Treatise On The Love Of God By Saint Frances Desales
Return To Directory:
Return To Main Page:
Continue Reading:
Part One:


I have dedicated this work to the Mother of dilection and to the Father of cordial love, as I dedicated the Introduction to the Divine child who is the Saviour of lovers and the love of the saved. And as women, while they are strong and able to bring forth their children with ease, choose commonly their worldly friends to be godfathers, but when their feebleness and indisposition make their delivery hard and dangerous invoke the Saints of heaven, and vow to have their children stood to by some poor body or by some devout soul in the name of S. Joseph, S. Francis of Assisi, S. Francis of Paula, S. Nicholas, or some other of the blessed, who may obtain of God their safe delivery and that the child may be born alive: so I, while I was not yet bishop, having more leisure and less fears for my writings, dedicated my little works to princes of the earth, but now being weighed down with my charge, and having a thousand difficulties in writing, I consecrate all to the princes of heaven, that they may obtain for me the light requisite, and that if such be the Divine will, these my writings may be fruitful and profitable to many.

Annecy, the day of the most loving Apostles

S. Peter and S. Paul, 1616.


?St. Francis de Sales"

From The Preface (Pages 15-16)

Dedicatory Prayer

MOST holy Mother of God, vessel of incomparable election, Queen of sovereign dilection, thou art the most lovely, the most loving and most beloved of all creatures! The love of the heavenly Father found its good pleasure in thee from all eternity, destining thy chaste heart to the perfection of holy love, to the end that one day thou mightest love his only Son with unique motherly love as he had done from all eternity with unique fatherly love. O Saviour Jesus, to whom could I better dedicate words on thy love, than to the most amiable heart of the well-beloved of thy soul?

But O all triumphant Mother! Who can cast his eyes upon thy majesty without seeing at thy right hand him whom for the love of thee thy Son deigned so often to honour with the title of father, having united him unto thee by the celestial bond of a most virginal marriage, that he might be thy coadjutor and helper in the charge of the direction and education of his divine infancy? O great S. Joseph! Most beloved spouse of the well-beloved Mother, ah! how often hast thou borne in thy arms the love of heaven and earth, while, inflamed with the sweet embraces and kisses of this Divine child, thy soul melted away with joy while he tenderly whispered in thy ears (O God what sweetness!) that thou wast his great friend and his well-beloved father.

Of old the lamps of the ancient temple were placed upon golden lilies. O Mary and Joseph, Pair without peer! Sacred lilies of incomparable beauty, amongst which the well-beloved feeds himself and feeds all his lovers—ah! if I may give myself any hope that this love-writing may enlighten and inflame the children of light, where can I better lay it than amongst your lilies, wherein the Sun of Justice, the splendour and brightness of the eternal light, did so sovereignly recreate himself that he there fulfilled the delights of the ineffable love of his heart towards us? O well-beloved mother of the well-beloved Son, O well-beloved spouse of the well-beloved mother! Prostrate before the feet of you who bore my Saviour, I dedicate and consecrate this little work of love to the immense greatness of your love. Ah! I conjure you by the heart of your sweet Jesus, King of hearts, whom your hearts adore—animate my heart, and all hearts that shall read this writing, by your all powerful favour with the Holy Ghost, that henceforth we may offer up in holocaust all our affections to his divine goodness, to live, die, and live again for ever, amid the flames of this heavenly fire, which Our Lord your son has so much desired to kindle in our hearts, that he never ceased to labour and sigh for this until death, even the death of the cross.

Vive Jesus




Union in distinction makes order; order produces agreement; and proportion and agreement, in complete and finished things, make beauty. An army has beauty when it is composed of parts so ranged in order that their distinction is reduced to that proportion which they ought to have together for the making of one single army. For music to be beautiful, the voices must not only be true, clear, and distinct from one another, but also united together in such a way that there may arise a just consonance and harmony which is not unfitly termed a discordant harmony or rather harmonious discord.

Now as the angelic S. Thomas, following the great S. Denis, says excellently well, beauty and goodness though in some things they agree, yet still are not one and the same thing: for good is that which pleases the appetite and will, beauty that which pleases the understanding or knowledge; or, in other words, good is that which gives pleasure when we enjoy it, beauty that which gives pleasure when we know it. For which cause in proper speech we only attribute corporal beauty to the objects of those two senses which are the most intellectual and most in the service of the understanding?namely, sight and hearing, so that we do not say, these are beautiful odours or beautiful tastes: but we rightly say, these are beautiful voices and beautiful colours.

The beautiful then being called beautiful, because the knowledge thereof gives pleasure, it is requisite that besides the union and the distinction, the integrity, the order, and the agreement of its parts, there should be also splendour and brightness that it may be knowable and visible. Voices to be beautiful must be clear and true; discourses intelligible; colours brilliant and shining. Obscurity, shade and darkness are ugly and disfigure all things, because in them nothing is knowable, neither order, distinction, union nor agreement; which caused S. Denis to say, that "God as the sovereign beauty is author of the beautiful harmony, beautiful lustre and good grace which is found in all things, making the distribution and decomposition of his one ray of beauty spread out, as light, to make all things beautiful," willing that to compose beauty there should be agreement, clearness and good grace.

Certainly, Theotimus, beauty is without effect, unprofitable and dead, if light and splendour do not make it lively and effective, whence we term colours lively when they have light and lustre.

But as to animated and living things their beauty is not complete without good grace, which, besides the agreement of perfect parts which makes beauty, adds the harmony of movements, gestures and actions, which is as it were the life and soul of the beauty of living things. Thus, in the sovereign beauty of our God, we acknowledge union, yea, unity of essence in the distinction of persons, with an infinite glory, together with an incomprehensible harmony of all perfections of actions and motions, sovereignly comprised, and as one would say excellently joined and adjusted, in the most unique and simple perfection of the pure divine act, which is God Himself, immutable and invariable, as elsewhere we shall show.

God, therefore, having a will to make all things good and beautiful, reduced the multitude and distinction of the same to a perfect unity, and, as man would say, brought them all under a monarchy, making a subordination of one thing to another and of all things to himself the sovereign Monarch. He reduces all our members into one body under one head, of many persons he forms a family, of many families a town, of many towns a province, of many provinces a kingdom, putting the whole kingdom under the government of one sole king. So, Theotimus, over the innumerable multitude and variety of actions, motions, feelings, inclinations, habits, passions, faculties and powers which are in man, God has established a natural monarchy in the will, which rules and commands all that is found in this little world: and God seems to have said to the will as Pharao said to Joseph: Thou shalt be over my house, and at the commandment of thy mouth all the people shall obey. [22] This dominion of the will is exercised indeed in very various ways.

22] Gen. xli. 40.



A Father directs his wife, his children and his servants by his ordinances and commandments, which they are obliged to obey though they are able not to obey; but if he have servants and slaves, he rules them by force which they have no power to contradict; his horses, oxen and mules he manages by industry, binding, bridling, goading, shutting in, or letting out.

Now the will governs the faculty of our exterior motion as a serf or slave: for unless some external thing hinder, it never fails to obey. We open and shut our mouth, move our tongue, our hands, feet, eyes, and all the members to which the power of this movement refers without resistance, according to our wish and will.

But as for our senses and the faculties of nourishing, growing, and producing, we cannot with the same ease govern them, but we must employ industry and art. If a slave be called he comes, if he be told to stop, he stops; but we must not expect this obedience from a sparrowhawk or falcon: he that desires it should return to the hand must show it the lure; if he would keep it quiet he must hood it. We bid our servant turn to the right or left hand and he does it, but to make a horse so turn we must make use of the bridle. We must not, Theotimus, command our eyes not to see, our ears not to hear, our hands not to touch, our stomach not to digest, or our body not to grow, for these faculties not having intelligence are not capable of obedience. No one can add a cubit to his stature. We often eat without nourishing ourselves or growing; he that will prevail with these powers must use industry. A physician who has to do with a child in the cradle commands him nothing, but only gives orders to the nurse to do such and such things, or else perchance he prescribes for the nurse to eat this or that meat, to take such and such medicine. This infuses its qualities into the milk which enters the child's body, and the physician accomplishes his will in this little weakling who has not even the power to think of it. We must not give the orders of abstinence, sobriety or continency unto the palate or stomach, but the hands must be commanded only to furnish to the mouth meat and drink in such and such a measure, we take away from or give our faculties their object and subject, and the food which strengthens them, as reason requires. If we desire our eyes not to see we must turn them away, or cover them with their natural hood, and shut them, and by these means we may bring them to the point which the will desires. It would be folly to command a horse not to wax fat, not to grow, not to kick,?to effect all this, stop his corn; you must not command him, you must simply make him do as you wish.

The will also exercises a certain power over the understanding and memory, for of many things which the understanding has power to understand and the memory has power to remember, the will determines those to which she would have her faculties apply themselves, or from which divert themselves. It is true she cannot manage or range them so absolutely as she does the hands, feet or tongue, on account of the sensitive faculties, especially the fancy, which do not obey the will with a prompt and infallible obedience, and which are necessarily required for the operations of the understanding and memory: but yet the will moves, employs and applies these faculties at her pleasure though not so firmly and constantly that the light and variable fancy does not often divert and distract them, so that as the Apostle cries out: I do not the good which I desire, but the evil which I hate. [23] So we are often forced to complain that we think not of the good which we love, but the evil which we hate.



The will then, Theotimus, bears rule over the memory, understanding and fancy, not by force but by authority, so that she is not infallibly obeyed any more than the father of a family is always obeyed by his children and servants. It is the same as regards the sensitive appetite, which, as S. Augustine says, is called in us sinners concupiscence, and is subject to the will and understanding as the wife to her husband, because as it was said to the woman: Be under thy husband, and he shall have dominion over thee, [24] so was it said to Cain, that the lust of sin should be under him and he should have dominion over it. [25] And this being under means nothing else than being submitted and subjected to him. "O man," says S. Bernard, "it is in thy power if thou wilt to bring thy enemy to be thy servant so that all things may go well with thee; thy appetite is under thee and thou shalt domineer over it. Thy enemy can move in thee the feeling of temptation, but it is in thy power if thou wilt to give or refuse consent. In case thou permit thy appetite to carry thee away to sin, then thou shalt be under it, and it shall domineer over thee, for whosoever sinneth is made the servant of sin, but before thou sinnest, so long as sin gets not entry into thy consent, but only into thy sense, that is to say, so long as it stays in the appetite, not going so far as thy will, thy appetite is subject unto thee and thou lord over it." Before the Emperor is created he is subject to the electors' dominion, in whose hands it is to reject him or to elect him to the imperial dignity; but being once elected and elevated by their means, henceforth they are under him and he rules over them. Before the will consents to the appetite, she rules over it, but having once given consent she becomes its slave.

To conclude, this sensual appetite in plain truth is a rebellious subject, seditious, restive, and we must confess we cannot so defeat it that it does not rise again, encounter and assault the reason; yet the will has such a strong hand over it that she is able, if she please, to bridle it, break its designs and repulse it, since not to consent to its suggestions is a sufficient repulse. We cannot hinder concupiscence from conceiving, but we can from bringing forth and accomplishing, sin.

Now this concupiscence or sensual appetite has twelve movements, by which as by so many mutinous captains it raises sedition in man. And because ordinarily they trouble the soul and disquiet the body; insomuch as they trouble the soul, they are called perturbations, insomuch as they disquiet the body they are named passions, as S. Augustine declares. They all place before themselves good or evil, the former to obtain, the latter to avoid. If good be considered in itself according to its natural goodness it excites love, the first and principal passion; if good be regarded as absent it provokes us to desire; if being desired we think we are able to obtain it we enter into hope; if we think we cannot obtain it we feel despair; but when we possess it as present, it moves us to joy.

On the contrary, as soon as we discover evil we hate it, if it be absent we fly it, if we cannot avoid it we fear it; if we think we can avoid it we grow bold and courageous, but if we feel it as present we grieve; and then anger and wrath suddenly rush forth to reject and repel the evil or at least to take vengeance for it. If we cannot succeed we remain in grief. But if we repulse or avenge it we feel satisfaction and satiation, which is a pleasure of triumph, for as the possession of good gladdens the heart, so the victory over evil exalts the spirits. And over all this multitude of sensual passions the will bears empire, rejecting their suggestions, repulsing their attacks, hindering their effects, or at the very least sternly refusing them consent, without which they can never harm us, and by refusing which they remain vanquished, yea in the long run broken down, weakened, worn out, beaten down, and if not altogether dead, at least deadened or mortified.

And Theotimus, this multitude of passions is permitted to reside in our soul for the exercise of our will in virtue and spiritual valour; insomuch that the Stoics who denied that passions were found in wise men greatly erred, and so much the more because they practised in deeds what in words they denied, as S. Augustine shows, recounting this agreeable history. Aulus Gellius having gone on sea with a famous Stoic, a great tempest arose, at which the Stoic being frightened began to grow pale, to blench and to tremble so sensibly that all in the boat perceived it, and watched him curiously, although they were in the same hazard with him. In the meantime the sea grew calm, the danger passed, and safety restoring to each the liberty to talk and even to rally one another, a certain voluptuous Asiatic reproached him with his fear, which had made him aghast and pale at the danger, whereas the other on the contrary had remained firm and without fear. To this the Stoic replied by relating what Aristippus, a Socratic philosopher, had answered a man, who for the same reason had attacked him with the like reproach; saying to him: As for thee, thou hadst no reason to be troubled for the soul of a wicked rascal: but I should have done myself wrong not to have feared to lose the life of an Aristippus. And the value of the story is, that Aulus Gellius, an eye-witness, relates it. But as to the Stoic's reply contained therein, it did more commend his wit than his cause, since bringing forward this comrade in his fear, he left it proved by two irreproachable witnesses, that Stoics were touched with fear, and with the fear which shows its effects in the eyes, face and behaviour, and is consequently a passion.

A great folly, to wish to be wise with an impossible wisdom Truly the Church has condemned the folly of that wisdom which certain presumptuous Anchorites would formally have introduced, against which the whole Scripture but especially the great Apostle, cries out: We have a law in our body which resisteth the law of our mind. [26] "Amongst us Christians," says the great S. Augustine, "according to holy Scripture and sound doctrine, the citizens of the sacred city of Gods living according to God, in the pilgrimage of this world fear, desire, grieve, rejoice." Yea even the sovereign King of this city has feared, desired, has grieved and rejoiced, even to tears, wanness, trembling, sweating of blood; though in him as these were not the motions of passions like ours, the great S. Jerome, and after him the School durst not use the name, passions, for reverence of the person in whom they were, but the respectful name, pro-passions. This was to testify that sensible movements in Our Saviour held the place of passions, though they were not such indeed, seeing that he suffered or endured nothing from them except what seemed good to him and as he pleased, which we sinners cannot do, who suffer and endure these motions with disorder, against our wills, to the great prejudice of the good estate and polity of our soul.



Love being the first complacency which we take in good, as we shall presently show, it of course precedes desire; and indeed what other thing do we desire, but that which we love? It precedes delectation, for how could we rejoice in the enjoyment of a thing if we loved it not? It precedes hope, for we hope only for the good which we love: it precedes hatred, for we hate not evil, except for the love we have for good: nor is evil evil but because it is contrary to good. And, Theotimus, it is the same with all the other passions and affections; for they all proceed from love, as from their source and root.

For which cause the other passions and affections, are good or bad, vicious or virtuous, according as the love whence they proceed is good or bad; for love so spreads over them her own qualities, that they seem to be no other than this same love. S. Augustine reducing all these passions and affections to four, as did also Boetius, Cicero, Virgil, with the greatest part of the ancients:?"Love," says he, "tending to the possession of what it loves, is termed concupiscence or desire; having and possessing it it is called joy; flying that which is contrary to it, it is named fear; but if this really seizes it and it feels it, love is named grief, and consequently these passions are evil if the love be evil, good if it be good. The citizens of the heavenly city fear, desire, grieve, love, and because their love is just, all their affections are also just. Christian doctrine subjects the reason to God that he may guide and help it, and subjects all these passions to the spirit, that it may bridle and moderate them and so convert them to the service of justice and virtue. The right will is good love, the bad will is evil love;" [27] that is to say, in a word, Theotimus, love has such dominion over the will as to make it exactly such as it is itself.

The wife ordinarily changes her condition into that of her husband, becoming noble if he be noble, queen if he be king, duchess if he be duke. The will also changes her condition according to the love she espouses; if this be carnal she becomes carnal, if this be spiritual she is spiritual, and all the affections of desire, joy, hope, fear, grief, as children born of the marriage between love and the will, consequently receive their qualities from love. In short, Theotimus, the will is only moved by her affections, amongst which love, as the primum mobile and first affection, gives motion to all the rest, and causes all the other motions of the soul.

But it does not follow hence that the will does not also rule over love, seeing that the will only loves while willing to love, and that of many loves which present themselves she can apply herself to which she pleases, otherwise there would be no love either forbidden or commanded. She is then mistress over her loves as a maiden over her suitors, amongst whom she may make election of which she pleases. But as after marriage she loses her liberty and of mistress becomes subject to her husband's power, remaining taken by him whom she took, so the will which at her own pleasure made election of love, after she has chosen one remains subject to it. And as the wife is always subject to the husband whom she has chosen as long as he lives, and if he die regains her former liberty to marry another, so while a love lives in the will it reigns there, and the will is subject to its movements, but if this love die she can afterwards take another. And again there is a liberty in the will which the wife has not, and it is that the will can reject her love at her pleasure, by applying her understanding to motives which make it displeasing, and by taking a resolution to change the object. For thus, to make divine love live and reign in us, we kill self-love, and if we cannot entirely annihilate it at least we weaken it in such a way that though it lives yet it does not reign in us. As, on the contrary, in forsaking divine love we may adhere to that of creatures, which is the infamous adultery with which the Divine lover so often reproaches sinners.



