PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD THE BEST RULE OF A HOLY LIFE being Conversations and Letters of Brother Lawrence

Good when He gives, supremely good; Nor less when He denies: Afflictions, from His sovereign hand, Are blessings in disguise. AUTHENTIC EDITION LONDON THE EPWORTH PRESS (Edgar C Barton) 25-35 City Road, E.C.1 PREFACE "I believe in the ... communion of saints." SURELY if additional proof of its reality were needed, it might be found in the universal oneness of experimental Christianity in all ages and in all lands. The experiences of Thomas … Kempis, of Tauler and of Madame Guyon, of John Woolman and Hester Ann Rogers, how marvellously they agree, and how perfectly they harmonize! And Nicholas Herman, of Lorraine, whose letters and converse are here given, testifies to the same truth! In communion with Rome, a lay brother among the Carmelites, for several years a soldier, in an irreligious age, amid a sceptical people, yet in him the practice of the presence of GOD was as much a reality as the "watch" of the early Friends, and the "holy seed" in him and others was the "stock" (Isa. vi. 16) from which grew the household and evangelistic piety of the eighteenth century, of Epworth and of Moorfields. "When unadorned, adorned the most" is the line which deters from any interpolations or interpretations other than the few "contents" headings which are given. May the "Christ in you" be the "hope of glory" to all who read.

FIRST CONVERSATION Conversion and precious employment. þ Satisfaction in God's presence. þ Faith our duty. þ Resignation the fruit of watchfulness. THE first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that GOD had done him a singular favour, in his conversion at the age of eighteen. That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased in above forty years that he had lived since. That he had been footman to M. Fieubert, the treasurer, and that he was a great awkward fellow who broke everything. That he had desired to be received into a monastery, thinking that he would there be made to smart for his awkwardness and the faults he should commit, and so he should sacrifice to GOD his life, with its pleasures: but that GOD had disappointed him, he having met with nothing but satisfaction in that state. That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD's Presence, by continually conversing with Him. That it was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries. That we should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of GOD; which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him. That we ought to quicken, i.e., to enliven, our faith. That it was

that as he could do nothing of himself. That to arrive at such resignation as GOD requires. GOD would not fail to give him the strength to bear them. when He pleased. Simplicity the key to Divine assistance. whatever becomes of me. as it were. I might come to him (Bro. That we ought to give ourselves up to GOD. I shall have this good at least. we should watch attentively over all the passions which mingle as well in spiritual things as those of a grosser nature: that GOD would give light concerning those passions to those who truly desire to serve Him. saying . and that having resolved to make the love of GOD the end of all his actions. and that it was sufficient to bring us to a high degree of perfection. Lawrence) as often as I pleased. he was so far from wondering at them. viz. That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually. That he had always been governed by love. we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty. he was surprised there were not more. I cannot do this unless Thou enablest me. for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned. That when an occasion of practising some virtue offered. whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation. That since that time he had passed his life in perfect liberty and continual joy. knowing very well. that all the men in the world could not have persuaded him to the contrary. þ Diligence and love. that till death I shall have done all that is in me to love Him. and that then he received strength more than sufficient. I will always continue to act purely for the love of GOD. That if this was my design. but that he had thus reasoned with himself about it: I did not engage in a religious life but for the love of GOD. and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling His will. whereof one alone would oftentimes very much promote our spiritual advancement.. that then was the time for us to make good and effectual acts of resignation. saying. seeking Him only. That he placed his sins betwixt him and GOD. not even His gifts. That when he had failed in his duty. to tell Him that he did not deserve His favours. he had found reasons to be well satisfied with his method. or insensibilities and irksomenesses in prayer. þ All scruples brought to God. without any fear of being troublesome. he gave himself no farther trouble. and I have endeavoured to act only for Him. That as for the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world. now in joy. That the way of Faith was the spirit of the Church. which changed daily. sincerely to serve GOD. but that GOD still continued to bestow them in abundance. but if not. and that instead of taking faith for the rule of their conduct.lamentable we had so little. whether I be lost or saved. with regard both to things temporal and spiritual. considering the malice sinners were capable of: that for his part. but knowing that GOD could remedy the mischiefs they did. that I ought no more to visit him. þ times of prayer and self-mortification not essential for the practice. þ Business abroad as at home. he addressed himself to GOD. he only confessed his fault. That this trouble of mind had lasted four years. on the contrary. that. during which time he had suffered much. That he had been long troubled in mind from a certain belief that he should be damned. That he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of GOD. SECOND CONVERSATION Love the motive of all. LORD. he should have his turn of pain and suffering. but that he was not uneasy about it. That he expected after the pleasant days GOD had given him. That there needed fidelity in those drynesses. by which GOD tries our love to Him. men amused themselves with trivial devotions. þ Once in fear. and nothing else. and referring all we do to Him. he prayed for them. without selfish views.

