And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
The words be St. Paul's, and to the Corinthians. And if we neither knew whose they were, nor to whom, yet this we might know by the words themselves, that it is love that speaks, and unkindness that is spoken to.
Impendam--superimpendar--libentissime. This must needs be love; and that unkindness, that requits such love with such an etsi; etsi minus diligar, 'though the more I love, the less I be loved.'
Many ways it may be manifest, that St. Paul loved the Church of Corinth, more than many others loved them, for he laboured more for them. By the time he spent with them, a year and half full--scarce with any so much. By his visiting them three several times--not any so oft. By two of his largest epistles sent to them--not to any the like. And in one of them we see here, how frank and how kind a profession he maketh, in quâ omne verbum charitatis igne vaporatur, 'wherein every word carrieth a sweet scent of love's perfume,''--it is St. Gregory. These, each of these; but all these together may prove his magis diligam, the abundance of his love to Corinth.
[98/99] Now there should be in love the virtue of the load-stone, the virtue attractive, to draw like love to it again. There should be, but was not. For their little love appeared by their many unloving exceptions which they took to him. To his office: that he was but an Apostle of the second head, and no ways to be matched with the chief Apostles. To his person: that he was one of no presence. Somewhat good at an Epistle, but his person or presence nothing worth. To his preaching: that he was but idiwthj tù lo/gJ, 'not so eloquent by much, as divers of them were;' or his sermons of the ex opere Corinthiaco 'of the Corinthian fashion.' Indeed, I know not how, but he could not hit on their vein.
This cold infusion of so faint regard on their parts might have quenched his love. It did Apollos', for Apollos was once at Corinth, but found them so diverse to please, as he waxed weary and got him away; and when he was moved to return to them, p£uttwjj oÙk Âu qe/lhma,'his mind was not all' to come there again as yet, saith St. Paul. It made Apollos give over. So might it St. Paul too. But him it did not. Charitas quâ ædificabat, 'the love wherewith he built' was like lime, slacked not but rather kindled, with water. For not withstanding all these, such was his zeal, and his tantus zelator animarum, that we see his affection, and we hear his resolution what it is. Unkind they might be, but no unkindness of theirs, or verdict never so hard, or censure so sharp; no minus diligar should move him, or make him love their souls a whit the less.
Wherein, lest they might be jealous he sought to Corinth so oft for the ore of it, because the soil was rich, there was good to be done, as men are ever that way quick-eyed; he appealed to all his former course with them, that he had sought nothing hitherto. Nothing he had sought, nor nothing hitherto. Nothing he had sought, nor nothing he would seek. And to come to this our verse, not only seek nothing, 1. but he would bestow; 2. bestow, and be bestowed himself; 3. and that, most willingly--indeed it is higher, _dista, 'most gladly' 4. and all this, to use Chrysostom's words, not Úper tïu oÙde Filoutwu, 'for those that had not begun to love him first,' but Úper tïu oÛd ¢utiFilloÚuteu, 'for those that being loved first did not love him again.' 5. And that, not kat' sa, 'in equal measure''- that [99/100] is not his complaint, but such as 'the more' (it is fuller in the Greek, perrisste/twj, 'the more abundantly') 'they were loved, loved him the less for it.' The degrees are many; and look how many degrees, so many several points of elevation.
All which when I consider, I cannot choose but marvel at his love, which truly is right admirable; and more at their minus, than his magis. But at his heroical spirit most of all, whom such and so great unkindness could not overcome. The rather, when I lay it to, and compare it with ours in these times; in which, a kind of love we have, such as it is, but such as it will not endure St. Paul's assay, or if in some degrees it do, if it be not respected straight, not as it deserveth, for so happily it is, but as it supposeth itself to deserve, if it be crossed with any unkindness, it groweth abrupt. Every minus diligar, makes it abate; and far we are from this Christian magnamimity, to resolve with him in the eleventh chapter, Quod facio, hoc et faciam, 'what I do, that I will do still.' Or here, love I will still, 'though the more I love the less I be loved.'
The thing loved, is the Corinthians' souls. And as Corinth itself was situated in a narrow land between two seas, so are they in the verse; having on the one side, the sea of self-love, in the former part; and on the other, the gulf of unkindness, in the latter. Through either of which St. Paul maketh a first and second navigation, if happily he may so adire Corinthum, gain their souls to Christ, more precious to him than Corinth itself and all the wealth in it.