There are no fewer movements in the intellectual or reasonable appetite which is called the will, than there are in the sensitive or sensual, but the first are customarily named affections, the latter passions. The philosophers and pagans did in some manner love God, the state, virtue, sciences; they hated vice, aspired after honours, despaired of escaping death or calumny, were desirous of knowledge, yea even of beatitude after death. They encouraged themselves to surmount the difficulties which cross the way of virtue, dreaded blame, avoided some faults, avenged public injuries, opposed tyrants, without any self-interest. Now all these movements were seated in the reasonable part, since the senses, and consequently, the sensual appetite, are not capable of being applied to these objects, and therefore these movements were affections of the intellectual or reasonable appetite, not passions of the sensual.

How often do we feel passions in the sensual appetite or concupiscence, contrary to the affections which at the same time we perceive in the reasonable appetite or will? How clearly was shown at one and the same time the action of the pleasure of the senses and the displeasure of the will, in that young martyr mentioned by S. Jerom, who, forced to bear the attacks of sensuality, bit off a piece of his tongue and spat it in his tempter's face? How often do we tremble amidst the dangers to which our will carries us and in which it makes us remain? How often do we hate the pleasure in which the sensual appetite takes delight, and love the spiritual good with which that is disgusted? In this consists the war which we daily experience between the spirit and the flesh: between our exterior man, which is under the senses, and the interior which is under the reason; between the old Adam who follows the appetites of his Eve, or concupiscence, and the new Adam who follows heavenly wisdom and holy reason.

The Stoics, as S. Augustine remarks, [28] denying that the wise man can have passions, appear to have confessed that he has affections, which they term eupathies, or good passions, or, as Cicero called them, constancies: for they said the wise man did not covet but desired, had not glee but joy; that he had no fear, but only foresight and precaution, so that he was not moved except by reason and according to reason: for this cause they peremptorily denied that a wise man could ever be sorrowful, that being caused by present evil, whereas no evil can befal a wise man, since no man is hurt but by himself, according to their maxim. And truly, Theotimus, they were not wrong in holding that there are eupathies and good affections in the reasonable part of man, but they erred much in saying that there were no passions in the sensitive part, and that sorrow did not touch a wise man's heart: for omitting the fact that they themselves were troubled in this kind (as was just said), how could it be that wisdom should deprive us of pity, which is a virtuous sorrow and which comes into our hearts in order to make them desire to deliver our neighbour from the evil which he endures? And the wisest man of all paganism, Epictetus, did not hold this error that passions do not rise in the wise man, as S. Augustine witnesses, showing further that the Stoics' difference with other philosophers on this subject was but a mere dispute of words and strife of language.

Now these affections which we feel in our reasonable part are more or less noble and spiritual, according as their objects are more or less sublime, and as they are in a more eminent department of the spirit: for there are affections in us which proceed from conclusions gained by the experience of our senses; others by reasonings from human sciences; others from principles of faith; and finally there are some which have their origin from the simple sentiment of the truth of God, and acquiescence in his will. The first are called natural affections, for who is he that does not naturally desire health, his provision of food and clothing, sweet and agreeable conversation? The second class of affections are named reasonable, as being altogether founded upon the spiritual knowledge of the reason, by which our will is excited to seek tranquillity of heart, moral virtues, true honour, the contemplation of eternal things. The third sort of affections are termed Christian, because they issue from reasonings founded on the doctrine of Our Lord, who makes us love voluntary Poverty, perfect Chastity, the glory of heaven. But the affections of the supreme degree are named divine and supernatural because God himself spreads them abroad in our spirits, and because they regard God and aim at him, without the medium of any reasoning, or any light of nature, as it will be easy to understand from what we shall say afterwards about the acquiescences and affections which are made in the sanctuary of the soul. And these supernatural affections are principally three: the love of the mind for the beautiful in the mysteries of faith, love for the useful in the goods which are promised us in the other life, and love for the sovereign good of the most holy and eternal divinity.



The will governs all the other faculties of man's soul, yet it is governed by its love which makes it such as its love is. Now of all loves that of God holds the sceptre, and has the authority of commanding so inseparably united to it and proper to its nature, that if it be not master it ceases to be and perishes.

Ismael was not co-heir with Isaac his younger brother, Esau was appointed to be his younger brother's servant, Joseph was adored, not only by his brothers, but also by his father, yea, and by his mother also, in the person of Benjamin, as he had foreseen in the dreams of his youth. Truly it is not without mystery that the younger of these brethren thus bear away the advantage from the elder. Divine love is indeed the last begotten of all the affections of man's heart, for as the Apostle says: That which is animal is first; afterwards that which is spiritual: [29] ?but this last born inherits all the authority, and self-love, as another Esau is deputed to his service; and not only all the other motions of the soul as his brethren adore him and are subject to him, but also the understanding and will which are to him as father and mother. All is subject to this heavenly love, who will either be king or nothing, who cannot live unless he reign, nor reign if not sovereignly.

Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were supernatural children; for their mothers, Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, being sterile by nature, conceived them by the grace of the divine goodness, and for this cause they were established masters of their brethren. Similarly, divine love is a child of miracle, since man's will cannot conceive it if it be not poured into our hearts by the Holy Ghost. And as supernatural it must rule and reign over all the affections, yea, even over the understanding and will.

And although there are other supernatural movements in the soul,?fear, piety, force, hope,?as Esau and Benjamin were supernatural children of Rachel and Rebecca, yet is divine love still master, heir and superior, as being the son of promise, since in virtue of it heaven is promised to man. Salvation is shown to faith, it is prepared for hope, but it is given only to charity. Faith points out the way to the land of promise as a pillar of cloud and of fire, that is, light and dark; hope feeds us with its manna of sweetness, but charity actually introduces us into it, as the Ark of alliance, which makes for us the passage of the Jordan, that is, of the judgment, and which shall remain amidst the people in the heavenly land promised to the true Israelites, where neither the pillar of faith serves as guide nor the manna of hope is used as food.

Divine love makes its abode in the most high and sublime region of the soul, where it offers sacrifice and holocausts to the divinity as Abraham did, and as our Saviour sacrificed himself upon the top of Calvary, to the end that from so exalted a place it may be heard and obeyed by its people, that is, by all the faculties and affections of the soul. These he governs with an incomparable sweetness, for love has no convicts nor slaves, but brings all things under its obedience with a force so delightful, that as nothing is so strong as love nothing also is so sweet as its strength.

The virtues are in the soul to moderate its movements, and charity, as first of all the virtues, governs and tempers them all, not only because the first in every species of things serves as a rule and measure to the rest, but also because God, having created man to his image and likeness, wills that as in himself so in man all things should be ordered by love and for love.



The will has so great a sympathy with good that as soon as she perceives it she turns towards it to delight therein as in her most agreeable object, to which she is so closely allied that her nature cannot be explained except by the relation she has thereto, just as one cannot show the nature of what is good except by the affinity it has with the will. For, tell me, Theotimus, what is good but that which every one wills. And what is the will, if not the faculty which bears us towards and makes us tend to good or what the will believes to be such?

The will then perceiving and feeling the good, by the help of the understanding which proposes it, feels at the same time a sudden delight and complacency at this meeting, which sweetly yet powerfully moves her towards this pleasing object in order to unite herself with it, and makes her search out the means most proper to attain this union.

The will then has a most close affinity with good; this affinity produces the complacency which the will takes in feeling and perceiving good; this complacency moves and spurs the will forward to good; this movement tends to union; and in fine the will moved and tending to union searches out all the means necessary to get it.

And in truth, speaking generally, love comprises all this together, as a beautiful tree, whose root is the correspondence which the will has to good, its foot is the complacency, its trunk is the movement, its seekings, its pursuits, and other efforts are the branches, but union and enjoyment are its fruits. Thus love seems to be composed of these five principal parts under which a number of other little pieces are contained as we shall see in the course of this work.

Let us consider, I pray you, the exercise of an insensible love between the loadstone and iron; for it is the true image of the sensible and voluntary love of which we speak. Iron, then, has such a sympathy with the loadstone that as soon as it feels the power thereof, it turns towards it; then it suddenly begins to stir and quiver with little throbbings, testifying by this the complacency it feels, and then it advances and moves towards the loadstone striving by all means possible to be united to it. Do you not see all the parts of love well represented in these lifeless things?

But to conclude, Theotimus, the complacency and the movement towards, or effusion of the will upon, the thing beloved is properly speaking love; yet in such sort that the complacency is but the beginning of love, and the movement or effusion of the heart which ensues is the true essential love, so that the one and the other may truly be named love, but in a different sense: for as the dawning of day may be termed day, so this first complacency of the heart in the thing beloved may be called love because it is the first feeling of love. But as the true heart of the day is measured from the end of dawn till sunset, so the true essence of love consists in the movement and effusion of the heart which immediately follows complacency and ends in union. In short, complacency is the first stirring or emotion which good causes in the will, and this emotion is followed by the movement and effusion by which the soul runs towards and reaches the thing beloved, which is the true and proper love. We may express it thus: the good takes, grasps and ties the heart by complacency, but by love it draws, conducts and conveys it to itself, by complacency it makes it start on its way, but by love it makes it achieve the journey. Complacency is the awakener of the heart, but love is its action; complacency makes it get up, but love makes it walk. The heart spreads its wings by complacency but love is its flight. Love then, to speak distinctly and precisely, is no other thing than the movement, effusion and advancement of the heart towards good.

Many great persons have been of opinion that love is no other thing than complacency itself, in which they have had much appearance of reason. For not only does the movement of love take its origin from the complacency which the heart feels at the first approach of good, and find its end in a second complacency which returns to the heart by union with the thing beloved,?but further, it depends for its preservation on this complacency, and can only subsist through it as through its mother and nurse; so that as soon as the complacency ceases love ceases. And as the bee being born in honey, feeds on honey, and only flies for honey, so love is born of complacency, maintained by complacency, and tends to complacency. It is the weight of things which stirs them, moves them, and stays them; it is the weight of the stone that stirs it and moves it to its descent as soon as the obstacles are removed; it is the same weight that makes it continue its movement downwards; and finally it is the same weight that makes it stop and rest as soon as it has reached its place. So it is with the complacency which excites the will: this moves it, and this makes it repose in the thing beloved when it has united itself therewith. This motion of love then having its birth, preservation, and perfection dependent on complacency, and being always inseparably joined thereto, it is no marvel that these great minds considered love and complacency to be the same, though in truth love being a true passion of the soul cannot be a simple complacency, but must needs be the motion proceeding from it.

Now this motion caused by complacency lasts till the union or fruition. Therefore when it tends to a present good, it does no more than push the heart, clasp it, join, and apply it to the thing beloved, which by this means it enjoys, and then it is called love of complacency, because as soon as ever it is begotten of the first complacency it ends in the second, which it receives in being united to its present object. But when the good towards which the heart is turned, inclined, and moved is distant, absent or future, or when so perfect a union cannot yet be made as is desired, then the motion of love by which the heart tends, makes and aspires towards this absent object, is properly named desire, for desire is no other thing than the appetite, concupiscence, or cupidity for things we have not, but which however we aim at getting.

There are yet certain other motions of love by which we desire things that we neither expect nor aim at in any way, as when we say:?Why am I not now in heaven! I wish I were a king; I would to God I were younger; how I wish I had never sinned, and the like. These indeed are desires, but imperfect ones, which, to speak properly, I think, might be called wishings (souhaits). And indeed these affections are not expressed like desires, for when we express our true desires we say: I desire (Je desire): but when we signify our imperfect desires we say: I should or I would desire (je desirerois), or I should like. We may well say: I would desire to be young; but we do not say: I desire to be young; seeing that this is not possible; and this motion is called a wishing, or as the Scholastics term it a velleity, which is nothing else but a commencement of willing, not followed out, because the will, by reason of impossibility or extreme difficulty, stops her motion, and ends it in this simple affection of a wish. It is as though she said: this good which I behold and cannot expect to get is truly very agreeable to me, and though I cannot will it nor hope for it, yet so my affection stands, that if I could will or desire it, I would desire and will it gladly.

In brief, these wishings or velleities are nothing else but a little love, which may be called love of simple approbation, because the soul approves the good she knows, and being unable to effectually desire she protests she would willingly desire it, and that it is truly to be desired.

Nor is this all, Theotimus, for there are desires and velleities which are yet more imperfect than those we have spoken of, forasmuch as their motions are not stayed by reason of impossibility or extreme difficulty, but by their incompatibility with other more powerful desires or willings; as when a sick man desires to eat mushrooms or melons;?though he may have them at his order, yet he will not eat them, fearing thereby to make himself worse; for who sees not that there are two desires in this man, the one to eat mushrooms, the other to be cured? But because the desire of being cured is the stronger, it blocks up and suffocates the other and hinders it from producing any effect. Jephte wished to preserve his daughter, but this not being compatible with his desire to keep his vow, he willed what he did not wish, namely, to sacrifice his daughter, and wished what he did not will, namely, to preserve his daughter. Pilate and Herod wished, the one to deliver our Saviour, the other his precursor: but because these wishes were incompatible with the desires, the one to please the Jews and C?sar, the other, Herodias and her daughter, these wishes were vain and fruitless. Now in proportion as those things which are incompatible with our wishes are less desirable, the wishes are more imperfect, since they are stopped and, as it were, stifled by contraries so weak. Thus the wish which Herod had not to behead S. John was more imperfect than that of Pilate to free our Saviour. For the latter feared the calumny and indignation of the people and of C?sar; the other feared to disappoint one woman alone.

And these wishes which are hindered, not by impossibility, but by incompatibility with stronger desires, are called indeed wishes and desires, but vain, stifled and unprofitable ones. As to wishes of things impossible, we say: I wish, but cannot; and of the wishes of possible things we say: I wish, but will not.



We say the eye sees, the ear hears, the tongue speaks, the understanding reasons, the memory remembers, the will loves: but still we know well that it is the man, to speak properly, who by divers faculties and different organs works all this variety of operations. Man also then it is who by the affective faculty named the will tends to and pleases himself in good, and who has for it that great affinity which is the source and origin of love. Now they have made a mistake who have believed that resemblance is the only affinity which produces love. For who knows not that the most sensible old men tenderly and dearly love little children, and are reciprocally loved by them; that the wise love the ignorant, provided they are docile, and the sick their physicians. And if we may draw any argument from the image of love which is found in things without sense, what resemblance can draw the iron towards the loadstone? Has not one loadstone more resemblance with another or with another stone, than with iron which is of a totally different species? And though some, to reduce all affinities to resemblance, assure us that iron draws iron and the loadstone the loadstone, yet they are unable to explain why the loadstone draws iron more powerfully than iron does iron itself. But I pray you what similitude is there between lime and water? or between water and a sponge? and yet both of them drink water with a quenchless desire, testifying an excessive insensible love towards it. Now it is the same in human love; for sometimes it takes more strongly amongst persons of contrary qualities, than among those who are very like. The affinity then which causes love does not always consist in resemblance, but in the proportion, relation or correspondence between the lover and the thing loved. For thus it is not resemblance which makes the doctor dear to the sick man, but a correspondence of the one's necessity with the other's sufficiency, in that the one can afford the assistance which the other stands in need of: as again the doctor loves the sick man, and the master his apprentice because they can exercise their powers on them. The old man loves children, not by sympathy, but because the great simplicity, feebleness and tenderness of the one exalts and makes more apparent the prudence and stability of the other, and this dissimilitude is agreeable. On the other hand, children love old men because they see them busy and careful about them, and by secret instinct they perceive they have need of their direction. Musical concord consists in a kind of discord, in which unlike voices correspond, making up altogether one single multiplex proportion, as the unlikeness of precious stones and flowers makes the agreeable composition of enamel and diapry. Thus love is not caused always by resemblance and sympathy, but by correspondence and proportion, which consists in this that by the union of one thing to another they mutually receive one another's perfection, and so become better. The head certainly does not resemble the body, nor the hand the arm, yet they have such a correspondence and join so naturally together that by their conjunction they excellently perfect one the other. Wherefore, if these parts had each one a distinct soul they would have a perfect mutual love, not by resemblance, for they have none, but by their correspondence towards a mutual perfection. For this cause the melancholy and the joyous, the sour and the sweet, have often a correspondence of affection, by reason of the mutual impressions which they receive one of another by which their humours are reciprocally moderated.

But when this mutual correspondence is joined with resemblance, love without doubt is engendered much more efficaciously; for resemblance being the true image of unity, when two like things are united by a proportion to the same end it seems rather to be unity than union.

The affinity then of the lover and the thing loved is the first source of love, and this affinity consists in correspondence, which is nothing else than a mutual relation, which makes things apt to unite in order to communicate to one another some perfection. But this will be understood better in the progress of our discourse.



The great Solomon describes, in an admirably delicious manner, the loves of the Saviour and the devout soul, in that divine work which for its excellent sweetness is named the Canticle of Canticles. And to raise ourselves by a more easy flight to the consideration of this spiritual love which is exercised between God and us by the correspondence of the movements of our hearts with the inspirations of his divine majesty, he makes use of a perpetual representation of the loves of a chaste shepherd and a modest shepherdess. Now making the spouse or bride begin first by manner of a certain surprise of love, he first puts into her mouth this ejaculation: Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth. [30] Notice, Theotimus, how the soul, in the person of this shepherdess, has but the one aim, in the first expression of her desire, of a chaste union with her spouse, protesting that it is the only end of her ambition and the only thing she aspires after; for, I pray you, what other thing would this first sigh intimate? Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth.

A kiss from all ages as by natural instinct has been employed to represent perfect love, that is, the union of hearts, and not without cause: we express and make known our passions and the movements which our souls have in common with the animals, by our eyes, eyebrows, forehead and the rest of our countenance. Man is known by his look, [31] says the Scripture, and Aristotle giving a reason why ordinarily it is only the faces of great men that are portrayed,?it is, says he, because the face shows what we are.

