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CHAPTER XX

That God does not wish man to serve him through self-interest or through fear, but only through faith and love, and therefore he sweetly attracts his will.—The saint did not desire grace or mercy, but only justice.—That pure love fears nothing but sin.

This holy Soul being (as may be inferred from what has been already said) arrived at that state of perfection where she began to taste the fruition of eternal happiness, and regarding those who are still deceived by the passions of the present time, and know not how to hasten from that which is so wholly evil, was moved by compassion, and she said:

“O man, created in such great dignity, why dost thou lose thyself in things so vile? If thou shouldst consider well, thou wouldst easily see that all worldly things which thou desirest are as nothing when compared to those spiritual goods which God gives thee even in this life, which is so full of ignorance. Pray that thou mayst come hereafter to that celestial country in which are things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love him!”

If man clearly saw that by well-doing he could gain eternal life, and could imagine how great the happiness of heaven will be, he would always persevere in good; and even should he live until the end of the world, he would never occupy his memory, intellect, or will on any but celestial things. But God wishes that faith should be meritorious, and not that man should serve him through self-interest; and therefore he conducts him by degrees, although he always gives him sufficient knowledge to support his faith. But afterwards he gives him such aforetaste of eternal glory, that by a clear and certain perception which he receives at the close of this life, the faith of the man, thus replenished with heavenly delights almost ceases to be faith.

On the other hand, if man could know how greatly he must suffer hereafter for his sins, hold it for certain that for very fear he would not only abandon all things, but that he would not commit the smallest sin. But God does not wish to be served through fear, because, if man’s heart were filled with terror, love could find no entrance there. It is through love that God does not permit man to behold this dreadful sight, although he does in part discover it to those who are so protected and occupied with that pure love which casteth out fear that the doors cannot be shut against them. These souls see in heaven and earth things which tongue cannot express, and they are drawn by sweet allurements and gentle ways. This is what happens to those who allow themselves to be led by faith, and who, recognizing the benignant hand of God in all that befalls them, never reject it, but rather cleave to it strongly and follow it with joy.

But those who refuse so much goodness and deliberately persevere in living according to their own desires, will have at the moment of their death a vision so painful and so terrible, that, having in themselves even one defect, they will be unable to endure the sight. And, therefore amazed at such stupidity, the saint exclaimed: “O miserable man, who will not provide against a fate so unhappy, and caused only by thine own obstinacy! Thou thinkest not of it, yet know that it will befall thee when it is too late. In heaven nothing can enter which is defiled, and purgatory must cleanse thee before thou canst attain eternal felicity.”

“God,” she said, “leads man by a road intermediate between these two. He shows him always great tokens of his love, in order to attract man, who is naturally more inclined to act through love than fear. Yet he gives him also the motive of fear, that by it he may more readily abandon his sins. But neither the love nor the fear which God grants him are so great as to force man towards him, because it is his will that grace should be accomplished by free-will and faith, by which man does all that is within his power. The rest God effects by his good inspirations, which, when once man has yielded his consent, easily incite him to combat his rebellious nature, and, by the help of the great satisfaction which God imparts, to hold it at its true value.”

And therefore she said: “When I see that God is ever ready to give us all the interior and exterior aids necessary for our salvation, and that he observes our deeds solely for our own good; when, on the other hand, I see man continually occupied in useless things, contrary to himself and of no value; and that at the hour of death God will say to him: ‘What is there, O man, that I could have done for thee which I have not done?’ and that man will clearly know this to be true; I believe that he will have to render a stricter account for this than for all other sins, and I am amazed and cannot understand how man can be so mad as to neglect a thing of such vast and extreme importance.”

The vision which she had of all this was not represented to her mind in a manner so weak as that in which it is here recounted, but so clearly that it seemed to her that she could see and touch it. And doubtless he who should behold such a sight would rather choose death itself than offend God voluntarily, even in the least degree. This, however, did not cause her such wonder when she considered the great evils from which men are freed and the eternal joys to which they are destined and sweetly guided. Therefore she held herself in great aversion and did not hesitate to say: “In this life I desire neither grace nor mercy, but only justice and vengeance upon the evil-doer.” She said this with much earnestness, because she saw that the mercy and goodness of God toward his elect infinitely surpass their gratitude toward him and their sorrow for their sins, and therefore she could not endure that her own offences against her Love should go unpunished.

This appeared to be the reason why she cared little about gaining plenary indulgences; not that she did not hold them in great reverence and devotion, or esteem them of great value, but that for her own part she would rather be chastised and receive the just punishment assigned her, than by this satisfaction be released in the sight of God. The Offended seemed to her to be of such goodness, and the offender so much opposed to him in all things, that she could not endure to see anything which was not subjected to the divine justice, that so it might be well chastised. And, therefore, to abandon all hope of escaping this righteous pain she did not seek for plenary indulgences nor even recommend herself to the prayers of others, in order that she might be ever subject, and be punished and condemned as she had deserved.

What has just been said can be comprehended in the state of perfection to which the saint had been raised, and in which, being as it were secure of victory, she desired to combat purely for the greater glory of her Lord, and, like a valiant soldier, neither sought for nor desired any assistance. And being unable to support the sight of an offence against God, she said to him:

“My Love, I can endure all things else, but to have offended thee is a thing so dreadful and unbearable to me that I pray thee to let me suffer anything else than to see that I have done so. The insults that I have offered thee I am sorry to have offered, nor can I ever consent to offend thee more. At the hour of death show me rather all the demons with all their plains, for I would think it nothing in comparison with the sight of one offense against thee, however slight; though nothing could be slight which displeased thine infinite majesty.

“I know for certain that if the soul which truly loves, should behold in herself one thing which separated her from God, her Spouse, her body would be ground into powder. This I know by means of the extreme and unspeakable torments which I suffer from the interior fire which burns within me; and hence, I conclude that love cannot endure even the least opposition, nor will it remain with any one who does not first remove all obstacles and impediments in order to remain with it in peace and perfect quiet.”

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