This misery of quitting God for the creature happens thus. We do not love God without intermission, because in this mortal life charity is in us as a simple habit, which, as philosophers have remarked, we use when we like and never against our liking. When then we do not make use of the charity which is in us, that is, when we are not applying our spirit to the exercises of holy love, but, when (keeping it busied in some other affair, or it being idle in itself) it remains useless and negligent, then, Theotimus, it may be assaulted by some bad object and surprised by temptation. And though the habit of charity be at that instant in the bottom of our hearts and perform its office, inclining us to reject the bad suggestion, yet it only urges us or leads us to the action of resistance according as we second it, as is the manner of habits; and therefore charity leaving us in our freedom, it happens often that the bad object having cast its allurements deeply into our hearts, we attach ourselves unto it by an excessive complacency, which when it comes to grow, we can hardly get rid of, and like thorns, according to the saying of Our Saviour, it in the end stifles the seed of grace and heavenly love. So it fell out with our first mother Eve, whose overthrow began by a certain amusement which she took in discoursing with the serpent, receiving complacency in hearing it talk of her advancement in knowledge, and in seeing the beauty of the forbidden fruit, so that the complacency growing with the amusement and the amusement feeding itself in the complacency, she found herself at length so entangled, that giving away to consent, she committed the accursed sin into which afterwards she drew her husband.
We see that pigeons, touched with vanity, display themselves (se pavonnent) sometimes in the air, and sail about hither and thither, admiring the variety of their plumage, and then the tercelets and falcons that espy them fall upon them and seize them, which they could never do if the pigeons had been flying their proper flight, as they have a stronger wing than have birds of prey. Ah! Theotimus, if we did not amuse ourselves with the vanity of fleeting pleasures, especially in the complacency of self-love, but if having once got charity we were careful to fly straight thither whither it would carry us, suggestion and temptation should never catch us, but because as doves seduced and beguiled by self-esteem we look back upon ourselves, and engage our spirits too much with creatures, we often find ourselves seized by the talons of our enemies, who bear away and devour us.
God does not will to hinder temptations from attacking us, to the end that by resistance our charity may be more exercised, that by fighting we may gain the victory, and by victory obtain the triumph. But for us to have any kind of inclination to delight ourselves in the temptation -- this rises from the condition of our nature, which so earnestly loves good that it is subject to be enticed by anything that has a show of good, and temptation's hook is ever baited with this kind of bait: for, as holy Writ teaches, there is either some good honourable in the world's sight to move us to the pride of a worldly life, or a good delightful to sense to carry us to concupiscence of the flesh, or a good tending towards wealth, to incite us to the concupiscence and avarice of the eyes. But if we kept our faith, which can discern between the true good we are to pursue and the false which we are to reject, sharply attentive to its office, without doubt it would be a trusty sentinel to charity, and would give intelligence of that evil which approaches the heart under pretext of good, and charity would immediately repulse it. But because ordinarily we keep our faith either asleep or less attentive than is requisite for the preservation of our charity, we are often surprised by temptation, which, seducing our senses, while our senses incite the inferior part of our soul to rebellion, often brings to pass that the superior part of reason yields to the violence of this revolt, and by committing sin loses charity.
Such was the progress of the sedition which the disloyal Absalom stirred up against his good father David; for he put forward propositions which were good in appearance, which being once received by the poor Israelites whose prudence was put to sleep and smothered, he solicited them in such sort that he wrought them to a complete rebellion; so that David was constrained to depart from Jerusalem with all his most faithful friends, leaving there no men of distinction save Sadoc and Abiathar, priests of the Eternal, with their children: now Sadoc was a seer, that is to say a prophet.
For so, most dear Theotimus, self-love, finding our faith without attention and drowsy, presents unto us vain yet apparent goods, seduces our senses, our imagination and the faculties of our souls, and lays so hard at our free-wills that it brings them to an entire revolt against the holy love of God, which then, as another David, departs from our heart with all its train, that is with the gifts of the Holy Ghost and the other heavenly virtues, which are the inseparable companions of charity, if not her properties and faculties. Nor does there remain in the Jerusalem of our soul any virtue of importance saving Sadoc the seer, that is the gift of faith which can make us see eternal truths, with the exercise of it, and with him Abiathar, that is the gift of hope with its action; both these remain much afflicted and sorrowful, yet maintain in us the ark of alliance, that is the quality and title of Christian purchased by baptism.
Alas! Theotimus, what a pitiful spectacle it is to the angels of peace to see the Holy Ghost and his love depart in this manner out of our sinful souls! Verily I think if they could weep they would pour out infinite tears, and, with a mournful voice lamenting our misery, would sing the sad canticle which Jeremias took up, when sitting upon the threshold of the desolate temple he contemplated the ruin of Jerusalem in the time of Sedecias: How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! How is the mistress of the Gentiles become as a widow: the princess of provinces made tributary!