Consider first, those words of the divine law, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This (says the Lord) is the greatest, and the first commandment,’ Matt. xxii. 39. Yes, my soul, it is the greatest of all the commandments of God, and that which he takes most of all to heart, since he has made our souls to his own image and likeness, to this very end that we should love him, and should dedicate our whole being to his divine love, for all the time of our pilgrimage here upon earth, that so we might come to be happily united to him in an eternal band of love in his heavenly kingdom. O the excellent dignity of this divine commandment, which tends directly and immediately to raise our souls above this earth, and above the heaven of heavens, and the whole created universe, and to bring them to the God that made heaven and earth, and to unite them to him by a most perfect love, both for time and eternity.
Consider 2ndly, the incomprehensible goodness of God is manifested to us in this commandment, in his insisting so much upon our loving him, and upon our tending with all our power to a union with him. Is then our love of any consequence to him? Or can we add any thing to his happiness, by loving him? Or will he lose any thing, if we refuse him our love? And what is there in us poor little ants, if compared to his infinite majesty, that he should concern himself whether we love him or not? Would it not be an unspeakable favour to us, that he should even suffer us, considering who he is, and who we are, to aspire so high as to pretend to his love? But that this great God should make it a commandment - and the very first and principal of all his commandments - that we should love him, and love him with our whole heart; that he should insist upon our entering into this league of eternal friendship with him, promising all happiness for eternity upon our compliance, and threatening us with most dreadful and eternal evils if we love him not; ‘tis this that shows forth and sets in so wonderful a light the goodness of our God and his love for us that we should be not only most wretched, insensible, and ungrateful beyond expression, but even in some sense worse than devils, if we should refuse him our love.
Consider 3rdly, the excellence of this commandment of divine love, with regard to the fruits it brings to our souls. Divine love is the queen of virtues. She never comes alone, but brings all other virtues along with her; she gives life to them all; even faith and hope are dead when she is not in their company. She brings with her the remission of all our sins; she makes us the friends and favourites of the Most High; she makes us his children, his spouses, his temples she is the ‘band of all perfection.’ O my soul, how glorious it is, how happy, how delightful, to be thus united to thy God by a strict band of friendship and love! O embrace then, with all thy powers, this great commandment, which, by obliging thee to give thy whole self up to the love of God, brings down thy God with all his treasures to thee.
Conclude to make it henceforward the business of thy life to learn this great lesson of loving God; and as no one but God himself can effectually teach thee so sublime and so divine a science, continually beg of him to introduce thee into his school, which he holds in thy interior, and there to be thy master.
Consider first, the import of these words, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,’ and thou shalt find in them innumerable motives to dedicate thyself to divine love. For who is this thou art here commanded to love? THE LORD, that is, the eternal, self-existent, incomprehensible, and infinite Being of beings, who alone properly is, and who is being itself. For all this is implied in that ineffable name, which is here rendered THE LORD. ‘I am, who am,’ saith he, Exod. iii. 14. And 'he who is hath sent me to you’- THE LORD, that is, the creator, and absolute master of the whole universe, of all things visible and in visible; infinitely powerful, infinitely wise, infinitely good, infinitely beautiful: the one true sovereign good, infinite in all perfections, goodness, beauty, perfection, and truth itself, compared with whom all things else are just nothing at all. See, my soul, how many motives thou hast to love this great Lord, who comprises in himself all that is lovely and charming, who is the immense ocean of all good.
Consider 2ndly, the motives of divine love implied in those words, thy God; forasmuch as they signify that this Lord of infinite majesty is also pleased to be thine. Yes, he is thy God, he is thy first beginning and thy last end, he is thy maker, who has made thee for himself; and who many ways daily communicates himself to thee; he is thy father, thy spouse, thy pastor, thy keeper, thy constant benefactor, thy ever faithful friend, thy ancient and most disinterested lover, thy sovereign good, and the source of all thy good, for time and eternity. And whereas thou wast fallen from him and from his love by sin, he has been pleased to give himself to thee, in a manner still more enduring, by sending his own Son to be thy saviour and redeemer. O reflect, my soul, on what the Son of God has done and has suffered for the love of thee. From the first moment of his conception, thou wast always in his heart. His love for thee brought him down from his heavenly throne, to take flesh and blood in the womb of the Virgin; his love for thee made him offer up his flesh and blood upon the altar of the cross, a sacrifice for thy sins; his love for thee made him bequeath this same flesh and blood in an admirable sacrament, to unite thee to himself for eternity. And shall not all this oblige thee to love him, and to love him with thy whole heart?
