The love which we practise in hope goes indeed to God, Theotimus, but it returns to us; its sight is turned upon the divine goodness, yet with some respect to our own profit; it tends to that supreme perfection, but aiming at our own satisfaction. That is to say, it bears us to God, not because he is sovereignty good in himself, but because he is sovereignty good to us, in which as you see there is something of the our and the us, so that this love is truly love, but love of cupidity and self-interest. Yet I do not say that it does in such sort return to ourselves that it makes us love God only for the love of ourselves; O God! no: for the soul which should only love God for the love of herself, placing the end of the love which she bears to God in her own interest, would, alas! commit an extreme sacrilege. If a wife loved her husband only for the love of his servant, she would love her husband as a servant, and his servant as a husband: and the soul that only loves God for love of herself, loves herself as she ought to love God, and God as she ought to love herself.
But there is a great difference between this expression: I love God for the good which I expect from him, and this: I only love God for the good which I expect from him: as again it is a very different thing to say: I love God for myself: and I love God for the love of myself. For when I say I love God for myself, it is as if I said: I love to have God, I love that God should be mine, should be my sovereign good; which is a holy affection of the heavenly spouse, who a hundred times in excess of delight protests: My beloved to me, and I to him, who feedeth among the lilies. But to say: I love God for love of myself, is as if one should say; the love which I bear to myself is the end for which I love God; in such sort that the love of God would be dependent, subordinate, and inferior to self-love, to our love for ourselves, which is a matchless impiety.
This love, then, which we term hope, is a love of cupidity, but of a holy and well-ordered cupidity, by means whereof we do not draw God to us nor to our utility, but we adjoin ourselves unto him as to our final felicity. By this love we love ourselves together with God, yet not preferring or equalizing ourselves to him; in this love the love of ourselves is mingled with that of God, but that of God floats on the top; our own love enters indeed, but as a simple motive, not as a principal end; our own interest has some place there, but God holds the principal rank. Yes, without doubt, Theotimus: for when we love God as our sovereign good, we love him for a quality by which we do not refer him to us but ourselves to him. We are not his end, aim, or perfection, but he is ours; he does not appertain to us, but we to him; he depends not on us but we on him; and, in a word, by the quality of sovereign good for which we love him, he receives nothing of us, but we receive of him. He exercises towards us his affluence and goodness, and we our indigence and scarcity; so that to love God under the title of sovereign good is to love him under an honourable and respectful title, by which we acknowledge him to be our perfection, repose and end, in the fruition of which our felicity consists. Some goods there are which we use for ourselves when we employ them, as our slaves, servants, horses, clothes: and the love which we bear unto them is a love of pure cupidity, since we love them only for our own profit. Other goods there are which we possess, but with a possession which is reciprocal and equal on each side, as in the case of our friends: for the love we have unto them inasmuch as they content us is indeed a love of cupidity, yet of an honest cupidity, by which they are ours and we similarly theirs, they belong to us and we equally to them. But there are yet other goods which we possess with a possession of dependence, participation and subjection, as we do the benevolence, or presence, or favour of our pastors, princes, father, mother: for the love which we bear unto them is then truly a love of cupidity, when we love them in that they are our pastors, our princes, our fathers, our mothers, since it is not precisely the quality of pastor, nor of prince, nor of father, nor of mother, which is the cause of our affection towards them, but the fact that they are so to us and in our regard. Still this cupidity is a love of respect, reverence and honour; for we love our father, for example, not because he is ours but because we are his; and after the same manner it is that we love and aspire to God by hope, not to the end he may become our good, but because he is it; not to the end he may become ours, but because we are his; not as though he existed for us, but inasmuch as we exist for him.
And note, Theotimus, that in this love, the reason why we love (that is, why we apply our heart to the love of the good which we desire) is because it is our good; but the measure and quantity of this love depend on the excellence and dignity of the good which we love. We love our benefactors because they are such to us, but we love them more or less as they are more or less our benefactors. Why then do we love God, Theotimus, with this love of cupidity? Because he is our good. But why do we sovereignly love him? Because he is our sovereign good.
But when I say we love God sovereignly, I do not therefore say that we love him with sovereign love. Sovereign love is only in charity, whereas in hope love is imperfect, because it does not tend to his infinite goodness as being such in itself, but only because it is such to us. Still, because in this kind of love there is no motive more excellent than that which proceeds from the consideration of the sovereign good, we say that by it we love sovereignly, though in real truth no one is able by virtue of this love either to keep God's commandments, or obtain life everlasting, because it is a love that yields more affection than effect, when it is not accompanied with charity.