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“Lovest thou me?” – John 21:16
Deuteronomy 32:1-14 · John 21:15-25 · Psalm 91
These words, addressed in the first place to Simon Peter, are equally addressed to us all. Thrice uttered by the Lord in the presence of His disciples on the occasion of His last recorded conversation with them prior to His ascension, they would have a special claim to our consideration. The query, under the circumstances in which it was given, becomes the question of questions.
For love, we know, is the very life of man. Whatever the ruling love is such is the man himself. There is no human act or utterance which has not its origin in love. The desire for a thing is what leads to doing and planning it. Purpose is implied in every intentional or voluntary operation. And what are desire and purpose but phases or manifestations of love?
Moreover love is the life of our thoughts and the cause of them. Thus the inmost principle of our being is love, which, seeking to express itself or to come forth into visible and tangible existence, appears in various forms. It is embodied in the kind actions which make it felt by others, and also in the skill and wisdom whereby those actions are designed and executed. End, cause, and effect constitute a triad which repeats itself everywhere throughout the universe. From the end or purpose, by the cause or means, to the effect or result the creative work always advances, both in least things and in greatest. The same general order is observed, and the same general laws are operative in making, for example, a simple sound or gesture as in constructing the most complicated mechanism. Back of the thing produced is the thought that produced it, and back of the thought is the desire or affection which gave the original impulse.
So, reason and analyze as we may, when we retrace the stream of causation from outward phenomena to the center and source of their being, we at last invariably come to love. The case is the same whether we speak of substantial forms or of momentary actions: love is the prime cause of their existence.
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