That man's heart may easily follow the motions and instincts of reason, in order to attain the natural felicity which it can aim at, by living according to the laws of rectitude, it requires to have: -- 1°. Temperance, to repress the rebellious movements of sensuality; 2°. Justice, to render to God, our neighbour and ourselves what is due; 3°. Fortitude, to vanquish the difficulties which occur in doing good and avoiding evil; 4°. Counsel, to discern what means are most proper to attain unto good and virtue; 5°. Knowledge, to know the true good, to which we are to aspire, and the true evil which we are to fly; 6°. Understanding, thoroughly to penetrate the first and main grounds or principles of the beauty and excellence of rectitude; 7°. And finally, wisdom, to contemplate the divinity, the prime source of all good. These are the qualities whereby the spirit is rendered gentle, obedient, and pliable, with regard to the laws of the natural reason which is in us.
In like manner, the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth in us, wishing to make our soul supple, pliable, and obedient, with regard to his heavenly movements and divine inspirations, which are the laws of his love, in the observance of which consists the supernatural felicity of this present life, bestows upon us seven properties and perfections, nearly corresponding to those seven which we have just spoken of, and called, in the Holy Scripture and in the books of theologians, gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Now they are not only inseparable from charity, but, all things well considered, and speaking precisely, they are the principal virtues, properties and qualities of charity. For 1°. Wisdom is in fact no other thing than the love which relishes, tastes and experiences, how sweet and delicious God is; 2°. Understanding is nothing else than love attentive to consider and penetrate the beauty of the truths of faith, to know thereby God in himself, and then descending from this to consider him in creatures; 3°. Science, on the other hand, is but the same love, keeping us attentive to the knowledge of ourselves and creatures, to make us reascend to a more perfect knowledge of the service which we owe to God; 4°. Counsel is also love, insomuch as it makes us careful, attentive, and wise in choosing the means proper to serve God holily; 5°. Fortitude is love encouraging and animating the heart, to put in execution that which counsel has determined should be done; 6°. Piety is the love which sweetens labour, and makes us, with good heart, with pleasure, and with a filial affection, employ ourselves in works which please God, our Father; and 7°. to conclude, Fear is nothing but love insomuch as it makes us fly and avoid what is displeasing to the divine Majesty.
So, Theotimus, charity will be another Jacob's ladder to us, consisting of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, as of so many sacred steps, by which angelic men will ascend from earth to heaven, to be united to the heart of God Almighty, and by which they will descend from heaven to earth, to take their neighbour by the hand and lead him to heaven. For, as we mount the first step, Fear makes us forsake evil; on the second, Piety excites us to will to do good; upon the third, Knowledge makes us discern the good we are to do, and the evil we are to fly; upon the fourth, by Fortitude we take courage against all the difficulties which occur in our enterprise; upon the fifth, by Counsel we make choice of suitable means; upon the sixth, we unite our understanding to God to behold and penetrate the features of his infinite beauty; and upon the seventh, we join our wills to God, to taste and experience the sweetness of his incomprehensible goodness; for upon the top of this ladder, God bending towards us, gives us the kiss of love, and makes us taste the sacred breasts of his sweetness, better than wine.
But, if after we have deliciously enjoyed these favours of love, we desire to return to the earth, to gain our neighbour to the same happiness; -- from the first and highest step, where we have filled our will with a most ardent zeal, and have perfumed our souls with the perfumes of God's sovereign charity, we must descend to the second step, where our understanding receives an incomparable light, and makes provision of the most excellent considerations and maxims, to glorify the divine beauty and goodness; thence we pass to the third, where, by the gift of Counsel, we consider by what means we may instil the relish and esteem of the divine sweetness into our neighbour's heart; upon the fourth, we take heart, receiving a holy Fortitude, to surmount the difficulties which might cross this design; upon the fifth, by the gift of Knowledge, we begin to preach, exhorting souls to follow virtue and fly vice; upon the sixth, we strive to emplant Piety in them, that acknowledging God for their loving Father, they may obey him with a filial fear; upon the last step, we urge them to fear the judgments of God, so that mingling this fear of being damned with filial reverence, they may more earnestly forsake the earth to ascend to heaven with us.
Charity, therefore, comprehends the seven Gifts, and is like to a fair lily, which has six flowers whiter than snow, and in the midst the beautiful little golden hammers of wisdom, which beat into our hearts the taste and loving relish of the goodness of the Father our Creator, of the mercy of the Son our Redeemer, and of the sweetness of the Holy Ghost our Sanctifier. And I place thus this double fear upon the two lowest steps, to reconcile all the translations with the holy and sacred Vulgate edition: for if in the Hebrew, the word fear is twice said, this is not without mystery, but to show that there is a gift of filial fear, which is nothing else but the gift of piety, and a gift of servile fear, which is the beginning of all the progress we make towards the sovereign wisdom.