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A great religious of our age has written that our natural temperament much conduces to contemplative love, and that such as are of an affectionate and loving nature are best adapted for it. Now I suppose he means not that sacred love is distributed to men or angels according to, or much less in virtue of, natural conditions; nor would he say that the distribution of divine love is made to men according to their natural qualities and abilities: for this were to belie the Scripture, and to violate the ecclesiastical canon, by which the Pelagians were declared heretics.

For my part, I speak in this treatise of the supernatural love which God out of his goodness pours into our hearts, and whose residence is in the supreme point of the spirit; a point which is above all the rest of the soul, and independent of all natural disposition. And withal, though souls inclined to love have on the one hand a certain propensity which makes them more ready to desire to love God, they are, on the other hand, so subject to set their affections upon lovable creatures, that their propensity puts them in as great danger of being diverted from the purity of sacred love by a mixture of other loves, 534as they have facility in wishing to love God; for the danger of loving amiss is attached to the facility of loving.

It is true that souls of this kind, being once well purified from the love of creatures, work wonders in holy loving, as love finds a great facility in diffusing itself throughout all the faculties of the heart: and thence proceeds a most delightful sweetness, which appears not in those whose souls are peevish, harsh, melancholy and churlish.

Nevertheless, if two persons, the one of whom is loving and sweet by nature, the other harsh and sour, have an equal charity, they will love God equally, but not alike. The heart naturally sweet will love more easily, more amiably, more sweetly, though not more solidly nor more perfectly; yea, the love which shall spring amongst the thorns and repugnances of a harsh and dry nature shall be the more noble and glorious, as the other shall be more delightsome and lovely.

It imports not much then, whether one have a natural inclination to love, when it is a question of a love which is supernatural and exercised supernaturally. Only this, Theotimus, I would gladly cry out to all men: O mortals, if you have hearts disposed for love, why do you not devote yourselves to celestial and divine love? But if you be hard and sour-tempered—since you are wanting in natural love, why do you not aspire to supernatural love, which shall be lovingly bestowed upon you by him who calls you to his so holy love?


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