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Chapter XXVIII.

Showing How The Love Of The Creator Should Be Preferred To That Of All Creatures; And How Our Neighbor Is To Be Loved In God.

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.—1 John 2:15.

The heart of man is so constituted, that it cannot exist without love; it must love God, or the world, or self. If, therefore, man be under so strong a compulsion to love, let him direct his love to God, the supreme Good, and give up that affection to Him, who originally planted it in man, and 92 kindled it by his good Spirit; and who is still ready, at our fervent request, to rekindle this flame in the soul. His love to us is still the great principle that produces our love to him: and if his love to us meet with a suitable return on our side, then his love will, day by day, more ardently embrace us. For love begets love, according to the words of the Lord: “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.” John 14:21.

2. Wherever the love of God resides, it disposes the soul freely to love all men, and not only to wish them well, but to do them all proper acts of love and beneficence; this being the property of that love which is grounded in God, and derived from him. Such a lover of God and of his neighbor, will never hurt or defraud any man in word or deed.

3. But the generality of the people are engrossed so much with the love of the world, that they never even admit the love of God into their hearts. This is plain from that false love with which they treat their neighbor, and which, under a show of friendship, seeks nothing but temporal advantage. Nothing in the world should be loved to such a degree, as to injure the love of God, or to come in competition with it; especially since there is so great a vanity and vileness in the world, and so great a worth and majesty in God, as that no comparison can ever be made betwixt them. As God infinitely excels all his creatures, so the love of God infinitely excels in holiness and dignity all the love we can bear to the creature, and is in no wise to be compared with it. No love to the creature ought to have sufficient weight with us, to make us offend the love of God, or to act in opposition to the same.

4. St. Paul says: “Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?” 1 Cor. 9:7. These words may not improperly be applied to this case. Who is more worthy of our love, than he that hath planted it in our hearts, and to whose love we owe our life and being? And as we all live by the love of God in Christ, so we should all adhere to this love, and make it our constant support even in the time of adversity. As a pilot in tempestuous weather, does not leave the ship to the mercy of the billows, but secures it by the anchor as well as he can, and stays its unruly motions; so in like manner, when the ship of our faith is tossed about in the sea of this world, and beset on all sides with the temptations of sin and vanity, of wrath and pride, of lust and avarice, we should hold to the love of Christ, and not suffer our hearts to be removed from that spiritual steadfastness, which is to carry us safe through all the tempests of this perverse and boisterous world. Romans 8:38, 39. Thus, when sin and death, the devil and hell, tribulation and persecution, and other miseries, threaten to overwhelm us, we are then to hold fast the love of God manifested in Christ Jesus. This divine love is like that mountain of salvation which was showed to Lot when he went out of Sodom, to escape the fire of that accursed place. Gen. 19:17.

5. The fire of lust, attended with everlasting flames and torments, is worse than that of Sodom. But the love and fear of God are a sovereign remedy against this profane love, and against any motion contrary to its pure and heavenly nature. It was this divine fear and love which preserved Joseph from the enticements of Potiphar's wife, and it still guards 93 us against the snares of an evil world. Gen. 39:9.

6. No man can love the world, but he who has never tasted the love of God; nor can any man hate, defraud, or circumvent his neighbor in anything, but he that does not love God from his heart. Whence arise all the anxious cares of this life, that grief and vexation of spirit with which poor mortals are disturbed? Surely, from nothing but from a want of the love of God. For the sweetness of divine love is so strong and effectual, that it mitigates the sense of all the miseries that are incident to this life. This love renders a man happy even in death itself.

7. Again, such is the nature of love, that it influences a man to lay aside all thoughts about anything else, and to fix his attention entirely on the beloved object, in order to possess and enjoy that alone. Why then are the children of men so much besotted with the things of this world? Why do they not entirely forget all wealth and honor, lust and riches, that they may enjoy him alone, whom they profess to love? This was in former times the constant practice of the holy men of God; whom the exquisite sweetness of this divine love had so much overpowered, as to make them forget the whole world, and even themselves also. Hence they were accounted fools in the world, when at the same time they were the wisest of all men; and their despisers most deserved the name of fools and madmen, as preferring a handful of frail and transient things, to everlasting and never-fading prosperity. Those are the greatest fools, who call the godly by that name, who, setting their love on things above, are deeply concerned to obtain and eternally enjoy them. 1 Cor. 3:19; 4:10.

8. A true lover of God, loves God as if there were nothing in the whole universe to love but God alone. And for this reason, he finds all that in God, which he sought before in the world. For God hath in himself all things essentially, whatever we can desire. He is true honor and joy; he is peace and pleasure; he is wealth and magnificence. With him are light and life, glory and majesty, and all those delights that the heart of man can desire. All is found in a more substantial and transcendent manner in God, than it is in the world. If, therefore, thou lovest any creature, for the sake of beauty, transfer thy love to God, who is the fountain of all beauty. If thou wouldst love that which is good, fix thy love upon God, who is the eternal source of all goodness, nay, the essential Good itself, and without whom there is no goodness at all. Matt. 19:17. For whatever goodness the creature may seem to possess, it is but an inconsiderable drop derived out of the ocean of the infinite goodness of God, and which is besides impaired by many frailties and imperfections that adhere to it.

9. To conclude—is it not far better to set thy love and affections on God alone, the unexhausted fountain and well-spring of all perfection and goodness? The less a thing has of earthly gravity in it, the lighter it is, and the more easily is it carried upwards. So it is with the soul; the more it cleaves to earthly things, and is pressed down by them to the ground, the less ability has it to raise itself to God, and rejoice in its Maker. In a word, the less a man loves this world, the more will the love of God and of his neighbor prevail in the soul.

10. Hence it follows that he that 94 loveth God, cannot but love his neighbor also, and he that dares to offend God, will not forbear to offend his neighbor.

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