On Loving God






















                         By Bernard, of Clairvaux, (1090 or 91-1153)


                            Made available to the net by Paul Halsall               





               ON LOVING GOD


                                      by St. Bernard of Clairvaux






   To the illustrious Lord Haimeric, Cardinal Deacon of the Roman Church,

   and Chancellor: Bernard, called Abbot of Clairvaux, wishes long life

   in the Lord and death in the Lord.


   Hitherto you have been wont to seek prayers from me, not the solving of

   problems; although I count myself sufficient for neither. My profession

   shows that, if not my conversation; and to speak truth, I lack the

   diligence and the ability that are most essential. Yet I am glad that

   you turn again for spiritual counsel, instead of busying yourself about

   carnal matters. I only wish you had gone to some one better equipped

   than I am. Still, learned and simple give the same excuse and one can

   hardly tell whether it comes from modesty or from ignorance, unless

   obedience to the task assigned shall reveal. So, take from my poverty

   what I can give you, lest I should seem to play the philosopher, by

   reason of my silence. Only, I do not promise to answer other questions

   you may raise. This one, as to loving God, I will deal with as He shall

   teach me; for it is sweetest, it can be handled most safely, and it

   will be most profitable. Keep the others for wiser men.



                       Chapter I.


  Why we should love God and the measure of that love


   You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer,

   the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due

   to Him is immeasurable love. Is this plain? Doubtless, to a thoughtful

   man; but I am debtor to the unwise also. A word to the wise is

   sufficient; but I must consider simple folk too. Therefore I set myself

   joyfully to explain more in detail what is meant above.


   We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is

   more reasonable, nothing more profitable. When one asks, Why should I

   love God? he may mean, What is lovely in God? or What shall I gain by

   loving God? In either case, the same sufficient cause of love exists,

   namely, God Himself.


   And first, of His title to our love. Could any title be greater than

   this, that He gave Himself for us unworthy wretches? And being God,

   what better gift could He offer than Himself? Hence, if one seeks for

   God's claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved

   us (I John 4.19).


   Ought He not to be loved in return, when we think who loved, whom He

   loved, and how much He loved? For who is He that loved? The same of

   whom every spirit testifies: You are my God: my goods are nothing unto

   you' (Ps. 16.2, Vulg.). And is not His love that wonderful charity

   which seeks not her own'? (I Cor.13.5). But for whom was such

   unutterable love made manifest? The apostle tells us: When we were

   enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son' (Rom.

   5.10). So it was God who loved us, loved us freely, and loved us while

   yet we were enemies. And how great was this love of His? St. John

   answers: God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,

   that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting

   life' (John 3.16). St. Paul adds: He spared not His own Son, but

   delivered Him up for us all' (Rom. 8.32); and the son says of Himself,

   Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for

   his friends' (John 15.13).


   This is the claim which God the holy, the supreme, the omnipotent, has

   upon men, defiled and base and weak. Someone may urge that this is

   true of mankind, but not of angels. True, since for angels it was not

   needful. He who succored men in their time of need, preserved angels

   from such need; and even as His love for sinful men wrought wondrously

   in them so that they should not remain sinful, so that same love which

   in equal measure He poured out upon angels kept them altogether free

   from sin.



                     Chapter II.


  On loving God. How much God deserves love from man in recognition of His

  gifts, both material and spiritual. And how these gifts should be cherished

  without neglect of the Giver.


   Those who admit the truth of what I have said know, I am sure, why we

   are bound to love God. But if unbelievers will not grant it, their

   ingratitude is at once confounded by His innumerable benefits, lavished

   on our race, and plainly discerned by the senses. Who is it that gives

   food to all flesh, light to every eye, air to all that breathe? It

   would be foolish to begin a catalogue, since I have just called them

   innumerable: but I name, as notable instances, food, sunlight and air;

   not because they are God's best gifts, but because they are essential

   to bodily life. Man must seek in his own higher nature for the highest

   gifts; and these are dignity, wisdom and virtue. By dignity I mean

   free-will, whereby he not only excels all other earthly creatures, but

   has dominion over them. Wisdom is the power whereby he recognizes this

   dignity, and perceives also that it is no accomplishment of his own.

   And virtue impels man to seek eagerly for Him who is man's Source, and

   to lay fast hold on Him when He has been found.


   Now, these three best gifts have each a twofold character. Dignity

   appears not only as the prerogative of human nature, but also as the

   cause of that fear and dread of man which is upon every beast of the

   earth. Wisdom perceives this distinction, but owns that though in us,

   it is, like all good qualities, not of us. And lastly, virtue moves us

   to search eagerly for an Author, and, when we have found Him, teaches

   us to cling to Him yet more eagerly. Consider too that dignity without

   wisdom is nothing worth; and wisdom is harmful without virtue, as this

   argument following shows. There is no glory in having a gift without

   knowing it. But to know only that you have it, without knowing that it

   is not of yourself that you have it, means self-glorying, but no true

   glory in God. And so the apostle says to men in such cases, What hast

   you that you did not receive? Now, if you did receive it, why

   do you glory as if you had not received it? (I Cor. 4.7). He

   asks, Why do you glory? but goes on, as if you had not received

   it, showing that the guilt is not in glorying over a possession, but in

   glorying as though it had not been received. And rightly such glorying

   is called vain-glory, since it has not the solid foundation of truth.

   The apostle shows how to discern the true glory from the false, when he

   says, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord, that is, in the

   Truth, since our Lord is Truth (I Cor. 1.31; John 14.6).


   We must know, then, what we are, and that it is not of ourselves that

   we are what we are. Unless we know this thoroughly, either we shall not

   glory at all, or our glorying will be vain. Finally, it is written, If

   you know not, go your way forth by the footsteps of the flock' (Cant.

   1.8). And this is right. For man, being in honor, if he know not his

   own honor, may fitly be compared, because of such ignorance, to the

   beasts that perish. Not knowing himself as the creature that is

   distinguished from the irrational brutes by the possession of reason,

   he commences to be confounded with them because, ignorant of his own

   true glory which is within, he is led captive by his curiosity, and

   concerns himself with external, sensual things. So he is made to

   resemble the lower orders by not knowing that he has been more highly

   endowed than they.


   We must be on our guard against this ignorance. We must not rank

   ourselves too low; and with still greater care we must see that we do

   not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, as happens

   when we foolishly impute to ourselves whatever good may be in us. But

   far more than either of these kinds of ignorance, we must hate and shun

   that presumption which would lead us to glory in goods not our own,

   knowing that they are not of ourselves but of God, and yet not fearing

   to rob God of the honor due unto Him. For mere ignorance, as in the

   first instance, does not glory at all; and mere wisdom, as in the

   second, while it has a kind of glory, yet does not glory in the Lord.

   In the third evil case, however, man sins not in ignorance but

   deliberately, usurping the glory which belongs to God. And this

   arrogance is a more grievous and deadly fault than the ignorance of the

   second, since it contemns God, while the other knows Him not. Ignorance

   is brutal, arrogance is devilish. Pride only, the chief of all

   iniquities, can make us treat gifts as if they were rightful attributes

   of our nature, and, while receiving benefits, rob our Benefactor of His

   due glory.


   Wherefore to dignity and wisdom we must add virtue, the proper fruit of

   them both. Virtue seeks and finds Him who is the Author and Giver of

   all good, and who must be in all things glorified; otherwise, one who

   knows what is right yet fails to perform it, will be beaten with many

   stripes (Luke 12.47). Why? you may ask. Because he has failed to put

   his knowledge to good effect, but rather has imagined mischief upon his

   bed (Ps. 36.4); like a wicked servant, he has turned aside to seize the

   glory which, his own knowledge assured him, belonged only to his good

   Lord and Master. It is plain, therefore, that dignity without wisdom is

   useless and that wisdom without virtue is accursed. But when one

   possesses virtue, then wisdom and dignity are not dangerous but

   blessed. Such a man calls on God and lauds Him, confessing from a full

   heart, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name give glory'

   (Ps. 115.1). Which is to say, O Lord, we claim no knowledge, no

   distinction for ourselves; all is your, since from you all things do



   But we have digressed too far in the wish to prove that even those who

   know not Christ are sufficiently admonished by the natural law, and by

   their own endowments of soul and body, to love God for God's own sake.

   To sum up: what infidel does not know that he has received light, air,

   and food--all things necessary for his own body's life--from Him alone who

   gives food to all flesh (Ps. 136.25), who makes His sun to rise on

   the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the

   unjust (Matt. 5.45). Who is so impious as to attribute the peculiar

   eminence of humanity to any other except to Him who says, in Genesis,

   Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness'? (Gen. 1.26). Who

   else could be the Bestower of wisdom, but He that teaches man

   knowledge? (Ps. 94.10). Who else could bestow virtue except the Lord of

   virtue? Therefore even the infidel who knows not Christ but does at

   least know himself, is bound to love God for God's own sake. He is

   unpardonable if he does not love the Lord his God with all his heart,

   and with all his soul, and with all his mind; for his own innate

   justice and common sense cry out from within that he is bound wholly to

   love God, from whom he has received all things. But it is hard, nay

   rather, impossible, for a man by his own strength or in the power of

   free-will to render all things to God from whom they came, without

   rather turning them aside, each to his own account, even as it is

   written, For all seek their own' (Phil. 2.21); and again, The

   imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth' (Gen. 8.21).




                   Chapter III.


  What greater incentives Christians have, more than the heathen, to love God


   The faithful know how much need they have of Jesus and Him crucified;

   but though they wonder and rejoice at the ineffable love made manifest

   in Him, they are not daunted at having no more than their own poor

   souls to give in return for such great and condescending charity. They

   love all the more, because they know themselves to be loved so

   exceedingly; but to whom little is given the same loves little (Luke

   7.47). Neither Jew nor pagan feels the pangs of love as does the

   Church, which says, Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for

   I am sick of love' (Cant. 2.5). She beholds to King Solomon, with the

   crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals; she

   sees the Sole-begotten of the Father bearing the heavy burden of His

   Cross; she sees the Lord of all power and might bruised and spat upon,

   the Author of life and glory transfixed with nails, smitten by the

   lance, overwhelmed with mockery, and at last laying down His precious

   life for His friends. Contemplating this the sword of love pierces

   through her own soul also and she cries aloud, Stay me with flagons,

   comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.' The fruits which the

   Spouse gathers from the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden of her

   Beloved, are pomegranates (Cant. 4.13), borrowing their taste from the

   Bread of heaven, and their color from the Blood of Christ. She sees

   death dying and its author overthrown: she beholds captivity led

   captive from hell to earth, from earth to heaven, so that at the name

   of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth

   and things under the earth' (Phil. 2.10). The earth under the ancient

   curse brought forth thorns and thistles; but now the Church beholds it

   laughing with flowers and restored by the grace of a new benediction.

   Mindful of the verse, My heart dances for joy, and in my song will I

   praise Him', she refreshes herself with the fruits of His Passion which

   she gathers from the Tree of the Cross, and with the flowers of His

   Resurrection whose fragrance invites the frequent visits of her Spouse.


   Then it is that He exclaims, Behold you are fair, My beloved, yea

   pleasant: also our bed is green' (Cant. 1.16). She shows her desire for

   His coming and whence she hopes to obtain it; not because of her own

   merits but because of the flowers of that field which God has blessed.

   Christ who willed to be conceived and brought up in Nazareth, that is,

   the town of branches, delights in such blossoms. Pleased by such

   heavenly fragrance the bridegroom rejoices to revisit the heart's

   chamber when He finds it adorned with fruits and decked with

   flowers--that is, meditating on the mystery of His Passion or on the

   glory of His Resurrection.


   The tokens of the Passion we recognize as the fruitage of the ages of

   the past, appearing in the fullness of time during the reign of sin and

   death (Gal. 4.4). But it is the glory of the Resurrection, in the new

   springtime of regenerating grace, that the fresh flowers of the later

   age come forth, whose fruit shall be given without measure at the

   general resurrection, when time shall be no more. And so it is written,

   The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on

   the earth' (Cant. 2.11 f); signifying that summer has come back with

   Him who dissolves icy death into the spring of a new life and says,

   Behold, I make all things new' (Rev. 21.5). His Body sown in the grave

   has blossomed in the Resurrection (I Cor. 15.42); and in like manner

   our valleys and fields which were barren or frozen, as if dead, glow

   with reviving life and warmth.


   The Father of Christ who makes all things new, is well pleased with the

   freshness of those flowers and fruits, and the beauty of the field

   which breathes forth such heavenly fragrance; and He says in

   benediction, See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field which

   the Lord has blessed' (Gen. 27.27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed,

   since of His fullness have all we received (John 1.16). But the Bride

   may come when she pleases and gather flowers and fruits therewith to

   adorn the inmost recesses of her conscience; that the Bridegroom when

   He comes may find the chamber of her heart redolent with perfume.


   So it behoves us, if we would have Christ for a frequent guest, to fill

   our hearts with faithful meditations on the mercy He showed in dying

   for us, and on His mighty power in rising again from the dead. To this

   David testified when he sang, God spake once, and twice I have also

   heard the same; that power belonges to God; and that you, Lord, are

   merciful (Ps. 62.11f). And surely there is proof enough and to spare in

   that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and

   ascended into heaven that He might protect us from on high, and sent

   the Holy Spirit for our comfort. Hereafter He will come again for the

   consummation of our bliss. In His Death He displayed His mercy, in His

   Resurrection His power; both combine to manifest His glory.


   The Bride desires to be stayed with flagons and comforted with apples,

   because she knows how easily the warmth of love can languish and grow

   cold; but such helps are only until she has entered into the bride

   chamber. There she will receive His long-desired caresses even as she

   sighs, His left hand is under my head and His right hand does embrace

   me' (Cant. 2.6). Then she will perceive how far the embrace of the

   right hand excels all sweetness, and that the left hand with which He

   at first caressed her cannot be compared to it. She will understand

   what she has heard. It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh

   profits nothing' (John 6.63). She will prove what she has read: My

   memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the

   honey-comb' (Ecclus. 24.20). What is written elsewhere, The memorial of

   your abundant kindness shall be showed' (Ps. 145.7), refers doubtless

   to those of whom the Psalmist had said just before: One generation

   shall praise your works unto another and declare your power' (Ps. 145.4).

   Among us on the earth there is His memory; but in the Kingdom of heaven

   His very Presence. That Presence is the joy of those who have already

   attained to beatitude; the memory is the comfort of us who are still

   wayfarers, journeying towards the Fatherland.



                   Chapter IV.


  Of those who find comfort in their collection of God, or are fittest for His



   But it will be well to note what class of people takes comfort in the

   thought of God. Surely not that perverse and crooked generation to whom

   it was said, Woe unto you that are rich; for you have received your

   consolation' (Luke 6.24). Rather, those who can say with truth, My soul

   refuses comfort' (Ps. 77.2). For it is meet that those who are not

   satisfied by the present should be sustained by the thought of the

   future, and that the contemplation of eternal happiness should solace

   those who scorn to drink from the river of transitory joys. That is the

   generation of them that seek the Lord, even of them that seek, not

   their own, but the face of the God of Jacob. To them that long for the

   presence of the living God, the thought of Him is sweetest itself: but

   there is no satiety, rather an ever-increasing appetite, even as the

   Scripture bears witness, they that eat me shall yet be hungry' (Ecclus.

