On the Mortification of the Predominant Passion

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AUGUST 21ST
ON THE MORTIFICATION OF THE PREDOMINANT PASSION



Consider first, that the passions of love and desire, when they are unmortified, branch out into all manner of vices and vicious inclinations commonly ranged under the seven heads, which are usually called the seven capital sins – though St. John brings them into a narrower compass, when he reduces them all into these three, ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,’ 1 John ii. 16. Now, amongst these vicious inclinations which wage war against the soul there is usually some one or other that is stronger and more violent than the rest, or that occasions more or greater sins, and this is named by divines the predominant passion, the mortification of which is one of the chief businesses of a spiritual life. For this predominant passion being, as it were, the captain and commander of the rest, when this is overthrown, the rest will more easily be subdued and brought under, as when their champion Goliath was slain the Philistines were all immediately put to flight.

Consider 2ndly, that as this predominant passion, this reigning love, this strongest desire or affection whatever the object of it may be, has already unhappily gained the heart, it is but too apt to impose upon the poor soul with specious pretexts, in order to keep its hold, and to maintain its ground against the remonstrances of conscience and all the calls and graces of heaven. It is the Agag, which the deluded soul, by a false compassion, would willingly spare, through with the risk of being cast off by God, as Saul was for so doing, 1 Sam. xv. Ah! Christians, deceive not then yourselves; this predominant passion, this favourite affection, which has taken possession of your heart, is indeed the capital enemy of God and your souls; it must be slain, it must be sacrificed to the living God. Beware of the traitor which you carry about with you; suffer him not to impose upon you; it is very easy, if you have not a mind to be wilfully blind, to discover what he would be at; because upon the least examination of your hearts you will find him always busy in undermining the reign of the love of God, thrusting himself upon his throne, and setting up an idol in his temple, by challenging the chiefest place in your heart to the prejudice of divine love.

Consider 3rdly, what you must do in order to get rid of this worst of all your enemies. O! you must make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the depth of his malice and all his stratagems, that you may not be surprised or imposed upon by him; you must observe all his motions to resist them at the very beginning; you must study all the secret springs by which he acts upon the heart, and sets the other passions on work to fulfil his irregular inclinations. Ah! Christians, ‘tis of infinite importance in this spiritual warfare to know the true state of your interior, and to watch all the motions and secret ambushes of your enemies! You must also single out this enemy in such a manner as not to allow any one of your passions or vices to remain unresisted in your soul, yet you are in a more especial manner to turn all your forces against this predominant passion by directing your daily and most fervent prayers, your confessions and Communions, your particular examination every night, and the rest of your spiritual exercises, towards the total subduing of this evil, and acquiring the contrary virtue.

Conclude, if you hope to succeed in the great work of the mortification of your passions, to begin by declaring an eternal war against their chief, and never cease to attack him upon all occasions till you have brought him down. All the rest will yield themselves up when he is subdued, and you will begin to relish the sweets of peace and true liberty, which you shall never enjoy till you have broken the chains with which he enslaves you.
 
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