« AnteriorContinuar »
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 aternum“; 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 oun 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, wheresoever there is danger of representing to the fancy a lascivious and carnal love, the Scripture forbears the word love, and uses either affection, or
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 amarit; and and when it is said in the Canticles, I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, to tell my well-belored, it is not to tell him that she was in love, but to tell him, quod vulneratæ 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 velle bonum, a desire that his beloved should be happy, what soul amongst us shall doubt, that when God hath such an abundant, and infinite treasure, 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
Cant. v. 8.
kingdom so large, as that nothing limits it, and yet he hath banished many natural subjects thereof, even those legions of angels which were created in it, and are fallen from it; what soul amongst us shall doubt, but that he that hath thus much, and loves thus much, will not deny her a portion in the blood of Christ, or a room in the kingdom of heaven? No soul can doubt it except it have been a witness to itself, and be so still, that it love not Christ Jesus, for that is a condition necessary: and that is the third branch to which we are come now in our order; that this love be mutual, I loce them, &c.
If any man loves not our Lord Jesus, let him be accursed, says the apostle ; now the first part of this curse
this curse is upon the indisposition to love; he that loves not at all is first accursed. That stupid inconsideration, which passes on drowsily, and negligently upon God's creatures, that sullen indifferency in one's disposition, to love one thing no more than another, not to value, not to choose, not to prefer, that stoniness, that inhumanity, not to be affected, not to be entendered, to wear those things which God hath made objects and subjects of affections; that which St. Paul places in the bottom, and lees, and dregs of all the sins of the Jews, to be without natural affections?, this distemper, this ill complexion, this ill nature of the soul, is under the first part of this curse, if any man love not; for he that loves not, knows not God, for God is love.
But this curse determines not upon that, neither is it principally directed upon that, not loving; for as we say in the schools, Amor est primus actus voluntatis, The first thing that the will of man does, is to affect, to choose, to love something; and it is scarce possible to find any man's will so idle, so barren, as that it hath produced no act at all; and therefore the first act being love, scarce any man can be found, that doth not love something: but the curse extends, yea is principally intended upon him that loves not Christ Jesus; though he love the creature, and orderly enough; yea, though he love God, as a great and incomprehensible power, yet if he love not Christ Jesus, if he acknowledge not, that all that passes between God and him, is in, and for Christ Jesus, let him be accursed, for all his love.
7 Rom. i. 30.
Now there are but two that can be loved, God and the creature: and of the creatures, that must necessarily be best loved, which is nearest us, which we understand best and reflect most upon, and that is ourselves; for, for the love of other creatures, it is but a secondary love; if we love God, we love them for his sake; if we love ourselves, we love them for our sakes: now to love ourselves is only allowable, only proper to God himself; for this love is a desire, that all honour, and praise, and glory should be attributed to one's self, and it can be only proper to God to desire that: to love ourselves then, is the greatest treason we can commit against God; and all love of the creatures determines in the love of ourselves : for though sometimes we may say, that we love them better than ourselves; and though we give so good (that is, indeed, so ill testimony) that we do so, that we neglect ourselves, both our religion and our discretion for their sakes, whom we pretend to love, yet all this is but a secondary love, and with relation still to ourselves and our own contentments : for is this love which we bear to other creatures, within that definition of love, relle bonum amato, to wish that which we love, happy; doth any ambitious man love honour or office therefore, because he thinks that title, or that place should receive a dignity by his having it, or an excellency by his executing it? doth any covetous man love a house or horse therefore, because he thinks that house or horse should be happy in such a master or such rider? doth any licentious man covet or solicit a woman therefore, because he thinks it a happiness to her, to have such a servant? No, it is only himself that is within the definition, rult bonum sibi, he wishes well (as he mistakes it) to himself, and he is content, that the slavery, and dishonour, and ruin of others should contribute to make up his imaginary happiness.
O dementiam nescientem amare homines humaniter'! What a perverse madness is it, to love a creature and not as a creature, that is, with all the adjuncts, and circumstances, and qualities of a creature, of which the principal is that, that love raise us to the contemplation of the Creator; for if it be so, we may love ourselves, as we are the images of God; and so we may love other men, as they are the images of us, and our nature ; yea, as
they are the members of the same body; for omnes homines una humanitas, all men make up but one mankind, and so we love other creatures, as we all meet in our Creator, in whom princes and subjects, angels and men, and worms are fellow servants.
Si male amareris, tunc odisti°; If thou hast loved thyself, or any body else principally, or so, that when thou dost any act of love, thou canst not say to thine own conscience, I do this for God's sake, and for his glory; if thou hast loved so, thou hast hated thyself, and him whom thou hast loved, and God whom thou shouldest love.
Si bone oderis, says the same father, If thou hast hated as thou shouldest hate, if thou hast hated thine own internal temptations, and the outward solicitations of others, amasti, then thou hast expressed a manifold act of love, of love to thy God, and love to his image, thyself, and love to thine image, that man whom thy virtue and thy example hath declined, and kept from offending his, and thy God.
And as this affection, love, doth belong to God principally, that is, rather than to anything else, so doth it also principally another way, that is, rather than any affection else; for, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, but the love of God is the consummation, that is, the marriage, and union of thy soul, and thy Saviour.
But can we love God when we will? do we not find, that in the love of some other things, or some courses of life, of some ways in our actions, and of some particular persons, that we would fain love them, and cannot? when we can object nothing against it, when we can multiply arguments, why should we love them, yet we cannot : but it is not so towards God; every man may love him, that will; but can every man have this will, this desire ? Certainly we cannot begin this love; except God love us first, we cannot love him ; but God doth love us all so well, from the beginning, as that every man may see the fault was in the perverseness of his own will, that he did not love God better. If we look for the root of this love, it is in the Father; for, though the death of Christ be towards us, as a root, as a cause of our love, and of the acceptableness of it, yet Meritum Christi est