In the love two things are offered. For, in the former moiety of the verse, he is encountered with self-love, 1. which bestoweth nothing, 2. but least of all his life; 3. or if it do, it is not most gladly; nay, not gladly at all. These three he beateth down: the first, with impendam; the second, with impendar; the third, with libentissime. Thus having vanquished the love of himself in the former, in the latter moiety unkindness riseth up. Unkindness in them for whom he had done all the former. Over which second enemy having a second conquest also, and triumphing over it with his esti, he sheweth his love to be a love of proof, to have all the perfections and signatures of love; all which are within compass of this verse. Amor, as in schools we reckon them, 1. Impensivus; 2. Expensivus; 3. Intensivus, and [100/101] 4. Extensivus. The two former in the two verbs: 1. active, impendam; and 2. passive, impendar; 'bestowing,' or spending; 'bestowed,' or spent itself. The two latter in the adverb and the conjunction; 3. Intensive, straining itself to the highest, 'most gladly;' and 4. Extensive, stretching itself to those that are fatherest from love, and least deserve it; Esti minus diligar. 1. 'To spend;' 2. 'To spend and be spent;' 3. 'To spend and be spent willingly.' If the full point were there, it were enough. 4. But not only libentissime, but libentissime esti; 'most gladly,' yea, 'though the more he, the less they;'--that is all in all.
But then, lest we mistake our term of love, as easily we may, and confound it with lust, we must look to our pro in the second part. It is pro animabus, 'soul-love,' he meaneth all the while. 'Love,' the fruit of the Spirit; not lust, the weed of the flesh. Not of this flesh, sister to worms, and daughter to rottenness; but of the spirit allied to the Angels, and 'partaker in hope of the Divine nature' itself. And not of one only, but animabus, 'of souls'--more than love of one soul; many souls, many thousands of souls, of a whole state or country. Them to love, and to them thus to prove our love, is it which St. Paul would teach, and it which we need to learn. These be the two parts. Whereof, &c.
To enter the treaty of the first part, We begin at the four points: 1. Impendam,. 2. Impendar, 3. Libentissime, and 4. Etsi. If love be 'an ensign,' as Cant. 6, the colours. If it be 'a band,' as Hosea 11, the twists. If a scale, as Chrysostom, the ascents. If an art, as Bernard, the rules of it, Indeed. they talk much of an art of love, and books of verses have been written of it; but above all verses, is carmen hoc amoris. This verse hath more art than they all; and of this it may be said, Me legat, et lecto carmine doctus erit; 'learn it and say you learned love.' To take them as they lie, and with the first, first. Ego vero impendam.
1. There was a world when one said, Da mihi cor tuum et sufficit; 'bestow your heart on me, and I require no farther bestowing;' and the bestowing of love, though nothing but love, was something worth.
2. Such a world there was, but that world is worn out. All [101/102] goeth now by impendam. Love and all is put out to interest. The other empty-handed love is long since banished the court, the city and the country. For long since it is that King Saul saw it, and said it to his courtiers that he was not regarded, but because he gave them fields, and vineyards, and offices over hundreds and thousands. Nor yet Diana in the city of Ephesus, magnified here by the craftsmen, but because by her silver shrines they had their advantage. Nay nor Christ Himself neither in the country, but because they 'ate of the loaves and were filled.' For many miracles had they seen much greater than that, yet never professed they so much, sicut tunc exaturati, as when He bestowed a good meal on them.
3. Such is now the world's love, but specially at Corinth, where they do cauponari amorem indeed; set love to hire, and love to sale, and at so high a rate, as some were forced to give over, lest paying for love they might buy repentance too, and both too dear.
4. There is no remedy then; St. Paul must apply himself to time and place, wherein as all things else, so love depends upon impendam, yielding and paying.
5. Now, there is nothing so pliant as love, ever ready to transform itself to whatsoever may have likelihood to prevail; and if it be liberality, into that too. For, that love is liberal, nay prodigal, the Greek proverb noteth it that saith, The purse-strings of love are made of a leak blade; easily in sunder, and wide open with no great ado.
6. St. Paul therefore cometh to it, and as he maketh his case a father's case towards them in the verse next before, so he saith with the kind father, Ecce omnia mea tua sunt, Father's love and all must be proved by bestowing.
