A Gentleman desired a famous painter to paint him a horse running, and the painter having presented the horse to him on its back, and as it were rolling in the mire, the gentleman began to storm; whereupon the painter turning the picture upside down: Be not angry, sir, said he; to change the position of a horse running into that of a horse rolling on its back, it is only necessary to reverse the picture. Theotimus, he who would clearly see what zeal or what jealousy we must have for God, has only to express properly the jealousy we have in human things, and then to turn it upside down, for such will that be which God requires from us for himself.
Imagine, Theotimus, what comparison there is between those who enjoy the brightness of the sun, and those who have only the paltry light of a lamp; the former are not jealous of one another, for they know well that that great light is abundantly sufficiently for all, that the one's enjoyment does not hinder the other's, and that, although all possess it in general, each one possesses it none the less than if he alone possessed it in particular. But as to the light of a lamp, since it is little, limited, and insufficient for many, each one desires to have it in his chamber, and he that has it is envied by the rest. The good of human things is so trifling and beggarly, that when one has it, another must be deprived of it; and human friendship is so limited and weak, that in proportion as it communicates itself to the one, it is weakened for the others: this is why we are jealous and angry when we have rivals and companions in it. The heart of God is so abounding in love, his good is so absolutely infinite, that all men may possess him without lessening each one's possession; this infinity of goodness can never be drained, though it fill all the hearts of the universe; for when everything has been filled with it to the brim, his infinity ever remains to him quite entire, without any diminution whatever. The sun shines no less upon a rose together with a thousand millions of other flowers, than though it shone but upon that alone. And God pours his love no less over one soul, though he loves with it an infinity of others, than if he loved that one only: the force of his love not decreasing by the multitude of rays which it spreads, but remaining ever quite full of his immensity.
But wherein consists the zeal or the jealousy which we ought to have for the divine goodness? Theotimus, its office is, first, to hate, fly, hinder, detest, reject, combat and overthrow, if one can, all that is opposed to God; that is, to his will, to his glory, and the sanctification of his name. I have hated and abhorred iniquity, said David, and: Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hated thee: and pined away because of thy enemies. My zeal hath made me pine away because my enemies forgot thy words. In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land; that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord. See, I pray you, Theotimus, with what zeal this great king is animated, and how he employs the passions of his soul in the service of holy jealousy! He does not simply hate iniquity but abhors it; upon the sight of it he pines away, he falls into a swoon and a failing of heart, he persecutes it, overthrows it, and exterminates it. So Phinees transported with a holy zeal ran his sword through that shameless Israelite and vile Madianite; so the zeal which consumed our Saviour's heart, made him cast out and instantly take vengeance on the irreverence and profanation which those buyers and sellers committed in the temple.
Secondly, zeal makes us ardently jealous of the purity of souls, which are the spouses of Jesus Christ, according to the word of the holy Apostle to the Corinthians: I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. Eliezer would have been stung with jealousy, if he had perceived the chaste and fair Rebecca, whom he was conducting to be espoused to his master's son, in any danger of being dishonoured; and doubtless he might have said to this holy maiden: I am jealous of you with the jealousy I have for my master, for I have espoused you to one man, that I may present you a chaste virgin to the son of my lord Abraham. So would the great S. Paul say to his Corinthians: I was sent from God to your souls to arrange the marriage of an eternal union between his Son our Saviour, and you, and I have promised you to him to present you as a chaste virgin to this divine lover; behold why I am jealous, not with my own jealousy, but with the jealousy of God, in whose behalf I have treated with you. It was this jealousy, Theotimus, that caused this holy Apostle daily to die and swoon away; I die daily, said he, I protest by your glory. Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is scandalized and I am not on fire? Mark, say the ancients, mark what love, what care, and what jealousy a mother-hen has for her chickens (for our Saviour esteemed not this comparison unworthy of his Gospel). The hen is a very hen, that is, a creature without any courage or nobility, while she is not yet a mother, but with her mothership she puts on a lion's heart: ever the head up, the eyes on guard, and darting glances on every side, to espy the smallest appearance of danger to her little ones. There is no enemy at whose eyes she will not fly in defence of her dear brood, for which she has a continual solicitude, making her ever run about clucking and plaining. And if any of her chickens come to die, -- what grief, what anger! This is the jealousy of parents for their children, of pastors for their flocks, of brothers for their brethren. What was the zeal of the children of Jacob when they knew that Dina had been insulted? What was the zeal of Job from the apprehension and fear he had that his children might have offended God? What was the zeal of a S. Paul for his brethren according to the flesh, and for his children according to God, for whose sake he desired to be cast out as worthy of anathema and excommunication? What the zeal of Moses for his people, for whom he is willing, in a certain manner to be struck out of the book of life?
Thirdly, in human jealousy we are afraid lest the thing beloved be possessed by some other, but our zeal for God makes us on the contrary fear lest we should not be entirely enough possessed by him. Human jealousy makes us fear not to be loved enough, Christian jealousy troubles us with the fear of not loving enough; whence the sacred Sulamitess cried out: Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest in the midday, lest I begin to wander after the flocks of thy companions. Her fear is that she is not her sacred shepherd's own entirely, or that she may be led away, be it never so little, by those who wished to make themselves his rivals. For she will by no means permit that worldly pleasures, honours, or exterior goods shall take up a single particle of her love, which she has wholly dedicated to her dear Saviour.