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.
CHAPTER XV. OF THE FOURTH PRIVILEGE OF VIRTUE, THAT IS, THE CONSOLATIONS WHICH GOOD MEN RECEIVE FROM THE HOLY GHOST
I MIGHT here very well, after having spoke of the light of the Holy Ghost, which enlightens the darkness of our understandings, count charity and the love of God, with which our wills are inflamed, as the fourth privilege of virtue, especially since the Apostle accounts it the first fruit of the Holy Ghost. But our design at present being not so much to treat of virtue itself, as of the favours granted to it, and charity being not only a virtue, but of all virtues the noblest, we shall forbear to treat of it here; not but that we might speak of it in this place, though not as of a virtue, yet as of a gift which God bestows on the virtuous, inflaming their wills in an unspeakable manner, and making them love God above all things. The more perfect this virtue grows, the pleasanter it becomes, so that we may therefore look on it as the fruit and reward, not only of the virtues, but of itself too. But not to be thought ambitious of speaking too much in commendation of this virtue, which gives us so many other occasions of speaking in its favor, I will assign the fourth place to the joy and comfort of the Holy Ghost, it being the natural property of charity itself, and one of the chief fruits of this same spirit, as St. Paul tells us ; Gal. v. 22.
This privilege is a branch of the former; because, as we said before, this light, with which God enlightens his servants, does not stop at the understanding, but descends into the will, and there darts out the rays of its brightness, with which it entertains them, and gives them a wonderful delight in God. So that from this spiritual light comes the spiritual joy we speak of, as the material light produces the heat we perceive by our senses. This gave the royal prophet occasion to say, " Light is risen to the just, and joy to the right of heart;" Ps. xcvi. ii. We have treated on this subject elsewhere, yet we may venture to speak of it again, without any fear of repeating what we said before.
For the better pursuing the design of this book, we must first explain the greatness of this joy, because the knowing of this will go a great way towards making men in love with virtue. We all know, that as all kinds of miseries are included in vice, so are all kinds of delight in virtue, those excepted which the wicked complain they have not. For which reason,man being naturally a friend to pleasure, these persons tell us, by their actions at least, if not by word of mouth, that they had rather enjoy what pleases them, though at the expense of their salvation, than not to satisfy their sensual desires, though hell follows the consenting to them. Lactantius, writing on this subject, says, " that men are frightened into a flight from virtue, and charmed into a pursuit of vice, because vice has a sensible pleasure attending it;" L. 2, de Falsa Relig. c. 2. This being the rise of so many misfortunes, he that shall disabuse men of this mistake, and show them plainly that the way of virtue is much more pleasant than that of vice, must certainly be very serviceable to mankind in general. My design, therefore, is, to prove this to them by unquestionable authorities, drawn particularly from the Holy Scripture, the best proof we can bring for matters of this nature, since "heaven and earth shall pass away, but the words of God shall not;" Mark xiii. 31.
Tell me, then, blind, deluded man ! if the way to heaven be so rough and so unpleasant as you imagine it is, what means the prophet David, when he says, a O how plentiful is thy sweetness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee !" Ps. xxx. 20. Here he lets us see what delights the virtuous enjoy, and why they are unknown to the wicked, because God hides them from such. What, likewise, do these words of the same prophet signify: " My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall be delighted in his salvation. All my bones," that is, all the powers of my soul, " shall say, Lord, who is like to thee ?" Ps. xxxiv. 9, 10. This is to teach us, that the comfort the just have is so great, that, notwithstanding it is immediately received by the spirit, it rebounds in such a manner on the flesh, that though its chief delight is in carnal things, yet, by the communication of the spirit, it is pleased with the spiritual, and places its satisfaction in God, and that with such transports of joy, that all the bones of the body being ravished with this sweetness, men are forced to cry out, " Who is like unto thee, 0 Lord ?" What pleasures are to be compared with those we enjoy in thee? What content, what love, what peace, what delight can any creature give, like what we receive from thee ? What is it again the same prophet means by his saying, " The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just?" (Ps. cxvii. 15) but to tell us, that true peace and pleasure are nowhere to be met with, but in the dwellings of the just. He says again, " Let the just feast and rejoice before God ; and be delighted with gladness;" Ps. lxvii. 3. And this to show us, what spiritual feasts God often makes for the entertainment of his elect, by giving them a taste of heavenly things for the refreshment of their souls.
It is at these divine banquets they drink, that delicious wine, the same prophet so highly commends : " They shall be inebriated," says he, " O Lord, with the plenty of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure;" Ps. xxxv. 9. Could the prophet have used more expressive words to show how these delights even force men to a hearty love of God ? For as one, that has drank a deal of wine, loses the use of his senses, and is, in that point, like a dead man ; so he, that has once drank of this celestial banquet, dies to the world, and to the irregular desires of what is in it.