Let us purify, then, Theotimus, as far as we can, all our intentions, and since we are able to spread over all the acts of the virtues the sacred motive of divine love, why shall we not do it, rejecting, as occasion requires, all kinds of vicious motives, such as vain-glory, and self-interest, and considering all the good motives which we may have for undertaking the action which presents itself, in order to choose that of holy love, which is the most excellent of all, to pour it over all the rest, or steep them in it. For example, if I desire valorously to expose myself to the hazards of war, I can do it, considering various motives: For the natural motive of this action is that of strength and valour, which moves us reasonably to undertake perilous exploits: yet besides this I may have divers other motives; as that of obeying the prince whom I serve, that of love for the common weal, that of magnanimity, which makes me rejoice in the greatness of this action. Now, coming to the action, I enter on the foreseen peril for all these motives together. But to raise them all to the rank of divine love, and perfectly to purify them, I will say in my soul with all my heart: O eternal God, who art the most dear love of my affections, if valour, obedience to my prince, love of my country, and magnanimity, were not agreeable unto thee, I would never follow the movements I now feel, but because these virtues please thee, I embrace this occasion of putting them in practice, and I will only follow their instinct and leading, because thou lovest and willest them.
You see plainly, Theotimus, that by this reflection of the spirit, we perfume all those other motives with the holy sweetness of love, since we do not follow them as motives simply virtuous, but as motives, willed, accepted, loved and cherished by God. He who steals in order to get drunk, is more a drunkard than a thief, according to Aristotle; and he who practises valour, obedience, love of country, and magnanimity to please God, is rather a divine lover, than valiant, obedient, patriotic, and magnanimous, because his whole will in this action comes to terminate and be absorbed in the love of God, only using all the other motives to arrive at this end. We are not wont to say we are going to Lyons but to Paris, when we only go to Lyons in order to get to Paris: nor that we are going to sing but that we are going to serve God, when we only go to sing in order to serve God.
And if it chance that sometimes we are touched by some particular motive, as, for example, if we should love chastity on account of its lovely and delightful purity, at once we must pour out, over this motive, that of holy love -- in this manner: O most honourable and most pleasing spotlessness of chastity, how worthy of love art thou, since thou art so beloved of the divine goodness! Then, turning towards the Creator: Ah! Lord, I demand only one thing of thee, this is what I aim at in chastity, to see and effect in it thy good pleasure, and to take the delight thou takest therein. And when we begin the practice of any virtue, we should often say with all our heart: Yes, eternal Father, I will do it, for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. Thus are we to animate all our actions with this heavenly good-pleasure, loving the honourableness and beauty of virtue principally because they are agreeable to God: for, my dear Theotimus, there are some men who excessively love the beauty of certain virtues, not only without loving charity, but even with contempt of charity. Origen and Tertullian so loved the purity of chastity, that for it they violated the great laws of charity; the one choosing to commit idolatry to preserve it, the other separating himself from the most chaste Catholic Church, his mother, to establish the chastity of his wife more according to his own fancy. Who knows not that there were certain |Poor men of Lyons,| who from praising mendicity excessively, became heretics, and of beggars became lying vagabonds? Who is ignorant of the folly of the Enthusiasts, Messalians, Euchites, who forsook charity, to exalt prayer? And were there not heretics, who to exalt charity towards the poor, put down charity towards God, ascribing man's whole salvation to alms-deeds, as S. Augustine witnesses; although the holy Apostle cries out, if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing?
God has set over me the standard of love, says the sacred Sulamitess. Love, Theotimus, is the standard in the army of virtues: they ought all to range themselves by it; it is the only flag under which our Saviour, who is the true General of the army, makes them fight. Let us therefore reduce all the virtues to the obedience of charity: let us love particular virtues, but principally because they are agreeable to God; let us excellently love the more excellent virtues, not because they are excellent, but because God loves them more excellently. Thus will holy love give life to all the virtues, making all of them full of love, lovable, and lovable above all things.