Letters concerning the love of God between the author of the Proposal to the ladies and Mr. John Norris, wherein his late discourse, shewing that it ought to be intire and exclusive of all other loves, is further cleared and justified
Norris, John, 1657-1711., Astell, Mary, 1668-1731.
Page  216

LETTER X. Mr. Norris's Answer.


HAving been so happy in my last as to give you no less Satisfaction concerning the second Difficulty arising from the seeming Inconsistency of the intire Love of GOD with the Love of our Neigh∣bour, than concerning the first, suggested from the Causality of GOD in reference to Pain as well as Pleasure, I shall now resume that Thred of my Discourse, which in the last save one I begun. but by Occasion of the Objection crossing my Way was forced to in∣terrupt and proceed to add to what both you and my self have already Page  217 offered, such further Improvement as I think necessary in order to the fuller Establishment of the intire Love of GOD. The Truth and Reasonableness of which Notion the more I think of it, seems to me so very evident, that as I can∣not with-hold my Assent from it my self, so were it not a matter of Practice wherein our Passions and Interests are concerned, as well as Theory that imploys our vnder∣standings, I should strangely wonder at all rational and conside∣rate Persons that can. But this in great measure silences my Admira∣tion. For this is the great Disad∣vantage that all Truths of a moral Nature lie under in Comparison of those that are physical or mathema∣tical, that though the former be in themselves no less certain than the latter, and demonstrated with Page  217 equal Evidence, yet they will not equally convince, nor find a paral∣lel Reception in the Minds of Men, because they meet with their Passions and Lusts, and have often∣times the will and affections to con∣tend with even after they have gained upon their Understandings; where∣as the other being abstract and in∣different Truths, and such where∣in they are wholly disinteressed, stand or fall by their own Light, and never fail to be received accor∣ding to the Degree of Evidence which they bring with them. Were I to deal only with the ratio∣nal Part of Man, I should think that half of what has been said would be enough to convince that, but considering the Nature of the Truth I advance, and what a strong Interest is made against it in the affectionate Part of humane Page  218 Nature, I cannot expect to find the generality of Men overforward to receive it. But then on the other side neither shall I for the same Reason think their Backward∣ness any Objection, or measure the Truth of the Proposition by the Number of its Adherents. For when all is done, Men will be∣lieve no further than they like, and were the Notion never so self-evident, or my Arguments for it never so convincing and demon∣strative, the mere Opposition that it carries to the Passions and lower Interests of Men, would I doubt not be enough to make it a Para∣dox. For what, to have our Hearts that have been for may Years, even from the first Pulses of them, cleaving and fixing and adhering to the World, taking Root in it, and incorporating with it by a thou∣sand Page  220 little Strings and Fibres, pluckt up and torn away from it all at once, and our Hands that had taken such fast hold of it, at one Blow forced from its sweet Embra∣ces? To be at once intirely divor∣ced from all sensible Objects, to have all our Idols demolished, and our high Places taken down, to be divided from the whole Creati∣on, and to have all the Ties bro∣ken which by a numerous Union linked us to it, to be forced to un∣dergo a mystical Death, a spiritual Crucifixion, to be crucified to the World, and to have the World crucified to us, in one Word, to die to the Body and World where∣in we live, and withdraw our Love from the Objects of Sense that we may place it all upon a spi∣ritual and intellectual good, who can expect that these things should Page  221 down with the generality of Man∣kind, or that a Doctrine that en∣counters such a strong Tide of Pre∣judices should find many Disciples in a sensual and unmortified World? The other Precepts of Morality cross only some particular Interests of Man, and fight only against some of his straggling Passions, but this engages with the whole Body of Concupiscence, and at once encounters the whole Interest of Prejudice, all the Force that is or can be raised in humane Na∣ture. Which when I consider, however convinced of the Truth of what I contend for in the Recess of my Mind, I cannot hope by the clearest and strongest reasoning to reconcile the generality of the World to a Notion so opposite to the Passions, Customs and Preju∣dices of it. Only there may be Page  221 here and there some liberal and in∣genious Spirits who have in great measure purged themselves from the Prejudices of Sense, disingaged their Hearts from the Love of sen∣sible Objects, and so far entered into the Methods of true Mortifi∣cation as to be capable of Convicti∣on, and of having their Minds wrought upon by the Light and Force of Reason. And if we have not yet said enough between us to convince such as these, I would desire them further to consider.

