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.
§ 1. We may gather from what has hitherto been said, how grievous a thing it is to offend God. —I appeal now to all creatures, whether man can possibly think of any greater benefit, any more generous favor, or any obligation more binding than this is. Tell me, O all ye choirs of angels, whether God has ever done so much for you ? Can any man, then after all this, refuse to give himself up entirely to the service of God ? " I am indebted to thee, O Lord," says St. Anselm, " for all that I am, upon three several counts: because thou hast created me, I owe thee all that is in me: but I owe thee the same debt, and with more justice, because thou hast redeemed me, and because thou hast promised to reward me with the enjoyment of thyself, I cannot but acknowledge I am wholly thine. Why, then, do not I give myself once, at least, to him, to whom I am so justly due ?" O insupportable ingratitude! O invincible hardness of man's heart, which is not to be softened by so many favors! There is nothing in the world so hard but it may, by some means or other, be made softer. Fire melts metal ; iron grows flexible in the forge; the blood of certain animals will soften even the diamond itself: but, O more than stony heart, what iron, what diamond is so hard as thou art, if neither the flames of hell, nor the care of so charitable a Father, nor the blood of the unspotted Lamb, which has been shed for thee, can make thee soft and flexible ? Since thou, O Lord, hast showed so much goodness, so much mercy, and so much kindness to man, is it to be endured that any one should not love, that any one should forget this benefit, and that any one should still offend thee? What can that man love, that is not in love with thee ? What favors can work upon him, that is not to be wrought upon by thine ? How can I refuse to serve him who has had such a love for me, who has sought after me with so much solicitude, and who has done so much for the redeeming of me ? " And I," says our Saviour, " If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself; John xii. 32. With what force, O Lord, with what chains ? With the force of my love, with the chains of my mercies. "I will draw them," says the Lord, "with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love ;" Osee xi. 4. Who is there that will not be drawn with these cords? Who will not suffer himself to be bound with these chains, or who will not be won by these mercies?
Now, if it be so heinous a crime not to love this great God, what must it be to offend him, and to break his commandments? How can you dare employ your hands in injuring those hands which have been so liberal to you as to suffer themselves to be nailed to a cross for your sake ? When the holy patriarch, Joseph, was solicited, by his lewd mistress, to defile his master Potiphar's bed, the chaste and grateful young man, by no means consenting to so foul an action, made this reply: "Behold, my master hath delivered all things to me, and knoweth not what he hath in his house: neither is there any thing which is not in my power, or that he hath not delivered to me, but thee, who art his wife: How then can I do this wicked thing, and sin against my God?" Gen. xxxix. 8, 9. As if he had said, Since my master has been so kind and generous to me; since he has put all that he is worth into my hands, and has done me such an honor as to intrust me with his whole estate; how shall I, who am bound by so many obligations, dare affront so good a master ? We are to observe, here, that Joseph did not say, I ought not, or, It is not just that I should offend him, but, How can I do this wickedness ? —to signify that extraordinary favors ought to deprive us, not only of the will, but, in some measure, of the very power of offending our benefactor. If, therefore, so great an acknowledgment was due to such benefits as these, what is it those favors we have received from God do not deserve? That master, who was but a mortal man, had intrusted him with the management of his estate. God has delivered into your hands almost all he has; consider how much the riches of God exceed those of Potiphar, for so much more have you received than he did. And, to make this apparent, what is it God possesses that he has not intrusted you with ? Ps. iii. The sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the rivers, the birds, the fishes, the trees, the beasts; whatsoever, in short,is under the heavens, is in your power: and not only what is under heaven, but even what is in heaven itself; that is, the glory, the riches, and the happiness that is to be found there. "All things are yours," says the Apostle, "whether it be Paul, or Apollo, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come ; for all are yours;" (i Cor. iii. 22); for they all contribute to your salvation. Nor is that which is in heaven all we have; the very Lord of heaven himself is ours too. He has given himself to us a thousand ways; as our Father, our Tutor, our Saviour, our Master, our Physician, our Price, our Example, our Food, our Remedy, and our Reward. To conclude, the Father has given us the Son; the Son has made us worthy of the Holy Ghost; and it is by the virtue of the Holy Ghost that we deserve the Father and the Son, who are the very sources and fountains from whence all sorts of riches flow.
If it be true, that God has given you the possession of all, how can you find in your heart to offend so bountiful and so generous a Benefactor ? If it be a crime not to requite such great favors, what must it be to despise and offend him that bestows them ? If young Joseph thought himself unable to do an injury to his master, because he had committed the care of his house to him, with what face can you affront him who has delivered all heaven and earth, nay, himself too, into your hands? O miserable and unhappy man! if you are not sensible of this evil, you are more ungrateful than the brutes are, more savage than the most savage tigers, and more senseless than any senseless thing in nature. For what lion or tiger is so enraged as to fly at him that has done him a kindness? St. Ambrose tells us of a dog that, seeing his master killed by one of his enemies, continued all night by the body, barking and howling. The next day, amongst a great many people that crowded to see the corpse, the dog spied out the person that had committed the murder, and immediately flew upon him, and so, by his barking and biting, discovered the malefactor, who otherwise might have probably escaped. If a dog showed so much love and fidelity to his master for a morsel of bread, how can you be so ungrateful as to let a dog exceed you in good nature and gratitude ? And if this creature was in such a rage against the man that had murdered his master, how can you forbear being incensed against those who have put yours to death? And who do you think are they but your own sins ? It was they that apprehended and bound him, that scourged and crucified him. Your sins, I say, were the cause of all this. For his executioners could never have had so much power, if your sins had not given it them. Why, then, do you not rise up in arms against these barbarous murderers, who have taken away your Lord and Saviour's life? How can you behold him lying dead before you, and for your sake, without increasing your love for him, and your aversion to sin, which has been the occasion of his death ? especially, knowing that, whatsoever he either said, did or suffered, in this world, was for no other end but to excite in our hearts a horror and detestation of sin. He died to make sin die, and suffered his hands and feet to be nailed, that he might bind up sin in chains, and bring it under subjection. Why, then, will you let all your Saviour's toils, sweat and pains be lost to you ? Since he has, with his blood, delivered you from your fetters, why will you still remain a slave ? How can you forbear trembling at the very name of sin, when God has done such extraordinary things to ruin and destroy it ? What could God have done more, in order to bring men off from sin, than place himself upon a cross betwixt it and them ? If a man were to see heaven and hell open before him, would he then dare offend God ? And yet it is, without doubt, a thing much stranger and more surprising, to see a God nailed to an infamous cross. If, therefore, so frightful a spectacle as this cannot work upon man, there is nothing in nature will be able to move him.