Yet we do not utter our discourse nor the thoughts which proceed from the spiritual portion of our soul, which we call reason, and by which we are distinguished from beasts, except by words, and consequently by help of the mouth; insomuch that to pour out our soul and open out our heart is nothing else but to speak. Pour out your hearts before God, [32] says the Psalmist, that is, express and turn the affections of your hearts into words. And Samuel's pious mother pronouncing her prayers so softly that one could hardly discern the motion of her lips: I have poured out my soul before the Lord, [33] said she. And thus one mouth is applied to another in kissing to testify that we would desire to pour out one soul into the other, to unite them reciprocally in a perfect union. For this reason, at all times and amongst the most saintly men the world has had, the kiss has been a sign of love and affection, and such use was universally made of it amongst the ancient Christians as the great S. Paul testifies, when, writing to the Romans and Corinthians, he says, Salute one another in a holy kiss. [34] And as many declare, Judas in betraying Our Saviour made use of a kiss to manifest him, because this divine Saviour was accustomed to kiss his disciples when he met them; and not only his disciples but even little children, whom he took lovingly in his arms; as he did him by whose example he so solemnly invited his disciples to the love of their neighbour, whom many think to have been S. Martial, as the Bishop Jansenius [35] says.

Thus then the kiss being a lively mark of the union of hearts, the spouse who has no other aim in all her endeavours than to be united to her beloved, Let him kiss me, says she, with the kiss of his mouth; as if she cried out:?so many sighs and inflamed darts which my love throws out will they never impetrate that which my soul desires? I run?Ah! shall I never gain the prize towards which I urge myself, which is to be united heart to heart, spirit to spirit, to my God, my spouse my life? When will the hour come in which I shall pour my soul into his heart, and he will pour his heart into my soul, and thus happily united we shall live inseparable.

When the Holy Ghost would express a perfect love, he almost always employs words expressing union or conjunction. And the multitude of believers, says S. Luke, had but one heart and one soul. [36] Our Saviour prayed for all the faithful that they all may be one. [37] S. Paul warns us to be careful to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." [38] These unities of heart, of soul, and of spirit signify the perfection of love which joins many souls in one. So it is said that Jonathan's soul was knit to David's, that is to say, as the Scripture adds, He loved him as his own soul.1 [39] The great Apostle of France (S. Denis) as well according to his own sentiment as when giving that of his Hierotheus, writes a hundred times, I think, in a single chapter of the De Nominibus Divinis, that love is unifying, uniting, drawing together, embracing, collecting and bringing all things to unity! S. Gregory Nazianzen and S. Augustine say that their friends and they had but one soul, and Aristotle approving already in his time this manner of speech: "When," says he, "we would express how much we love our friends, we say his and my soul is but one." Hatred separates us, and love brings us into one. The end then of love is no other thing than the union of the lover and the thing loved.

[30] Cant. i. 1.

[31] Eccli. xix. 26.

[32] lxi. 9.

[33] 1 Kings i. 15.

[34] Rom. xvi. 16; 1 Cor. xvi. 20.

[35] Of Ghent, uncle of the heretic, but himself an orthodox and esteemed writer. (Tr.)

[36] Acts iv. 32.

[37] John xvii. 21.

[38] Eph. iv. 3.

[39] Kings xviii. 1.



We must, however, take notice that there are natural unions, as those of similitude, consanguinity, and of cause and effect; and others which not being natural may be termed voluntary; for though they be according to Nature yet they are only made at our will: like that union which takes its origin from benefits?which undoubtedly unite him that receives them to the giver,?that of conversation, society and the like. Now natural union produces love, and the love which it produces inclines us to another and voluntary union, perfecting the natural. Thus the father and son, the mother and daughter, or two brothers, being joined in a natural union by the participation of the same blood, are excited by this union to love, and by love are borne towards a union of will and spirit which may be called voluntary, because although its foundation is natural, yet is its action deliberate. In these loves produced by natural union we need look for no other affinity than the union itself, by which Nature preventing the will, obliges it to approve, to love, and to perfect the union it has already made. But as to voluntary unions, which follow love, love is indeed their effective cause, but they are its final cause, as being the only end and aim of love. So that as love tends to union, even so union very often extends and augments love: for love makes us seek the society of the beloved, and this often nourishes and increases love; love causes a desire of nuptial union, and this union reciprocally preserves and increases love, so that in every sense it is true that love tends to union.

But to what kind of union does it tend? Did you not note, Theotimus, that the sacred spouse expressed her desire of being united to her spouse by the kiss, and that the kiss represents the spiritual union which is caused by the reciprocal communication of souls? It is indeed the man who loves, but he loves by his will, and therefore the end of his love is of the nature of his will: but his will is spiritual, and consequently the union which love aims at is spiritual also, and so much the more because the heart, which is the seat and source of love, would not only not be perfected by union with corporal things, but would be degraded.

It will not hence be inferred that there are not certain passions in man which, as mistleto comes on trees by manner of excrescence and over-growth, sprout up indeed amongst and about love. Nevertheless they are neither love, nor any part of love, but excrescences and superfluities thereof, which are so far from being suited to maintain or perfect love, that on the contrary they greatly harm it, weaken it, and at last, if they be not cut away, utterly ruin it: and here is the reason.

In proportion to the number of operations to which the soul applies herself (whether of the same or of a different kind) she does them less perfectly and vigorously: because being finite, her active virtue is also finite, so that furnishing her activity to divers operations it is necessary that each one of them have less thereof. Thus a man attentive to several things is less attentive to each of them: we cannot quietly consider a person's features with our sight, and at the same time give an exact hearing to the harmony of a grand piece of music, nor at the same instant be attentive to figure and to colour: if we are talking earnestly, we cannot attend to anything else.

I am not ignorant of what is said concerning Caesar nor incredulous about what so many great persons testify of Origen,?that they could apply their attention at the same time to several objects; yet every one confesses that according to the measure they applied it to more objects it became less for each one of them. There is then a difference between seeing, hearing and understanding more, and seeing, hearing, and understanding better, for he that sees better, sees less, and he that sees more, sees not so well: it is rare for those who know much to know well what they know, because the virtue and force of the understanding being scattered upon the knowledge of divers things is less strong and vigorous than when it is restrained to the consideration of one only object. Hence it is that when the soul employs her forces in divers operations of love, the action so divided is less vigorous and perfect. We have three sorts of actions of love, the spiritual, the reasonable, and the sensitive; when love exerts its forces through all these three operations, doubtless it is more extended but less intense, but when through one operation only, it is more intense though less extended. Do we not see that fire, the symbol of love, forced to make its way out by the mouth of the cannon alone, makes a prodigious flash, which would have been much less if it had found vent by two or three passages? Since then love is an act of our will, he that desires to have it, not only noble and generous, but also very vigorous and active, must contain the virtue and force of it within the limits of spiritual operations, for he that would apply it to the operations of the sensible or sensitive part of our soul, would so far forth weaken the intellectual operations, in which essential love consists.

The ancient philosophers have recognized that there are two sorts of ecstasies of which the one raises us above ourselves, the other degrades us below ourselves: as though they would say that man was of a nature between angels and beasts: in his intellectual part sharing the angelical nature, and in his sensitive the nature of beasts; and yet that he could by the acts of his life and by a continual attention to himself, deliver and emancipate himself from this mean condition, and habituating himself much to intellectual actions might bring himself nearer to the nature of angels than of beasts. If however he did much apply himself to sensible actions, he descended from his middle state and approached that of beasts: and because an ecstasy is no other thing than a going out of oneself, whether one go upwards or downwards he is truly in an ecstasy. Those then who, touched with intellectual and divine pleasures, let their hearts be carried away by those feelings, are truly out of themselves, that is, above the condition of their nature, but by a blessed and desirable out-going, by which entering into a more noble and eminent estate, they are as much angels by the operation of their soul as men by the substance of their nature, and are either to be called human angels or angelic men. On the contrary, those who, allured by sensual pleasures give themselves over to the enjoying of them, descend from their middle condition to the lowest of brute beasts, and deserve as much to be called brutal by their operations as men by nature: miserable in thus going out of themselves only to enter into a condition infinitely unworthy of their natural state.

Now according as the ecstasy is greater, either above us or below us, by so much more it hinders the soul from returning to itself, and from doing operations contrary to the ecstasy in which it is. So those angelic men who are ravished in God and heavenly things, lose altogether, as long as their ecstasy lasts, the use and attention of the senses, movement, and all exterior actions, because their soul, in order to apply its power and activity more entirely and attentively to that divine object, retires and withdraws them from all its other faculties, to turn them in that direction. And in like manner brutish men give up all the use of their reason and understanding to bury themselves in sensual pleasure. The first mystically imitate Elias taken up in the fiery chariot amid the angels: the others Nabuchodonosor brutalized and debased to the rank of savage beasts.

Now I say that when the soul practises love by actions which are sensual, and which carry her below herself, it is impossible that thereby the exercise of her superior love, should not be so much the more weakened. So that true and essential love is so far from being aided and preserved by the union to which sensual love tends, that it is impaired, dissipated and ruined by it. Job's oxen ploughed the ground, while the useless asses fed by them, eating the pasture due to the labouring oxen. While the intellectual part of our soul is employed in honest and virtuous love of some worthy object, it comes to pass oftentimes that the senses and faculties of the inferior part tend to the union which they are adapted to, and which is their pasture, though union only belongs to the heart and to the spirit, which also is alone able to produce true and substantial love.

Eliseus having cured Naaman the Syrian was satisfied with having done him a service, and refused his gold, his silver and the goods he offered him, but his faithless servant Giezi, running after him, demanded and took, against his master's pleasure, that which he had refused. Intellectual and cordial love, which certainly either is or should be master in our heart, refuses all sorts of corporal and sensible unions, and is contented with goodwill only, but the powers of the sensitive part, which are or should be the handmaids of the spirit, demand, seek after and take that which reason refused, and without leave make after their abject and servile love, dishonouring, like Giezi, the purity of the intention of their master, the spirit. And in proportion as the soul turns herself to such gross and sensible unions, so far does she divert herself from the delicate, intellectual and cordial union.

You see then plainly, Theotimus, that these unions which tend to animal complacency and passions are so far from producing or preserving love that they greatly hurt it and render it extremely weak.

Basil, rosemary, marigold, hyssop, cloves, chamomile, nutmeg, lemon, and musk, put together and incorporated, yield a truly delightful odour by the mixture of their good perfume; yet not nearly so much as does the water which is distilled from them, in which the sweets of all these ingredients separated from their bodies are mingled in a much more excellent manner, uniting in a most perfect scent, which penetrates the sense of smelling far more strongly than it would do if with it and its water the bodies of the ingredients were found mingled and united. So love may be found in the unions proper to the sensual powers, mixed with the unions of intellectual powers, but never so excellently as when the spirits and souls alone, separated from all corporeal affections but united together, make love pure and spiritual. For the scent of affections thus mingled is not only sweeter and better, but more lively, more active and more essential.

True it is that many having gross, earthly and vile hearts rate the value of love like that of gold pieces, the most massive of which are the best, and most current; for so their idea is that brutish love is more strong, because it is more violent and turbulent, more solid, because more gross and terrene, greater, because more sensible and fierce:?but on the contrary, love is like fire, which is of clearer and fairer flame as its matter is more delicate, which cannot be more quickly extinguished than by beating it down and covering it with earth; for, in like manner, by how much more exalted and spiritual the subject of love is, by so much its actions are more lively, subsistent and permanent: nor is there a more easy way to ruin love than to debase it to vile and earthly unions. "There is this difference," says S. Gregory, "between spiritual and corporal pleasures, that corporal ones beget a desire before we obtain them, and a disgust when we have obtained them; but spiritual ones, on the contrary, are not cared for when we have them not, but are desired when we have them."



We have but one soul, Theotimus, and an indivisible one; but in that one soul there are various degrees of perfection, for it is living, sensible and reasonable; and according to these different degrees it has also different properties and inclinations by which it is moved to the avoidance or to the acceptance of things. For first, as we see that the vine hates, so to speak and avoids the cabbage, so that the one is pernicious to the other; and, on the contrary, is delighted in the olive:?so we perceive a natural opposition between man and the serpent, so great that a man's fasting spittle is mortal to the serpent: on the contrary, man and the sheep have a wondrous affinity, and are agreeable one to the other. Now this inclination does not proceed from any knowledge that the one has of the hurtfulness of its contrary, or of the advantage of the one with which it has affinity, but only from a certain occult and secret quality which produces this insensible opposition and antipathy, or this complacency and sympathy.

Secondly, we have in us the sensitive appetite, whereby we are moved to the seeking and avoiding many things by the sensitive knowledge we have of them; not unlike to the animals, some of which have an appetite to one thing, some to another, according to the knowledge which they have that it suits them or not. In this appetite resides, or from it proceeds, the love which we call sensual or brutish, which yet properly speaking ought not to be termed love but simply appetite.

Thirdly, inasmuch as we are reasonable, we have a will, by which we are led to seek after good, according as by reasoning we know or judge it to be such. Now in our soul, taken as reasonable, we manifestly observe two degrees of perfection, which the great S. Augustine, and after him all the doctors, have named two portions of the soul, inferior and superior. That is called inferior which reasons and draws conclusions according to what it learns and experiences by the senses; and that is called superior, which reasons and draws conclusions according to an intellectual knowledge not grounded upon the experience of sense, but on the discernment and judgment of the spirit. This superior part is called the spirit and mental part of the soul, as the inferior is termed commonly, sense, feeling, and human reason.

Now this superior part can reason according to two sorts of lights; either according to natural light, as the philosophers and all those who have reasoned by science did; or according to supernatural light, as do theologians and Christians, since they establish their reasoning upon faith and the revealed word of God, and still more especially those whose spirit is conducted by particular illustrations, inspirations, and heavenly motions. This is what S. Augustine said, namely, that it is by the superior portion of the soul that we adhere and apply ourselves to the observance of the eternal law.

Jacob, pressed by the extreme necessity of his family, let Benjamin be taken by his brethren into Egypt, which yet he did against his will, as the sacred History witnesses. In this he shows two wills, the one inferior, by which he grieved at sending him, the other superior, by which he took the resolution to part with him. For the reason which moved him to disapprove his departure was grounded on the pleasure which he felt in his presence and the pain he would feel in his absence, which are grounds that touch the senses and the feelings, but the resolution which he took to send him, was grounded upon the reason of the state of his family, from his foreseeing future and imminent necessities. Abraham, according to the inferior portion of his soul spoke words testifying in him a kind of diffidence when the angel announced unto him the happy tidings of a son. Shall a son, thinkest thou, be born to him that is a hundred years old? [40] but according, to his superior part he believed in God and it was reputed to him unto justice. [41] According to his inferior part, doubtless he was in great anguish when he was commanded to sacrifice his son: but according to his superior part he resolved courageously to sacrifice him.

We also daily experience in ourselves various contrary wills. A father sending his son either to court or to his studies, does not deny tears to his departure, testifying, that though according to his superior part, for the child's advancement in virtue, he wills his departure, yet according to his inferior part he has a repugnance to the separation. Again, though a girl be married to the contentment of her father and mother, yet when she takes their blessing she excites their tears, in such sort that though the superior will acquiesces in the departure, yet the inferior shows resistance. We must not hence infer that a man has two souls or two natures, as the Manicheans dreamed. No, says S. Augustine, in the 8th book, 10th chapter, of his Confessions, "but the will inticed by different baits, moved by different reasons, seems to be divided in itself while it is pulled two ways, until, making use of its liberty, it chooses the one or the other: for then the more efficacious will conquers, and gaining the day, leaves in the soul the feeling of the evil that the struggle caused her, which we call reluctance (contrec?ur)."

But the example of our Saviour is admirable in this point, and being considered it leaves no further doubt touching the distinction of the superior and inferior part of the soul. For who amongst theologians knows not that he was perfectly glorious from the instant of his conception in his virgin-mother's womb, and yet at the same time he was subject to sadness, grief, and afflictions of heart. Nor must we say he suffered only in the body, or only in the soul as sensitive, or, which is the same thing, according to sense: for he attests himself that before he suffered any exterior torment, or saw the tormentors near him, his soul was sorrowful even unto death. For which cause he prayed that the cup of his passion might pass away from him, that is, that he might be excused from drinking it; in which he manifestly shows the desire of the inferior portion of his soul; which, dwelling upon the sad and agonizing objects of the passion which was prepared for him (the lively image whereof was represented to his imagination), he desired, by a most reasonable consequence, the deliverance and escape from them, which he begs from his Father. By this we clearly see that the inferior part of the soul is not the same thing as the sensitive degree of it, nor the inferior will the same with the sensitive appetite; for neither the sensitive appetite, nor the soul insomuch as it is sensitive, is capable of making any demand or prayer, these being acts of the reasonable power; and they are, specially, incapable of speaking to God, an object which the senses cannot reach, so as to make it known to the appetite. But the same Saviour, having thus exercised the inferior part, and testified that according to it and its considerations his will inclined to the avoidance of the griefs and pains, showed afterwards that he had the superior part, by which inviolably adhering to the eternal will, and to the decree made by his heavenly Father, he willingly accepted death, and in spite of the repugnance of the inferior part of reason, he said: Ah! no, my Father, not my will, but thine be done. When he says my will, he speaks of his will according to the inferior portion, and inasmuch an he says it voluntarily, he shows that he has a superior will.

[40] Gen. xvii. 17.

[41] Ib. xv. 6.



There were three courts in Solomon's temple. One was for the Gentiles and strangers who, wishing to have recourse to God, went to adore in Jerusalem; the second for the Israelites, men and women (the separation of men from women not being made by Solomon); the third for the priests and Levites; and in fine, besides all this, there was the sanctuary or sacred house, which was open to the high priest only, and that but once a year. Our reason, or, to speak better, our soul in so far as it is reasonable, is the true temple of the great God, who there takes up his chief residence. "I sought thee," says S. Augustine, "outside myself, but I found thee not, because thou art within me." In this mystical temple there are also three courts, which are three different degrees of reason; in the first we reason according to the experience of sense, in the second according to human sciences, in the third according to faith: and in fine, beyond this, there is a certain eminence or supreme point of the reason and spiritual faculty, which is not guided by the light of argument or reasoning, but by a simple view of the understanding and a simple movement of the will, by which the spirit bends and submits to the truth and the will of God.

