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CHAPTER I.

OF THE LOVE OF CONFORMITY PROCEEDING FROM SACRED COMPLACENCY.

As good ground having received the seed renders it back in its season a hundredfold, so the heart which has taken complacency in God cannot hinder itself from wishing to offer another complacency to God. No one pleases us but we desire to please him. Cool wine cools for a while those who drink it, but, as soon as it grows warm within the receiver, it reciprocally warms him, and the more heat is given to it, the more it gives back. True love is never ungrateful, but strives to please those in whom it finds its pleasure; and hence comes that loving conformity, which makes us such as those we love. The most devout and most wise King Solomon, became idolatrous and foolish when he loved women who were foolish and idolatrous, and served as many idols as his wives had. For this cause the Scripture terms those men effeminate who passionately love women as such, because love metamorphoses them from men into women, in manners and humours.

Now this transformation is made insensibly by complacency, which having got entry into our heart brings forth another complacency, 326to give to him of whom we have received it. They say there is a little land animal in the Indies, which finds such pleasure with fishes and in the sea, that by often swimming with them it becomes a fish, and of an animal of the land becomes entirely an animal of the sea. So by often delighting in God we become conformed to God, and our will is transformed into that of the Divine Majesty, by the complacency which it takes therein. The example of those we love has a sweet and unperceived empire and insensible authority over us: it is necessary either to imitate or forsake them. He who, drawn by the sweetness of perfumes, enters a perfumer's shop, while receiving the pleasure which he takes in the smell of those odours, perfumes himself, and going out, communicates to others the pleasure which he has received, spreading amongst them the scent of perfumes which he has contracted. Our heart, together with the pleasure which it takes in the thing beloved, draws unto itself the quality thereof, for delight opens the heart, as sorrow closes it, whence the sacred holy Scripture often uses the word, dilate, instead of, rejoice. Now the heart being opened by pleasure, the impressions of the qualities on which the pleasure depends find easy passage into the spirit; and together with them such others also as are in the same subject, though disagreeable to us, creep in amid the throng of pleasures, as he that lacked his marriage garment got into the banquet amongst those that were adorned with it. So Aristotle's scholars took pains to stammer like him, and Plato's walked bent-backed in imitation of their master. In fine the pleasure which we take in a thing has a certain communicative power which produces in the lover's heart the qualities of the thing which pleases. And hence it is that holy complacency transforms us into God whom we love, and by how much greater the complacency, by so much the transformation is more perfect: thus the saints that loved ardently were speedily and perfectly transformed, love transporting and translating the manners and disposition of the one heart into the other.

A strange yet a true thing! Place together two lutes which are in unison, that is, of the same sound and accord, and let one of them be played on:—the other though not touched will not 327fail to sound like that which is played on, the affinity which is between them, as by a natural love, causing this correspondence. We have a repugnance to imitate those we hate even in good things, nor would the Lacedæmonians follow the good counsel of a wicked man, unless some good man pronounced it after him. On the contrary, we cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love. In this sense, as I think, the great Apostle said that the law was not made for the just:3553551 Tim. i. 9. for in truth the just man is not just but insomuch as he has love, and if he have love there is no need to press him by the rigour of the law, love being the most pressing teacher and solicitor, to urge the heart which it possesses to obey the will and the intention of the beloved. Love is a magistrate who exercises his authority without noise, without pursuivants or sergeants, by that mutual complacency, by which, as we find pleasure in God, so also we desire to please him. Love is the abridgment of all theology; it made the ignorance of a Paul, an Antony, an Hilarion, a Simeon, a Francis, most holily learned, without books, masters or art. In virtue of this love, the spouse may say with assurance. My beloved is wholly mine, by the complacency wherewith he pleases and feeds me; and I, I am wholly his, by the benevolence wherewith I please and feed him again. My heart feeds on the pleasure it takes in him, and his on my taking pleasure in him for his own sake. As a holy shepherd he feeds me, his dear sheep, amidst the lilies of his perfections, in which I take pleasure; and I, as his dear sheep, feed him with the milk of my affections, by which I strive to please him. Whosoever truly takes pleasure in God desires faithfully to please God, and in order to please him, desires to conform himself to him.

 


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