Of Charity, or the Love of God.
Love is the greatest thing that God can give us; for himself is
love; and it is the greatest thing we can give to God; for it will also give
ourselves and carry with it all that is ours. The apostle calls it the band of
perfection; it is the old, and it is the new, and it is the great commandment,
and it is all the commandments; for it is the fulfilling of the law. It does
the work of all other graces without any instrument but its own immediate
virtue. For as the love to sin makes a man sin against all his own reason, and
all the discourses of wisdom, and all the advices of his friends, and without
temptation, and without opportunity, so does the love of God; it makes a man
chaste without the laborious arts of fasting and exterior disciplines,
temperate in the midst of feasts, and is active enough to choose it without any
intermedial appetites, and reaches at glory through the very heart of grace
without any other arms but those of love. It is a grace that loves God for
himself, and our neighbours for God. The consideration of Godís goodness and
bounty, the experience of those profitable and excellent emanations from him,
may be, and most commonly are, the first motive of our love; but when we are
once entered, and have tasted the goodness of God, we love the spring for its
own excellency, passing from passion to reason, from thanking to adoring, from
sense to spirit, from considering ourselves to an union with God: and this is
the image and little representation of heaven; it is beatitude in picture, or
rather the infancy and beginnings of glory.
We need no incentives by way of special enumeration to move us to
the love of God, for we cannot love anything for any reason real or imaginary,
but that excellence is infinitely more eminent in God. There can but two things
create love - perfection and usefulness: to which answer on our part, 1.
Admiration; and 2. Desire; and both these are centered in love. For the entertainment
of the first, there is in God an infinite nature, immensity or vastness without
extension or limit, immutability, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, holiness,
dominion, providence, bounty, mercy, justice, perfection in himself, and the
end to which all things and all actions must be directed, and will, at last,
arrive. The consideration of which may be heightened, if we consider our
distance from all these glories, our smallness and limited nature, our nothing,
our inconstancy, our age like a span, our weakness and ignorance, our poverty,
our inadvertency and inconsideration, our disabilities and disaffections to do
good, our harsh natures and unmerciful inclinations, our universal iniquity,
and our necessities and dependencies, not only on God originally and
essentially, but even our need of the meanest of Godís creatures, and our being
obnoxious to the weakest and most contemptible. But for the entertainment of
the second, we may consider that in him is a torrent of pleasure for the
voluptuous; he is the fountain of honour for the ambitious; an inexhaustible
treasure for the covetous. Our vices are in love with fantastic pleasures and
images of perfection, which are truly and really to be found nowhere but in
God. And therefore our virtues have such proper objects that it is but
reasonable they should all turn into love; for certain it is that this love
will turn all into virtue. For in the scrutinies for righteousness and
judgment, when it is inquired whether such a person be a good man or no, the
meaning is not, What does he believe? or what does he hope? but what he loves.
The Acts of Love to God are,
1. Love does all things which may please the beloved person; it
performs all his commandments: and this is one of the greatest instances and
arguments of our love that God requires of us - this is love, ĎThat we keep his
commandments.í Love is obedient.
2. It does all the intimations and secret significations of his
pleasure whom we love; and this is an argument of a great degree of it. The
first instance is, it makes the love accepted; but this gives a greatness and
singularity to it. The first is the least, and less than it cannot do our duty;
but without this second we cannot come to perfection. Great love is also pliant
and inquisitive in the instances of its expression.
3. Love gives away all things, that so he may advance the
interest of the beloved person: it relieves all that he would have relieved,
and spends itself in such real significations as it is enabled withal. He never
loved God that will quit anything of his religion to save his money. Love is
always liberal and communicative.
4. It suffers all things that are imposed by its beloved, or that
can happen for his sake, or that intervene in his service, cheerfully, sweetly,
willingly expecting that God should turn them into good, and instruments of
felicity. ĎCharity hopeth all things, endureth all things.í
Love is patient and content with anything, so it be together with its beloved.