Now this extremity and summit of our soul, this highest point of our spirit, is very naturally represented by the sanctuary or holy place. For, first, in the sanctuary there were no windows to give light: in this degree of the soul there is no reasoning which illuminates. Secondly, all the light entered by the door; in this degree of the soul nothing enters but by faith, which produces, like rays, the sight and the sentiment of the beauty and goodness of the good pleasure of God. Thirdly, none entered the sanctuary save the high priest; in this apex of the soul reasoning enters not, but only the high, universal and sovereign feeling that the divine will ought sovereignly to be loved, approved and embraced, not only in some particular things but in general for all things, nor generally in all things only, but also particularly in each thing. Fourthly, the high priest entering into the sanctuary obscured even that light which came by the door, putting many perfumes into his thurible, the smoke whereof drove back the rays of light to which the open door gave entrance: and all the light which is in the supreme part of the soul is in some sort obscured and veiled by the renunciations and resignations which the soul makes, not desiring so much to behold and see the goodness of the truth and the truth of the goodness presented to her, as to embrace and adore the same, so that the soul would almost wish to shut her eyes as soon as she begins to see the dignity of God's will, to the end that not occupying herself further in considering it, she may more powerfully and perfectly accept it, and by an absolute complacency perfectly unite and submit herself thereto. Fifthly, to conclude, in the sanctuary was kept the ark of alliance, and in that, or at least adjoining to it, the tables of the law, manna in a golden vessel, and Aaron's rod which in one night bore flowers and fruit: and in this highest point of the soul are found: 1. The light of faith, figured by the manna hidden in its vessel, by which we acquiesce in the truths of the mysteries which we do not understand. 2. The utility of hope, represented by Aaron's flowering and fruitful rod, by which we acquiesce in the promises of the goods which we see not. 3. The sweetness of holy charity, represented by God's commandments which charity contains, by which we acquiesce in the union of our spirit with God's, which we scarcely perceive.

For although faith, hope and charity spread out their divine movements into almost all the faculties of the soul, as well reasonable as sensitive, reducing and holily subjecting them to their just authority, yet their special residence, their true and natural dwelling, is in this supreme region of the soul, from whence as from a happy source of living water, they run out by divers conduits and brooks upon the inferior parts and faculties.

So that, Theotimus, in the superior part of reason there are two degrees of reason. In the one those discourses are made which depend on faith and supernatural light, in the other the simple acquiescings of faith, hope and charity. Saint Paul's soul found itself pressed by two different desires, the one to be delivered from his body, so as to go to heaven with Jesus Christ, the other to remain in this world to labour in the conversion of souls; both these desires were without doubt in the superior part, for they both proceeded from charity, but his resolution to follow the latter proceeded not from reasoning but from a simple sight, seeing and loving his master's will, in which the superior point alone of the spirit acquiesced, putting on one side all that reasoning might conclude.

But if faith, hope and charity be formed by this holy acquiescence in the point of the spirit, how can reasonings which depend on the light of faith be made in the inferior part of the soul? As, Theotimus, we see that barristers dispute with many arguments on the acts and rights of parties to a suit, and that the high parliament or senate settles all the strife by a positive sentence, though even after this is pronounced the advocates and auditors do not give up discoursing among themselves the motives parliament may have had:?even so, after reasoning, and above all the grace of God have persuaded the point and highest part of the spirit to acquiesce, and make the act of faith after the manner of a sentence or judgment, the understanding does not at once cease discoursing upon that same act of faith already conceived, to consider the motives and reasons thereof. But always the arguments of theology are stated at the pleading place and bar of the superior portion of the soul, but the acquiescence is given above, on the bench and tribunal of the point of the spirit. Now, because the knowledge of these four degrees of the reason is much required for understanding all treatises on spiritual things, I have thought well to explain it rather fully.



Love is divided into two species, whereof one is called love of benevolence (or goodwill) the other of cupidity (convoitise). The love of cupidity is that by which we love something for the profit we expect from it. Love of benevolence is that by which we love a thing for its own good. For what other thing is it to have the love of benevolence for any one than to wish him good.

If he to whom we wish good have it already and possesses it, then we wish it him by the pleasure and contentment which we have to see him possessed of it, and hence springs the love of complacency, which is simply an act of the will by which it is joined and united to the pleasure, content and good of another. But in case he to whom we wish good have not yet obtained it we desire it him, and hence that love is termed love of desire.

When the love of benevolence is exercised without correspondence on the part of the beloved, it is called the love of simple benevolence; but when it is practised with mutual correspondence, it is called the love of friendship. Now mutual correspondence consists in three things; friends must love one another, know that they love one another, and have communication, intimacy and familiarity with one another.

If we love a friend without preferring him before others, the friendship is simple; if we prefer him, then this friendship will be called dilection, as if we said love of election, because we choose this from amongst many things we love, and prefer it.

Again, when by this dilection we do not much prefer one friend before others it is called simple dilection, but when, on the contrary, we much more esteem and greatly prefer one friend before others of his kind, then this friendship is called dilection by excellence.

If the esteem and preference of our friend, though great and without equal, do yet enter into comparison and proportion with others, the friendship will be called eminent dilection, but if the eminence of it be, beyond proportion and comparison, above every other, then it is graced with the title of incomparable, sovereign and supereminent dilection, and in a word it will be charity, which is due to the one God only. And indeed in our language the words cher, cherement, encherir, [42] represent a certain particular esteem, prize or value, so that as amongst the people the word man is almost appropriated to the male-kind as to the more excellent sex, and the word adoration is almost exclusively kept for God as for its proper object, so the name of Charity has been kept for the love of God as for supreme and sovereign dilection.

[42] Meaning dear, dearly, to endear. The Saint's argument cannot be given in English. It rests on the connection between cher and charit?, like the Latin carus and caritas. (Tr.)



Origin says somewhere [43] that in his opinion the Divine Scripture wishing to hinder the word love from giving occasion of evil thoughts to the weak, as being more proper to signify a carnal passion than a spiritual affection, instead of this name of love has used the words charity and dilection, which are more honest. But S. Augustine having deeply weighed the use of God's word clearly shows that the name love is no less sacred than the word dilection, and that the one and the other signify sometimes a holy affection and sometimes also a depraved passion, alleging to this purpose different passages of Holy Scripture. But the great S. Denis, as excelling doctor of the proper use of the divine names, goes much further in favour of the word love, teaching that theologians, that is, the Apostles and their first disciples (for this saint knew no other theologians) to disabuse the common people, and break down their error in taking the word love in a profane and carnal sense, more willingly employed it in divine things than that of dilection; and, though they considered that both might be used for the same thing, yet some of them were of opinion that the word love was more proper and suitable to God than the word dilection. Hence the divine Ignatius wrote these words: "My love is crucified." And as these ancient theologians made use of the word love in divine things to free it from the taint of impurity of which it was suspected according to the imagination of the world, so to express human affections they liked to use the word dilection as exempt from all suspicion of impropriety. Wherefore one of them, as S. Denis reports, said: "Thy dilection has entered into my soul like the dilection of women." [44] In fine the word love signifies more fervour, efficacy, and activity than that of dilection, so that amongst the Latins dilection is much less significative than love: "Clodius," says their great orator, "bears me dilection, and to say it more excellently, he loves me." Therefore the word love, as the most excellent, has justly been given to charity, as to the chief and most eminent of all loves; so that for all these reasons, and because I intend to speak of the acts of charity rather than of its habit, I have entitled this little work, A Treatise of the Love of God.

[43] Hom. I. in Can.

[44] De Div. Nom. iv. ? 12. The reference, of course, is to 2 Kings i. 26. S. Francis is careful to quote S. Denis, who used the Septuagint text, agapesis. The Vulgate does not mark the difference. (Tr.)



As soon as man thinks with even a little attention of the divinity, he feels a certain delightful emotion of the heart, which testifies that God is God of the human heart; and our understanding is never so filled with pleasure as in this thought of the divinity, the smallest knowledge of which, as says the prince of philosophers, is worth more than the greatest knowledge of other things; as the least beam of the sun is more luminous than the greatest of the moon or stars, yea is more luminous than the moon and stars together. And if some accident terrifies our heart, it immediately has recourse to the Divinity, protesting thereby that when all other things fail him, It alone stands his friend, and that when he is in peril, It only, as his sovereign good, can save and secure him.

This pleasure, this confidence which man's heart naturally has in God, can spring from no other root than the affinity there is between this divine goodness and man's soul, a great but secret affinity, an affinity which each one knows but few understand, an affinity which cannot be denied nor yet be easily sounded. We are created to the image and likeness of God:?what does this mean but that we have an extreme affinity with his divine majesty?

Our soul is spiritual, indivisible, immortal; understands and wills freely, is capable of judging, reasoning, knowing, and of having virtues, in which it resembles God. It resides whole in the whole body, and whole in every part thereof, as the divinity is all in all the world, and all in every part thereof. Man knows and loves himself by produced and expressed acts of his understanding and will, which proceeding from the understanding and the will, and distinct from one another, yet are and remain inseparably united in the soul, and in the faculties from whence they proceed. So the Son proceeds from the Father as his knowledge expressed, and the Holy Ghost as love breathed forth and produced from the Father and the Son, both the Persons being distinct from one another and from the Father, and yet inseparable and united, or rather one same, sole, simple, and entirely one indivisible divinity.

But besides this affinity of likenesses, there is an incomparable correspondence between God and man, for their reciprocal perfection: not that God can receive any perfection from man, but because as man cannot be perfected but by the divine goodness, so the divine goodness can scarcely so well exercise its perfection outside itself, as upon our humanity: the one has great want and capacity to receive good, the other great abundance and inclination to bestow it. Nothing is so agreeable to poverty as a liberal abundance, nor to a liberal abundance as a needy poverty, and by how much the good is more abundant, by so much more strong is the inclination to pour forth and communicate itself. By how much more the poor man is in want, so much the more eager is he to receive, as a void is to fill itself. The meeting then of abundance and indigence is most sweet and agreeable, and one could scarcely have said whether the abounding good have a greater contentment in spreading and communicating itself, or the failing and needy good in receiving and in drawing to itself, until Our Saviour had told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. [45] Now where there is more blessedness there is more satisfaction, and therefore the divine goodness receives greater pleasure in giving than we in receiving.

Mothers' breasts are sometimes so full that they must offer them to some child, and though the child takes the breast with great avidity, the nurse offers it still more eagerly, the child pressed by its necessity, and the mother by her abundance.

The sacred spouse wished for the holy kiss of union: O, said she, let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth. [46] But is there affinity enough, O well-beloved spouse of the well-beloved, between thee and thy loving one to bring to the union which thou desirest? Yes, says she: give me it; this kiss of union, O thou dear love of my heart: for thy breasts are better than wine, smelling sweet of the best ointment. New wine works and boils in itself by virtue of its goodness, and cannot be contained within the casks; but thy breasts are yet better, they press thee more strongly, and to draw the children of thy heart to them, they spread a perfume attractive beyond all the scent of ointments. Thus, Theotimus, our emptiness has need of the divine abundance by reason of its want and necessity, but God's abundance has no need of our poverty but by reason of the excellency of his perfection and goodness; a goodness which is not at all bettered by communication, for it acquires nothing in pouring itself out of itself, on the contrary it gives: but our poverty would remain wanting and miserable, if it were not enriched by the divine abundance.

Our soul then seeing that nothing can perfectly content her, and that nothing the world can afford is able to fill her capacity, considering that her understanding has an infinite inclination ever to know more, and her will an insatiable appetite to love and find the good;?has she not reason to cry out: Ah! I am not then made for this world, there is a sovereign good on which I depend, some infinite workman who has placed in me this endless desire of knowing, and this appetite which cannot be appeased! And therefore I must tend and extend towards Him, to unite and join myself to the goodness of Him to whom I belong and whose I am! Such is the affinity between God and man's soul.

[45] Acts xx. 35.

[46] Cant. i. 1.



If there could be found any men who were in the integrity of original justice in which Adam was created, though otherwise not helped by another assistance from God than that which he affords to each creature, in order that it may be able to do the actions befitting its nature, such men would not only have an inclination to love God above all things but even naturally would be able to put into execution so just an inclination. For as this heavenly author and master of nature co-operates with and lends his strong hand to fire to spring on high, to water to flow towards the sea, to earth to sink down to its centre and stay there?so having himself planted in man's heart a special natural inclination not only to love good in general but to love in particular and above all things his divine goodness which is better and sweeter than all things?the sweetness of his sovereign providence required that he should contribute to these blessed men of whom we speak as much help as should be necessary to practise and effectuate that inclination. This help would be on the one hand natural, as being suitable to nature, and tending to the love of God as author and sovereign master of nature, and on the other hand it would be supernatural, because it would correspond not with the simple nature of man, but with nature adorned, enriched and honoured by original justice, which is a supernatural quality proceeding from a most special favour of God. But as to the love above all things which such help would enable these men to practise, it would be called natural, because virtuous actions take their names from their objects and motives, and this love of which we speak would only tend to God as acknowledged to be author, lord and sovereign of every creature by natural light only, and consequently to be amiable and estimable above all things by natural inclination and tendency.

And although now our human nature be not endowed with that original soundness and righteousness which the first man had in his creation, but on the contrary be greatly depraved by sin, yet still the holy inclination to love God above all things stays with us, as also the natural light by which we see his sovereign goodness to be more worthy of love than all things; and it is impossible that one thinking attentively upon God, yea even by natural reasoning only, should not feel a certain movement of love which the secret inclination of our nature excites in the bottom of our hearts, by which at the first apprehension of this chief and sovereign object, the will is taken, and perceives itself stirred up to a complacency in it.

It happens often amongst partridges that one steals away another's eggs with intention to sit on them, whether moved by greediness to become a mother, or by a stupidity which makes them mistake their own, and behold a strange thing, yet well supported by testimony!?the young one which was hatched and nourished under the wings of a stranger partridge, at the first call of the true mother, who had laid the egg whence she was hatched, quits the thief-partridge, goes back to the first mother, and puts herself in her brood, from the correspondence which she has with her first origin. Yet this correspondence appeared not, but remained secret, shut up and as it were sleeping in the bottom of nature, till it met with its object; when suddenly excited, and in a sort awakened, it produces its effect, and turns the young partridge's inclination to its first duty. It is the same, Theotimus, with our heart, which though it be formed, nourished and bred amongst corporal, base and transitory things, and in a manner under the wings of nature, notwithstanding, at the first look it throws on God, at its first knowledge of him, the natural and first inclination to love God which was dull and imperceptible, awakes in an instant, and suddenly appears as a spark from amongst the ashes, which touching our will gives it a movement of the supreme love due to the sovereign and first principle of all things.



Eagles have a great heart, and much strength of flight, yet they have incomparably more sight than flight, and extend their vision much quicker and further than their wings. So our souls animated with a holy natural inclination towards the divinity, have far more light in the understanding to see how lovable it is than force in the will to love it. Sin has much more weakened man's will than darkened his intellect, and the rebellion of the sensual appetite, which we call concupiscence, does indeed disturb the understanding, but still it is against the will that it principally stirs up sedition and revolt: so that the poor will, already quite infirm, being shaken with the continual assaults which concupiscence directs against it, cannot make so great progress in divine love as reason and natural inclination suggest to it that it should do.

Alas! Theotimus, what fine testimonies not only of a great knowledge of God, but also of a strong inclination towards him, have been left by those great philosophers, Socrates, Plato, Trismegistus, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Seneca, Epictetus? Socrates, the most highly praised amongst them, came to the clear knowledge of the unity of God, and felt in himself such an inclination to love him, that as S. Augustine testifies, many were of opinion that he never had any other aim in teaching moral philosophy than to purify minds that they might better contemplate the sovereign good, which is the simple unity of the Divinity. And as for Plato, he sufficiently declares himself in his definition of philosophy and of a philosopher; saying that to do the part of a philosopher is nothing else but to love God, and that a philosopher is no other thing than a lover of God. What shall I say of the great Aristotle, who so efficaciously proves the unity of God and has spoken so honourably of it in so many places?

But, O eternal God! those great spirits which had so great an inclination to love it, were all wanting in force and courage to love it well. By visible creatures they have known the invisible things of God, yea even his eternal power also and divinity, says the Apostle, so that they are inexcusable. Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks. [47] They glorified him indeed in some sort, attributing to him sovereign titles of honour, yet they did not glorify him as they ought, that is, they did not glorify him above all things; not having the courage to destroy idolatry, but communicating with idolators, detaining the truth which they knew in injustice, prisoner in their hearts, and preferring the honour and vain repose of their lives before the honour due unto God, they grew vain in their knowledge.

Is it not a great pity, Theotimus, to see Socrates, as Plato reports, speak upon his deathbed concerning the gods as though there had been many, he knowing so well that there was but one only? Is it not a thing to be deplored that Plato who understood so clearly the truth of the divine unity should ordain that sacrifice should be offered to many gods? And is it not a lamentable thing that Mercury Trismegistus should so basely lament and grieve over the abolition of idolatry, who on so many occasions had spoken so worthily of the divinity? But above all I wonder at the poor good man Epictetus, whose words and sentences are so sweet in our tongue, in the translation which the learned and agreeable pen of the R. F. D. John of S. Francis, Provincial of the Congregation of the Feuillants in the Gauls, has recently put before us. For what a pity it is, I pray you, to see this excellent philosopher speak of God sometimes with such relish, feeling, and zeal that one would have taken him for a Christian coming from some holy and profound meditation, and yet again from time to time talking of gods after the Pagan manner! Alas! this good man, who knew so well the unity of God, and had so much delight in his goodness, why had he not the holy jealousy of the divine honour, so as not to stumble or dissemble in a matter of so great consequence?

