Aristotle was consistent in saying that good is indeed amiable, but to each one his own good principally, so that the love which we have for others proceeds from the love of ourselves: -- for how could a philosopher say otherwise who not only did not love God, but hardly ever even spoke of the love of God? As a fact, however, this love of God precedes all love of ourselves, even according to the natural inclination of our will, as I have made clear in the first book.
In truth, the will is so dedicated, and, if we may say it, consecrated to goodness, that if an infinite goodness be clearly proposed unto it, it must, unless by miracle, sovereignly love this goodness: yea, the Blessed are carried away and necessitated, though not forced, to love God whose sovereign beauty they clearly see; as the Scripture sufficiently shows in comparing the contentment which fills the hearts of the glorious inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem to a torrent and impetuous flood, whose waters cannot be kept from spreading over the plains it meets with.
But in this mortal life, Theotimus, we are not necessitated to love him so sovereignly, because we see him not so clearly. In heaven, where we shall see him face to face, we shall love him heart to heart; that is, as we shall all see the infinity of his beauty, each in our measure, with a sovereignly clear sight, so shall we be ravished, with the love of his infinite goodness in a sovereignly strong rapture, to which we shall neither desire, nor be able to desire, to make any resistance. But here below on earth, where we do not see this sovereign goodness in its beauty, but only have a half-sight of it amid our obscurities, we are indeed inclined and allured to love him more than ourselves; -- yet we are not necessitated: on the contrary, though we have this holy natural inclination to love the divinity above all things, yet we have not the strength to put it in execution, unless the same divinity infuse its most holy charity supernaturally into our hearts.
Yet true it is that as the clear view of the divinity infallibly produces the necessity of loving it more than ourselves, so the half-view, that is, the natural knowledge, of the divinity, infallibly produces the inclination and tendency to love it more than ourselves; for, I pray you, Theotimus, since the will is wholly ordained unto the love of good, how can it know, ever so little, a sovereign good without being so far inclined to love it sovereignly? Of all goods which are not infinite, our will always prefers in its love that which is nearest to it, and chiefly its own; but there is so little proportion between the infinite and the finite, that our will having knowledge of an infinite good is without doubt moved, inclined and excited to prefer the friendship of this abyss of infinite goodness before every other sort of love, yea even the love of ourselves.
This inclination is strong principally because we are more in God than in ourselves, we live more in him than in ourselves, and are in such sort from him, by him, for him and belonging to him, that we cannot undistractedly consider what we are to him and he is to us, without being forced to exclaim: I am thine, Lord, and must belong to none but thee; my soul is thine, and ought not to live but by thee, my will is thine, and is only to tend to thee, I must love thee as my first principle since I have my being from thee, I must love thee as my end and centre since I am for thee, I must love thee more than my own being, since my being subsists by thee, I must love thee more than myself, since I am wholly thine and in thee.
And in case there were or could be some sovereign good whereof we were independent, we should also, supposing that we could unite ourselves unto it by love, be excited to love this more than ourselves, seeing that the infinity of its sweetness would be still sovereignly more powerful to draw our will to its love than all other goods, yea, even than our own good.
But if, by imagination of a thing impossible, there were an infinite goodness on which we had no dependence whatever, and with which we could have no kind of union or communication, we should indeed esteem it more than ourselves, for we should know that being infinite it would be more estimable and lovable than we; and consequently we should be able to make simple desires of being able to love it; yet, properly speaking, we should not love it, since love aims at union; and much less could we have charity towards it, since charity is a friendship, and friendship cannot be unless it be reciprocal, having for its groundwork communication, and for its end union: I speak thus for the benefit of certain fantastic and empty spirits, who very often on baseless imaginations revolve morbid thoughts to their own great affliction. But as for us, Theotimus, my dear friend, we see plainly that we cannot be true men without putting this inclination into effect. Let us love him more than ourselves who is to us more than all and more than ourselves. Amen, so it is.