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 II. OF THE SECOND MOTIVE THAT OBLIGES US TO VIRTUE AND THE SERVICE OF GOD, WHICH IS THE BENEFIT OF OUR CREATION.
ANOTHER obligation we have in the pursuit of virtue, and the keeping of God's commandments, besides his being in itself, is the consideration of what he is towards us, that is, of those innumerable favors we have received from him ; which, though we have spoken of elsewhere, upon other occasions, we will nevertheless treat of them again, that so we may the better understand how much we are obliged to this liberal Benefactor.
The first of these benefits is our creation, which being so well known, I will only say, that such a favor is of itself sufficient to oblige man to give himself up entirely to the service of his Creator; because in justice he stands indebted for all he has received; and since by this benefit he has received his being, that is, his body with all its senses, and his soul with all its faculties, it follows he is obliged to employ them all in the service of his Creator, under the penalty of being looked on as ungrateful to so bountiful a Benefactor. For, if a man builds a house, who should have the use or the rent of it, but he that built it ? If a man plants a vine, who else should have the fruit of it but the planter ? If a man has any children, who are they obliged to serve but the father that begot them ? This obligation is so strict, that the laws themselves give every father a right and power to sell his own children, if he should be reduced to a very pressing necessity. For his having given them their being, makes his authority over them so absolute, that he may dispose of them as he pleases.—What power, then, and authority ought he to have, who is the sovereign Master and Author of all creatures both in heaven and on earth, since the power a father has over his children extends so far ? And if those persons who receive a favor are, according to Seneca, obliged to imitate a good soil, which returns with interest what it receives, how shall we be able to make God any such return, when, after having given him all we have, we can give him no more than what we have received from him? And if he who gives back but just what he received, does not comply with this precept of the philosopher, what shall we say of him that does not return so much as the least part of it ?
Aristotle tells us it is impossible for a man to make equal returns to the favors his father and the gods have bestowed on him. How, then, can it be possible for us to make any return to this great God, who is the Father of all fathers, and from whom mankind has received infinitely more than from all the fathers in the world together? If for a son to disobey his father is so heinous a sin, how grievous a crime must our rebellion be against God, who has so many titles to the name of Father, that, in comparison with him, no father deserves to be so called. And, therefore, he, with much reason, complains of this ingratitude, by one of the prophets, in these words: If I am your Father, where is my honor? And if I am your Lord, where is my fear? Mai. i. 6. It is upon the account of the same ingratitude that he expresses his indignation in another place with much more severity and anger, saying, Is it thus that you requite the Lord, O foolish and unwise nation ? Is not he thy Father, that has taken thee into his possession, and has made and created thee Deut. xxxii. 6.
These are truly the ungrateful creatures, that never lift up their eyes toward heaven to contemplate on it, nor look down to consider themselves. Did they but enter into this consideration, they would soon inform themselves what they are, and desire to have some knowledge at least of their original. They would be willing to know by whom and for what end they have been created, that they might by this means be acquainted with one part of their duty. But having already neglected the one, they easily neglect the other, and live as if they had made and created themselves. This was the crime of that unfortunate king of Egypt, whom God threatened so severely by his prophet, when he sent him this message: Behold, O Pharaoh, king of Egypt, it is to thee that I speak; thou great dragon, that liest down in the midst of thy rivers, and sayest, The river is mine, and I have made myself These words, if they are not in the mouths, are at least in the hearts of those who think as seldom of their Creator as if they themselves were the authors of their own being, and would acknowledge no other. St. Augustine's sentiments were quite different from these; for the knowledge of his own origin brought him to the knowledge of him from whom he had received it. Hear how he speaks in one of his soliloquies: " I returned to myself, and entered into myself, saying, What art thou? And I answered myself, A rational and a mortal man. And I began to examine what this was, and said, O, my Lord and my God, who is it that has created so noble a creature as this is? Who, O Lord, but thou? Thou, O my God, hast made me, and not I myself. What art thou? Thou by whom I and all things live. Can any one create and make himself? Can he receive his being and his life from any one else but from thee? Art not thou the chief being, from whom every other being comes ? Art not thou the fountain of life, from which all lives flow ? For whatsoever has life lives by thee, because nothing can live without thee. It is thou, O Lord, that hast made me, and without thee nothing is made. Thou art my Creator, and I am thy creature. I thank thee, O my Lord and my God, because thou hast created me; thou, by whom I live, and by whom all things live. I thank thee, O my Creator, because thy hands have made and fashioned me. I thank thee, O my Light, for having enlightened and brought me to the knowledge of what thou art, and what I am myself."