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CHAPTER VIII.

HOW CHARITY COMPREHENDS ALL THE VIRTUES.

There flowed a river out of the place of delights to water Paradise, and thence it was divided into four heads.519519Gen. ii. 10. Now, in man there is a place of delights, whence God makes the river of reason and natural light stream out to water all the paradise of our heart, and this river branches out into four heads; that is, it makes four streams according to the four regions of the soul. For  1°. Over what is called the practical understanding, that is to say the part of the intelligence which discerns the actions we should do or avoid, natural light spreads prudence, which inclines our mind wisely to judge of the evil that we are to avoid and drive away, and of the good we are to do and pursue.  2°. Over our will it makes justice stream out, which is a continual and firm will to render to every one his own.  3°. Over the concupiscible appetite it makes temperance flow, moderating the passions which are therein.  4°. Over the irascible appetite or anger it 486sends out fortitude, which stays and controls all the motions of anger. Now these four rivers, thus separated, afterwards divide themselves into several others, in order that all human actions may be duly fashioned to natural honesty and felicity. But besides all this, God, to enrich Christians with a special favour, makes spring up on the very top of the superior part of their spirit a supernatural fountain which is called grace, and which comprehends indeed faith and hope, yet consists in charity. It purifies the soul from all sins, and then adorns and embellishes it with a most delightful beauty; and finally spreads its waters over all the faculties and operations thereof, to give the understanding a celestial prudence, the will a holy justice, the concupiscible appetite a sacred temperance, and the irascible appetite a devout fortitude, to the end that man's whole heart may tend to the supernatural honesty and felicity which consist in union with God. And if these four streams and rivers of charity meet with any one of the four natural virtues in the soul, they bring it to their obedience, mingling themselves therewith to perfect it, as perfumed water perfects natural water when they are mixed together. But if holy charity, spread out in this manner, find not the natural virtues in the soul, then it alone does all their operations as occasion requires.

Thus heavenly love finding certain virtues in S. Paul, S. Ambrose, S. Denis, S. Pachomius, shed upon them an agreeable brightness, reducing them all to its service. But in Magdalen, in S. Mary of Egypt, the Good Thief, and a hundred other such penitents who had been great offenders, divine love, finding no virtue, did the office and work of all the virtues, making itself patient, gentle, humble, and liberal in them. We sow great variety of seeds in gardens, and cover them, as if burying them, till the sun's greater heat makes them rise, and, as one would say, resuscitates them, when they produce their leaves and their flowers, with new seeds each one in its kind; so that one sole heat from heaven causes all the diversity of these productions, by means of the seed which it finds hidden in the bosom of the earth. Verily, my Theotimus, God has sown in our hearts the seeds of all virtues, which, however, are so covered with our imperfections and weakness that they do not appear, or appear 487very slightly, till the vital heat of holy love comes to quicken and resuscitate them, producing by them the actions of all virtues. So that as the manna contained in itself the variety of the tastes of all meats, and left a relish thereof in the mouths of the Israelites, even so, heavenly love comprehends in itself the diversity of the perfections of all the virtues in so excellent and sublime a manner, that it produces all their actions in time and place according to the occasions. Josue indeed valiantly defeated God's enemies by his good handling of the armies which were under his charge; but Samson defeated them yet more gloriously, references, who by his own hand slew them by thousands with the jawbone of an ass. Josue by his command and good order making use of the valour of his troops did wonders, but Samson by his own force alone wrought miracles. Josue had the strength of many soldiers under him, but Samson had it in him, and could alone perform as much as Josue with many soldiers. Holy love is excellent in both these ways, for finding some virtue in a soul (and ordinarily it finds at least faith, hope and penitence) it animates, commands, and happily employs them in God's service, and for the rest of the virtues which it finds not, it does their work itself, having more strength by itself than they have all together.

The great Apostle not only says that Charity gives us patience, kindness, constancy, simplicity, but he says that charity is patient, is kind,5205201 Cor. xiii. 4. is constant: and it is the property of the supreme virtues amongst angels and men, not only to order the inferior virtues to work, but also to be able themselves to do what they command others. The bishop distributes the charges of all the ecclesiastical functions:—to open the Church, to read therein, to exorcise, preach, baptize, sacrifice, give communion and absolve; and he himself can do, and does, all this, having in himself an eminent virtue, which comprehends all the inferior virtues. So S. Thomas, on the strength of S. Paul's assurance that charity is patient, kind, strong, says: "Charity does and accomplishes the work of all the virtues." And S. Ambrose, writing to Demetrias, calls patience and the rest of the virtues 488members of charity. And the great S. Augustine says that the love of God comprehends all the virtues and does all their operations in us. These are his words: "What is said about virtue being divided into four (he means the four cardinal virtues) is said in my opinion by reason of the different affections which proceed from love. So that I do not hesitate to define those four virtues thus: Temperance is a love which gives itself entirely unto God; Fortitude is a love which willingly supports all things for God's sake: Justice is a love521521The French has force, but it is clearly and error; S. Augustine's word is amor, as his argument requires. Se De Morib. Eccl. c. xv. [Tr.] which serves God only, and therefore disposes justly of all that is subject to man: Prudence is a love that makes choice of things proper to unite itself unto God, and rejects such things as are contrary to it." He therefore that has charity has his soul invested with a fair wedding garment, which, as that of Joseph, is wrought with the variety of all the virtues: or rather he has a perfection which contains the virtue of all perfections and the perfection of all virtues. And therefore charity is patient, is kind;5225221 Cor. xiii. she is not envious but bounteous; she is guilty of no levities but is prudent; she is not puffed up with pride, but is humble; she is not ambitious or disdainful, but amiable and affable; she is not eager to exact that which belongs unto her, but free and condescending; she is not irritable but peaceable; she thinketh no evil but is meek; she doth not rejoice in evil but in the truth, and with the truth she beareth all things; she easily believeth all the good that is said to her without any obstinacy, contention or distrust; she hopeth all good things for her neighbour without ever losing the hope of procuring his salvation; she endureth all things, expecting without disquiet that which is promised her; and in conclusion, charity is that pure fire-tried gold, which our Saviour counselled the Bishop of Laodicea to buy,523523Apoc. iii. 18. which contains the virtue of all things, which can do all, and which does all.

 


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