On the Advantages of the Exercise of Presence of God
Consider first, that as the forgetting of God is the source of all sins, so the remembrance of his divine presence is the source of all our good - 'tis of infinite advantage both to sinners and to saints; it is a sovereign and universal remedy for overcoming all sorts of temptations, by its placing the soul near the source of all light and grace, and hiding her as it were under the divine wings; and it is putting at the same time a most powerful and effectual restraint upon her from daring to offend that tremendous majesty. For who shall dare by sin to commit high treason against God who sees God before him, and himself surrounded with God? Or who shall dare to affront the divine justice who has a lively sense of its being so very near him, and that it stands always turned against wilful sinners? O, 'tis true that the consideration of the eye of God being always upon us has obliged the most abandoned sinners to put a stop at once to their wicked ways, and to betake themselves to a life of penance. It was the case of the famous Thais, who, upon this consideration, suddenly determined to quit both her sins and the world, and to withdraw herself into the remotest parts of the desert, where, shut up in a lonesome cell, she spent the remainder of her days in weeping and doing penance for her sins.
Consider 2ndly, that a lively sense of the presence of God excites us also to perform all our works with due perfection, in order to please him, whose eye is always upon us; as the master's eye makes the servant more diligent. It helps to purity our intention in all things by drawing it to God. It cures our lukewarmness; it dissipates our distractions; it teaches us to pray; it makes us fervent in all our addresses to the divine majesty; it keeps us humble on all occasions, and perfectly annihilates the soul, seeing herself placed so near to so great a God. And as the soul that has a due sense of the presence of God knows that wheresoever he is he has all his attributes with him - his almighty power, his infinite wisdom, goodness, and mercy, his perpetual providence and loving kindness for his children, together with all the treasures of his divine grace: such a soul as this finds in the thoughts of God's presence a source of unspeakable comfort in all her tribulations, of counsel in all her doubts, of succour in all her necessities, and a continual attraction to the love of him. O how easy must it be to a saint with such helps as these. Now all these graces and more are laid up for thee, my soul, if thou wilt duly exercise thyself in the presence of God.
Consider 3rdly, the practical inferences we ought to make from our faith of the presence of God; that is, what we are bound to do in consequence of our believing that God is everywhere with us, and in us: 1. God's being everywhere requires of us that we should everywhere take notice of his presence. For can there be an object more worthy of our attention? And will he not then be justly offended if, while we amuse ourselves about every trifle that comes in our way, we let our God, the sovereign beauty and the sovereign good, pass unregarded? 2. God being everywhere present requires of us both a modest comportment on all occasions as to our exterior: 'Let your modesty,' says St. Paul, (Philip. iv. 5,) 'be known to all men, the Lord is nigh;' and a most profound respect as to our interior, considering that infinite majesty in whose sight we stand. 3. God being everywhere present, everywhere requires our love; for wherever we are we have him with us, who is infinitely lovely and infinitely loving; infinitely good in himself and infinitely good to us; and therefore, wherever we are he challenges our love. O turn thyself then, my soul, from all these earthly toys to this thy sovereign good, which is so near to thee; run to his embraces and dedicate thyself entirely to his divine love.
Conclude never to regret thy being alone since thou hast always in thy company that great God, the sight and enjoyment of whom is the eternal felicity of the angels. No company can be more honourable, none more advantageous, since thou hast here the inexhausted source of all good. His conversation is most delightful; the sweetest repose is to be found in him; all other recreations are vain if compared with this.