In a word, Theotimus, our wretched nature spoilt by sin, is like palm-trees in this land of ours, which indeed make some imperfect productions and as it were experiments of fruits, but to bear entire, ripe and seasoned dates?that is, reserved for hotter climates. For so our human heart naturally produces certain beginnings of God's love, but to proceed so far as to love him above all things, which is the true ripeness of the love due unto this supreme goodness,?this belongs only to hearts animated and assisted with heavenly grace, and which are in the state of holy charity. This little imperfect love of which nature by itself feels the stirrings, is but a will without will, a will that would but wills not, a sterile will, which does not produce true effects, a will sick of the palsy, which sees the healthful pond of holy love, but has not the strength to throw itself into it. To conclude, this will is an abortion of good will, which has not the life of generous strength necessary to effectually prefer God before all things. Whereupon the Apostle speaking in the person of the sinner, cries out: To will good is present with me, but to accomplish that which is good I find not. [48]

[47] Rom. i. 20.

[48] Rom. vii. 18.



But seeing we have not power naturally to love God above all things, why have we naturally an inclination to it? Is not nature vain to incite us to a love which she cannot bestow upon us? Why does she give us a thirst for a precious water of which she cannot give us to drink? Ah! Theotimus, how good God has been to us! The perfidy which we committed in offending him deserved truly that he should have deprived us of all the marks of his benevolence, and of the favour which he deigned to our nature when he imprinted upon it the light of his divine countenance, and gave to our hearts the joyfulness of feeling themselves inclined to the love of the divine goodness: so that the angels seeing this miserable man would have had occasion to say in pity: Is this the creature of perfect beauty, the joy of all the earth? [49]

But this infinite clemency could never be so rigorous to the work of his hands; he saw that we were clothed with flesh a wind which goeth and returneth not, [50] and therefore according to the bowels of his mercy he would not utterly ruin us, nor deprive us of the sign of his lost grace, in order that seeing this, and feeling in ourselves this alliance, and this inclination to love him, we should strive to do so, that no one might justly say: Who showeth us good things? [51] For though by this sole natural inclination we cannot be so happy as to love God as we ought, yet if we employed it faithfully, the sweetness of the divine piety would afford us some assistance, by means of which we might make progress, and if we second this first assistance the paternal goodness of God would bestow upon us another greater, and conduct us from good to better in all sweetness, till he brought us to the sovereign love, to which our natural inclination impels us: since it is certain that to him who is faithful in a little, and who does what is in his power, the divine benignity never denies its assistance to advance him more and more.

This natural inclination then which we have to love God above all things is not left for nothing in our hearts: for on God's part it is a handle by which he can hold us and draw us to himself;?and the divine goodness seems in some sort by this impression to keep our hearts tied as little birds in a string, by which he can draw us when it pleases his mercy to take pity upon us?and on our part it is a mark and memorial of our first principle and Creator, to whose love it moves us, giving us a secret intimation that we belong to his divine goodness; even as harts upon whom princes have had collars put with their arms, though afterwards they cause them to be let loose and run at liberty in the forest, do not fail to be recognized by any one who meets them not only as having been once taken by the prince whose arms they bear, but also as being still reserved for him. And in this way was known the extreme old age of a hart which according to some historians was taken three hundred years after the death of C?sar; because there was found on him a collar with C?sar's device upon it, and these words: C?sar let me go.

In truth the honourable inclination which God has left in our hearts testifies as well to our friends as to our enemies that we did not only sometime belong to our Creator, but furthermore, though he has left us and let us go at the mercy of our free will, that we still appertain to him, and that he has reserved the right of taking us again to himself, to save us, according as his holy and sweet providence shall require. Hence the royal prophet terms this inclination not only a light, in that it makes us see whither we are to tend, but also a joy and gladness, [52] for it comforts us when we stray, giving us a hope that he who engraved and left in us this clear mark of our origin intends also and desires to reduce and bring us back thither, if we be so happy as to let ourselves be retaken by his divine goodness.

[49] Lam. ii. 15.

[50] Ps. lxxvii. 39.

[51] Ps. iv. 6.

[52] Ibid. 7.

Book II




When the sun rises red and soon after looks black, or hollow and sunk; or again when it sets wan, pale, and dull, we say it is a sign of rain. Theotimus, the sun is not red, nor black, nor grey, nor green: that great luminary is not subject to these vicissitudes and changes of colour, having for its sole colour its most clear and perpetual light which, unless by miracle, is invariable. But we use this manner of speaking, because it seems such to us, according to the variety of vapours interposed between him and our eyes, which make him appear in different ways.

In like manner we discourse of God, not so much according to what he is in himself, as according to his works, by means of which we contemplate him; for according to our various considerations we name him variously, even as though he had a great multitude of different excellences and perfections. If we regard him inasmuch as he punishes the wicked, we term him just; if as he delivers sinners from their misery, we proclaim him merciful; since he has created all things and done many wonders, we name him omnipotent; as exactly fulfilling his promises we call him true; as ranging all things in so goodly an order we call him most wise; and thus, continuing and following the variety of his works, we attribute unto him a great diversity of perfections. But, all the time, in God there is neither variety, nor any difference whatever of perfections. He is himself one most sole, most simple and most indivisible, unique perfection: for all that is in him is but himself, and all the excellences which we say are in him in so great diversity are really there in a most simple and pure unity. And as the sun has none of the colours which we ascribe unto it, but one sole most clear light surpassing all colour, and giving colour to all colours,?so in God there is not one of those perfections which we imagine, but an only most pure excellence, which is above all perfection and gives perfection to all that is perfect. Now to assign a perfect name to this supreme excellence, which in its most singular unity comprehends, yea surmounts, all excellence, is not within the reach of the creature, whether human or angelic; for as is said in the Apocalypse: Our Lord has a name which no man knoweth but himself: [53] because as he only perfectly knows his own infinite perfection he also alone can express it by a suitable name. Whence the ancients have said that no one but God is a true theologian, as none but he can reach the full knowledge of the infinite greatness of the divine perfection, nor, consequently, represent it in words. And for this cause, God, answering by the angel Samson's father who demanded his name, said: Why asketh thou my name which is wonderful? [54] As though he had said: My name may be admired, but never pronounced by creatures; it must be adored, but cannot be comprehended save by me, who alone can pronounce the proper name by which truly and to the life I express my excellence. Our thoughts are too feeble to form a conception which should represent an excellence so immense, which comprehends in its most simple and most sole perfection, distinctly and perfectly, all other perfections in a manner infinitely excellent and eminent, to which our thoughts cannot raise themselves. We are forced, then, in order to speak in some way of God, to use a great number of names, saying that he is good, wise, omnipotent, true, just, holy, infinite, immortal, invisible;?and certainly we speak truly; God is all this together, because he is more than all this, that is to say, he is all this in so pure, so excellent and so exalted a way, that in one most simple perfection he contains the virtue, vigour and excellence of all perfection.

In the same way, the manna was one meat, which, containing in itself the taste and virtue of all other meats, might have been said to have the taste of the lemon, the melon, the grape, the plum and the pear. Yet one might have said with still greater truth that it had not all these tastes, but one only, which was its own proper one, but which contained in its unity all that was agreeable and desirable in all the diversity of other tastes: like the herb dodecatheos, which, says Pliny, while curing all diseases, is nor rhubarb, nor senna, nor rose, nor clove, nor bugloss, but one simple, which in its own proper simplicity contains as much virtue as all other medicaments together. O abyss of the divine perfections! How admirable art thou, to possess in one only perfection the excellence of all perfection in so excellent a manner that none can comprehend it but thyself!

We shall say much, says the Scripture, and yet shall want words: but the sum of our words is: He is all. What shall we be able to do to glorify him, for the Almighty himself is above all his works? The Lord is terrible, and exceeding great, and his power is admirable. Glorify the Lord as much as ever you can, for he will yet far exceed, and his magnificence is wonderful. Blessing the Lord, exalt him as much as you can: for he is above all praise. When you exalt him put forth all your strength, and be not weary: for you can never go far enough. [55] No, Theotimus, we can never comprehend him, since, as St. John says, he is greater than our heart. [56] Nevertheless, let every spirit praise the Lord, calling him by all the most eminent names which may be found, and for the greatest praise we can render unto him let us confess that never can he be sufficiently praised; and for the most excellent name we can attribute unto him let us protest that his name surpasses all names, nor can we worthily name him.

[53] Apoc. xix. 12.

[54] Judges xiii. 18.

[55] Ecclus. xliii. 29

[56] 1 John iii. 20.



There is in us great diversity of faculties and habits, which produce also a great variety of actions, and those actions an incomparable multitude of works. Thus differ the faculties of hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, moving, feeding, understanding, willing; and the habits of speaking, walking, playing, singing, sewing, leaping, swimming: as also the actions and works which issue from these faculties and habits are greatly different.

But it is not the same in God; for in him there is one only most simple infinite perfection, and in that perfection one only most sole and most pure act: yea to speak more holily and sagely, God is one unique and most uniquely sovereign perfection, and this perfection is one sole most purely simple and most simply pure act, which being no other thing than the proper divine essence, is consequently ever permanent and eternal. Nevertheless poor creatures that we are, we talk of God's actions as though daily done in great number and variety, though we know the contrary. But our weakness, Theotimus, forces us to this; for our speech can but follow our understanding, and our understanding the customary order of things with us. Now, as in natural things there is hardly any diversity of works without diversity of actions, when we behold so many different works, such great variety of productions, and the innumerable multitude of the effects of the divine might, it seems to us at first that this diversity is caused by as many acts as we see different effects, and we speak of them in the same way, in order to speak more at our ease, according to our ordinary practice and our customary way of understanding things. And indeed we do not in this violate truth, for though in God there is no multitude of actions, but one sole act which is the divinity itself, yet this act is so perfect that it comprehends by excellence the force and virtue of all the acts which would seem requisite to the production of all the different effects we see.

God spoke but one word, and in virtue of that in a moment were made the sun, moon and that innumerable multitude of stars, with their differences in brightness, motion and influence. He spoke and they were made. [57] A single word of God's filled the air with birds, and the sea with fishes, made spring from the earth all the plants and all the beasts we see. For although the sacred historian, accommodating himself to our fashion of understanding, recounts that God often repeated that omnipotent word: Let there be: according to the days of the world's creation, nevertheless, properly speaking, this word was singularly one; so that David terms it a breathing or spirit of the divine mouth; [58] that is, one single act of his infinite will, which so powerfully spreads its virtue over the variety of created things, that it makes us conceive this act as if it were multiplied and diversified into as many differences as there are in these effects, though in reality it is most simply and singularly one. Thus S. Chrysostom remarks that what Moses said in many words describing the creation of the world, the glorious S. John expressed in a single word, saying that by the word, that is by that eternal word who is the Son of God, all things were made. [59]

This word then, Theotimus, whilst most simple and most single, produces all the distinction of things; being invariable produces all fit changes, and, in fine, being permanent in his eternity gives succession, vicissitude, order, rank and season to all things.

Let us imagine, I pray you, on the one hand, a painter making a picture of Our Saviour's birth (and I write this in the days dedicated to this holy mystery). Doubtless he will give a thousand and a thousand touches with his brush, and will take, not only days, but weeks and months, to perfect this picture, according to the variety of persons and other things he wants to represent in it. But on the other hand, let us look at a printer of pictures, who having spread his sheet upon the plate which has the same mystery of the Nativity cut in it, gives but a single stroke of the press: in this one stroke, Theotimus, he will do all his work, and instantly he will draw off a picture representing in a fine engraving all that has been imagined, as sacred history records it. Now though with one movement he performed the work, yet it contains a great number of personages, and other different things, each one well distinguished in its order, rank, place, distance and proportion: so that one not acquainted with the secret would be astonished to see proceed from one act so great a variety of effects. In the same way, Theotimus, nature as a painter multiplies and diversifies her acts according as the works she has in hand are various, and it takes her a great time to finish great effects, but God, like the printer, has given being to all the diversity of creatures which have been, are, or shall be, by one only stroke of his omnipotent will. He draws from his idea as from a well cut plate, this admirable difference of persons and of things, which succeed one another in seasons, in ages, and in times, each one in its order, as they were to be. For this sovereign unity of the divine act is opposed to confusion and disorder, and not to distinction and variety; these on the contrary it purposely uses, to make beauty from them, by reducing all differences and diversities to proportion, proportion to order, and order to the unity of the world, which comprises all things created, visible and invisible. All these together are called the universe, perhaps because all their diversity is reduced to unity as though one said "unidiverse," that is, one and diverse, one with diversity and diverse with unity.

To sum up, the sovereign divine unity diversifies all, and his permanent eternity gives change to all things, because the perfection of this unity being above all difference and variety, it has wherewith to furnish all the diversities of created perfections with their beings, and contains a virtue to produce them; in sign of which the Scripture having told us that God in the beginning said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons and for days and years, [60] ?we see even to this day a perpetual revolution and succession of times and seasons which shall continue till the end of the world. So we learn that as he spoke and they were made, so the single eternal will of his divine Majesty extends its force from age to age, yea to ages of ages, to all that has been, is, or shall be eternally; and nothing at all has existence save by this sole most singular, most simple, and most eternal divine act, to which be honour and glory. Amen.

[57] Ps. cxlviii. 5.

[58] Ps. xxxii. 6.

[59] 1 John i. 3.

[60] Gen. i. 14.



God, then, Theotimus, needs not many acts, because one only divine act of his all-powerful will, by reason of its infinite perfection, is sufficient to produce all the variety of his works. But we mortals must treat them after the method and manner of understanding which our small minds can attain to; according to which, to speak of divine providence, let us consider, I pray you, the reign of the great Solomon, as a perfect model of the art of good government.

This great king then, knowing by divine inspiration that the commonwealth is to religion as the body to the soul, and religion to the commonwealth as the soul to the body, disposed with himself all the parts requisite as well for the establishment of religion as of the commonwealth. As to religion, he determined that a temple must be erected of such and such length, breadth, and height, so many porches and courts, so many windows and thus of all the rest which belonged to the temple; then so many sacrificers, so many singers and other officers of the temple. And as for the commonwealth he determined to make a royal palace and court for his majesty, and in this so many stewards, so many gentlemen and other courtiers; and, for the people, judges, and other magistrates who were to execute justice further, for the assurance of the kingdom, and securing of the public peace which it enjoyed, he arranged to have in time of peace a powerful preparation for war, and to this effect two hundred and fifty commanders in various charges, forty thousand horses, and all that great equipage which the Scripture and historians record.

Now having disposed and arranged in his mind all the principal things requisite for his kingdom, he came to the act of providing them, and thought out all that was necessary to construct the temple, to maintain the sacred officers, the royal ministers and magistrates, and the soldiers whom he intended to appoint, and resolved to send to Hiram for fit timber, to begin commerce with Peru [61] and Ophir, and to take all convenient means to procure all things requisite for the fulfilment and success of his undertaking. Neither stayed he there, Theotimus, for having made his project and deliberated with himself about the proper means to accomplish it, coming to the practice, he actually created officers as he had disposed, and by a good government caused provision to be made of all things requisite to carry out and to accomplish their charges. So that having the knowledge of the art of reigning well, he put it into practice, executed that disposition which he had made in his mind for the creation of officers of every sort, and provided in effect what he had seen it necessary to provide; and so his art of government which consisted in disposition, and in providence or foresight, was put into practice by the creation of officers and by actual government and good management. But inasmuch as the disposing is useless without the creation of officers, and creation also vain without that provident foresight which looks after what is needed to maintain the officers created or appointed; and since this maintaining by good government is nothing more than a providence put into effect, therefore not only the disposition but also the creation and good government of Solomon were called by the name of providence, nor do we indeed say that a man is provident unless he govern well.

Now, Theotimus, speaking of heavenly things according to the impression we have gained by the consideration of human things, we affirm that God, having had an eternal and most perfect knowledge of the art of making the world for his glory, disposed before all things in his divine understanding all the principal parts of the universe which might render him honour; to wit, angelic and human nature,?and in the angelic nature the variety of hierarchies and orders, as the sacred Scripture and holy doctors teach us; as also among men he ordained that there should be that great diversity which we see. Further, in this same eternity he provided and determined in his mind all the means requisite for men and angels to come to the end for which he had ordained them, and so made the act of his providence; and not stopping there, he, in order to effect what he had disposed, really created angels and men, and to effect his providence he did and does by his government furnish reasonable creatures with all things necessary to attain glory, so that, to say it in a word, sovereign providence is no other thing than the act whereby God furnishes men or angels with the means necessary or useful for the obtaining of their end. But because these means are of different kinds we also diversify the name of providence, and say that there is one providence natural, another supernatural, and that the latter again is general, or special, or particular.

And because hereafter, Theotimus, I shall exhort you to unite your will to God's providence, I would, while on this part of my subject, say a word about natural providence. God then, willing to provide men with the natural means necessary for them to render glory to the divine goodness, produced in their behalf all the other animals and the plants, and to provide for the other animals and the plants, he has produced a variety of lands, seasons, waters, winds, rains; and, as well for man as for the other things appertaining to him, he created the elements, the sky, the stars, ordaining in an admirable manner that almost all creatures should mutually serve one another. Horses carry us, and we care for them; sheep feed and clothe us, and we feed them; the earth sends vapours to the air; and the air rain to the earth; the hand serves the foot, and the foot the hand. O! he who should consider this general commerce and traffic which creatures have together, in so perfect a correspondence?with how strong an amorous passion for this sovereign wisdom would he be moved, crying out: Thy providence O great and eternal Father governs all things! [62] S. Basil and S. Ambrose in their Hexaemerons, the good Louis of Granada in his introduction to the Creed, and Louis Richeome in many of his beautiful works, will furnish ample motives to loving souls profitably to employ this consideration.