7. Yea, 'I will bestow.' Now alas, what can Paul bestow? Especially upon wealthy citizens? What hath he to part with, but his 'books and his parchments?' Ware, at Athens perhaps somewhat; but at Corinth, little used and less regarded. Indeed, if silver and gold be all, and nothing else worth the bestowing, nothing will come under impendam, but it;--his bestowing is stalled. But by the grace of God there is something else. There be talents--so the world will call them when they list, howsoever they esteem them scarce [102/103] worth a piece. And there be 'treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' in Christo Jesu, saith St. Paul. Indeed, so had St. Paul need to say; he had best magnify his own impendam, for he hath nothing else to make of. Nay, it shall not stand upon his valuation. They that had both, both the wealth of Corinth and the wisdom of Paul, and both in abundance, as being both of them Prophets; the one of them, King David preferreth this impendam of Paul's before 'gold, fine gold, much fine gold;' and that we may know how much that much is, 'before thousands of gold and silver.' This was no poor Apostle. The other, King Solomon, saith directly; 'There is gold, and a multitude of rich stones; but the lips of knowledge--that is the precious jewel.' And not policy, but scientia sacrorum, prudentia; 'the knowledge of holy things is the wisdom' he meaneth. And it was no flourish, he was in earnest. For it well known he himself chose them before the other when he was put to his choice, and that his liking in that choice was highly approved by God's own liking. The truth is, men have no sense of their souls till they be ready to part with them; and then is St. Paul's impendam called for, and never seriously before, when their case is such as they can little feel what the bestowing is worth.
And because they would not seek to feel it before, it is God's just punishment they feel it not then. But if men will labour to have sense of that part in due time, they should find and feel such an estate of mind as none know but such as have felt; surely such as they would acknowledge to be worth an impendam. Indeed, this it is St. Paul can bestow, and this it is Corinth needs; and the more wealthy it is, the more. The other, as he hath it not, so they need it not, that is, aurum et argentum; quod autem habet, 'but that he hath,' he is ready to bestow. What would we have more. Fecit quod potuit, saith our Saviour in Mary Magdalene's case; and dedit quod habuit, in the case of the poor widow's mites; and that is as much as God doth, or man can require. But be it little, or be it much, he that giveth all leaveth nothing ungiven, and therefore his impendam is at the highest.
But when it is at the highest, the passive impendar is higher than it. Much more to 'be bestowed,' than 'to bestow.' [103/104] And therefore it hath a super-impendar bestowed on it. 1. For first, they that bestow give but of their fruits; but he that is bestowed giveth fruit, tree, and all. In that, the bestower remained unbestowed; here, he himself is in the deed of gift too. 2. Secondly, before there was but one act of bestowing only; here in one are both bestowing and being bestowed, and there being both must needs be better than one. 3. Thirdly, before, that which was bestowed, what was it? Our good, not our blood; our living, not our life. Nondum ad sanguinem, 'not yet so far as to the shedding of blood.' Then, there is somewhat behind. But if to the shedding of that, then is it love at the farthest; if it be as Solomon saith, fortis sicut mors; 'dare throw death his gauntlet.' Majorem hoc nemo, saith Christ, 'greater love hath no man than this, to bestow his life.' 4. And indeed, we see many can be content to bestow frankly, but at no hand to be bestowed themselves. Yea, that they may not be bestowed, care not what they bestow. For self-love crieth us, Spare our living; but in any wise, propitius esto tibi, to spare our life. 'Skin for skin' is nothing but impendere ne impendamur; 'to spend all we have, to spare ourselves.' But hither also will St. Paul come from dappau©u to ekdapau©sqaii, without any reservation at all of himself; to do or suffer, 'to spend or be spent.'
How 'to be spent?' will he die? Yea indeed. What, presently here at Corinth? No, for at this time, and long after he was still alive; and yet he said truly impendar for all that. For, as before we said, so say we in this. If there be no way 'to be bestowed' but by dying out of hand, they that in field receive the bullet, or they that at the stake have the fire set to them, they and they only may be said, 'to be bestowed.' That is a way indeed, but not the only way; but other ways there be beside them too. As that is said 'to be bestowed,' not only that is defrayed at one entire payment, but that which by several sums is paid in; especially, if it be when it was not due, nor could not be called for. This I mean: The Patriarch Lot, or the Prophet Jeremy, that dwelling when sin abounded, and seeing and hearing, 'vexed their righteous souls' with the daily transgressions of the people, and for their unkindness too; and thereby prevented [104/105] their term, and paid nature's debt ere there day came, bestowed themselves say I, though not at once. For, hearts' grief and heaviness do more than bestow, for they even consume and waste a man's life. And Timothy, that by giving attendance to reading, meditation, and study, grew into an ¢peyia, and 'often infirmities,' and thereby shortened his time by much, bestowed himself say I, though not a t one instant. He that knew it bare witness, that that course of life is 'a wearying,' yea, and a wearing of it too; and spends another manner substance than the sweat of the brows. This then, for the present, was St. Paul's impendar. By intentive meditation, for his books and parchments took somewhat from his sum; by sorrow and grief of heart, for Quis scandalizatur et ego non uror? and that he said and said truly, Quotidie morior, he bestowed himself by inch-meal; and might avow his impendar before God or man. And so far it is the case of all them that be in this case--Sal terræ, as Christ termeth them; which salt, by giving season, melteth itself away, and ceaseth in short time to be that it was. Lux mundî, 'the light of the world,' alius minnnistrando, seipos consumendo, 'lighting others, and wasting themselves;' that is, abridging their natural course, and drawing on their untimely diseases and death, before their race be half run.