That the natural Tendency of the Will being from the Author of our Natures must needs be right, it being impossible that GOD should put a false Bias upon the Soul, and that therefore 'tis the Perfection and Duty of every rati∣onal Creature to conform those Determinations of his Will that Page  222 are free to that which is natural, or in other Words to take Care that the Love of his Nature and the Love of his Choice conspire in one, that they both agree in the same Motion, and concenter upon the same Object. Thus far I think I advance, nothing but what is clear and unquestionable. We are therefore only concerned to consi∣der what is the natural Inclination of the Will, or, what that Object is to which it naturally tends and stands inclined. To this the ge∣neral Answer is easie, and such as all Men will acquiesce in, who will be ready to confess that the natural Motion of the Will is to good in general. And that this is the true natural Term of its Moti∣on is plain because the Wills of all Men how different soever in their other particular Determinations Page  224 agree in this, and because we have no manner of Freedom in this Mo∣tion, or Command over it, but are altogether passive in it, which shews it to be properly a natural Motion. I lay down this therefore as an evident and undeniable Pro∣position, that the natural Motion of the Will is to good in general. But now how can the Will be moved towards good in general but by being moved towards all good? For to be moved towards good as good is to be moved towards all good. And how can the Will be moved towards all good but by be∣ing moved towards a universal Be∣ing who in himself is and contains all good? For as the Understand∣ing cannot represent to it self uni∣versal Ideas, but by being united to a Being who in the Simplicity of his Nature includes all Being, Page  225 so neither can the Will be moved to good in general but by being moved towards a universal Being who by reason of the Infinity of his Nature comprehends all good, that is, towards GOD, who is there∣fore the true Term of the natural Motion of the Soul.

And that he is so will be further evident if we consider the Operati∣on of that Cause by which this na∣tural Motion is produced. This Cause. I here suppose, and have elsewhere shewn to be GOD, and indeed who else should be the Cause of what is natural in us but he who is the Cause of our Na∣tures. Let us see now how this Cause acts. GOD cannot act but by his Will, that's most certain. But now the Will of GOD is not, as in us, an Expression that he re∣ceives from without himself, and Page  226 which accordingly carries him out from himself, but an inward self-centring Principle, that both de∣rives from, and terminates in him∣self. For as GOD is to himself his own good, his own Center and Beatifick Object, so the Love of GOD can be no other than the Love of himself. Whence it will follow, that as GOD must there∣fore be his own End, and whate∣ver he wills or acts he must will and act for himself (as I have alrea∣dy represented it in the Discourse of Divine Love) so also that the Love which is in us must be the Effect of that very Love which GOD has for himself, there being no other Principle in the Nature of GOD whereby he is supposed to act. Whence it will further fol∣low that the natural Tendency of our Love must necessarily be to∣wards Page  227 the same Object upon which the Love of GOD is turned. For since Love in all created Spirits is not produced but by the Will of GOD, which it self is no other than the Love which he bears him∣self, it is impossible that GOD should give a Love to any Spirit which does not naturally tend whi∣ther his own Love does. And since it is evident that the Term of his own Love is himself, it is as evident that the same is also the na∣tural Term of ours, that as our Love comes from him, so it natu∣rally tends to him, and that as he is the efficient, so he is also the true final Cause of the Will of Man; which I take to be nothing else but that continual Impression whereby the Author of Nature moves him towards himself. Which by the way may serve to Page  228 furnish us with the true Reason of a very considerable Maxim which has hitherto been entertained without any, as being thought ra∣ther a first Principle than a Con∣clusion, I mean, that the VVill of Man cannot will Evil as evil. VVhich though a Truth witnessed by constant Experience, and such as all Men readily consent to, and acquiesce in, I despair of ever see∣ing rationally accounted for upon any other Supposition than the pre∣sent. But according to this the Account is clear and easie. For here the VVill it self being suppo∣sed to be nothing else but that ge∣neral Impression whereby GOD, moves us continually towards him∣self, it is plain that we cannot pos∣sibly will or love Evil as evil, as having no Motion from GOD to∣wards it, but to the contrary, viz.Page  229 to himself who is the universal good. And as we may demon∣strate a Priori from this Impressi∣on whereby GOD moves us to∣wards himself, that we cannot love Evil as evil, so from the Experi∣ence we have that we cannot love Evil as evil, we may argue, as a Posteriori, that our VVills are by their original Motion carried to∣wards GOD, and that he is the true and sole Object of their natu∣ral Tendency.