Thus, dear Theotimus, this providence reaches all, reigns over all, and reduces all to its glory. There are indeed fortuitous cases and unexpected accidents, but they are only fortuitous or unexpected to us, and are of course most certain to the divine providence, which foresees them, and directs them to the general good of the universe. These accidents happen by the concurrence of various causes, which having no natural alliance one with the other, produce each of them its particular effect, but in such a way that from their concourse there issues another effect of a different nature, to which though one could not foresee it, all these different causes contributed. For example, it was reasonable to chastise the curiosity of the poet ?schylus, who being told by a diviner that he would perish by the fall of some house, kept himself all that day in the open country, to escape his fate, and as he was standing up bareheaded, a falcon which held in its claws a tortoise, seeing this bald head, and thinking it to be the point of a rock, let the tortoise fall upon it, and behold ?schylus dies immediately, crushed by the house and shell of a tortoise. This was doubtless a fortuitous accident, for this man did not go into the country to die, but to escape death, nor did the falcon dream of crushing a poet's head, but the head and shell of a tortoise to make itself master of the meat within: yet it chanced to the contrary, for the tortoise remained safe and poor ?schylus was killed. According to us this chance was unexpected, but in respect of the Divine providence which looked from above and saw the concurrence of causes, it was an act of justice punishing the superstition of the man. The adventures of Joseph of old were admirable in their variety and the way they passed from one extreme to the other. His brethren who to ruin him had sold him, were amazed to see that he had become viceroy, and were mightily apprehensive that he remained sensible of the wrong they had done him: but no said he: Not by your counsel was I sent hither, but by the will of God. You thought evil against me, but God turned it into good. [63] You see, Theotimus, the world would have termed this a chance, or fortuitous event, which Joseph called a design of the sovereign providence, which turns and reduces all to its service. It is the same with all things that happen in the world yea, even with monstrosities, whose birth makes complete and perfect works more esteemed, begets admiration, provokes discussion, and many good thoughts; in a word they are in the world as the shades in pictures, which give grace and seem to bring out the colours.

[61] According to the opinion not uncommon in. S. Francis's day. (Tr.)

[62] Wisdom xiv. 3.

[63] Gen. xlv. 8; l. 20.



All God's works are ordained to the salvation of men and angels; and the order of his providence is this, as far as, by attention to the Holy Scriptures and the doctrine of the Fathers, we are able to discover and our weakness permits us to describe it.

God knew from all eternity that he could make an innumerable multitude of creatures with divers perfections and qualities, to whom he might communicate himself, and considering that amongst all the different communications there was none so excellent as that of uniting himself to some created nature, in such sort that the creature might be engrafted and implanted in the divinity, and become one single person with it, his infinite goodness, which of itself and by itself tends towards communication, resolved and determined to communicate himself in this manner. So that, as eternally there is an essential communication in God by which the Father communicates all his infinite and indivisible divinity to the Son in producing him, and the Father and the Son together producing the Holy Ghost communicate to him also their own singular divinity;?so this sovereign sweetness was so perfectly communicated externally to a creature, that the created nature and the divinity, retaining each of them its own properties, were notwithstanding so united together that they were but one same person.

Now of all the creatures which that sovereign omnipotence could produce, he thought good to make choice of the same humanity which afterwards in effect was united to the person of God the Son; to which he destined that incomparable honour of personal union with his divine Majesty, to the end that for all eternity it might enjoy by excellence the treasures of his infinite glory. Then having selected for this happiness the sacred humanity of our Saviour, the supreme providence decreed not to restrain his goodness to the only person of his well-beloved Son, but for his sake to pour it out upon divers other creatures, and out of the mass of that innumerable quantity of things which he could produce, he chose to create men and angels to accompany his Son, participate in his graces and glory, adore and praise him for ever. And inasmuch as he saw that he could in various manners form the humanity of this Son, while making him true man, as for example by creating him out of nothing, not only in regard of the soul but also in regard of the body; or again by forming the body of some previously existing matter as he did that of Adam and Eve, or by way of ordinary human birth, or finally by extraordinary birth from a woman without man, he determined that the work should be effected by the last way, and of all the women he might have chosen to this end he made choice of the most holy virgin Our Lady, through whom the Saviour of our souls should not only be man, but a child of the human race.

Furthermore the sacred providence determined to produce all other things as well natural as supernatural in behalf of Our Saviour, in order that angels and men might, by serving him, share in his glory; on which account, although God willed to create both angels and men with free-will, free with a true freedom to choose evil or good, still, to show that on the part of the divine goodness they were dedicated to good and to glory, he created them all in original justice, which is no other thing than a most sweet love, which disposed, turned and set them forward towards eternal felicity.

But because this supreme wisdom had determined so to temper this original love with the will of his creatures that love should not force the will but should leave it in its freedom, he foresaw that a part, yet the less part, of the angelic nature, voluntarily quitting holy love, would consequently lose glory. And because the angelic nature could only commit this sin by an express malice, without temptation or any motive which could excuse them, and on the other hand the far greater part of that same nature would remain constant in the service of their Saviour,?therefore God, who had so amply glorified his mercy in the work of the creation of angels, would also magnify his justice, and in the fury of his indignation resolved for ever to abandon that woful and accursed troop of traitors, who in the fury of their rebellion had so villanously abandoned him.

He also clearly foresaw that the first man would abuse his liberty and forsaking grace would lose glory, yet would he not treat human nature so rigorously as he determined to treat the angelic. It was human nature of which he had determined to take a blessed portion to unite it to his divinity. He saw that it was a feeble nature, a wind which goeth and returneth not, [64] that is, which is dissipated as it goes. He had regard to the surprise by which the malign and perverse Satan had taken the first man, and to the greatness of the temptation which ruined him. He saw that all the race of men was perishing by the fault of one only, so that for these reasons he beheld our nature with the eye of pity and resolved to admit it to his mercy.

But in order that the sweetness of his mercy might be adorned with the beauty of his justice, he determined to save man by way of a rigorous redemption. And as this could not properly be done but by his Son, he settled that he should redeem man not only by one of his amorous actions, which would have been perfectly sufficient to ransom a million million of worlds: but also by all the innumerable amorous actions and dolorous passions which he would perform or suffer till death, and the death of the cross, to which he destined him. He willed that thus he should make himself the companion of our miseries to make us afterwards companions of his glory, showing thereby the riches of his goodness, by this copious, abundant, superabundant, magnificent and excessive redemption, which has gained for us, and as it were reconquered for us, all the means necessary to attain glory, so that no man can ever complain as though the divine mercy were wanting to any one.

[64] Ps. lxxvii. 39.



Now when saying, Theotimus, that God had seen and willed first one thing and then secondly another, observing an order in his wills: I meant this in the sense I declared before, namely, that though all this passed in a most singular and simple act, yet in that act the order, distinction and dependence of things were no less observed than if there had been indeed several acts in the understanding and will of God. And since every well-ordered will which determines itself to love several objects equally present, loves better and above all the rest that which is most lovable; it follows that the sovereign Providence, making his eternal purpose and design of all that he would produce, first willed and preferred by excellence the most amiable object of his love which is Our Saviour; and then other creatures in order, according as they more or less belong to the service, honours and glory of him.

Thus were all things made for that divine man, who for this cause is called the first-born of every creature: [65] possessed by the divine majesty in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning. [66] For in him were all things created in heaven, and on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him: And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from among the dead: that in all things he may hold the primacy. [67] The principal reason of planting the vine is the fruit, and therefore the fruit is the first thing desired and aimed at, though the leaves and the buds are first produced. So our great Saviour was the first in the divine intention, and in that eternal project which the divine providence made of the production of creatures, and in view of this desired fruit the vine of the universe was planted, and the succession of many generations established, which as leaves or blossoms proceed from it as forerunners and fit preparatives for the production of that grape which the sacred spouse so much praises in the Canticles, and the juice of which rejoices God and men.

But now, my Theotimus, who can doubt of the abundance of the means of salvation, since we have so great a Saviour, in consideration of whom we have been made, and by whose merits we have been ransomed. For he died for all because all were dead, and his mercy was more salutary to buy back the race of men than Adam's misery was to ruin it. Indeed Adam's sin was so far from overwhelming the divine benignity that on the contrary it excited and provoked it. So that by a most sweet and most loving reaction and struggle, it received vigour from its adversary's presence, and as if re-collecting its forces for victory, it made grace to superabound where sin had abounded. [68] Whence the holy Church by a pious excess of admiration cries out upon Easter-eve: "O truly necessary sin of Adam which was blotted out by the death of Jesus Christ! O blessed fault, which merited to have such and so great a Redeemer!" Truly, Theotimus, we may say as did he of old, "we were ruined had we not been undone:" that is, ruin brought us profit, since in effect human nature has received more graces by its Saviour redeeming, than ever it would have received by Adam's innocence, if he had persevered therein.

For though the divine Providence has left in man deep marks of his severity, yea, even amidst the very grace of his mercy, as for example the necessity of dying, diseases, labours, the rebellion of sensuality,?yet the divine favour floating as it were over all this, takes pleasure in turning these miseries to the greater profit of those who love him, making patience spring from labours, contempt of the world from the necessity of death, a thousand victories from out of concupiscence; and, as the rainbow touching the thorn aspalathus makes it more odoriferous than the lily, so Our Saviour's Redemption touching our miseries, makes them more beneficial and worthy of love than original innocence could ever have been. I say to you, says Our Saviour, there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance, [69] and so the state of redemption is a hundred times better than that of innocence. Verily by the watering of Our Saviour's blood made with the hyssop of the cross, we have been replaced in a whiteness incomparably more excellent than the snow of innocence. We come out, like Naaman, from the stream of salvation more pure and clean than if we had never been leprous, to the end that the divine Majesty, as he has ordained also for us, should not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good, [70] that mercy (as a sacred oil) should keep itself above judgment, [71] and his tender mercies be over all his works. [72]

[65] Col. i. 15.

[66] Prov. viii. 22.

[67] Col. i. 16.

[68] Rom. v. 20.

[69] Luke xv. 7.

[70] Rom. xii. 21.

[71] James ii. 13.

[72] Ps. cxliv. 9.



God indeed shows to admiration the incomprehensible riches of his power in this great variety of things which we see in nature, yet he makes the infinite treasures of his goodness still more magnificently appear in the incomparable variety of the goods which we acknowledge in grace. For, Theotimus, he was not content, in the holy excess of his mercy, with sending to his people, that is, to mankind, a general and universal redemption, by means whereof every one might be saved, but he has diversified it in so many ways, that while his liberality shines in all this variety, this variety reciprocally embellishes his liberality.

And thus he first of all destined for his most holy Mother a favour worthy of the love of a Son who, being all wise, all mighty, and all good, wished to prepare a mother to his liking; and therefore he willed his redemption to be applied to her after the manner of a preserving remedy, that the sin which was spreading from generation to generation should not reach her. She then was so excellently redeemed, that though when the time came, the torrent of original iniquity rushed to pour its unhappy waves over her conception, with as much impetuosity as it had done on that of the other daughters of Adam; yet when it reached there it passed not beyond, but stopped, as did anciently the Jordan in the time of Josue, and for the same respect: for this river held its stream in reverence for the passage of the Ark of Alliance; and original sin drew back its waters, revering and dreading the presence of the true Tabernacle of the eternal alliance. In this way then God turned away all captivity from his glorious Mother, giving her the blessing of both the states of human nature; since she had the innocence which the first Adam had lost, and enjoyed in an excellent sort the redemption acquired for her. Whence as a garden of election which was to bring forth the fruit of life, she was made to flourish in all sorts of perfections; this son of eternal love having thus clothed his mother in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety, [73] that she might be the queen of his right hand, that is to say, the first of all the elect to enjoy the delights of God's right hand: [74] so that this sacred mother as being altogether reserved for her son, was by him redeemed not only from damnation but also from all peril of damnation, he giving her grace and the perfection of grace, so that she went like a lovely dawn, which, beginning to break, increases continually in brightness till perfect daylight. Admirable redemption! master-piece of the redeemer! and first of all redemptions! by which the son with a truly filial heart preventing his mother with the blessings of sweetness, preserved her not only from sin as he did the angels, but also from all danger of sin and from everything that might divert or retard her in the exercise of holy love. And he protests that amongst all the reasonable creatures he has chosen, this mother is his one dove, his all perfect one, his all dear love, beyond all likeness and all comparison.

God also appointed other favours for a small number of rare creatures whom he would preserve from the peril of damnation, as is certain of S. John Baptist and very probable of Jeremias and some others, whom the Divine providence seized upon in their mother's womb, and thereupon established them in the perpetuity of his grace, that they might remain firm in his love, though subject to checks and venial sins, which are contrary to the perfection of love though not to love itself. And these souls in comparison with others, are as queens, ever crowned with charity, holding the principal place in the love of their Saviour next to his mother, who is queen of queens, a queen crowned not only with love but with the perfection of love, yea, what is yet more, crowned with her own Son, the sovereign object of love, since children are the crown of their father and mother.

There are yet other souls whom God determined for a time to leave exposed to the danger, not of losing their salvation, but yet of losing his love; yea he permitted them actually to lose it, not assuring them love for the whole time of their life, but only for the end of it and for a certain time preceding. Such were the Apostles, David, Magdalen and many others, who for a time remained out of God's grace, but in the end being once for all converted were confirmed in grace until death; so that though from that time they continued subject to some imperfections, yet were they exempt from all mortal sin, and consequently from danger of losing the divine love, and were sacred spouses of the heavenly bridegroom. And they were indeed adorned with a wedding garment of his most holy love, yet they were not crowned because a crown is an ornament of the head, that is, of the chief part of a person; now the first part of the life of this rank of souls having been subject to earthly love, they were not to be adorned with the crown of heavenly love, but it is sufficient for them to wear the robe, which fits them for the marriage bed of the heavenly spouse, and for being eternally happy with him.

[73] Ps. xliv. 10.

[74] Ps. xv. 11.



There was then in the eternal providence an incomparable privilege for the queen of queens, mother of fair love, and most singularly all perfect. There were also for certain others some special favours. But after this the sovereign goodness poured an abundance of graces and benedictions over the whole race of mankind and upon the angels, with which all were watered as with a rain that falleth on the just and unjust, all were illuminated as with a light that enlighteneth every man coming into this world; every one received his portion as of seed, which falls not only upon the good ground but upon the highway, amongst thorns, and upon rocks, that all might be inexcusable before the Redeemer, if they employ not this most abundant redemption for their salvation.

But still, Theotimus, although this most abundant sufficiency of grace is thus poured out over all human nature, and although in this we are all equal that a rich abundance of benedictions is offered to us all, yet the variety of these favours is so great, that one cannot say whether the greatness of all these graces in so great a diversity, or the diversity in such greatness, is more admirable. For who sees not that the means of salvation amongst Christians are greater and more efficacious than amongst barbarians, and again that amongst Christians there are people and towns where the pastors get more fruit, and are more capable? Now to deny that these exterior means were benefits of the divine providence, or to doubt whether they did avail to the salvation and perfection of souls, were to be ungrateful to the divine goodness, and to belie certain experience, by which we see that ordinarily where these exterior helps abound, the interior are more efficacious and succeed better.

In truth, as we see that there are never found two men perfectly resembling one another in natural gifts, so are there never found any wholly equal in supernatural ones. The angels, as the great S. Augustine and S. Thomas assure us, received grace according to the variety of their natural conditions; now they are all either of a different species or at least of a different condition, since they are distinguished one from another; therefore as many angels as there are, so many different graces are there. And though grace is not given to men according to their natural conditions, yet the divine sweetness rejoicing, and as one would say exulting, in the production of graces, infinitely diversifies them, to the end that out of this variety the fair enamel of his redemption and mercy may appear: whence the church upon the feast of every Confessor and Bishop sings "There was not found the like to him." And as in heaven no one knows the new name, save him that receives it, [75] because each one of the blessed has his own apart, according to the new being of glory which he acquires; similarly on earth every one receives a grace so special that all are different. Our Saviour also compares his grace to pearls, which as Pliny says are otherwise called unities, because each one of them is so singular in its qualities that two of them are never found perfectly alike; and as one star differeth from another in glory, [76] so shall men be different from one another in glory, an evident sign that they will have been so in grace. Now this variety in grace, or this grace in variety, composes a most sacred beauty and most sweet harmony, rejoicing all the holy city of the heavenly Jerusalem.

But we must be very careful never to make inquiry why the supreme wisdom bestows a grace rather upon one than another, nor why it makes its favours abound rather in one behalf than another. No, Theotimus, never enter into this curiosity, for having all of us sufficiently, yea abundantly, that which is requisite to salvation, what reason can any creature living have to complain if it please God to bestow his graces more amply upon one than another? If one should ask why God made melons larger than strawberries, or lilies larger than violets, why the rosemary is not a rose, or why the pink is not a marigold, why the peacock is more beautiful than a bat, or why the fig is sweet and the lemon acid,?one would laugh at his question, and say: poor man, since the beauty of the world requires variety it is necessary there should be difference and inequality in things, and that the one should not be the other. That is why some things are little, others big, some bitter, others sweet, the one more, the other less beautiful. Now it is the same in supernatural things. Every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that, [77] says the Holy Ghost. It is then an impertinence to search out why S. Paul had not the grace of S. Peter, or S. Peter that of S. Paul; why S. Antony was not S. Athanasius, or S. Athanasius S. Jerome; for one would answer to these inquiries that the church is a garden diapered with innumerable flowers; it is necessary then they should be of various sizes, various colours, various odours, in fine of different perfections. All have their price, their charm and their colour, and all of them in the collection of their differences make up a most grateful perfection of beauty.

[75] Apoc. ii. 17.

[76] 1 Cor. xv. 41.



