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OF THE SWEETNESS OF THE DIVINE MAJESTY, AND OF MANY OTHER THINGS.
[§ 92.] I. Wonder at the unspeakable goodness of God the Creator, and the deep misery of man the creature. When I consider what God is, how sweet His Being, how loveable, and how good; when I think how It baffles all resources of speech and all capacity of wonder, and what demands It makes on the reverence and the admiration of every creature; and when, on the other hand, I see and understand what man is, whom very God made to His own Image and Likeness, and whom, furthermore, He created such that as he should al ways display in himself the image of his Creator, so he might always keep in mind the will and the love of Him who made him such as he is; when I review all this, I am overcome with wonder and with astonishment at the inestimable goodness of the Creator God, and the great misery of the creature man.
I wonder at the unspeakable goodness of God, 253that being, as He is, most omnipotent and most just, He should allow man to live even for a single hour; man whom He was pleased to create crowned with honour, in order that, as he, man, was more noble in himself than other creatures, so he should ever live, according to the will of his Creator, a more noble life than other creatures. And yet, most wretched and most miserable being, he does the very contrary; inasmuch as, whilst all other creatures ever correspond with the will of their Creator, he always, or at best only not always, contradicts and resists His will.
And I wonder also at man’s unbounded misery; I wonder to see that he has so far lost sense, and to such a degree lives like the very beast which has no sense, as at times to lose sight of his Creator, whereas he cannot ever lose sight of himself. I suppose that, unless he be mad, he is never oblivious of himself; never, I mean, so far oblivious as not to be well aware that he exists, and that he is a living and an intelligent being. Surely, it is fit matter for wonder and for unbounded astonishment, that man, so well aware that he possesses all these endowments, should ever lose sight of Him whose good pleasure it has been to bestow all these endowments on him.254
[§ 93.] II. The degree to which man may be loved by man, and the reason why God should be more loved than any human being. The man who in this life receives some benefit or other from a fellow man will not unfrequently love his benefactor with so fervent an attachment, and devote himself to his service with such utter self-abandonment, as even not to shrink from facing death, and that more than once, in his behalf, should that benefactor’s interest require it. And yet no one is so devoid of sense as not to be sufficiently well aware that nothing which a man may possess in this life, nothing which one man may give to an other, can possibly be retained for ever, but that the owner must forego it before it comes to an end in the ordinary course of things, or, if not before, at any rate when it does come to an end.
But what God in this life gives to man is either such that he can never part with it and that none can ever take it from him, or else it is such that, even though man should forego it, it had been possible for him, by means of it, to merit an existence to all eternity with his Creator in a life of bliss. In this life, however, God frequently enough gives man the means of living according to reason, of loving his Creator as He commands 255and as is just, of paying persistent and unvarying obedience to His commandments; and no man can deprive him of this good, unless he of his own sole will forego it. Money, perishable money, he must forego, will he, nill he; but, so long as he has it, if he dispenses it as his God has bidden, he will merit by doing so to attain to eternal life.
O the infinite goodness and the inestimable condescension of our Creator! Having no need of man in any respect or at any time, yet of His sole goodness He created man, and creating him, endowed him with capacity of reason, that so he might be able to share His happiness and His eternity, and thus possess with Him joy and gladness everlastingly. And even now, although in many respects man stands opposed to Him, and does many things, knowingly and willingly, which must displease Him; yet does God admonish him to return and sue for pity of his Creator, and never presume to despair, whatever be the sin that he has committed. For He is the Fountain of mercy and compassion; and He longs to cleanse all men, with however deep a stain of sin they be defiled, and having cleansed them, to award them the joy of everlasting life.256
[§ 94.] III. God made all things good, but He alone is Good essentially. O dearest and most sweet Lord Jesus Christ, Who art the merciful Lover of man kind and most compassionate Redeemer of sinners, let my soul adore Thee, let all my life be spent in Thy service, let all my inward parts yearn after Thee. My poor soul desires, O Lord, desires to think of Thee, to scan Thy wonders, and to know to the full how good Thou art to sinners, lest, falling into despair on account of my sins, I should by deliberate choice estrange myself from Thy goodness; but that, so fixing my mind on Thee, and believing in Thee, Who art the Truth, I may now at last desist from my evil ways, and reset for the doing what is right a will that has been warped and bent by sins and wicked deeds.
