“All things are yours,” Paul says (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Therefore, writes Thomas Traherne (Centuries of Meditation), we should enjoy them as our own possessions:
God . . . hath made it infinitely easy to enjoy, by making everything ours, and us able so easily to prize them. Everything is ours that serves us in its place. The Sun serves us as much as is possible, and more than we could imagine. The Clouds and Stars minister unto us, the World surrounds us with beauty, the Air refresheth us, the Sea revives the earth and us. The Earth itself is better than gold because it produceth fruits and flowers. And therefore in the beginning, was it made manifest to be mine, because Adam alone was made to enjoy it. By making one, and not a multitude, God evidently shewed one alone to be the end of the World and every one its enjoyer. For every one may enjoy it as much as he (1.14).
Like Paul, Traherne teaches our ownership of all things is grounded in our union with Christ, who holds all things together. We enjoy the world in Christ, and Traherne arrestingly turns this around to suggest that God enjoys the world in us:
Love has a marvellous property of feeling in another. It can enjoy in another, as well as enjoy him. Love is an infinite treasure to its object, and its object is so to it. God is Love, and you are His object. You are created to be His Love: and He is yours. He is happy in you, when you are happy: as parents in their children. He is afflicted in all your afflictions. And whosoever toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye. Will not you be happy in all His enjoyments? He feeleth in you; will not you feel in Him? He hath obliged you to love Him. And if you love Him, you must of necessity be Heir of the World, for you are happy in Him. All His praises are your joys, all His enjoyments are your treasures, all His pleasures are your enjoyments. In God you are crowned, in God you are concerned. In Him you feel, in Him you live, and move, and have your being, in Him you are blessed. Whatsoever therefore serveth Him; serveth you and in Him you inherit all things (1.52).
Traherne reminds us that our possession isn’t domination but love (2.64). When we love all things, all things are our treasures, gifts for our enjoyment. When we love all men, “the world quickly becometh yours. . . . For all their persons are your treasures.”
We don’t love things too much. We love too little. We are made to love, and must love all things “infinitely, but in God, and for God: and God in them: namely their excellencies in them.” We dote on this or that, but that’s not an excess of love. It reveals a defect in our love love for other things: “Never was anything in this world loved too much, but many things have been loved in a false way: and all in too short a measure” (2.66).
Consider how God loves “a river, or a drop of water, an apple or a sand, an ear of corn, or an herb.” He knows “excellencies in it more than we: He seeth how it relateth to angels and men; how it procedeth from the most perfect Lover to the most perfect Beloved; how it representeth all His attributes; how it conduceth in its place, by the best of means to the best of ends: and for this cause it cannot be beloved too much. God the Author and God the End is to be beloved in it; Angels and men are to be beloved in it” (2.67).
When a man lusts for a woman, or a woman for a man, the problem isn’t an excess of love: “They love . . . not too much, but upon false causes. Not so much upon false causes, as only upon some little ones.” A man lusts for a woman’s physical beauty; his love shouldn’t be diminished but intensified. He should love her “for being God’s Image, the Queen of the Universe, beloved by Angels, redeemed by Jesus Christ, an heiress of Heaven, and temple of the Holy Ghost; a mine and fountain of all virtues, a treasury of graces, and a child of God” (2.68).
Traherne the mystic was going into ecstasies over grains of sand long before William Blake the Romantic was born: “O what a treasure is every sand when truly discovered! . . . . What a world would this be, were everything beloved as it ought to be!” (2.67).
Traherne draws other inferences from Paul's declaration. Jesus commands each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Traherne cleverly turns that around: If we’re obligated to love our neighbors as ourselves, our neighbors are by the same token obligated to love us as themselves.
Thus, “it is a great obligation laid upon all mankind, and upon every person in all ages to love you as himself. . . . For there is not a man in the whole world that knows God, or himself, but he must honor you. . . . as one redeemed by the blood of Christ, beloved by all Angels, Cherubims, and Men, an heir of the world, and as much greater than the Universe, as he that possesseth the house is greater than the house” (2.93). It’s a breathtaking thought: If everyone in the world obeyed God, everyone would love me!
The whole world “serves you by shewing the greatness of God’s love to you” and also “as fuel to foment and increase your praises.” The more we gain, the more reason we have to praise God. He draws an analogy with breath: “As no man can breathe out more air than he draweth in: so no man can offer up more praises than he receiveth benefits, to return in praises. For praises are transformed and returning benefits” (2.94).
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