and yet are dead!' Apoc. iii. 1. How many imagine their souls to be rich and wealthy, and to stand in need of nothing, and they know not that in the very truth, and in the sight of God, 'they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!' Apoc. iii. 17. 'O from my hidden sins cleanse me, O Lord; and from the sins of others spare thy servants.' Ps. xviii. 13.
Consider 2ndly, that to prevent so great an evil every Christian ought often to examine into the true state of his interior, and consider seriously what are the real dispositions of his soul, especially with regard to his God. He cannot be in the state of grace, or in the way of salvation, if he love not God above all things. Reflect, O my soul, is there nothing thou lovest more than God? Is there nothing that takes place of him in thy affections? How comes it, then, that commonly God is so seldom thought on in the course of the day? How comes it that upon every occasion worldly honour, temporal interest, sensual pleasures, the gratifying thyself or the world, make thee turn thy back on him? The true lover is ever thinking on the subject of his love, and never better content than when in company and conversing with his beloved. Is thy love of God such as this? Art thou resolutely determined, for no consideration whatever, for no honour, no interest, no pleasure, no human respect, no fear, no love - for nothing, in fine, that the world can give or take away, to be disloyal to thy God? If not, the love of God is not in thee, and thou art none of his. This is the best rule by which thou mayest know whether thou really lovest God or not. But then, to know thy true disposition in this regard, examine thy works: 'If you love me,' saith the Lord, 'Keep my commandments.' St. John xiv. 15.
Consider 3rdly, that thou must also examine, how thy soul stands affected with regard to thy neighbour. For here is another great branch of the Christian duty, in which his soul is no less interested, and in which too many deceive themselves; O my soul, art thou just in thy thoughts, words, and works, to thy neighbour? Dost thou live up to the rules of charity in this regard? Art thou not censorious in thy judgments, bitter in thy speeches, hasty and passionate in thy carriage to him? Dost thou never injure him in his reputation by backbiting and detraction, in his honour by affronts, in his friends by tale-bearing, and in the peace of his mind by derision or contempt? Art thou just in all thy dealings with him? Dost thou pay his dues? Dost thou keep any thing from him unjustly? Dost thou do by him, in whatever station of life he may be, as thou wouldest be done by, if thou wert in his place? Is there no rancour in thy heart against any one soul upon earth? No secret hatred, malice, or envy? Examine thyself well upon all these heads, in which millions affect to deceive themselves to their eternal perdition.
Conclude to labour seriously for the knowledge of thyself; that thou mayest effectually amend thy life and secure thy soul. For why shouldest thou suffer thyself to be any longer blindfolded by passion, or affected ignorance, with evident danger of falling down the dreadful precipice which leads to a miserable eternity.