Discourse 14. The Mystery of Divine Condescension

{284} THE Eternal Word, the Only-begotten Son of the Father, put off His glory, and came down upon earth, to raise us to heaven. Though He was God, He became man; though He was Lord of all, He became as a servant; "though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we, through His poverty, might be rich". He came from heaven in so humble an exterior, that the self-satisfied Pharisees despised Him, and treated Him as a madman or an impostor. When He spoke of His father Abraham, and implied His knowledge of him, who was in truth but the creature of His hands, they said in derision, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?" He made answer, "Amen, amen, I say unto you, Before Abraham was made, I am." He had seen Abraham, who lived two thousand years before; yet in truth He was not two thousand years old, more than He was fifty. He was not two thousand years old, because He had no years; He was the Ancient of Days, who never had beginning, and who never will have an end; who is above and beyond {285} time; who is ever young, and ever is beginning, yet never has not been, and is as old as He is young, and was as old and as young when Abraham lived as when He came on earth in our flesh to atone for our sins. And hence He says, "Before Abraham was, I am," and not "I was"; because with Him there is no past or future. It cannot be properly said of Him, that He was, or that He will be, but that He is; He is always; always the same, not older because He has lived two thousand years in addition, not younger because He has not lived them.

My brethren, if we could get ourselves to enter into this high and sacred thought, if we really contemplated the Almighty in Himself, then we should understand better what His incarnation is to us, and what it is in Him. I do not mean, if we worthily contemplated Him as He is; but, even if we contemplated Him in such a way as is really possible to us, if we did but fix our thoughts on Him, and make use of the reason which He has given us, we should understand enough of His greatness to feel the awfulness of His voluntary self-abasement. Attend, then, while I recall to your mind the doctrines which reason and revelation combine to teach you about the Most High, and, next, when you have fixed your mind upon His infinity, then go on to view, in the light of that infinity, the meaning of His incarnation.

Now first consider that reason teaches you there must be a God; else how was this all-wonderful universe made? It could not make itself; man could not make it, he is but a part of it; each man {286} has a beginning, there must have been a first man, and who made him? To the thought of God then we are forced from the nature of the case; we must admit the idea of an Almighty Creator, and that Creator must have been from everlasting. He must have had no beginning, else how came He to be? Else, we should be in our original difficulty, and must begin our argument over again. The Creator, I say, had no beginning; for, if He was brought into being by another before Him, then how came that other to be? And so we shall proceed in an unprofitable series or catalogue of creators, which is as difficult to conceive as an endless line of men. Besides, if it was not the Creator Himself who was from everlasting, then there would be one being who was from everlasting, and another who was Creator; which is all one with saying there are two Gods. It is least trial then to our reason, it is simplest and most natural, to pronounce, that the Creator of the world had no beginning;—and if so, He is self-existing; and if so, He can undergo no change. What is self-existing and everlasting has no growth or decay; It is what It ever was, and ever shall be the same. As It originated in nothing else, nothing else can interfere with It or affect It. Besides, everything that is has originated in It; everything therefore is dependent on It, and It is independently of everything.

Contemplate then the Supreme Being, the Being of beings, even so far as I have yet described Him; fix the idea of Him in your minds. He is one; He has no rival; He has no equal; He is unlike anything {287} else; He is sovereign; He can do what He will. He is unchangeable from first to last; He is all-perfect; He is infinite in His power and in His wisdom, or He could not have made this immense world which we see by day and by night.

Next, this follows from what I have said;—that, since He is from everlasting, and has created all things from a certain beginning, He has lived in an eternity before He began to create anything. What a wonderful thought is this! there was a state of things in which God was by Himself, and nothing else but He. There was no earth, no sky, no sun, no stars, no space, no time, no beings of any kind; no men, no Angels, no Seraphim. His throne was without ministers; He was not waited on by any; all was silence, all was repose, there was nothing but God; and this state continued, not for a while only, but for a measureless duration; it was a state which had ever been; it was the rule of things, and creation has been an innovation upon it. Creation is, comparatively speaking, but of yesterday; it has lasted a poor six thousand years, say sixty thousand, if you will, or six million, or six million million; what is this to eternity? nothing at all; not so much as a drop compared to the whole ocean, or a grain of sand to the whole earth. I say, through a whole eternity God was by Himself with no other being but Himself; with nothing external to Himself, not working, but at rest, not speaking, not receiving homage from any, not glorified in creatures, but blessed in Himself and by Himself, and wanting nothing. {288}

