HOW naturally doth my soul lean towards Thee, my God, because of its love! Hence it is that if our nature-were not deformed and depraved by sin, there would be no necessity that Thou shouldst command us to love Thee, just as now Thou hast not to command us to love ourselves, because being naturally disposed to give way to that affection even to excess, we have no need that Thou shouldst order and admonish us to do that which comes to us by nature and suits us.

Let us say at once, then, that there would be no necessity for such a command if nature were but preserved in that purity in which it was created; and hence it is that in its first creation we do not read that Thou didst give such a command either to the angels or to men when Thou didst create them; for they naturally inclined thereto, and those beings had no need of any stimulus to fulfil such an injunction who had been gloriously formed by their Creator according to an interior law of love.

But we have forgotten that natural law and we are alienated from our own nature, insomuch that, neither for commands, nor promises, nor threatens, nor daily and great benefits, do we ever love Thee as in all reason we ought. But just as a piece of lead which is detained by force on a high place if it be let go descends immediately to the ground, so our soul, if it be but for a little and forcibly carried away and lifted up to things of an exalted nature, immediately by its weight falls down to earthly and transitory things, and abandons itself entirely to those things of sense.

Tell me, then, O my soul, answer me, O miserable one, and declare to me what is the reason that thou pursuest the creature with such a keen appetite, so hungry and thirsty; and that so greatly to thy degradation thou goest begging of creatures a drop of muddy, tasteless and brackish water, which rather inflames thy thirst than quenches it, forsaking the pure, wholesome and perpetual fountain of all blessings, in which alone thou canst quench all thy thirst and gratify all thy pleasures and wishes.

Tell me, thou poor soul, what canst thou desire which thou wilt not find much more completely in thy God? If wisdom delights thee, He is most wise; if power and might. He is most powerful and mighty; if thou desirest glory and riches. He has abundance of both in His house; if delights and pleasures, "At Thy right hand are delights even to the end"[Ps. xv. 11; xxv. 8; cxi. 3.]; if fullness and abundance of desire, those who possess Him are transported with the abundance of His house.

How, then, knowing this and much more than I could tell thee, O miserable, dost thou knowingly and of set purpose seek thy consolations and pleasures in the petty rills of the creature? Thou despisest the fountain which gives thee freely to drink, and with great labour dost dig for thyself turbid wells. O intolerable folly, flagrant extravagance and stupendous blindness! Hence it is that the Lord, being indignant at such conduct, exclaims by the mouth of the prophet, "Be astonished, O heavens, and let her gates be desolated, saith the Lord, for My people have done two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."[Jerem. ii. 13.]

Truly the glory of the world is a dried-up and wasted cistern; the delight of the flesh is a dry well; and all honour and dignity is a ruined reservoir; all the abundance of riches is an open pool full of holes, which cannot hold water; and if thou believe me not, or thinkest that I am deceiving thee, then appeal to experience and observe that with whatever longing thou hast sought any dignity, and whatever troubles thou hast passed through in order to obtain it, when thou hast attained it, it seems to thee as nothing; for it is a pool full of holes and could not hold water. Thou hast longed for some delight, thou hast secured it, and immediately it disappears; for it is a cistern the contents of which have wasted away, and cannot retain the waters of delight that should be found there.

Very quickly do these vanities pass away and vanish like smoke, and, after all, thou hast got possession of a cistern as dry as before, and sometimes more dry and unsatisfying still. Experimentalise upon every kind of object, and thou wilt find that this is the case in all of them.

But although this be so, and unhappy men discover it by experience, with what trouble, under what affronts, with what drudgery do they dig out those wasted and broken wells in every direction! In order to excavate those putrid cisterns, they undergo great toils by day and night, by sea and land, in wars and in perils of death, and many of them in the laborious service of sin; while they make but little account of the pure fountain of living waters that flows through the market-places, nor do they set any value upon it though they are invited to partake thereof. This it is which cries out when calling to all people in the open places: "If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink"[John vii. 37.]; and in another place it cries by the mouth of a prophet[Isa. iv. 1.], saying: "All you that thirst, come to the waters; and you that have no money, make haste, buy and eat; come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without any price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which doth not satisfy you?" Therefore it is that He complains to the angels and to His saints, saying: "Be astonished, O ye heavens"[Jerem. ii. 12.]; ye must know, ye blessed angels, and wonder at this, ye who are set far apart from all woe and sorrow. But you, O ye gates, who are my saints that are still militant in the flesh, through whom as through gates many enter into heaven, afflict yourselves greatly and grieve much over such horrible and execrable blindness on the part of your people, over so great an error committed by wretched mortals, and over such great madness of the sons of Adam.

Quit, then, my soul, quit, I beseech thee, these exhausted, dried-up and broken cisterns which thou hast excavated with such toil, and with great haste run and betake thyself to the fountain which is thy God and Husband Jesus Christ, wherein thou mayst at thy pleasure quench all thy thirst. Here thou shalt be filled with delights, true delights and pleasures, after thy whole heart, thy whole will, and as thou desirest. Only in the Lord wilt thou find peace and rest, and in no other thing whatsoever of all that is in the world. He only is thy centre, thy proper and natural sphere; out of Him shalt thou find no contentment, but in Him all good, rest and glory.