YOU aspire to devotion, my dearest Philothea, because, being a Christian, you know it to be a virtue extremely pleasing to the Divine Majesty. But since small faults, committed in the beginning of any undertaking, grow in the progress infinitely greater, and become in the end almost irreparable, you must first know what the virtue of devotion is; for since there is but one true devotion, and many which are false and deceitful, if you cannot distinguish that which is true, you may easily deceive and amuse yourself in following some fantastical and superstitious devotion.
As Aurelius painted all the faces of his pictures to the air and resemblance of the woman he loved, so every one paints devotion according to his own passion and fancy. He that is addicted to fasting thinks himself very devout if he fasts, though his heart be at the same time filled with rancor, and scrupling to moisten his tongue with wine, or even with water, through sobriety, he makes no difficulty to drink deep of his neighbor's blood, by detraction and calumny. Another considers himself devout because he recites daily a multiplicity of prayers, though immediately afterwards he utters the most disagreeable, arrogant, and injurious words amongst his domestics and neighbors. Another cheerfully draws an alms out of his purse to relieve the poor, but cannot draw meekness out of his heart to forgive his enemies. Another readily forgives enemies, but never satisfies his creditors but by constraint. These, by some, are esteemed devout, while, in reality, they are by no means so.