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 God's 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
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 God's 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, `That we keep his commandments.'
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. `Charity hopeth all things, endureth all things.' 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 God's 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 himself.
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 indecent manners.
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.
Helps to increase our Love to God, by Way of Exercise.
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:
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 love.
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 accidents 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.
1. 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 love's 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 God's 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 be observed:
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 man's 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 God's 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
7. 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. Paul's 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 at 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
*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.
 St. Aug. I. ii Cenfes. c.6.
 1 Cor. xiii.
 amoris ut morsum qui vere senserit.
 Plutarchus citans carmen de suo Apolline, adjicit
ex Herodoto quasi de suo, De eo os meum continens esto.
 Sic Jesus dixit. S. Carpo apud Dionysium epist.
 Gal. iv. 18.
 Phil. iii.6.
 Lavora, come se tu avessi a compar ogni hora; Adora,
me se tu avessi a morir allora.
 Rom. x.2.
 Tit. ii.14; Rev. iii. 16.
 2 Cor. vii.11.
 2 Cor. vii.11.