What an idea this gives us of the Almighty! He is above us, my brethren, we feel He is; how little can we understand Him! We fall in even with men upon earth, whose ways are so different from our own, that we cannot understand them; we marvel at them; they pursue courses so unlike ours, they take recreations so peculiar to themselves, that we despair of finding anything in common between them and us; we cannot make conversation when we are with them. Thus stirring and ambitious men wonder at those who live among books; sinners wonder at those who attend the Sacraments and mortify their passions; thrifty persons wonder at those who are lavish of their money; men who love society wonder at those who live in solitude and are happy in it. We cannot enter even into our fellows; we call them strange and incomprehensible; but what are they, compared with the all-marvellousness of the Everlasting God? He alone indeed is incomprehensible, who has not only lived an eternity without beginning, but who has lived through a whole eternity by Himself, and has not wearied of the solitude. Which of us, or how few of us, could live a week in comfort by ourselves? You have heard, my brethren, of solitary confinement as a punishment assigned to criminals, and at length it becomes more severe than any other punishment: it is said at length to drive men mad. We cannot live without objects, without aims, without employments, without companions. We cannot live simply in ourselves; the mind preys upon itself, if left to itself. This is the case with us mortal men; now {289} raise your minds to God. Oh, the vast contrast! He lived a whole eternity in that state, of which a few poor years to us is madness. He lived a whole eternity without change of any kind. Day and night, sleep and meal-time, at least are changes, unavoidable changes, in the life of the most solitary upon earth. A prison, if it has nothing else to relieve its dreariness and its hopelessness, has at least this, that the poor prisoner sleeps; he sleeps, and suspends his misery; he sleeps and recruits his power of bearing it; but the Eternal is the Sleepless, He pauses not, He suspends not His powers, He is never tired of Himself; He is never wearied of His own infinity. He was from eternity ever in action, though ever at rest; ever surely in rest and peace profound and ineffable, yet with a living, present mind, self-possessed, and all-conscious, comprehending Himself and sustaining the comprehension. He rested ever, but He rested in Himself; His own resource, His own end, His own contemplation, His own blessedness.

Yes, so it was; and if it is incomprehensible that He should have existed solitary through an eternity, is it not incomprehensible too, that He should have ever given up that solitariness, and have willed to surround Himself with creatures? Why was He not content to be as He had been? Why did He bring into existence those who could not add to His blessedness and were not secure of their own? Why did He give them that gift which we see they possess, of doing right or wrong as they please, and of working out their ruin as well as their salvation? Why did He {290} create a world like that which is before our eyes, which at best so dimly shows forth His glory, and at worst is a scene of sin and sorrow? He might have made a far more excellent world than this; He might have excluded sin; but, oh, wonderful mystery, He has surrounded Himself with the cries of fallen souls, and has created and opened the great pit. He has willed, after an eternity of peace, to allow of everlasting anarchy, of pride, and blasphemy, and guilt and hatred of Himself, and the worm that dieth not. Thus He is simply incomprehensible to us, mortal men. Well might the ancient heathen shrink from answering, when a king, his patron, asked him what God was! He begged for a day to consider his reply; at the end of it, for two more; and, when the two were ended, for four besides; for in truth he found that meditation, instead of bringing him towards the solution of the problem, did but drive him back; the more he questioned, the vaster grew the theme, and where he drew one conclusion, thence issued forth a hundred fresh difficulties to confound his reason. For in truth the being and attributes of God are a subject, not for reason simply, but for faith also; and we must accept His own word about Himself.

And now proceed to another thought, my brethren, which I have partly implied and partly expressed already. If the Almighty Creator be such as I have described Him, He in no wise depends on His creatures. They sin, they perish, they are saved, they praise Him eternally; but, though He loves all the creatures of His hand, though He visits all of them without exception {291} with influences of His grace, so numerous and so urgent, that not till the disclosures of the last day shall we rightly conceive of them; though He deigns to be glorified in His Saints, though He is their all in all, their continued life, and power, and blessedness, still they are nothing to Him. They do not increase His happiness if they are saved, or diminish it if they are lost. I do not mean that He is at a distance from them; He does not so live in Himself as to abandon His creation to the operation of laws which He has stamped upon it. No; He is everywhere a vigilant and active Providence; He is in every one of His creatures, and in every one of their actions; if He were not in them, they would fall back into nothing. He is everywhere on earth, and sees every crime committed, whether under the sun or in the gloom of night; He is even the sustaining power of those who sin; He is most close to every, the most polluted soul; He is in the midst of the eternal prison; but what I mean to say is, that nothing touches Him, though He touches all things. The sun's rays penetrate into the most hideous recesses, yet keep their brightness and their perfection; and so the Almighty witnesses and suffers evil, yet is not touched or tried by the creature's wilfulness, pride, uncleanness, or unbelief. The lusts of earth and the blasphemies of hell neither sully His purity nor impair His majesty. If the whole world were to plunge wilfully into the eternal gulf, the loss would be theirs, not His. In the dread contest between good and evil, whether the Church conquers at once, or is oppressed for the time, and labours, whether she is {292} in persecution, or in triumph, or in peace, whether His enemies hold out or are routed, when the innocent sin, when the just are falling, when good Angels weep, when souls are hardened, He is one and the same. He is in His blessedness still, and not even the surface is ruffled of His everlasting rest. He neither hopes nor fears, nor desires, nor sorrows, nor repents. All around Him seems full of agitation and confusion, but in His eternal decrees and infallible foreknowledge there is nothing contingent, nothing uncertain, nothing which is not part of one vast plan, as fixed in its issue, and as unchangeable, as His own Essence.

Such is the great God, so all-sufficient, so all-blessed, so separate from creatures, so inscrutable, so unapproachable. Who can see Him? who can fathom Him? who can move Him? who can change Him? who can even speak of Him? He is all-holy, all-patient, all-peaceful, and all-true. He says and He does; He delays and He executes; He warns and He punishes; He punishes, He rewards, He forbears, He pardons, according to an eternal decree, without imperfection, without vacillation, without inconsistency.

And now that I have set before you, my brethren, in human language, some of the attributes of the Adorable God, perhaps you are tempted to complain that, instead of winning you to the All-glorious and All-good, I have but repelled you from Him. You are tempted to exclaim,—He is so far above us that the thought of Him does but frighten me; I cannot believe {293} that He cares for me. I believe firmly that He is infinite perfection; and I love that perfection, not so much indeed as I could wish, still in my measure I love it for its own sake, and I wish to love it above all things, and I well understand that there is no creature but must love it in his measure, unless he has fallen from grace. But there are two feelings, which, alas, I have a difficulty in entertaining; I believe and I love, but without fervour, without keenness, because my heart is not kindled by hope, not subdued and melted with gratitude. Hope and gratitude I wish to have, and have not; I know that He is loving towards all His works, but how am I to believe that He gives to me personally a thought, and cares for me for my own sake? I am beneath His love; He looks on me as an atom in a vast universe. He acts by general laws, and if He is kind to me it is, not for my sake, but because it is according to His nature to be kind. And hence it is that I am drawn over to sinful man with an intenser affection than to my glorious Maker. Kings and great men upon earth, when they appear in public, are not content with a mere display of their splendour, they show themselves as well as their glories; they look around them; they notice individuals; they have a kind eye, or a courteous gesture, or an open hand, for all who come near them. They scatter among the crowd the largess of their smiles and of their words. And then men go home, and tell their friends, and treasure up to their latest day, how that so great a personage took notice of them, or of a child of theirs, or accepted a present {294} at their hand, or gave expression to some sentiment, without point in itself, but precious as addressed to them. Thus does my fellow-man engage and win me; but there is a gulf between me and my great God. I shall fall back on myself, and grovel in my nothingness, till He looks down from heaven, till He calls me, till He takes interest in me. It is a want in my nature to have one who can weep with me, and rejoice with me, and in a way minister to me; and this would be presumption in me, and worse, to hope to find in the Infinite and Eternal God.

