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knew what rapture was until he saw the incomparable Constantia, in whose person and manners are concentered all the charms of beauty, and all the graces of virtue.
Now, if love, when directed to a creature, can open such a heaven in our bosoms, what must it do when directed to God, the eternal fountain of all perfection and goodness? Would you know the blessing of all blessings, it is this love dwelling in the foul, sweetening our bitter, lightening our dark, enlivening our sad, and filling to the full of joy the souls that must ever thirst Until they come to this great fountain of all happiness. There is no peace, nor ever can be.for the, foul of man, but in the exercise of this love; for as love is the infinite happiness that created man; so love is the only perfection and felicity of man; and no one can live in happiness, but as he lives in love. Look at R every every pain and disorder in human nature, you will find it to be nothing else but the spirit of the creature turned from Iovetoselfisliness ; and thence, in course, to anxiety, fear, covetousness, wrath, envy, and all evil: So that love alone is, and only can be, the cure of every evil; and he who lives in love is risen out of the power of evil into the freedom and joy of one of the spirits of heaven. All wants are satisfied, all disorders of nature are removed; no life is any longer a burden; every day is a day of peace; every thing is a spring of joy to him who breathes the sweet gentle element of love.
But some men, of gloomy and melancholic humours, will ask, Is it certain that God loves mankind? Surely the innumerable favours which he lavishes upon us, must let his love beyond all doubt.
To ask whether -God loves mankind, is indeed to ask whether he is good, which is the fame as questioning his very existence; for how is it possible to conceive a God without goodness? And, what goodness could he have were he to hate his own works, and to desire the misery of his creatures?
A Good prince loves his subjects; a good father loves his children: We love even the tree we have planted; the house we have built; and is it possible for God not to love mankind? Where can such a suspicion rise, except in the minds of those who form a capricious and barbarous being of God 5 a being who makes a cruel sport of the fate of mankind; a being, who destines them, before they are born, to hell, reserving to himself one, at most, in a million, and that one no more meriting that preference, than the others have deserved their damnation? Impious blasphemers, phemers, who endeavour to give me an aversion to God, by persuading me that I am the object of his aversion!
You will say, he owes nothing to man; well, but he owes something to himself; he must necessarily be just and beneficent. If a virtuous heathen could declare that he had much rather it should never be said that there was such a man as Plutarch, than that he was cruel and revengeful, how must the Father of mercies be displeased to find himself charged with such hateful qualities r
Besides, I know he loves me, by the very love I feel for him; it is because he loves me that he has engraved on my heart this sentiment, the most precious of all his gifts. His love is the source of mine, as it ought to be, indeed, a motive to it.
Give me leave, in order to convey an idea of the love of God, to describe the passion of a virtuous lover for his
mistress mistress. The comparison in itself has nothing indecent. Love is a vice only in vicious hearts. Fire, though the purest of all substances, will yet emit unwholesome and noxious vapours when it is fed by tainted matter; for love, if it grow in a vicious mind, produces nothing but shameful desires and criminal designs, and is followed with fear, vexation and misery. But let it rise in an upright heart, and be kindled by an object adorned with virtue as well as beauty, it is safe from censure; far from being offended, God gives it his approbation. He has made amiable objects only that they might be loved.