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§§ 1, 2, 3, 4. Of charity, as it is the same with Purity of intention. How God is the only end of all our actions. Of a pure and right intention.

§§ 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Instructions how to get purity of intention; especially by the means of prayer.

§ 10. The dangerous state of those who do not practise prayer.

§§ 11, 12. Of the exercise of offering our daily actions and sufferings, and how far such an exercise may conduce to purity of intention.

§ 13. Rules prescribed by a late contemplative author not much approved.

§§ 14, 15. Other advices.

§§ 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Difference of purity of intention in contemplative and active livers, &c.

1. We will now consider charity under another notion, as it is the director of all our actions; and so it is called Purity of intention, by which we do refer all that we do or suffer to the love and glory of God, which is of all other the most necessary condition. For God rewards no deeds but such as are done 250purely for His sake. So that whatsoever other end we propose which is not subordinate to this makes the action so far unacceptable to Him.

2. I say subordinate, for doubtless there are and must needs be, besides this, other immediate ends and intentions of many of our actions, as the temporal or spiritual good of ourselves or others; but we are not to rest in those inferior ends, but to refer both the actions and them also finally unto God. So our Saviour commanded St. Peter to give tribute-money, lest the Jews should be offended.

3. Whereas, therefore, some spiritual authors do advise us to exclude the thought of all other ends but only God’s glory from all our doings; yea, so far as that they would not scarce permit one in praying to mention himself (saying, O that I could love thee, O my God, &c.), we are to suppose their meaning to be that, considering how forward and subtle nature is to intrude itself and its interests in our best actions, even to the exclusion of God (though we pretend otherwise); therefore, being so imperfect as we are, our best course were to study, as much as may be with discretion, to forget ourselves quite, and all other creatures. But surely if we were perfect, we might, without wrong to God, yea, with the increase of our love to Him, cast an eye on all intermediate ends.

4. Harphius makes a difference between a right intention and a pure intention. The former he appropriates to good active livers, who, according to the substance of their actions, and the general purpose of their hearts, do indeed in all things desire to seek God’s glory; but yet, for want of the practice of pure spiritual prayer, they mix many undiscovered designs of nature in their good actions, the which do so far abase the value of them. But the intention of perfect contemplative livers he calls a simple or pure intention, because it proceeds from a purified interior.

5. Now for the obtaining of such a pure and simple intention, I will endeavour, according to my small experience and the best light that God has given me, to yield the best information and help I can in the following instructions, the which 251do properly belong to souls in a contemplative course. And they are to be regarded, and use in particular made of them, only so far as devout souls shall find them to be proper and profitable for them in particular, and as they are suitable to their Divine calls respectively, which are much more to be regarded than all human instructions.

6. First, therefore, let a well-minded soul that leads an internal life, by reading, conferring, considering, and praying, get to understand the best she can, what the true and perfect love of God is, and wherein it consists.

7. Secondly, this being done, let her (by the grace of God assisting her) seriously purpose with herself (yet so that she do not fetter herself by any vows or obligations), by all the best means she can, to labour for the attaining to the said love of God, and also purely for God’s sake and to His glory, and no natural interests of her own, to intend the doing and suffering of all things that she shall afterwards do or suffer.

8. Thirdly, since this love is only to be obtained by the means of prayer and mortification, let her resolve to abide in the prosecution of these, according to the directions here given, to her life’s end; not voluntarily resting in any degree of love already attained, but still proceeding further without all limits. And this good resolution let her accordingly with courage put in execution daily, often renewing it when she finds herself to become slack or negligent.

9. Lastly, in the execution of these duties and of all other her employments, she must always have at least a virtual intention of directing them all to God, making Him the final end of all, and oftentimes likewise she must frame an actual intention of the same. Now when God is indeed, and in the true disposition of the soul, the end of her actions, He communicates a supernaturality and a kind of divinity unto them, and unless He be truly the end, they have no merit at all.

10. Now it being certain that only by the practice of internal prayer this purity of intention can be obtained, in what danger are those souls that do wholly neglect it? Neither will a few interrupted occasional offerings of our actions to God be sufficient 252to procure a stable habit of such purity, without constant set exercises of prayer and mortification. All the virtue that such oblations have is a little to diminish the impurity of those particular actions, but they do not at all (or very inconsiderably) increase or strengthen the habit of Divine love in the soul. The virtue therefore of such acts is to be measured according to the state that the soul is in.

11. If an internal liver do practise such occasional offerings of daily actions, I should advise him: 1. not to multiply such acts too thick one upon the other, so as to endanger to hurt the head, or distract the imagination, or hinder the necessary liberty of spirit; 2. let them not be a hindrance to other more perfect and profitable elevations of the spirit to God, or aspirations, if the soul find herself invited thereto, or if they be relishing to her.

