OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD
I. The presence of God is an applying of our spirit to Him, or a realization of His presence which can be brought about either by the imagination or the understanding.
2. I know one who, for forty years, has practiced the presence of God intellectually, and he gives it several other names. Sometimes he calls it a simple act, or a clear and distinct knowledge of God: sometimes an impression or a loving gaze or a sense of God; yet other times he calls it a waiting on God, a silent conversation with Him, a divine repose, the life and peace of the soul. He says, however, that all these expressions for the presence of God are synonyms, they express the same thing, that presence which has come to be natural to him, in this way:
3. By repeated acts and by frequently recalling his mind to God he has developed such a habit that, so soon as he is free from external occupations, and even often while he is still busy, his very soul, without any forethought on his part, is lifted above all earthly things, maintained and as it were upheld in God, as in its consummation and place of rest. At such times faith is nearly always with him, and his spirit is satisfied. It is this which he calls the actual presence of God, which includes all other kinds and much more besides, so that he lives now as if there were only God and himself in the world: conversing always with Him, entreating Him at need, and rejoicing with Him in a thousand ways.
4. Now it should be observed that this communion with God is held in the depth of the soul, at its very centre: it is there that the soul speaks heart to heart with God amid a wonderful peace wherein the spirit experiences the keenest joy. All that goes on outside is no more to the soul than as a fire of straw which, the more it flares, the sooner it is burnt out, and rarely and little do exterior concerns disturb the interior peace.
5. But to return to our own consideration of the subject, I tell you that the lovingness of God insensibly kindles so burning a flame of love in the soul that embraces Him, that one has to moderate its outward expression.
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