VVhich is also further proved by all those Arguments which I have already, and may more at large produce, for our seeing all things in GOD as our universal Idea. For since the VVill of Man is moved only towards what the Spirit perceives, as is universally granted, and by Experience found to be true, and since as it has been Page  230 sufficiciently proved, we perceive all things in GOD, who presents to Spirits no other Idea than him∣self, who indeed is all, it plainly and necessarily follows that the na∣tural Motion of our VVills is and must be towards GOD and him only; who having made him∣self the sole Term and Object of our natural Love ought also to be made by us the sole Object of that which is free, since as was laid down in the Beginning, the De∣terminations of our VVill that are free ought to be conformable to that which is natural.

The whole Sum and Force of this reasoning lies in this Syllogism. That which is the sole Object of our natural Love ought to be the sole Object of that which is free. But the sole Object of our natural Love is GOD, therefore GOD Page  231 ought to be the sole Object of that which is free. The first of these Propositions is evident from that moral Rectitude which must ne∣cessarily be supposed in the natural Motions of our Love, as proceed∣ing from the Author of our Na∣tures, to which therefore the free Motions of it ought to be conform∣able. The second Proposition is that which I have professedly pro∣ved, and I think sufficiently. Wherefore I look upon the Conclu∣sion as demonstrated, viz. that GOD ought to be the sole Object of our free Love, which being the only Love that falls under Command, and the only one that is in our Power, we must con∣clude that GOD requires all the Love which he can possibly re∣quire, and all the Love which we can possibly give, even our whole Page  232 Heart, Soul and Mind, which we are not therefore to divide betwixt him and the Creature, but to de∣vote to him only, and religiously to present as a Burnt-offering in∣tirely to be consumed at his divine Altar. And thus the whole Moti∣on of our Wills falls under the Right and Title of GOD, who be∣comes the just proprietary and ade∣quate Object of them in their lar∣gest Capacity and utmost Latitude. There are but two Sorts of Moti∣ons in our Souls, as in our Bodies, natural and free, and both these be∣long of right to GOD, who has taken the greatest Care to secure them to himself. He prevents that which is natural, and he re∣quires that which is free. The first he makes his own by natural Instinct, the last by Commands, by Benefits and Obligations, by Page  233 his own Example, by bestowing upon us the Power to love, by di∣recting this Love towards himself, and by all the Reason in the World. We are therefore to cast both these Loves into one and the same Chanel, and make them both flow in one full Current towards GOD. We are to make GOD the only Object of our Love of Choice, as he has made himself the only object of our natural Love, and so joyning this double Motion together to employ the whole Force of our Nature upon him, and love him with all our Power from whom we have all the Power that we have to love.

And how happy is that Man that can do so, that can thus order and regulate the Master and Lead∣ing Passion of his Nature, that can thus love the Lord his GODPage  234 with all his Heart, Soul and Mind! How to be envied is that Man who can thus disingage his Affecti∣ons from the Creature, who can thus recollect, fix, and settle his whole Love upon GOD! It may seem that he is not so, and if we will hearken to the fallacious Re∣ports of our Senses and Imaginati∣ons they will tell us that this is to enter into a dry, barren, disconso∣late and withering Condition, and will represent it as a State of hor∣rible Privation, as a dismal Soli∣tude. But if it be a Solitude, 'tis such an one as that of Moses upon the holy Mount when he withdrew from the People to enjoy the Con∣verse of God, as that of our Savi∣our when he tells his Disciples that they should all desert and leave him alone, and yet that he was not alone because his Father was with Page  235 him. Happy Solitude, when the Creatures retire from us, and leave us to the more full and free En∣joyment of God, and thrice happy he that enjoys this divine Retreat, that can force the Creatures to withdraw, command their Ab∣sence, and wholly empty his Heart of their Love that it may be the more free for the Reception and Enjoyment of him who is able to fill the largest Room he can pre∣pare for him there! How ravishing and lasting are his Delights, how solid and profound is his Peace, how full and overflowing are his Joys, how bright and lucid are the Regions of his Soul, how intire and undisturbed are his Enjoy∣ments, what a settled Calm posses∣ses his Breast, what a Unity of Thought, what a Singleness and Simplicity of Desire, and what a Page  236 firm stable Rest does his Soul find when she thus reposes her full Weight upon GOD! How loose and disingaged is he from the World, and how unconcerned does he pass along through the vari∣ous Scenes and Revolutions of it, how unmoved and unaltered in all the several Changes and Chances of this mortal Life! While others are tormented with Fears, and Cares, and Jealousies, unsatisfied Desires, and unprosperous At∣tempts, while they are breaking their own and one anothers Rests for that which when they have it will not suffer them to sleep, while they are tortured with their Lusts, and with those VVars which are occasion'd by them, while they are quarrelling and contending about the things of the VVorld, hunting about after Bubbles and Page  237 Shadows, beating up and down after Preferments, at once climb∣ing up and falling down from the Heighths of Honour, pursuing hard in the Chase of Pleasure, all the way along complaining of Dis∣appointments, and yet (strange Inchantment) still laying in a Stock for more: In one VVord, while they are thus suffering the various Punishments of an irregular and misplaced Affection, so that the whole VVorld seems to be like a great troubled Sea, working and foaming and raging, till all below be Storm and Tempest, his Breast in the mean while like the higher Regions of the Air enjoys a heaven∣ly Calm, a divine Serenity, and being wholly unhinged and dislodg∣ed from the Creature, and intirely bottomed upon another Center, upon the infinite Fulness and Suf∣ficiency Page  238 of GOD, he has no more Part in any worldly Commotions than the Inhabitants of the Air have in an earthly Earthquake, nor is any further concerned in the Af∣flictions of those below him, but only to wonder at their Folly, and to pity their Misery.

