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MEDITATION XXXVI

TRUE CHARITY

Love is the Seal of the Saint!

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

TRUE and sincere love is an unfailing characteristic of the godly soul. There is no Christian without faith, and no faith without love. When the heart glows not with love, there can be no true and fervent faith. Thou canst just as easily rob the sun of its light as separate love from faith. Love is an external exhibition of the real inward life of the Christian. The body without breath is dead, and so faith without love is dead (James ii. 26). “Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. viii. 9). And the man who exercises not the gift of love has not the spirit of Christ, for the fruit of the spirit is love (Gal. v. 22). A good tree is known by its fruits (Matt. vii. 16). Love is the bond of Christian perfectness (Col. iii. 14). As the members of the human body are joined together in a living organism through the spirit, that is, the soul, so all the members of the mystical body of Christ are united by the bond of love through the Holy Spirit. In Solomon’s temple all things within and without were overlaid with pure gold; so in the spiritual temple of God all should be adorned with true love (1 Kings vi. 21). Let love move thy heart to compassion and thy hands to bountiful gifts; compassion alone is not enough, if it be unaccompanied with the gifts; nor will the gifts alone do, if thy heart go not with them. Faith receives all things from God; love, on the other hand, gives all its own to its neighbor. By faith we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter i. 4), but God is love (1 John iv. 16). Let no one think then that true faith dwells in the heart, whose love does not show itself in outward act. One who truly believes in Christ loves Him also, and thus loving Him, he will love his neighbor as well. And if a man refuse to render due and loving service to his neighbor, he evidently has not yet laid hold on Christ in true and hearty confidence. No deed is truly good that does not proceed from faith (Rom. xiv. 23); nor is it truly good if it does not also proceed from love, for love is the root of all virtues, and there is no good spiritual fruit but that which springs from this root of love. Love is the soul’s spiritual relish; it alone extracts sweetness out of all the good, all the arduous, all the adverse, all the wearisome things of this life. It makes death even most blessedly sweet to the godly soul, “for love is strong as death” (Cant. viii. 6), nay, even stronger than death, for love led our Lord Jesus Christ to die for us. Aye, love so inspires the souls of the pious that they do not hesitate to yield up their lives for the love of Christ. All that God does He does out of love, even when He punishes His children, and so all that the Christian does he should do out of a heart filled with love. In all the works of His hands God displays to us His love. The sun and the stars shine not for themselves, but for us; and the herbs of the field do not possess medicinal properties for their own sakes, but for us; the air, water, and all the brute creating, are subservient to man’s highest interests. Go thou then and do likewise in ministering to thy neighbor.

Though thou hast the gift of tongues yet without love it profits thee nothing (1 Cor. xiii. 1), for this gift without love will simply puff thee up with pride, but love edifies (1 Cor. viii. 1). The gift to understand all mysteries without love profits thee nothing (1 Cor. xiii. 2), for these mysteries are known even to Satan, but love belongs only to the truly pious soul. Though thou hast all faith to remove mountains, yet without love thou art nothing (1 Cor. xiii. 2), for such faith works miracles but is not saving. Love is superior to the gift of working miracles; for the former is the indubitable mark of a true Christian, while the latter is imparted even to the ungodly. And though thou bestowest all thy goods to feed the poor, yet without love it will profit thee nothing (1 Cor. xiii. 3); for the external act of charity is hypocritical if there be not true love in the heart. Rivers of benevolence profit nothing if they do not have their rise in the fountain of love. “Love suffereth long” (1 Cor. xiii. 4), for we are not easily angered with those whom we truly love. “Love is kind” (1 Cor. xiii. 4), for if one has already given his own heart, the very best gift of his soul, how can he refuse these lesser external gifts? “Love envieth not” (1 Cor. xiii. 4), because it looks upon another’s good as its own. “Love vaunteth not itself” (1 Cor. xiii. 4), for no one easily injures one whom he truly and heartily loves. “Love is not puffed up” (1 Cor. xiii. 4), because by love we are all made members of one body, but one member does not prefer itself to another. “Love doth not behave itself unseemly” (1 Cor. xiii. 5), for only a wrathful man so acts, while true love curbs our wrath. “Love seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. xiii. 5), because love prefers the object of its love to itself, and seeks its advantage rather than its own. “Love is not easily provoked” (1 Cor. xiii. 5), for all anger springs from pride, while love in self-abasement casts itself down below others. “Love thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. xiii. 5), for if we are known to have evil designs against any one we give sure proof that we do not yet love him. “Love rejoiceth not in iniquity” (1 Cor. xiii. 6), because love makes the misery of others its own. “Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. xiii. 7), for what love desires for itself it does not refuse to others. “Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Cor. xiii. 8), but any imperfections that inhere in it in this life shall all be removed in the future life, and then its very perfections shall be augmented. God directed that two altars should be erected in the ancient tabernacle, and fire was carried from the other altar to the one within. God has also a two-fold Church, the Church militant upon earth, and the Church triumphant in heaven; and the fire of love that burns on the altar of the Church militant shall by and by be transferred to the altar of the Church triumphant above.

In view of all this, O devout soul, strive after a holy love; remember that whoever thy neighbor may be, Christ was willing to die for him (Rom. xiv. 15). Why then shouldst thou refuse thy love to him for whom Christ Himself hesitated not to die? If thou truly lovest God thou oughtest also to love one formed in His image. We are all one spiritual body (Eph. iv. 4); let us therefore be of one spiritual mind. It is not right that we who shall one day live together in heaven, should live at variance with each other here. Being of the same mind in Christ, let us also have the same will in Him. We are all servants of the same Lord (Eph. iv. 5); it is not right then for us to be at variance among ourselves. A member of the body which does not participate in the suffering of its fellow-member must be dead; nor let that man regard himself as a true member of the mystical body of Christ, who does not sympathize with another suffering member. There is “one God and Father of all” (Eph. iv. 6), whom thou dost daily address as “Our Father,” as Christ has taught us (Matt. vi. 9); now how will He recognize thee as His son, unless thou, on thy part, dost recognize His sons as thy brethren? Love a man commended to thee by God if he is worthy, on account of his worth; but if he is unworthy, love him at any rate, for the very reason that God who claims thy obedience is worthy. By loving thine enemy thou wilt show thyself a friend of God. Regard not what the man may do to thee, but what thou hast thus done to God. Regard not the injuries that thine enemy inflicts upon thee, but rather keep in mind the blessings which He confers upon thee who bids thee love thine enemy (Matt. v. 44). We are neighbors here on earth by virtue of our common human birth; we are brothers in the common possession of a hope of the heavenly inheritance. Let us then love one another.

Enkindle in our hearts, O God, the flame of love, by thy Holy Spirit!



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