   24.21); and if the one an-hungred spake, When I awake up after your

   likeness, I shall be satisfied with it.' Yea, blessed even now are they

   which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they, and they

   only, shall be filled. Woe to you, wicked and perverse generation; woe

   to you, foolish and abandoned people, who hate Christ's memory, and

   dread His second Advent! Well may you fear, who will not now seek

   deliverance from the snare of the hunter; because they that will be

   rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and

   hurtful lusts' (I Tim. 6.9). In that day we shall not escape the

   dreadful sentence of condemnation, Depart from Me, you cursed, into

   everlasting fire' (Matt. 25.41). O dreadful sentence indeed, O hard

   saying! How much harder to bear than that other saying which we repeat

   daily in church, in memory of the Passion: Whoso eats My flesh and

   drinks My blood has eternal life' (John 6.54). That signifies, whoso

   honors My death and after My example mortifies his members which are

   upon the earth (Col. 3.5) shall have eternal life, even as the apostle

   says, If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him' (II Tim. 2.12). And

   yet many even today recoil from these words and go away, saying by

   their action if not with their lips, This is a hard saying; who can

   hear it?' (John 6.60). A generation that set not their heart aright,

   and whose spirit cleaves not steadfastly unto God' (Ps. 78.8), but

   chooses rather to trust in uncertain riches, it is disturbed at the

   very name of the Cross, and counts the memory of the Passion

   intolerable. How can such sustain the burden of that fearful sentence,

   Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the

   devil and his angels'? On whomever that stone shall fall it will

   grind him to powder' (Luke 20.18); but the generation of the faithful

   shall be blessed' (Ps. 112.2), since, like the apostle, they labor that

   whether present or absent they may be accepted of the Lord (II Cor.

   5.9). At the last day they too shall hear the Judge pronounce their

   award, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for

   you from the foundation of the world' (Matt. 25.34).


   In that day those who set not their hearts aright will feel, too late,

   how easy is Christ's yoke, to which they would not bend their necks and

   how light His burden, in comparison with the pains they must then

   endure. O wretched slaves of Mammon, you cannot glory in the Cross of

   our Lord Jesus Christ while you trust in treasures laid up on earth.

   You cannot taste and see how gracious the Lord is, while you are

   hungering for gold. If you have not rejoiced at the thought of His

   coming, that day will be indeed a day of wrath to you.


   But the believing soul longs and faints for God; she rests sweetly in

   the contemplation of Him. She glories in the reproach of the Cross,

   until the glory of His face shall be revealed. Like the Bride, the dove

   of Christ, that is covered with silver wings (Ps. 68.13), white with

   innocence and purity, she reposes in the thought of your abundant

   kindness, Lord Jesus; and above all she longs for that day when in the

   joyful splendor of your saints, gleaming with the radiance of the

   Beatific Vision, her feathers shall be like gold, resplendent with the

   joy of your countenance.


   Rightly then may she exult, His left hand is under my head and His

   right hand embraces me.' The left hand signifies the memory of that

   matchless love, which moved Him to lay down His life for His friends;

   and the right hand is the Beatific Vision which He has promised to His

   own, and the delight they have in His presence. The Psalmist sings

   rapturously, At your right hand there is pleasure for evermore' (Ps.

   16.11).  So we are warranted in explaining the right hand as that divine

   and deifying joy of His presence.


   Rightly too is that wondrous and ever-memorable love symbolized as His

   left hand, upon which the Bride rests her head until iniquity be done

   away.  For He sustains the purpose of her mind, lest it should be turned

   aside to earthly, carnal desires. For the flesh wars against the

   spirit. The corruptible body presses down the soul, and the earthly

   tabernacle weighes down the mind that muses upon many things' (Wisdom

   9.15). What could result from the contemplation of compassion so

   marvelous and so undeserved, favor so free and so well attested,

   kindness so unexpected, clemency so unconquerable, grace so amazing

   except that the soul should withdraw from all sinful affections, reject

   all that is inconsistent with God's love, and yield herself wholly to

   heavenly things? No wonder is it that the Bride, moved by the perfume

   of these unctions, runs swiftly, all on fire with love, yet reckons

   herself as loving all too little in return for the Bridegroom's love.

   And rightly, since it is no great matter that a little dust should be

   all consumed with love of that Majesty which loved her first and which

   revealed itself as wholly bent on saving her. For God so loved the

   world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in

   Him should not perish but have everlasting life' (John 3.16). This sets

   forth the Father's love. But He has poured out His soul unto death,'

   was written of the Son (Isa. 53.12). And of the Holy Spirit it is said,

   The Comforter which is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My

   name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your

   remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you' (John 14.26). It is

   plain, therefore, that God loves us, and loves us with all His heart;

   for the Holy Trinity altogether loves us, if we may venture so to speak

   of the infinite and incomprehensible Godhead who is essentially one.



                     Chapter V.


  Of the Christian's debt of love, how great it is


   From the contemplation of what has been said, we see plainly that God

   is to be loved, and that He has a just claim upon our love. But the

   infidel does not acknowledge the Son of God, and so he can know neither

   love the Father nor the Holy Spirit; for he that honours not the Son,

   honours not the Father which sent Him, nor the Spirit whom He has

   sent (John 5.23). He knows less of God than we; no wonder that he loves

   God less. This much he understands at least--that he owes all he is to

   his Creator. But how will it be with me? For I know that my God is not

   merely the bounteous Bestower of my life, the generous Provider for all

   my needs, the pitiful Consoler of all my sorrows, the wise Guide of my

   course: but that He is far more than all that. He saves me with an

   abundant deliverance.  He is my eternal Preserver, the portion of my

   inheritance, my glory. Even so it is written, With Him is plenteous

   redemption' (Ps. 130.7); and again, He entered in once into the holy

   place, having obtained eternal redemption for us' (Heb. 9.12). Of His

   salvation it is written, He forsakes not His that be godly; but they

   are preserved for ever' (Ps. 37.28); and of His bounty, Good measure,

   pressed down and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into

   your bosom' (Luke 6.38); and in another place, Eye has not seen nor

   ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, those things

   which God has prepared for them that love Him' (I Cor. 2.9). He will

   glorify us, even as the apostle beares witness, saying, We look for

   the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that

   it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body' (Phil. 3.20f); and

   again, I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy

   to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Rom.

   8.18); and once more, Our light affliction, which is but for a moment,

   works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while

   we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are

   not seen (II Cor. 4.17f).


   'What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?'

   (Ps. 116.12). Reason and natural justice alike move me to give up

   myself wholly to loving Him to whom I owe all that I have and am. But

   faith shows me that I should love Him far more than I love myself, as I

   come to realize that He has given me not my own life only, but even

   Himself. Yet, before the time of full revelation had come, before the

   Word was made flesh, died on the Cross, came forth from the grave, and

   returned to His Father; before God had shown us how much He loved us by

   all this plenitude of grace, the commandment had been uttered, you

   shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul

   and with all your might' (Deut. 6.5), that is, with all your being, all

   your knowledge, all your powers. And it was not unjust for God to claim

   this from His own work and gifts. Why should not the creature love his

   Creator, who gave him the power to love? Why should he not love Him

   with all his being, since it is by His gift alone that he can do

   anything that is good? It was God's creative grace that out of

   nothingness raised us to the dignity of manhood; and from this appears

   our duty to love Him, and the justice of His claim to that love. But

   how infinitely is the benefit increased when we bethink ourselves of

   His fulfillment of the promise, you, Lord, shalt save both man and

   beast: how excellent is your mercy, O Lord! ' (Ps. 36.6f.). For we, who

   turned our glory into the similitude of a calf that eats hay' (Ps.

   106.20), by our evil deeds debased ourselves so that we might be

   compared unto the beasts that perish. I owe all that I am to Him who

   made me: but how can I pay my debt to Him who redeemed me, and in such

   wondrous wise? Creation was not so vast a work as redemption; for it is

   written of man and of all things that were made, He spake the word, and

   they were made' (Ps. 148.5). But to redeem that creation which sprang

   into being at His word, how much He spake, what wonders He wrought,

   what hardships He endured, what shames He suffered! Therefore what

   reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits which He has

   done unto me? In the first creation He gave me myself; but in His new

   creation He gave me Himself, and by that gift restored to me the self

   that I had lost. Created first and then restored, I owe Him myself

   twice over in return for myself. But what have I to offer Him for the

   gift of Himself? Could I multiply myself a thousand-fold and then give

   Him all, what would that be in comparison with God?



                   Chapter VI.


