SIX VOLUMES IN ONE BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada REV. STEPHEN KEENAN REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J. REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
There is no creature in the world free from motion and change; and it is this that helps them in the finding of what they want, for they are all of them poor and needy. God, on the contrary, is fixed and immovable; because he is never exposed to any kind of necessity, but is present in all places. There is, in all created things, some difference or other, by which one creature is to be easily known and distinguished from another; but the purity of God's essence allows of no difference or distinction. So that his being is his essence, his essence is his power, his power is his will, his will is his understanding, his understanding is his being, his being is his wisdom, his wisdom is his justice, his justice is his mercy. And though the effects of the one are contrary to those of the other, because the duty of mercy is to pardon, and that of justice to punish; they are, notwithstanding, so perfectly one and the same thing in him, that his mercy is his justice, and his justice is his mercy. So that, to appearance, there are contrary perfections and qualities in God; but yet, as St. Augustine observes, there is no such thing in effect (Medit. c. 19 and 20), because he is very remote and yet very present, very beautiful and very strong, constant and inconceivable, confined to no place and in all places, seen by none, and yet seeing all, who changes every thing, whilst he himself can never change. He it is, who is always in action, and yet always enjoys an eternal rest: it is he that fills all things, but cannot himself be circumscribed : who provides for all without the least solicitude: who is great without quantity, and consequently immense: who is good without quality, and, therefore, truly and sovereignly good: nay, what is yet more, he only is good; Matt. xix. 17.
In fine, not to lose ourselves in this abyss, we may venture to say, that as all things are tied up to the bounds of a limited being, so they have a limited power, beyond which they can never pass. The works they are employed about are limited, the places they live in have their bounds, they have names to distinguish them by, and definitions by which we may know them, and are reducible to their particular kinds. But as for this supreme Substance, it is as infinite in its power, and in all its other attributes, as it is in its being. It is not known by any definition, nor comprehended under any kind, nor confined to any place, nor distinguished by any name. On the contrary, according to St. Denis, it has all names, though it has no name, because it contains within itself all those perfections which are signified by names. We may, therefore, say, that all creatures, as they are limited, are to be comprehended; whilst this divine essence, inasmuch as it is infinite, is far above the reach of any created understanding. For, as Aristotle says, since that which is infinite has no end, it is not to be comprehended but by him alone who comprehends all things. What else could be the meaning of those two seraphims Isaias saw near the majesty of God, seated upon a high throne, each of which had six wings; with two of them they covered his face, and with two his feet; Isa. vi. 12. Was it not to teach us, that these, which possess the chief places in heaven, and are seated the nearest to God, are not capable of knowing perfectly what he is, though they have the favor to see him clearly, in his very essence and in all his beauty ? For as a man, standing on the shore, sees the sea itself, yet cannot discover its depth or extent, so these blessed spirits, with all the saints in heaven, see God truly and really, but can neither fathom the abyss of his greatness, nor measure the duration of his eternity. For this reason God is said to be seated upon the cherubims : and, though they are filled with treasures of wisdom, nevertheless, to show how short they come of conceiving his majesty, or of understanding his essence, it is said, that he sits upon them.
This is the darkness David speaks of, when he says, God made darkness his covert; Ps. xvii. 12. To give us to understand what the apostle has expressed more clearly, saying, that God inhabiteth light inaccessible; 1 Tim. vi. 16. The prophet calls light darkness, because it dazzles our eyes so that we cannot look against it to see God. And as, according to one of the philosophers, there is nothing more resplendent or visible than the sun, and nothing at the same time which we can less look at, because of its extraordinary brightness and the weakness of our sight; in like manner, there is nothing more intelligible in itself than God is, and yet nothing, for the same reason, that we understand less.