SATURDAY AFTER THE FOURTH SUNDAY
ON RETURNING LOVE FOR LOVE
Consider first, that besides the most pressing motive we have to love God by reason of his own infinite beauty and perfection, and the infinite charms that all centre in him, to command our love; besides all those attractions which are found in his infinite mercy, his infinite bounty, his infinite wisdom, his infinite truth, &c., which are all infinitely amiable beyond all that can be expressed or conceived by the heart of man; besides also that all our happiness is found in him, and that his love is our greatest honour, our greatest interest, our greatest pleasure, and that which alone can bring us to our Sovereign Good, even to the possession of God himself; in fine, besides that the whole creation in general, and every creature in particular, calls upon us to love God, and publishes aloud his infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, to engage us to love him – a generous soul finds a most strong and urgent motive to love God in the consideration of the love that he has for us, and has had for us from all eternity, and the innumerable benefits he has bestowed upon us in consequence of his eternal love. And yet, O strange ingratitude and insensibility! the far greatest part of human mortals, notwithstanding all these numberless motives of love, are still cold in the midst of so much fire which surrounds them as it were on all sides; they still refuse a return of love, and still prefer the meanest of these earthly toys, and even mere filth, before their most loving and most lovely God. O ye heavens, be astonished at so much baseness, so much blindness, and so much wickedness!
Consider 2ndly, what kind of love this is that God bears to us. He has loved us first, his love is ancient, his love has no beginning, his love is eternal, his love is continual, his thought and heart is always upon us. His love is most faithful and constant, his love never forsakes them that do not still forsake his love. His love is most generous; it imparts all good to his beloved; it prepares an eternal kingdom for them; it gives them himself for eternity. His love is most pure and disinterested; he desires no other return from his beloved but their love; and this, not for any service it will do to him, (for it can do him none,) but to unite them to himself, and to make them happy. In fine, his love is infinite, both in its origin, which is himself, and its communications, by giving us an eternal and infinite good, which is also himself. O, my soul, stand astonished to see that this great God, this boundless majesty, should have such a love for thee! O give him in return for his love all that thou canst give him, by loving him with all thy power, and he will be thine for ever.
Consider 3rdly, the benefits, as well general as particular, that we have received, and daily do receive, from the infinite goodness of this our eternal Lover. ‘He is the author of all our good;’ our very being, our whole soul and body is his gift. He has preserved us, he has nourished and cherished us from the first moment of our conception to this hour; he has watched over us with an incomparable love, he has defended us from a thousand evils. He has given his angels a charge over us. He has sent his own Son from heaven for us, to deliver us from sin and hell, and to procure all mercy, grace, and salvation for us. The whole life of the Son of God upon earth was employed in serving us; he suffered for us the very worst of torments, he shed all his most precious blood for the love of us. He has left with us all manner of helps in order to bring us to himself and to his heavenly kingdom; his word, his church, his sacrifice, his sacraments, his body and blood, his graces, his inspirations, &c. He has even heaped favours upon us, and kept us from death and hell, when we were his enemies by mortal sin; he has waited for us with infinite patience; he has called us back with infinite tenderness; he has received us with open arms when we have returned to him, and has mercifully overlooked all our follies, all our disloyalties, all our ingratitude and repeated treasons against him; besides many instances of his particular providence, which every one of us has met with in some part or other of our life. And shall not all these, and innumerable other benefits and favours, oblige us to love him? O! blessed by all creatures be his goodness for ever.
Conclude to have thy thought and heart always upon him whose love is always heaping favours upon thee, and to make a perpetual return of love to thy eternal Lover.