in a manner that he could give no account of. speaking to Him frankly and plainly. but that he needed much a confessor to absolve him. without anxiety. in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion). as more signal monuments of His mercy. and doing all things for His sake. since he was always pleasing himself in every condition. That after this. to buy the provision of wine for the society. That he could never regulate his devotion by certain methods as some do. That we ought. That he was very well pleased with the post he was now in. according to the directions of his Superior. and that he afterwards found it very well performed. during the fifteen years that he had been employed there. if You leave me to myself. only endeavouring to love Him with all our hearts. When he had so done. if they were void of the love of GOD. That he had been lately sent into Burgundy. as soon as we perceived their impertinence to the matter in hand. and with prayer. I shall never do otherwise. he had consulted nobody. So. and as he endeavoured so to do. nor about the purchase of the wine. but knowing only by the light of faith that GOD was present. That GOD never failed to grant GOD. and found it the shortest way to go straight to Him by a continual exercise of love. having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of GOD. or our salvation. That he was very sensible of his faults. i. he had found everything easy. That all possible kinds of mortification. but that it proved very well. That our only business was to love and delight ourselves in GOD. That we ought to act with GOD in the greatest simplicity. but not discouraged by them. for His grace to do his work well. and return to our communion with GOD. by doing little things for the love of GOD. That we ought to make a great difference between the acts of the understanding and those of the will. nor ask for it. he contented himself with directing all his actions to Him. he gave himself no further uneasiness about it. That nevertheless. likewise. but afterwards that went off. that he confessed them to GOD. that he could not tell how the matter passed. but that he was as ready to quit that as the former. upon all occasions. and imploring His assistance in our affairs. That all bodily mortifications and other exercises are useless. he peaceably resumed his usual practice of love and adoration.e. It was His business he was about. That as he know his obligation to love GOD in all things. That he said to GOD. to expect the pardon of our sins from the Blood of JESUS CHRIST. in rejecting wandering thoughts. as he had often experienced. and the others all. "tis You must hinder my falling. That however he gave himself no uneasiness about it. that the first were comparatively of little value. and did not plead against Him to excuse them. he had no need of a director to advise him. which was a very unwelcome task for him. That GOD seemed to have granted the greatest favours to the greatest sinners. That in his trouble of mind. . that he had well considered this. but that we ought to reject them. That he had been sent into Auvergne the year before upon the same account. and could not go about the boat but by rolling himself over the casks. because his greatest business did not divert him from GOD. let what would come of it. because he had no turn for business and because he was lame. but as they serve to arrive at the union with GOD by love. That useless thoughts spoil all: that the mischief began there. at first he had meditated for some time.. just as they happen. but that he did not want such retirement. doing them with a desire to please Him. That at the beginning he had often passed his time appointed for prayer. and mend what is amiss. That with him the set times of prayer were not different from other times: that he retired to pray. could not efface a single sin. and falling back into them.

viz. all that was fit for him to do. when he had business to do. and beg His grace. and that as he was conscious of his readiness to lay down his life for the love of GOD. that the worst that could happen to him was. þ Outward business no detriment. That this appeared plainly by their works. þ Prayer and the presence of God.That the greatest pains or pleasures. but before the experience above mentioned. that he might not offend Him. which is the end. That the trust we put in GOD honours Him much. for.. he had no other care at first. he did not think of it beforehand. to lose that sense of GOD. desiring but one only thing of GOD. he returned to Him with so much the greater trust in Him. but that the goodness of GOD assured him He would not forsake him utterly. if I am left to myself. but after that unspeakable pleasures followed: that in difficulties we need only have recourse to JESUS CHRIST. and to love Him only. he did not disquiet himself for it. þ Hearty renunciation. saying. he found in GOD. I am used to do so: I shall never do otherwise. but when it was time to do it. That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD. than when he left them for devotion in retirement. If I fail not. That he had no scruples. and therefore that he feared nothing. a fresh remembrance coming from GOD invested his soul. That of late he had acted thus. þ Perfect resignation the sure way. That when sometimes he had not thought of GOD for a good while. he had used it in his affairs. then I give GOD thanks. which he had enjoyed so long. were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state: so that he was careful for nothing and feared nothing. of this world. That he expected hereafter some great pain of body or mind. said he. with which everything became easy. That it was impossible. or for His sake. that he might perform all his actions for the love of GOD. FOURTH CONVERSATION The manner of going to God. That when he had attempted to do it. and that He would give him strength to bear whatever evil He permitted to happen to him. That perfect resignation to GOD was a sure way to heaven. acknowledging that it comes from Him. we ought to be faithful in doing our duty and denying ourselves. as in a clear mirror. that from the same experience. which when he had once well conceived. but faithfully to reject every other thought. and had no occasion to consult with anybody about his state. and was the reason why we see so little solid virtue. a way in which we had always sufficient light for our conduct. he had always come away more perplexed. and particular exercises. but after having acknowledged his wretchedness to GOD. but also that He should long let a soul suffer which is perfectly resigned to Him. by how much he found himself more wretched to have forgot Him. When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of GOD. but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him. and draws down great graces. He told me. I readily acknowledge it. That he had so often experienced the ready succours of Divine Grace upon all occasions. þ Sanctification in common business. while they neglect the love of GOD. þ Prayer and praise prevent discouragement. because they stick in penances. and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself. when I fail in my duty. That in the beginning of the spiritual life. That he was more united to GOD in his outward employments. þ The whole substance of religion. and resolved to endure everything for His sake. þ . THIRD CONVERSATION Faith working by love. that the foundation of the spiritual life in him had been a high notion and esteem of GOD in faith. not only that GOD should deceive. That many do not advance in the Christian progress. without anticipating care. he had no apprehension of danger.

