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If you begin to feel troubled and even guilty that with the passing years you have made so little advance in love for God, then examine with more care than before the rule of Christ regarding it. You have known the great commandment from childhood. You have learned it by heart, and your conscience has admitted unconditionally that Christ is right. In your love for God nothing can be wanting. With all the heart and soul and mind and strength it must be 203 unbounded love. Everything must go for God even as you have to look for everything to God.

But even this broad admission did not satisfy Jesus. He did not say: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God in everything. He has carefully distinguished between the heart, the soul, the mind and the strength. And did you do well to ignore this? There was a purpose in this distinction. Our Lord has deemed this distinction to be necessary for the whole church. It was his will that ministers of the Word should bind this love for God severally with the heart, the soul, the mind and the strength upon the conscience of believers. It was his will that every child of God should continually examine himself, whether he practiced his love for God in this same fourfold way.

True godliness would have rooted more deeply and more firmly in the life of the church, if both preaching and self-examination had been applied more seriously to the cultivation of this full, warm love for God, and if it had derived more vital strength from the keeping of this first and great commandment. No holier power can animate us than love, and in all love the love for God wears the crown. Love, therefore, is the bond of perfection, provided it is not volatilized into a vague conception of ideal love without rule or object. Everything noble and exalted in love that can be idealized and celebrated in song, is only real, when it is a love that first loves God and for his sake one's neighbor.

Attention is at once arrested by the fact that in commending love for God, Jesus gives the heart the first mention, and not the soul. We 204 would have done otherwise. The soul as the center of our inner life would have been mentioned first, and from this we would have derived love with the heart and mind and all our strength. Jesus, on the other hand, begins with the heart and then points to the soul, the mind and the strength.

This difference between heart and soul is made clear by the word of the Lord in Jeremiah 4:10 and 18. At one time Israel is told that the terrible outpouring of God's wrath shall reach unto the heart; and at another time that it shall reach unto the soul, but with a sharply-outlined distinction. When the troubles that come upon Israel are described in their first stages of alarm, it is said: "This is thy wickedness, it is so bitter that it reacheth unto thine heart" (4:18). When suffering continues and the case at length becomes fatal, it is said: "That the sword reacheth unto the soul" (4:10). Thus the heart is the seat of the emotions and sensations, and the soul is the seat of life itself.

Applied to love, it is the heart that receives the impressions of love and makes this ardent feeling to flow forth. But love is clarified in the soul, and the impulse of the passion of love springs from the soul. Without the heart love can not be enjoyed, neither can it be exercised. But neither can love, which is thus enjoyed or exercised, touch yourself if there were not something deeper back and underneath the heart, even the source of life itself, and if there were there no operation of the tie that binds heart and soul in one.

Without ears there is no hearing, and there is 205 no speaking without voice. But it is the soul which employs the ear as an instrument to hear, and which speaks in the voice, if the saying shall be true. In the same way there is no drinking in of love, and no exhibition of love, without the heart; but it is always the soul that employs the heart as instrument by which to enter, with its deepest and most hidden life, upon the wealth of love.

To be able to say, therefore, that we love God with the heart, will not suffice. With the heart one can feel sweetly moved by enticing love, and become aware of reciprocal feeling of love within, and be quite innocent of actual true love, simply because the soul has no share in it.

This is strikingly evident in art. In grand opera we listen to a touching recital of human suffering. At the time we are deeply moved and carried along. The sensations of anxious forebodings, described in song, were sympathetically felt in the heart. We lived with the characters of the plot and shared their suffering. But presently the play is over. For a moment the impression stays by. But an hour later everything is forgotten and we continue our ordinary course as though nothing had happened. The case is not that the heart had not been moved, for even shallow feelings touch it. But the soul had no part in it, and therefore it did not touch us.

The same thing continually happens in life, A mother can not detect a tear in the eye of her child, but is at once almost moved to tears herself, and at the moment will do everything she can to comfort her darling and help him to forget his woes. But in many instances this does not go 206 beyond the confines of the heart. When the child that wept, laughs again, everything is over. Because the love for her child does not spring from the depths of her soul, she does not know how to love the soul of her child, hence she does not save but spoil him.

So there is a love for God with the heart, which is offended when the Divine honor is attacked, and which takes pleasure in tender feelings toward the Lord, but the object of it is self and not God. There is love there, but not the love that goes down deep enough to reach unto the soul. Our self is in our soul. There it stands before the face of our God. And therefore on the floor of the soul the question must be decided whether God exists for our sake, or whether we exist, solely and alone, for the sake of God.

When we can say: As for me, the latter is the case, it is glorious. But now the second question arises: Do we consent to have it so from submission, from the sense of our own unworthiness, or from love? Would we exist for no other purpose than for the sake of God, because we can do no other? Or because we would not wish it any other way, since God is our tenderest love and our whole existence is lost in love for him. If this be so, this love will be enjoyed through the heart, and it will express itself through the heart. The costly instrument of the heart was given us for this purpose. But he who employs this heart and plays on it in happy love, is always self in the center of the soul, in the deep underground of existence, where our person lives in the holy presence of the Triune God.


Have you become aware of any such love for God in your inmost self? If so, do you understand what it means to love God in your inmost self with all your soul? Not whether there are times when this is so, but whether it has become the fixed habit of your life. Not whether you surrender yourself to the love of God with a part of your soul, with a part of yourself, to the end that you might be saved, and be forever happy, but whether you give yourself to it, to the end that you might glorify God forever. It is not the division of the soul between yourself and God which is required, in order that you may commit continual robbery in the soul, and withhold from God part of your desires, part of your future, and part of your self-consciousness. The claim is terribly great. It is all comprehensive: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul. It means that there shall be no single utterance of life in you except such as springs from your love for God.

To do this, it may be said, we should be angels and not men. And this is true, provided we say: Not sinful men. But for this you have your Savior who, as man, has fulfilled this perfect love for God in your behalf. And if by a true faith you fly to him for refuge, in spite of your lack of love, you will have peace in your soul.

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