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251

Chapter XXVI.

Five Kinds Of Works Of Love, In Which The Grace And Goodness Of God Are Especially Revealed.

The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.Ps. 87:2.

There are chiefly five arguments of the love of God. 1. Christ's incarnation. 2. His suffering. 3. God's indwelling in us. 4. God's love shining forth out of the creatures. 5. His amiableness in his own Being, therein surpassing all created things.

2. I. Where love is, there is union; for it is the nature of love that it unites itself with the beloved. Now, as God loved man so mightily, it could not be otherwise but that he must unite himself again unto man after his fall, and out of pure love and mercy become a man. Ah! “What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him!” Psalm 8:4. The soul of man is so beloved of God, that as Christ is God and man, having united himself with human nature, with our body and soul: so also God loves our soul so much that he desires to pour himself wholly into the same, if it were perfectly purified, and man did not resist him. For there is infinite love in God, which is unutterable. This is, then, one of the greatest demonstrations of the love of God, that God is made man, and has showed himself a true lover of men, having taken upon him what is human that he might give us what is divine. He is become a Son of man, that he may make us children of God. He came down to us upon earth, that he might lift us up into heaven. O what a noble exchange! and all for this end, that we in him might be loved of God. It is as if God did call from heaven, saying: “O ye men, behold my beloved Son! Him I have suffered to become man, that he might be a living example and witness of my deep love to you; that he might bring you all with himself to me, and ye all might be made my children and heirs!” Therefore the Lord always calls himself in the Gospel the Son of Man, out of an intimate love to us. We seldom read that he calls himself the Son of God, but always the Son of Man, from an affectionate humility and love.

3. II. Although his holy incarnation is a very great argument of his love to us, yet his holy suffering and dying for our sins are a still greater one. For “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us (saith St. John), that God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9, 10. This is the highest love. Our God, according to his incomprehensible omnipotence, could have found out other means by which to redeem us; as the Lord Jesus Christ himself prayed for it in his agony, saying: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” Mark 14:36. But then it would not have been the highest love shown to us. In order that God might bestow the highest love upon us, and that we might not be able to say, “God has something 252 which he loves too dearly to give it to us;” he has given us his dear Son, and not only given him, but given him also to be the propitiation for our sins. Therefore he could not have showed us greater love. Therein God commandeth his love towards us. Rom. 5:8. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom. 8:32. Hath he given us that which is the greatest, he will surely give us that also which is less. In the eternal life all that is God's shall be ours. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” Rev. 21:7.

4. III. Further, God shows his love to us, by his dwelling among us, and in us. O what a great comfort is this, that God has sanctified our heart, and dedicated it to be his dwelling-place. Formerly, in the Old Testament, when the tabernacle and sanctuary were finished, Moses was commanded to consecrate, to sanctify, and to sprinkle it with the blood of the sacrifice; for “almost all things were by the law purged with blood.” Heb. 9:22. And thereupon the glory of God came from heaven, and filled the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34); so also, after Christ died for our sins, and after we are sanctified through his blood, God comes to us and makes his abode with us.

5. Whom we love, with him we delight to be. God loves mankind tenderly; therefore he delights to be with them, and to have his habitation among them. “I the Lord dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isa. 57:15. And again, with whom we delight to be, him we tenderly love. God delights to be with men; therefore he loves men tenderly, according to the Psalm: “In the saints on earth, and in the excellent, is all my delight.” Ps. 16:3. This assurance that God loves us and is with us, ought to comfort us in all our calamities, in poverty, in sickness, in persecution, and in contempt. What (sayest thou), doth he love them whom he suffers to come under so many crosses? I answer, Yes, that he may through the cross make them glorious. As their sufferings here abound, so also shall their consolations abound there. 2 Cor. 1:5. The greater afflictions are on earth, the greater joy and glory are in heaven. 2 Cor. 4:17.

6. And this is the reason why God makes many people sorrowful; namely, that he may dwell in their hearts; for he delights to dwell nowhere more than in a poor and contrite spirit. Ps. 34:19; Isa. 66:2. God fills us here with his grace, that he may fill us hereafter with his glory, even as he fills and illuminates the heavenly Jerusalem. Rev. 21:23.

7. IV. The love of God shines forth also out of the creatures. When St. Paul would desire for his Ephesians the best, the highest, and the most glorious thing, he wishes that they might know the love of God, and be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the same. Eph. 3:18. He means to say so much, that the love of God is higher than heaven, deeper than the sea, broader than the earth, longer than it is from east to west, according to Psalm 103:11.

12. In a word, heaven and earth are full of the love of God: for all that God hath created, be it visible or invisible, he hath created for this end, that his inexpressible goodness and 253 love might therein be manifested. And, therefore, he hath given to man both inward and outward senses, that thereby he might perceive the goodness and love of God. For all that man can apprehend by his understanding, thoughts, mind, and reason, as well as what he apprehends with his outward senses, altogether bears witness to the love of God. All that man hath, is a testimony of the love of God; yea, all creatures, visible and invisible, are, as it were, so many messengers of God, declaring unto us his love; and he speaks to us through them, saying, “Behold the heaven and earth, and all creatures! I have created all out of love to man.” And whenever we perceive the pleasantness of the creatures, we perceive the goodness of God; so that both with our inward and outward senses we can taste and see that the Lord is good, according to the words of the 34th Psalm, ver. 8.