  A brief summary


   Admit that God deserves to be loved very much, yea, boundlessly,

   because He loved us first. He infinite and we nothing, loved us,

   miserable sinners, with a love so great and so free. This is why I said

   at the beginning that the measure of our love to God is to love

   immeasurably. For since our love is toward God, who is infinite and

   immeasurable, how can we bound or limit the love we owe Him? Besides,

   our love is not a gift but a debt. And since it is the Godhead who

   loves us, Himself boundless, eternal, supreme love, of whose greatness

   there is no end, yea, and His wisdom is infinite, whose peace passes

   all understanding; since it is He who loves us, I say, can we think of

   repaying Him grudgingly? I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The

   Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my strength,

   in whom I will trust' (Ps. 18.1f). He is all that I need, all that I

   long for. My God and my help, I will love you for your great goodness;

   not so much as I might, surely, but as much as I can. I cannot love

   you as you deserve to be loved, for I cannot love you more than my

   own feebleness permits. I will love you more when you deem me

   worthy to receive greater capacity for loving; yet never so perfectly

   as you have deserved of me. Your eyes did see my substance, yet being

   unperfect; and in your book all my members were written' (Ps. 139.16).

   Yet you record in that book all who do what they can, even though

   they cannot do what they ought. Surely I have said enough to show how

   God should be loved and why. But who has felt, who can know, who

   express, how much we should love him.



                    Chapter VII.


  Of love toward God not without reward and how the hunger of man's heart

  cannot be satisfied with earthly things


   And now let us consider what profit we shall have from loving God. Even

   though our knowledge of this is imperfect, still that is better than to

   ignore it altogether. I have already said (when it was a question of

   wherefore and in what manner God should be loved) that there was a

   double reason constraining us: His right and our advantage. Having

   written as best I can, though unworthily, of God's right to be loved, I

   have still to treat of the recompense which that love brings. For

   although God would be loved without respect of reward, yet He wills not

   to leave love unrewarded. True charity cannot be left destitute, even

   though she is unselfish and seeks not her own (I Cor. 13.5). Love is

   an affection of the soul, not a contract.  It cannot rise from a mere

   agreement, nor is it so to be gained. It is spontaneous in its origin

   and impulse; and true love is its own satisfaction. It has its reward;

   but that reward is the object beloved. For whatever you seem to love,

   if it is on account of something else, what you do really love is that

   something else, not the apparent object of desire. St. Paul did not

   preach the Gospel that he might earn his bread; he ate that he might be

   strengthened for his ministry. What he loved was not bread, but the

   Gospel. True love does not demand a reward, but it deserves one. Surely

   no one offers to pay for love; yet some recompense is due to one who

   loves, and if his love endures he will doubtless receive it.


   On a lower plane of action, it is the reluctant, not the eager, whom we

   urge by promises of reward. Who would think of paying a man to do what

   he was yearning to do already? For instance no one would hire a hungry

   man to eat, or a thirsty man to drink, or a mother to nurse her own

   child. Who would think of bribing a farmer to dress his own vineyard,

   or to dig about his orchard, or to rebuild his house? So, all the more,

   one who loves God truly asks no other recompense than God Himself; for

   if he should demand anything else it would be the prize that he loved

   and not God.


   It is natural for a man to desire what he reckons better than that

   which he has already, and be satisfied with nothing which lacks that

   special quality which he misses. Thus, if it is for her beauty that he

   loves his wife, he will cast longing eyes after a fairer woman. If he

   is clad in a rich garment, he will covet a costlier one; and no matter

   how rich he may be he will envy a man richer than himself. Do we not

   see people every day, endowed with vast estates, who keep on joining

   field to field, dreaming of wider boundaries for their lands? Those who

   dwell in palaces are ever adding house to house, continually building

   up and tearing down, remodeling and changing. Men in high places are

   driven by insatiable ambition to clutch at still greater prizes. And

   nowhere is there any final satisfaction, because nothing there can be

   defined as absolutely the best or highest. But it is natural that

   nothing should content a man's desires but the very best, as he reckons

   it. Is it not, then, mad folly always to be craving for things which

   can never quiet our longings, much less satisfy them? No matter how

   many such things one has, he is always lusting after what he has not;

   never at peace, he sighs for new possessions. Discontented, he spends

   himself in fruitless toil, and finds only weariness in the evanescent

   and unreal pleasures of the world. In his greediness, he counts all

   that he has clutched as nothing in comparison with what is beyond his

   grasp, and loses all pleasure in his actual possessions by longing

   after what he has not, yet covets. No man can ever hope to own all

   things. Even the little one does possess is got only with toil and is

   held in fear; since each is certain to lose what he has when God's

   day, appointed though unrevealed, shall come. But the perverted will

   struggles towards the ultimate good by devious ways, yearning after

   satisfaction, yet led astray by vanity and deceived by wickedness. Ah,

   if you wish to attain to the consummation of all desire, so that

   nothing unfulfilled will be left, why weary yourself with fruitless

   efforts, running hither and thither, only to die long before the goal

   is reached?


   It is so that these impious ones wander in a circle, longing after

   something to gratify their yearnings, yet madly rejecting that which

   alone can bring them to their desired end, not by exhaustion but by

   attainment. They wear themselves out in vain travail, without reaching

   their blessed consummation, because they delight in creatures, not in

   the Creator. They want to traverse creation, trying all things one by

   one, rather than think of coming to Him who is Lord of all. And if

   their utmost longing were realized, so that they should have all the

   world for their own, yet without possessing Him who is the Author of

   all being, then the same law of their desires would make them contemn

   what they had and restlessly seek Him whom they still lacked, that is,

   God Himself. Rest is in Him alone. Man knows no peace in the world; but

   he has no disturbance when he is with God. And so the soul says with

   confidence, Whom have I in heaven but you; and there is none upon

   earth that I desire in comparison with you. God is the strength of my

   heart, and my portion forever. It is good for me to hold me fast by

   God, to put my trust in the Lord God' (Ps. 73.25ff). Even by this way

   one would eventually come to God, if only he might have time to test

   all lesser goods in turn.


   But life is too short, strength too feeble, and competitors too many,

   for that course to be practicable. One could never reach the end,

   though he were to weary himself with the long effort and fruitless toil

   of testing everything that might seem desirable. It would be far easier

   and better to make the assay in imagination rather than in experiment.

   For the mind is swifter in operation and keener in discrimination than

   the bodily senses, to this very purpose that it may go before the

   sensuous affections so that they may cleave to nothing which the mind

   has found worthless. And so it is written, Prove all things: hold fast

   that which is good' (I Thess. 5.21). Which is to say that right

   judgment should prepare the way for the heart. Otherwise we may not

   ascend into the hill of the Lord nor rise up in His holy place (Ps.

   24.3). We should have no profit in possessing a rational mind if we

   were to follow the impulse of the senses, like brute beasts, with no

   regard at all to reason. Those whom reason does not guide in their

   course may indeed run, but not in the appointed race-track, neglecting

   the apostolic counsel, So run that you may obtain'. For how could they

   obtain the prize who put that last of all in their endeavor and run

   round after everything else first?


   But as for the righteous man, it is not so with him. He remembers the

   condemnation pronounced on the multitude who wander after vanity, who

   travel the broad way that leads to death (Matt. 7.13); and he chooses

   the King's highway, turning aside neither to the right hand nor to the

   left (Num. 20.17), even as the prophet saith, The way of the just is

   uprightness (Isa. 26.7). Warned by wholesome counsel he shuns the

   perilous road, and heeds the direction that shortens the search,

   forbidding covetousness and commanding that he sell all that he has

   and give to the poor (Matt. 19.21). Blessed, truly, are the poor, for

   theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5.3). They which run in a race,

   run all, but distinction is made among the racers. The Lord knows the

   way of the righteous: and the way of the ungodly shall perish' (Ps.

   1.6). A small thing that the righteous has is better than great riches

   of the ungodly' (Ps. 37.16). Even as the Preacher saith, and the fool

   discovers, He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver'

   (Eccles. 5.10). But Christ saith, Blessed are they which do hunger and

   thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled' (Matt. 5.6).

