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



CHAPTER II.


ON THE LOVE OF EXISTENCE IN DISTINCTION FROM THE LOVE OF CHARACTER.


Illustrations of the love of existence. — The mother and her sons. The wife and her husband. — Other illustrations. — Deductions from these views. — On the love of our enemies. — Without this love we cannot be the sons of God.

PURE love, as we have already had occasion to remark, is the love of existence or being, independently of character. Undoubtedly such love is remote from the common apprehension and experience; so much so that its nature is difficult to be understood and appreciated by most persons. Some further illustrations, therefore,— illustrations drawn from the situations and acts of those around us, — will aid us in a just view of the subject.

2. There lives in yonder dwelling a humble and praying mother, who has two sons; one of whom is eminent for his virtues, the other is equally distinguished for his vices. The virtuous son she not only loves with the love of benevolence, which is the same as the love of existence or being, but with the love of complacency. In other words, she not only loves him, but delights in him. His character, as well as his existence, commands her affections, and brings a rich reward.

But the other son is the son of her sorrow. He is deformed in person, ferocious in mind, addicted to unholy indulgences, and to all human appearance evil and only evil. But, notwithstanding these unfavorable circumstances, the love of her child, separating as it does his existence from his character, never ceases to act,— never falters and becomes weary. She loves, by an element or law of her nature, just as God does; and can cease to love only when she ceases to live. She clothes him and feeds him, for which she receives no thanks; she bathes his throbbing brow, feverish with criminal intemperance; she returns kindness for unkindness, care for forgetfulness; never ceasing, under any circumstances, to watch, to pray, and to labor.

Deeply affected by what is thus presented to their notice, men concede at once and universally the amiableness and the attractive character of this high love; — a love above philosophy and mere human reason, and partaking of the nature of God.

3. Take the case of the wife. Her husband has become profane, intemperate, vicious. His kindness is changed to suspicion and hatred. He is the wreck of what he was once; and yet her love, kindled by the knowledge of what he has been, and of what he may yet be, remains unchanged. If his character is gone, his existence remains. If virtue has departed, immortality never dies. She sees his former life in ruins, but still it is a living ruin and capable of reanimation. And while there is hope, however feeble, she will not cease to call upon him to return.

It is needless to say, how much we respect and honor an affection so exalted, and how constantly and strongly it impresses us with a sense of its divine origin. We can see a reason why she should love that which is lovely; — but to love that which is unlovely; to separate between existence and character, and to attach our affections to the mere reality of being, simply because it is being; and, whatever may be its relations of harmony or of opposition to us or to others, to seek, to pray, and to labor for its redemption to purity and to happiness, simply because it is susceptible of such redemption, and without thought of personal reward; — this is a love, of which reason, in being unable to explain it, can only say,
it is of God.

4. Take the case of those individuals who have visited, aided, and blessed the enslaved and the prisoner, — the Clarksons and Howards of their generation; men who have travelled and labored, in the language of Mr. Burke, when speaking of Howard, "not to survey the sumptuousness of palaces, or the stateliness of temples; not to make accurate measurements of the remains of ancient grandeur, nor to form a scale of the curiosity of modern art; nor to collect medals or collate manuscripts; — but to dive into the depths of dungeons; to plunge into the infection of hospitals; to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain; to take the gauge and the dimensions of misery, depression, and contempt; to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, to compare and collate the distresses of all men in all countries."

5. It is such cases, unexplainable on mere prudential considerations, which give us a glimpse of the exalted and divine nature of that love which flows out to existence. He, who has such love, has God,— God is in him; because such love cannot live unless it strikes its root and has its source of life in the Infinite. As it casts out alike all selfish interests and all fears, nothing but divine power in the soul could support it.

With such views of pure or holy love, it only remains to be added here, that it is right and reasonable that we should be required
to love our enemies. There are no passages of Scripture which have perplexed the unbelieving world more than those which have relation to this subject. "But I say unto you," says the Saviour, "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you."

6. It will be noticed, that we are not commanded to love their
enmity,— to love their detractions and ill usage, — but to love that which has enmity; the subject rather than the attribute; namely, their existence, their immortal natures. In the exercise of holy love, we may not only forgive them, but may earnestly seek their happiness; while, at the same time, we condemn their characters. Their characters may change, but not the essence of their being. Their enmity may die, but their nature is eternal.

7. We repeat, however. that this love cannot be exercised in its full extent, unless the soul has first passed into divine unity and become a partaker of the divine nature. It was this love, resting upon the principle of faith, which constituted Christ the true Son of God. And it is this love, resting upon the same principle of faith, which constitutes the sons of God in all times and all places. "Love your enemies," says the Saviour. And what is the reason which he assigns? "That ye may
be the children of your Father which it in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect."