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I doubt not, will conceive them as I do: the first is, that it was necessary that God should give a law to man; the second is, that this law was necessarily to have a reference to the four circumstances of the condition of man, which I have just stated. I mean that this law was to be worthy of its Author, proportionate to the nature of man, conformable to his end and suitable to his state; or, to express the same ideas in other terms, this law was to bring man into order with regard to God, with regard to himself, and with regard to his fellow men. But it is self-evident, that man could not be in order with regard to God, but by loving him as God; with regard to himself, but by loving himself as a rational being, created to serve God in this world, and to enjoy him in the next; with regard to his fellow-men, but by loving them under the same relations under which he loves himself. Whence it results that all divine legislation must necessarily consist in prescribing and regulating these three loves which in reality are but one love.
These principles once established, I maintain that the law of Jesus Christ fulfils these three objects after the most perfect manner.
The love which this law commands us to have for God, is truly worthy of that Supreme Being. This law regulates, after the wisest manner, the love which every man is to have for himself. The love which this law prescribes to every man towards his fellow-men, is perfectly proportionate to the bonds and relations which men have between themselves.
In fine, this law points out to men the surest means to preserve and to perfect in themselves those three loves. This we shall make appear in several distinct articles.
Which goes to show that the law of Jesus Christ reduces itself
to the three loves, of which we have just now spoken. CLXXXII. We find in the gospel of St. Matthew, xxii. 3. . that a teacher of the law, having proposed to Jesus Christ this
question : “ Master, which is the great commandment of the law ? Jesus Christ answered him, this is the first of all commandments. Hear, Israel, the Lord thy God is the only God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength : this is the first commandment; here is the second which is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.' The whole law, and prophets are comprised in these two commandments.”
Here we have the three loves of which we have spoken above, clearly pointed out in the law which God formerly gave to the Jews, and which Jesus Christ here adopts and publishes again as these two first commandments. These three loves are, according Jesus Christ, the basis, and, as it were, the substance of all religion. The second commandment, which is the love of ourselves, is not expressly commanded, not only because it is impossible to love God without loving one's self, or to love one's self with a well regulated love without loving God; but, moreover, because the love of ourselves being a necessary love that is born with us, and of which we cannot divest ourselves, there was no need for prescribing, but only for regulating it. The third love that of our neighbour, is expressly commanded; because, although it be very true that we cannot love God if we do not love men, who are made to the image of God, and who are our brethren ; still, if God had not declared that these two loves are inseparable, the generality of men, blinded by passion, might have persuaded themselves on a thousand occasions, that they might separate them, and love God with all their heart, whilst they mortally hate their neighbour. In fine, the second commandment, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," does not mean that we owe to our fellow-men an equal love, but only a love similar to that which we have for ourselves : for order will have it that we should prefer ourselves to our fellow-men, at least, in the case of an equality of interests.
· Such is the substance and main point of the law of Jesus
Christ, that is to say, it consists in commanding and regulating - the three loves above stated, viz. the love of God, the love of ourselves, and the love of our fellow-men.
Characteristics of the Love of God, according to the Law of
Jesus Christ. CLXXXII. The love which Jesus Christ commands men to have for God answers the idea, which both reason and faith give us of the supreme excellency of that first Being, and of the relations which we have with him. “Hearken, Israel, the Lord thy God is the only God, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” “Thou shalt love the Lord.” Man is to love God first and principally for himself, and because he is God, that is to say, on account of the infinite excellency of his being, or, in other words, because he is infinitely good and amiable in himself. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” Man is to love God, because he is his God, that is to say, because God has made him ; because he has filled him with good, because God is the good which he is to enjoy to all eternity. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul.” Man is to consecrate himself entirely to the love of God. This love is to be in him a predominant love, which should prevail over all other love, and which should reign over all his faculties, in somuch that God should be above all in the estimation and in the affection of man. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength.” Man is to love God with an active love, with a love that manifests itself outwardly and that produces fruits by good works. Man will then refer to God all that he has, all that he is, and all that she does. He will be faithful to his law, subject to the orders of his providence, docile to his inspirations, always ready to undertake all, and to sacrifice all for his sake.
CLXXXIV. The love which man owes to God, is a love worthy of that Supreme Being. It is, therefore, a love, by which he loves God for God himself, if not only and exclusively, at least in the first place and principally. Whence it follows that that love ought to be a noble and generous love, a love which does not depend at all on the advantages of fortune, and which ought to maintain itself in the most universal privation as well as in abundance; a love which makes the christian always ready to receive with a grateful submission from the hand of God, poverty and riches, prosperity and adversity.
CLXXXV. The love which man owes to God, is a love worthy of that Supreme Being; and, of course, a firm, constant, and unshaken love, a love capable of bearing up against the most troubled trials. This is the idea which Jesus Christ gives of it in these words. (St. Luke, xiv. 26.) “ If any one come to me, and doth not hate his father and mother, his wife, his children, his brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."
CLXXXVI. The love which man owes to God, is a love worthy of that Supreme Being; and, by a necessary consequence, a love of zeal. He that has this love in his heart, must be animated with a holy passion for the glory of God. His great interest in this world is that of God. The only end of his labours and his good works, will be to procure the glory of God. He will make all his happiness to consist, if necessary, in being the victim of his faithfulness to God. This is what Jesus Christ teaches us by these words. (Math. v. 16.) “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” And by these, (Math. v. 11.) “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my saké; rejoice and be exceeding glad, because your reward is very great in heaven.
CLXXXVII. In fine, that love which man owes to God, is a love worthy of that Supreme Being; and, of course, one of the necessary effects of this love, is to inspire man with a so
vereign horror of sin: this horror will always produce in the christian, either a lively fear to commit sin, or a bitter regret for having committed it, and will engage him to watch unremittingly over himself, and to use continual violence to preserve himself from sin, or to embrace the holy austerities of penance to expiate it. The gospel is full of these truths.
Such are the characteristics of the love which man owes to God, according to the law of Jesus Christ. If the christian philosopher avows with me that God could not exact more from man his creature, he will likewise grant, that man owes nothing less to God his creator. It is by this love which springs from faith, and which is inseparable from hope, that we“ adore God in spirit and in truth," and that we pay to him that interior worship which is the only one he approves, because the only one that is worthy of him: interior worship, however, which does not exclude the outward, as this as necessarily proceeds from the inward, as the speech, the gesture, and the different motions of the head and of the body proceed from inward thought and sentiment; but notwithstanding this it is inward worship only, that can give worth to acts of the outward worship, which when not proceeding from the interior religious . feelings, is in the eyes of God nothing more than dissimulation, which outrages him.
Characteristics of the love which man owes to himself, conform
ably to the Law of Jesus Christ.
CLXXXVIII. Man is determined, by his very nature, to love himself; it is therefore impossible that he should not love himself: but this love may be conformable to order or the reverse. When the love which man has for himself, is in order, so far from its being opposed to the love of God, it is rather an act, and, as it were, a part of that love. But when the love which man has for himself, is inordinate, it becomes, in the No. VI.