We do not always know, nor ever with perfect certainty (at least with certainty of faith), whether we have the true love of God which is required for salvation; still we have many marks of it, amongst which the most assured and almost infallible appears when some great love of creatures opposes itself to the designs of God's love; for then, if divine love is in the soul, it displays the greatness of the credit and authority which it has over the will, showing effectively, not only that it has no master, but that it has not even a companion, repressing and overthrowing all opposition, and making its intentions obeyed. When the unhappy troop of diabolic spirits, revolting from their Creator, essayed to draw to their faction the holy company of the blessed spirits, the glorious S. Michael, animating his comrades to the fidelity which they owed to their God, cried with loud voice (but in angelic sort) through the heavenly Jerusalem: |Who is like to God?| And by this word he overthrew that traitor Lucifer with his rout, who would have equalled themselves with the divine majesty; and thence, as it is said, the name was given to S. Michael, since Michael simply means Who is like to God? And when the loves of created things would draw our hearts to their party, to make us disobedient to the divine majesty, if the great divine love be found in the soul, it makes head against it, as another S. Michael, and establishes the powers and forces of the soul in God's service by this word of steadfastness: Who is like to God? What goodness is there in creatures which ought to draw the human heart into rebellion against the sovereign goodness of its God?
When the holy and noble Joseph perceived that the love of his mistress tended to the ruin of that which was due to his master: Ah! said he, be it far from me that I should violate the respect which I owe to my master, who reposes so much trust in me? How then can I do this wicked thing, and sin against my God? Mark, Theotimus, how there are three loves in the heart of this admirable Joseph, for he loves his mistress, his master, and God; but as soon as his mistress's love rises up against his master's, he suddenly forsakes it and flies, as he would also have forsaken his master's, if he had found it contrary to God's. Amongst all loves, God's is so to be preferred that we must always stand prepared in mind to forsake them all for that alone.
Abraham loved Sarai and Agar, and until Agar began to despise her mistress it could not well have been discerned which he loved the better. But when these two loves came into comparison with one another, the good Abraham made quite clear which was the stronger. For no sooner had Sarai complained that she was contemned by Agar, than he told her: Behold thy handmaid is in thy own hand, use her as it pleaseth thee. Wherefore Sarai so afflicted the poor Agar that she was driven to run away. Divine love is willing for us to have other loves; nor can we easily discover which is the chief love of our heart: for this human heart often draws most affectionately into its complacency the love of creatures; yea, on many occasions it makes the acts of its affection for the creature far more numerous than that of its dilection for its Creator. Yet all the time sacred dilection ceases not to excel all the other loves, as the events show when the creature is opposed to the Creator; for then we take the part of sacred dilection, submitting unto it all our other affections.
There is often a difference, among created things, between greatness and goodness. One of Cleopatra's pearls was worth more than our highest mountain; but the latter is much greater: the one has more bulk, the other more worth. It is made a question whether the honour which a prince achieves in war by feats of arms, or that which he merits by justice in time of peace be greater; and it seems to me that military glory is grander, and the other better; as, among instruments, drums and trumpets make more noise, lutes and virginals more melody; the sound of the one is stronger, of the other sweeter and more spiritual. An ounce of balm gives not so strong an odour as a pound of oil of lavender, but at the same time the smell of balm is better and more agreeable.
Truly, Theotimus, you will see a mother so busy about her child that she might seem to have no other love but that, having eyes only to see it, mouth to kiss it, breast to give it suck, care to bring it up; and one would think that her husband was nothing to her, in respect of her child; but if she had to make choice which she would lose, then would be plainly seen that she more values her husband, and that though the love of her child was more tender, more pressing and passionate, yet that other was the more excellent, stronger and better. So when a heart loves God in respect of his infinite goodness, with however little a portion of this excellent love, it will prefer God's will before all things, and in all the occasions that present themselves it will forsake everything, to preserve itself in grace with the sovereign goodness, and nothing whatever will divert it from this. So that, though this divine love does not always so sensibly affect and melt the heart as do the other loves; yet, on occasions, it performs actions so noble and excellent, that one of them only is better than ten millions of the others. Rabbits are incomparably fertile, elephants never have more than one calf; but this little elephant alone is of greater price than all the rabbits in the world. Our love towards creatures often abounds in the multitude of productions; but when sacred love acts its work is so eminent that it surpasses all: for it causes God to be preferred before all things, without reserve.