It is thus we acquire virtue, with facility and certainty; for, as God is the fountain and principle of all virtue, we possess all in the possession of Himself; and in proportion as we approach towards this possession, in like proportion do we rise into the most eminent virtues. For all virtue is but as a mask, an outside appearance changeable as our garments, if it doth not spring up, and issue from within; and then, indeed, it is genuine, essential, and permanent: |The beauty of the King's daughter proceeds from within| saith David (Psa. xlv.14). These souls, above all others, practise virtue in the most eminent degree, though they advert not to virtue in particular; God, to whom they are united, carries them to the most extensive practice of it; He is exceedingly jealous over them, and prohibits them the taste of any pleasure but in Himself.
What a hungering for sufferings have those souls, who thus glow with Divine Love! how prone to precipitate into excessive austerities, were they permitted to pursue their own inclinations! They think of nought save how they may please their Beloved: as their self-love abates, they neglect and forget themselves; and as their love to God increases, so do self-detestation and disregard to the creature.
O was this easy method acquired, a method so suited to all, to the dull and ignorant as well as to the acute and learned, how easily would the whole Church of God be reformed! Love only is required: |Love;| saith S. Augustine, |and then do what you please.| For when we truly love, we cannot have so much as a will to anything that might offend the Object of our affections.