A little child, who sees the surgeon bleed his mother, will cry when he sees the lancet touch her;
but let that mother for whom he weeps ask for his apple or a sugar-plum which he has in his hand, and he will on no account part with it; and too much of our seeming devotion is of this kind.
We weep feelingly at the spear piercing the Crucified Saviour’s Side, and we do well,—but why cannot we give Him the apple we hold, for which He asks, heartily?
I mean our heart, the only love-apple which that Dear Saviour craves of us.
Why cannot we resign the numberless trifling attachments, indulgences, and self-complacencies of which He fain would deprive us, only we will not let Him do so; because they are the sugar-plums, sweeter to our taste than His Heavenly Grace?
Surely this is but as the fondness of children;—demonstrative, but weak, capricious, unpractical.
Devotion does not consist in such exterior displays of a tenderness which may be purely the result of a naturally impressionable, plastic character; or which may be the seductive action of the Enemy, or an excitable imagination stirred up by him.
Nevertheless these tender warm emotions are sometimes good and useful, for they kindle the spiritual appetite, cheer the mind, and infuse a holy gladness into the devout life, which embellishes all we do even externally.
It was such a taste for holy things that made David cry out, “O how sweet are Thy words unto my throat, yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth.” And assuredly the tiniest little comfort received through devotion is worth far more than the most abundant delights of this world.
The milk of the Heavenly Bridegroom, in other words His spiritual favours, are sweeter to the soul than the costliest wine of the pleasures of this world, and to those who have tasted thereof all else seems but as gall and wormwood.
There is a certain herb which, if chewed, imparts so great a sweetness that they who keep it in their mouth cannot hunger or thirst; even so those to whom God gives His Heavenly manna of interior sweetness and consolation, cannot either desire or even accept worldly consolations with any real zest or satisfaction.
It is as a little foretaste of eternal blessedness which God gives to those who seek it; it is as the sugar-plum with which He attracts His little ones; as a cordial offered to strengthen their heart; as the first-fruits of their future reward.
Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 13.