This is what you may be tempted to say, my brethren, not without impatience, while you contemplate the Almighty God, as conscience portrays Him, and as reason concludes about Him, and as creation witnesses of Him; and I have dwelt on it, in order, by way of contrast, to set before you, as I proposed when I began, how your complaint is answered in the great mystery of the Incarnation. Never suppose that you are left by God; never suppose that He does not know you, your minds and your powers, better than you do yourselves. Ought you not to trust Him, that, if your complaint be true, He has thought of it before you? "Before they call, I will attend," says He, "and while they speak, I will hear." Add this to your general notion of His incomprehensibility, viz., that though He is infinite, He can bow Himself to the finite; have faith in the mystery of His condescension; confess that, though He "inhabiteth eternity," He "dwelleth with a contrite and humble spirit," and "looketh down upon the lowly". Give up this {295} fretfulness, quit these self-consuming thoughts, go out of yourselves, lift up your eyes, look around, and see if you can discern nothing more hopeful, more gracious in this wide world, than these perplexities over which you have been brooding. No, my brethren, we are so constituted by our Maker, as to be able to love Him ardently, and He has given us means of doing so. He has not founded our worship of Him in hope, nor made self-interest the measure of our veneration. And we have eyes to see much more than the difficulties of His Essence; and the great consolatory disclosures of Him, which Nature begins, Revelation brings to perfection. Lift up your eyes, I say, and look out even upon the material world, and there you will see one attribute above others on its very face which will reverse your sad meditations on Him who made it. He has traced out many of His attributes upon it, His immensity, His wisdom, His power, His loving-kindness, and His skill; but more than all, its very face is illuminated with the glory and beauty of His eternal excellence. This is that attribute in which all His attributes coalesce, which is the perfection, or (as I may say) the flower and bloom of their combination. As among men, youth, and health, and vigour, have their finish in that grace of outline, and lustre of complexion, and eloquence of expression, which we call beauty, so in the Almighty God, though we cannot comprehend His holy attributes, and shrink from their unfathomable profound, yet we can, as creatures, recognise and rejoice in the brightness, harmony, and serenity, which is their resulting excellence. This is {296} that quality which, by the law of our nature, is ever able to draw us off ourselves in admiration, which moves our affections, which wins from us a disinterested homage; and it is shed in profusion, in token of its Creator, over the visible world.

Leave, then, the prison of your own reasonings, leave the town, the work of man, the haunt of sin; go forth, my brethren, far from the tents of Cedar and the slime of Babylon: with the patriarch go forth to meditate in the field, and from the splendours of the work imagine the unimaginable glory of the Architect. Mount some bold eminence, and look back, when the sun is high and full upon the earth, when mountains, cliffs, and sea rise up before you like a brilliant pageant, with outlines noble and graceful, and tints and shadows soft, clear, and harmonious, giving depth, and unity to the whole; and then go through the forest, or fruitful field, or along meadow and stream, and listen to the distant country sounds, and drink in the fragrant air which is poured around you in spring or summer; or go among the gardens, and delight your senses with the grace and splendour, and the various sweetness of the flowers you find there; then think of the almost mysterious influence upon the mind of particular scents, or the emotion which some gentle, peaceful strain excites in us, or how soul and body are rapt and carried away captive by the concord of musical sounds, when the ear is open to their power; and then, when you have ranged through sights, and sounds, and odours, and your heart kindles, and your voice is full of praise and worship, reflect— {297} not that they tell you nothing of their Maker,—but that they are the poorest and dimmest glimmerings of His glory, and the very refuse of His exuberant riches, and but the dusky smoke which precedes the flame, compared with Him who made them. Such is the Creator in His Eternal Uncreated Beauty, that, were it given to us to behold it, we should die of very rapture at the sight. Moses, unable to forget the token of it he had once seen in the Bush, asked to see it fully, and on this very account was refused. "He said, Show me Thy glory; and He said, Thou canst not see My Face; for man shall not see Me and live." When saints have been favoured with glimpses of it, it has thrown them into ecstasy, broken their poor frames of dust and ashes, and pierced them through with such keen distress, that they have cried out to God, in the very midst of their transports, that He would hold His hand, and, in tenderness to them, check the abundance of His consolations. What saints partake in fact, we enjoy in thought and imagination; and even that mere reflection of God's glory is sufficient to sweep away the gloomy, envious thoughts of Him, which circle round us, and to lead us to forget ourselves in the contemplation of the All-beautiful. He is so bright, so majestic, so serene, so harmonious, so pure; He so surpasses, as being its archetype and fulness, all that is graceful, gentle, sweet, and fair on earth; His voice is so touching, and His smile so winning while so awful, that we need nothing more than to gaze and listen, and be happy. Say not this is not enough for love and joy; even in sights of this earth, the pomp {298} and ceremonial of royalty is sufficient for the beholder; he needs nothing more than to be allowed to see; and were we but admitted to the courts of heaven, the sight of Him, ever transporting, ever new, though He addressed us not, would be our meat and drink to all eternity.

