Now of these sorts and degrees which is the highest and finest? Well, your answer to that question will depend entirely on your own experience; as every answer and every thought we have of everything does. All children have mothers, or have had, but thousands of children don't know a mother's love.
I was speaking one time in New York City about the conception, of which the Bible is so full, that God is a mother. And the English evangelist Gypsy Smith, who lost his mother when very young, but who had an unusually devoted father, said with charming simplicity that he could not just see how God could be called a mother, but he knew He was a father. And then he went on to speak very winsomely of God as a father.
Many times love is not born in the heart at all, until there comes into the life some one clear outside of one's own kin. Many a woman never knows love until it is awakened in her heart by him who henceforth is to be a part of herself.
But the common answer, that most people everywhere give to that question, is that a mother's love is the greatest human love we know. And if you press them to tell why they think so, this stands out oftenest and strongest—that it is because she gives so much of herself. She gives her very life. If need be, she sacrifices everything in life, and then sacrifices life itself, going out into the darkness of death that her child may come into fulness and sweetness of life. This is the mother spirit, giving one's very self to bring life to another.
The mother gives her very life-blood that the new life may come. And, if need be, will gladly give her life out to the death that the new life may come into life. And yet more, she gives her life out daily and yearly, throughout its length, that so the full strength and fragrance of life may come in her child's life.
Yet, when all this has been said, I am strongly inclined to think that the mother's love, though the greatest that can be found in any one heart, is not the perfect, fully grown love. The human unit is not a man nor a woman, but a man and a woman. Perfect love requires more than one or two for its matured growth into full life. It cannot exist in its full strength and fragrant sweets except where three are joined together to draw out its full depth and meaning.
There must be two whose hearts are fully joined in love, each finding answering and ever-satisfying love in the other; and so each love growing to full ripeness in the warm sunshine of the other love. And then there needs to be a third one, who comes as a result of that mutual love, and who constantly draws out the love of the other two.
For love in itself is creative. It yearns to bring into being another upon whom it may freely lavish itself. That other one must be of its own sort, upon its own level. Nothing less ever satisfies. And so the love poured out draws out to itself an answering love fully as full as its own. And then, having yearned, it does more. It creates. It must create. It must bring forth life; and life like its own in all its powers and privileges. This is the very life of love in its full expression.
Yet to say all this is simply to spell out fully, in all its letters and syllables, the great, the greatest of passions, mother-love, which we agreed a moment ago was the highest. For mother-love is not restricted to woman, though among us humans it often finds its brightest expressions in her. It knows no restriction of sex. It is simply love at its fullest and highest and freest and tenderest; free to do as it will, and to do it as fully as it will. Love left to itself, free to do as its heart dictates, will give its very self, its life, that life may come to another. This is the great passion called love, the greatest of all passions.