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



CHAPTER VI.


ON THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN LOVE.


Necessity of union in love. — The love of God and man in union must have the same origin. — Must also have a likeness of nature. — Must be subjected to a divine regulation.— Illustrations. — Remarks.

THE union of God and man, on which is founded the realization of all excellence and virtue, necessarily involves the fact of union in love. It is very true that complete or perfect unity between God and man implies union in other respects. All that has been previously said goes to show that this is the case. There may be, for instance, in addition to the union of love, an union of knowledge or wisdom, which, in the order of nature, precedes that of love. Or there may be an union of the human and divine will, which, in the order of nature, follows that of love. There not only may be such unions in a perfectly restored state of the human mind, but there must be. But of all the various forms of union which exist, or may be supposed to exist, there is none so important and indispensable as that of love. Even that of faith is subordinate to it. For, although the union of faith is necessarily antecedent, and is indispensable, it would be of no avail without the higher and more central union of love, which follows it.

Some references were made to the union of God and man in love in the preceding chapter. But we propose to resume the subject here, and make some further remarks.

The union of God and man in love implies a number of things. It implies, in the first place, that the love which thus unites them shall have the same origin. The two streams must flow from the same fountain. God's love is in and from himself. Man's love, in order to be in harmony with it, must be in and from God also. It is impossible that the pure or perfect love which "loves God with all the heart, and our neighbor as ourselves," should rest on any other than a divine and infinite basis. It is of a nature so high, flowing out freely and cheerfully even to those "who hate us and despitefully use us," that it requires and can accept nothing less than God for its author and supporter. This sentiment we have already expressed; but it is so important that it will bear repetition. Man has not strength enough to sustain himself in the exercise of pure love, breathing out, as it does, its aspirations of benevolence towards its enemies, except so far as he rests upon God, and becomes a "partaker of the divine nature."

2. The union of God and man in love implies, in the second place, that man's love must not only be from God so as to be nothing more or less than a stream from the everlasting fountain, but it must flow out without adulteration or modification — in other words, it must be
like God's love.

If we analyze these subjects carefully, especially in the light of a holy experience, we shall find that God's love, as it existed in the primitive and uncreated form, and before any beings were created by him, was, and must have been, of that kind which is termed
benevolential. And this love, as it exists in him now, which consists in a sincere desire for the happiness of all beings, simply because they have a being or existence susceptible of happiness, is now, and always will be, the original and basis of all other true love. It was this love, which, in the bosom of eternity, prompted the plan of salvation. We cannot experience the blessed state of perfect union with God in love, unless our hearts are filled with a love of this kind. Our love must not only have its origin in the divine nature, in God himself, but must be like his. So that it should be our constant prayer, that God would give us a love-nature, which, in being kindled from the eternal fire, will burn of itself; which will send out its divine blaze in the midst of persecutions; and which "many waters cannot quench."

3. Again, the union of God and man in love implies that man's love, in its particular directions, namely, as it flows out to his fellow-men in general, or to particular classes of persons, or to any created objects whatever, must be subjected
to a divine regulation. In other words, it is to be regarded as a fundamental principle in the life of God in the soul, and in the doctrines of divine union, that God must not only give us the power to love, but that he must tell us whom to love. We have no more right to say whom we shall love out of God, than we have to do anything else out of God. In our character of dependent creatures, who have nothing of our own, and who do not know how to use even that which is given us, we have no other resource but to trust God equally for the gift and for the regulation of it. And this is particularly true as respects the affection which we are now considering. Love is not only the highest, the most ennobling, and the most sacred principle of our nature, but it is the most powerful. All history, religious as well as profane, is a testimony to the immensity of its power. Whether for good or for evil, it is the true life of the soul; making it satanic by its alliance with Satan, or divine by its participation in God. Such a principle, which carries with it immortal destinies, should enfold God in it, not only as the source of its life, but as the guide of its movement.

4. Undoubtedly it is the nature, or perhaps we should rather say, the natural
tendency, of holy love, in its benevolential form, to extend itself in every direction, and to all beings. All that is wanting is an occasion for its operation, and such is its nature that it will operate of itself. But a distinction may easily be made between a tendency of the mind and a direction of that tendency. It is the tendency of all rivers to flow to the ocean, but they do not flow there in a straight line; on the contrary, they are continually diversified in accordance with the laws of nature. The rule, applicable in this case to a holy mind, is, that we must leave this tendency under the direction of Providence, and not direct it in our own will. It is true we cannot rightfully be deprived of our own choice; but we are bound to make a right choice, and our choice ought always to be, to let the movements of our hearts be guided by God's choice. The will of the creature is as disastrous here as anywhere else. Let our love, then, flow where Providence indicates that it ought to flow. God, who reveals himself in his providences, and acts through them, and God only, should choose for us.

6. But supposing that the Providence of God places before us, as the objects of our love, those who are exceedingly depraved and vicious, are we bound to love them in that case? Most certainly we are. They are appropriate objects of the love of benevolence; although they are not so of complacential love or of unitive love. And benevolential love, which loves existences simply because they have an existence, is the primitive form of love, and the basis of all other forms. This is the first or original form of love in God and in all holy beings.

As the appropriate object of this form of love is existence in distinction from character, it will naturally direct itself, in an especial manner, towards those whom Providence has particularly associated with us, no matter what their characters may be. The mere fact of sentient existence, presented before us as an object of contemplation, will stir up the waters at the heart's fountain; but the relations of Providence will indicate the channels in which they must flow. Our relatives and others, with whom we are particularly associated in providence, may be very wicked. But the fact of their wickedness does not destroy the other and everlasting fact, that they are accountable existences; that they have immortal souls; that they are capable of great happiness or great misery. Fallen, degraded, miserable, they may be; but if we are like God, how can we help loving them? God is a fountain of love, flowing out continually towards all his creatures, sparing not even his own Son to save and bless them, and showing, more than in any other way, his love to those who are his enemies.

6. We may withhold from the wicked, esteem, respect, gratitude, honor; we may require of them penitence; we may be willing to see them suffer so far as justice requires them to suffer; but we should never withhold love. We never can withhold it without crime. And if we must love the wicked, who are placed before us in providence, certainly we must love the good. But in neither case are we allowed to love, as to persons or degree, otherwise than God directs. The limitation of our capacity and position implies, although the
tendency of the love of benevolence is to love all alike, that we cannot love all alike in fact. And a proper sense of that limitation will lead us to prefer that God should make the selection rather than that we should make it ourselves. Providence, to those who have perfect faith, is an infallible guide.

7. Look, then, constantly to God, here as elsewhere. Recognizing the great fact, that thou hast no fountain in thyself, let thy heart be fed from God's heart. The same in source, let thy love be the same in character; a love that loves without looking for reward. And then, placed entirely under God's direction, let the stream of love flow out and flow on. Under such conditions, it is certain, that God's and man's affections cannot be discordant. And it is in such a state of things that God and man may be said
to be united in love.