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



CHAPTER II.


ON THE SCRIPTURE DECLARATION THAT "GOD IS LOVE."


Of the infinity of God. — Something more needed.— God love by essence, — The subject argued from the relations he sustains. — Argued also from the rectitude or right of things. — Argument from the happiness of God. — Other views.

HAVING made, in the preceding chapter, some general statements in regard to the nature of love, we now proceed to consider it as existing in God. We must understand the relations of this principle to God,— in other words, we must understand what God's love is, before we can understand the union of God and man in love. And in doing this our attention is first arrested by the declaration of the Scriptures, — a declaration which is worthy of the particular notice of Christians,— that "God is love." It would be difficult to find a parallel form of expression. It is not anywhere said of God, so far as we recollect, that he is omniscience, or that he is omnipresence. It is true that the attributes of omniscience and omnipresence are essential to him as an infinite existence; but it should always be remembered that God is something more than infinity. There must be something beyond and above infinity, which shall baptize it with the character of goodness; otherwise there is no God. "God is Love."

2. God is love by
essence. That is to say, love is forever and unchangeably essential to his existence as God. He was not at first, as some may be led to suppose, a mere percipient being, having all knowledge, who formed conjecturally an idea of love, came to the conclusion that it was a good and desirable thing, and then added it as an accessory to his original existence. On the contrary, God always had a heart; always had a true and effective sensibility, operating, by an eternal law of action, in the line of right and goodness. And if, by universal consent, the heart takes the precedence of the head, — if no greatness of intellect can elevate and save a man who has evil and depraved affections, — then God cannot be what he is, the infinitely desirable and infinitely good, without love as the central and leading element, the basis and the completion of his character.

3. The mere statement carries conviction in itself. But this is not all. We argue the matter also from the relations of things. God, considered as the Infinite, or I AM, sustains a fixed and necessary relation to everything which is. His relation to space is realized and fulfilled in his omnipresence. His relation to duration finds its expression and fulfillment in his eternity. His relation, as an infinite and perfect being to objects of knowledge, is realized and fulfilled in his omniscience. His relation to percipient and sentient beings, to all beings that are susceptible of happiness, is corresponded to and completed by his
love; or, what is the same thing, by his desire of their happiness. So that it may be said, that he is present to and envelopes time by his eternity, space by his omnipresence, all things knowable by his omniscience, and all percipient and sentient existences by his LOVE. And as there can be no God without eternity, no God without omniscience and omnipresence, so, still more truly and emphatically, there can be no God without love. Take away love, and then, in distinction from the infinity of his natural existence, nothing which constitutes God, remains; nothing to give birth to happy existences, nothing to protect them and to secure their happiness, nothing to give them confidence, nothing lovely, and nothing to be loved. Take away love from the divine nature, and what would remain would be either an infinite indifferent being, or an infinite Satan.

4. And, again, we argue that "God is love," because, without love as the permanent and controlling element of his nature, the rectitude or right of things could not be sustained.

There is, and must be, in the divine nature, everything that is expressed in the word
ought; everything which corresponds to the claims of right and obligation; everything which ought to be. That we ought to love existence, simply because it is existence; that we ought to desire, and seek, and love the happiness of all who exist, simply because they do exist and are susceptible of happiness, is an affirmation founded on the spontaneous intimations of the moral sense, and which, therefore, is antecedent to and above reasoning. It is none the less a truth because it is suggested rather than deduced; because it is given by its own impulse of revelation, rather than extracted by the researches of a power distinct from and out of itself. The right or obligation of things is a law which exists by itself, which discloses its own exigencies and proclaims its own veracity; asking no counsel or support from that which is imperfect or created; never going back of or above itself for another and higher motive of action but standing alone, immutable, universal, and eternal. On this ground, therefore, we affirm that God is love, namely, because he ought to be. The voice of our moral nature, which is the voice of God himself, proclaims that it cannot be otherwise, He loves, he must love, he cannot help loving everything which exists.

5. Again, God is love, (the attribute of love constituting the essential and controlling part of his nature,) because, without love, he cannot be a happy being. Whatever may be regarded as the true elements of happiness, it is certain that permanency is essential to it. And it is a great truth, verified by universal experience as well as by enlightened reason, that there cannot be permanent happiness, if indeed there can be happiness at all, separate from love. It is hardly necessary to say that indifference is not happiness. It may not be misery, but it certainly cannot be happiness. Hatred, which is the opposite of love, and which of course must exist, if there is neither love nor indifference, is not happiness. On the contrary, there are always painful feelings involved in and attending it. God, therefore, if eternity is essential to his character, and if love is the foundation of happiness, is either eternal love, or must be described in terms which are abhorrent in the very utterance, as eternal misery. But a view of' God, which characterizes him as miserable, is inadmissible. Love, then, taking it for granted that he is and ever will be a happy being, is an essential part of his everlasting nature.

6. Again; love, by which we mean pure or holy love, cannot by any possibility exist in any but an Infinite Being, or in those beings who rest on the Infinite. Plants and flowers might as well grow upon rocks where there is no earth, as pure love grow out of the finite; — we mean the finite, standing alone and sustained by its own strength. Such is the nature of this love, transcending as it does all limited interests, that it claims a natural and necessary affinity with the unlimited. All other love is bounded. Pure love knows no bounds It does not ask whether the object of its regard is good or evil, a friend or an enemy. It transcends the restrictions, which are multiplied and piled up one upon another of human passion and interest, and gives its affections without reward. Strong in its own divinity, it
"casts out fear." Fear, which has no place in the infinite, is the necessary law of inferiority, except where the weak are united with the strong. All beings that are not God and are not united with God, in neither being the source of things nor being united with that great and benevolent source, are condemned to selfishness by their position, and are condemned to weakness and sorrow, to fear and shame, by their selfishness. Having nothing else to rest upon, their thoughts and their love turn to themselves. Pure love, which rejects all such restrictions, they have not and cannot have. But God's love, growing out of and constituting, or at least perfecting, a nature which is infinite and which in being infinite knows no partial interests and has no fear, reaches all, encircles all, blesses all.

7. The declaration of the apostle, that God is love, is not a mere figure of speech. It does not merely mean, that he can love, or that he does love in some degree. The expression is emphatic, full of meaning. Its import has already been explained. And we add here, it cannot be too often repeated, in relation to God, that love stands as the centre of his being. Far more than anything else, it is the essential element of his life as God.

It is true, it is preceded in the order of nature by
faith. This we have already had occasion to notice. In the natural order, faith is the antecedent of love; and is also its necessary condition. But while it can be truly said that both faith and love have their appropriate place, and that both are essential; it is also true that love, considered as an element of the divine nature, stands nearer the centre of existence, and contains in itself the motive or active principle of being. All other things are subordinate to it. Infinite space and infinite time are its locality; infinite knowledge is its minister and handmaid; the conscience is its guard, pronouncing within and without its moral value; the will executes its decrees; but the moving principle, the essence, the life of the infinite as God, that which gives inspiration to knowledge, motion to power, and impulse to the will, is, and must be, LOVE.