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.
But though this, of all obligations, is the greatest, yet it is that which, least of all, moves those who are not perfect. Because, the greater power self-love has over them, the more they are carried on by their own interest; and, being as yet but rude and ignorant, they are unable to conceive the beauty and excellence of this supreme goodness. Whereas, were they but a little more enlightened, the very brightness of this divine glory would charm them into a love of it above all other things. For which reason, it will be very proper to instruct them upon this matter, that they may acquire a more perfect knowledge of the majesty of God. All I intend to make use of, for the effecting of this, shall be taken out of St. Denis, who wrote his treatise of Mystical Divinity with no other design, but to let us know how infinitely different God Almighty's excellences and perfections are, from those of creatures: that, by seeing this, we may learn, if we have a mind to know what God is, the necessity of shutting our eyes to the beauties we observe in creatures, for fear of deceiving ourselves, whilst we judge of God by those things that bear no proportion at all with his greatness. We are to look upon them as mean and base, and raise up our souls to the contemplation of a Being that exceeds all beings; of a Substance, above all other substances; of a Light, that eclipses all other lights; and of a Beauty which is so far beyond all beauties imaginable, that the greatest of them, and the most complete, is but ugliness and deformity when set by this. This is what we are told by the cloud Moses entered into to discourse with God, which removed every thing but God from him, that he might, by that means, have a better knowledge of God; Exod. xxiv. 16, 18. And Elias's covering his face with his cloak, when he saw the glory of God passing before him, is a lively expression of the same thing; 3 Kings xix. 13. It is certain, then, that a man, to contemplate the perfections and beauty of God, should turn away his eyes from all the things of this world, as too base and mean to be regarded at the same time with him.
We shall understand this much better, if we consider the vast difference between this uncreated Being and all that are created; that is to say, between the Creator and his creatures. For all these we see had a beginning, and may have an end; but he is without a beginning, and can have no end. They all acknowledge a superior, and depend upon another; but he knows nothing above himself, and, therefore, is independent. The creatures are variable and inconstant, but the Creator is always the same, and cannot change. The creatures are composed of different matters, but the Creator is a most pure Being, and free from all those mixtures which bodies are made up of; for, should he consist of several parts, there must, of necessity, have been some being above and before him, to have ordered these parts, a thing altogether impossible. The creatures can never come to such a degree of perfection as not to admit of a further increase; they may receive more than they have already, and know what they are at present ignorant of; but God can never be better than he is now, because he contains within himself the perfections of all other beings: nor is it possible that he, who is the Source of all riches, should ever be richer. Nor can he know more than he does already, because his wisdom is infinite, and his eternity, which has all things present to it, suffers nothing to be concealed from his knowledge. Aristotle, the chief of all the heathen philosophers, not ignorant of this truth, calls him a pure act; which is a complete and absolute perfection, incapable of any further addition, there being nothing imaginable above it; nor can we think of any thing it stands in need of.