Imitation of the Sacred Heart:
CHAPTER XVII. HOW DECEITFUL THE WORLD IS
1. The voice of Jesus.-----My Child, the whole world is made up of deceits, and by its arts and wiles, it allures to itself the unwary.
It holds out to man pleasures, honors, and riches; and says, all these things will I give to thee, if thou serve me.
But attend thou, not to what it promises, but to what it gives.
Through the deceitful hope of pleasant things, it brings its votaries beneath the cruel tyranny of the passions, and thence leads them to the ceaseless tortures of the stings of conscience.
Didst thou ever find a worldling, even the most fortunate, whose heart was every way satisfied?
Neither shalt thou find such a one, even if thou searchest the whole earth.
The world, indeed, promises good things; but, in reality, it bestows true evils only; because what it gives, makes man wicked, and hinders him, by no means, from being truly unhappy.
2. The voice of the Disciple.-----Yet, O Lord, worldlings frequently obtain possession of those things which they covet; and, therefore, they care little for the spiritual distresses of the heart.
The voice of Jesus.-----Even so, My Child: grant that they abound in whatever things they may lust after in this world; as they possess them with an inordinate affection, and misuse them, they enjoy them not, except for their present and future unhappiness.
Besides, they appear, indeed, not to care for the interior tortures of the soul; but, My Child, if thou couldst look, as I do, into their hearts, thou shouldst see how many things they suffer within, which they endeavor to hide outwardly, and thou wouldst conclude that the happiness of man consists, not in having an abundance of the things of this world, but rather herein, that he keeps his heart free from every worldly object, and calmly and permanently satisfied in Me.
Moreover, how long shall these things of worldlings last? Behold! yet a little while, and eternity shall summon them to appear. What then shall the plentifulness of delights and other things avail them? They shall leave the world, taking with them nothing, except the load of their sins.
Wouldst thou, then, be willing, for the misuse of the things of time, to lose the use of those of eternity? or, for the false possessions of earth, to forfeit the true riches of Heaven?
3. My Child, if thou cleavest to the world, thou ceasest, in fact, to be a Christian, and thou foregoest the possession of all the privileges which belong to that noble name.
For, at thy new birth, in the waters of Baptism, thou didst, by a solemn promise made before Heaven and earth, renounce the world and its wickedness; nor would I, without that promise, have adopted thee as My Child.
If, after this, thou goest again over to the party of the world, thou art not only faithless, but even worse than the heathen, who made no such promise. For it is better not to promise than not to make good what is promised.
4. Ask the departed, what they think of the world. The Elect will answer, that their happiness began from the time they learnt to despise the things of earth: and the reprobate will reply, that they were deceived and ruined by the world.
Thyself, My Child, shalt, one day, think and experience concerning the world, the one or the other of these things.
Be timely wise, My Child, lest hereafter thou feel sorrow to no purpose: follow the footprints of the Saints, by withdrawing thy heart from the world, and keeping thy affections from its contagion.
5. Use the things of this world, as if thou didst not use them; and, whilst thou treadest the earth with thy foot, have thy heart in Heaven.
The more thou shalt withdraw thyself from creatures, the nearer shalt thou come to the Creator; and the more proper shalt thou be to receive Divine gifts.
If thy heart be wholly disengaged from the world, so far from being hurtful to thee, the world itself will be, in many ways, subservient to thy interests.
O, how base the whole world would grow in thy sight, if thou didst truly consider, what awaits thee in eternity!
6. The voice of the Disciple.-----Truly O Lord, the world is a deceiver. Such have I experienced it to be, to my own loss.
When it offered me its own favors, madman that I was, I believed that thereby I should be happy.
But Oh! how greatly was I deceived! how truly wretched was I, even when, giddy with worldly love, I fancied myself most happy!
The animal man within me made me imagine that I was happy, whilst I was feeding on the husks, which the world threw before me: and in spite of myself, I groaned full often beneath the degradation of my slavery, beneath the burden of my heart's misery.
I fully acknowledge now, that I was myself the author of my own unhappiness; and that I can, with justice, blame no one except myself.
Because I was unwilling to serve Thee with joy and gladness of heart, amid the abundance of all things, I became a slave to Thy enemy and to mine,-----served him in hunger, and thirst, and every want, in so far even, that I delighted to fill myself with the food of the vilest animals.
7. Would, O Lord, that I could blot out from the number of my years, those during which, estranged from Thee, I served the world!
What fruit do I now reap from them, except bitterness, stings of conscience, anguish of heart, sins to be atoned for, either in this life by sorrow, or to be bewailed in vain in the next?
Be gracious to me, O my Saviour! and forgive me all my offenses, which I committed by following the world, and which I now detest from my innermost heart.
Suffer no more, I entreat Thee, that my heart cling again to aught-----even the least object-----of this wicked world: withdraw it wholly, with all its affections, from the false tinseling of earth, which contains naught except deceit, emptiness, and affliction of heart.