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.
LET us come now to the great work of our redemption, a favor not to be comprehended by either men or angels. A mystery so much above whatsoever I am able to say, and myself so unworthy at the same time to speak any thing of it, that I neither know where to begin or where to leave off, what to take or what to leave. Were not man so stupid as to stand in need of these incentives, to stir him up to the love of virtue, it would be much better to adore this profound mystery in silence, than to eclipse it by the darkness of our expression. They tell us of a certain famous painter, who, having drawn a picture representing the death of a king's daughter, and painted her friends and relations standing about her with most sorrowful countenances, and her mother more melancholy than the rest; when he came to draw the father's face, he hid it under a shade, to signify that so much grief was not to be expressed by art. Now if all we are able to say falls short of explaining the benefit of our creation, what eloquence will suffice deservedly to extol that of our redemption? God created the whole universe by one single act of his will, without spending the least part of his treasures, or weakening the strength of his almighty arm. But to the redeeming of it, there went no less than thirty-three years of sweat and toil, with the effusion of his blood to the very last drop, and not one of his senses or members was exempt from suffering its particular pain and anguish. It looks like a lessening of such sublime mysteries, to attempt to explain them with mortal tongue. What shall I do then? shall I speak, or shall I hold my peace? I am obliged not to be silent, and am unfit to speak. How can I be silent of such wondrous effects of God's mercy? And how shall I be able to discourse of such ineffable mysteries ? To be silent looks like ingratitude, and to speak of it seems a rashness. Wherefore, I here prostrate myself before thee, O my God, imploring thy divine assistance and mercy to the end, that whilst my ignorance detracts from thy glory, instead of extolling and displaying it, those who are capable of doing it may praise and glorify thee in heaven, that they may supply what I am deficient in, and beautify and adorn what a mortal man cannot but spoil by the meanness of his capacity.
After God had created man, and with his own hand seated him in a place of delights, investing him with honor and glory, that which ought to have engaged him the more deeply in his Creator's service emboldened him the more to rebel against him. Whereas, the infinite favors he had received should have laid a stricter obligation on him, to love that divine goodness that bestowed them, he made use of them as instruments of his ingratitude. This was the cause of his being driven out of Paradise, into the banishment of this world, and condemned to the pains of hell, that, as he had been the devil's associate in sin, he might partake of his sufferings and torments. When Giezi, Elisha's servant, had received the present which Naaman the leper made him, the prophet said to him: "Since thou hast received Naaman's money, the leprosy, therefore, of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever;" 4 Kings v. 25, 27. God has pronounced a like sentence against man, judging it requisite, that since he has coveted the riches of Lucifer, which are his guilt and his pride, he should in like manner be defiled with Lucifer's leprosy, which is the punishment of his rebellion. Thus man, by imitating the devils' sins, becomes like them, and shares with them in their punishment, as well as in their guilt.
Man having brought such a disgrace upon himself, this same God, whose mercy is as great as his majesty, considered not the affront, which was offered to his infinite goodness, so much as he did our misery. He was more concerned for the unhappy condition we were reduced to, than angry for the offences we had committed against him; and, therefore, resolved to succor us by the means of his only Son, and to make him the Mediator of our reconciliation with himself. But what was this reconciliation ? Who is able to express this mercy ? He settled such a close friendship betwixt God and man, as to find out a way to make God not only pardon man, receive him into his favor again, and make him one and the same thing with himself, by love, but, what is far beyond all expression, he united him to himself in such a manner, that there are no created beings in nature so closely united as these two are now; because they are not only one in love and grace, but in person too. Who could ever have thought, that such a breech as this would have been so made up again? Who could have imagined that these two things, which nature and sin had set at such a distance, should ever have been united together, not in the same house, at the same table, in the same union of grace and love, but in the same person? Are there any two things in the world more different from one another, than God and a sinner? And yet, are there any things more closely united than God and man are now? There is nothing, says St. Bernard, more high than God, and nothing lower 'than the clay man was made of. Yet has God, with so much humility, descended into this clay, and this clay with so much honor ascended to God, that we may say the clay has done whatsoever God has done, and God has suffered all the clay has suffered.