John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisOctober 9th is the feast of Bl John Henry Newman

If left to ourselves we should grow up haters of God, and tend nearer and nearer, the longer we had existence, to utter spiritual death, that inward fire of hell torments, maturing in evil through a long eternity.

Such is the course we are beginning to run when born into the world; and were it not for the gospel promise, what a miserable event would the birth of children be!

Who could take pleasure at the sight of such poor beings, unconscious as yet of their wretchedness, but containing in their hearts that fearful root of sin which is sure in the event of reigning and triumphing unto everlasting woe?

But God has given us all, even the little children, a good promise through Christ; and our prospects are changed.

And He has given not only a promise of future happiness, but through His Holy Spirit He implants here and at once a new principle within us, a new spiritual life, a life of the soul, as it is called.

St. Paul tells us, that “God hath quickened us,” made us live, “together with Christ, … and hath raised us up together” from the death of sin, “and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6).

Now how God quickens our souls we do not know; as little as how He quickens our bodies. Our spiritual “life” (as St. Paul says) “is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

But as our bodily life discovers itself by its activity, so is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us discovered by a spiritual activity; and this activity is the spirit of continual prayer.

Prayer is to spiritual life what the beating of the pulse and the drawing of the breath are to the life of the body. It would be as absurd to suppose that life could last when the body was cold and motionless and senseless, as to call a soul alive which does not pray.

The state or habit of spiritual life exerts itself, consists, in the continual activity of prayer.

Do you ask, where does Scripture say this? Where? In all it tells us of the connexion between the new birth and faith; for what is prayer but the expression, the voice, of faith?

For instance, St. Paul says to the Galatians, “The life which I now live in the flesh” (i.e. the new and spiritual life), “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me” (Gal. 2: 20).

For what, I say, is faith, but the looking to God and thinking of Him continually, holding habitual fellowship with Him, that is, speaking to Him in our hearts all through the day, praying without ceasing?

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons vol. 7, 15: Mental Prayer.

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