12. It is unquestionable that the offering of our sufferings to God will be far more profitable to the soul than the offering of mere works that have in them little or nothing contrary to our natural inclinations. Yet even that also, without constant prayer, will be of little force.

13. I dare with confidence profess, that the observing of the aforesaid simple directions will be far more available to the procuring purity of intention in most souls, than such a curious examination of our daily works as is prescribed by a late worthy contemplative of our nation, who requires in every work six qualities punctually to be observed, viz.: that it be done—1. actually; 2. only; 3. willingly; 4. assuredly; 5. clearly; 6. speedily for the love and glory of God. And he exacts of a soul carefully to search whether any of these conditions have been wanting, and consequently to be more circumspect in the future,—which surely would be an employment extremely distractive and full of solicitude. Though it may be he himself found much good by such a practice, and was able to do it with simplicity.

14. It is far more easy for an imperfect soul to exercise purity of intention in actions that are of obligation, and done either in order to any law, or any command of superiors, than 253in those that are left to her own choice; and therefore it would be good for such an one either to have her daily and ordinary employments prescribed to her by her spiritual director, or to ordain them to herself upon good consideration beforehand, yet so as not to prejudice due liberty of spirit.

15. In every recollection the soul doth either directly and expressly, or at least virtually, renew her first fundamental purpose of tending in all her actions, external and internal, to the perfect love of God; and then also she discovereth and correcteth such defects and transgressions of this purpose as have passed out of the times of prayer. Our recollections, therefore, are the fountain and root whence all our future works have their virtue and merit, and in them purity of intention is most perfectly exercised.

16. The doings or sufferings of a contemplative liver, though ofttimes with much repugnance in inferior nature, yet do partake more of purity of intention and merit than the voluntary actions of active livers, or of one that does not constantly pursue internal prayer; albeit the actions of these do seem to be done with greater alacrity and facility, and to the doer seem to proceed purely out of charity, and withal cause great admiration in the eyes of the beholders. The reason is because the actions of the former are done purely out of a Divine inspiration, and also in great simplicity and unity, their regard to God being not hindered by the images accompanying such actions; whereas, active livers immediately contemplate multiplicity—yea, in prayer itself they are not without multiplicity, though they do direct that multiplicity more directly to one than in actions out of prayer.

17. Now since purity of intention consists in regarding God with simplicity, that is, without mixture of images or affections to creatures, it concerns internal livers to use as great care and discretion as may be not to intrude themselves unnecessarily into distractive employments.

18. Even the most perfect souls are apt to have less purity of intention in things grateful to nature than in such things as are mortifying; therefore, in the former they may do well to frame an actual upright intention.


19. The repugnancy that contemplative livers do find ofttimes in the discharge of external employments, proceeds not so much out of any unwillingness to obey, as out of an averseness from leaving their internal solitude and abstraction; yet such repugnancy in inferior nature is easily subdued, at least so far that it shall not be a hindrance to obedience and duty.

20. True purity of intention is best discerned in the beginning of an action; for ordinarily we set upon external works out of a sudden impulse and liking of nature, and afterwards we cozen ourselves with a forced good intention fastened upon them, so thinking that in them we do purely seek the glory of God, and faintly renouncing our interests of nature. It is indeed better to do thus than to continue such actions upon the same motives upon which they were begun. But no actions are perfectly meritorious and pure, but such as have for their first principle a Divine light and impulse, and are continued in virtue of the same.

21. Therefore a certain ancient holy hermit was accustomed before he set upon any work to make a pause for some time, like one whose thoughts were busied about some other matter, and, being asked why he did so, he answered: ‘All our actions are in themselves nothing worth; but, like a rough unshapen piece of timber, they have no gracefulness in them, unless we adorn and gild them over with a pure intention, directing them to the love and glory of God; or as one that is to shoot at a mark doth first carefully fix his eye upon it, otherwise he will shoot at random,—so do I fix my eye upon God, who is to be our only mark; and for this reason, before I begin any work, I do seriously offer it to God, begging His assistance.’

22. Active livers had need, in almost all their actions of moment, to frame an actual intention; but not so the contemplative, who are always habitually united to God; for such iterations of actual intention would cause too much distraction to them.

23. To conclude: how difficult and uneasy soever to nature the attaining to purity of intention be, because thereby the very soul of corrupt nature (which is propriety) is rooted out; yet, 255since it is absolutely necessary in an internal life, therefore considering God’s promise that He never will be wanting to our endeavours, souls of good wills will find it neither impossible nor of so great difficulty as at first it appeared, if they will attempt it with a strong resolution. To quicken and fortify which resolution I will end this discourse with that piercing saying of Harphius: ‘O how great and hidden deceits of corrupt nature will appear,’ saith he, ‘and be discovered’ (and consequently be severely punished) ‘after this life, for that souls have not here been purified and made deiform in their intentions! God Almighty give us the grace to discover now and reform this perilous and secret self-seeking of nature, to the glory of His Holy Name! Amen.’

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