I know, O Lord, that Thou hast made out of nothing all things that are; that they were not, and Thou madest them; but Thou Who madest them hast ever been, and time was never when Thou wast not. Thou wast ever good, ever omnipotent; and therefore whatever things Thou hast made, Thou hast made them good. Thou, therefore, Who hast been, art, and wilt be, ever; and Who earnest not out of non-existence into being; 257as Being has been ever Thine, so have also goodness and omnipotence been ever Thine. And hence Thou hast no other law of being than goodness and omnipotence; and what is to Thee the law of being is by that very fact goodness and omnipotence; and so Thou canst not be other than good and omnipotent. And so of all that may in like manner be predicated or believed of Thee.
Yes, Thou truly art, and there is nothing else besides Thee, and Thou in Thyself simply art. For what Thou art now Thou dost not anon cease to be, but what Thou art now that Thou art ever. But the creature’s essence, whose being has not always been, but which has through Thee and by Thee come from non-existence into existence, is not identically the same as goodness and omnipotence; but when it is good, and when it has the capacity of doing good, the character and the capacity are alike from Thee, Thee Who art essentially good and omnipotent. Thou madest every creature good; and yet Thou hast not given to every creature, good though it have been made by Thee, reason by which to understand Thee. And although every creature praise Thee, and proclaim Thee its Creator and its Governor, yet every creature doth not understand Thee, but 258only the rational creation and that which Thou hast made to Thine image and likeness.
[§ 95.] IV. The praise of the Creator by the whole creation. And yet that creation even which Thou hast not gifted with intelligence praises Thee, when the rational creation beholds that it has been by Thee created so good, and ordered on so exquisite a plan. And this is being praised by it; Thy being understood, namely, by the rational creation to have made it good and ordered it exquisitely. But Thou hast distinguished between man’s nature and that nature which is not gifted with intelligence; Thou hast distinguished by ordaining that human nature [i.e. humanity], on whose account Thou madest that other [i.e. the irrational] creation, should dispose it according to Thy will, and should exact and receive from it, by Thy allowance, the means of its own sustentation.
But man—for he is composed of two parts different in origin from each other, soul, namely, and body—receives the aliment needful for his bodily life from the creature, but draws the sup plies of his spiritual life from the Creator; and yet both one and the other from the Creator. Man, 259in short, here in this transitory state lives the life of the flesh so long as he is nourished with human food, and lives the life of the soul so long as he observes the will and keeps the commandments of his Creator. And just as he dies the death of the flesh if he is not supported by human food, so does he die the death of the soul when he disobeys the Divine commands. Man therefore, compound that he is of soul and flesh, lives in his flesh and in his soul by doing what God bids, for by such a course he merits a blissful life with his Creator in the life eternal. But if he essay to deviate from the course enjoined by his Creator, and seek in preference to live according to the desires of the flesh—which indeed is not truly to live, but rather a miserable forfeiting of life—it must clearly appear to the attentive thinker, that in man thus degraded is not the fashion of that perfect Man who was created to the image of God, but rather a resemblance to the brute whose behaviour he takes care to copy. And in such an event may it truly enough be averred that he is dead, doomed, as he is, to eternal death should he persist in this course to the end.
[§ 96.] V. The resemblance of man to his Creator. Now God the Creator made man to His 260Image and Likeness, for He made him a rational being. And just as God is good in will, so is man, made after His likeness, good also in will; in this respect like the Creator, the Creator good in will, man good in will; but in another respect unlike Him, for the Creator is eternally good by and of Himself, and good by the law of His Being, whereas man is only good as imitating Him who eternally and essentially is of and by Himself good. The Creator, as I have just said, is good in will; man, made to the image of the Creator, is good in will, but with a difference, thus: The Creator neither wills to be nor can be other than good, whether in being or in will: for will and can, will and power are His to be, His essence; whereas in man will and power are separable and separate from being. If, however, man conforms with the will of God, and wills what God does, he exhibits in himself the Image of God; and if he persevere in this even to the end, he merits, by the operation of the Divine compassion, to be close joined through eternity to his Creator’s will, and never again to be capable of detachment from it any more for ever. And just as in the Creator, Being is not separable from will, or will separable from Being, so too, after his measure, in man, once entered on 261that happy state of existence, shall will be, by his Creator’s gift, as unchangeable in him as being; the which being shall be as undoubtedly able to do whatever it may will as from subsisting in an undoubtedly happy state it shall be an undoubtedly happy being. And then shall man have free power of choice, truly free because set free entirely from all evil: according as here in this transitory state he wills, so long as he lives, to do, God’s grace working in him, what God commands, and to leave undone what God forbids.