and charity. He told me. That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. That GOD never failed offering us His grace at each action. yet hoped that GOD would give him somewhat to suffer. That we need only to recognize GOD intimately present with us. 10. That in this conversation with GOD. hope. That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of GOD. but that at last we should gain a habit. Eph. That we ought. and to our exceeding great delight. we should pray for His grace with a perfect confidence. and still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice of these three virtues. 6. to address ourselves to Him every moment. That. in the beginning. adoring. which we commonly do for our own. That we should not wonder if. that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful. He discoursed with me very frequently. That GOD always gave us light in our doubts. and never failed of it. [Gal. That it was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end. as relying upon the infinite merits of our LORD. that we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him. and with great openness of heart. vi. as we hope . which will naturally produce its acts in us. was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men. and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us. because he still continued with GOD. that he distinctly perceived it. That the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD. but the love with which it is performed. unless when his thoughts had wandered from a sense of GOD's Presence. when he should grow stronger. concerning his manner of going to GOD. without being discouraged on account of our sins. addicting themselves to certain works. in this life. by reason of their human or selfish regards. and giving Him thanks when we have done. that all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything which we are sensible does not lead to GOD. heartily to put our whole trust in GOD. we often failed in our endeavours. we are also employed in praising. and loving him incessantly. offering them to Him before we do them. and be swallowed up therein. his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past. praising and blessing Him with all his might. that we are as strictly obliged to adhere to GOD by action in the time of action. That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works. they are more easy to him who loves. but in doing that for GOD's sake. that we may arrive at our end.Self-estimation þ Further personal experience. i. That we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of GOD. with freedom and in simplicity. or he had forgot to ask His assistance. That the end we ought to propose to ourselves is to become. secure that He would not deceive us. he found no difference. for His infinite goodness and perfection. 5. which they performed very imperfectly. by the practice of which we become united to the will of GOD: that all beside is indifferent and to be used as a means. and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him. the most perfect worshippers of GOD we can possibly be. That the whole substance of religion was faith. that they are less difficult to him who hopes. without our care.] and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of GOD. by faith and charity. who regards not the greatness of the work. whereof some part is related already. so that he passed his life in continual joy. once for all. when we had no other design but to please Him. as by prayer in its season. That all things are possible to him who believes.

than by studied reasonings and elaborate meditations. in obedience to Thy commands. wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of GOD. That when he had thus in prayer filled his mind with great sentiments of that infinite Being. and cause perpetual vicissitudes in our health. since his first coming to the monastery. That when we enter upon the spiritual we should consider. he examined himself how he had discharged his duty. "O my GOD. and to impress deeply upon his heart. he spent all the intervals of his time. That in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours appointed for private prayer in thinking of GOD. oppositions and contradictions. That the greater perfection a soul aspires after. "does not with me differ from the time of prayer. he said to GOD. We ought. and possess all my affections. I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence. "The time of business. on the contrary. and continued his exercise of the presence of GOD. and such as do not deserve the name of Christians. I possess GOD in as great . in our internal and external dispositions: in fine. it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others. resolving to use his utmost endeavour to live in a continual sense of His Presence. with a filial trust in Him. the more dependent it is upon Divine grace. as could not but affect the beholders. if otherwise. but did each thing in its season. apply my mind to these outward things. if he found well. and in which they should terminate. never to forget Him more. as well before as after his work. we should not wonder that troubles. subject to all kinds of misery. and submission to the lights of faith. as things highly advantageous to us. as the mark to which they should tend. And it was observed. such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it. and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance. and I must now. while several persons are at the same time calling for different things. That. he returned thanks to GOD. When he had finished. he exercised himself in the knowledge and love of GOD. but his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose. receive all my works. and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen. and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love." said he. His very countenance was edifying. he had considered GOD as the end of all his thoughts and desires. the Divine existence. and. That by this short and sure method. he set his mind right again. he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. and when and how each thing was to be done. happen to us from men." As Bro. he asked pardon. And then we should find ourselves worthy of all contempt. which trouble us. as if he had never deviated from it. persons whom GOD would humble by many pains and labours. imploring His grace. I am come to a state. and bear them as long as GOD pleases. he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker. and examine to the bottom. and numberless accidents. temptations." said he. to submit ourselves to them. Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of GOD. as it was at first to accustom myself to it. He was never hasty nor loitering. if possible. as well within as without." As he proceeded in his work. "by rising after my falls. After this. in our humours. " be through all eternity. rather by devout sentiments. Being questioned by one of his own society (to whom he was obliged to open himself) by what means he had attained such an habitual sense of GOD? he told him that. that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen. in prayer. with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquillity of spirit. so as to convince his mind of. he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society). and without being discouraged. there having first considered severally the things his office required. when he began his business. what we are. and offering to Him all his actions. since Thou art with me.

