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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bs8 It would appear from internal evidence to have been first published between 1670 and. request that all distributed copies bear the name BLPPOG10. Bristol. I label this release 1. The text given here is taken from a 16vo paperback pamphlet of unknown date.0.compulink. which gives the limits within which the edition came out. and to facilitate ARCHIE location. say. mail: 24 beaconsfield rd. bristol. end of book: THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD THE BEST RULE OF A HOLY LIFE .xxx John Harris e-mail: harris@cix. Edgar Charles Barton was Book Steward of the Epworth Press from the time of the Methodist Union of 1932 until 1948. call voice first) 27th January 1994. uk tel: +44 272 738386 (fax same number.It is a privilege to release this Public Domain edition of Brother Lawrence's Practice. 1700. though I fear I know very little about it. In order to distinguish this version from a subsequent corrected copy.

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