[§ 97.] VI. Man is composed of two parts; by the one of which he is raised to highest things, and by the other dragged down to lowest. Now man is composed of two parts; one of them in the order of soul, the other in the order of flesh. The soul’s natural tendency—for the soul is a spiritual substance—is by the very law of its being to objects above itself; but that of the flesh—since the flesh passes forth from desire into the region of carnal appetites—is by a sort of inherent law towards things below. Between these two natural components of man stands the will, occupying as it were a middle place, and gifted with free power of choice. And should the will, by an exercise of 262this free choice, yoke and conjoin itself with the soul, which by an inherent law tends upwards, then soul and will by their united strength—not, however, without inspiration from Divine grace—raise the flesh upwards with themselves to a highest sphere, and lodge it there, to live without end in eternal happiness—happiness, indeed; for now at last there is no repugnancy henceforward between flesh and soul, but they have evermore one only love, one only will; and then shall the will of God the Creator and man the creature whom He made to His own image and likeness, be simply, absolutely one; for God shall be all in all (1 Cor. xv. 28). But if, on the contrary, the will, by means of that same free choice, yokes itself with the desires of the flesh, which by a certain inherent tendency incline to lowest things, then the will, making so ill a use of its free choice, and with it the flesh unite in dragging downwards the soul, bereft of assistance from above; and the sins of man plunge the whole man, man’s self—his soul, namely, and his body—into destruction, so as henceforth to possess nothing but ill, and endure nothing but torment.
[§ 98.] VII. Here man prays God not to allow 263 him to make ill use of his free power of choice. O my sweetest Lord and most merciful God, my Creator, my Salvation, my Life, my Hope, my Consolation, and my Refuge, do Thou govern and uphold my power of free choice by Thy grace and by Thy all-merciful loving-kindness, that I may not by an ill use of it offend Thee, my dearest Creator; and whensoever evil charms me, or ever I carry it out in act, crush and destroy all my evil desire. Rather would I, O dearest Father, be dragged even against my will by Thee, and thrown manacled and fettered into some neglected corner of Thy house, and left lying there, than that I should be severed from Thee; and there, though I may not, through my sins, be allowed to gaze on Thy all-merciful Face, yet be it mine at least to listen to the gladness and the joy of them that wait on Thee.
Who, sweetest Creator of mankind, who can measure that unspeakable goodness of Thine, where with Thou hast loved our human nature to such excess of love, as not only to have created it when it was not, but for love of it to have become Thyself a creature? Who can have heart so hard, so stony hard, as, knowing and scanning well Thy so great love to man whom Thou createdst, not 264to be softened, and melted through and through into acknowledgment and adoration of Thy sweetness? Yes, yes, my soul; yes, yes, my heart, and all you inward parts of me; the wonder is that you ever can forget the so great charity and the so great mercy of your Creator. See, see, poor man, what thy Creator and what thy Lord has done. He whose TO BE ever is and ever was, He the Un changeable and the Invisible, He the Incomprehensible and the Immeasurable, He after a wondrous and ineffable manner, without setting aside or foregoing His own TO BE, ‘debased Himself’ (Phil. ii. 7) in thy behalf, when in thy behalf He willed to be made a creature, that so He might reconcile thee, who earnest out of non-existence into being, to Himself, who, so far from coming into being out of non-existence, had Being everlastingly; reconcile thee by so intimate a fellowship; and reconciling, remodel and restore thee to thy pristine dignity; and lead thee thus reformed home to His own TO BE. Lo now, my God and my Creator, lo now Thou seest where I have landed in my meditations; and withal Thou seest how thus musing my poor soul is even yet enslaved to vanities and follies; for if, pitifully regarded by Thy grace, I begin at any time to meditate as may 265seem to tend to some little my soul’s profit, my mind, so unstable is it, so almost void of all good, soon, soon, too soon glides away into vanity and harm; unstable and empty as the chaff which the veriest breath of wind blows from the threshing-floor.
Therefore, seeing, as Thou dost, that my mind is so inconstant, so sluggish, and so indolent in meditating on what is serviceable, so eager and so zealous to what is harmful, bethink Thee not of my sinfulness. I am a sinner; I confess it, I confess it; I am a graceless sinner, an unclean sinner; and yet I do not leave Thee, dearest Jesus Christ. Wilt Thou or wilt Thou not, I will not let Thee go, weak though the hand be that detains Thee: Thou shalt go from me not except Thou absolve me from every thought of sin. Strike me, correct me, chide me; ay, chastise Thy servant; and chastise him, until by Thy unspeakable goodness Thou lead me to the glory of Thy vision face to face.266
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