which was nothing but how to become wholly GOD's. as the best satisfaction I could make for my sins. has been pleased to vouchsafe to me. if you please. and that successfully. to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins. Amen. and the presence of GOD is rendered as it were natural to us. and now I do it only upon the terms. that you show my letter to nobody. This was the reason why. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion. even in the height of my business. Give Him thanks. and set Him always before us. for the love of Him. I must tell you. In a conversation some days since with a person of piety. I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of GOD. and. and divers practices of the spiritual life. every hour. the graces we stand in need of. and doing anything that may displease Him. yet. of His mercy. by which one arrives at last at that blessed consummation. þ Deprecates this state being considered a delusion. are to be imputed to the mere mercy and goodness of GOD. and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer. because we can do nothing without Him. NOT finding my manner of life in books. for His great goodness towards me. and yet I continued it. SINCE you desire so earnestly that I should communicate to you the method by which I arrived at that habitual sense of GOD's Presence. for at all times. I found no small pain in this exercise. than facilitate what I sought after. which our LORD. and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world. The account I can give you is: Having found in many books different methods of going to GOD. although I have no difficulty about it. I made this my business. þ Faith alone consistently and persistently. a familiarity with GOD. for greater security. this not only hinders our offending Him. which begins with servile fear. and though I have done it very imperfectly. SECOND LETTER Difference between himself and others. notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred. yet I have found great advantages by it. I renounced. everything that was not He. If I knew that you would let it be seen. I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me. I took a resolution to give myself up to GOD. at my entrance into religion. by often repeating these acts.tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament. from I know not what instincts. On the contrary. I have not followed all these methods. at least wilfully. as my GOD: I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could. that each of these states had its different stages. for the many favours He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. I well know. for the . In fine. May all things praise Him. all the desire that I have for your advancement would not be able to determine me to it. I shall be glad to know your thoughts concerning it." LETTERS FIRST LETTER How the habitual sense of God's Presence was found. at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my FATHER. he told me the spiritual life was a life of grace. that it is with great difficulty that I am prevailed on by your importunities. Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge. with me. they become habitual. But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy Presence. This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to GOD. but it also begets in us a holy freedom. and I still less than any. keeping my mind in His holy Presence. and if I may so speak. which is increased by hope of eternal life. I found they discouraged me. which I can never sufficiently admire. wherewith we ask. every minute. and which is consummated by pure love. without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. These.

and who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. For the first years. I have no pain or difficulty about my state. my past sins always present to my mind. and therefore his mind was not to be satisfied but by the views of faith. or. that for the first ten years I suffered much: the apprehension that I was not devoted to GOD. silent. felt a profound inward peace. I abandon myself in His hands.] Such was my beginning. and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him. very far from chastising me. and my soul. reason. which till that time was in trouble. I consider myself as the most wretched of men. whom I considered always as with me. so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them. heaven. I commonly employed myself during the time set apart for devotion. because I have no will but that of GOD. and the great unmerited favours which GOD did me. And I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence. or from any other motive but purely that of love to Him. He will do with me what He pleases. and prevent their appearance to others. whom I behold as my King. I cannot express it. embraces me with love. and even in the midst of my business. It is thus I . and yet I must tell you. and to which I am so resigned. because he perceived them to be unworthy of GOD. were he matter and source of my sufferings. In short. yet I think it proper to inform you after what manner I consider myself before GOD. with humility and with love. that I may not be tedious to you. and sometimes also of Him. and treats me in all respects as His favourite. as I wished to be. wherein I keep myself by a simple attention. with the thoughts of death. that to believe I had received such favours was an effect of my presumption. and secret conversation of the soul with GOD. gives me the key of His treasures. and not as He can be conceived by human ideas. and a general fond regard to GOD. I have quitted all forms of devotion and set prayers but those to which my state obliges me. at other times that it was a wilful delusion. which I endeavour to accomplish in all things. This practice produced in me so high an esteem for GOD. as if she were in her centre and place of rest. which often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly. judgement. in a thousand and a thousand ways. At length I came insensibly to do the same thing during my set time of prayer. I hope that when I have done what I can. I pass over many things. Thus I continued some years applying my mind carefully the rest of the day. This King. that faith alone was capable to satisfy me in that point. It seemed to me that the creatures. When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these troubles (which did not at all diminish the trust I had in GOD. touched with a sensible regret I confess to Him all my wickedness. often as in me. serves me with His own hands. makes me eat at His table. and that there was no salvation for me. that my soul has been with GOD above these thirty years. I ask His forgiveness. full of mercy and goodness. As for what passes in me at present. He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly. which caused in me great delight and consolation. that I would not take up a straw from the ground against His order. to the presence of GOD. full of sores and corruption. as He is in Himself. to speak better. and rose again presently. which I may call an actual presence of GOD. in faith. During this time I fell often. an habitual. I was troubled sometimes with thoughts. to renounce all besides. that He may do what He pleases with me. [I suppose he means that all distinct notions he could form of GOD were unsatisfactory. which pretended to be at once where others arrive with difficulty. I found myself changed all at once. Ever since that time I walk before GOD simply. hell. and my sins. and GOD Himself were against me. I am assured beyond all doubt. which apprehends GOD as infinite and incomprehensible. and which served only to increase my faith). And faith alone for me.