Although our Saviour's redemption is applied to us in as many different manners as there are souls, yet still, love is the universal means of salvation which mingles with everything, and without which nothing is profitable, as we shall show elsewhere. The Cherubim were placed at the gate of the earthly paradise with their flaming sword, to teach us that no one shall enter into the heavenly paradise who is not pierced through with the sword of love. For this cause, Theotimus, the sweet Jesus who bought us with his blood, is infinitely desirous that we should love him that we may eternally be saved, and desires we may be saved that we may love him eternally, his love tending to our salvation and our salvation to his love. Ah! said he: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I but that it be kindled? [78] But to set out more to the life the ardour of this desire, he in admirable terms requires this love from us. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. [79] Good God! Theotimus, how amorous the divine heart is of our love. Would it not have sufficed to publish a permission giving us leave to love him, as Laban permitted Jacob to love his fair Rachel, and to gain her by services? Ah no! he makes a stronger declaration of his passionate love of us, and commands us to love him with all our power, lest the consideration of his majesty and our misery, which make so great a distance and inequality between us, or some other pretext, might divert us from his love. In this, Theotimus, he well shows that he did not leave in us for nothing the natural inclination to love him, for to the end it may not be idle, he urges us by this general commandment to employ it, and that this commandment may be effected, he leaves no living man without furnishing him abundantly with all means requisite thereto. The visible sun touches everything with its vivifying heat, and as the universal lover of inferior things, imparts to them the vigour requisite to produce, and even so the divine goodness animates all souls and encourages all hearts to its love, none being excluded from its heat. Eternal wisdom, says Solomon, preacheth abroad, she uttereth her voice in the streets: At the head of multitudes she crieth out, in the entrance of the gates of the city she uttereth her words, saying: O children, how long will you love childishness, and fools covet those things which are hurtful to themselves, and the unwise hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof: behold I will utter my spirit to you, and will show you my words. [80] And the same wisdom continues in Ezechiel saying: Our iniquities and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them: how then can we live? Say to them: As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live. [81] Now to live according to God is to love, and he that loveth not abideth in death. [82] See now, Theotimus, whether God does not desire we should love him!

But he is not content with announcing thus publicly his extreme desire to be loved, so that every one may have a share in his sweet invitation, but he goes even from door to door, knocking and protesting that, if any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me: [83] that is, he will testify all sorts of good will towards him.

Now what does all this mean, Theotimus, except that God does not only give us a simple sufficiency of means to love him, and in loving him to save ourselves, but also a rich, ample and magnificent sufficiency, and such as ought to be expected from so great a bounty as his. The great Apostle speaking to obstinate sinners: Despisest thou, says he, the riches of his goodness, and patience, and long-suffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God. [84] My dear Theotimus, God does not therefore employ a simple sufficiency of remedies to convert the obstinate, but uses to this end the riches of his goodness. The Apostle, as you see, opposes the riches of God's goodness against the treasures of the impenitent heart's malice, and says that the malicious heart is so rich in iniquity that he despises even the riches of the mildness by which God leads him to repentance; and mark that the obstinate man not only contemns the riches of God's goodness, but also the riches which lead to penance, riches whereof one can scarcely be ignorant. Verily this rich, full and plenteous sufficiency of means which God freely bestows upon sinners to love him appears almost everywhere in the Scriptures. Behold this divine lover at the gate, he does not simply knock, but stands knocking; he calls the soul, come, arise, make haste, my love, [85] and puts his hand into the lock to try whether he cannot open it. If he uttereth his voice in the streets he does not simply utter it, but he goes crying out, that is, he continues to cry out. When he proclaims that every one must be converted, he thinks he has never repeated it sufficiently. Be converted, do penance, return to me, live, why dost thou die, O house of Israel? [86] In a word this heavenly Saviour forgets nothing to show that his mercies are above all his works, that his mercy surpasses his judgment, that his redemption is copious, that his love is infinite, and, as the Apostle says, that he is rich in mercy, and consequently he will have all men to be saved; not willing that any should perish. [87]

[78] Luke xii. 49.

[79] Matt. xxii. 37, 38.

[80] Prov. i. 20, 21, 22, 23.

[81] Ezech. xxxiii. 10, 12.

[82] 1 John iii. 14.

[83] Apoc. iii. 20.

[84] Rom. ii. 4., 5.

[85] Cant. ii. 16.

[86] Ezech. xviii. 30.

[87] 1 Tim. ii. 4.



I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee. And I will build thee again, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel. [88] These are the words of God, by which he promises that the Saviour coming into the world shall establish a new kingdom in his Church, which shall be his virgin-spouse, and true spiritual Israelite.

Now as you see, Theotimus, it was not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, [89] by that ancient, yea, eternal, charity which moved his divine Providence to draw us unto him. No man can come to me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him. [90] For if the Father had not drawn us we had never come to the Son, our Saviour, nor consequently to salvation.

There are certain birds, Theotimus, which Aristotle calls apodes, [91] because having extremely short legs, and feeble feet, they use them no more than if they had none. And if ever they light upon the ground they must remain there, so that they can never take flight again of their own power, because having no use of their legs or feet, they have therefore no power to move and start themselves into the air: hence they remain there motionless, and die, unless some wind, propitious to their impotence, sending out its blasts upon the face of the earth, happen to seize upon and bear them up, as it does many other things. If this happen, and they make use of their wings to correspond with this first start and motion which the wind gives them, it also continues its assistance to them, bringing them by little and little into flight.

Theotimus, the angels are like to those birds, which for their beauty and rarity are called birds-of-paradise, never seen on earth but dead. For those heavenly spirits had no sooner forsaken divine love to attach themselves to self-love, than suddenly they fell as dead, buried in hell, seeing that the same effect which death has on men, separating them everlastingly from this mortal life, the same had the angels' fall on them, excluding them for ever from eternal life. But we mortals rather resemble apodes: for if it chance that we, quitting the air of holy divine love, fall upon earth and adhere to creatures, which we do as often as we offend God, we die indeed, yet not so absolute a death but that there remains in us a little movement, besides our legs and feet, namely, some weak affections, which enable us to make some essays of love, though so weakly, that in truth we are impotent of ourselves to detach our hearts from sin, or start ourselves again in the flight of sacred love, which, wretches that we are, we have perfidiously and voluntarily forsaken.

And truly we should well deserve to remain abandoned of God, when with this disloyalty we have thus abandoned him. But his eternal charity does not often permit his justice to use this chastisement, but rather, exciting his compassion, it provokes him to reclaim us from our misery, which he does by sending us the favourable wind of his most holy inspirations, which, blowing upon our hearts with a gentle violence, seizes and moves them, raising our thoughts, and moving our affections into the air of divine love.

Now this first stirring or motion which God causes in our hearts to incite them to their own good, is effected indeed in us but not by us; for it comes unexpectedly, before we have either thought of it or been able to think of it, seeing we are not sufficient to think anything towards our salvation of ourselves as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, [92] who did not only love us before we were, but also to the end we might be, and might be saints. For which cause he prevents us with the blessings of his fatherly sweetness, and excites our souls, in order to bring them to holy repentance and conversion. See, I pray you, Theotimus, the prince of the Apostles, stupefied with sin in the sad night of his Master's passion; he no more thought of sorrowing for his sin, than though he had never known his heavenly Saviour. And as a miserable apode fallen to earth, he would never have been raised, had not the cock, as an instrument of divine providence, struck his ears with its voice, at the same instant in which his sweet Redeemer casting upon him a gracious look, like a dart of love, transpierced that heart of stone, which afterwards sent forth water in such abundance, like the ancient rock smitten by Moses in the desert. But look again and see this holy Apostle sleeping in Herod's prison, bound with two chains: he is there in quality of a martyr, and nevertheless he represents the poor man who sleeps amid sin, prisoner and slave to Satan. Alas! who will deliver him? The angel descends from heaven, and striking the great Saint Peter, the prisoner, upon the side, awakens him, saying: Arise quickly! So the inspiration comes from heaven like an angel, and striking upon the poor sinner's heart, stirs him up to rise from his iniquity. Is it not true then, my dear Theotimus, that this first emotion and shock which the soul perceives, when God, preventing it with love, awakens it and excites it to forsake sin and return unto him and not only this shock, but also the whole awakening, is done in us, and for us, but not by us? We are awake, but have not awakened of ourselves, it is the inspiration which has awakened us, and to awaken us has shaken and moved us. I slept, says that devout spouse, but my beloved, who is my heart, watched. Ah! see that it is he who awakens me, calling me by the name of our loves, and I know well by his voice that it is he. It is unawares and unexpectedly that God calls and awakens us by his holy inspiration, and in this beginning of grace we do nothing but feel the touch which God gives, in us, as S. Bernard says, but without us.

[88] Jerem. xxxi. 3.

[89] Titus iii. 5.

[90] John vi. 44.

[91] i.e., Footless. [Tr.]

[92] 2 Cor. iii. 5.



Wo to thee, Corozain, wo to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [93] Such is the word of Our Saviour. Hark I pray you, Theotimus, how the inhabitants of Corozain and Bethsaida, instructed in the true religion, and having received favours so great that they would effectually have converted the pagans themselves, remained nevertheless obstinate, and never willed to use them, rejecting this holy light by an incomparable rebellion. Certainly at the day of judgment the Ninivites and the Queen of Saba will rise up against the Jews, and will convict them as worthy of damnation: because, as to the Ninivites, though idolators and barbarians, at the voice of Jonas they were converted and did penance; and as to the Queen of Saba, she, though engaged in the affairs of a kingdom, yet having heard the renown of Solomon's wisdom, forsook all, to go and hear him. Yet the Jews, hearing with their ears the heavenly wisdom of the true Solomon, the Saviour of the world; seeing with their eyes his miracles; touching with their hands his virtues and benefits; ceased not for all that to be hardened, and to resist the grace which was proffered them. See then again, Theotimus, how they who had less attractions are brought to penance, and those who had more remain obdurate: those who have less occasion to come, come to the school of wisdom, and those who have more, stay in their folly.

Thus will be made the judgment of comparison, as all doctors have remarked, which can have no foundation save in this, that notwithstanding some have had as many calls as others have, or more, they will have denied consent to God's mercy, whereas others, assisted with the like, yea even lesser helps, will have followed the inspiration, betaking themselves to holy penance. For how could one otherwise reasonably reproach the impenitent with their impenitence, in comparison with such as are converted?

Certainly Our Saviour clearly shows, and all Christians in simplicity understand, that in this just judgment the Jews shall be condemned in comparison with the Ninivites, because those have had many favours and yet no love, much assistance and no repentance, these less favour and more love, less assistance and much penitence.

The great S. Augustine throws a great light on this reasoning, by his own arguments in Book XII. of the 'City of God,' Chapters vi., vii., viii., ix. For though he refers particularly to the angels, still he likens men to them in this point.

Now, after having taken, in the sixth chapter, two men, entirely equal in goodness and in all things, attacked by the same temptation, he presupposes that one resists, the other gives way to the enemy; then in the ninth chapter, having proved that all the angels were created in charity, stating further as probable that grace and charity were equal in them all, he asks how it came to pass that some of them persevered, and made progress in goodness even to the attaining of glory, while others forsook good to embrace evil unto damnation, and he answers that no other answer can be rendered, than that the one company persevered by the grace of their Creator in the chaste love which they received in their creation, the other, having been good, made themselves bad by their own sole will.

But if it is true, as S. Thomas extremely well proves, that grace was different in the angels in proportion and according to their natural gifts, the Seraphim must have had a grace incomparably more excellent than the simple angels of the last order. How then did it happen that some of the Seraphim, yea even the first of all, according to the common and most probable opinion of the ancients, fell, while an innumerable multitude of other angels, inferior in nature and grace, excellently and courageously persevered? How came it to pass that Lucifer, so excellent by nature and so superexcellent by grace, fell, while so many angels with less advantages remained upright in their fidelity? Truly those who persevered ought to render all the praise thereof to God, who of his mercy created and maintained them good. But to whom can Lucifer and all his crew ascribe their fall, if not, as S. Augustine says, to their own will, which by their liberty divorced them from God's grace that had so sweetly prevented them? How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? [94] Who didst come out into this invisible world clothed with original charity as with the beginning of the brightness of a fair day, which was to increase unto the mid-day of eternal glory? Grace did not fail thee, for thou hadst it, like thy nature, the most excellent of all, but thou wast wanting to grace. God did not deprive thee of the operation of his love, but thou didst deprive his love of thy co-operation. God would never have rejected thee if thou hadst not rejected his love. O all-good God! thou dost not forsake unless forsaken, thou never takest away thy gifts till we take away our hearts.

We rob God of his right if we attribute to ourselves the glory of our salvation, but we dishonour his mercy if we say he failed us. If we do not confess his benefits we wrong his liberality, but we blaspheme his goodness if we deny that he has assisted and succoured us. In fine, God cries loud and clear in our ears: Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in me. [95]

[93] Matt. xi. 21.

[94] Isa. xiv. 12.

[95] Osee xiii. 9.



O God! Theotimus, if we received divine inspirations to the full extent of their virtue, in how short a time should we make a great progress in sanctity? Be the fountain ever so copious, its streams enter not into a garden according to their plenty, but according to the littleness or greatness of the channel by which they are conducted thither. Although the Holy Ghost, as a spring of living water, flows up to every part of our heart to spread his graces in it, yet as he will not have them enter without the free consent of our will, he will only pour them out according to his good pleasure and our own disposition and cooperation, as the Holy Council says, which also, by reason, as I suppose, of the correspondence between our consent and grace, calls the reception thereof a voluntary reception.

In this sense S. Paul exhorts us not to receive God's grace in vain. [96] For as a sick man, who having received a draught in his hand did not take it into his stomach, would truly have received the potion, yet without receiving it, that is, he would have received it in a useless and fruitless way, so we receive the grace of God in vain, when we receive it at the gate of our heart, and not within the consent of our heart; for so we receive it without receiving it, that is, we receive it without fruit, since it is nothing to feel the inspiration without consenting unto it. And as the sick man who had the potion given into his hand, if he took it not wholly but only partly, would also have the operation thereof in part only, and not wholly,?so when God sends a great and mighty inspiration to move us to embrace his holy love, if we consent not according to its whole extent it will but profit us in the same measure. It happens that being inspired to do much we consent not to the whole inspiration but only to some part thereof, as did those good people in the Gospel, who upon the inspiration which Our Lord gave them to follow him wished to make reservations, the one to go first and bury his father, the other to go to take leave of his people.

As long as the poor widow had empty vessels, the oil which Eliseus had by prayer miraculously multiplied never left off running, but when she had no more vessels to receive it, it ceased to flow. In the same measure in which our heart dilates itself, or rather in the measure in which it permits itself to be enlarged and dilated, keeping itself empty by the simple fact of not refusing consent to the divine mercy, this ever pours forth and ceaselessly spreads its sacred inspirations, which ever increase and make us increase more and more in heavenly love; but when there is no more room, that is, when we no longer give consent, it stops.

How comes it then that we are not so advanced in the love of God as S. Augustine, S. Francis, S. Catharine of Genoa or S. Frances? Theotimus, it is because God has not given us the grace. But why has he not given us the grace? Because we did not correspond with his inspirations as we should have done. And why did we not correspond? Because being free we have herein abused our liberty. But why did we abuse our liberty? Ah! Theotimus, we must stop there, for, as S. Augustine says, the depravation of our will proceeds from no cause, but from some deficiency in the agent (cause) who commits the sin. And we must not expect to be able to give a reason of the fault which occurs in sin, because the fault would not be a sin if it was not without reason.

The devout Brother Rufinus upon a certain vision which he had of the glory which the great S. Francis would attain unto by his humility, asked him this question: My dear father, I beseech you, tell me truly what opinion you have of yourself? The Saint answered: Verily I hold myself to be the greatest sinner in the world, and the one who serves Our Lord least. But, Brother Rufinus replied, how can you say this in truth and conscience, seeing that many others, as we manifestly see, commit many great sins from which, God be thanked, you are exempt. To which S. Francis answered: If God had favoured those others of whom you speak with as great mercy as he has favoured me, I am certain, be they ever so bad now, they would have acknowledged God's gifts far better than I do, and would serve him much better than I do, and if my God abandoned me I should commit more wickedness than any one else.

You see, Theotimus, the opinion of this man, who indeed was scarcely man, but a seraph upon earth. I know it was humility that moved him to speak thus of himself, yet nevertheless he believed for a certain truth that an equal grace granted by an equal mercy might be more faithfully employed by one sinner than by anothor. Now I hold for an oracle the sentiment of this great doctor in the science of the saints, who, brought up in the school of the Crucifix, breathed nothing but the divine inspirations. And this maxim has been praised and repeated by all the most devout who have followed him, many of whom are of opinion that the great Apostle S. Paul said in the same sense that he was the chief of all sinners. [97]

The Blessed Mother (S.) Teresa of Jesus, also, in good truth, a quite angelic virgin, speaking of the prayer of quiet, says these words:?"There are divers souls who come up to this perfection, but those who pass beyond are a very small number: I know not the cause of it, certainly the fault is not on God's side, for since his divine majesty aids us and gives us the grace to arrive at this point, I believe that he would not fail to give us still more if it were not for our fault, and the impediment which we on our part place." Let us therefore, Theotimus, be attentive to advance in the love which we owe to God, for that which he bears us will never fail us.

[96] 2 Cor. vi. 1.

[97] 1 Tim. i. 15.



I will not here speak, my dear Theotimus, of those miraculous graces which have almost in an instant transformed wolves into shepherds, rocks into waters, persecutors into preachers. I leave on one side those all-powerful vocations, and holily violent attractions by which God has brought some elect souls from the extremity of vice to the extremity of grace, working as it were in them a certain moral and spiritual transubstantiation: as it happened to the great Apostle, who of Saul, vessel of persecution, became suddenly Paul, vessel of election. [98] We must give a particular rank to those privileged souls in regard of whom it pleased God to make not the mere outflowing, but the inundation?to exercise, if one may so say, not the simple liberality and effusion, but the prodigality and profusion of his love. The divine justice chastises us in this world with punishments which, as they are ordinary, so they remain almost always unknown and imperceptible; sometimes, however, he sends out deluges and abysses of punishments, to make known and dreaded the severity of his indignation. In like manner his mercy ordinarily converts and graces souls so sweetly, gently and delicately, that its movement is scarcely perceived; and yet it happens sometimes that this sovereign goodness, overflowing its ordinary banks (as a flood swollen and overcharged with the abundance of waters and breaking out over the plain) makes an outpouring of his graces so impetuous, though loving, that in a moment he steeps and covers the whole soul with benedictions, in order that the riches of his love may appear, and that as his justice proceeds commonly by the ordinary way and sometimes by the extraordinary, so his mercy may exercise liberality upon the common sort of men in the ordinary way, and on some also by extraordinary ways.