But, to make it a perfect impendar and to give it his super, after all this he came to that other too. For so he did; in that point, like the poor labouring ox to which in the ninth Chapter of the former Epistle he resembleth his state, spending his time in earing the ground for corn, in inning the corn, in treading out the corn; his neck yoked, and his mouth muzzled, and in the end, when all is done, offered on the altar too and made a sacrifice of. It was his case, he might truly say impendar, and super-impendar both.
But to elevate it yet a point higher we say, that as either of these are much, and both exceeding much; yet above both these is that, which though we handle third, it standeth first, the adverb libentissime, either. True it is, which in divinity we say: with God the adverb is above the verb, and the inward affection wherewith, above the outward action or passion of impendam or impendar, either. With men it is so too. When a [105/106] displeasure is done us, say we not, we weigh not so much the injury itself, as the malicious mind of him who did offer it? And if in evil it hold, why not in good much more? Not so much impendar, the thing which; as libentissime, the good heart wherewith it is bestowed. And will you see the mind wherewith St. Paul will do both these? By this adverb _dista you may look into his very heart. Bestow he will, and be bestowed too; and that, not utcunque, 'in any sort,' be contented to come to it, but willingly;--willingly, nay readily; readily, nay gladly; and the degree is somewhat, _dista, 'most gladly,' in the very highest of all, in the superlative degree. To spend, and spending to make no more reckoning of it than of chaff: nay, it is more, to be glad of our loss, more glad than others would be of their gain. To be spent, and in being spent not to hold our life precious; nor so, but to rejoice in it, and as if death were advantage; in hoc est charitas, certainly. Death of itself is bitter, and loss is not sweet. Then, so to alter their natures as to find sweetness in loss whereat all repine, and gladness in death which maketh all to mourn, verily herein is love. Or, if not here, where? Nay, here it is indeed, and before now we had it not. For in flat terms he avoweth, in the thirteenth Chapter before of his former Epistle, if we sever this from the other two, one may part with all his goods to feed the poor, and yet have no love; one may give his body to be burnt, and yet have no love. And then though he do impendere, 'bestow' all he hath; and though he do impendi, 'he bestowed'himself, nihil est, 'he is nothing'if he want this affection, which is love indeed, the very soul of love, and the other but skeletÕjss but the skin and bones, and indeed nought else but the carcass, without it. Therefore it was that St. Paul set this in the first place before the other two, because the other two be but ciphers, and after this the figure set, they be tens and hundreds, and have their valuation; but without it, of themselves they be but ciphers, just nothing. Thus much St. Paul hath said, in saying these three words, 1. impendam, 2. Impendar, 3. Libentissime. Thus much they amount to.
And now must we pause a little to see what will become of all this, and what these three will work in the Corinthians.
[106/107[ We marvel at the love: we shall more marvel when we see what manner of men on whom it was bestowed. What his proofs are we have heard, how large and how loving, and thus far is he come, only to win favour and like mutual love at their hands, without eye to any other thing in the world. No vestra; no--but vos only. This is all. And not this, not so much; nay not so little as this will come. Which, if it did come, what singular thing were it? since the 'very publicans do the like,' love him that loveth them. Which we gather by his esti. Wherein, as he may, in no loud and bitter manner he complaineth, but complaineth though; that seeking their love, and nothing else, so hard was his hap, he found it not. Not, in a greater, or as a great a measure, as his; but minus for magis, and so he a great loser by it. The more, the higher, the nearer, his; the less, the lower, the farther off, theirs; so that little likelihood of every meeting.
This is St. Paul's case, to meet with unkindness; and not only his, but Christ met with nine for one too. Indeed, it is common, and not to be noted but for commonness. De ingratis etiam ingrati queruntut, 'they that are unkind themselves inveigh against the unkindess of others.' And, as it was said of them that made Cæsar away, Oderunt tyrannum, non tyrannidem, so may it truly here; the persons that are unkind they hate, rather than the vice itself. Yet, even to know this, doth no hurt, what St. Paul met with in the Corinthians, and this too, that all unkind persons dwell not at Corinth. And as he to be pitied, so they to be blamed. All other commodities return well from Corinth; only love is no traffic. St. Paul cannot make his own again, but must be a great loser withal. St. Augustine saith well; Nulla est major ad amorem provocatio, quam prævenire amando. Nimis enim durus est animus, qui amorem etsi nolebat impendere, nolit tamen rependre. 'No more kindly attractive of love, than in love to prevent; for exceeding stony is that heart, which, though it like not to love first, will not love again neither;' either first, or second. Yet so hard were theirs that neither one way nor other, recte nor reflecte, would either begin or follow. No, not provoked by all those so many forcible means, that St. Chrysostom maketh wonder at it, Quomodo non converterentur in amorem, [107/108] 'that they were not melted and resolved into love itself.'
Which cold success openeth a way to the last point, the point indeed of highest admiration, and of hardest imitation of all the rest, in the conjunction Esti. Which conjunction is situated, much like Corinth itself, in a narrow land, as it were, between two seas; beaten upon the one with self-love, upon the other with unkindness. Hitherto we have had to do but with self-love, and his assaults; but now unkindness also is up. These Corinthians, saith St. Paul, my affection standeth toward them in all love. Love them and spare not, saith self-love, but tene quod habes. Nay sure, Impendam, 'I will bestow it.' Well, if there be no remedy--But, hear you, Propitas esto tibi, for all that. Nay, nor that neither. Impendar, 'I will be bestowed myself too.' Potesne bibere calicem hunc, saith self-love? and can you get it down, think you? Yea, libentissime, 'exceedingly gladly.' There is the conquest of self-love.
But all this while he lived still under hope, hope of winning their love for whose sakes he had trod under the foot the love of himself; hope that it had been but impendam all the while, he should have had returned his own again at least. But at this esti all is turned out and in. For this is as much to say as all is to little purpose; for to his grief he must take notice, they care for none of them, nor for him ever a whit the more; yea, rather the less by a great deal. So that all three be in vain; et supra omnem laborem labor irritus, 'no labour to lost labour;' nor expense of life or goods to that is spent in vain. For that is not impendam, but perdam; not spent, but cast away. Therefore the former, though it were finiculus triplex, 'a threefold cord,' and not easily broken, would not hold but fly in pieces, but for this esti. To have then an esti in our love; this esti, this 'though in vain,' though our impendam prove a perdam; that is it. To be able to turn the sentence and say, 'though the more I love the less I be loved, yet will I bestow,' yea, 'be bestowed,' and that 'most gladly,' for all that. It is hard, I confess; but Solus amor erubescit nomen difficultatis, `love endureth not the name of difficulty,' but shameth to confess anything too hard or too dangerous for it. For [108/109] verily, unkindness is a mighty enemy, and the wounds of it deep. Nay there be that of themselves are most kind in all three degrees before remembered, as was King David, and as all noble natures are; why self-love is nothing in their hands. But let them be encountered with unkindness, as David was in Nabal, they cannot stand the stroke; it woundeth deep, and the fester of discontentment more dangerous than it. Indeed, saith David, 'this fellow,' I see, 'I have done all in vain for him, for he rewardeth me evil for good; and so do God to me, if he be alive to-morrow by this time.' Mark it in him, and in others infinite; and you shall see, whom self-love could not, unkindness hath overcome; and who passed well along the other three, at minus diligar their love hath wracked, and from kind love been turned to deadly hate.
But neither can this appal the apostle, or dislodge his love, but through all the rest, and through this too, he breaketh with his esti, and sheweth he will hold his resolution, maugre all unkindness. Minus diligar will not do it; unkindness must yield, love will not.
And now we are come to the highest, and never till now, but now we are; that farther we cannot go. The very highest pitch of well-doing the heathen man saw in part; for he could say, Beneficium dare et perdere, 'to bestow love and lose it,' is well done; but that is not it. This is it; Beneficium perdere, et dare, 'to lose the first and yet bestow the second.' esti, yea, though the first were lost.
Yea, the love of loves, Christ's own love, what was it? Majorem hâc charitatem nemo habet, quam ut vitam quis ponat pro amicis. Whereto St. Bernard rejoineth well, Tu majorem habuisti Domine, quia Tu vitam posuisti etiam pro inimicis: 'Greater love than this has no man, to bestow his life for his friends.' Yet Lord, saith St. Bernard; 'Thou hadst greater, for Thou bestowedst Thy life for Thy very enemies.' And to this love it is that St. Paul aspireth, and near it he cometh; that in some sort we may likewise say to him, Tu majorem habuisti Paule, 'Yes, thy love Paul was greater,' for thou art ready to do the like; not for thine enemies, but for thy unkind friends, the next degree to professed enemies. 1. 'To spend.' 2. 'To spend and be spent;' 3. 'To spend 109/110] and be spent, and that most gladly.' 4. Not only 'most gladly;' but 'most gladly, yea though.'
