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life; he will have pawns, the seals of the sacraments, nay, he will have a present possession ; all that God hath promised, all that Christ hath purchased, all that the Holy Ghost hath the stewardship and dispensation of, he will have all in present, by the appropriation and investiture of an actual and applying faith ; a covetous person converted will be spiritually covetous still. .
So will a voluptuous man, who is turned to God, find plenty and deliciousness enough in him, to feed his soul, as with marrow, and with fatness, as David expresses it; and so an angry and passionate man, will find zeal enough in the house of God to eat him up.
All affections which are common to all men, and those to which in particular, particular men have been addicted to, shall not only be justly employed upon God, but also securely employed, because we cannot exceed, nor go too far in employing them upon him. According to this rule, St. Paul, who had been so vehement a persecutor, had ever his thoughts exercised upon that; and thereupon after his conversion, he fulfils the rest of the sufferings of Christ in his flesh', he suffers most, he makes most mention of his suffering of any of the apostles.
And according to this rule too, Solomon, whose disposition was amorous, and excessive in the love of women, when he turned to God, he departed not utterly from his old phrase and language, but having put a new, and a spiritual tincture, and form and habit in all his thoughts, and words, he conveys all his loving approaches and applications to God, and all God's gracious answers to his amorous soul, into songs, and epithalamians, and meditations upon contracts, and marriages between God and his church, and between God and his soul; as we see so evidently in all his other writings, and particularly in this text, I love them, &c.
In which words is expressed all that belongs to love, all which, is to desire, and to enjoy; for to desire without fruition, is a rage, and to enjoy without desire is a stupidity: in the first alone we think of nothing, but that which we then would have; and in the second alone, we are not for that, when we have it; in the first, we are without it; in the second, we were as good as we
· Col. i. 24.
were, for we have no pleasure in it; nothing then can give us satisfaction, but where those two concur, amare and frui, to love and to enjoy.
In sensual love it is so; Quid erat quod me delectabat, nisi amare et amari"? I take no joy in this world, but in loving, and in being beloved ; in sensual love it is so, but in sensual love, when we are come so far; there is no satisfaction in that ; the same father confesseth more of himself, than any commission, any oath would have put him to, Amatus sum, et perveni occulte ad fruendum, I had all I desired, and I had it with that advantage of having it secretly; but what got I by all that, Ut cæderer cirgis ardentibus ferreis, zeli suspicionis et rixarum; nothing but to be scourged with burning iron rods, rods of jealousy, of suspicion, and of quarrels; but in the love and enjoying of this text, there is no room for jealousy, nor suspicion, nor quarrelsome complaining.
In this text then you may be pleased to consider these two things, Quid amare, quid frui, what the affection of this love is, what is the blessedness of this enjoying: but in the first of these, we must first consider the persons, who are the lovers in this text; for there are persons that are incredible, though they say they love, because they are accustomed to falsehood; and there are persons which are unrequitable, though they be believed to love, because they love not where, and as they should. When we have found the persons, in a second consideration we shall look upon the affection itself, what is the love in this text; and then after that, upon the bond, and union and condition of this love, that it is mutual, I love them that love me; and having passed those three branches of the first part, we shall in the second, which is enjoying, consider first, that this enjoying, is expressed in the word finding; and then that this finding requires two conditions, a seeking, and an early seeking, and they that seek me early shall find me.
The person that professes love in this place is wisdom herself, as appears at the beginning of the chapter; so that sapere et amare, to be wise and to love, which perchance never met before nor since, are met in this text: but whether this wisdom, so 2 Augustine.
frequently mentioned in this Book of Proverbs, be sapientia creata or increata, whether it be the wisdom, or the root of wisdom, Christ Jesus, hath been diversely debated : the occasion grew in that great council of Nice, where the catholic fathers understood this wisdom, to be intended of Christ himself, and then the Arian heretics pressed some places of this book, where such things seemed to them to be spoken of wisdom, as could not be appliable to any but to a creature; and that therefore if Christ were this wisdom, Christ must necessarily be a creature, and not God.
We will not dispute those things over again now, they are clearly enough, and largely enough set down in that council; but since there is nothing said of wisdom in all this book, which hath not been by good expositors applied to Christ, much more may we presume the lover in this text, (though presented in the name of wisdom) to be Christ himself, and so we do.