But what are then the ordinary cords whereby the divine providence is accustomed to draw our hearts to his love? Such truly as he himself marks, describing the means which he used to draw the people of Israel out of Egypt, and out of the desert, unto the land of promise. I will draw them, says he by Osee, with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love, [99] and of friendship. Doubtless, Theotimus, we are not drawn to God by iron chains, as bulls and wild oxen, but by enticements, sweet attractions, and holy inspirations, which, in a word, are the cords of Adam, and of humanity, that is, proportionate and adapted to the human heart, to which liberty is natural. The band of the human will is delight and pleasure. We show nuts to a child, says S. Augustine, and he is drawn by his love, he is drawn by the cords, not of the body, but of the heart. Mark then how the Eternal Father draws us: while teaching, he delights us, not imposing upon us any necessity; he casts into our hearts delectations and spiritual pleasures as sacred baits, by which he sweetly draws us to take and taste the sweetness of his doctrine.

In this way then, dearest Theotimus, our free-will is in no way forced or necessitated by grace, but notwithstanding the all-powerful force of God's merciful hand, which touches, surrounds and ties the soul with such a number of inspirations, invitations and attractions, this human will remains perfectly free, enfranchised and exempt from every sort of constraint and necessity. Grace is so gracious, and so graciously seizes our hearts to draw them, that she noways offends the liberty of our will; she touches powerfully but yet so delicately the springs of our spirit that our free will suffers no violence from it. Grace has power, not to force but to entice the heart; she has a holy violence not to violate our liberty but to make it full of love; she acts strongly, yet so sweetly that our will is not overwhelmed by so powerful an action; she presses us but does not oppress our liberty; so that under the very action of her power, we can consent to or resist her movements as we list. But what is as admirable as it is veritable is, that when our will follows the attractions and consents to the divine movement, she follows as freely as she resists freely when she does resist, although the consent to grace depends much more on grace than on the will, while the resistance to grace depends upon the will only. So sweet is God's hand in the handling of our hearts! So dexterous is it in communicating unto us its strength without depriving us of liberty, and in imparting unto us the motion of its power without hindering that of our will! He adjusts his power to his sweetness in such sort, that as in what regards good his might sweetly gives us the power, so his sweetness mightily maintains the freedom of the will. If thou didst know the gift of God, said our Saviour to the Samaritan woman, and who he is that saith to thee, give me to drink; thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. [100] Note, I pray you, Theotimus, Our Saviour's manner of speaking of his attractions. If thou didst know, he means, the gift of God, thou wouldst without doubt be moved and attracted to ask the water of eternal life, and perhaps thou wouldst ask it. As though he said: Thou wouldst have power and wouldst be provoked to ask, yet in no wise be forced or constrained; but only perhaps thou wouldst have asked, for thy liberty would remain to ask it or not to ask it. Such are our Saviour's words according to the ordinary edition, and according to S. Augustine upon S. John.

To conclude, if any one should say that our free-will does not co-operate in consenting to the grace with which God prevents it, or that it could not reject and deny consent thereto, he would contradict the whole Scripture, all the ancient Fathers, and experience, and would be excommunicated by the sacred Council of Trent. But when it is said that we have power to reject the divine inspirations and motions, it is of course not meant that we can hinder God from inspiring us or touching our hearts, for as I have already said, that is done in us and yet without us. These are favours which God bestows upon us before we have thought of them, he awakens us when we sleep, and consequently we find ourselves awake before we have thought of it; but it is in our power to rise, or not to rise, and though he has awakened us without us, he will not raise us without us. Now not to rise, and to go to sleep again, is to resist the call, seeing we are called only to the end we should rise. We cannot hinder the inspiration from taking us, or consequently from setting us in motion, but if as it drives us forwards we repulse it by not yielding ourselves to its motion, we then make resistance. So the wind, having seized upon and raised our apodes, will not bear them very far unless they display their wings and co-operate, raising themselves aloft and flying in the air, into which they have been lifted. If, on the contrary, allured may be by some verdure they see upon the ground, or benumbed by their stay there, in lieu of seconding the wind they keep their wings folded and cast themselves again upon the earth, they have received indeed the motion of the wind, but in vain, since they did not help themselves thereby. Theotimus, inspirations prevent us, and even before they are thought of make themselves felt, but after we have felt them it is ours either to consent to them so as to second and follow their attractions, or else to dissent and repulse them. They make themselves felt by us without us, but they do not make us consent without us.

[98] Acts ix. 15.

[99] Osee xi. 4.

[100] John iv. 10.



The wind that raises the apodes blows first upon their feathers, as the parts most light and most susceptible of its agitation, by which it gives the beginning of motion to their wings, extending and displaying them in such sort that they give a hold by which to seize the bird and waft it into the air. And if they, thus raised, do contribute the motion of their wings to that of the wind, the same wind that took them will still aid them more and more to fly with ease. Even so, my dear Theotimus, when the inspiration, as a sacred gale, comes to blow us forward into the air of holy love, it first takes our will, and by the sentiment of some heavenly delectation it moves it, extending and unfolding the natural inclination which the will has to good, so that this same inclination serves as a hold by which to seize our spirit. And all this, as I have said, is done in us without us, for it is the divine favour that prevents us in this sort. But if our will thus holily prevented, perceiving the wings of her inclination moved, displayed, extended, stirred, and agitated, by this heavenly wind, contributes, be it never so little, its consent?Ah! how happy it is, Theotimus. The same favourable inspiration which has seized us, mingling its action with our consent, animating our feeble motions with its vigour, and vivifying our weak cooperation by the power of its operation, will aid, conduct, and accompany us, from love to love, even unto the act of most holy faith requisite for our conversion.

True God! Theotimus, what a consolation it is to consider the secret method by which the Holy Ghost pours into our hearts the first rays and feelings of his light and vital heat! O Jesus! how delightful a pleasure it is to see celestial love, which is the sun of virtues, as little by little with a progress which insensibly becomes sensible, it displays its light upon a soul, and stops not till it has it all covered with the splendour of its presence, giving it at last the perfect beauty of love's day! O how cheerful, beautiful, sweet and agreeable this daybreak is! Nevertheless true it is that break of day is either not day, or if it be day, it is but a beginning day, a rising of the day, and rather the infancy of the day than the day itself. In like manner without doubt these motions of love which forerun the act of faith required for our justification are either not love properly speaking, or but a beginning and imperfect love. They are the first verdant buds which the soul, warmed with the heavenly sun, begins, as a mystical tree, to put forth in springtime, rather presages of fruit than fruit itself.

S. Pachomius then a young soldier and without knowledge of God, enrolled under the colours of the army which Constantine had levied against the tyrant Maxentius, came, with the troop to which he belonged, to lodge nigh a little town not far distant from Thebes, where he, and indeed the whole army, were in extreme want of victuals. The inhabitants of the little town having understood this, being by good fortune of the faithful of Jesus Christ, and consequently friendly and charitable to their neighbours, immediately succoured the soldiers in their necessities, but with such care, courtesy and love, that Pachomius was struck with admiration thereat, and asking what nation it was that was so good, amiable and gracious, it was answered him that they were Christians; and inquiring again what law and manner of life were theirs, he learned that they believed in Jesus Christ the only Son of God, and did good to all sorts of people, with a firm hope of receiving from God himself an ample recompense. Alas! Theotimus, the poor Pachomius, though of a good natural disposition, was as yet asleep in the bed of his infidelity, and behold how upon a sudden God was present at the gate of his heart, and by the good example of these Christians, as by a sweet voice, he calls him, awakens him, and gives him the first feelings of the vital heat of his love. For scarcely had he heard, as I have said, of the sweet law of Our Saviour, than, all filled with a new light and interior consolation, having retired apart, and mused for a space, he lifted up his hands towards heaven, and with a profound sigh he said: Lord God, who hast made heaven and earth, if thou deign to cast thine eyes upon my baseness and misery, and to give me the knowledge of thy divinity, I promise to serve thee, and obey thy commandments all the days of my life! After this prayer and promise, the love of the true good and of piety so increased in him, that he ceased not to practise a thousand thousand acts of virtue.

Methinks I see in this example a nightingale which, awaking at the peep of day, begins to stir, and to stretch itself, unfold its plumes, skip from branch to branch in its grove, and little by little warble out its delicious wood-music. For did you not note, how the good example of the charitable Christians excited and awakened with a sudden start the blessed Pachomius? Truly this astonished admiration he had was nothing else than his awakening, in which God touched him, as the sun touches the earth, with a ray of his brightness, which filled him with a great feeling of spiritual pleasure. For which cause Pachomius shakes himself loose from distractions, to the end he may with more attention and facility gather together and relish the grace he has received, withdrawing himself to think thereupon. Then he extends his heart and hands towards heaven, whither the inspiration is drawing him, and beginning to display the wings of his affections, flying between diffidence of himself, and confidence in God, he entones in a humbly amorous air the canticle of his conversion. He first testifies that he already knows one only God Creator of heaven and earth: but withal he knows that he does not yet know him sufficiently to serve him as he ought, and therefore he petitions that a more perfect knowledge may be imparted to him, that thereby he may come to the perfect service of his divine majesty.

Behold, therefore, I pray you, Theotimus, how gently God moves, strengthening by little and little the grace of his inspiration in consenting hearts, drawing them after him, as it were step by step, upon this Jacob's ladder. But what are his drawings? The first, by which he prevents and awakens us, is done by him in us and without our action; all the others are also done by him and in us, but not without our action. Draw me: says the sacred spouse, we will run after thee to the odour of thy ointments, [101] that is, begin thou first: I cannot awake of myself, I cannot move unless thou move me; but when thou shalt once have given motion, then, O dear spouse of my heart, we run, we two, thou runnest before me drawing me ever forward, and, as for me, I will follow thee in thy course consenting to thy drawing. But let no one think that thou draggest me after thee like a forced slave, or a lifeless wagon. Ah! no, thou drawest me by the odour of thy ointments; though I follow thee, it is not that thou trailest me but that thou enticest me; thy drawing is mighty, but not violent, since its whole force lies in its sweetness. Perfumes have no other force to draw men to follow them than their sweetness, and sweetness?how could it draw but sweetly and delightfully?

[101] Cant. i. 3.



When God gives us faith he enters into our soul and speaks to our spirit, not by manner of discourse, but by way of inspiration, proposing in so sweet a manner unto the understanding that which ought to be believed, that the will receives therefrom a great complacency, so great indeed that it moves the understanding to consent and yield to truth without any doubt or distrust, and here lies the marvel: for God proposes the mysteries of faith to our souls amidst obscurities and darkness, in such sort that we do not see the truths but we only half-see them. [102] It is like what happens sometimes when the face of the earth is covered with mist so that we cannot see the sun, but only see a little more brightness in the direction where he is. Then, as one would say, we see it without seeing it; because on the one hand we see it not so well that we can truly say we see it, yet again we see it not so little that we can say we do not see it; and this is what we call half-seeing. And yet, when this obscure light of faith has entered our spirit, not by force of reasoning or show of argument, but solely by the sweetness of its presence, it makes the understanding believe and obey it with so much authority that the certitude it gives us of the truth surpasses all other certitudes, and keeps the understanding and all its workings in such subjection that they get no hearing in comparison with it.

May I, Theotimus, have leave to say this? Faith is the chief beloved of our understanding, and may justly speak to human sciences which boast that they are more evident and clear than she, as did the sacred spouse to the other shepherdesses. I am black but beautiful, [103] ?O human reasonings, O acquired knowledge! I am black, for I am amidst the obscurities of simple revelation, which have no apparent evidence, and which make me look black, putting me well-nigh out of knowledge: yet I am beautiful in myself by reason of my infinite certainty; and if mortal eyes could behold me such as I am by nature they would find me all fair. And must it not necessarily follow that in effect I am infinitely to be loved, since the gloomy darkness and thick mists, amid which I am?not seen but only half-seen cannot hinder me from being so dearly loved, that the soul, prizing me above all, cleaving the crowd of all other knowledges, makes them all give place to me and receives me as his queen, placing me on the highest throne in his palace, from whence I give the law to all sciences, and keep all argument and all human sense under? Yea, verily, Theotimus, even as the commanders of the army of Israel taking off their garments, put them together and made a royal throne of them, on which they placed Jehu, and said: Jehu is king: [104] so on the arrival of faith, the understanding puts off all discourse and arguments, and laying them underneath faith, makes her sit upon them, acknowledging her as Queen, and with great joy cries out: Long live faith!

Pious discourses and arguments, the miracles and other advantages of the Christian religion, make it extremely credible and knowable, but faith alone makes it believed and acknowledged, enamouring men with the beauty of its truth, and making them believe the truth of its beauty, by means of the sweetness faith pours into their wills, and the certitude which it gives to their understanding. The Jews saw the miracles and heard the marvellous teachings of Our Saviour, but being indisposed to receive faith, that is, their will not being susceptible of the gentle sweetness of faith, on account of the bitterness and malice with which they were filled, they persisted in their infidelity. They perceived the force of the argument, but they relished not the sweetness of the conclusion, and therefore did not acquiesce in its truth. But the act of faith consists in this very acquiescence of our spirit, which having received the grateful light of truth, accepts it by means of a sweet, yet powerful and solid assurance and certitude which it finds in the authority of the revelation which has been made to her.

You have heard, Theotimus, that in general councils there are great disputations and inquiries made about truth by discourse, reasons and theological arguments, but the matters being discussed, the Fathers, that is, the bishops, and especially the Pope who is the chief of the bishops, conclude, resolve and determine; and the determination being once pronounced, every one fully accepts it and acquiesces in it, not in consideration of the reasons alleged in the preceding discussion and inquisition, but in virtue of the authority of the Holy Ghost, who, presiding invisibly in councils, has judged, determined and concluded, by the mouth of his servants whom he has established pastors of Christianity. The inquisition then and the disputation are made in the priests' court by the doctors, but the resolution and acquiescence are formed in the sanctuary, where the Holy Ghost who animates the body of his Church, speaks by the mouth of its chiefs, as Our Lord has promised. In like manner the ostrich lays her eggs upon the sands of Libya, but the sun alone hatches her young ones; and doctors by their inquiry and discourse propose truth, but only the beams of the sun of justice give certainty and acquiescence. To conclude then, Theotimus, this assurance which man's reason finds in things revealed and in the mysteries of faith, begins by an amorous sentiment of complacency which the will receives from the beauty and sweetness of the proposed truth; so that faith includes a beginning of love, which the heart feels towards divine things.

[102] Nous ne voyons pas, ains seluement nous entrevoyons.

[103] Cant. i. 4.

[104] 4 Kings ix. 13.



As when exposed to the rays of the sun at mid-day, we hardly see the brightness before we suddenly feel the heat; so the light of faith has no sooner spread the splendour of its truths in our understanding, but immediately our will feels the holy heat of heavenly love. Faith makes us know by an infallible certitude that God is, that he is infinite in goodness, that he can communicate himself unto us, and not only that he can, but that he will; so that by an ineffable sweetness he has provided us with all things requisite to obtain the happiness of immortal glory. Now we have a natural inclination to the sovereign good, by reason of which our heart is touched with a certain inward anxious desire and continual uneasiness, not being able in any way to quiet itself, or to cease to testify that its perfect satisfaction and solid contentment are wanting to it. But when holy faith has represented to our understanding this lovely object of our natural inclination,?Oh! Theotimus, what joy! what pleasure! how our whole soul is thrilled, and, all amazed at the sight of so excellent a beauty, it cries out with love: Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, behold thou art fair! [105]

Eliezer sought a wife for the son of his master Abraham; how could he tell whether he should find her beautiful and gracious as he desired? But when he had found her at the fountain, and saw her so excellent in beauty and so perfect in sweetness, and especially when he had obtained her, he adored God, and blessed him with thanksgiving, full of incomparable joy. Man's heart tends to God by its natural inclination, without fully knowing what he is; but when it finds him at the fountain of faith, and sees him so good, so lovely, so sweet and gracious to all, and so ready to give himself, as the sovereign good, to all who desire him,?O God! what delight! and what sacred movements in the soul, to unite itself for ever to this goodness so sovereignty amiable! I have found, says the soul thus inspired, I have at last found that which my heart desired, and now I am at rest. And as Jacob, having seen the fair Rachel, after he had holily kissed her, melted into tears of sweetness for the happiness he experienced in so desirable a meeting, so our poor heart, having found God, and received of him the first kiss, the kiss of holy faith, it dissolves forthwith in sweetness of love for the infinite good which it presently discovers in that sovereign beauty.

We sometimes experience in ourselves a certain joyousness which comes as it were unexpectedly, without any apparent reason, and this is often a presage of some greater joy; whence many are of opinion that our good angels, foreseeing the good which is coming unto us, give us by this means a foretaste thereof, as on the contrary they give us certain fears and terrors amidst dangers we are not aware of, to make us invoke God's assistance and stand upon our guard. Now when the presaged good arrives, we receive it with open arms, and reflecting upon the joyousness we formerly felt without knowing its cause, we only then begin to perceive that it was a forerunner of the happiness we now enjoy. Even so, my dear Theotimus, our heart having had for so long a time an inclination to its sovereign good, knew not to what end this motion tended: but so soon as faith has shown it, then man clearly discerns that this was what his soul coveted, his understanding sought, and his inclination tended towards. Certainly, whether we wish or wish not, our soul tends towards the sovereign good. But what is this sovereign good? We are like those good Athenians who sacrificed unto the true God, although he was unknown to them, till the great S. Paul taught them the knowledge of him. For so our heart, by a deep and secret instinct, in all its actions tends towards, and aims at, felicity, seeking it here and there, as it were groping, without knowing where it resides, or in what it consists, till faith shows and describes the infinite marvels thereof. But then, having found the treasure it sought for,?ah! what a satisfaction to this poor human heart! What joy, what complacency of love! O I have met with him, whom my heart sought for without knowing him! O how little I knew whither my aims tended, when nothing contented me of all I aimed at, because, in fact, I knew not what I was aiming at. I was seeking to love and knew not what to love, and therefore my intention not finding its true love, my love remained ever in a true but ignorant intention. I had indeed sufficient foretaste of love to make me seek, but not sufficient knowledge of the goodness I had to love, to actually practise love.

[105] Cant. i. 14

Continue Reading:

Free Website Translator