What the Spiritual Life really is and consists of

August 17, 2021 • 3 min

From The Spiritual Combat, page 10

Experience convinces us, that professed sinners are with less difficulty reclaimed, than those who wilfully make their own hearts a secret to themselves through a false resemblance of virtue.

From whence you will easily comprehend, that spiritual life does not consist in the several practices before enumerated, if considered only in the outward appearance. It properly consists:

In knowing the infinite greatness and goodness of God, joined to a true sense of our own wretchedness and proclivity to evil.

In loving God and hating ourselves.

In humbling ourselves not only before him, but, for his sake, before all men.

In renouncing entirely our own will in order to follow his.

And to crown the work, in doing all this for the sole glory of his holy name, with no other view than to please him, on no other motive than that he ought to be loved and served by all his creatures.


Such are the dictates of that law of love which the Holy Ghost has engraven on the hearts of the righteous.

Thus it is we are to practice that self-denial so earnestly recommended by our Saviour in the Gospel.

This it is which renders his yoke so sweet and his burthen so light.

In fine, herein consists that perfect obedience our divine Master has so much enforced both by word and example.

Since therefore you aspire to the highest degree of perfection, you must wage continual war with yourself, and employ your whole force in demolishing every vicious inclination, though never so trivial.

Consequently, in preparing for the combat, you must summon up all your resolution and courage: for no one shall be rewarded with a crown, who hath not fought courageously.


But remember, that as no war can be carried on with greater fierceness, the forces, no other than ourselves, being equal on both sides; so the victory when gained is most pleasing to God, and most glorious to the Conqueror.

For whoever has the courage to conquer his passions, to subdue his appetites, and repulse even the least motions of his own will, performs an action more meritorious in the sight of God, than if, without this he should tear his flesh with the sharpest disciplines, fast with greater austerity than the ancient Fathers of the Desert, or convert multitudes of sinners.


It is true, considering things in themselves, the conversion of a soul is doubtless infinitely more acceptable to the divine Majesty, than the mortifying a disorderly affection; yet every one in his own particular ought to begin with what is immediately required of him.

Now what God expects at our hands before all things, is a serious application to the subduing our passions; and this is more properly doing our duty, than if, with unbridled appetites, we should do him greater service.


Thus, being apprized what Christian perfection is, and that, in order to attain it, you must resolve on a perpetual War with yourself, begin with providing yourself four things, as so many weapons without which it is impossible to gain the victory in this Spiritual Combat.

These four things are, a diffidence of yourself, a confidence in God, a good use of the Faculties of body and mind, and the duty of Prayer.

Of these, through God’s grace, we shall treat clearly and succinctly in the following chapter.

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