EMBER-WEDNESDAY, FIRST WEEK IN LENT
ON A FURTHER EXAMINATION OF THE SOUL
Consider first, that we must also examine the state of our souls as to hidden sins, as to such sins as we may be guilty of in others; for in these kinds, many are guilty of great disorders, while they flatter themselves that all goes well with them. Few indeed are ignorant of their carnal sins; though even in these sometimes persons deceive themselves, but very many take little or no notice of their spiritual sins, which are more interior; and though less infamous in the eyes of men, are more heinous in the sight of God; see then thou examine thyself thoroughly upon these heads; for spiritual sins are commonly very subtle, and not easily discerned, without a diligent search. Nay sometimes such as are the most guilty, will not believe themselves guilty of them. These spiritual sins are of one of these five kinds, viz,, pride, covetousness, envy, secret malice, and spiritual sloth. Look into them one by one, and if thy self love will suffer thee to be impartial in thy search, in all probability thou wilt find thyself more guilty than thou art aware of.
Consider 2ndly, in particular, how full thou art of thyself; how fond of every thing that flatters thee; how presumptuous of thy own sufficiency; how apt to compare thyself with others in thy thoughts, and to give thyself the preference; how apt to despise others; how unwilling to suffer any reproof or contradiction; how ready to swell with indignation upon every trifling opposition or contempt; how apt to break out into a storm upon every supposed affront; how much concerned at what the world will think or say of thy performances; how much more solicitous for thy worldly honour than for the glory of God. And what is all this but an unhappy pride, which is laying waste thy soul, and corrupting its very vitals, whilst thou art not sensible of it. See also, as to covetousness, whether the love of the mammon of the world does not reign in thy heart. Alas! the greatest miser does nor think himself covetous; but the tree is to be known by its fruit – such as an anxious care and a perpetual solicitude about the things of the world; and upon this account neglecting prayer and other spiritual duties, or being continually distracted in them; thinking more of thy money than of thy God; locking up thy heart in thy chest; losing thy peace upon every loss or disappointment; and a strange unwillingness to part with thy money, even when the honour of God, or thy neighbour’s necessities call for it. See if nothing of this be thy case. See if thou art not more afraid of losing thy worldly substance than thy God. If so, thou art not in the way to heaven.
Consider 3rdly, as to the other spiritual sins, whether there be no person for whom thou hast a secret envy? No one whose praises, whose endowments, corporal or spiritual, whose virtues or performances, make thee uneasy, and gnaw thy soul, as if their advantages were a lessening to the honour, praise, and esteem which thou affectest. O how common is this mortal crime, and how many detractions and other evils does it produce! and yet how many take very little notice of it! Is it not thy case? Then as to secret malice, rancour, and hatred how dost thou stand affected? Look well into thyself; for here again we are too apt to deceive ourselves; but we must judge of the tree by its fruits, that is, by our way of thinking, speaking, and acting with relation to our supposed enemies. Now, there is so very wide a difference between the fruits of charity and those of malice, between love and hatred, that if we are sincere in our examination we cannot well be deceived therein. And as to spiritual sloth, which is a clog upon the soul, infinitely opposite to the love of God, to the spirit of prayer, to a due care in frequenting the sacraments and other duties; is not this also a most common evil, which frequently amounts to a mortal sin and yet how seldom do lukewarm souls take notice of it.
Conclude upon declaring an eternal war against all these vices, and particularly against that which thou hast reason to apprehend is thy predominant passion, that is to say, the chiefest and most dangerous of all thy enemies.