   Righteousness is the natural and essential food of the soul, which can

   no more be satisfied by earthly treasures than the hunger of the body

   can be satisfied by air. If you should see a starving man standing with

   mouth open to the wind, inhaling draughts of air as if in hope of

   gratifying his hunger, you would think him lunatic. But it is no less

   foolish to imagine that the soul can be satisfied with worldly things

   which only inflate it without feeding it. What have spiritual gifts to

   do with carnal appetites, or carnal with spiritual? Praise the Lord, O

   my soul: who satisfies your mouth with good things (Ps. 103.1ff). He

   bestows bounty immeasurable; He provokes you to good, He preserves

   you in goodness; He prevents, He sustains, He fills you. He moves

   you to longing, and it is He for whom you long.


   I have said already that the motive for loving God is God Himself. And

   I spoke truly, for He is as well the efficient cause as the final

   object of our love. He gives the occasion for love, He creates the

   affection, He brings the desire to good effect. He is such that love to

   Him is a natural due; and so hope in Him is natural, since our present

   love would be vain did we not hope to love Him perfectly some day. Our

   love is prepared and rewarded by His. He loves us first, out of His

   great tenderness; then we are bound to repay Him with love; and we are

   permitted to cherish exultant hopes in Him. He is rich unto all that

   call upon Him' (Rom. 10.12), yet He has no gift for them better than

   Himself. He gives Himself as prize and reward. He is the refreshment of

   holy soul, the ransom of those in captivity. The Lord is good unto them

   that wait for Him' (Lam. 3.25). What will He be then to those who gain

   His presence? But here is a paradox, that no one can seek the Lord who

   has not already found Him. It is your will, O God, to be found that you

   may be sought, to be sought that you may the more truly be

   found. But though you can be sought and found, you cannot be

   forestalled. For if we say, Early shall my prayer come before you'

   (Ps. 88.13), yet doubtless all prayer would be lukewarm unless it was

   animated by your inspiration.


   We have spoken of the consummation of love towards God, now to consider

   whence such love begins.



                 Chapter VIII.


  Of the first degree of love: wherein man loves God for self's sake


   Love is one of the four natural affections, which it is needless to

   name since everyone knows them. And because love is natural, it is only

   right to love the Author of nature first of all. Hence comes the first

   and great commandment, you shall love the Lord your God.' But nature is

   so frail and weak that necessity compels her to love herself first; and

   this is carnal love, wherewith man loves himself first and selfishly,

   as it is written, That was not first which is spiritual but that which

   is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual' (I Cor. 15.46). This

   is not as the precept ordains but as nature directs: No man ever yet

   hated his own flesh' (Eph. 5.29). But if, as is likely, this same love

   should grow excessive and, refusing to be contained within the

   restraining banks of necessity, should overflow into the fields of

   voluptuousness, then a command checks the flood, as if by a dike: you

   shall love your neighbor as yourself'. And this is right, for he who

   shares our nature should share our love, itself the fruit of nature.

   Wherefore if a man find it a burden, I will not say only to relieve his

   brother's needs, but to minister to his brother's pleasures, let him

   mortify those same affections in himself, lest he become a

   transgressor. He may cherish himself as tenderly as he chooses, if only

   he remembers to show the same indulgence to his neighbor. This is the

   curb of temperance imposed on you, O man, by the law of life and

   conscience, lest you should follow your own lusts to destruction,

   or become enslaved by those passions which are the enemies of thy true

   welfare. Far better divide your enjoyments with your neighbor than with

   these enemies. And if, after the counsel of the son of Sirach, you

   go not after your desires but refrain yourself from your appetites

   (Ecclus. 18.30); if according to the apostolic precept having food and

   raiment you are therewith content (I Tim. 6.8), then you will find it

   easy to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and to

   divide with your neighbors what you have refused to your own desires.

   That is a temperate and righteous love which practices self-denial in

   order to minister to a brother's necessity. So our selfish love grows

   truly social, when it includes our neighbors in its circle.


   But if you are reduced to want by such benevolence, what then? What

   indeed, except to pray with all confidence unto Him who gives to all

   men liberally and upbraides not (James 1.5), who opens His hand and

   fills all things living with plenteousness (Ps. 145.16). For

   doubtless He that gives to most men more than they need will not fail

   you as to the necessaries of life, even as He has promised. Seek

   the Kingdom of God, and all those things shall be added unto you' (Luke

   12.31). God freely promises all things needful to those who deny

   themselves for love of their neighbors; and to bear the yoke of modesty

   and sobriety, rather than to let sin reign in our mortal body (Rom.

   6.12), that is indeed to seek the Kingdom of God and to implore His aid

   against the tyranny of sin. It is surely justice to share our natural

   gifts with those who share our nature.


   But if we are to love our neighbors as we ought, we must have regard to

   God also; for it is only in God that we can pay that debt of love

   aright. Now a man cannot love his neighbor in God, except he love God

   Himself; wherefore we must love God first, in order to love our

   neighbors in Him. This too, like all good things, is the Lord's doing,

   that we should love Him, for He has endowed us with the possibility of

   love. He who created nature sustains it; nature is so constituted that

   its Maker is its protector forever. Without Him nature could not have

   begun to be; without Him it could not subsist at all. That we might not

   be ignorant of this, or vainly attribute to ourselves the beneficence

   of our Creator, God has determined in the depths of His wise counsel

   that we should be subject to tribulations. So when man's strength fails

   and God comes to his aid, it is meet and right that man, rescued by

   God's hand, should glorify Him, as it is written, Call upon Me in the

   time of trouble; so will I hear you, and you shall praise Me' (Ps.

   50.15). In such wise man, animal and carnal by nature, and loving only

   himself, begins to love God by reason of that very self-love; since he

   learns that in God he can accomplish all things that are good, and that

   without God he can do nothing.



                    Chapter IX.


  Of the second and third degrees of love

   So then in the beginning man loves God, not for God's sake, but for his

   own. It is something for him to know how little he can do by himself

   and how much by God's help, and in that knowledge to order himself

   rightly towards God, his sure support. But when tribulations, recurring

   again and again, constrain him to turn to God for unfailing help, would

   not even a heart as hard as iron, as cold as marble, be softened by the

   goodness of such a Savior, so that he would love God not altogether

   selfishly, but because He is God? Let frequent troubles drive us to

   frequent supplications; and surely, tasting, we must see how gracious

   the Lord is (Ps. 34.8). Thereupon His goodness once realized draws us

   to love Him unselfishly, yet more than our own needs impel us to love

   Him selfishly, even as the Samaritans told the woman who announced that

   it was Christ who was at the well. Now we believe, not because of your

   saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed

   the Christ, the savior of the world' (John 4.42). We likewise bear the

   same witness to our own fleshly nature, saying, No longer do we love

   God because of our necessity, but because we have tasted and seen how

   gracious the Lord is'. Our temporal wants have a speech of their own,

   proclaiming the benefits they have received from God's favor.

  Once this is recognized it will not be hard to fulfill the commandment touching

   love to our neighbors; for whosoever loves God aright loves all God's

   creatures. Such love is pure, and finds no burden in the precept

   bidding us purify our souls, in obeying the truth through the Spirit

   unto unfeigned love of the brethren (I Peter 1.22). Loving as he ought,

   he counts that command only just. Such love is thankworthy, since it is

   spontaneous; pure, since it is shown not in word nor tongue, but in

   deed and truth (I John 3.18); just, since it repays what it has

   received. Whoso loves in this fashion, loves even as he is loved, and

   seeks no more his own but the things which are Christ's, even as Jesus

   sought not His own welfare, but ours, or rather ourselves. Such was the

   psalmist's love when he sang: O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is

   gracious' (Ps. 118.1). Whosoever praises God for His essential

   goodness, and not merely because of the benefits He has bestowed, does

   really love God for God's sake, and not selfishly. The psalmist was not

   speaking of such love when he said: So long as you do well unto

   yourself, men will speak good of you'(Ps. 49.18). The third degree of

   love, we have now seen, is to love God on His own account, solely

   because He is God.


                   Chapter X.