Thus you have now his double conquest: Over the love of himself; and now, over minus diligar, an unkind repulse too. And, in sign of victory he setteh up his colours, even these four: 1. Impendam, 2. Impendar, 3. Libentissime, and 4. esti. But etsi is the chief; it is Christ's colour, and that no perfect love that wanteth est.
Thus we have seen love in his highest ascendant, and heard love in his magisterium, the hardest and highest, and indeed the master-point of this art. Which setteth us new on work, to pass over into the second part, and to enquire what this object may be, so amiable, whereon St. Paul hath set his affection so, that for it he will do and suffer all this; and that, so willingly without any exception, so constantly without any giving over. All this is nothing but the zeal of souls, zelus animarum faciet hoc; it is for their souls, all this. For their souls; and let their bodies go.
Which first draweth the diameter that maketh the partition between the two loves; the love which St. Paul found, and the love which St. Paul left at Corinth. For he found that which is scelus corporam, 'the body's unruly affection,' and infection too otherwhile; if ever in any place, there it abounded, but he left zelus animarum, the soul's perfection. Indeed it falleth out sometimes, that in carnal love, or rather lust than love, we may pattern all the former; and find, as the Wise Man speaketh, some one destitute of understanding, wasting his whole substance, hazarding his life, and that more willingly than wisely, perhaps to gain nothing but a scorn for his labour, and yet persisting in his folly still; and all this, in the passion of concupiscence to a vain creature; pleasing his fancy to the displeasing of God, and to the piercing of his soul one day with deep remorse for it; and except it do, to the utter ruin both of body and soul. We have here at Corinth, a strange example of it. Of one,--ad cujus jacuit Græcia tota fores, 'at whose doors, sundry of all sorts waited,' suing and seeking, and as one of them said, Buying repentance at too dear a rate. But what need we to sail to Corinth? Even in our own age we have now fond examples of it; of love set awry and sorted amiss, diverted from the soul where [110/111] it should be bestowed, and lavished on the body, where a great deal less would serve. It is St. Augustine's wish, O si excitiare possemus homines et cum iis excitari, ut tales amatores, &c! 'O that we would in this kind stir up others, and ourselves with them be stirred up, but even to bestow such love on the immortal soul, as we see daily cast away on the corruptible body!' What, but so much, and no more? Absit ut sic, sed utinam vel sic! 'Till it might be more, would God it were but as much in the mean time!' Yet more and more it should be. Sed infelix populus Dei non habet tantum fervorem in bono, quanto mali in malo, is St. Hierome's complaint. 'But the people of God, unhappy in this point, have not the courage or constancy in the love of the Spirit, that the wicked world hath in the lust of the flesh.' That courage? No, nothing like. Ad erubescentiam nostram dico, 'to our shame it must be spoken.' Look but to the first point, impendam; doth not the body take it wholly up? And, if we fail in the lower, what will become of the rest? Well, St. Paul's love is, and ours must be if be right, pro animabus, 'soul-love,' which may serve for the first point of the sequestration.
But why pro animabus, what is there in the soul so lovely that all this should be said or done for it? Why for souls? Why? 1. Why, take the soul out of the body which so much we dote on, but even half an hour, and the body will grow so out of love, so deformed, so ugly, so every way loathsome, as they that now admire it will then abhor it; and they that now cannot behold it enough, will not then endure once to come near it, nor within the sight of it. This a natural man would answer: The soul is to be regarded of the body, for it maketh the body to be regarded. 2. But a Christian man will say more for it. That the love of Christ must be the rule of the love of Christians, and ours suitable to His. And Christ hath valued the soul above the world itself, in direct affirming that he, that to win the world hazards his soul, makes but an unwise bargain; which bargain were wise enough, if the world were more worth. Appende animam homo, saith Chrysostom, 'If you would prize your souls better, you would bestow more on them.' This is nothing. Christ hath valued your souls; valued and [111/112] loved them above Himself; Himself, more worth than many worlds, yea, if they were ten thousand. I come now to the point. Is Christ to be loved? Why, all that St. Paul hitherto has professed, all and every part of it, it was but to the souls at second-hand. His eye was upon Christ, all the time of his profession. But because Christ hath by deed enrolled set over His love to men's souls, and willed us towards them to show whatsoever to Him we profess; therefore, and for no other cause, it is, that he standeth thus affected. For that those souls Christ so loved, that he loved not Himself to love them. Dilexisti me, Domine, plus quam Te, quando mor voluisti pro me it is St. Augustine. 'Dying for my soul, Lord, Thou shewedst that my soul was dearer to Thee, that Thine ownself.' In love then to Christ, we are to love them that Christ loved, not sicut Seipsum, 'as Himself,' but plusquam Seipsum, 'more than himself;' and therefore hath changed the sicut of the Law, sicut teipsum, 'as thyself' into a new sicut, sicut Ego vos, 'as I have loved you.' And how did He love us? Even that He was the first that ever professed these four to us. 1. Did bestow, 2. was bestowed, 3. most gladly, 4. yea though the more He loved, the less we loved Him. Or, to give Him His right, a degree higher than Paul; not, when we loved Him little, as faint friends, but hated Him greatly as sworn enemies. For He is it was who professed this art first. The words are indeed Christ's own; the primitive and most proper uttering them belongeth to Him. None ever so fully or so fitly spoken or can speak them, as the Son of God on the cross, from the chair of his profession. And of Him, there St. Paul learnt hoc carmen amoris. Himself confesseth as much in the fifth chapter of this Epistle, that it was love; not his own love, but Christ's love, charitas Christi extorsit, that brought these words from him. His they be not, but ore tenus; the tongue his, but Christ the speaker. His they were; His they are, out of whose mouth, or from whose pen, soever they come.
We are come then now, where we may read love in the very original; yea, in the most complete perfection that ever it was. Profitente Christo, 'Christ Himself, the professor,' saith, 1. Imependam first; bestow He will. If you will make port-sale of your love, none shall outbid Him. Even whatsoever [112/113] Himself is worth, He will bestow; His kingdom, and the fullness of joy and glory in it for ever.
2. Impendar That? why consummatum est, it is done already; all hands and feet, head and heart, opened wide; and all, even to the last drop of blood bestowed for us on His cross, where the love of souls triumphed over the love of His own life.
3. Libentissime, 'most gladly.' Witness that speech, 'A baptism, I have to be baptised with,' and quomodo coarctor, 'how I am pained till I be at it!' And that too that to him that moved Him not to bestow, but favour Himself, He used no other terms than to the devil himself, 'Avoid Satan.' Proof, enough, say I, how willingly He went, and how unwillingly He would be kept from it.
4. And for his esti, would God it were not too plain! Both at His cross, where the louder their crucifige, with the more strong crying and tears He prayed Pater ignosce; and ever since, usque hodie, 'till now,' when all may see our regard is as little as His love great, and He respected as if He had done nothing for us. Every part of His love, and the profession of His love, but specially the etsi of His love passeth all. For Christ by deed enrolled has set over His love to them. Which is that that setteth such a price upon them, and maketh them so amiable, if not in their own kindness and loveliness, yet in the love of Christ Himself. And it is the answer that David when he loseth his sleep, to think upon the people of God; that Moses, when he wearieth himself in hearing causes from morning to night; that Joshua, when he fighteth the Lord's battles, and jeopards his life in the high places of the field; that any that wears and spends himself in the common cause, may make as well at St. Paul. Why it is pro anumabus, 'it is for souls,' for safeguard of souls--those souls which Christ hath so dearly loved, and so dearly bought, and to our love so carefully commended; Sicut Ego vos, as He did or ever shall do for us, that we do for them. Whereto, if not the souls themselves, for the most part unthankful, yet this motive of love, of Christ's love, doth in a manner violently constrain us. For though nothing is less violent in the manner, yet in the work nothing worketh more violent than it.
[113/114] I conclude then with St. Bernard's demand; Quæ vero utilitas in sermone hoc? 'What use have we of all that hath been said?' For he that wrote it is dead, and they to whom it was written are gone; but the Scripture still remaineth, and we are to take good by it.
It serveth first to possess our souls of that excellent virtue, major horum, 'the greatest of the three;' no, the virtue without which the rest be but ciphers; the virtue that shineth brightest in Christ's example, and standeth highest in His commendation, love.
But love, the action of virtue, not the passion of vice. Love, not of the body, the 'vile body'- so the Holy Ghost termeth it--but of the soul, 'the precious soul'of man. Love of souls; the more, the more acceptable. If of a city, well; if of a country, better; if of a county or kingdom, best of all.
And for them, and for their love, to be ready to prove it by St. Paul's trial; to open our impendam, to vow our impendar, and as near as may be to aspire to the same degree of libentissime. Verily, they that either, as the Apostle, for the winning of souls; or for the defence and safety of souls, many thousands of souls, the souls of a whole estate, in high and heroical courage have already passed their impendam; and are ready to offer themselves every day to impendar, and with that resolute forwardness which we all see, for it is a case presently in all our eyes; they who do thus, no good can be spoken of their love answerable to the desert of it. Heavenly it is, and in Heaven to receive the reward.
