There lives in yonder dwelling a humble and praying mother, who has two sons; one of whom is eminent for his virtues, the other is equally distinguished for his vices. The virtuous son she not only loves with the love of benevolence, which is the same as the love of existence or being, but with the love of complacency. In other words, she not only loves him, but delights in him. His character, as well as his existence, commands her affections, and brings a rich reward.
But the other son is the son of her sorrow. He is deformed in person, ferocious in mind, addicted to unholy indulgences, and to all human appearance evil and only evil. But, notwithstanding these unfavorable circumstances, the love of her child, separating as it does his existence from his character, never ceases to act,— never falters and becomes weary. She loves, by an element or law of her nature, just as God does; and can cease to love only when she ceases to live. She clothes him and feeds him, for which she receives no thanks; she bathes his throbbing brow, feverish with criminal intemperance; she returns kindness for unkindness, care for forgetfulness; never ceasing, under any circumstances, to watch, to pray, and to labor.
Deeply affected by what is thus presented to their notice, men concede at once and universally the amiableness and the attractive character of this high love; — a love above philosophy and mere human reason, and partaking of the nature of God.
Take the case of the wife. Her husband has become profane, intemperate, vicious. His kindness is changed to suspicion and hatred. He is the wreck of what he was once; and yet her love, kindled by the knowledge of what he has been, and of what he may yet be, remains unchanged. If his character is gone, his existence remains. If virtue has departed, immortality never dies. She sees his former life in ruins, but still it is a living ruin and capable of reanimation. And while there is hope, however feeble, she will not cease to call upon him to return.
It is needless to say, how much we respect and honor an affection so exalted, and how constantly and strongly it impresses us with a sense of its divine origin. We can see a reason why she should love that which is lovely; — but to love that which is unlovely; to separate between existence and character, and to attach our affections to the mere reality of being, simply because it is being; and, whatever may be its relations of harmony or of opposition to us or to others, to seek, to pray, and to labor for its redemption to purity and to happiness, simply because it is susceptible of such redemption, and without thought of personal reward; — this is a love, of which reason, in being unable to explain it, can only say, it is of God.
Take the case of those individuals who have visited, aided, and blessed the enslaved and the prisoner, — the Clarksons and Howards of their generation; men who have traveled and labored, in the language of Mr. Burke, when speaking of Howard, "not to survey the sumptuousness of palaces, or the stateliness of temples; not to make accurate measurements of the remains of ancient grandeur, nor to form a scale of the curiosity of modern art; nor to collect medals or collate manuscripts; — but to dive into the depths of dungeons; to plunge into the infection of hospitals; to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain; to take the gauge and the dimensions of misery, depression, and contempt; to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, to compare and collate the distresses of all men in all countries."
It is such cases, unexplainable on mere prudential considerations, which give us a glimpse of the exalted and divine nature of that love which flows out to existence. He, who has such love, has God,— God is in him; because such love cannot live unless it strikes its root and has its source of life in the Infinite. As it casts out alike all selfish interests and all fears, nothing but divine power in the soul could support it.
— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 3.