Of Love: Out Of A Letter To The Carthusians
I remember writing a letter to the holy brethren, wherein I discussed these degrees of love, and spoke of charity in other words, although not in another sense, than here. It may be well to repeat a portion of that letter, since it is easier to copy than to dictate anew.
To love our neighbor’s welfare as much as our own: that is true and sincere charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned (I Tim. 1.5). Whosoever loves his own prosperity only is proved thereby not to love good for its own sake, since he loves it on his own account. And so he cannot sing with the psalmist, ‘O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gracious’ (Ps. 118.1). Such a man would praise God, not because He is goodness, but because He has been good to him: he could take to himself the reproach of the same writer, ‘So long as Thou doest well unto him, he will speak good of Thee’ (Ps. 49.18, Vulg.). One praises God because He is mighty, another because He is gracious, yet another solely because He is essential goodness. The first is a slave and fears for himself; the second is greedy, desiring further benefits; but the third is a son who honors his Father. He who fears, he who profits, are both concerned about self-interest. Only in the son is that charity which seeketh not her own (I Cor. 13.5). Wherefore I take this saying, ‘The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, converting the soul’ (Ps. 19.7) to be of charity; because charity alone is able to turn the soul away from love of self and of the world to pure love of God. Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul. They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the object of supreme desire. Sometimes a slave may do God’s work; but because he does not toil voluntarily, he remains in bondage. So a mercenary may serve God, but because he puts a price on his service, he is enchained by his own greediness. For where there is self-interest there is isolation; and such isolation is like the dark corner of a room where dust and rust befoul. Fear is the motive which constrains the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1.14). But neither fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul. Only charity can convert the soul freeing it from unworthy motives.
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