5. Love is also impatient of anything that may displease the
beloved person, hating all sin as the enemy of its friend; for love contracts
all the same relations, and marries the same friendships and the same hatreds;
and all affection to a sin is perfectly inconsistent with the love of God. Love
is not divided between God and Godís enemy: we must love God with all our
heart; that is, give him a whole and undivided affection, having love for
nothing else but such things which he allows, and which he commands or loves
6. Love endeavours for ever to be present, to converse with, to
enjoy, to be united with its object; loves to be talking of him, reciting his
praises, telling his stories, repeating his words, imitating his gestures,
transcribing his copy in everything; and every degree of love; and it can
endure anything but the displeasure and the absence of its beloved. For we are
not to use God and religion as men use perfumes, with which they are delighted
when they have them, but can very well be without them. True charity is
restless till it enjoys God in such instances in which it wants him; it is like
hunger and thirst, it must be fed, or it cannot be answered:
and nothing can supply the presence, or make recompense for the absence of God,
or of the effects of his favour and the light of his countenance.
7. True love in all accidents looks upon the beloved person, and
observes his countenance, and how he approves or disapproves, and accordingly
looks sad or cheerful. He that loves God is not displeased at those accidents
which God chooses, nor murmurs at those changes which he makes in his family,
nor envies at those gifts he bestows; but chooses as he likes; and is ruled by
his judgment, and is perfectly of his persuasion, loving to learn where God is
the teacher, and being content to be ignorant or silent where he is not pleased
to open himself.
8. Love is curious of little things, of circumstances and
measures, and little accidents, not allowing to itself any infirmity which it
strives not to master, aiming at what it cannot yet reach, desiring to be of an
angelical purity, and of a perfect innocence, and a seraphical fervour, and
fears every image of offence; is as much afflicted at an idle word as some at
an act of adultery, and will not allow to itself so much anger as will disturb
a child, nor endure the impurity of a dream.
And this is the curiosity and niceness of divine love: this is the fear of God,
and is the daughter and production of Love.
The Measures and Rules of Divine Love.
But because this passion is pure as the brightest and smoothest
mirror, and, therefore, is apt to be sullied with every impurer breath, we must
be careful that our love to God be governed by these measures:
1. That our love to God be sweet, even, and full of tranquillity,
having in it no violences or transportations, but going on in a course of holy
actions and duties, which are proportionable to our condition and present
state; not to satisfy all the desire, but all the probabilities and measures of
our strength. A new beginner in religion hath passionate and violent desires;
but they must not be the measure of his actions; but he must consider his
strength, his late sickness and state of death, the proper temptations of his
condition, and stand at first upon defence; not go to storm a strong fort, or
attack a potent enemy, or do heroical actions, and fitter for giants in
religion. Indiscreet violences and untimely forwardness are the rocks of
religion against which tender spirits often suffer shipwreck.
2. Let our love be prudent and without illusion, that is, that it
express itself in such instances which God hath chosen or which we choose
ourselves by proportion to his rules and measures. Love turns into doating when
religion turns into superstition. No degree of love can be imprudent, but the
expressions may: we cannot love God too much, but we may proclaim it in
3. Let our love be firm, constant, and inseparable; not coming
and returning like the tide, but descending like a never-failing river, ever
running into the ocean of divine excellency, passing on in the channels of duty
and a constant obedience, and never ceasing to be what it is till it be turned
into sea and vastness, even the immensity of a blessed eternity.
Although the consideration of the divine excellencies and mercies
be infinitely sufficient to produce in us love to God (who is invisible, and
yet not distant from us, but we feel him in his blessings, he dwells in our
hearts by faith, we feed on him in the sacrament, and are made all one with him
in the incarnation and glorifications of Jesus: yet, that we may the better
enkindle and increase our love to God, the following advices are not useless:
Helps to increase our Love to God, by Way of Exercise.
1. Cut off all earthly and sensual loves, for
they pollute and unhallow the pure and spiritual love. Every degree of
inordinate affection to the things of this world, and every act of love to a
sin, is a perfect enemy to the love of God; and it is a great shame to take any
part of our affection from the eternal God, to bestow it upon his creature in
defiance of the Creator, or to give it to the devil, our open enemy, in
disparagement of him, who is the fountain of all excellences and celestial amities.