Consider 3rdly, that this love which we owe to our God, both as infinitely good in himself and as infinitely good to us, must be a love of preference, that is, we must love him above all things whatsoever. For he that loves his worldly honour, his interest, his pleasure, his own will, the gratifying his humours and passions, or the pleasing of any person, how near or dear soever, more than his God, is not worthy of God; but is guilty of high treason against him, and of a kind of idolatry, in preferring the creature before the creator, who is blessed for evermore. And not only he that prefers any creature before God, but he that even offers to put himself, his own life, his dearest affections, or any other thing created, or even the whole creation in balance with his God, so as to love them as much as God, is in like manner unworthy of God, and offers him the greatest outrage imaginable; because the whole universe compared with God is a mere nothing, and therefore cannot, without an intolerable injury, be put in balance with him. Ah what must I then think of myself, when I have so often preferred empty toys, mere vanities, and lying follies before the living God.
Conclude henceforward, at least, to love the Lord thy God above all things, and nothing else with him, but what thou lovest for his sake, and with relation to him. Cry out with St. Michael, Quis ut Deus? Who is like to God? And who but he deserves our heart?
Consider first, that the first sacrifice which divine love calls for by this great commandment is that of our heart. My son, 'give me thy heart,’ says the wisdom of God, Prov. xxiii. 26. This sacrifice must be of the whole heart, and in the nature of a holocaust, that is, of a sacrifice in which the whole victim is given to God without reserve, being first slain and then laid upon the altar of God, and there consumed with fire; even with that fire which originally came from heaven, Levit. ix. 24, and which was commanded to be kept always burning upon God’s altar. Wherefore, in this mystical sacrifice of love, this heart of ours, in order to be made a holocaust, should also first be slain, that is, should first die to itself; and to all its disorderly affections, by mortification and self-denial, and so be laid on God’s altar, to be wholly dedicated and consecrated to him; and to evaporate, as it were, to him in the flames of divine love, which is the true fire that comes down from heaven to carry us up thither, and which ought always to be kept burning in the mystical temple of God in our souls.
Consider 2ndly, how just, how reasonable, how necessary it is that we should love our God with our whole heart, so as to give no part of it away from him, since it belongs wholly to him by all manner of titles. He made our heart for himself; to be the eternal seat and the living temple of his love, and he has given it a certain longing after him, together with an immense capacity of love, which nothing less than God can fill or satisfy. He has shed his own most precious blood to purchase our heart, to cleanse it for himself; and to fill it with his love. It has been solemnly dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to him at our baptism. He has sent his divine Spirit to take possession of it, to make it his kingdom, and to establish his throne in it. It must then be a most crying injustice if we offer to alienate any part of our heart from him who claims it all upon so many titles. O Christians! let us give him what is his without reserve; let us divert no part of this small heart of ours away from the immense Lord of heaven and .earth; it would be a sacrilege to attempt it.
Consider 3rdly, that the love of God will not admit a divided heart, he will not suffer a rival in his kingdom, a partner in his throne, or an idol in his temple. Our God is a jealous God, and therefore, if we follow any other lovers, we lose his love and drive him away from us. Alas! my soul, who is this that thou would’st associate with God in thy heart? Is it thy worldly pride, thy carnal affections, thy sensual inclinations? Assure thyself this love cannot endure such company as this. Or is it some favourite creature, which thou art unwilling to dislodge from the place it has occupied in thy heart? Ah! the bed is too narrow, it will not hold two, thou must either part with the creature or the creator. He loves God too little who loves anything else with him, which he does nor love in him for his sake, and with subordination to the love of him.
Conclude to love thy friend in God, and thy enemy for God’s sake, and all such things as thou mayest lawfully love, according to the measure and rule prescribed by divine love; and thus no love of the creature will take off any part of thy heart from the love of the creator - thus thou shalt love him with thy whole heart.
