When God gives us faith he enters into our soul and speaks to our spirit, not by manner of discourse, but by way of inspiration, proposing in so sweet a manner unto the understanding that which ought to be believed, that the will receives therefrom a great complacency, so great indeed that it moves the understanding to consent and yield to truth without any doubt or distrust, and here lies the marvel: for God proposes the mysteries of faith to our souls amidst obscurities and darkness, in such sort that we do not see the truths but we only half-see them. It is like what happens sometimes when the face of the earth is covered with mist so that we cannot see the sun, but only see a little more brightness in the direction where he is. Then, as one would say, we see it without seeing it; because on the one hand we see it not so well that we can truly say we see it, yet again we see it not so little that we can say we do not see it; and this is what we call half-seeing. And yet, when this obscure light of faith has entered our spirit, not by force of reasoning or show of argument, but solely by the sweetness of its presence, it makes the understanding believe and obey it with so much authority that the certitude it gives us of the truth surpasses all other certitudes, and keeps the understanding and all its workings in such subjection that they get no hearing in comparison with it.
May I, Theotimus, have leave to say this? Faith is the chief beloved of our understanding, and may justly speak to human sciences which boast that they are more evident and clear than she, as did the sacred spouse to the other shepherdesses. I am black but beautiful, -- O human reasonings, O acquired knowledge! I am black, for I am amidst the obscurities of simple revelation, which have no apparent evidence, and which make me look black, putting me well-nigh out of knowledge: yet I am beautiful in myself by reason of my infinite certainty; and if mortal eyes could behold me such as I am by nature they would find me all fair. And must it not necessarily follow that in effect I am infinitely to be loved, since the gloomy darkness and thick mists, amid which I am -- not seen but only half-seen cannot hinder me from being so dearly loved, that the soul, prizing me above all, cleaving the crowd of all other knowledges, makes them all give place to me and receives me as his queen, placing me on the highest throne in his palace, from whence I give the law to all sciences, and keep all argument and all human sense under? Yea, verily, Theotimus, even as the commanders of the army of Israel taking off their garments, put them together and made a royal throne of them, on which they placed Jehu, and said: Jehu is king: so on the arrival of faith, the understanding puts off all discourse and arguments, and laying them underneath faith, makes her sit upon them, acknowledging her as Queen, and with great joy cries out: Long live faith!
Pious discourses and arguments, the miracles and other advantages of the Christian religion, make it extremely credible and knowable, but faith alone makes it believed and acknowledged, enamouring men with the beauty of its truth, and making them believe the truth of its beauty, by means of the sweetness faith pours into their wills, and the certitude which it gives to their understanding. The Jews saw the miracles and heard the marvellous teachings of Our Saviour, but being indisposed to receive faith, that is, their will not being susceptible of the gentle sweetness of faith, on account of the bitterness and malice with which they were filled, they persisted in their infidelity. They perceived the force of the argument, but they relished not the sweetness of the conclusion, and therefore did not acquiesce in its truth. But the act of faith consists in this very acquiescence of our spirit, which having received the grateful light of truth, accepts it by means of a sweet, yet powerful and solid assurance and certitude which it finds in the authority of the revelation which has been made to her.
You have heard, Theotimus, that in general councils there are great disputations and inquiries made about truth by discourse, reasons and theological arguments, but the matters being discussed, the Fathers, that is, the bishops, and especially the Pope who is the chief of the bishops, conclude, resolve and determine; and the determination being once pronounced, every one fully accepts it and acquiesces in it, not in consideration of the reasons alleged in the preceding discussion and inquisition, but in virtue of the authority of the Holy Ghost, who, presiding invisibly in councils, has judged, determined and concluded, by the mouth of his servants whom he has established pastors of Christianity. The inquisition then and the disputation are made in the priests' court by the doctors, but the resolution and acquiescence are formed in the sanctuary, where the Holy Ghost who animates the body of his Church, speaks by the mouth of its chiefs, as Our Lord has promised. In like manner the ostrich lays her eggs upon the sands of Libya, but the sun alone hatches her young ones; and doctors by their inquiry and discourse propose truth, but only the beams of the sun of justice give certainty and acquiescence. To conclude then, Theotimus, this assurance which man's reason finds in things revealed and in the mysteries of faith, begins by an amorous sentiment of complacency which the will receives from the beauty and sweetness of the proposed truth; so that faith includes a beginning of love, which the heart feels towards divine things.