and when you least expect it. as a stone before a carver. it belongs to GOD to remedy it. and make him enter into himself. WE have a GOD who is infinitely gracious. I admire also the fortitude and bravery of M. and would be a happy self-love. and it continues as it were suspended and firmly fixed in GOD. and such a general passionate regard to GOD. Let him then think of GOD the most he can. let him accustom himself. GOD has given him a good disposition. especially in the greatest dangers. Sometimes I consider myself there. it is very fit and most necessary for a soldier. He will come in His own time. to this small but holy exercise. if the soul in that state were capable of it. and nothing is easier than to repeat often in the day these little internal adorations. in the manner here directed. and knows all our wants. THIRD LETTER For a soldier friend whom he encourages to trust in God. and give thanks for all. by degrees. are nevertheless very acceptable to GOD. however. I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul. one act of inward worship. As for my set hours of prayer. because the soul which thus enjoys GOD desires herein nothing but Him. and render me entirely like Himself. while she is in this repose. when I apply myself to prayer. Recommend to him. and a good will. I always thought that He would reduce you to extremity. If sometimes my thoughts wander from it by necessity or infirmity. who is daily exposed to dangers of life. and far from lessening a soldier's courage in occasions of danger. Let Him do what He pleases with me: I desire only Him. Hope in Him more than ever: thank Him with me for the favours He does you. and to be wholly devoted Him. to which I always pay a great deference. Yet I cannot bear that this should be called delusion. If this be delusion in me. whereof he is to make a statue: presenting myself thus before GOD. and am yours in our Lord. oblige me in sending me your opinion. they arc only a continuation of the same exercise. because in effect. You will. I desire your reverence to reflect rather upon my great wretchedness. A little lifting up the heart suffices. and . as in its centre and place of rest. but would now rather hinder than assist her. to whom I find myself often attached with greater sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother's breast: so that if I dare use the expression. so charming and delicious that I am ashamed to mention them. I know that some charge this state with inactivity. she cannot be disturbed by such acts as she was formerly accustomed to. it is an accident very proper to engage him to put all his trust in Him. and which were then her support. I should choose to call this state the bosom of GOD. comfort yourself then with Him. and self-love: I confess that it is a holy inactivity. of which you are fully informed. however short. . I feel all my spirit and all my soul lift itself up without any care or effort of mine. My most usual method is this simple attention. nobody perceives it. all unworthy and ungrateful as I am. for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and experience there. than upon the great favours which GOD does me. particularly for the fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions: it is a plain mark of the care He takes of you. and a great deal of youth. that he think of GOD the most he can. are prayers which. though upon a march. if you please. and sword in hand. who accompanies him everywhere: let him think of Him the oftenest he can. delusion. but there is in him still a little of the world. I am presently recalled by inward motions. they best serve to fortify it. a little remembrance of GOD. At other times. I hope the affliction which GOD has sent him will prove a wholesome remedy to him.consider myself from time to time in His holy presence. for I have a singular esteem for your reverence.

and stop the current of His graces. our souls are at stake. My GOD. and sometimes so great. and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. here I am all devoted to Thee: LORD. Blind as we are. and because He deserves infinitely more. Yes. and may take what he pleases of it. And then it seems to him (as in effect he feels it) that this GOD of love. his soul has been filled with joys so continual. and He will quickly calm the sea. say nothing. satisfied with such few words. make me according to Thy heart. I HAVE taken this opportunity to communicate to you the sentiments of one of our society concerning the admirable effects and continual assistances which he receives from the presence of GOD. If sometimes he is a little too much absent from that Divine presence. to whom I present my service. who reposes in it. and think nothing which may displease Him. either by an elevation of his heart towards GOD. For about thirty years. always work at it. that he is forced to use means to moderate them. or by such words as love forms upon these occasions.often of his salvation. I say again. If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms. which. Let you and me both profit by them. we often stop this torrent. while he continually finds in himself so great a treasure: he is no longer in an anxious search after it. and this without any other view than purely for the love of Him. FOURTH LETTER Writes of himself as of a third person. we hinder GOD. upon any account whatever. as for instance. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith. for perhaps we have but little left. for we die but once. The time presses: there is no room for delay. spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance. let us awake the LORD. GOD presently makes Himself to be felt in his soul to recall him. You must know. He pours into it His graces and favours plentifully. death follows us close. and a miscarriage there is irretrievable. I have taken the liberty to impart to you these good sentiments. let us enter into ourselves. and to do nothing. let us redeem the lost time. But let us stop it no more: let us enter into ourselves and break down the bank which hinders it. and to hinder their appearing outwardly. and encourages his correspondent to press on to fuller practising of the Presence of God. that he receives from it continual succours upon all occasions. after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course. But those who have the gale of the HOLY SPIRIT go forward even in sleep. I hope that GOD will assist him and all the family. He complains much of our blindness. is to go back. and we take up with a little sensible devotion which passes in a moment. nevertheless. because not to advance. or by a meek and fond regard to Him. there they flow like a torrent. his continual care has been. when it has found a passage. it is the one thing necessary: we must. in the spiritual life. has infinite treasure to bestow. Judge by this what content and satisfaction he enjoys. for above forty years past that he has spent in religion. I believe you have taken such effectual measures. let us be well prepared for it. which often happens when he is most engaged in his outward business: he answers with exact fidelity to these inward drawings. but has it open before him. and renders him incapable of doubting it. GOD. to be always with GOD. by the little value we set upon it. I commend you for it. and rests in the depth and centre of his soul. saith he. that you will not be surprised. being theirs and yours. reposes again. He is now so accustomed to that Divine presence. Let us make way for grace. that . The experience of these things gives him such an assurance that GOD is always in the depth or bottom of his soul.

