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.
By the Rev. F. Lewis
OF THE FIRST MOTIVE THAT OBLIGES US TO VIRTUE AND THE SERVICE OF GOD, CONSIDERING IN ITSELF; AND OF THE EXCELLENCY OF HIS DIVINE PERFECTIONS.
TWO things, Christian reader, particularly dispose the will of man to the undertaking of any commendable action. The consideration of duty and justice is the one; the other, the benefit and advantage we may reap by it. All wise men, therefore, agree, that justice and profit are the two most powerful inducements to incline our will to whatsoever it ought to undertake. Now, though profit be more generally sought after, yet justice is, in itself, the more prevalent of the two ; for, as Aristotle teaches, no worldly advantage can be equivalent to the excellence of virtue, nor any loss so great, as that a prudent man should not embrace it rather than incline to vice. The design of this book being to allure and incline men to embrace the beauty of virtue, it will be proper to begin with the principal part, showing how far we are obliged to it, on account of the duty we owe to God, who, being goodness itself, neither commands, requires nor asks any thing in this world, but that we be virtuous. Let us see, in the first place, and seriously consider, on what grounds, and for what reasons, Almighty God claims this duty of us.
But since these are innumerable, we shall here touch upon only six of the chief of them, on account of every one of which, man owes all he is or can do. The first, greatest and most inexplicable of them, is the very being of God, which comprehends the greatness of his infinite majesty and of all his perfections; that is, the incomprehensible immensity of his goodness and mercy, of his justice, his wisdom, his omnipotence, his excellence, his beauty, his fidelity, his sweetness, his truth, his felicity, with the rest of those inexhaustible riches and perfections that are contained in his divine essence. All which are so great and wonderful, that, according to St. Augustine, if the whole world were full of books, and each particular creature employed to write in them, and all the sea turned into ink, the books would be sooner filled, the writers sooner tired, and the sea sooner drained, than any one of his perfections could be fully expressed. The same doctor says further, that should God create a new man, with a heart as large and as capacious as the hearts of all men together, and he, by the assistance and favor of an extraordinary light, come to the knowledge of any one of his inconceivable attributes, the pleasure and delight this must cause in him would quite overwhelm and make him burst with joy, unless God were to support and strengthen him in a very particular manner.
This, therefore, is the first and chief reason, that obliges us to the love and the service of God. It is a point so universally agreed upon, that the very Epicureans, who, by their denying of a Divine Providence, and the immortality of the soul, have ruined all philosophy, never went so far as to cut off all religion, which is nothing else but the worship and adoration we owe to God. For one of those philosophers, discoursing upon this matter (Cic. de Nat. Deorum), brings very strong and undeniable arguments, to prove, that there is a God; that this God is infinite in all his perfections, and deserves, therefore, to be reverenced and adored; and that this duty would be incumbent on us, though God had no other title to it. If a king, even out of his own dominions, purely only for the dignity of his person, is treated with respect and honor, when we have no expectation of any favor from him; with how much more justice are we to pay the same duties to this King and Lord, who, as St. John says, has these words written upon his garment, and upon his thighs, King of kings, and Lord of lords ! This is he, who with three fingers holds up the frame of the earth. It is he that disposes the causes of all things ; it is he that gives motion to the celestial orbs, that changes the seasons, and that alters the elements. He it is that divides the waters, produces the winds, and creates all things. It is from him that the planets receive their force and influences. It is he, in fine, that, as King and Lord of the universe, gives every creature its life and nourishment. And, besides all this, the kingdom he is in possession of, neither came to him by succession, nor by election or inheritance, but by nature. And as man is naturally above an ant, so this noble Being is, in such an eminent degree, above all created things whatsoever, that they, and all the world together, are scarce any more, in regard of him, than one of these insects. If philosophers, so ill principled as the Epicureans were, have acknowledged this truth, what ought we to do, who are brought up in the Christian religion ?— a religion, which teaches us, that, notwithstanding the infinite obligations we have to God, we are more indebted to him, upon this account, than upon any other; so that, if a man had a thousand hearts and bodies, this reason alone should be enough to make him offer them all to his honor and service. This is a point which all the saints, who have had a sincere and disinterested love for him, have faithfully complied with. And, therefore, St. Bernard, upon this subject, says, ''True love is neither increased by hope, nor lessened by distrust;" Serm. 83, in Cantic. Hereby giving us to understand, that it is not the reward he expects, that makes him serve God : but that he would go on still with the same fervor, though he were sure he should never have any thing for it; because he is not influenced by interest, nor wrought upon by any other consideration, but that of the pure love which is due to his infinite goodness.