St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
|TREATISE ON THE LOVE OF GOD|
By St Francis de Sales
Book IV. Of The Decay And Ruin Of Charity.
Ch 6. That We Ought To Acknowledge All The Love We Bear To God To Be From God.
The love of men towards God takes its being, progress and perfection from the eternal love of God towards men. This is the universal sense of the Church our mothers who with an ardent jealousy will have us to acknowledge our salvation and the means thereof, to proceed solely from Our Saviour's mercy, to the end that on earth as in heaven to him alone may be honour and glory.
What hast thou that thou hast not received? says the divine Apostle, speaking of the gifts of knowledge, eloquence, and other like qualities of Church-pastors; and if thou hast received, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received.(1) It is true; we have received all from God, but especially the supernatural goods of holy love. And if we have received them, why should we take the glory of them?
Certainly if any one would extol himself for having made progress in the love of God: Alas! wretched man, should we say unto him, thou wast aswoon in thy iniquity, having neither force nor life left in thee to rise (as it happened to the princess in our parable),(2) and God of his infinite goodness ran to thy succour, and crying with a loud voice; Open the mouth of thy attention and I will fill it,(3) he himself put his fingers between thy lips and unlocked thy teeth, casting into thy heart his holy inspiration, and thou didst receive it; and when thou wast brought back to thy senses, he went on by divers movements and various means to strengthen thy heart, till at length he infused into it his charity, as thy vital and perfect health.
Well then, tell me now, miserable creature, what hast thou done in all this of which thou canst boast? Thou didst consent, I know it well; the motion of thy will did freely follow that of heavenly grace. But all this, what is it more than to receive the divine operation without resistance? And what is there in this, that thou hast not received? Yea, poor wretch that thou art, thou didst receive the receiving in which thou gloriest, and the consent which thou vauntest: for tell me, I pray thee, wilt thou not grant me, that if God had not prevented thee, thou wouldst never have perceived his goodness, and consequently never have consented to his love?
No, nor yet hadst thou thought a single good
thought of him. His movement gave being and life to
thine, and if his liberty had not animated, excited
and provoked thy liberty, by the powerful invitations
of his sweetness, thy liberty had been for ever
unprofitable to thy salvation. I confess thou didst
co-operate with the inspiration by consenting, but,
if thou knowest it not, I teach thee that thy
co-operation took being from the operation of grace
and thy freewill together, yet so, that if grace had
not prevented and filled thy heart with its
operation, never had thy heart had either power or
will to co-operate.
We can hinder the effects of inspiration, but we cannot give it any; it takes its force and virtue from the divine goodness which is the place of its starting, and not from man's will the place of its arrival. Should we not be moved to wrath, to hear the princess of our parable boast that it was she that gave virtue and power to the cordial waters and other medicines, or that she cured herself, because if she had not received the remedies which the king gave her and poured into her mouth (at such time as being half dead there remained hardly any sense in her), they had had no operation?
Yes, might one say to her: ungrateful that thou
art, thou mightest have obstinately refused to
receive the remedies, thou mightest, after thou hadst
received them into thy mouth, have cast them out
again, yet for all that it is not true that thou
gavest them force and virtue. This they had as their
natural property, thou didst only consent to receive
them, and let them operate; and besides, thou wouldst
never have consented, if the King had not first
reinvigorated thee, and then solicited thee to take
them; never hadst thou received them, had not he
assisted thee to receive them, opening thy very mouth
with his fingers, and pouring the potion into it. Art
thou not then a monster of ingratitude to wish to
attribute to thyself a benefit which by so many
titles thou owest to thy dear spouse?
Our free-will can stay and hinder the course of the inspiration and when the favourable gale of God's grace swells the sails of our soul it is in our power to refuse consent, and thereby to hinder the effect of the wind's favour: but when our spirit sails along, and makes its voyage prosperously, it is not we that make the gale of the inspiration blow for us, nor we that make our sails swell with it, nor we that give motion to the ship of our heart; but we simply receive the gale sent from heaven, consent to its motion, and let our ship sail under it, not hindering it by the remora of our resistance.
It is the inspiration then which impresses on our free-will the happy and sweet influence whereby it not only makes it see the beauty of good, but also heats, helps, and strengthens it, and moves it so sweetly that it thus turns and freely flows out towards what is good.
The heavens in spring time prepare the fresh dewdrops, and shower them down upon the face of the sea, and the motherpearls that open their shells receive these drops, which are converted into pearls: but, on the contrary, the mother-pearls which keep their shells shut do not hinder the dews from falling upon them, yet they hinder them from falling into them. Now have not the heavens sent their dew and their influence as much upon the one as the other mother-pearl? Why then did the one in effect produce its pearl and the others not?
The heavens were as bountiful to that one which remained sterile as was requisite to empearl and impregnate it with its fair unity,(4) but it hindered the effect of the heavens' favour, by keeping itself closed and covered. And as for that which conceived the pearl on receiving the dew, it has nothing in that work which it did not receive from heaven, not even its opening whereby it received the dew; for without the touches of the morning's rays, which did gently excite it, it had not risen up to the surface of the sea, nor yet opened its shell.
Theotimus, if we have any love for God, his be the
honour and glory, who did all in us, and without whom
nothing were done; Ours be the profit and obligation.
This is the division his divine goodness makes with
us; he leaves us the fruits of his benefits, and
reserves to himself the honour and praise of them;
and verily since we are nothing but by his grace, we
ought to be nothing but for his glory.