Were I a preacher. I will assist you with my prayers. deprived for the love of Him. it is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise. pray do not disappoint her. and so easy too. if by misfortune (which GOD forbid. and yours in particular. of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful: for GOD will not permit that a soul which desires to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with Him. þ Encouragement to persevere. and because GOD would have us. but let us do it from a principle of love. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can. This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is. I should advise all the world to do it: so necessary do I think it. þ. a subject which. no. make immediately a holy and firm resolution never more wilfully to forget Him.the things which you gave her for me. unless it be left vacant to Him. and if you do it as you ought. and do in it what He pleases. I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of GOD. but the least turning from Him is insupportable. because GOD will possess the heart alone. be assured that you will soon find the effects of it. it is better late than never. that is more than reasonable. for it would be indeed a great misfortune) they should be. than that of a continual conversation with GOD: those only can comprehend it who practise and experience it. in my opinion. Set heartily about this work. Believe me. There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful. contains the whole spiritual life. Ah! knew we but the want we have of the grace and assistance of GOD. who is little known of the world. and those of your holy society. proper to deprive it sometimes. Let us then both recall our first fervours. though never so little. if He thinks fit. and it seems to me that whoever duly practises it will soon become spiritual. yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. cooled. poor as they are: I recommend myself earnestly to yours. of all consolations. and to whom he again enlarges on his favourite topic. I will send you one of those books which treat of the presence of GOD. . and as He cannot possess it alone. and which you must have received. the heart must be empty of all other things. and with a firm resolution to be wholly devoted to Him. SIXTH LETTER To a member of the order who had received from him a book. and to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence. I RECEIVED this day two books and a letter from Sister. who is preparing to make her profession. I will pray for you. and upon that account desires the prayers of your holy society. without emptying it of all besides. I wonder that you have not given me your thoughts of the little book I sent to you. but known of GOD. so neither can He act may compare them with your own: they will serve again to kindle and inflame them. I should above all other things preach the practice of the presence of GOD. I perceive that she reckons much upon them. do you pray instantly for me. Pray set heartily about the practice of it in your old age. FIFTH LETTER Prayer for a sister who is about to make a vow and profession. Beg of GOD that she may make her sacrifice in the view of His love alone. who am yours in our LORD. I know that for the right practice of it. I HAVE received from Mrs. Let us profit by the example and the sentiments of this brother. however. and extremely caressed by Him. þ A fresh insisting upon the necessity and virtue of practising the Presence of God. nay often. we should never lose sight of Him. not for a moment. and while I am so with Him I fear nothing. and were I a director.

and yours in particular. necessary to put our whole trust in GOD. I am yours in our LORD. recalling our mind to GOD mildly and with tranquillity. and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favours He has given you. and carry them to GOD. Have courage. to converse with Him in meekness. a cruel punishment to us. and love. and resolve to persevere in it to death. however. May He be blessed for all. When the mind. yet such as one often engages in unreasonably: because those devotions are only means to attain to the end. though very good in themselves. Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from nature. a little adoration: sometimes to pray for His grace. without trouble or disquiet. Let us begin then. Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him. and still gives you. you must do yourself violence. has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation. who is sixty-four. a little remembrance of Him from time to time. but you must go on. and that I am their servant. YOU tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts. or thanksgiving. persevering in His holy presence: one while by an act of praise. sometimes even at your meals. laying aside all other cares. No. notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur. but we may continue with Him our commerce of love.of my poor prayers. Amen. some more. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with GOD. but act with a general confidence in GOD. one while by an act of resignation. she must recall them. and in all the manner which our spirit can invent.I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves. to live and die with God and promises and asks for prayer. and even some particular forms of devotion. or of desire. as their last end. and spend the remainder of your life only in worshipping GOD. for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection. He is nearer to us than we are aware of. and commonly . we must do our business faithfully. and I am almost eighty. to offer Him your heart from time to time. or particular forms of devotion. Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules. some less: He knows what we can do. He requires no great matters of us. It is not necessary for being with GOD to be always at church. I recommend myself to the prayers of your holy society. At the first. so when by this exercise of the presence of GOD we are with Him who is our end. even every moment if you can. of adoration. SEVENTH LETTER At the age of nearly fourscore exhorts his correspondent. but as the will is mistress of all our faculties. and yours particularly. You need not cry very loud. You may assure þ. I PITY you much. as often as we find it wandering from Him. at our first engaging in devotion. EIGHTH LETTER Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer. you are near sixty-four. with love and humility. sometimes to offer Him your sufferings. and when you are in company: the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. in the midst of your business. and to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can. while we are with Him: and the greatest pleasures will be. It will be of great importance if you can leave the care of your affairs to. to beg His grace. it is then useless to return to the means. humility. It is. perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on our part. We have but little time to live. we must serve GOD in a holy freedom. wherein to retire from time to time. Lift up your heart to Him. Let us live and die with GOD: sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us. they are difficult to overcome. Our mind is extremely roving. we may make an oratory of our heart. without Him. in the midst of your troubles. one often thinks it lost time.

trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind. We must know before we can love. than to re-collect it. NINTH LETTER Enclosing a letter to a corresponding sister. þ The . upon the ill use I have made of them. THE enclosed is an answer to that which I received from þ . and yet more by our good examples. of the advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of GOD: let us set about it seriously and pray for one another. who is always ready to receive us affectionately. but sacrifices his will. This is an argument which well deserves your consideration.e. even against our wills. Let us put all our trust in Him: I doubt not but we shall soon find the effects of it. if you persevere in this manner..draw us. and to humble ourselves before GOD. to the things of the earth. me. and as I use no other. for our heart will be with our treasure. One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer. for the love of Him. in receiving the abundance of His grace. If it sometimes wander. I advise all the world to it. the will must bring it back in tranquillity. and preserve it more in tranquillity. He deserves infinitely more. is not to let it wander too far at other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of GOD. and when we come to love Him. without the actual and continual help of GOD. and on the other. you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer. TENTH LETTER Has difficulty. We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life. Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please GOD. I have told you already at large. many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering: hold yourself in prayer before GOD. when I reflect on the one hand upon the great favours which GOD has done. pray deliver it to her. In order to know GOD. I believe one remedy for this is. in my former letters. let us then pray to Him for it continually. we must often think of Him. who by His mercy has called us to this state and for that very end? I am filled with shame and confusion. and being accustomed to think of Him often. let us begin in earnest. we shall then also think of Him often. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer. that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. and without which we can do nothing but sin. and withdraw itself from Him. a monastic life]. but she would go faster than grace. for this is the best and easiest method I know. and my small advancement in the way of perfection. You will oblige me to let me hear of her from time to time. or at least to recall it from its wanderings. Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time. let us return with a full assurance to that FATHER of mercies. I recommend her to you: we ought to help one another by our advice. She seems to me full of good will. How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often? And how can we often think of Him. with which we can do all things. þ His old theme concisely put. all that is not Himself. like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate: let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the LORD. do not much disquiet yourself for that. and incessantly continues to do. let us repair the lost time. Let us think of Him perpetually. but by a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing: it is true. One does not become holy all at once. Have we employed them in loving and serving GOD. Let us renounce. You and I have lived above forty years in religion [i. to write as requested. let us generously renounce. whom he regards with respect tinged with fear. and whether she be very fervent and very obedient. to confess our faults. GOD will have pity on you.

Pray remember what I have recommended to you. Whatever remedies you make use of. and not as a favour from GOD. according to my apprehension. I HAVE had a good deal of difficulty to bring myself to write to M. He disposes of hearts as He pleases. ELEVENTH LETTER To one who is in great pain. as the effects of His mercy. this is the glorious employment of a Christian. adore Him continually live and die with Him. in your business. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross: He will loose you when He thinks fit. I DO not pray that you may be delivered from your pains. The men of the world do not comprehend these truths. and such as nothing could moderate. Put then all your trust in Him. I envy you. but I pray GOD earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Perhaps M. and not like Christians: they consider sickness as a pain to nature. leave Him not alone. YOU have reason: but think you that it would be a small pain to the greatest criminal in the world. by night. but think on Him often. who will never fail us in this world nor in the next. I am very well pleased with the trust which you have in GOD: I wish that He may increase it in you more and more: we cannot have too much in so good and faithful a Friend. We ought to love our friends. commonly find in it great sweetness and sensible consolation.loss of a friend may lead to acquaintance with the Friend. as well as the uncertainty of my pardon. þ was too much attached to him he has lost. which we often retard. which must be the principal. and be served by him. to eat at the king's table. if we do not know it we must learn it. Pray write the directions and send it to him. and seeing it only in that light. and puts all his confidence in GOD. and seek from Him the strength to endure as much. and notwithstanding such favours to be without assurance of pardon? I believe he would feel exceeding great uneasiness. by putting greater confidence in physic than in GOD. by day. So I assure you. nor is it to be wondered at. He is always near you and with you. which is. they find nothing in it but grief and distress. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone. in a word. for. to cure those of the soul. and as long. Pains and suffering would be a paradise . that I eat and drink at the table of the LORD. Be satisfied with the condition in which GOD places you: however happy you may think me. þ . He only can cure them. yet my sins. He will soon give him another friend. and even in your diversions. þ makes his advantage of the loss he has had. Happy those who suffer with Him: accustom yourself to suffer in that manner. who came to visit you: why then must GOD be neglected? Do not then forget Him. as He shall judge to be necessary for you. and am yours in our LORD. Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician both of soul and body. He often sends diseases of the body. I foresee that you will tell me that I am very much at my ease. and I do it now purely because you and Madam desire me. and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery. but without encroaching upon the love of GOD. that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my King. this is our profession. Rely upon no other Physician. but only his trust in the goodness of his sovereign. I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us and more effectually present with us. When pains come from GOD. torment me. If M. He reserves your cure to Himself. I will endeavour to help you with my prayers. and the means which He employs for their salvation. in sickness than in health. since they suffer like what they are. they will succeed only so far as He permits. to think often on GOD. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD. though in truth that torment itself is pleasing. more powerful and more inclined to serve him. þ Feels that he would gladly suffer at His wish. God is the Physician of body and of soul. ever present before my eyes.