Then as to his moral State, must not the Life of such an one needs be as innocent and virtuous as 'tis pleasant and happy? 'Tis the Love of the Creature that is the general Temptation to Sin, and what St. Iames observes of VVars and Fightings, is as true of all other immoral Miscarriages and Disorders, that they proceed from our Lusts. And how pure and Chaste then must his Soul be that is thoroughly purged of all created Loves, and in whom the Love of GOD reigns absolute and unrival'd, Page  239 without any Mixture or Competi∣tion. How secure must he needs be from Sin, when he has not that in him which may betray him to it! The Tempter may come, but he will find nothing in him to take hold of, the VVorld may spread round about him a poisonous Breath, but it will not hurt him, the very Cleanness of his Constitu∣tion will guard him from the In∣fection. He has but one Love at all in his Heart, and that is for GOD, and how can he that loves nothing but GOD be tempted to transgress against him, when he has nothing to separate him from him, and all that is necessary, per∣haps all that is possible to unite him to him! VVhat is there that should tempt such a Man to Sin, and what Temptation is there that he has not to incite him to all Page  240 Goodness, and what a wonderful Progress must he needs make in it? VVhither will not the intire Love of GOD carry him, and to what Degrees of Christian Perfection will he not aspire under the Conduct of so divine, so omnipotent a Principle! If Obedience be the Fruit of Love, then what an intire Obedience may we expect from so intire a Love, and how fruitful will this Love of GOD be when there are no Suckers to draw off the Nourishment from it, when there is no other Love to check and hinder its Growth! The Man that harbours Creatures in his Bosom, and divides his Heart betwixt GOD and them will be always in great Danger of being betrayed by them, and though he should with great Care and habitual VVatch∣fulness preserve for GOD a greater Page  241 Share in his Affections (which is the utmost such an one can pretend to) yet he will have such a VVeight constantly hanging upon his Soul, that he will be never able to soar ve∣ry high, or arrive at any Excellency in Religion. But what is there on the other side that can hinder him who has emptied his Heart of the Creatures, and devoted it intirely to GOD from reaching the highest Pitch of attainable Goodness? How orderly then and regular will be his Thoughts, how refined and eleva∣ted his Affections, how obedient and compliant his Passions, how pure and sincere his Intentions, how generous and noble his Underta∣kings, what a forward Zeal will he have for GOD's Glory, how chearful, vigorous and constant will he be in his Service, with what Angelick Swiftness will he Page  242 perform what GOD requires of him, or whatever he thinks will be pleasing to him, and how will he run the Way of his Commandments when his Heart is thus set at Liber∣berty! At Liberty not only from this or that particular Incumbrance, this or that Lust or Passion, but from the whole Body of Sin, the intire Weight of Concupiscence.