And if He has so constituted us, that, in spite of the abyss which lies between Him and us, in spite of the mystery of His attributes and the feebleness of our reason, the very vision of Him dispels all doubt, allures our shrinking souls, and is our everlasting joy, what shall we say, my brethren, when we are told that He has also condescended to take possession of us and to rule us by means of hope and gratitude, those "cords of Adam," by which one man is bound to another? You say that God and man never can be one, that man cannot bear the sight and touch of his Creator, nor the Creator condescend to the feebleness of the creature; but blush and be confounded to hear, O peevish, restless hearts, that He has come down from His high throne and humbled Himself to the creature, in order that the creature might be inspired and strengthened to rise to Him. It was not enough to give man grace; it was little to impart to him a celestial light, and a sanctity such as Angels had received; little to create Adam in original justice, with a heavenly nature superadded to his own, with an intellect which could know God and a soul which could love Him; He purposed even in man's first state of innocence a higher mercy, which in the fulness of time was to be accomplished in his behalf. It became the {299} Wisdom of God, who is the eternally glorious and beautiful, to impress these attributes upon men by His very presence and personal indwelling in their flesh, that, as He was by nature the Only-begotten Image of the Father, so He might also become "the First-born of every creature". It became Him who is higher than the highest, to act as if even humility, if this dare be said, was in the number of His attributes, by taking Adam's nature upon Himself, and manifesting Himself to men and Angels in it. It became Him, of whom are all things, and who is in all things, not to create new natures, which had not been before, inconstant spirit and corruptible matter, without taking them to Himself and absorbing them into a personal union with God. And see, my brethren, when you complain that we men are cut off from God, see that He has done more for you than He has done for those "who are greater in strength and power". The Angels surpass us in their original nature; they are immortal spirits, and we are subject to death; they have been visited by larger measures of God's grace, and they serve in His heaven, and are blessed by the vision of His face; yet "nowhere doth He take hold of the Angels"; He turned aside from the eldest-born of creation, He chose the younger. He chose him in whom an immortal spirit was united to a frail and perishable body. He turned aside to him whom an irritable, wayward, dim-sighted, and passionate nature rendered less worthy of His love; to him He turned; He made "the first last, and the last first"; "He raised the needy from the earth, and lifted the poor out of the {300} mire," and bade Angels bow down in adoration to a material form, for it was His own.

Well, my brethren, your God has taken on Him your nature, and now prepare yourself to see in human flesh that glory and that beauty on which the Angels gaze. Since you are to see Emmanuel, since "the brilliancy of the Eternal Light and the unspotted mirror of God's majesty, and the Image of His goodness," is to walk the earth, since the Son of the Highest is to be born of woman, since the manifold attributes of the Infinite are to be poured out before your eyes through material channels and the operations of a human soul, since He, whose contemplation did but trouble you in Nature, is coming to take you captive by a manifestation, which is both intelligible to you and a pledge that He loves you one by one, raise high your expectations, for surely they cannot suffer disappointment. Doubtless, you will say, He will take a form such as "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard of" before. It will be a body framed in the heavens, and only committed to the custody of Mary; a form of light and glory, worthy of Him, who is "blessed for evermore," and comes to bless us with His presence. Pomp and pride of men He may indeed despise; we do not look for Him in kings' courts, or in the array of war, or in the philosophic school; but doubtless He will choose some calm and holy spot, and men will go out thither and find their Incarnate God. He will be tenant of some paradise, like Adam or Elias, or He will dwell in the mystic garden of the Canticles, where nature ministers its {301} best and purest to its Creator. "The fig-tree will put forth her green figs, the vines in flower yield their sweet smell;" "spikenard and saffron" will be there; "the sweet cane and cinnamon, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief perfumes;" "the glory of Libanus, the beauty of Carmel," before "the glory of the Lord and the beauty of our God". There will He show Himself at stated times, with Angels for His choristers and saints for His doorkeepers, to the poor and needy, to the humble and devout, to those who have kept their innocence undefiled, or have purged their sins away by long penance and masterful contrition.