  Of the fourth degree of love, wherein man does not even love self save for

  God's sake


   How blessed is he who reaches the fourth degree of love, wherein one

   loves himself only in God! Your righteousness stands like the strong

   mountains, O God. Such love as this is God's hill, in the which it

   pleases Him to dwell. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?' O

   that I had wings like a dove; for then would I flee away and be at

   rest.' At Salem is His tabernacle; and His dwelling in Sion.' Woe is

   me, that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech! ' (Ps. 24.3; 55.6;

   76.2; 120.5). When shall this flesh and blood, this earthen vessel

   which is my soul's tabernacle, attain thereto? When shall my soul, rapt

   with divine love and altogether self-forgetting, yea, become like a

   broken vessel, yearn wholly for God, and, joined unto the Lord, be one

   spirit with Him? When shall she exclaim, My flesh and my heart fails;

   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever' (Ps.

   73.26). I would count him blessed and holy to whom such rapture has

   been vouchsafed in this mortal life, for even an instant to lose

   yourself, as if you wert emptied and lost and swallowed up in God, is

   no human love; it is celestial. But if sometimes a poor mortal feels

   that heavenly joy for a rapturous moment, then this wretched life

   envies his happiness, the malice of daily trifles disturbs him, this

   body of death weighs him down, the needs of the flesh are imperative,

   the weakness of corruption fails him, and above all brotherly love

   calls him back to duty. Alas! that voice summons him to re-enter his

   own round of existence; and he must ever cry out lamentably, O Lord, I

   am oppressed: undertake for me' (Isa. 38.14); and again, O wretched man

   that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' (Rom.



   Seeing that the Scripture says, God has made all for His own glory

   (Isa. 43.7), surely His creatures ought to conform themselves, as much

   as they can, to His will. In Him should all our affections center, so

   that in all things we should seek only to do His will, not to please

   ourselves. And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our desires

   or in gaining transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God's will for

   us: even as we pray every day: your will be done in earth as it is in

   heaven' (Matt. 6.10). O chaste and holy love! O sweet and gracious

   affection! O pure and cleansed purpose, thoroughly washed and purged

   from any admixture of selfishness, and sweetened by contact with the

   divine will! To reach this state is to become godlike. As a drop of

   water poured into wine loses itself, and takes the color and savor of

   wine; or as a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself,

   forgetting its own nature; or as the air, radiant with sun-beams, seems

   not so much to be illuminated as to be light itself; so in the saints

   all human affections melt away by some unspeakable transmutation into

   the will of God. For how could God be all in all, if anything merely

   human remained in man? The substance will endure, but in another

   beauty, a higher power, a greater glory. When will that be? Who will

   see, who possess it? When shall I come to appear before the presence of

   God?' (Ps. 42.2). My heart has talked of you, Seek you My face. Your

   face, Lord, will I seek' (Ps. 27.8). Lord, do you think that I, even I

   shall see your holy temple?


   In this life, I think, we cannot fully and perfectly obey that precept,

   you shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your

   soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind' (Luke 10.27).

   For here the heart must take thought for the body; and the soul must

   energize the flesh; and the strength must guard itself from impairment.

   And by God's favor, must seek to increase. It is therefore impossible

   to offer up all our being to God, to yearn altogether for His face, so

   long as we must accommodate our purposes and aspirations to these

   fragile, sickly bodies of ours. Wherefore the soul may hope to possess

   the fourth degree of love, or rather to be possessed by it, only when

   it has been clothed upon with that spiritual and immortal body, which

   will be perfect, peaceful, lovely, and in everything wholly subjected

   to the spirit. And to this degree no human effort can attain; it is in

   God's power to give it to whom He wills. Then the soul will easily

   reach that highest stage, because no lusts of the flesh will retard its

   eager entrance into the joy of its Lord, and no troubles will disturb

   its peace. May we not think that the holy martyrs enjoyed this grace,

   in some degree at least, before they laid down their victorious bodies?

   Surely that was immeasurable strength of love which enraptured their

   souls, enabling them to laugh at fleshly torments and to yield their

   lives gladly. But even though the frightful pain could not destroy

   their peace of mind, it must have impaired somewhat its perfection.



                 Chapter XI.


  Of the attainment of this perfection of love only at the resurrection


   What of the souls already released from their bodies? We believe that

   they are overwhelmed in that vast sea of eternal light and of luminous

   eternity. But no one denies that they still hope and desire to receive

   their bodies again: whence it is plain that they are not yet wholly

   transformed, and that something of self remains yet unsurrendered. Not

   until death is swallowed up in victory, and perennial light overflows

   the uttermost bounds of darkness, not until celestial glory clothes our

   bodies, can our souls be freed entirely from self and give themselves

   up to God. For until then souls are bound to bodies, if not by a vital

   connection of sense, still by natural affection; so that without their

   bodies they cannot attain to their perfect consummation, nor would they

   if they could. And although there is no defect in the soul itself

   before the restoration of its body, since it has already attained to

   the highest state of which it is by itself capable, yet the spirit

   would not yearn for reunion with the flesh if without the flesh it

   could be consummated.


   And finally, Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His

   saints' (Ps. 116.15). But if their death is precious, what must such a

   life as theirs be! No wonder that the body shall seem to add fresh

   glory to the spirit; for though it is weak and mortal, it has availed

   not a little for mutual help. How truly he spake who said, All things

   work together for good to them that love God' (Rom. 8.28). The body is

   a help to the soul that loves God, even when it is ill, even when it is

   dead, and all the more when it is raised again from the dead; for

   illness is an aid to penitence; death is the gate of rest; and the

   resurrection will bring consummation. So, rightly, the soul would not

   be perfected without the body, since she recognizes that in every

   condition it has been needful to her good.


   The flesh then is a good and faithful comrade for a good soul; since

   even when it is a burden it assists; when the help ceases, the burden

   ceases too; and when once more the assistance begins, there is no

   longer a burden. The first state is toilsome, but fruitful; the second

   is idle, but not monotonous; and the third is glorious. Hear how the

   Bridegroom in Canticles bids us to this threefold progress: Eat, O

   friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved' (Cant. 5.1). He

   offers food to those who are laboring with bodily toil; then He calls

   the resting souls whose bodies are laid aside, to drink; and finally He

   urges those who have resumed their bodies to drink abundantly. Surely

   those He styles beloved' must overflow with charity; and that is the

   difference between them and the others, whom He calls not beloved' but

   friends'. Those who yet groan in the body are dear to Him, according to

   the love that they have; those released from the bonds of flesh are

   dearer because they have become readier and abler to love than

   hitherto. But beyond either of these classes are those whom He calls

   beloved': for they have received the second garment, that is, their

   glorified bodies, so that now nothing of self remains to hinder or

   disturb them, and they yield themselves eagerly and entirely to loving

   God. This cannot be so with the others; for the first have the weight

   of the body to bear, and the second desires the body again with

   something of selfish expectation.


   At first then the faithful soul eats her bread, but alas! in the sweat

   of her face. Dwelling in the flesh, she walks as yet by faith, which

   must work through love. As faith without works is dead, so work itself

   is food for her; even as our Lord says, My meat is to do the will of

   Him that sent Me' (John 4.34). When the flesh is laid aside, she eats

   no more the bread of carefulness, but is allowed to drink deeply of the

   wine of love, as if after a repast. But the wine is not yet unmingled;

   even as the Bridegroom saith in another place, I have drunk My wine

   with My milk' (Cant. 5.1). For the soul mixes with the wine of God's

   love the milk of natural affection, that is, the desire for her body

   and its glorification. She glows with the wine of holy love which she

   has drunk; but she is not yet all on fire, for she has tempered the

   potency of that wine with milk. The unmingled wine would enrapture the

   soul and make her wholly unconscious of self; but here is no such

   transport for she is still desirous of her body. When that desire is

   appeased, when the one lack is supplied, what should hinder her then

   from yielding herself utterly to God, losing her own likeness and being

   made like unto Him? At last she attains to that chalice of the heavenly

   wisdom, of which it is written, My cup shall be full.' Now indeed she

   is refreshed with the abundance of the house of God, where all selfish

   care is done away, and where, for ever safe, she drinks the

   fruit of the vine, new and pure, with Christ in the Kingdom of His

   Father (Matt. 26.29).


