IF gifts can break rocks, thou must be harder than a rock, my soul, if thou art not melted by the love of thy Saviour, seeing thyself so bound by the multitude of mercies which thou hast received and still receivest every hour. Dogs and all other irrational animals love their benefactor, and recognise and acknowledge the kindness which he shows to them. Why, then, should I, who am a rational creature and made in Thy image and likeness, be worse than the beasts by not loving Thee continually, my God and my Lord, since Thou never ceasest to constrain me by new and singular gifts? Thou hast complained, O Lord, of this ingratitude and thanklessness on the part of men, saying by Thy prophet Isaias, "The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib, but Israel hath not known Me, and My people hath not understood"[Isa. i. 3.] As it is natural for every living creature to love itself, and to endeavour to secure its preservation and its existence, so it is still more becoming to love him who does good to it; and this being a natural impulse in man, the apostle says that he who does kind deeds to an enemy heaps coals of fire upon his head[Rom. xii. 20.] by the love he thus enkindles. We read in the Scripture that David thus acted on two occasions towards his cruel enemy and persecutor Saul, whom by his kind conduct he converted to love.[1 Kings xxiv. 4-20; xxvi. 12-21.] O my perverse and hard heart! what great obstinacy is this that such countless benefits of thy God should not soften and melt thee into love for Him? O the forbearance and kind behaviour of David, how far do they fall short when compared with those of our Lord! Everything that Thou hast bestowed upon me was in order to oblige me to love Thee, and that I might give Thee my love. Thou hast served me, Thou Who art King of heaven and Lord of angels, in order to entreat me to repay love with love. O Lord my God and my supreme good, how much hast Thou done in order to be beloved by us miserable sinners! If Thou hadst given me permission to love Thee, it would have been a very great mercy and favour that Thou hadst done me. Thou being an infinite Majesty, while I am but a worm of the earth. How much greater the favour when Thou not only dost not disdain to be loved by me, but even solicitest my love with a multitude of gifts, so great is Thy Goodness and Clemency. Thou hast created me for love, and if Thou hadst not loved me Thou wouldst not have created me. The cause of all things is Thy Will; and if Thou hast created me it is because Thou didst desire to do so; and Thou hast not only shown a most intimate affection in creating me, but an exceeding love in redeeming me. Though I owe Thee the debt of love because Thou hast made me, far more exceedingly do I owe Thee love because Thou hast bestowed a new being upon me by redeeming me when I was lost. When reduced by sin to a vile state of existence, and condemned to eternal fire, Thou didst restore me anew by means of a ransom, for which purpose Thou didst not send an angel nor a seraph nor a celestial spirit, but Thine own only-begotten Son, consubstantial with and equal to Thyself. O wondrous fervour of charity! O marvellous compassion! and singular example of love, which, in order to redeem a slave, made Thee send Thine own Son to die; and in order to endue with life a little worm of the earth made of clay did send down the Son of God from heaven to endure death! What was the cause of this? The great love which He had towards us and our race. Thou didst love me more than Thy earthly life, since Thou didst desire to die for me. Does it not appear to thee, my soul, that thou owest a debt of love to Him Who so loved thee? Does it not seem to thee that thou owest a tribute of love to Him Who loved thee before thou didst even exist? It is only just that thou shouldst pay to thy God this debt which is so deeply due. O Lord, I would ask Thy Divine Majesty, if I dared, why Thou, O Lord, dost love a thing so vile and a creature so useless as man? A master happens to have a slave very ugly and odious whom that master loves much; and if we ask this master, why he fixes his affection on a thing so deformed he will reply that he loved him because that slave was very fond of his master and served him with the utmost attention and diligence. O Lord, shall I keep silence, or shall I speak? Truly I would be silent if just reason did not compel me to speak. Thou, O Lord, lovest this miserable slave, defiled by a thousand stains of sin; and while Thou art such as Thou art and he is such as he is, Thou dost not despise his abject condition, nor disdain to expend so rich a jewel as Thy holy love on so vile a thing. Thou lovest him, perchance, for what he has done for Thee? Dost Thou love him because he first loved Thee, or for his assiduous and fervent services? O sovereign Goodness and infinite Charity of my God, is it then so gratuitously, and only because Thou art Infinite Goodness, that Thou hast so deeply loved us and hast shown and dost still show by so many and such admirable deeds the stupendous love which Thou hast for us? And thou, my soul, if thou lovest a mere creature because he loves thee and has done something for thee, why dost thou not love thy Spouse Jesus Christ, since He was beforehand in loving thee, and laid down His life for thee? If amongst the gifts of thy God this world is the least of all, how great dost thou suppose the greatest gift of all will be, since this which is the least is so great? He Who has bestowed gifts has imposed obligations, for we are under obligation to our benefactors. Men desire that not only should others acknowledge the good which they do when they are conferring any benefit, but they also desire acknowledgement for the good deeds which they have already done, and which they wish to be always kept in remembrance, so that when the gifts have ceased the obligation of the debt should not pass away. O exceeding good and great Lord, how great is Thy bounty and mercy, since Thou art satisfied with our loving Thee, when Thou art actually doing us good! Love thy God, then, my soul, when He sends thee gifts from heaven; and since thou receivest these pledges of love at all times from His most bounteous hand, it is most surely right that at all times thou shouldst love so munificent and noble a Benefactor. Love Him at least when He is doing thee good; and since He is always doing this thou oughtest always to love Him. All the different kinds of benefits, which are three, King David summed up when he said in the psalm, "Turn, O my soul, into thy rest, for the Lord hath been bountiful to thee. For He hath delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from falling."[Ps. cxiv. 7-8.] All the benefits that we receive from any one are of three kinds, viz., good things bestowed, evils from which he frees us, and blessings promised. The gifts which he received from God the Psalmist indicated when he said to his son that it should return to God because of the benefits which he had received from Him. He treated of the second species of mercies when he said that God had delivered his soul from death and his eyes from tears. He performs a good work in our behalf who delivers us from any evil before we fall into it by admonishing us of the danger. He spoke of the blessings promised in saying that God delivered his soul from falling, promising him eternal glory and blessedness, wherein being confirmed in grace we shall see God, free from backsliding or falling into sins and offences; and in order to stimulate his soul the more that it may turn again unto God, he calls God his repose and rest, wherein he may refresh himself and enjoy relief from the toils and miseries which he endured while serving the world and his passions and appetites. It is, then, just and right, O my soul, that thou shouldst turn again to God, Who is thy rest and refreshment, from Whom thou hast received and every moment dost receive so many blessings; since, besides those gifts which He has bestowed upon thee, He has withdrawn thee from sins and delivered thee from hell, and has promised thee heavenly blessings. These three sorts of benefits thou oughtest to contemplate, going back over the past events of thy life, and drawing them forth from thy remembrance, acknowledging them to thy understanding, and representing them to thy will, in order that being inflamed with the love of so munificent a Benefactor thou mayest love and serve Him in accordance with the obligation wherewith thou art bound to Him. In these two verses of the Psalmist thou wilt find ample materials for contemplation concerning the innumerable mercies which thou hast received from God; so that shouldst thou not desire to love thy Creator as the Summum Bonum, infinite Goodness, and heavenly Beauty, thou mayest love Him, as though in spite of thyself, for the good things that He has done for thee.