8. The sun speaks to us by its light and warmth, as if it said: “Look upon me, the greatest and the brightest creature among all visible things: He must be great that made me.” Ps. 19:1, etc. But not only through beautiful creatures doth God speak to us, but also through the most despicable worm, as if God did say: “Lo, thou art beholden to me thy Creator, that I, who could have made thee a worm, have, out of mercy, made thee a man.” Here remember him who said: “I am a worm, and no man.” Ps. 22:6. Thus God speaks unto man through all the creatures, declares his love to him, and invites, leads, and draws us unto himself. This is that wisdom of God which in all places uttereth “her voice in the streets,” which “rejoiceth in the habitable part of the earth, and whose delights are with the sons of men.” Prov. 1:20; 8:31.

9. Indeed, if we consider the matter aright, we are encompassed by the love of God, even as we are all inclosed under heaven, seeing that “in God we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28. Man can go nowhere, but the love and goodness of God follow after him, and call him through all the creatures, nay, through his own heart and conscience, saying: “Whither wilt thou go, beloved child? Whither shalt thou flee from my presence? If thou ascendest up into heaven, I am there. If thou makest thy bed in hell, behold I am there. If thou takest the wings of the morning, and dwellest in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall my hand lead thee, and my right hand shall hold thee.” Ps. 139:7, etc. Therefore, come unto me, and acknowledge my love and grace, with which I meet thee in every creature. Hast thou sinned, grace abounds with me; hast thou left me, my love and mercy have not yet rejected thee, but are continually hastening after thee, have been calling to thee, and, as a wandering sheep, have sought after thee. And if thou believest not these many testimonies of all the creatures, believe the testimony of my dear Son, how I have loved the world in him. John 3:16. “Thou canst nowhere find rest for thy soul except here; turn which way thou wilt, thou must and canst only rest in my love and grace.” O how blessed is the heart which understands that heaven and earth are full of the love of God, and that he has as many witnesses of his love as there are creatures! But the greatest and highest witness of all is the Son of God.

10. V. We know also the love of God, from the amiableness of his own 254 being. From the visions of the prophets, and the Revelation of St. John, we can observe that God Almighty is so lovely and beautiful, as infinitely to transcend all the beauty and loveliness of the world. He is the beauty of all things beautiful, and the loveliness of all things lovely, the life of all the living. He is all. An ancient father has said: “God is so lovely and beautiful, that if a man were in a fiery furnace, and saw the beauty and glory of Him but for a moment, the greatest torment would be changed into the greatest joy;” as it happened to St. Stephen, when he saw the glory of God, and said: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56. God is so lovely and beautiful, that if a man saw him for a thousand years together, it would seem to him but one hour. For in beholding the loveliness and glory of God, all time is swallowed up; so that the more any one sees God, the more he desires to see him; the more he loves God, the more he will love; and the more he praises God, the more will he praise him; according to the words of Xystus, an ancient teacher: “Devout souls can never be satiated with the love and praise of God.” Hence, although the holy angels have seen God from the beginning of their creation, they have not yet seen him enough; and although they have praised him from the beginning, they have not yet praised him enough: for “God is more to be praised, than all praise can express; and more lovely, than the love of all the creatures can reach.” God is infinite in his beauty, loveliness, and glory; therefore no creature can love him enough. God is so amiable, that the more one loves him, the more one desires to love him. He is so to be praised that the end of his praises cannot be attained; so lovely to be looked upon, that looking upon him never makes us weary; so comfortable to be heard, that he never can be heard enough. Tauler says, “If one might taste but a drop of the perfect love of God, all the joys and pleasures of this world would be changed to us into the greatest bitterness.” The saints have endured the greatest torments for the sake of the love of God, and have given up their lives; and if they had a thousand bodies, they would hazard them all, that they might keep the love of God; as the Psalmist says, “Thy loving kindness is better than life; therefore my lips shall praise thee.” Ps. 63:3. God is so high, so noble, and so pure a Good, that the more any one knows him, the more he loves him. He is so tender and perfect a sweetness, that the more one tastes of him, the sweeter he becomes; and the more one loves him, the more his loveliness increases. Blessed is the soul which is filled with the love of God. He will be conscious in his soul of such amiableness as cannot be found in time among creatures.

11. Behold now, ye children of men, how deceived ye are by the love of the world. What is it which any man can obtain by the love of temporal things, but sorrow, trouble, loss of time, unprofitable words (of which an account must be given), wranglings, fightings, and a burdened conscience? Surely all the children of men shall one day sorely repent that they have so much loved the world, and the things therein: according to the warning given us by St. John, saying, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust 255 of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15, etc. Therefore every man ought to mourn all the days of his life that he ever loved anything more than God only. If God pours into thy heart his love, so that thou lovest him above all things, then he has given thee the best thing he hath, even Himself.

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