offer Him your pains incessantly. I beseech you. and sweet to those that love Him. and your malady still increases. I shall endeavour to assist you with my poor prayers. that I can scarce contain them. it will not be tempting GOD to abandon yourself in His hands. not deliverance from your pains. I will live and die with Him. and forget Him the least you can. GOD often permits that we should suffer a little. but most acceptable to GOD. all bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby. As your case is. but I see. indeed. physic has hitherto proved unsuccessful. ought to be our support. Continue then always with GOD: "tis the only support and comfort for your affliction. and. one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. that if He left me one moment to myself. IF we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of GOD. Love sweetens pains. and the foundation of our confidence. that He never forsakes us. I feel what faith teaches us. which is so great. GOD has many ways of drawing us to Himself. offer yourself to Him from time to time. Let us live and die in His presence. and as long as He shall please. pray to Him for strength to endure them. till we have first forsaken Him. and when one loves GOD. for body and soul. who deserve the severest discipline. all my consolation would be to suffer something for His sake. feel joys so continual. Do you pray for me. TWELFTH LETTER To the same correspondent probably. and resign yourself entirely to the providence of GOD. that He sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers of the soul. and so great. I believe no more. I would willingly ask of GOD a part of your me. And yet I know not how He can leave me alone. Have courage then: make a virtue of necessity: ask of GOD. which will not fail us in time of need. comfort yourself with Him. I know not how GOD will dispose of me: I am always happy: all the world suffer. . Such prayers. He is the FATHER of the afflicted. Adore Him in your infirmities. Let us be always with Him. which must be all in GOD. "tis my opinion that you should leave off human remedies. I should be the most wretched man alive. I must. and oblige us to continue with Him. but strength to bear resolutely. if I could relish them without Him. and I see Him in such a manner as might make me say sometimes. in my last. that I now see Him by faith. for the love of Him. and you will bear them more easily. I AM in pain to see you suffer so long. to purify our souls. I shall beseech Him to be with you. He sometimes hides Himself from us: but faith alone. in a little time. who is the only Physician of all our maladies. while I should suffer with my GOD. perhaps He stays only for that resignation and a perfect trust in Him to cure you. get a habit of entertaining yourself often with GOD. Take courage. what gives me some ease. Let us fear to leave Him. and expect all from Him. and I. all that He should please. Do you so. beseech Him humbly and affectionately (as a child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. because faith gives me as strong a conviction as sense can do. in that assurance and that practice of faith. as I for you. What comforts me in this life is. go to GOD. and expresses his own abiding comfort through faith. I told you. but that I know my weakness. and. is that they are proofs of GOD's love towards you: see them in that view. Since notwithstanding all your cares. I present my service. THIRTEENTH LETTER To the same he exhorts for fuller and entire confidence in God. in the height of your sufferings. and sweetens the feeling I have of your griefs. are a little hard to nature. Above all. and the greatest pleasure would be hell to me.

and become even matter of consolation. humility. the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures. always. we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I have been often near expiring. Beg this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts. yours in our LORD. and I answer for it that He will open to you in His due time. Are we not rude and deserve blame. Knock. how sweet is it to suffer with GOD! however great the sufferings may be. Such favours. so that if in this life we would enjoy the peace of paradise. to busy ourselves about trifles. which He never refuses to them who ask it earnestly. When our minds are thus employed about GOD.] Appendix A . Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. if we leave Him alone. who abases and distresses us: our sufferings will lose their bitterness. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine: love Him then. I RENDER thanks to our LORD. but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage.The electronic edition. Adieu. Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him. cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in one simple act. the more one desires to know Him. Adieu. for mercies to his correspondent. nor say. and grant you all at once what He has deferred during many years. for having relieved you a little. we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter. Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts. for we must act purely in faith. but when we see them in the wrong light. persevere in knocking. the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be. that we may love. that we may not do. according to your desire. though I was never so much satisfied as then. þ Repeats the same exhortation to knowledge. Accordingly I did not pray for any relief. we know also that we can do all things with the grace of GOD. suffering will become full of unction and consolation. affectionate conversation with Him: we must hinder our spirits wandering from Him upon any occasion: we must make our heart a spiritual temple. If we knew how much He loves us. we must accustom ourselves to a familiar. I know that to arrive at this state. Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. as I pray to Him for you.always ready to help us. He would possess them alone. I hope to see Him quickly. But though it is difficult. which do not please Him and perhaps offend Him? 'Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear. and seek not consolation elsewhere: I hope you will soon receive it. and love. Let us pray for one another. but with consolation in his suffering. FOURTEENTH LETTER Gratitude. receive them with love. [He took to his bed two days after and died within the week. GOD knoweth best what is needful for us. . poor as they are. humble. nor think anything that may displease Him. the beginning is very difficult. "Tis paradise to suffer and be with Him. I cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. Ah. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable. FIFTEENTH LETTER From his death-bed. and all that He does is for our good. seek Him not elsewhere. all would please that came from Him. I will help you with my prayers. and shall be. When we see them in the hand of GOD. and measure of relief while he has himself been near death. Pray to Him for me. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us. wherein to adore Him incessantly: we must watch continually over ourselves. though never so great. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love. I hope from His mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. who dispenses them: when we know that it is our loving FATHER.

uk mail: 24 beaconsfield rd. Bristol. It would appear from internal evidence to have been first published between 1670 and. end of book: THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD THE BEST RULE OF A HOLY LIFE .compulink. call voice first) 27th January 1994.It is a privilege to release this Public Domain edition of Brother Lawrence's Practice. I label this release John Harris e-mail: harris@cix. uk tel: +44 272 738386 (fax same number. Edgar Charles Barton was Book Steward of the Epworth Press from the time of the Methodist Union of 1932 until bs8 2ts. request that all distributed copies bear the name BLPPOG10. 1700. which gives the limits within which the edition came out. England. and to facilitate ARCHIE location. The text given here is taken from a 16vo paperback pamphlet of unknown date. say. bristol. though I fear I know very little about it. In order to distinguish this version from a subsequent corrected copy.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful