Frederick William Faber.

The Creator and the creature : or, The wonders of divine love online

. (page 19 of 34)
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know to what we may be induced to commit ourselves.
With such men their first thought of God is tc dishonor
Him ; for how shall a son doubt his father without doing
him dishonor?

There are others who are not by any means to bo
reckoned among the mass of men, and who serve Him truly
with a holy fear, but who seem not to have escaped alto-
gether the contagion of this aversion to God. With them
it shows itself in the shape of uneasiness, perplexity, and
doubt. They entertain suspicions against the perfections
of God's justice or the universality of His compassion.
When they hear of certain things, jealousy of God starts
up as it were unbidden in their hearts. It is not so much
that they have definite intellectual difficulties in matters
of faith. But they have not that instantaneous and un-
clouded certainty, that all is right, and best, and exquisitely
tender, where God is concerned, which is the pure sun-
shine and invigorating air of the atmosphere of faith.
Nay, have we not all of us moods, in which an allusion
to God makes us impatient; and is not this fact alone
the nearest of any fact to a deep-sea sounding of our cor-
ruption ?

It is hard to see what God has done to deserve all this.
It seems most unkind, most cruelly disloyal to the immen-
sity of His goodness, and to the unalterable bounty of His
compassionate dominion. Truly, He is our King as well
as our Father, our Master as well as our Friend. But are
the relations incompatible? It is the very necessity of our
case as creatures, that we must be under a law; and could
we be under laws less numerous, less onerous, than those
under which we are laid by the unchangeable perfections
of God ? Easy laws, few laws, and laws which it is our
awn interest to keep these are the characteristics of the



OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD. 229

dominion of God. Why then are we restless and uneasy,
and not rather happily lost in amazement at the goodnesa
of our great Creator? It seems wonderful that He who
is so great should also be so good ; and it is the joyous
lesson which the sands of life teach us, as they run yearly
out, that His very greatness is the only blessed measure of
His goodness.

But ignorance of God and aversion to God are not of
themselves a sufficient description of the religious condi-
tion of the great mass of men. There are multitudes also
who are simply indifferent to God. It sounds incredible.
The mere knowledge that there is a God should be enough
to shape, control, revolutionize, and govern the whole world.
And this, quite independent of the minute, infallible, and
touching knowledge of Him which revelation gives us. But
when that is added, surely it should be enough to strike
indifference out of the list of possible things. Surely every
human heart should be awake, and alert, to hear the sound
of God's voice, or discern His footprints on the earth. Our
Creator, our Last End, our Saviour, our Judge, upon whom
we depend for everything, whose will is the only one import-
ant thing to us, whose Bosom is the one only possible home
for us and He to be regarded as simply the most unin-
teresting object in His own world ! Is this really credible ?
Alas ! we have only to look around and see. Does a day
pass which does not prove it to us? Nay, very often, to
our shame be it spoken, is it not a considerable exertion
even to us to interest ourselves in God ? And this indiffer-
ence, can we be quite sure that it is less dishonorable to
God than positive aversion ?

These are melancholy results. Yet somehow they spur
us on to try to do more for God ourselves, and to love Him
with a purer and more disinterested love. Alas 1 if the
saints are few in number, those who are either ignorant of
God. or indifferent to Him, or have an aversion to Him,
V



230 OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD.

are countless multitudes. Many fair regions of this beau
tiful world are peopled by idolaters. The sacred places of
scriptural Asia are tenanted by the followers of Mahomet.
Heresy and schism usurp whole countries, which boast of
the name of Christian ; and even in catholic lands, it is
depressing to think how many thousands there are, who
must be classed with those who are not on the side of God.
These are very practical considerations ; for if there is the
least honesty in our professions of loving God, they must
greatly influence both the fervor of our devotion and the
amount of our mortification. They bring home to us that
suffering and expiatory character, which, by a law of the
Incarnation, belongs to all Christian holiness.

But we shall find considerations even yet more practical,
if we turn from these two extremes to the mean, that is, to
ordinarily pious catholics, such as we humbly hope we
either are ourselves, or are endeavoring to become. We
distinctly aim at making religion the great object of our
lives. We are conscious to ourselves of a real and strong
desire to love God, and as we grow older the desire grows
stronger, and, to say the least of it, it bids fair to swallow
op all our other desires, and become the one single object
of our lives. The four last things, Death and Judgment,
Hell and Heaven, are often before us, and fill us with
a holy terror. We fear sin greatly, and we sometimes
think we almost hate it for its own sake, because it is
an offence against so good a God. We have times and
methods of prayer. We examine our consciences. We
hear mass often. We visit the Blessed Sacrament. We
are devout to our Lady. We frequent the sacraments.
Who can doubt but that all this is the way of salvation?
We are happy in the grace which enables us to do all this.
We shall be happy indeed in the grace which will enable
us to persevere. We are happy also in the thought that
ther3 are thousands and thousands in the Church who arc



OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD. 281

thus serving God. But let us look a little moic closely intc
this, and examine our lives first as to the amount of love of
God which they exhibit, and secondly as to the manner in
which we show our love.

There are twenty-four hours in the day, so many days in
the week, and so many weeks in the year. We have various
occupations, and manifold ways of spending our time ; and
the most careless amongst us must have some confused and
general notion of the way in which his time is distributed.
Now we know that the service of God is the grand thing,
or rather that it is the only thing about us which is great
at all. What amount of our time then is spent upon it?
How many hours of the day are passed in prayer, and
spiritual reading, in hearing mass, or visiting the Blessed
Sacrament, or in other direct spiritual exercises? Of the
time necessarily expended upon our worldly avocations, or
the claims of society, how much is spent with any recollec-
tion of Him, or with any actual intention to do our common
actions for His glory ? Can we return a satisfactory answer
to these questions? Furthermore, we know that it is essen-
tial to our love of God, that we should appreciate Him above
all things. Does our practice show that this is anything
but a form of words with us ? Would strangers, who looked
critically at our daily lives, be obliged to say that, whatever
faults we had, it was plain that we put no such price on
anything as on God? When we look into the interests and
affections of our busy, crowded hearts, is it plain that, if
the love of God does not reign there in solitary, unmingled
splendor, at least it takes easy, obvious, and acknowledged
precedence of all our other loves ? This is not asking much :
but can we answer as we should wish? Again, our actions
are perfectly multitudinous. If we reckon both the out-
ward and the inward ones, they are almost as numerous aa
the beatings of our pulse. How many of them are for God 7
I dc not say how many are directly religious, but how lining



232 OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD.

are at all and in any sense for God ? How many in the
hundred ? Even if we are quite clear that a virtual inten-
tipn has really got vigor and vitality enough to carry us
over the breadth of a whole day, and to push its way through
the crowd of things we have to think, to say, to do, and to
suffer, and this is a very large assumption is this virtual
intention in the morning to absolve us from the necessity
of any further advertence to God, and must it not also
have been made in the morning with a very considerable
degree of intensity, in order to propel it for so long as
twenty-four hours through such a resisting medium as we
know our daily lives to be ? To use our national word, are
we quite comfortable about this? Are we sure of our view
about virtual intention, and without misgivings, and have
we found our theory work well in times gone by ?

God does not have His own way in the world. What He
gets He has to fight-for. What is true of the world at large,
is true also of our own hearts and lives. Though we love
God, and most sincerely, He has to struggle for our love.
He has to contend for the mastery over our affections. The
preferences of our corrupt nature are not for Him, or for
His concerns. Thus it happens almost daily that His claims
clash with those of self or of the world. We have to choose
between the two, and give the preference to the one over
the other. We are for ever having Christ and Barabbas
offered to the' freedom of our election. Now do we always
give the preference to God ? Or if not always, because of
surprises, impulses, impetuosities, or sudden weaknesses,
at least do we never wilfully, deliberately, and with adver-
tence, prefer anything else to God, and give Him the second
place? And of the innumerable times in which this conflict
occurs, in what proportion of times does God carry off the
victory ? And when He does, is it an easy victory ? Or
has He to lay long siege to our hearts, and bring up rein-
forcement after reinforcement of fresh and untired grace,



OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD. 233

ntil at last it looks as if He were almost going to throw
Himself on His omnipotence, and overwhelm the freedom
of our will ? Or again, let us look at the degree of appli-
cation which we bestow on what we really do for God. Let
ue confront the carefulness, and forethought, and energy,
and perseverance, which we bestow upon our temporal in-
terests or the earthly objects of our love, with those which
characterize our spiritual exercises. And will the result
of the examination be altogether what we should desire?

All these are childish and elementary questions to ask
ourselves. Yet the results are far more melancholy than
when we contemplated the ignorance, aversion, and indif-
ference of the great mass of men. More melancholy, be-
cause we profess to be God's champions ; it is as it were
our place to be on His side. We live encircled by His
grace, which flows around us like the plentiful bright air.
Our minds are illuminated by the splendors of heavenly
truth, and our hearts led sweetly captive by the winning
mysteries of the Incarnation. Our lives are charmed by
great sacraments, and we are each of us the centre of a
very world of invisible grandeurs and spiritual miracles.
And in spite of all this, I will not say it is sad, it is really
hardly credible that our love of God should amount to so
little as it does, whether we regard it as to the time spent
upon it, or as to the appreciation of Him above all things,
or as to the proportion of our numberless actions which is
for Him, or as to our preference of Him when His claims
clash with others, or as to the degree of application which
we bestow on what we really do for Him. look at all
this by the moonlight of Gethsemane, or measure it with
the Way of the Cross, or confront it with the abandonment
of Calvary ! Turn upon it the light of the great love of
Creation, whose prodigal munificence, and incomparable
tenderness, and seemingly exaggerated compassions we
have already contemplated! O can it be that this is the
02



234 OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD.

creature's return to his Creator, when the creature is hcly
and faithful and good, and that such is to be God's strong
point in the world, the paradise of His delights, the portion
of His empire where allegiance still is paid Him ? Merci-
ful Heaven ! can we be safe, if we go on thus ? Are we
really in a state of grace ? Is not the whole spiritual life a
cruel delusion ? And are we not after all the enemies, and
not the friends, of God ? no ! faith comes to our rescue.
All is right, though truly all is wrong. We are certainly
in the way of salvation. Then we say once more, as we
find ourselves saying many times a day, what a God is ours,
what incredible patience, what unbounded forbearance,
what unintelligible contentment! Why is it that very
shame does not sting us to do more for God, and to love
Him with a love a little less infinitely unlike the love,
with which, do what we can, we cannot hinder Him from
loving us ?

So much for the amount of our love of God. It is little;
so little that it would be disheartening, were it not always
in our own power, through the abundance of His grace, to
make that little more. Let us now, at any rate, console
ourselves by looking at the manner and spirit in which we
pay to God this little love. Love, like other things, has
certain rules and measures of its own. It has certain
habits and characteristics. It proceeds upon known prin-
ciples, which belong to its nature. It acts differently from
justice, because it is love and not justice. It does not obey
the Bame laws as fear, simply because it is not fear but
love. Every one knows the marks of true love. They are
readiness, eagerness, generosity, swiftness, unselfishness,
vigilance, exclusiveness, perseverance, exaggeration In
all these respects, except the last, our divine love must at
once resemble and surpass our human love. In the last
respect it cannot do so, because God is so infinitely beau-
tiful and good, that anything like exaggeration or excess in



OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD. 235

the love of Him is impossible. The Sacred Heart of Jesus
is the model of Divine Love. The Immaculate Heart of
Mary ascertains for us the amazing heights of love which
a simple creature can attain by correspondence to the grace
of God. The Saints are all so many samples of divine
love, in some one or more of its special characteristics and
departments. We know, then, precisely the manner and
spirit in which we are to love God. Let us see how far oui
practice squares with our theory.

Is the following an unkind picture of ourselves? We
serve God grudgingly, as if He were exacting. We are
slow to do what we know He most desires, because it is an
effort to ourselves. We cling to our own liberty, and we
feel the service of God more or less of a captivity. Our
whole demeanor and posture in religion is not as if we felt
God was asking too little, or as if we were most anxious to
do more than He required. We serve Him intermittingly,
though perseverance is what He so specially desires. We
have fits and starts, pious weeks or devout months, and
then times of remissness, of effort, of coldness; then a
fresh awakening, a new start, and then a slackening again.
It is as if loving God went against the grain, as if we had
to constrain ourselves to love Him, as if it was an exertion
which could not be kept up continuously, as if human
holiness could never be anything better than endless be
ginnings, and trials which are always falling short of the
mark. Thus we also love God rarely, under pressure, on
great occasions, at startling times, or when we have sen-
sible need of Him. All this looks as if we did not love
Him for His own sake, but for ourselves, or for fear, or bo-
cause it is prudent and our duty. There is, unmistako-
ably, a want of heart in the whole matter.

Have we ever done any one action which we are quite
confident was done solely and purely for the love cf God, ?
tf we have, it has not been often repeated. We are con-



236 OUR ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD.

scious to ourselves that there is a great admixture of
earthly motives in our service of God. It is astonishing
what an amount of vain-glory and self-seeking there is in
our love of Him. We are also perfectly and habitually
aware of this; and yet, which is even more astonishing,
we are quiet and unmoved. It breeds in us no holy despe-
ration, nor does it inspire us to any vehement and deter-
mined struggles to get rid of the desecrating presence of
this unholy enemy. Nay, it almost appears as if we should
never have dreamed of loving God, if He Himself had not
been pleased to command us to do so; and therefore we
do it just in the way in which men always do a thing be-
cause they are told, and which they would not have done
if they had not been told. Many of us, perhaps, have
already given the best of our lives to the world, and now
it is the leavings only which go to God. Oh ! how often ia
He asked to drink the dregs of a cup which not the world
only, but the devil also, have well-nigh drained before Him!
and with what adorable condescension does He put His
lips to it, and dwell with complacency upon the draught,
as if it were the new wine of some archangel's first un-
blemished love !

Then, again, we exaggerate our own services, in thought
if not in words ; and this shows itself in our demeanor.
True love never thinks it has done enough. Its restlessness
comes from the very uneasiness of this impression. Now,
this is not at all our feeling about God. We do not look at
things from His point of view. It is only by a painfully-
acquired habit of mind that we come to do so. Half the
temptations against the faith, from which men suffer, arise
from the want of this habit, from not discerning that really
the creature has no side, no right to a point of viow, but
that God's side is the only side, and the Creator's point of
view the creature's only point of view, and that he would
not be a creature were it otherwise. Another unsatisfac



OUR ACTtJAL LOVE OF GOD. 287

tory sign is, that, ordinarily speaking, we have so little
missionary feeling about us, and are so unconcerned whe-
ther sinners are converted, or whether men love God or
not. It is quite impossible for true love to co-exist with an
unmissionary spirit.

But we all of us have times when we love God more than
usual, times of fervor, of closer union with Him, of mo-
mentary love of suffering, transitory flashes of things which
are like the phenomena of the saints. They neither last
long enough nor come often enough to form our normal
state. They are simply our best times. Now we need not
dwell either upon their rarity or their brevity; but we
would fain ask if even then we love God altogether with-
out reserves. Is nothing kept back from Him? Is our
renunciation of self ample and faultless? Have we no
secret corner of our hearts, where some favorite weakness
lurks in the shade, and which the strong light of heavenly
love has not blinded to its own interests ? I am afraid to
go on with the picture, lest I should have to ask myself, at
last, What is left of the Christian life? But we have seen
enough to confess, of our love of God, that not only is what
we give very little, but that even that little is given in the
most ungraceful and unlovelike of ways. Surely this is a
confession not to be made by words, which are not equal
to the task, but only by silent tears, while we lie prostrate
before the Throne of Him, whom, strange to say, we really
do love most tenderly, even while we slight Him !

On all sides of us there are mysteries. Our relations to
God are full of them. Our coldness and His love, His for-
bearance and our petulance, we hardly know which is the
most strange, the most inexplicable. If we consider atten-
tively how little we love God, and in what way we show it,
honesty will compel us to acknowledge that we men should
not accept such service at each other's hands. We should
reject it with scorn. We should regard it as an injury
rather than as a service. A father would disinherit hi*



288 OUR ACTUAL LOVE OP GOE.

son ; a friend would put away from him the friend of hit
bosom, if his love were requited as we requite the love of
our Heavenly Father. Yet it is the ever-blessed God, who
is what He is, to whom we, being what we are, dare to
offer this mockery of worship. Will He open heaven, and
cast His fiery bolts upon us, and annihilate us for ever,
that we may be no longer a dishonor to His beautiful
creation ? Or will He turn from our proffered service with
anger, or at. least with a contemptuous indifference? We
cannot easily understand how it is that He does not. Yet
on the contrary He vouchsafes to accept and reward our
pitiful affection. And His very rewards and blessings
lead us astray ; for we begin to put a price upon our
merits, according to the greatness of His recompense, not
according to the reality of their lowness ; and we think we
have treated Him with great generosity, and that His re-
ward is to us only the proof of our generosity ; while on
the contrary we consider Him to be asking very much of
us; and our minds do not see His rights, and our hearts do
not feel them. And God sees all this, and He makes no
sign. It is not so much as if He seemed insensible to our in-
gratitude ; it is rather as if He did not see that it was in-
gratitude at all. No love can be conceived more sensitive
than that of Him who has eternally predestinated, and
then called out of nothing, the objects of His choice and
predilection. Yet God does not seem to feel our coldness
and perversity. Rather He appears to prize what we give
Him, and to rejoice in its possession. He wished it other-
wise. He made very different terms at the outset. He
asked for far more than He has got. But He makes no
complaint : and not being able to have His terms allowed,
He takes us on our own.

Is it possible that it can be God of whom we are daring
thus to speak ? why do not all we, His children, league
together to make it up to Him ? angels of heaven? why
U your worship of that Blessed Majesty aught else but tears ?



IN WHAT WAY GOD REPAYS OUR LOVE.



CHAPTER V

IN WHAT WAY GOD REPAYS OUR LOVE.

Signore, volete dare per quello, che facciuino per voi, piu di quello che
potete fare; e non potendo voi fare voi medesimo, restate solaounto
oddisfatto con dare voi medesimo: stupendo casol che il Creatore non
ritrovi in tutta la sua onnipoteuza, cosa, che possa fare in aggradimento
di qualsivogliacosa, che fa un giusto per suo amore. Nieremberg.

WHEN angels offer the prayers of men with incense in
their golden thuribles, there are none which rise up before
the throne of God with a sweeter or more acceptable fra-
grance than the murmurs and complaints of loving souls,
because God is not loved sufficiently. Everywhere on
earth, where the true love of God is to be found, there is
also this peaceful and blessed unhappiness along with it.
In many a cloister, by the sea shore", or on the mountain
top, in the still forest or the crowded city, there are many
who in the retirement of their cell, or before the Blessed
Sacrament, are sighing with the sweet grief of love, because
men love God so coldly and so unworthily. There are
muny amid the distractions of the world, and who appear
to be walking only in its ways, who have no heavier
weight upon their hearts than the neglect, abandonment,
and unrequited love of God. Through the long cold night,
or during the noisy day, incessantly as from a tranquil
holy purgatory, the sounds of this plaintive sorrow, this
blessedly unhappy love, rise up into the ear of God. Some
tremble with horror of the sins which are daily committed
against His holy law. Some are saddened because those



240 IN WHAT WAY GOD REPAYS OUR LOVB.

who by their faith know God so well, love Him with such
carelessness and pusillanimity. Some, who 'are wont to
make His resplendent attributes the objects of their daily
contemplation, murmur because they see nowhere on the
earth, not even among the saints, anything worthy to be
called love of so great and infinite a goodness. Others
with meek petulance expostulate with God, because He
hides Himself, and does not constrain souls to love Him by
open manifestations of His surpassing beauty : while others
mourn over their own cold hearts, and pine to love God
better than they do. There are even innocent children
who weep because they feel, what as yet they can hardly
know, that men are leaving so cruelly unrequited the
burning love of God. All these sighs and tears, all these
complaints and expostulations, all this heavy-hearted
silence and wounded bleeding love, all is rising up



Online LibraryFrederick William FaberThe Creator and the creature : or, The wonders of divine love → online text (page 19 of 34)