1. The fourth gift that perfects the intelligence acts rather as a moderating than as a stimulating influence. The soul is often impetuous in its decisions, moved by human feelings and passions, urged by desire, love, hatred, prejudice. Quickly stirred to action, it dashes into its course without any real attention to, or understanding of, its better wisdom. Frequently in life my lament has to be that I acted on the impulse of the moment. There is so much that I am sorry for, not merely because now I see what has actually resulted, but because even then I had quite sufficient reason to let me be certain what would result. I was blind, not because my eyes could not have seen, but because I gave them no leave to see. I would not carefully gaze at the difficulties, not puzzle out in patience what would most likely be the result. Even my highest powers are often my most perilous guides, since, moved by generosity, I engaged myself to do what I have no right to perform, and find that I have in the end been generous not only of what is my own, but sometimes of what belongs to another, not as though I deliberately gave away what belonged to another, but just because I had no deliberation at all. I need, then, the Holy Spirit of God to endow me with the gift of counsel which corresponds to prudence.
2. Now prudence, which counsel helps and protects, is eminently a practical gift of God, not so high as wisdom, not so wonderful in the beauty of its vision as knowledge or understanding, yet for all a most important and homely need. The other intellectual gifts of the Spirit are more abstract. They give us just the whisper of God that enables us to see the large ways of God in the world. They give, in consequence, the great principles that are to govern us in life. Hence their importance is very great. We do so seriously need to know by what principles we are to measure life’s activities, on what basis to build up the fabric of our souls, to be sure that God’s laws are very clearly and definitely made manifest to us. But, after all, that is only one-half of the difficulty, for even after I know the principles of action, I have still the trouble, in some ways more full of possibilities of mistake, of applying them to concrete experience. I know that sacrifice is the law of life, I know that meekness overindulged may be cowardice, I know that I may sin by not having anger; that is all evident, a series of platitudes. But here, and now, have I come to the limit of meekness? Must I manifest my angry protests? Am I obliged to attend to my own needs and renounce the idea of sacrifice? There daily are questions that puzzle, torture, bruise me with scruples.
3. Just here, then, I have intense need for this practical gift of God in order with nicety and precision to apply principles to concrete cases; often I am precipitate or perhaps dilatory. I am in a hurry or cannot make up my mind—shall I answer those who attack me, or shall I be silent? Our Lord was silent and made answer by turns. Counsel, then, is my need from God, the instinct whereby a practical judgment is quickly and safely made. All the more have I a tremendous need for this if my life is full of activity, if pressure of work, or social life, or the demands of good and useful projects, or the general tendency of my family surroundings, make my day crowded and absorbed, for the very combined and concentrated essence of life will need some exceedingly moderate influence to produce any sense of balance or proportion in my judgment. The people about me I notice to become more and more irritable, mere creatures of impulse. I feel some such malign influence invading the peaceful sanctuary of my soul, disturbing its even outlook on things, driving out my serene calm. I must anchor on to this gift of God, become prudent, detached, filling the mind with the counsel of the Holy Spirit.