2. Lay fetters and restraints upon the imaginative and fantastic
part; because our fancy, being an imperfect and higher faculty, is usually
pleased with the entertainment of shadows and gauds; and because the things of
the world fill it with such beauties and fantastic imagery, the fancy, presents
such objects as are amiable to the affections and elective powers. Persons of
fancy such as are women and children, have always the most violent loves; but,
therefore, if we be careful with what representments we fill our fancy, we may
the sooner rectify our love. To this purpose it is good that we transplant the
instruments of fancy into religion, and for this reason music was brought into
churches, and ornaments, and perfumes, and comely garments, and solemnities,
and decent ceremonies, that the busy and less discerning fancy, being bribed
with its proper objects, may be instrumental to a more celestial and spiritual
3. Remove solicitude or worldly cares, and multitudes of secular
businesses, for if these take up the intention and actual application of our
thoughts and our employments, they will also possess our passions, which, if
they be filled with one object, though ignoble, cannot attend another, though
more excellent. We always contract a friendship and relation with those with
whom we converse; our very country is dear to us for our being in it; and the
neighbours of the same village, and those that buy and sell with us, have
seized upon some portions of our love; and, therefore, if we dwell in the affairs
of the world we shall also grow in love with them; and all our love or all our
hatred, all our hopes or all our fears, which the eternal God would willingly
secure to himself, and esteem amongst his treasures and precious things, shall
be spent upon trifles and vanities.
4. Do not only choose the things of God, but secure your
inclinations and aptnesses for God and for religion; for it will be a hard
thing for a man to do such a personal violence to his first desires as to
choose whatsoever he hath no mind to. A man will many times satisfy the
importunity and daily solicitations of his first longings; and, therefore,
there is nothing can secure our loves to God but stopping the natural
fountains, and making religion to grow near the first desires of the soul.
5. Converse with God by frequent prayer. In particular, desire
that your desires may be right and love to have your affections regular and
holy. To which purpose make very frequent addresses to God by ejaculations and
communions, and an assiduous daily devotion; discover to him all your wants,
complain to him of all your affronts; do as Hezekiah did, lay your misfortunes
and your ill news before him, spread them before the Lord, call to him for
health, run to him for counsel, beg of him for pardon; and it is as natural to
love him to whom we make such addresses, and on whom we have such dependencies,
as it is for children to love their parents.
6. Consider the immensity and vastness of the divine love to us,
expressed in all the emanations of his providence; 1. In his creation; 2. In
his conservation of us. For it is not my prince, or my patron, or my friend,
that supports me, or relieves my needs; but God who made the corn that my
friend sends me; who created the grapes, and supported him, who hath as many
dependencies, and as many natural necessities, and as perfect disabilities, as
myself. God, indeed, made him the instrument of his providence to me, as he
hath made his own land or his own cattle to him, with this only difference,
that God, by his ministration to me, intends to do him a favour and a reward
which to natural instruments he does not; 3. In giving his Son; 4. In forgiving
our sins; 5. In adopting us to glory; and ten thousand times ten thousand
little addicents and instances happening in the doing every of these - and it
is not possible but for so great love we should give love again; for God, we
should give man; for felicity, we should part with our misery. Nay, so great is
the love of the holy Jesus, God incarnate, that he would leave all his
triumphant glories, and die once more for man, if it were necessary for
procuring felicity to him.
In the use of these instruments, love will grow in several knots
and steps, like the sugar-canes of India, according to a thousand varieties in
the persons loving; and it will be great or less in several persons, and in the
same, according to his growth in Christianity. But in general discoursing there
are but two states of love; and those are labour of love, and the zeal of love:
the first is duty; the second if perfection.
The two States of Love to God.
The least love that is must be obedient, pure, simple, and
communicative; that is, it must exclude all affection to sin, and all
inordinate affection to the world, and must be expressive, according to our
power, in the instances of duty, and must be love for loveís sake; and for this
love, martyrdom is the highest instance - that is, a readiness of mind rather
to suffer any evil than to do any. Of this our blessed Saviour affirmed that no
man had greater love than this; that is, this is the highest point of duty, the
greatest love, that God requires of man. And yet he that is the most imperfect
must have this love also in preparation of mind, and must differ from another
in nothing, except in the degrees of promptness and alacrity. And in this
sense, he that loves God truly, (though but with a beginning and tender love,)
yet he loves God with all his heart, that is, with that degree of love which is
the highest point of our duty and of Godís charge upon us; and he that loves
God with all his heart may yet increase with the increase of God; just as there
are degrees of love to God among the saints, and yet each of them love him with
all their powers and capacities.
