William Law: The Spirit of Love
[Love-2.1-9] Theophilus. ‘Tis true, Theogenes, that God can only then begin to make known his Mercy and Patience, when the Creature has lost its Rectitude and Happiness, yet nothing then begins to be in God or to be found in him, but that which was always in him in the same infinite State, viz., a Will to all Goodness, and which can will nothing else.
God’s Goodness is a Name which we give to His Nature. His Nature is Pure Goodness. Or we might say that God is Good by Nature. At any rate, His Goodness is apprehended by us men according to our spiritual nature and condition. Our spiritual nature and condition is to live as always tormented and distracted by sin. One aspect of our fallen nature is to have lost our original Rectitude and Happiness. If such is the case, then God’s Goodness will be apprehended and perceived by us as Mercy and Patience. His Goodness endures our ongoing struggles with sin, our falling into it, His lifting of us out of it, and our falling back into it again. Such Goodness is longsuffering and steadfast Patience. His Goodness is also always ready to receive us and to cleanse us anew. This Goodness is kind and loving Mercy. Thus, Goodness is perceived, apprehended, felt, and embraced as Mercy and Patience.
And his Patience and Mercy, which could not show forth themselves till Nature and Creature had brought forth Misery, were not new Tempers, or the Beginning of some new Disposition that was not in God before, but only new and occasional Manifestations of that boundless eternal Will to all Goodness, which always was in God in the same Height and Depth. The Will to all Goodness, which is God himself, began to display itself in a new Way when it first gave Birth to Creatures. The same Will to all Goodness began to manifest itself in another new Way, when it became Patience and Compassion toward fallen Creatures. But neither of these Ways are the Beginning of any new Tempers or Qualities in God, but only new and occasional Manifestations of that true eternal Will to all Goodness, which always was, and always will be, in the same Fullness of Infinity in God.
One Goodness of God is forever the same. That same Goodness is perceived, apprehended, felt, and embraced in one way before our Fall into Sin. It is experienced in another way after our Fall. What is one and the same with God is manifested and revealed as something different with creatures. Creatures are always subject to change. The great movement from righteousness into sin greatly changes the creature’s apprehension of God’s unchanging Goodness. God’s Will to Goodness before the Fall is sensed as the Illumination of Wisdom and the Passion of Love. God’s Will to Goodness after the Fall is felt as unmerited Patience and undeserved Compassion. To feel the power of the Patience and the Compassion the creature must sense his own self-willed departure from God’s Will to Goodness.
[Love-2.1-10] But to suppose that when the Creature has abused its Power, lost its Happiness and plunged itself into a Misery, out of which it cannot deliver itself, to suppose that then there begins to be something in the holy Deity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that is not of the Nature and Essence of God, and which was not there before, viz., a Wrath, and Fury, and vindictive Vengeance, breaking out in Storms of Rage and Resentment because the poor Creature has brought Misery upon itself, is an Impiety and Absurdity that cannot be enough abhorred. For nothing can be in God, but that which He is and has from Himself, and therefore no Wrath can be in the Deity itself, unless God was in Himself, before all Nature, and from all Eternity, an Infinity of Wrath.
God does not change. He is forever the Same, One God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. When we perceive God as full of Wrath and Fury and Vengeance, we sense most forcefully God’s Love, Passion, and Longing for us as what we have denied, abandoned, and forsaken. We sense the difference because we have made ourselves different and other than God’s own sons and daughters. To feel the Wrath, Fury, and Vengeance ought to stir and awaken us into a returning to God, whose Love for us is unabated, uninterrupted, and undeterred. God’s Love, Passion, and Longing for us ought not always to be sensed in their contraries. Love as Wrath still desires us. Let us return to Love. Passion as Fury still yearns for us. Let us pursue the Passion. Longing as Vengeance would correct and discipline us for a better future. For whom the Lord loves He chastens.