Consider first, that we are not only to love God with our whole heart, that is, with our whole affections, but also with our whole soul, that is, by applying and employing all the powers of our soul in his divine love and service, because he made these souls of ours after his own image, and likewise for this very end, that they might be wholly dedicated to his love, and might turn all their powers and faculties towards him, to serve and glorify him for ever. Bring then, my soul, bring all thy powers to thy God, and oblige them all to bow down to this divine law of love, and ardently to embrace its happy service, which will ennoble and perfect them all. O let thy understanding be ever directed by its bright light into the ways of truth! The light of divine love will expel the dark mists raised by thy passions and self-love, which so often overcloud thee and make thee go astray. Let thy memory be ever recollected by divine love. Let all thy words and actions, let all thy desires, be ever guided and actuated by this heavenly charity. O blessed kingdom of divine love, when wilt thou come to me and take full possession of my whole soul?
Consider 2ndly, that as the will is that ruling power of the soul which is the proper seat of love, so it is the will, amongst all the powers of the soul, that ought in a special manner to be dedicated and consecrated to divine love. The will should ever have good for the object of her love, so as not to be able to love or embrace any thing that is not at least under the form or appearance of good. Now God alone is the true and Sovereign Good; and he alone can satisfy the inbred appetite she has for good. In the love of him alone she finds herself happy: all other loves do but impose upon her and deceive her with empty appearances. Therefore, for his sake, and because he is infinitely good in himself as well as for her own sake, and because he is her only true and sovereign good, she ought to give her whole self up to his heavenly love. O how happy is that will that is thus wholly dedicated to the love of God! How happy is that will that is the eternal servant of divine love, and makes a constant sacrifice of her whole liberty and property to the all-wise, all-powerful, and ever-loving will of God.
Consider 3rdly, how the great pattern of divine love, Jesus Christ our saviour, began the work of our redemption by devoting his whole will, without reserve and with all the ardour of his soul, to do and to love the blessed will of his Father. Hear how he expresses himself, Ps. xxxix. 8,9, 'Then, said I: Behold, I come. In the head of the book it is written of me, that I should do thy will; O my God, I have desired it, and thy law, in the midst of my heart.’ This will of his Father was, during his whole life, the continual object of his love, the subject of all his thoughts, the motive of all his words and actions. He loved it so that it was his very food; he laid down his life for the love of it. And didst not thou also, my soul, come into the world to love and to do the will of God? Is not thy will given thee for this end? Hast thou any other business here? Is it not also written of thee in the book of life that thou should’st do the will of God? And canst thou say with thy saviour, 'O my God, it is what I have willed, and my desire, in the midst of my heart!' O take heed lest, if thy will fall from this love of the will of God and of his holy law, thy name be blotted out of the book of life, which in effect is the same as the book of love.
Conclude to dedicate thy whole soul, with all its powers, to the love of God, and especially to make over thy will to him without reserve. This is a devotion the most solid and the most secure; the most agreeable to God and the most advantageous to thyself.
Consider first, that our whole mind ought also to be consecrated to divine love, according to the import of that greatest and first commandment of our heavenly Lover. Now, the mind is the seat of thought, and consequently of consideration, meditation, and recollection in God. Wherefore, to love God with our whole mind is to have our thoughts ever turned towards him; to consider him; to meditate daily upon him and his truth, and upon all that relates to him, or helps to bring the soul to him; to walk always in his presence; and to keep ourselves recollected in the remembrance of him. This love of the whole mind was required of all the servants of God even in the old law, and much more in the new, which is the law of love. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,’ &c., said he, Deut. vi. 'and these words which I command thee this day shall be in thy heart and thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house and walking on thy journey, sleeping, rising; and thou shalt bind them as a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes, and thou shalt write them on the doors of thy house.’ See, my soul, how strongly thy God inculcates the perpetual remembrance of him and of his divine law; but more especially of the great commandment of love, which is the fulfilling of the whole law. See how he expects that thy whole mind should be ever full of him.
Consider 2ndly, how reasonable and just it is that we should love our God with our whole mind, by ever remembering and thinking on him. He always remembers us and thinks of us; his eye is always upon us; from all eternity we have ever had a place in his eternal mind, in which he has cherished us with infinite love; and shall we refuse him the place he calls for in our mind, or put him off with any thing less than our whole mind? Alas what worthless things are we! How unworthy that this great God should give us any place in his thoughts, or concern himself at all about us! But, O my soul, let us never be so wretched, so ungrateful, so wicked (since he is pleased to show so much love to us) as to suffer any more every empty toy, every idle roving imagination, every vain amusement to take place of him in our mind, and banish him from our thoughts. We cannot be without thinking of something all the day long; and what can we think of so noble, so desirable, so lovely, so charming, so profitable, so delightful, as our God? What are we then doing, when we let whole days pass in thinking of every thing else but him. Surely this can never be loving him with our whole mind, or indeed loving him at all for where the treasure is that we love, there both our heart and mind will be.
Consider 3rdly, the great advantages of ever keeping God in our mind, by a recollection of thought, and a remembrance of his presence. It is a most powerful restraint to keep us from all sin; ‘tis a perpetual spur to make us run on in the way of virtue; it furnishes us with counsel in our doubts, comfort in our afflictions, encouragement in our labours, defence against all our enemies, and protect ion in all dangers. It enlivens our faith, animates our hope, gives a continual increase to divine charity, and brings us in some measure into heaven, whilst we are here living upon earth, by ever keeping us in the company of God, invested as it were with him on all sides, and employed about him, by contemplation and love. O how true it is that as dissipation of thought and forgetfulness of God is the source of all our evil, so recollection of the mind in God is the source of all good! O, how happy then are those souls that always seek in this manner the face of the Lord, and turn their whole mind to him and to his love.
Conclude to banish from thee all impertinent thoughts and vain amusements, all roving imaginations and useless schemes, which have too often hitherto occupied thy mind, and shut out thy God and then thy beloved will quickly return to thee, and make thy soul his paradise.
Consider first, that the great precept of divine love claims also our whole strength; ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole strength.' As then, by virtue of the commandment of loving God with our whole mind, we are bound to give him our thoughts; so, by being commanded to love him with whole strength, we are to give him also our words and actions. We ourselves are his, and that by many titles; we were made by him alone, and for him alone; and therefore, as the whole fund is his, so also ought the whole produce; as the tree is his, so ought all the fruit to grow for him; it would be a crying injustice to alienate it from him. Wherefore the love of God is not only to reside in our heart, to reign in all the powers of our soul, and to fill our mind, but ought also to show itself in our conversation, and to regulate all our words and actions, so as to give each one of them its due perfection. And this is loving God with our whole strength.
Consider 2ndly, that the true love of God is like a fire which cannot lie idle: neither does it content itself with affections only - it always proceeds to effects. It works great things when occasion and opportunity serve, and when these are wanting, it will do wonders at least by the perfection it will give even to the least and most ordinary of our actions. This constant aiming at perfection in our daily and ordinary actions is one of the most important lessons of a spiritual life, and is the true practice of loving God with our whole strength. Now, this perfection of our ordinary actions, depends upon the purity and perfection of the intention from which these actions flow. The intention is pure when it aims at God alone; it is perfect when it does all for the love of God, and for the greater glory of God. 'Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all for the glory of God,’ says the apostle, 1 Cor. x. 31. The meanest action in life is ennobled by this intention; it becomes even an act of divine love, and a new step to unite the soul to God. So that the readiest way to come to love God with all our strength is to direct the whole of our actions to him, by the pure and perfect intention of ever doing his holy will, and procuring in all things his greater glory.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to love God with all our strength by the perfection of our ordinary actions, and this purity of intention, which ought both to go before and to accompany all we do or say, we should also labour in the progress of all our actions and conversations to season them as it were, and to sanctify them by the exercise of frequent aspirations of divine love. This may be practised by often turning our souls on every occasion to our beloved, considered as innately present with us, by longing after him; offering our whole selves to him; rejoicing in his glory; begging for the advancement of the kingdom of his love, both in ourselves and in the whole world; and lamenting to see him everywhere so much offended, and his love so much slighted. Nothing contributes more to advance the soul in the love of God than a diligence in this exercise.
Conclude to season all thy actions in this manner with divine love, both by beginning them with a pure intention to promote the glory of God, and by accompanying them with frequent acts of love: thus thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole strength.
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.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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