2. But the greater state of love is the zeal of love, which runs
out into excrescences and suckers, like a fruitful and pleasant tree; or
bursting into gums, and producing fruits, not of a monstrous but of an
extraordinary and heroical, greatness. Concerning which these cautions are to
Cautions and Rules concerning Zeal.
1. If zeal be in the beginnings of our spiritual birth, or be
short, sudden, and transient, or be a consequent of a manís natural temper, or
come upon any cause but after a long growth of a temperate and well-regulated
love - it is to be suspected for passion and forwardness, rather than the
vertical point of love.
2.That zeal only is good which in a fervent love, hath temperate
expressions. For let the affection boil as high as it can, yet if it boil over
into irregular and strange actions, it will have but few, but will need many
excuses. Elijah was zealous for the Lord of Hosts, and yet he was so
transported with it, that he could not receive answer from God till by music he
was recomposed and tamed; and Moses broke both the tables of the law by being
passionately zealous against them that broke the first.
3. Zeal must spend its greatest heat principally in those things
that concern ourselves; but with great care and restraint in those that concern
4. Remember that zeal, being an excrescence of divine love, must
in no sense contradict any action of love. Love to God includes love
to our neighbour; and therefore no pretence of zeal for Godís glory must make
us uncharitable to our brother; for that is just so pleasing to God as hatred
is an act of love.
5. That zeal that concerns others can spend itself in nothing but
arts and actions and charitable instruments, for their good; and when it
concerns the good of many that one should suffer, it must be done by persons of
a competent authority, and in great necessity, in seldom instances, according
to the law of God or man; but never by private right, or for trifling
accidents, or in mistaken propositions. The Zealots, in the old law, had
authority to transfix and stab some certain persons, but God gave them warrant;
it was in the case of idolatry, or such notorious huge crimes, the danger of
which was insupportable, and the cognizance of which was infallible; and yet
that warrant expired with the synagogue.
6. Zeal may be let loose in the instances of internal, personal,
and spiritual actions, that are matters of direct duty, as in prayers, and acts
of adoration, and thanksgiving, and frequent addresses, provided that no
indirect act pass upon them to defile them, such as complacency and opinions of
sanctity, censuring others, scruples and opinions of necessity, unnecessary
fears, superstitious numberings of times and hours; but let the zeal be as
forward as it will, as devout as it will, as seraphical as it will, in the
direct address and intercourse with God there is no danger, no transgression.
Do all the parts of your duty as earnestly as if the salvation of all the
world, and the whole glory of God, and the confusion of all devils, all that
you hope or desire, did depend upon every one action.
8. Let zeal be seated in the will and choice, and regulated with
prudence and a sober understanding, not in the fancies and affections;
for those that will make it deep and smooth, material and devout.
The sum is this; that zeal is not a direct duty, nowhere
commanded for itself, and is nothing but a forwardness and circumstance of
another duty, and therefore is then only acceptable when it advances the love
of God and our neighbours, whose circumstance it is.
That zeal is only safe, only acceptable, which increases charity directly; and
because love to our neighbour and obedience to God are the two great portions
of charity, we must never account our zeal to be good but as it advances both
these, if it be in a matter that relates to both; or severally if it relates
severally. St. Paulís zeal was expressed in preaching without any offerings or
stipend, in travelling, in spending and being spent for his flock, in suffering,
in being willing to be accursed for love of the people of God and his
countrymen. Let our zeal be as great as his was, so it be in affections to
others, but not al all in angers against them: in the first there is no danger
- in the second there is no safety. In brief, let your zeal (if it must be
expressed in anger) be always more severe against thyself than against others.
*The other part of love to God is love to our neighbour, for
which I have reserved the paragraph of alms.
Of the external Actions of Religion.
Religion teaches us to present to God our bodies as well as our
souls, for God is the Lord of both; and if the body serves the soul in actions
natural and civil and intellectual, it must not be eased in the only offices of
religion, unless the body shall expect no portion of the rewards of religion,
such as are resurrection, reunion, and glorification. Our bodies are to God a
living sacrifice; and to present them to God is holy and acceptable.
The actions of the body, as it serves to religion, and as it is
distinguished from sobriety and justice, either relate to the word of God, or
to prayer, or to repentance, and make these kinds of external actions of
religion: 1. Reading and hearing the word of God; 2. Fasting and corporal
austerities, called by St. Paul bodily exercise; 3. Feasting, or keeping days
of public joy and thanksgiving.