Such would be the conjecture of man, at fault when he speculated on the height of God, and now again at fault when he tries to sound the depth. He thinks that a royal glory is the note of His presence upon earth; lift up your eyes, my brethren, and answer whether he has guessed aright. Oh, incomprehensible in eternity and in time! solitary in heaven, and solitary upon earth! "Who is this, that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozra? Why is Thy apparel red, and Thy garments like theirs that tread in the wine press?" It is because the Maker of man, the Wisdom of God, has come, not in strength, but in weakness. He has come, not to assert a claim, but to pay a debt. Instead of wealth, He has come poor; instead of honour, He has come in ignominy; instead of blessedness, He has come to suffer. He has been delivered over from His birth to pain and contempt; His delicate frame is worn down by cold and heat, by hunger and sleeplessness; His hands are rough and bruised with {302} a mechanic's toil; His eyes are dimmed with weeping; His Name is cast out as evil. He is flung amid the throng of men; He wanders from place to place; He is the companion of sinners. He is followed by a mixed multitude, who care more for meat and drink than for His teaching, or by a city's populace which deserts Him in the day of trial. And at length "the Brightness of God's Glory and the Image of His Substance" is fettered, haled to and fro, buffeted, spit upon, mocked, cursed, scourged, and tortured. "He hath no beauty nor comeliness; He is despised and the most abject of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity;" nay, He is a "leper, and smitten of God, and afflicted". And so His clothes are torn off, and He is lifted up upon the bitter Cross, and there He hangs, a spectacle for profane, impure, and savage eyes, and a mockery for the evil spirit whom He had cast down into hell.

Oh, wayward man! discontented first that thy God is far from thee, discontented again when He has drawn near,—complaining first that He is high, complaining next that He is low!—unhumbled being, when wilt thou cease to make thyself thine own centre, and learn that God is infinite in all He does, infinite when He reigns in heaven, infinite when He serves on earth, exacting our homage in the midst of His Angels, and winning homage from us in the midst of sinners? Adorable He is in His eternal rest, adorable in the glory of His court, adorable in the beauty of His works, most adorable of all, most royal, most persuasive in His deformity. Think you {303} not, my brethren, that to Mary, when she held Him in her maternal arms, when she gazed on the pale countenance and the dislocated limbs of her God, when she traced the wandering lines of blood, when she counted the weals, the bruises, and the wounds, which dishonoured that virginal flesh, think you not that to her eyes it was more beautiful than when she first worshipped it, pure, radiant, and fragrant, on the night of His nativity? Dilectus meus candidus et rubicundus, as the Church sings; "My beloved is white and ruddy; His whole form doth breathe of love, and doth provoke to love in turn; His drooping head, His open palms, and His breast all bare. My beloved is white and ruddy, choice out of thousands; His head is of the finest gold; His locks are branches of palm-trees, black as a raven. His eyes as doves upon brooks of waters, which are washed with milk, and sit beside the plentiful streams. His cheeks are as beds of aromatical spices set by the perfumers; His lips are lilies dropping choice myrrh. His hands are turned and golden, full of jacinths; His throat is most sweet, and He is all lovely. Such is my beloved, and He is my friend, O ye daughters of Jerusalem."

So is it, O dear and gracious Lord, "the day of death is better than the day of birth, and better is the house of mourning than the house of feasting". Better for me that Thou shouldst come thus abject and dishonourable, than hadst Thou put on a body fair as Adam's when he came out of Thy Hand. Thy glory sullied, Thy beauty marred, those five wounds welling out blood, those temples torn and raw, that {304} broken heart, that crushed and livid frame, they teach me more, than wert Thou Solomon "in the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his heart's joy". The gentle and tender expression of that Countenance is no new beauty, or created grace; it is but the manifestation, in a human form, of Attributes which have been from everlasting. Thou canst not change, O Jesus; and, as Thou art still Mystery, so wast Thou always Love. I cannot comprehend Thee more than I did, before I saw Thee on the Cross; but I have gained my lesson. I have before me the proof that in spite of Thy awful nature, and the clouds and darkness which surround it, Thou canst think of me with a personal affection. Thou hast died, that I might live. "Let us love God," says Thy Apostle, "because He first hath loved us." I can love Thee now from first to last, though from first to last I cannot understand Thee. As I adore Thee, O Lover of souls, in Thy humiliation, so will I admire Thee and embrace Thee in Thy infinite and everlasting power.

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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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