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Treatise on the Love of God
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CHAPTER VI.

OF THE LOVE OF BENEVOLENCE WHICH WE EXERCISE TOWARDS OUR SAVIOUR BY WAY OF DESIRE.

In the love which God exercises towards us he always begins by benevolence, willing and effecting all the good that is in us, in which afterwards he takes complacency. He made David according to his heart by benevolence, then he found him according to his heart by complacency. He first created the universe for man, and man in the universe, giving to each thing such a measure of goodness as was proportionable to it, out of his pure benevolence, then he approved all that he had done, finding that all was very good, and by complacency rested in his work.

But, on the contrary, our love towards God begins from the complacency which we have in the sovereign goodness and infinite perfection which we know is in the Divinity, then we come to the exercise of benevolence; and as the complacency which God takes in his creatures is no other thing than a continuation of his benevolence towards them, so the benevolence which we bear towards God is nothing else but an approbation of and perseverance in the complacency we have in him.

Now this love of benevolence towards God is practised in this sort. We cannot, with a true desire, wish any good to God, because his goodness is infinitely more perfect than we can either wish or think: desire is only of a future good, and no good is future to God, since all good is so present to him that the presence of good in his divine Majesty is nothing else but the Divinity itself. Not being able then to make any absolute desire for God, we make imaginary and conditional ones, in this manner: I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, who being full of thine own infinite goodness, hast no need of my goods,242242Ps. xv. 2. nor of anything whatever, but if, by imagination of a thing impossible, I could think thou hadst need of anything, I would never cease to wish it thee, even with the loss of my life, of my being, and of all that is in the world. And if, being what thou art, and what thou canst not but still be, it were possible that thou couldst receive any increase of good,—O God! what a desire would I have that thou shouldst have it! I would desire, O eternal Lord! to see my heart converted into a wish, and my life into a sigh, to desire thee such a good! Ah! yet would I not for all this, O thou sacred well-beloved of my soul, desire to be able to wish any good to thy Majesty, yea I delight with all my heart in this supreme degree of goodness which thou hast, to which nothing can be added, either by desire or yet by thought. But if such a desire were possible, O infinite Divinity, O divine Infinity! my soul would be that desire and nothing else, so intensely would she be desirous to desire for thee that which she is infinitely pleased that she cannot desire; seeing that her powerlessness to make this desire proceeds from the infinite infinity of thy perfection, which outstrips all desire and all thought. Ah! O my God! how dearly I love the impossibility of being able to desire thee any good, since this comes from the incomprehensible immensity of thy abundance. That is so sovereignly infinite, that if there were an infinite desire it would be infinitely satiated by the infinity of thy goodness, which would convert it into an infinite complacency. This desire then, by imagination of impossibilities, may be sometimes profitably practised amidst great and extraordinary feelings and fervours. We are told that the great S. Augustine often made such, pouring out in an excess of love these words: "Ah! Lord, I am Augustine and thou art God, but still, if that, which neither is nor can be, were, that I were God and thou Augustine, I would, changing my condition with thee, become Augustine to the end that thou mightest be God!"

It is yet another kind of benevolence towards God, when feeling we cannot exalt him in himself, we strive to do it in ourselves, that is, still more and more to increase the complacency we take in his goodness. And then, Theotimus, we desire not the complacency for the pleasure it yields us, but purely because this pleasure is in God. For as we desire not the compassion for the pain it brings to our heart, but because this sorrow unites and associates us to our well-beloved, who is in pain; so we do not love the complacency because it brings us pleasure, but because this pleasure is taken in union with the pleasure and good which is in God, to be more united to which, we would desire to exercise a complacency infinitely greater, in imitation of the most holy Queen and Mother of love, whose sacred soul continually magnified and exalted God. And that it might be known that this magnifying was made by the complacency which she took in the divine goodness, she declares; My spirit hath exultingly rejoiced in God my Saviour.243243Luke i. 47.

 


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