   It is Wisdom who spreads this threefold supper where all the repast is

   love; Wisdom who feeds the toilers, who gives drink to those who rest,

   who floods with rapture those that reign with Christ. Even as at an

   earthly banquet custom and nature serve meat first and then wine, so

   here. Before death, while we are still in mortal flesh, we eat the

   labors of our hands, we swallow with an effort the food so gained; but

   after death, we shall begin eagerly to drink in the spiritual life and

   finally, reunited to our bodies, and rejoicing in fullness of delight,

   we shall be refreshed with immortality. This is what the Bridegroom

   means when He says: Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O

   beloved.' Eat before death; begin to drink after death; drink

   abundantly after the resurrection. Rightly are they called beloved who

   have drunk abundantly of love; rightly do they drink abundantly who are

   worthy to be brought to the marriage supper of the Lamb, eating and

   drinking at His table in His Kingdom (Rev. 19.9; Luke 22.30). At that

   supper, He shall present to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot,

   or wrinkle, or any such thing (Eph. 5.27). Then truly shall He refresh

   His beloved; then He shall give them drink of His pleasures, as out of

   the river (Ps. 36.8). While the Bridegroom clasps the Bride in tender,

   pure embrace, then the rivers of the flood thereof shall make glad the

   city of God (Ps. 46.4). And this refers to the Son of God Himself, who

   will come forth and serve them, even as He has promised; so that in

   that day the righteous shall be glad and rejoice before God; they shall

   also be merry and joyful (Ps. 68.3). Here indeed is appeasement without

   weariness; here never-quenched thirst for knowledge, without distress;

   here eternal and infinite desire which knows no want; here, finally, is

   that sober inebriation which comes not from drinking new wine but from

   enjoying God (Acts 2.13). The fourth degree of love is attained for

   ever when we love God only and supremely, when we do not even love

   ourselves except for God's sake; so that He Himself is the reward of

   them that love Him, the everlasting reward of an everlasting love.



                  Chapter XII.


  Of love: out of a letter to the Carthusians


   I remember writing a letter to the holy Carthusian brethren, wherein I

   discussed these degrees of love, and spoke of charity in other words,

   although not in another sense, than here. It may be well to repeat a

   portion of that letter, since it is easier to copy than to dictate



   To love our neighbor's welfare as much as our own; that is true and

   sincere charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of

   faith unfeigned (I Tim. 1.5). Whosoever loves his own prosperity only

   is proved thereby not to love good for its own sake, since he loves it

   on his own account. And so he cannot sing with the psalmist, O give

   thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious' (Ps. 118.1). Such a man would

   praise God, not because He is goodness, but because He has been good to

   him.  He could take to himself the reproach of the same writer, So long

   as you do well to him, he will speak good of you' (Ps. 49.18,

   Vulg.). One praises God because He is mighty, another because He is

   gracious, yet another solely because He is essential goodness. The

   first is a slave and fears for himself; the second is greedy, desiring

   further benefits; but the third is a son who honors his Father. He who

   fears, he who profits, are both concerned about self-interest. Only in

   the son is that charity which seeks not her own (I Cor. 13.5).

   Wherefore I take this saying, The law of the Lord is an undefiled law,

   converting the soul' (Ps. 19.7) to be of charity; because charity alone

   is able to turn the soul away from love of self and of the world to the

   pure love of God. Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul.

   They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the

   object of supreme desire. Sometimes a slave may do God's work; but

   because he does not toil voluntarily, he remains in bondage. So a

   mercenary may serve God, but because he puts a price on his service, he

   is enchained by his own greediness. For where there is self-interest

   there is isolation; and such isolation is like the dark corner of a

   room where dust and rust befoul. Fear is the motive which constrains

   the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he

   is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1.14). But neither

   fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul.

   Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.


   Next, I call it undefiled because it never keeps back anything of its

   own for itself. When a man boasts of nothing as his very own, surely

   all that he has is God's; and what is God's cannot be unclean. The

   undefiled law of the Lord is that love which bids men seek not their

   own, but every man another's wealth. It is called the law of the Lord

   as much because He lives in accordance with it as because no man has it

   except by gift from Him. Nor is it improper to say that even God lives

   by law, when that law is the law of love. For what preserves the

   glorious and ineffable Unity of the blessed Trinity, except love?

   Charity, the law of the Lord, joins the Three Persons into the unity of

   the Godhead and unites the holy Trinity in the bond of peace. Do not

   suppose me to imply that charity exists as an accidental quality of

   Deity; for whatever could be conceived of as wanting in the divine

   Nature is not God. No, it is the very substance of the Godhead; and my

   assertion is neither novel nor extraordinary, since St. John says, God

   is love' (I John 4.8). One may therefore say with truth that love is at

   once God and the gift of God, essential love imparting the quality of

   love. Where the word refers to the Giver, it is the name of His very

   being; where the gift is meant, it is the name of a quality. Love is

   the eternal law whereby the universe was created and is ruled. Since

   all things are ordered in measure and number and weight, and nothing is

   left outside the realm of law, that universal law cannot itself be

   without a law, which is itself. So love though it did not create

   itself, does surely govern itself by its own decree.



                   Chapter XIII.


  Of the law of self-will and desire, of slaves and hirelings


   Furthermore, the slave and the hireling have a law, not from the Lord,

   but of their own contriving; the one does not love God, the other loves

   something else more than God. They have a law of their own, not of God,

   I say; yet it is subject to the law of the Lord. For though they can

   make laws for themselves, they cannot supplant the changeless order of

   the eternal law. Each man is a law unto himself, when he sets up his

   will against the universal law, perversely striving to rival his

   Creator, to be wholly independent, making his will his only law. What a

   heavy and burdensome yoke upon all the sons of Adam, bowing down our

   necks, so that our life draws nigh unto hell. O wretched man that I

   am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' (Rom. 7.24). I

   am weighed down, I am almost overwhelmed, so that, If the Lord had not

   helped me, it had not failed but my soul had been put to silence' (Ps.

   94.17). Job was groaning under this load when he lamented: Why have

   you set me as a mark against you, so that I am a burden to myself?'

   (Job 7.20). He was a burden to himself through the law which was of his

   own devising; yet he could not escape God's law, for he was set as a

   mark against God. The eternal law of righteousness ordains that he who

   will not submit to God's sweet rule shall suffer the bitter tyranny of

   self; but he who wears the easy yoke and light burden of love (Matt.

   11.30) will escape the intolerable weight of his own self-will.

   Wondrously and justly does that eternal law retain rebels in

   subjection, so that they are unable to escape. They are subject to

   God's power, yet deprived of happiness with Him, unable to dwell with

   God in light and rest and glory everlasting. O Lord my God, why do

   you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?' (Job

   7.21). Then freed from the weight of my own will, I can breathe easily

   under the light burden of love. I shall not be coerced by fear, nor

   allured by mercenary desires; for I shall be led by the Spirit of God,

   that free Spirit whereby your sons are led, which bears witness with

   my spirit that I am among the children of God (Rom. 8.16). So shall I

   be under that law which is yours; and as you are, so shall I be in the

   world. Whoever does what the apostle bids, Owe no man anything, but to

   love one another' (Rom. 13.8), are doubtless even in this life

   conformed to God's likeness. They are neither slaves nor hirelings, but



                   Chapter XIV.


  Of the law of the love of sons


   Now the children have their law, even though it is written, The law is

   not made for a righteous man' (I Tim. 1.9). For it must be remembered

   that there is one law having to do with the spirit of servitude, given

   to fear, and another with the spirit of liberty, given in tenderness.

   The children are not constrained by the first, yet they could not exist

   without the second. Even as St. Paul writes, You have not received the

   spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the spirit of

   adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father' (Rom. 8.15). And again to show

   that that same righteous man was not under the law, he says: To them

   that are under the law, I became as under the law, that I might gain

   them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without

   law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ)' (I

   Cor. 9.20f). So it is rightly said, not that the righteous do not have

   a law, but, The law is not made for a righteous man.'  That is, it is

   not imposed on rebels but freely given to those willingly obedient, by

   Him whose goodness established it. Wherefore the Lord says meekly:

   Take My yoke upon you', which may be paraphrased thus: I do not force

   it on you, if you are reluctant; but if you will you may bear it.