But when all is done, we must take notice of the world's nature. For, as St. Paul left it, so we shall find it, that is, we shall not perhaps meet with that regard we promise ourselves. St. Paul's magis diligum met with a minus diligar.
Therefore above all remember his etsi. For to be kind, and that to be unkind; to know, such we shall meet with; yea, to meet with them, and yet hold our etsi, and love nevertheless; this certainly is that love, majorem quâ nemo; and there is on earth no greater sign of a soul thoroughly settled in the love of Christ, than to stand thus minded. Come what will come, magis or minus, si or etsi, frown or favour, respect or neglect; Quod facio, hoc et faciam, 'What I do, I will do,' [114/115] with eye to Christ, with hope of regard from Him, let the world be as it is, and as it ever hath been.
Samuel, this day in the first Lesson, when he had spent his life in a well-ordered government that his very enemies could no way except to, in his old days was requited with fac nobis Regem, only upon a humour of innovation. What then? Grew he discontent? No, non obstante, for all their ingratitude, good man, this he professeth, 'God forbid,' saith he, 'I should sin in ceasing to pray for you; yea, I will shew you the good and right way of the Lord for all that.' That they may serve to match this out of the Old Testament. For here in like sort we have Paul's minus diligar before our eyes; and we see, he is at his libentissime esti for all that. You learn then, as that minis diligar may come, so in case it do come, what to do; even to consummate your love with a triumph over unkindness. Learn this, and all is learned; learn this, and the whole art is had.
And we have in this verse, and in the very first word of it, that will enter us into this lesson.
First from ego vero. From his, and from our own persons, we may begin to raise this duty. When we were deep in our minus diligar, and smally regarded Christ; no, cum iminici essemus, to take as we should, when 'we were His enemies,' of His over-abundant kindness it pleased Him to call us from the blindness of error to the knowledge of His truth; and from a deep consumption of our souls by sin, to the state of health and grace. And if St. Paul were loved when he raged and breathed blasphemy against Christ and His Name, is it much if for Christ's sake he swallow some unkindness at the Corinthians' hands? Is it much if we let fall a duty upon them, upon whom God the Father droppeth His rain, and God the Son drops, yea sheds His blood, Úper _caristouj kai pouhro_j, 'upon evil and unthankful men?'
Surely if love, or well-doing, or any good must perish, which is the second motive, and be lost through some body's default where it lighteth, much better it is that it perish in the Corinthians' hands, than in Paul's; by them in their evil receiving, than by him in his not bestowing; through their unkindness, than through our abruptness. For so, the sin [115/116] shall be theirs, and we and our souls innocent before God. Impendatur per nos, pereat per illos.
But perish it shall not, which is the third point, though for them it may. For howsoever of them it may be truly said, 'The more we love, the less they;' of Christ it never can, nor ever shall be said. For St. Paul, for the little love at their hands, found the greater at His. Though the more he loved, the less they loved him; yet the less they loved, the more Christ loved him. Of Whom to be loved, even in the least degree, is worth all the love of Corinth, and all Achaia too. So that here we find that we missed all this while a tamen for our esti. Though not they, yet Christ. Which tamen maketh amends for all. Et vigilanti verbo usus est Apostolus; that St. Paul spoke not at adventure, but was well advised when he used the word impendam. For it is impendam indeed, not perdam; not lost, but laid out; not cast away, but employed on Him, for Whose love none ever hath or shall bestow aught, but he shall receive a super-impendar of and hundred-fold. And indeed, all other loves of the flesh, or world, or whatsoever else, shall perish and come to nothing; and of this, and this only, we may say impendam truly.
So that, to make an end, though it be that St. Bernard saith, Perfectus amor vires non sumit de spe 'Perfect love receiveth no manner strength from hope;' yet for that our love is not without his imperfections, all under one view we may with one eye behold Christ's magis diligam, when we were scarce in our minus, no scarce loved Him at all; and with the other look upon impendam, that what we do herein, though at men's hands we find no return, at Christ's we shall, and it shall be the best bestowed service that ever we bestowed, that we bestow in this kind.
Now would God, the same Spirit which here wrote this verse would write it in our hearts, that those things are thus; that such a rependum there will be, and we well assured of it, ut et nos converteremur in amorem, 'that we might be transformed into this love!' Which blessing, Almighty God bestow on that which hath been said, for Christ's, &c.!