Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 163.



This is the first favor we have received from God, and the foundation of all the rest, because all other benefits presuppose a being, and this is first given us at our creation. Nay, there is no benefit but has a near relation to our being-, as the accidents of a thing have to the substance of it; by which you may see how great a benefit this is, and how deeply you are indebted to God for it. If, then, it is certain, that God is very careful and exact in requiring some acknowledgment for all the benefits he bestows upon us, not out of any interest or advantage to himself, but only for our good; what acknowledgment do we think he will expect from us, for that favor, upon which all others are built ? For God is no less rigorous in exacting our thanks, than he is liberal in conferring his grace; not that he gets any thing by it, but because the performance of our duty is so very advantageous to us. Thus we read in the Old Testament, that God no sooner bestowed any grace upon his people, than he commanded them not to forget the same. As soon as he had brought his Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt (Exod. xii.), he immediately commanded them to keep a solemn feast every year, in remembrance of that happy day. He destroyed all the firstborn of the Egyptians, but, at the same time, to prevent his people's ingratitude, he gave orders, that in return for so signal a favor, they should offer up all their first-born to him. A little after their departure from Egypt (Exod. xvi. 33), when he first rained down the manna from heaven, a food with which he maintained them for forty years in the wilderness, he ordered immediately that a certain quantity of it should be put into a vessel, and kept in the sanctuary, as a memorial to all their posterity of so extraordinary a mercy; Exod. xvii. 14. After the victory which he gave them over the Amalekites, he bids Moses write it down in a book for a memorial, and deliver the same to Josue. Now, if God has been so exact, in requiring that his people should never forget those temporal favors he has done them, what will he not expect from us, for this immortal one? For since the soul he has given us is immortal, the benefit we receive with it must be so too. It was this that introduced the custom amongst the old patriarchs, of erecting altars, as often as God had favored them in any particular manner; Gen. xiii. 7, 8 ; xiii. 18 ; xxii, etc. Nay, the very names they gave their children expressed the favors they had received, that so they might always be mindful of them. Hence St. Augustine took occasion to say that man ought to think of God every time he draws his breath ; Soliloq. c. 18. Manuale c. 29. Medit. c. 6. Because, as it is by the means of his being that he lives, he should be continually giving God thanks for this immortal being, which he has had from the divine mercy.

We are so strictly obliged to the performance of this duty, that it is the advice even of worldly philosophers never to be ungrateful to God. Hear how Epictetus, a very noted Stoic, speaks upon this matter. " Have a care," says he, " O man, of being ungrateful to that sovereign Power, and forgetting to return thanks, not only for having given you all your senses and life itself, but for all those things that support it: not only for the pleasant fruits, for the wine, the oil, and for whatever other advantages of fortune you have received from him; but praise him particularly for having endowed you with reason, by which you may know how to make that use of every thing which it ought to be put to, and understand the true worth and excellence of all things." If a heathen philosopher obliges us to such acknowledgments for these common and ordinary things, what sentiments of gratitude should a Christian have, who has, beside all these, received the light of faith, which is a most inestimable favor.

But you will perhaps ask, What obligations can these benefits lay upon me, which are common to all, and seem rather to be the ordinary graces of God, since they are nothing but the consequences and products of such causes as work always after the same manner ? This objection is so much below a Christian, that a heathen would be ashamed to make it, and none but a beast can be guilty of such baseness. That you may the more easily believe me, hear how the same philosopher condemns it: " You will say, perhaps, that you receive all these benefits from nature. Senseless and ignorant creature that you are! do not you see, that when you say so, you only change the name of God ? For what is nature but God, who is the Author of nature? It is therefore no excuse, ungrateful man, to say you owe this obligation to nature, not to God, because without God there is no such thing as nature. Should you borrow a sum of money of Lucius Seneca, and afterward say you were obliged only to Lucius, and not to Seneca, that would only change your creditor's name, but not your creditor."