Friday, 14 October 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 160.



Now, if, according to our supposition taken from St. Denis, by the effects and operations of things we judge of their power, and by their power of their being; how powerful must that cause be, which has produced such wonderful effects! And, if this power be so great, what must the Being be, which we are to judge of by this power? This, doubtless, surpasses all expression or imagination; and yet we are further to consider, that all these great and perfect works, which are or might have been, are nothing at all in comparison of the divine power, but infinitely inferior to it: who, then, can reflect on, or contemplate the greatness of so eminent a Being, and so high a power, without surprise and astonishment? Yet, though we did not see with our corporal eyes, we cannot, from what has been said, but conceive, in some measure, how great and incomprehensible this power is.

St. Thomas, in his Sum of Divinity, explains this infinite greatness very clearly, by this example: We see, says he, that in material or corporeal things, that which is the most perfect is the greatest in quantity. Thus the water is greater than the earth, the air is greater than the water, and the fire greater than the air. The first heaven is greater than the element of fire; the second heaven greater than the first; the third than the second; and so of the rest, till you come to the tenth sphere or empyreal heaven, which is of immeasurable greatness. This will appear much plainer yet, if we consider what proportion the sea and earth joined together have with the heavens; for astronomers tell us, they are both but as a point in comparison of them; which they prove by this demonstration. They divide the heavens equally into twelve signs, through which the sun performs its yearly course; and because a man may always see six of these signs, in whatsoever part of the earth he be, they conclude, that the earth is but as a point, or a sheet of paper, in the middle of the world; for, if its extent could be, though ever so little, compared with that of the heavens, we should not be able to discover half of them at once, in any part of the earth whatsoever. Now, if the empyreal orb, the most excellent and most noble of all material substances, is so incomparably bigger than all the other orbs; we may from thence infer, that God, who is above all beings imaginable, whether corporeal or spiritual, as being the Author of them all, must be infinitely greater than all of them together; not in quantity, for he is a pure Spirit, but in the excellence and perfection of his being.

But, to come more home to our subject, you may, I say, by this means know, in some manner, what God's perfections are, because they cannot but bear a proportion to his being. The author of the book called Ecclesiasticus, speaking of God's mercy, says, "His mercy is as great as himself" Eccl. ii. 23. Nor are any of his other attributes less. So that his goodness, his mercy, his majesty, his meekness, his wisdom, his bounty, his omnipotence and his justice, are all entirely equal. Thus he is infinitely good, infinitely merciful, infinitely wise, infinitely amiable, and upon these considerations most infinitely worthy to be obeyed, respected, reverenced and feared, by all creatures. Nay, were man's heart capable of an infinite love and fear, justice would oblige him to give it all to God, upon the account of his infinite greatness. For, if, the greater quality a person is of, the more respect we are to show him, we ought to pay God an infinite respect, because his dignity is infinite. Whatsoever, therefore, our love wants of acquiring this degree, is wanting upon no other account but our inability of making God the returns his boundless greatness deserves.

Since, then, it is certain that, were there no other consideration but that alone, it would be a sufficient motive to oblige us to the love of God; what can he be in love with, who does not love this goodness ? Or what can he be afraid of, who does not fear this infinite majesty ? Whom will he serve, who will not serve this Lord? What was our will given us for, but to love and to embrace good ? If, therefore, this great God be the sovereign good, why does not our will embrace it before all other goods? If it is to unhappiness and misery not to love him, nay, and that, too, above all things in the world, what should those persons expect, who love everything else better than they do him ? Who would ever have thought that man could carry his ingratitude and malice so far: and yet, what do they less, who are continually offending this sovereign goodness, for a beastly pleasure, for a trifling punctilio of honor, or for some vile and sordid interest ? What, then, shall we think of them, who sin upon no motive at all, but either out of mere malice or custom, and without the least hope of advantage or profit ? Yet this pass mankind is now come to, 0, unparalleled blindness and folly ! O, insensibility, worse than that of brutes ! O, the diabolical rashness and impudence of man! What punishment does he not deserve, that lets himself be carried away by such a crime as this ? What torments ought not he to expect, who has the boldness to despise so high a majesty? Such an unhappy soul shall, without doubt, be condemned to those pains and torments prepared for it; to burn with the devils in hell for all eternity;—a punishment far less than such offences deserve.