SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.

CV. 

I QUITE understand that all your troubles come from 
excessive self-consciousness, and from letting yourself be 
too much guided by feeling. Directly that you do not 
find prayer a downright solace to you, you are depressed. 
Would you be at rest ? then try to be less occupied with 
yourself, and more with God. Do not dissect and judge 
yourself, but leave yourself to be judged by the spiritual 
guide you have chosen. Of course we are sometimes 
engrossed with ourselves without meaning it, and imagina- 
tion causes many relapses into this unprofitable occupa- 
tion ; but I do not ask what is impossible, I shall be 
content if you are not voluntarily absorbed in self and 
do not deliberately aim at judging yourself by your own 
lights. Directly that you find yourself beginning to do 
this, turn away as from a temptation, and do not let that 
become intentional which was at first unconscious. 

Nevertheless, do not suppose that this course which I 
advise is intended anywise to interfere with that vigilance 
over yourself which Jesus Christ teaches in the Gospel. 
The best possible vigilance is to watch as in God's Sight 
against the delusions of self-love. Now, one of the most 
dangerous ot all these delusions is when we grow senti- 
mental over ourselves, are perpetually self-engrossed, and 
feed upon ourselves with a restless, anxious care which 
withers and disables the heart, keeps us from realising 
God's Presence, and ends by hopelessly depressing and 
discouraging us. Say with S. Paul, " Yea, I judge not 
mine own self : " ' you will watch all the better for the 
real correction of your faults, and the fulfilment of your 
duties, because of the absence of all this restless self- 
willed fidgetiness. Then it will be out of love of God 
that you will simply and quietly repress whatever you 
see by that clear penetrating light to be faulty and un- 
worthy of the Beloved; you will work at conquering 
your failings without impatience or pettishness ; you will 
tolerate yourself without flattery ; you will accept reproof 
and be ready to obey. Such a line of conduct tends 
far more to seif-renunciation than yielding to all the im- 
patience and vexation and fancies of your own wilful- 
ness. Moreover, when we attempt to judge ourselves by 
our own feelings, we take an altogether wrong standard. 
God only requires that which it is in our power to give, 
and that happens to be our will. Feeling is not in our 
own power we can neither win nor lose it as we please. 
The most hardened sinners have at times better feelings 
in spite of themselves, and the greatest saints have been 
horribly tempted by evil feelings which they abhorred, 
but such feelings have tended to humble, mortify, and 
1 I Cor. iv. 3.

purify them. S. Paul tells us that our strength is 
made perfect in weakness. 1 So it is not feeling but con- 
sent 3 which makes us guilty. 

Why should you suppose God is afar off because you 
cannot perceive Him ? He is always, you may be sure, 
near to those whose hearts are blank and sorrowful. No 
pains of yours will win the conscious sweetness of His 
Presence. What do you seek to love ? your own pleasure 
or the Beloved One ? If the first only, then it is your- 
self, not God, that you seek. People often deceive 
themselves as to the hidden life, fancying that they are 
aiming at God, when self-pleasing is their real aim ; and 
when they cease to find delight or consolation in their 
religious exercises, they turn from Him in disappoint- 
ment. Assuredly it is never right to sacrifice that highest 
delight for the sake of mere earthly pleasures ; but if it 
fails you, go on in love, and serve God in spite of weari- 
ness and disappointment. Love is of the purest when 
not stimulated by reward, and we often make most 
progress just when we think all is lost ! Love suffer- 
ing on Calvary is far higher than love glowing with 
excitement on Mount Tabor. 

I don't care about seeing you a very great or very wise 
and good woman. I want everything on a small scale. 
Be a good little child. 

1 2 Cor. xii. 9. * " Pas le sentir, mais le consentir.'

 

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