Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 159.



If, therefore, any man desire to know what God is, when arrived at the highest degree of perfection he is capable of conceiving, he must with humility confess, that an infinite space still remains; that what he proposed to himself is infinitely greater than he imagined ; and that the more sensible he is of these incomprehensibilities, the further advance he has made in this sublime science. For this reason St. Gregory, writing upon those words of Job, v. 9, Who doth great things and unsearchable, and wonderful things without number —says thus: We never speak better of the works of the Almighty God, than when, surprised with astonishment and ravished with wonder, we keep an awful silence. And as those persons, who design to praise another, whose deserts are beyond all they are able to say, think they best discharge themselves from their obligation when they say nothing at all; so ought we, in St. Denis's opinion, to reverence the wonders of this supreme Deity with a holy and profound respect of soul, and with a chaste and devout silence. The saint seems herein to allude to those words of David, A hymn, O God becometh thee in Sion (Ps. lxiv. 2), which St Jerome has translated thus: " Thou, O God, art praised by silence in Sion: n to signify to us, that we cannot praise God in a more perfect manner than by saying nothing at all in praise of him, acknowledging the incapacity of our understanding, owning with humility that this inexpressible substance is too high for us to conceive; and confessing that his being is above all beings, his power above all powers, his greatness above all greatnesses, and that his substance infinitely excels, and is inconceivably different from all other substances, whether material or spiritual. Upon which St. Augustine says excellently well, " When I seek my God, I seek not the beauty of the body, nor the agreeableness of the seasons, nor the brightness of the light, nor the sweet charms of the voice, nor the odoriferous smell of flowers, perfumes and essences; it is neither manna nor honey, nor any other thing that is pleasing to the flesh; I seek none of these things when I seek my God: and yet I seek a certain light not to be seen by the eyes, and exceeding all light; a voice beyond all voices, yet not to be discerned by the ears; a smell surpassing all smells, which the nostrils are not capable of; a sweetness more delightful than all sweetness, yet unknown to the taste, and a satisfaction above all satisfactions, that is not to be felt. For this light shines where there is no place, this voice sounds where the air does not carry it away, this smell is perceived where the wind does not disperse it, and this taste delights where there is no palate to relish it, and this satisfaction is received where it is never lost." L. 10. Conf. c. 6. Soliloq. c. 31.

If none of these reasons, as weighty as they are, can give you the satisfaction you expect, of having some idea of this unspeakable majesty, cast your eyes upon the frame of this material world, the work of God's own hands; that so the contemplation of such a noble effect may give you some insight into the excellence of the cause. Presupposing, in the first place, with St. Denis, that in every thing there is a being, power and action, which bear such proportion to one another, that the power is always suitable to the being, and the action to the power. This being presupposed, consider the beauty, the order and extent of this world: since, as astronomers tell us, there are stars in heaven fourscore times as big as the earth and sea together. Consider again, how many different sorts of creatures there are upon the earth, in the water and in the air; you will see everything so complete and perfect in its kind, monsters only excepted, that you can wish for nothing to be added or diminished, to make its being more complete; and yet, according to St. Augustine, who grounds his opinion on Ecclesiasticus xvii. 1, God, in one single moment, created this world, as great and wonderful as it is; drew a being from no being, and wrought this great work without any matter to work upon; without any help or assistance; without any outward draft or platform; without any tools or instruments ; without any limits of either space or time. He created the whole earth, and all that is contained within the extent of the same, by one single act of his will. Consider, further, that God could have produced a thousand worlds more, much fairer and larger than this, much better peopled, too, as easily as he created this; and that, if he had made them, he could with as much ease, and without any kind of opposition, reduce them to nothing again.