To show the constancy and durableness of this love, the lover is a he, that is Christ ; to show the vehemency and earnestness of it, the lover is a she, that is wisdom, as it is often expressed in this chapter, she crieth, she uttereth her voice; yea in one place of the Bible (and only in that one place I think) where Moses would express an extraordinary, and vehement and passionate indignation in God against his people, when as it is in that text, his wrath was kindled, and grievously kindled, there, and only there', doth Moses attribute even to God himself the feminine sex, and speaks to God in the original language, as if he should have called him Deam Iratam, an angry she God ; all that is good then, either in the love of man or woman, is in this love ; for he is expressed in both sexes, man and woman; and all that can be ill in the love of either sex, is purged away, for the man in no other man than Christ Jesus, and the woman no other woman, than wisdom herself, even the uncreated wisdom of God himself.
Now all this is but one person, the person that professes love ; who is the other, who is the beloved of Christ, is not so easily discerned: in the love between persons in this world, and of this world, we are often deceived with outward signs; we often
3 Numb. xi. 15.
miscall and misjudge civil respects, and mutual courtesies; and a delight in one another's conversation, and such other indifferent things, as only malignity, and curiosity, and self-guiltiness, makes to be misinterpretable, we often call these love; but neither amongst ourselves, much less between Christ and ourselves, are these outward appearances always signs of love.
This person then, this beloved soul, is not every one, to whom Christ sends a loving message, or writes to; for his letters, the Scriptures, are directed to all; not every one he wishes well to, and swears that he does so, for so he doth to all; As I live (saith the Lord) I would not the death of a sinner; not every one that he sends jewels, and presents to; for they are often snares to corrupt, as well as arguments of love; not though he admit them to his table and supper, for even there the devil entered into Judas with a sop; not though he receive them to a kiss, for even with that familiarity Judas betrayed him; not though he betroth himself as he did to the Jews, Sponsabo te mihi in æternum“; not though he make jointures, in pacto salis, in a covenant of salt, an everlasting covenant; not though he have communicated his name to them, which is an act of marriage; for to how many hath he said: Ego dixi, Dii estis, I have said you are God's; and yet they have been reprobates ; not all these outward things amount so far, as to make us discern who is this beloved person ; for himself says of the Israelites, to whom he had made all these demonstrations of love, yet after, for their abominations, divorced himself from them, I hare forsaken mine house, I have left mine own heritage, I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies'. To conclude this person beloved of Christ, is only that soul, that loves Christ; but that belongs to the third branch of this first part, which is the mutual love: but first having found the person, we are to consider the affection itself, the love of this text; it is an observation of Origen's, that though these three words, Amor, dilectio, and charitas, love, and affection, and good will, be all of one signification in the Scriptures, yet says he, whereşoever there is danger of representing to the fancy a lascivious and carnal love, the Scripture forbears the word love, and uses either affection, or • Hosea ii. 14.
5 Jer, xii. 7.
good will; and where there 'is no such danger, the Scripture comes directly to this word love, of which Origen's examples are, that when Isaac bent his affections upon Rebecca, and Jacob upon Rachel, in both places it is dilexit, and not amavit; and and when it is said in the Canticles, I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, to tell my well-beloved, it is not to tell him that she was in love, but to tell him, quod vulnerato charitatis sum; that I am wounded with an affection and good will towards him; but in this Book of Proverbs, in all the passages between Christ and the beloved soul, there is evermore a free use of this word, Amor, love; because it is even in the first apprehension, a pure, a chaste, and an undefiled love, Eloquia Dominis casta, says David, All the words of the Lord, and all their words that love the Lord, all discourses, all that is spoken to or from the soul, is all full of chaste love, and of the love of chastity.
Now though this love of Christ to our souls be too large to shut up, or comprehend in any definition, yet if we content ourselves with the definition of the schools, Amare est celle alicui quod bonum est, Love is nothing but a desire, that they whom we love should be happy : we may easily discern the advantage and profit which we have by this love in the text, when he that wishes us this good, by loving us, is author of all good himself, and may give us as much as pleases him, without impairing his own infinite treasure ; he loves us as his ancient inheritance, as the first amongst his creatures in the creation of the world, which he created for us: he loves us more as his purchase, whom he hath bought with his blood; for even man takes most pleasure in things of his own getting; but he loves us most for our improvement, when by his ploughing up of our hearts, and the dew of his grace, and the seed of his word, we come to give greater scent, in the fruit of sanctification than before. And since he loves us thus, and that in him, this love is celle bonum, a desire that his beloved should be happy, what soul amongst us shall doubt, that when God hath such an abundant, and infinite treisure, as the merit and passion of Christ Jesus, sufficient to save millions of worlds, and yet, many millions in this world (all the heathen excluded from any interest therein) when God hath a
6 Cant. v. 8.