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CHAPTER I.

OF THE SWEETNESS OF THE COMMANDMENT WHICH GOD HAS GIVEN US OF LOVING HIM ABOVE ALL THINGS.

Man is the perfection of the universe; the spirit is the perfection of man; love, that of the spirit; and charity, that of love. Wherefore the love of God is the end, the perfection and the excellence of the universe. In this, Theotimus, consists the greatness and the primacy of the commandment of divine love, which the Saviour calls the first and greatest commandment. This commandment is as a sun which gives lustre and dignity to all the sacred laws, to all the divine ordinances, and to all the Holy Scriptures. All is done for this heavenly love, and all has reference to it. From the sacred tree of this commandment grow all the counsels, exhortations, inspirations, and the other commandments, as its flowers, and eternal life as its fruit; and all that does not tend to eternal love tends to eternal death. Grand Commandment, the perfect fulfilment of which lasts through eternal life, yea, is no other thing but eternal life!

But look, Theotimus, how amiable is this law of love. Ah! Lord God, was it not enough for thee to permit us this divine love, as Laban permitted Jacob that of Rachel, without the necessity of inviting us to it by exhortations, or driving us to it 411by commandments? But no, divine goodness, in order that neither thy greatness, nor our vileness, nor any pretext whatever should keep us from loving thee, thou dost command it to us. The poor Apelles, not able to keep from loving the beautiful Campaspe, yet dared not love her because she belonged to the great Alexander; but when he had leave to love her, how greatly obliged did he consider himself to him who gave this leave to him! He knew not whether he should more love that beautiful Campaspe whom so great an emperor had given up to him, or that great emperor who had given him so beautiful a Campaspe. Oh! if we were able to comprehend it, my dear Theotimus, what obligation should we have to this sovereign good, who not only permits but even commands us to love him! Ah! my God, I know not whether I ought more to love thine infinite beauty which so great a goodness orders me to love, or thy divine goodness which orders me to love so infinite a beauty! O beauty, how amiable thou art, being bestowed upon me by a goodness so immense! O goodness, how amiable thou art, in communicating unto me so eminent a beauty!

God at the Day of Judgment will imprint in the souls of the damned the knowledge of their loss, in a wondrous manner: for the divine majesty will make them clearly see the sovereign beauty of his face, and the treasures of his goodness; and at the sight of this abyss of infinite delights, the will with an extreme effort will desire to cast itself upon him, to be united unto him and enjoy his love. But all in vain, for it shall be as a woman, who in the pangs of childbirth, after having endured violent pains, cruel convulsions, and intolerable pangs, dies in the end without being delivered. For as soon as the clear and fair knowledge of the divine beauty shall have penetrated the understandings of those unhappy spirits, the divine justice shall in such sort deprive the will of its strength that it will be in no wise able to love this object which the understanding purposes to it, and represents to be so amiable; and the sight which should beget in the will so great a love, instead thereof shall engender an infinite sadness. This shall be made eternal by the memory of the sovereign beauty they saw, which shall for ever live in these lost souls; a memory void of all good, yea full of 412trouble, pains, torments and undying despair, because at the same time there shall be found in the will an impossibility of loving, yea a frightful and everlasting aversion and repugnance to loving this excellence so desirable. Thus the miserable damned shall live for ever in despairing rage—to know so sovereignly amiable a perfection, without being able ever to have the enjoyment or the love of it, because while they might have loved it they would not: they shall burn with a thirst so much the more violent as the remembrance of this fountain of waters of eternal life shall more inflame their ardour: they shall die immortally, as dogs,436436Ps. lviii.7. of a famine as much more vehement, as their memory shall more sharpen its insatiable cruelty by the remembrance of the banquet of which they are deprived. The wicked shall see, and shall be angry, he shall gnash with his teeth and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.437437Ps. cxi. 10. I would not indeed affirm for certain, that the view of God's beauty which the damned shall have, like a flash of lightning, will be as bright as that of the Blessed; but still it will be clear enough to let them see the Son of man in his majesty.438438Matt. xxiv. 30. They shall look on him whom they pierced;439439John xix. 37. and by the view of this glory shall learn the greatness of their loss. Ah! if God had forbidden man to love him, what a torment would that have been to generous hearts! What efforts would they not make to obtain permission to love him? David braved the hazard of a most severe combat to gain the King's daughter,—and what did not Jacob do to espouse Rachel, and the Prince of Sichem to have Dina in marriage? The damned would repute themselves blessed if they could entertain a hope of ever loving God: and the Blessed would esteem themselves damned, if they thought they could ever be deprived of this sacred love.

O good God! Theotimus, how delicious is the sweetness of this commandment, seeing that if it pleased the divine will to give it to the damned, they would in a moment be delivered from their greatest misery, and seeing that the Blessed are only blessed by the practice of it! O heavenly love, how lovely art 413thou to our souls! And blessed be the goodness of God for ever, who so earnestly commands us to love him, though this love is so desirable and so necessary to our happiness that without it we can but be miserable!

 


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