1. To live the spiritual life to its fullness we need the instinctive governances of the Holy Ghost. All day long, and even all through the hours when consciousness is asleep, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us in many ways. He is offering us His heavenly counsel, enlightening our minds to an ever more complete understanding of the deep truths of faith, and generally imparting to us that deep knowledge without which we cannot make advance. Reason and common sense have their own contribution to make in opening our minds and hearts to a proper interpretation of all that is about us and within us; but reason and common sense have themselves also to be super naturalized, to be illumined by the light of a far higher plane of truth. Hence the need of this divine instinct is patent to anyone who considers the purpose and destiny of the soul. But it is difficult at times to understand and to grasp surely the words of divine wisdom, since by sin’s coarseness the refinement of the soul is dulled and rendered but little responsive; or, rather, it is not so much a matter of being responsive to a message as primarily of hearing and understanding it. It seems to be very obvious that God must be speaking to me almost without ceasing; it is equally obvious that very little of this is noticed.
2. Here, then, am I in the world and needing the governance of God’s instinct. Here, too, is this whispered counsel and enlightenment of God, perpetually being made to me. Yet, though made by God, and needed by me, this counsel and enlightenment, I can be certain, must frequently be entirely lost to me. It is as though I lived in a perfectly beautiful country, with stretching landscape about, and beautiful glimpses of hills and woodland, and yet never saw or appreciated the view; as though heavenly music were about me, to which I never paid the slightest attention; as though my best loved friend stood by me and I never lifted my eyes, and so did not know of his presence. Of course it is really a great deal worse than that, for I do not need with an absolute necessity the view, or the music, or the friend; whereas I do most certainly need this divinely offered help, guidance, enlightenment. Hence it is clear that neither my need nor God’s instinct suffice. Something else is required by means of which I am able to make use of that instinct, to hear its message, to discover its meaning, to apply its advice to myself; else am I no better than a general who possesses the full plan of his allies, in all its details, but written in a cypher that he cannot read.
3. To produce this reaction or perception is the work of the sevenfold gifts. They are habits infused into the soul, which strengthen its natural powers, and make them responsive to every breath of God and capable of heroic acts of virtue. By the gifts my eyes are made able to see what had else been hidden, my ears quick to catch what had else not been heard; the gifts do not, so to say, supply eye or ear, but make more delicate, refined, sensitive, the eye and ear already there. Their business is to intensify rather than to create powers established in me by grace. Less excellent necessarily than the theological virtues which unite me to God, they are yet more excellent than the other virtues, though, being rooted in charity and thereby linked up among themselves, they are also part of the dowry that charity brings in her train. On this account it is clear that from the moment of Baptism the sevenfold gifts are the possession of the soul, and whosoever holds one holds all; yet by the sacrament of Confirmation it would appear certain that something further is added, some more delicate perception, some livelier sensitiveness; or it may be, as other theologians point out, that by Confirmation they are more steadily fixed in the soul, more fully established, more firmly held. But in any case it is clear what they are to me, habits whereby I am perfected to obey the Holy Spirit of God.