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CHAPTER IV.


Identity of Life and Love.


1.—But there is something additional, notwithstanding the possible limitations of our knowledge in some important respects, which may help us to a more interior view of the nature of Life. There is something within the limits of human experience, which allies us to the great Source from which we come, and which may be appealed to in these inquiries. The Essential Life, in recognizing itself in its causative and sustaining form as existing in humanity, and in being thus brought in some degree within the sphere of human comprehension, and made the subject of human analysis, reveals itself as Love. So that in view of the evidences that attend it, we may venture to lay down the proposition, that Love and Life are essentially the same: a proposition so wide in its sweep and so fruitful in its consequences that, while its evidences compel the acquiescence and homage of the intellect, its tendencies and results, when rightly understood, fill the heart with joy.

2.—In prosecuting the inquiries of this chapter, we derive an argument in support of the identity of Life and Love, in the first place, from the Divine Nature itself. And such an argument, harmonizing with the Absolute methods of thought, brings our conclusions, so far as they have a religious aspect at all, within the limits of the Absolute Religion. God is Life: God is Love.

In being inseparable from all existences, in being the central causative principle of all existences, and in harmonizing with all existences, there is no possible motive or reason why the Divine Life should not be interested, (the relative position and responsibilities of all being taken into account,) in seeking the good, the happiness, and the perfection of all. Its motive of action cannot turn back upon itself and seek a causation prior to that which is already first, because, being infinite itself, it cannot ascend a higher height, or sound a deeper depth, than it has in its own nature. And thus standing central, and at the same time without limitation, and consequently having no power outside of itself to excite its fears, or to limit its responsibilities, what strength of thought or ingenuity of conception can suggest a motive in the Infinite Mind, which is adverse to the universal good. In other words, the Life of God, in its substance and essentiality, is, and must be, a Life of Love.

3.—And now let us look at the subject in another aspect. Love, in distinction from the counterfeits of love; we mean that divine love, which “casts out fear,” and which pursues the good of its object for the sake of the good and not for the sake of reward; such love has all the marks or characteristics which have already been ascribed to the Essential Life. It was said of Essential Life that
it has no beginning. The same can be said of Love. Looking at love psychologically, and in one of its most distinguishing aspects, it may be described as simply benevolent desire, or the desire of good. And like every other desire, it involves in its very nature and as a part of its nature, a tendency to activity and to practical results. It is essentially a motive power. Now take the universe as the theatre of inquiry, and say whether Love, considered as a motive power, has or can have, admits, or can admit, of any active and causative power antecedent to itself. Looking at the question psychologically, it seems to us that only three suppositions are possible in the case; first, indifference, which is not life, but the negation of life; second, the desire of evil, which, if it be admitted as the primal activity, would annihilate God, and enthrone Satan; and third, the desire of good, which is only another name for Love.

Now apply this analysis to God. If God exists at all, he exists as Essential Life. As essential life, He is essential activity; and that, too, without a beginning of such activity. Forever, and as a part of his nature, He must have had in himself a motivity, a principle of action. That principle of activity, could not have been indifference; for that would be a contradiction in terms. It could not be the desire of evil, for that would constitute a satanic Infinite. On the only remaining supposition, it must have been the desire of good or love. Love therefore, is, and, from the nature of the case, must be, the constitutive activity of the universe. And being central in the infinite nature, we may say of it as we say of God, it is without beginning; and, therefore it is, and must be to that extent, the same with the Essential Life of things.

4.—And again, looking at the subject a little further, we need not hesitate to say, that the circumstances and intuitions which necessitate the affirmation, that Love is without beginning, involve also the additional affirmation, that Love is without ending, in other words, it is eternal. And as it has no beginning, and no ending, and thus covers all time; so, looking at it in another aspect, and by means of other processes of thought, such as will easily suggest themselves, we are under the necessity of affirming further that the principle under consideration is a principle
without limitation; a principle surmounting the boundaries which might be supposed to stop its progress, and reaching to every place and every object within the realms of actual or possible existence. And this great principle, without beginning and without end, reaching to all objects and living in all events, universal by the same necessities which compel the fact of its eternity, is thus made to stand forth with the same attributes and the same features as the Essential Life. So that we are justified in saying that Life is Love, and Love is Life. And God, who is the embodiment of life, is the embodiment of love; and is what He is, whether He is called God or Life, because He is Love.

5.—These views are the views of the Absolute Religion; views which involve the unchangeable facts and relations of things, and have the sanction of the highest reason; and if God had not taught them in the Scriptures, we should still be held accountable by the light that is within. But the religion of enlightened reason and the religion of the Bible are one; thorough and candid inquiries, enlightened by the spirit of humility and faith, will not fail to harmonize them. And hence we open the Bible, and find that wonderful expression, repeated and emphasized in its essential meaning in a variety of forms, “God is LOVE.” This great truth, upon which hinges the destiny of the universe, seems to have developed itself especially in the bosom of the apostle John. Without going through long processes of reasoning and possibly without any training in such processes, he nevertheless had the grand intuitions of the heart, and uttered affirmations, which God in the soul had taught him. Plato, the first of Grecian philosophers, could affirm that God “geometrizes,” and he uttered a truth, corresponding in depth and comprehension to this wonderful saying of the humble and loving disciple.

6.—The doctrine that Love is identical with Life, brings the subject of the Essential Life within the sphere of human cognitions. It is true that Love, considered as Life, operates in all space and all time; but it is also true that it does this, without being identical with either. So that it can be said, in expressions which imperfectly convey the idea, that it is the life of space without being space, the life of time without being time; in other words, a principle and not an expansion, an elemental activity, and not an outward, material measurement. And hence arises both the fact and the possibility of its incarnation. The Essential Life, whether called Life or Love, is individual as well as universal; dwelling in God, and dwelling more or less, in all the creatures of God who are born into his image. And since the day when Christ walked in the valley of Nazareth, and wept in the garden of Gethsemane, it can be said that the life of God dwells in the soul of man, and the problem of the Infinite, so far as its most essential element is concerned, is brought within the field of human consciousness, and is made the subject of human affirmation. The holy man, whoever and wherever he may be, walks in life; — the same divine and essential life which dwells in the bosom of the Infinite. The life of the follower of Christ is the same in its essence with the life of Christ. There is a philosophical and substantial foundation for that wonderful but most true assertion of the apostle Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” The essential life of Christ was LOVE;—the cross of Calvary was only its necessary resultant, and its divine symbol. The cross is Love: and in that view of the interior and subjective nature of the cross, it stands as a bright and perpetual reality in the heart of every Christian.