ON OTHER EXERCISES OF THE LOVE OF GOD
Consider first, that divine love is also exercised in the penitential way by souls that, like Magdalene, (of whom our Lord pronounced that many sins were forgiven her because she loved much,) go daily to the feet of Christ, in spirit, to wash them with their tears, flowing from a heart full of a sense of the infinite goodness of God, and of a deep regret for having offended that infinite goodness by their sins. This exercise of penitential love, as we see in the case of Magdalene, is most acceptable to out Lord, and most effectual for obtaining the discharge of all our sins; and, if diligently pursued, is capable of advancing even those that have been the greatest sinners to a high degree of virtue and sanctity. And whosoever has forfeited his baptismal innocence by mortal sin, if he would follow the rules of Christian prudence in choosing the safest way in a case where his all is at stake, should endeavour to pursue this exercise of penitential love, and never end it but with his life. Thus did all those great penitents of old who became afterwards such glorious saints. And this kind of exercise of love will become in a manner natural to all such as have a right sense of what God is and what sin is, and of the dreadful evil they have been guilty of in offending, though it were but once in their life, so great and so good a God.
Consider 2ndly, that there are also other ways of mourning in which we may exercise a love of God, most agreeable to him, and beneficial to ourselves. As when we sit down at the foot of the cross, and there contemplating the extreme anguish and distress, the stripes and wounds, the racking pains and torments of our dear Redeemer, with all that complication of sufferings in all kinds which he endured in his passion for the love of us, we excite in our souls suitable affections of an ardent love in the way of compassion for our crucified Lover, and feed this fire with tears, flowing at the sight of his blood; which, as it shows forth in the most sensible manner his tender affection for us, so it most strongly calls for a return of our love, accompanied with a bitter grief to see our beloved treated with so much cruelty and contempt. Upon the same principle of the concern that every true lover has, to see the outrages offered to his beloved, we may also exercise a love most agreeable to our Lord, in mourning for the innumerable sins that are daily committed against him throughout the whole world; to see his infinite goodness slighted, his sacred laws and ordinances trodden under foot, his mercies continually abused, and his most adorable majesty treated with the utmost contempt, by poor blind mortals, made by him, and for him redeemed by the blood of his Son, and loaded with innumerable favours, to engage them to love him and serve him. Oh! how can any true lover of God endure to see these outrages offered to his infinite majesty without having his heart perfectly broken with grief to see his Love thus abused?
Consider 3rdly, that, besides these exercises of the love of benevolence in the penitential and compassionate way, there is another most perfect exercise of love, and which comes the nearest to the love of the blessed in heaven; and that is, in the way of joy and congratulation – as when we rejoice in God and in his boundless perfections; when we are delighted to think that he is what he is, infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely happy, infinitely perfect; that he is the sovereign Lord of all, and that nothing can be added to him, because he is every way infinite. O, what a comfort, what a pleasure, what a joy it is to a true lover of God to think that whatsoever may come to himself, or to any other thing in the world, his Love at least, whom he loves without comparison more than himself and all things else, will always be infinitely glorious, infinitely rich, and infinitely happy! O how like is this love to that of the blessed, even to that love that makes them blessed, which is an eternal joy in God and in all the beauties and perfections they contemplate in him – this is their eternal delight.
Conclude to dedicate thyself for time and eternity to this most perfect love of God. Make it thy employment here, and it will be thy eternal reward hereafter. In the mean time, labour also to promote as much as thou canst, upon every occasion, the praise and glory of thy maker, the interests of his kingdom, the fulfilling of all his wills, as well in thyself as in all others; be concerned at every thing that displeases him, put thy heart continually in his hands, give thyself and all things else to him a hundred times in the day. Such acts as these, frequently repeated in the day, will secure to thee the rich treasure of divine love; by such exercises thou wilt effectually choose the better part, which will never be taken from thee.