But Madam, while I thus set out the Reason and Advantage of the intire Love of GOD, I still make further way for your Questi∣on, how comes it to pass that we are so backward to a Love which is both so reasonable in it self, and so pleasant and profitable to us? You might have inlarged your Question with another, since Men are back∣ward, not only to pay that intire Love which they owe to GOD, but even to acknowledge the Debt, Page  243 and are not only loath to obey the Command, but even to understand it, will use a thousand Arts and De∣vices to shift off and evade the genu∣ine Force of it, and rather than fail will say, that though GOD in the most plain and express Terms calls for our whole Love, yet he means only a Part of it. Strange and amazing Partiality and Presumpti∣on! But of this general Backward∣ness to receive the Sense of this plain Command (as plain as Thou shalt have no other Gods but me) I have al∣ready hinted an Account in the former Part of this Letter, and as to the Backwardness of putting it in Practice that has been so excellently and fully accounted for by your bet∣ter Hand that there is nothing left for mine to add upon this Part of the Subject: And indeed scarce up∣on any other. I shall therefore Page  244 conclude all with a very pertinent Passage out of one of the Prayers of St. Austin, in the 35th Chapter of his Meditations. Reple semper (quae∣so) Cor meum inextinguibili dilectione tui, continuâ recordatione tuâ, adeo ut sicut Flamma urens totus ardeam in tui amoris dulcedine, quem & aquae multae in me nunquam possint extinguere. Fac me Dulcissime Domine amare te, & desiderio tui deponere pondus. Om∣nium carnalium desideriorum, & terre∣narum Concupiscentiarum gravissimam Sarcinam, quae impugnant & aggra∣vant miseram animam meam, ut post te expedite in odore unguentorum tuorum currens, us{que} ad tuae Pulchritudinis Visionem efficaciter satiandus merear pervenire. Duo enim Amores, alter honus, alter malus, alter dulcis, alter amarus, non se simul in uno capiunt pectore, & ideo si quis praeter to aliud diligit, non est Charitas tua Deus, in Page  245 eo. Amor dulcedinis & Dulcedo amo∣ris, Amor non crucians sed delectans, Amor sincere caste què permanens in sae∣culum saeculi, Amor qui semper ardes & nunquam extingueris, dulcis Chri∣ste, bone Iesu, Charitas Deus meus, accende me totum igne tuo, amore tui, Suavitate & Dulcedine tuâ, Iucundi∣tate & exultatione tuâ, voluptate & concupiscentiâ tuâ, quae sancta est & bo∣na, casta & munda, tranquilla est & secura, ut totus dulcedine amoris tui plenus, totus Flammâ Charitatis tuae succensus, diligam te Deum meum ex toto Corde meo, totisque medullis prae∣cordiorum meorum, habens te in Cor∣de, in Ore, & prae Oculis meis, sem∣per & ubiquè, ita utnullus pateat in me locus adulterinis Amoribus.

Fill always (I beseech thee) my Heart with an unquenchable Love of thee, with a continual Remembrance of thee, that so as a burning Flame, I Page  246 may burn all over in the Sweetness of thy Love, which may not be quenched even by many Waters. Make me sweetest Lord to love thee, and through the Desire of thee to lay down the Weight of all carnal Desires, and the most heavy load of earthly Con∣cupiscences, which fight against and weigh down my miserable Soul, so that running expeditely after thee in the Odor of thy Ointments, I may be worthy to arrive to the effectual∣ly satisfying Vision of thy Beauty. For two Loves, one good and another bad, one sweet and another bitter can∣not dwell together in the same Breast, and therefore if any one love any thing besides thee, thy Love O God is not in him. O Love of Sweetness, O Sweetness of Love, that dost not tormont but delight, Love that for ever remainest sincere and chast, Love that does always burn and art never Page  247 extinct, sweet Christ, good Iesus, my God, my Love, kindle me all over with thy Fire, with the Love of thee, with thy Sweetness, with thy Ioy, with thy Pleasure and Concupiscence, which is holy and good, chaste and clean, quiet and se∣cure, that being all full of the Sweet∣ness of thy Love, all on fire with the Flame of thy Charity, I may love thee my GOD with my whole Heart, and with all the Power of my inward Parts, having thee in my Heart, in my Mouth, and before my Eyes, always and every where, that so there may be no Place in me open to adulterous Loves.

You see Madam, that St. Austin here most expresly prays for the ve∣ry same thing for which I argue, the most intire Love of GOD, and Page  248 who is there that can justly scruple to say Amen to this Divine Prayer of his? I for my own Part assent to it most heartily, and so beseech∣ing the holy Spirit, the great Dis∣penser of Charity, to shed this in∣tire Love of GOD into the Hearts of you and me, and all good peo∣ple; that so we may love him as a GOD, with a Love truly worthy of him, I leave you to the Cor∣rection of these my Thoughts, and to the Enjoyment of your own; which whether you will further communicate upon this Subject, that so the same Hand may conclude which begun it, I leave you to consider, while I justly thank you for the Advan∣tage of your past Correspondence, and assure you that I cannot Page  248 express how very much I am there∣by obliged to continue


Your most faithful Friend and humble Servant J. NORRIS.

Bemerton, May 25.

Your Definition of Pleasure is right as far as it goes, but that is no further than what we call a nominal Definition.