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PART FOUTH.
ON THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN LOVE.



CHAPTER I.


ON THE NATURE OF PURE OR HOLY LOVE.


Love has a nature of its own. — No love without an object of love. Its nature is to seek its object without a view to reward. — Existence the object of pure love. — Its attractive power. — Pure or holy love illustrated in the Saviour. — All holy beings have this love.

UNION with God in knowledge is preparatory to union with him in love. In the order of nature, knowledge is first in time; but love has the preeminence in excellence. As it is a principle nearer the centre of the soul, it attracts and concentrates in itself, if we may so express it, more of the soul's life. We proceed now to the consideration of this great principle.

Love, like everything else, has its own nature. Not identical with any other affection, and not explainable by the laws which are appropriate to any other affection, it stands by itself, in its own entity, in its own attributes and form. And being thus separate from every other affection, there is something true of it, which is not true of anything else. It is, therefore, a legitimate subject of analysis and description.

2. It is hardly necessary to say, in offering some explanations on this subject, that love always has an
object. Love, without an object of love would be inconceivable. It would be as difficult to conceive of such love, as it would be to conceive of an act of memory without something remembered, or of an act of perception without something perceived. And it. is proper to add, that this object, although it does not necessarily exclude a regard to a person's own interests, is generally found in interests which are beyond and out of ourselves. Hence it is a common remark, that true or pure love is self-forget ting.

3. Again, it is one of the traits of love, that it does not remain quiescent in him who is the subject of it, but has a tendency (a tendency which is inherent, and constitutes a part of its nature ) to move or flow out to its object, whatever that object may be. It is the object which indicates the channel in which it must flow, and which constitutes, also, the termination of its movement. Summoned into being by its appropriate object, it exists without effort; and, flowing in the channel which truth and nature have marked out for it, it asks no reward. If it expected or asked for anything, which might properly be denominated the recompense or reward of its own existence, it would cease to be love. And accordingly, if it be required to give a reason for its existence, (separate from that of reward, which it does not recognize as a reason,) it can only say, it loves because it cannot help it, or because it has a nature which makes it love. But such an answer, if it fails to announce a reason, at least announces a fact; a fact, which, if reason fails to prove, it also fails to annul. No one asks why the sun shines when it is above the horizon. And the light of love, like the light of the natural sun, whenever the appropriate occasion is furnished, shines by spontaneous diffusion. Love, therefore, is not a thing which rests upon something else, and which can be analyzed into antecedent elements; but is rather a life, a permanence, something essential, something which exists by itself, and does not rest on any other basis. And thus, being a life or nature, it acts itself out
as a nature, without thinking or asking why it does it; — just as a man breathes, or thinks, or remembers, or imagines, without reflecting or asking why he does it.

4. We have already said that love necessarily has its object. The object of pure love (and we regard this as an important remark) is
existence; all percipient and sentient existence whatever. So that love, in distinction from every appearance and modification of affection which is not true or pure love, may be defined to be a desire for the good or happiness of everything which exists. And, in accordance with this view, everything which has a being, from the highest to the lowest, whatever its position, whatever its character, the whole infinity of percipient and sentient existence, simply because it has such an existence, is the appropriate object of pure love.

This is a great truth, and one which, it must be admitted, is difficult to be realized by those who have not an instinct of perception and of affirmation in their own purified hearts. Those who are the subjects of this exalted feeling sincerely desire the happiness of all those, whoever or whatever they may be, who are capable of enjoying happiness while, at the same time, it may be so, that they disapprove and perhaps even hate their character; and, accordingly, they love the evil as well as the good, sinners as well as saints.

Another characteristic of holy love is, that it is
attractive; that is to say, its beauty is so divine, that, by its own nature it arrests the attention and draws all things to itself that are capable of perceiving its beauty. It is not necessary for it to use efforts to produce this effect. This remarkable power is an essential power; something inherent in it. It has it, because it cannot be without it. Even natural beauty has something of this power. The flower that blooms by the wayside, the star that shines in the evening sky, attracts the eye of the beholder, and commands his attention. The power exists, though it may be difficult to explain it. And, if this power is possessed by natural beauty, still more is it possessed by moral beauty. He, therefore, who possesses the highest of moral elements, that of pure love, operating by that attractive power which is eternal as the love from which it springs, must and will be loved in return, whether he be God, angel, or man. All that is necessary is, that this moral beauty be clearly perceived, which, however, is never done, and is not possible to be done, when the mind is darkened by sin.

We have a striking illustration of the nature of pure love in the case of the Saviour. He loved sinners. "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." It was not for angels, but for erring men, that he died. He bowed his head upon the cross for those that persecuted him, reviled him, slew him. He loved men, not because they were good, for such they were not, and certainly not because they were evil, because evil can never be the foundation of love, but because they were existences, — percipient and moral existences. He saw them created with the elements of an eternal being, but destitute, in their fallen state, of those attributes which would make that being a happy one. He saw them destitute of truth which they might possess, of holiness to which they were strangers, the enemies of God when they might be his friends, the heirs of hell when they might be the heirs of heaven. He loved them, therefore, not because they were good, but because they had a sentient, and especially because they had a moral, existence. It was their existence and not their merit; it was what they were capable of being, and not what they were, which brought him down from heaven.