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“They indeed may sound forth words, but they cannot give the Spirit.

"Most beautifully do they speak, but if thou be silent, they inflame not the heart.

They teach the letter, but thou openest the sense ; they bring forth mysteries, but thou unlockest the meaning of sealed things.

“They declare thy commandments, but thou helpest us to fulfil them.

They point out the way, but thou givest strength to walk in it.

“They work outwardly only, but thou instructest and enlightenest the heart.

"They water, but thou givest the increase. They cry aloud in words, but thou impartest understanding.

"Let not Moses speak unto me, but thou, O Lord, my God, the Everlasting Truth; lest I die and prove unfruitful, if I be only warned outwardly and not inflamed within.

"Lest it turn to my condemnation-the Word heard and not fulfilled, known and not loved, believed and not observed.

Speak, therefore, Lord, for thy servant heareth ; for thou hast the words of eternal life.

"Speak thou unto me, to the comfort, however imperfect, of my soul, and to the amendment of my whole life, and to thy praise and glory and honour everlasting.” (iii. 2.)

The Imitation, we remember, was written more especially for those who had made religion their vocation ; and so, with a prayer written for their use, we may fittingly conclude : “O Almighty God do thou assist us with thy grace, that we who have undertaken the office of the ministry may be able to wait on thee worthily and devoutly in all purity and with a good conscience. And if we cannot walk in such innocency of life as we ought to do, grant to us at least worthily to lament the sins which we have committed, and, in the spirit of humility and the purpose of a good will, to serve thee more earnestly for the time to come.” (iv. 11.)




ST. FRANCIS DE SALES was born at Annecy, about 22 miles from Geneva, in 1567, and died in 1622. He belonged to an old family of wealth and consideration in the neighbourhood, and the family had remained loyal to the Catholic Church when most of the population around had turned Protestant at the Reformation. At the end of his school days, he was sent to Paris for a course of study which lasted about seven years; and from there he went to Padua to learn law, as his father intended him for the legal profession. He was four years at Padua, and on his return home he found that he had been appointed Advocate to the Senate of Savoy. But his real interests had all along been in religion, and at length he wrung from his father a reluctant consent to his devoting himself to the vocation on which his heart was set. In 1593 he was made Provost of the Chapter of the Cathedral at Geneva. Soon by his preaching, and the charm of his personality, and the consecration of his life, his influence began to be felt. He had already made some notable conversions from the Calvinism of which Geneva was the headquarters, when, in 1594, he undertook what seemed to others a forlorn hope-a mission to win back the Chablais district to the Catholic allegiance. With only one companion, his cousin, he set out and reached Thonon, the principal town of the Chablais, and began to preach, and, when he found that the people would not come to hear him, he distributed leaflets. According to his Catholic biographers, the enterprise was a very dangerous one, and various attempts on his life are said to have been made. But even if we cannot believe all that is told of the wickedness of the Calvinists in their endeavour to frustrate and suppress his mission, we can well understand that they made the work as difficult for him as possible. The success which in two or three years crowned his efforts owed much no doubt to the sympathy and support of the Duke of Savoy, in whose territory the Chablais was now included, and at whose instigation indeed the mission had been undertaken. But, as Charles Beard said in the chapter on St. Francis de Sales in his Port Royal, “ Spiritual effects are produced only by spiritual means, and there can be no doubt that the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries mark the epoch of a great spiritual awakening of religious life in Catholic Europe.” The work of St. Francis de Sales was one of the evidences of that awakening, which had already, before his time, shown itself in the establishment of the Society of Jesus and of other agencies for the recovery of the ground which the Church had lost at the Reformation. His missionary labours were carried on with the utmost zeal and self-forgetfulness. To friends who told him that he ought to spare himself, or he would wear himself out, he replied, “ It is not necessary that I should live, but it is necessary that the Church should be served." Forty-three years after his death he was canonised, and in the papal bull authorising his canonization, it is stated that he had converted 72,000 Protestants. But that, if true, would be an achievement of doubtful value ; and at any rate it is not upon it that I would rest his claim on your attention now. It is as the author of a famous devotional work, the Introduction to the Devout Life, and of the subject of one of the finest religious biographies, The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, that he comes within the range of our present studies.

We naturally like to know how a book which we value came into being; and we are not left uninformed as to the circumstances in which the Introduction to the Devout Life was written.

It has been said that people now-a-days are not concerning themselves about their souls; and that may or may not be a good sign, according to what is meant by it. But back in the early part of the seventeenth century, people were very much concerned about their souls. There was a widespread desire to cultivate the inner life, this being especially the case in the higher ranks of society. “Perhaps its most characteristic outcome was the rise of professed Directors of Conscience -divines who specialised in spiritual ailments; they stood to ordinary confessors much as a consulting physician stands to a general practitioner. No doubt their rise was not an altogether healthy sign, and a director often aggravated the ills he was sent to cure. He became the natural target for all the morbid scrupulosity and self-analysis which idle and luxurious lives produce... But the prominence of Direction was a strong acknowledgement of the need of personal religion."

Among those who were most deeply impressed by the preaching of Francis de Sales was a lady, Madame de

1 Cambridge Modern History, Vol. v. p. 79.

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