On the purity with which we ought to prepare our souls for Christ

Consider first, that he who prepared the blessed Virgin to be the mother of his Son, by this early care to keep her pure in the very conception, would thereby give us to understand what dispositions he expects in us, in order to our being also qualified for the spiritual conception and birth of the same Lord in our souls. For as we could never have been happy if the Son of God had not been born into this world for us, so we never can be happy if he be not also spiritually received and born in us.

No, my soul, we must put off the old man, and put on the new, which is Jesus Christ, before we can come to God; and this putting on the new man must be effected by his being spiritually conceived in our souls. Now he can never come to any soul, to be spiritually conceived or born there, if that soul be not clean; for though he humbled himself so far as to be born in a poor stable, yet he will not be born in an unclean soul, because such a soul is the habitation of unclean spirits, and therefore cannot be a proper place for his spiritual birth. It is then by cleanness of conscience and purity we must prepare the way of the Lord, if we hope to have a share in the happiness he offers us by his incarnation and birth; without this his coming will be to our condemnation.

Consider 2ndly, that this cleanness and purity, which is indispensably necessary for the spiritual conception and birth of Christ in our souls, must be, at least, exemption from all wilful and deadly sin. For wherever wilful and deadly sin resides, there is the seat of Satan; there he resides and reigns, and consequently there can be no room for the birth of Christ in such a soul. so that the first and most essential branch of Christian purity, without which God has no part in us, (Job xxxi. 2,) and we have no part in him, is a purity of conscience at least from mortal sin; joined with a fixed determination of the soul, for no consideration whatsoever; for no honour, interest, or pleasure; for no fear, or love, or human respect; for no promises or allurements on the one hand, or terrors and threats on the other; in fine, for nothing that the world can either give or take away, ever to consent, so much as in thought, to any such sin. Christians, what are your dispositions in this respect? Are your consciences either pure or clear from all deadly sin by innocence, or cleansed by penitence? Are your souls in a proper condition to welcome Christ? Are you in a settled resolution to give up the dominion of your souls to this great king, who desires to be born there and to live there? Are you willing to sacrifice to his will and pleasure all other loves that offer to oppose his reign, so as to be ready to part even with life itself, rather that with your allegiance to him? This is the purity of conscience he absolutely insists upon, and nothing less will satisfy him. If you are not in this disposition, you are none of his, and he will not be born in you.

Consider 3rdly, that to welcome Christ in a suitable manner, you must not content yourselves with having your consciences only cleansed from all mortal sin, or your souls only settled in a resolution of never more being guilty, upon any consideration, of such sins as may eternally separate you from your God, and cast you into hell; this is but a low degree of Christian purity, and those that aim no higher are in great danger of not even arriving so far. To make light of smaller sins; to be indifferent about Christian perfection; to pretend to no more than the avoiding hell; to indulge one’s self in a negligent, lukewarm way of living, and in a variety of evil habits and known sins which one is willing to suppose are only venial, with little or no concern about the offence we commit against God, or any serious thought of amendment – so far from being a proper disposition to prepare the soul for the spiritual birth of Christ, is indeed the broad road to mortal sin, and too often ends in hell. A generous Christian, and one that is a true lover of his God, does not stand to inquire, whether the doing this or that will send his soul to hell or not. It is enough to determine him to avoid it with all his power, to know that it offends his God, whom he loves with his whole heart; and therefore he dreads more the doing anything that is displeasing in his eyes, than either death or hell itself. My soul, are these thy dispositions?

Conclude to make it thy business, now at least, to labour for this perfect purity of conscience, not only from all deadly sin, but also from all known deliberate venial sins; and much more from indulging thyself in the habit of any such sin. For how canst thou expect that infinite purity should be willing to take up his abode in thy soul, if thou art not careful to keep it clean, at least from all wilful and affected stains?

— A meditation by Bishop Challoner.

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