How Satan Tempts Servants of God

Cardinal Manning points out that “even those whom we call servants of God, who have really turned away from Satan, and are confirmed in a life of faith and piety, they too have special temptations.”

Sometimes “he comes as a messenger of peace and a preacher of justice and a teacher of purity: and then he will stimulate and excite the imprudent to strain after perfections of penance and perfections of prayer and mystical reaches of the spiritual life, which we read of no doubt in saints, but such as are yet far out of the grasp of those who are beginning to serve God. Nevertheless these things are sufficient to turn the head and to infuse vainglory, and to call men off from the humble practice of daily duty, and make them climb and clamber up into high places, where they have not the head to stand, and at last they fall through a spiritual intoxication.”

“So, also, those who have turned away from him he tempts to a censorious judgment of others. When they have light to know their own faults and their eyes are opened to discern sin, the use they make of their enlightened eyes is very often to be quick and searching to find the faults of their neighbours; and by turning their eyes outwardly which are intended to be turned inwardly, they range to and fro, finding out and censuring the faults of other people, and perpetually committing rash judgments in their hearts, and very often sins of detraction with their tongues.”

“There is also another temptation even for those that are advancing far in the way of perfection. . . . By reading the lives of the saints until we believe we are saints, by filling our mind with disproportionate and strained imaginations, and then applying them to ourselves: by dreaming that we are that which we can describe, and that there is an aureola, a crown of light hanging over our heads, we may finally cast ourselves down from God. These imaginings and delusions, which come from a profound self-love, and as profound a want of self-knowledge, will turn the heads and the consciences even of those who have escaped from grosser sins.”

Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, 2d ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1874).

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