   Otherwise it will be weariness, not rest, that you shall find for your



   Love is a good and pleasant law; it is not only easy to bear, but it

   makes the laws of slaves and hirelings tolerable; not destroying but

   completing them; as the Lord says: I am not come to destroy the law,

   but to fulfill' (Matt. 5.17). It tempers the fear of the slave, it

   regulates the desires of the hireling, it mitigates the severity of

   each. Love is never without fear, but it is godly fear. Love is never

   without desire, but it is lawful desire. So love perfects the law of

   service by infusing devotion; it perfects the law of wages by

   restraining covetousness. Devotion mixed with fear does not destroy it,

   but purges it. Then the burden of fear which was intolerable while it

   was only servile, becomes tolerable; and the fear itself remains ever

   pure and filial. For though we read: Perfect love casts out fear' (I

   John 4.18), we understand by that the suffering which is never absent

   from servile fear, the cause being put for the effect, as often

   elsewhere. So, too, self-interest is restrained within due bounds when

   love supervenes; for then it rejects evil things altogether, prefers

   better things to those merely good, and cares for the good only on

   account of the better. In like manner, by God's grace, it will come

   about that man will love his body and all things pertaining to his

   body, for the sake of his soul. He will love his soul for God's sake;

   and he will love God for Himself alone.



                    Chapter XV.


  Of the four degrees of love, and of the blessed state of the heavenly



   Nevertheless, since we are carnal and are born of the lust of the

   flesh, it must be that our desire and our love shall have its beginning

   in the flesh. But rightly guided by the grace of God through these

   degrees, it will have its consummation in the spirit: for that was not

   first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that

   which is spiritual (I Cor. 15.46). And we must bear the image of the

   earthy first, before we can bear the image of the heavenly. At first,

   man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can

   appreciate nothing beyond itself. Next, he perceives that he cannot

   exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love

   Him as something necessary to his own welfare. That is the second

   degree, to love God, not for God's sake, but selfishly. But when he has

   learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God,

   reading God's Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes

   gradually to know what God is, and finds Him altogether lovely. So,

   having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is (Ps. 34.8), he advances

   to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor

   but as God. Surely he must remain long in this state; and I know not

   whether it would be possible to make further progress in this life to

   that fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself

   solely for God's sake. Let any who have attained so far bear record; I

   confess it seems beyond my powers. Doubtless it will be reached when

   the good and faithful servant shall have entered into the joy of his

   Lord (Matt. 25.21), and been satisfied with the plenteousness of God's

   house (Ps. 36.8). For then in wondrous wise he will forget himself and

   as if delivered from self, he will grow wholly God's. Joined unto the

   Lord, he will then be one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6.17). This was what

   the prophet meant, I think, when he said: ' I will go forth in the

   strength of the Lord God: and will make mention of Thy righteousness

   only' (Ps. 71.16). Surely he knew that when he should go forth in the

   spiritual strength of the Lord, he would have been freed from the

   infirmities of the flesh, and would have nothing carnal to think of,

   but would be wholly filled in his spirit with the righteousness of the



   In that day the members of Christ can say of themselves what St. Paul

   testified concerning their Head: Yea, though we have known Christ after

   the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more' (II Cor. 5.16). None

   shall thereafter know himself after the flesh; for flesh and blood

   cannot inherit the Kingdom of God' (I Cor. 15.50). Not that there will

   be no true substance of the flesh, but all carnal needs will be taken

   away, and the love of the flesh will be swallowed up in the love of the

   spirit, so that our weak human affections will be made divinely strong.

   Then the net of charity which as it is drawn through the great and wide

   sea does not cease to gather every kind of fish, will be drawn to the

   shore; and the bad will be cast away, while only the good will be kept

   (Matt. 13.48). In this life the net of all-including love gathers every

   kind of fish into its wide folds, becoming all things to all men,

   sharing adversity or prosperity, rejoicing with them that do rejoice,

   and weeping with them that weep (Rom. 12.15). But when the net is drawn

   to shore, whatever causes pain will be rejected, like the bad fish,

   while only what is pleasant and joyous will be kept. Do you not recall

   how St. Paul said: Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is offended and I

   burn not?' And yet weakness and offense were far from him. So too he

   bewailed many which had sinned already and had not repented, though he

   was neither the sinner nor the penitent. But there is a city made glad

   by the rivers of the flood of grace (Ps. 46.4), and whose gates the

   Lord loves more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Ps. 87.2). In it is

   no place for lamentation over those condemned to everlasting fire,

   prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25.41). In these earthly

   dwellings, though men may rejoice, yet they have still other battles to

   fight, other mortal perils to undergo. But in the heavenly Fatherland

   no sorrow nor sadness can enter: as it is written, The habitation of

   all rejoicing ones is in you' (Ps. 87. 7, Vulg.); and again,

   Everlasting joy shall be unto them' (Isa. 61.7). Nor could they recall

   things piteous, for then they will make mention of God's righteousness

   only. Accordingly, there will be no need for the exercise of

   compassion, for no misery will be there to inspire pity.





Index of Scripture References



   [1]1:26   [2]8:21   [3]27:27









   [6]7:20   [7]7:21



   [8]1:6   [9]16:2   [10]16:11   [11]18:1   [12]19:7   [13]24:3

   [14]24:3   [15]27:8   [16]34:8   [17]34:8   [18]36:6   [19]36:8

   [20]36:8   [21]37:16   [22]37:28   [23]42:2   [24]46:4   [25]46:4

   [26]49:18   [27]50:15   [28]62:11   [29]68:3   [30]68:13   [31]71:16

   [32]73:25   [33]73:26   [34]77:2   [35]78:8   [36]87:2   [37]87:7

   [38]88:13   [39]94:10   [40]94:17   [41]103:1   [42]106:20

   [43]112:2   [44]116:12   [45]116:15   [46]118:1   [47]118:1

   [48]130:7   [49]136:25   [50]145:4   [51]145:7   [52]145:16   [53]148:5





   Song of Solomon

   [55]1:8   [56]1:16   [57]2:5   [58]2:6   [59]2:11   [60]4:13

   [61]5:1   [62]5:1



   [63]26:7   [64]38:14   [65]43:7   [66]53:12   [67]61:7






   [69]5:3   [70]5:6   [71]5:17   [72]5:45   [73]6:10   [74]7:13

   [75]11:30   [76]13:48   [77]19:21   [78]25:21   [79]25:34   [80]25:41

   [81]25:41   [82]26:29


   [83]6:24   [84]6:38   [85]7:47   [86]10:27   [87]12:31   [88]12:47

   [89]20:18   [90]22:30



   [91]1:16   [92]3:16   [93]3:16   [94]4:34   [95]4:42   [96]5:23

   [97]6:54   [98]6:60   [99]6:63   [100]14:6   [101]14:26   [102]15:13






   [104]5:10   [105]6:12   [106]7:24   [107]7:24   [108]8:15   [109]8:16

   [110]8:18   [111]8:28   [112]8:32   [113]10:12   [114]12:15   [115]13:8


   1 Corinthians

   [116]1:31   [117]2:9   [118]4:7   [119]6:17   [120]9:20   [121]13:5

   [122]13:5   [123]15:42   [124]15:46   [125]15:46   [126]15:50


   2 Corinthians

   [127]4:17   [128]5:9   [129]5:16






   [131]5:27   [132]5:29



   [133]2:10   [134]2:21   [135]3:20





   1 Thessalonians



   1 Timothy

   [138]1:5   [139]1:9   [140]6:8   [141]6:9


   2 Timothy







   [144]1:5   [145]1:14


   1 Peter



   1 John

   [147]3:18   [148]4:8   [149]4:18   [150]4:19



   [151]19:9   [152]21:5


   Wisdom of Solomon




   [154]18:30   [155]24:20   [156]24:21



            This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal

               Library at Calvin College, http://www.ccel.org,