The desire which God has to make us observe his commandments is extreme, as the whole Scripture witnesses. And how could he better express it, than by the great rewards which he proposes to the observers of his law, and the awful punishments with which he threatens those who shall violate the same! This made David cry out: O Lord, thou hast commanded thy Commandments to be kept most diligently.
Now the love of complacency, beholding this divine desire, wills to please God by observing it; the love of benevolence which submits all to God, consequently submits our desires and wills to that will which God has signified to us; and hence springs not only the observance, but also the love of the commandments, which David extraordinarily extols in Psalm cxviii., which he seems only to have composed for this object: O how have I loved thy law, O Lord! It is my meditation all the day . . . . . Therefore have I loved thy commandments above gold and the topaz . . . . . How sweet are thy words to my palate, more than honey to my mouth.
But to stir up in us this holy and salutary love of the commandments, we must contemplate their admirable beauty: for, as there are works which are bad because they are prohibited, and others which are prohibited because they are bad; so there are some that are good, because they are commanded, and others that are commanded because they are good and very useful. So that all of them are exceeding good and worthy of love, because the commandment gives goodness to such as were not otherwise good, and gives an increase of goodness to those others which even if not commanded would not cease to be good. We do not take good in good part, when it is presented by an enemy's hand. The Lacedæmonians would not follow solid and wholesome advice coming from a wicked person, till it was repeated to them by a good man. On the contrary, a friend's present is always grateful. The sweetest commandments become bitter when they are imposed by a tyrannical and cruel heart; and they become most amiable when ordained by love. Jacob's service seemed a royalty unto him, because it proceeded from love. O how sweet and how much to be desired is the yoke of the heavenly law, established by so amiable a king!
Many keep the commandments as sick men take medicines, more from fear of dying in a state of damnation, than from love of living according to our Saviour's pleasure. But as some persons have an aversion for physic, be it never, so agreeable, only because it bears the name of physic, so there are some souls who abhor things commanded simply because they are commanded: and there was a certain man, 'tis said, who, having lived quietly in the great city of Paris for the space of fourscore years without ever going out of it, as soon as it was enjoined him by the king that he should remain there the rest of his days, went abroad to see the country, which in his whole lifetime before he had not desired.
On the contrary, the loving heart loves the commandments; and the harder they are, the more sweet and agreeable it finds them, because it more perfectly pleases the beloved, and gives him more honour. It pours forth and sings hymns of joy when God teaches it his commandments and justifications. And as the pilgrim who merrily sings on his way adds indeed the exertion of singing to that of walking, and yet actually, by this increase of labour, unwearies himself, and lightens the hardship of the way; even so the sacred lover finds such sweetness in the commandments, that nothing so much eases and refreshes him, as the gracious load of the precepts of his God. Whereupon the holy Psalmist cries out: O Lord, thy justifications, or commandments, were the subject of my song in the place of my pilgrimage. It is said that mules and horses laden with figs presently fall under their burden and lose all their strength: more sweet than figs is the law of our Lord, but brutal man who is become as the horse and the mule which have no understanding, loses courage and finds not strength to bear this dear burden. But as a branch of Agnus Castus keeps the traveller that bears it about him from being weary, so the cross, the mortification, the yoke, the law of our Saviour, who is the true Chaste Lamb, is a burden which unwearies, refreshes and recreates the hearts that love his divine Majesty. There is no labour where love is, or if there be any, it is a beloved labour. Labour mixed with love is a certain bitter-sweet, more pleasant to the palate than a thing purely sweet.
Thus then does heavenly love conform us to the will of God, and make us carefully observe his commandments, as being the absolute desire of his divine Majesty whom we will to please. So that this complacency with its sweet and amiable violence, foreruns that necessity of obeying which the law imposes upon us, converting this necessity into the virtue of love, and every difficulty into delight.