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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER XX.

HOW DIVINE LOVE MAKES USE OF ALL THE PASSIONS AND AFFECTIONS OF THE SOUL, AND REDUCES THEM TO ITS OBEDIENCE.

Love is the life of our heart, and as the weights give movement to all the movable parts of a clock, so love gives to the soul all the movements it has. All our affections follow our love, and according to it we desire, we rejoice, we hope, we despair, we fear, we take heart, we hate, we avoid things, we grieve, we get angry, we triumph. Do not we see that men who have given up their heart as a prey to the base and abject love of women have no desires but according to this love, take no pleasure but in it, neither hope nor despair but on this account, neither dread nor undertake anything but for it, are neither disgusted nor fly from anything save what diverts them from it, are only troubled at what deprives them of it, are never angry but from jealousy, never glory but in this infamy. The like may be said of those who love riches or are ambitious of honours; for they become slaves to that which they love, and have neither heart in their breasts, nor soul in their hearts, nor affections in their souls, save only for that.

When therefore divine love reigns in our hearts, it royally brings to its empire all the other loves of the will, and consequently all its affections, because they naturally follow love; this done, it tames sensual love, and bringing it to obedience, brings also after it all the sensual passions. For, in a word, this sacred love is the sovereign water, of which our Saviour said: He that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever.573573John iv. 13. No truly, Theotimus, he that has love in any abundance, he shall neither have desire, fear, hope, courage, nor joy but for God, and all his movements shall be at rest in this one celestial love.

Divine love and self-love are in our hearts as Jacob and Esau in the womb of Rebecca: they have a very great antipathy and opposition to one another, and continually struggle in the heart; whence the poor soul cries out: Alas! wretched that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death, that the sole love of my God may peaceably reign in me? However, we must take courage, putting our trust in our Saviour's word, who, commanding us to fight, by his command promises victory to his love; and he seems to say to the soul that which he caused to be said to Rebecca: Two nations are in thy womb, and two people shall be divided out of thy womb, and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.574574Gen. xxv. 23. For as Rebecca had only two children in her womb, but because two peoples were to descend from these was said to have two nations in her womb, so the soul having two loves in her heart, has consequently two great troops of motions, affections and passions; and as the two children of Rebecca by the contrariety of their movements made her suffer great convulsions and pains, so the two loves of our soul cause great travails to our heart. And as it was said of her two children that the elder should serve the younger, so has it been ordained that of these two loves of our heart the sensual shall serve the spiritual, that is, self-love shall serve the love of God.

But when was it that the elder of those peoples which were in Rebecca's womb served the younger? Surely it was only when David overcame the Idumeans in war, and Solomon ruled over them in peace. Oh! when therefore shall it be that sensual love shall serve Divine love? It shall then be, Theotimus, when armed love, having become zeal, shall by mortification subject our passions; and far better then, when in heaven above, beatified love shall possess our whole soul in peace.

Now the method by which Divine love is to subject the sensual appetite is like to that which Jacob used when, for a good presage and beginning of what was afterwards to come to pass, he at the birth of Esau held him by the foot, as it were to seize Esau's right, supplant him and keep him down, or, as it were, to keep him tied up after the manner of a bird of prey, such as Esau was, being a hunter and a terrible man. For so holy love perceiving some passion or natural affection rising in us, must presently take it by the foot and bring it to its service. But what is meant by taking by the foot? To bind and reduce it to the service of God. Do you not see how Moses transformed the serpent into a rod, simply taking it by the tail? Even so, when we give a good end to our passions they turn into virtues.

But what method are we then to observe in order to bring our affections and passions into the service of Divine love. The Methodic physicians have always this aphorism in their mouths,—that contraries are cured by their contraries; the Spagyrists have another famous sentence opposed to this—that likes are cured by their likes. Howsoever it be, we know that two things make the light of the stars disappear,—the obscurity of the mists of night, and the light of the sun which is stronger than theirs; and in like manner we fight against passions, either by opposing to them contrary passions, or by opposing stronger affections of their own kind. If some vain hope present itself unto me, my way of resistance may be to oppose to it this just discouragement: O foolish man! upon what foundation do you build this hope? Do you not see that this great man in whom you trust is as near to his grave as thyself? Do you not know the instability, weakness and imbecillity of the spirit of man? Today this heart from which you expect something is thine, tomorrow another will carry it away for himself: on what then is this hope grounded? I can also resist this hope by opposing to it a more solid one. Hope in God, O my soul! for it is he who delivers thy feet out of the snare; no man ever hoped in him, and was confounded: fix thy designs upon eternal and imperishable things. In like manner one may combat the desire of riches and temporal delights, either by the contempt they merit or by the desire of immortal ones; and by this means sensual and earthly love will be destroyed by heavenly love, either as fire is extinguished by water on account of the contrary qualities of water, or as it is extinguished by fire from heaven, on account of the stronger and overpowering qualities of this.

Our Saviour makes use of both these methods in his spiritual cures. He cures his disciples of worldly fear by imprinting in their hearts a higher fear: Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body into hell.575575Matt. x. 28. When he would another time cure them of a lower joy, he assigned them a nobler one: Rejoice not, said he, in this, that spirits are subject unto you: but rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven:576576Luke x. 20. and he himself casts out joy by grief: Woe to you that now laugh: for you shall mourn and weep.577577Luke vi. 25. Thus does Divine love supplant and bring into subjection the affections and passions, turning them from the end to which self-love would sway them, and applying them to its spiritual intentions. And as the rainbow touching the herb aspalathus deprives it of its own smell and gives it another far more excellent, so sacred love touching our passions takes from them their earthly end, and bestows a heavenly one in its place. The appetite for food is made very spiritual if before gratifying it we give it the motive of love:—Ah! no, Lord! it is not to content this wretched stomach, nor to allay this appetite that I go to table, but according to thy Providence to sustain this body which thou hast given me subject to this misery: yes, Lord! because it hath so pleased thee. If I hope for a friend's assistance can I not say: O Lord, thou hast so appointed our life, that we should have to take help, comfort and consolation from one another; and because so it pleases thee, I will use this or that man whose friendship thou hast given me to this end. Is there some just occasion for fear? It is thy will, O Lord, that I should fear, in order that I may use fit means to avoid this trouble; I will do so, O Lord, since such is thy good pleasure. If the fear be excessive: Ah! O God, my eternal Father! what is it that thy children, or the chickens which live under thy wings can fear? so then, I will take the means necessary to avoid the evil which I fear, but that done,—Lord, I am thine, save thou me, if it be thy pleasure, and what may befall me I will accept, because such will be thy good pleasure. O holy and sacred alchemy! O heavenly projection-powder! by which all the metals of our passions, affections and actions are converted into the most pure gold of heavenly love.

 


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