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CHAPTER XVIII.

THAT THE NATURAL INCLINATION WHICH WE HAVE TO LOVE GOD IS NOT USELESS.

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?4949Lam. ii. 15.

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,5050Ps. lxxvii. 39. 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?5151Ps. iv. 6. 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 62conduct 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 Cæsar; because there was found on him a collar with Cæsar's device upon it, and these words: Cæsar 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,5252Ibid. 7. 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.


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