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He began to love Himself—that is from all eternity: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee " (a); even though He had foreseen all your ingratitude and your sins.
2. He loves you with a disinterested love; without any merit on your part, or any hope of recompense on His. For, as Saint John says, "by this hath the charity of God appeared towards us,... not as though we had loved God, and thus merited His love in return; but because He hath first loved us," (b), and this too " when we were enemies " (c).
3. He loves you with an infinite love; that is, as far as regards its entity, with the same love with which He loves Himself, the most Holy Trinity, Christ, and the saints; loving you with His entire heart, and with all the infinity of His nature; so that there is no perfection in God, and no person in the Most Holy Trinity that does not entertain for you an infinite love.
4. Finally, He loves you with a most tender love, "carrying you on his shoulders" (d) "and his bosom, as the nurse is wont to carry the little infant" (e); "keeping you as the apple of his eye" (f) ; having "the very hairs of your head all numbered " (g); "always mindful of you that He may do good to you," just as if you alone existed in the world, and constituted the sole object of His infinite love.
Oh, in truth, my God, it is my bounden duty to love Thee (L) with a disinterested love: not through
(a) Jer. xxxi. 3. (b) 1 John iv. 9. 10.
(c) Rom. v. 10. (d) Deut. xxxii. 11.
(e) Num. xi. 12. (/) Deut. xxxii. 10.
(g) Luke xii. 7,
fear of punishment, or in expectation of a reward, but solely for thy own self. (2.) With an efficacious love, "not loving in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (a). (3.) With a constant affection, exclaiming with the apostle Paul, "What shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress,... or persecution, or the sword?" (6) No, no; "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, . . . nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God " (c).
God deserves to be loved, because of His infinite perfections. For so amiable is He, that if the heavens were opened, and the damned could see God, even for a single instant, the intense hatred which they now feel towards Him ,would be changed at once into the most ardent love. Such is His beauty, that in order to gaze upon it, if only for a moment, the damned would willingly endure a thousand hells as terrible as that in which they now dwell. So sweet in His goodness, that if even one drop of it could fall into the infernal abyss, that place of torments would instantly become a paradise. So great is the excellence of His sanctity, that even one venial sin causes Him inexpressible disgust. So unfathomable is His wisdom, that He forgets nothing of the Past, knows everything of the Present, and clearly penetrates into all the hidden secrets of the Future. His power is so great, that with Him to wish is to execute.
(a) 1 John iii. 18. (6) Bom. viii. 35.
(c) Rom. viii. 38, 39.
Moreover, He is so rich, that "there is no end of His treasures"(a); so provident, that He dispenses all things in measure, and number, and weight; so constant,that "with Himthereis no change, nor shadow of alteration" (b); so mighty, that "He is high in his strength, and none is like Him" (c). But who is there able to enumerate His perfections, and the greatness of His works? "Who is able to declare his works; who shall search out his glorious acts; and who shall show forth the power of his majesty; or who shall be able to declare his mercy?"(d) and shall we not love with all the strength of our affection a God so great and so perfect? Ah ! let us love Him! let us love Him! But let our love be real, let it be ardent, let it prove itself by works, so that the termination of these Exercises may be for us the beginning of a more perfect life, and that this perfection may go on increasing daily until the hour of our death.
O ye Seraphim ! has the tepidity of man, then, come to this, that it is necessary to heap up arguments in order to excite him to a love of the supreme good 1 0 my soul ! through love of Thee, and for Thy benefit, God has performed most wonderful works; He has enriched you with favours beyond reckoning in respect of their number; of incalculable utility; and of infinite value; and will you refuse to return Him love for love?
Ah! unhappy wretch! God loves you; . . . God . . . you; . . . the Omnipotent, ... so vile a worm,
(a) Isa. ii. 7. (b) James i. 17.
(e) Job xxxvi. 22. (d) Eccles. xvii. 2, et seq.
and He loves you with an eternal, an infinite, a disinterested, anda most tender love; and yet you do not love Him in return. 0 ungrateful being! you love a person who wishes you well; nay, the brute beast has a share in your love, if it displays affection for you; and God presses you to His bosom, He lavishes upon you tokens of His love, He caresses you, He showers favours upon you, He watches over you, He preserves you, He loves you with such unbounded love, and will you not think Him worthy of even a look, will your heart not beat with a single throb of affection for Him 1 And is this really possible! Can there be found a soul so cold, so hard, so cruel, so perverse, so brutal, I will rather say, so stupid, so insensate'! For no soul can be effected with hardness so adamantine, nor with such insatiable brutality as not to be softened by the thought that God loves her, and loves her with so boundless a love.
O God of mercy, I know my ingratitude, I am ashamed of it, and am confounded in Thy presence. Ah ! I have not loved love itself! I have not returned the love of a God who has loved me with an infinite love, and Who is most deserving of all my love, because of His infinite perfections. He has lavished favours upon me, and I have treated Him with neglect. He has loved me, and I have hated Him in return. But I repent, and I detest my hardness of heart. Thou hast conquered, O infinite love, Thou hast conquered . Thou hast a claim upon my entire heart, and I hereby give it to Thee without reserve. Henceforward I shall love but Thee, and I shall love Thee all the more intensely, because I have begun to love Thee so late.
I love Thee, I love Thee, 0 infinitely amiable,
good, and beautiful God. I love Thee, I love Thee, not through hope of future reward, nor. through fear of future punishment; but solely for Thy own sake, because thou art essentially good. I love Thee with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my powers, prizing Thee above everything—above all possible pleasures, riches, and honours, and more than life itself. I will serve Thee in that place, in that office, in that degree, in that condition in which it is your wish that I should serve Thee. I will imitate Jesus Christ in the third degree of humility; and I will imitate Him, fully, constantly, with all possible fervour, and with all the powers of my soul, striving continually after greater perfection. Ah, grant that I may persevere in this my resolution; and that if I have hitherto lived in sin, I may at least die in transports of Divine love.
I. God deserves to be loved, because of the love Hi bears towards us. The charity of God towards us is pre-eminently distinguished by the three characteristics of true love. For (1) It performs greatthings; such things has God performed for thee. He has created you from nothing; He has endowed your soul with three noble faculties, He has given perfect senses to your body; He has lavished on your whole being splendid qualities, both in the natural and moral order. Eor your sake He preserves the world ; for you He makes it produce everything in abundance. Still more, He redeemed you, He sanctified you. He adopted you as His child, He conferred grace upon you, He has prepared paradise for your futuK abode.