Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 174.



First, then, it is by this that man is reconciled to God, and restored to his favor; for the greatest misery sin causes in our souls is the rendering them odious to God, who, as he is goodness itself, bears such a hatred to sin as is proportioned to his goodness. For this reason, the royal prophet says, " Thou, O Lord, hatest all them that work iniquity; thou shalt destroy all them that tell lies; the Lord will abhor both the blood-thirsty and the deceitful man;" Ps. v. 7, 8. It is this which, in effect, is the greatest of all evils, and the source from whence all others flow; as the love of God, on the other side, is the greatest of all goods, and the very fountain of all the rest. This, therefore, is the evil we are freed from, by virtue of our justification, since by it we are restored to God's favor; and, though we were his enemies before, this reconciles us to his love again, and that not in any mean degree, but in the highest that may be, which is that of a father for his son. This it is the beloved evangelist St. John so much extols, where he says, " Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we shall be called, and should be the sons of God;" St, John iii. 1. He does not think it enough to say that we are called the children of God; he adds, further, that we are really so; to the end that human distrust, which carries so much weakness and imperfection along with it, should have a clearer and more distinct view of the liberality of God's grace, and perceive that he has truly and really ennobled man, by making him his son, and not given him the title only. If, as we have said, it is so miserable a thing to be hated by God, what a happiness must it be to be beloved by him. Philosophers tell us that, the worse anything is, the better and more excellent its contrary must be. Whence, we are to conclude that thing to be supremely good whose opposite is supremely evil, such as man is when he is become the object of God's hatred. If men use so much caution in this world, not to lose the love of their masters, fathers, princes, superiors or kings, how solicitous should we be to keep in favor with this powerful King, this heavenly Prince, this sovereign Lord and Father, in comparison of whom all earthly power and authority is a mere nothing ! This favor is the greater by how much it is more freely bestowed; for, as man could do nothing before he was created to deserve his being, because at that time he was not; so neither could he, after having once fallen into sin, do any thing at all that might deserve the gift of justification; not because he was not, but because he was wicked and odious in the sight of God.

Another benefit, besides this, is, that justification takes off the sentence of everlasting torments, which man's sins had condemned him to. For, whereas sin makes a man the object of God's hatred, and it is impossible that any one should be hated by him, and not, at the same time, be in the greatest misery imaginable, it follows that the wicked, having cast Almighty God off from them, and ungratefully despised him, deserve very justly to be cast away by God, and to be despised^ and neglected by him. They deserve to be banished for ever from his presence, never to enjoy his company, never to enter into his most beautiful and glorious palace. And because, in separating themselves from him, they have had an irregular love for the creatures, it is but justice they should be condemned, for the same, to eternal pains and torments, which are so rigorous that, if we compare all that men suffer, in this life, to them, they will look more ideal than real torments. Let us add to these miseries the never-dying worm, which will continually gnaw the very bowels, and tear the consciences of the wicked ; add, also, the company which these unhappy souls must always keep, which shall be no pleasanter than that of all the damned. What shall I say of their horrible and melancholy habitation, full of darkness and confusion, where there never shall be any order, joy, rest or peace; never any comfort, satisfaction or hope ? where there shall be nothing but eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth, eternal rage and blasphemies ? God delivers those whom he justifies from all these miseries, and, having restored them to his grace and favor, frees them entirely from his wrath and vengeance.

There is another advantage, yet more spiritual than the former, which is the reforming and renewing of the inward man, all deformed and disfigured by sin. Because sin, in the first place, deprives the soul, not only of God, but of all its supernatural force, and of all those treasures and gifts of the Holy Ghost, with which it was enriched and adorned. So that, being once robbed of the riches of grace, it is immediately maimed and wounded in all its natural powers and faculties; because man, being a rational creature, and sin being an action against reason, as it is very natural for one contrary to destroy another, it follows, of course, that, the greater and more numerous our sins are, the greater must be the ruin the faculties of the soul lie open to, not in themselves, but in the natural inclination they have to do good. Thus, sin makes the soul miserable, weak, slothful, inconstant in the doing of what is good, and bent upon all kinds of evil, unable to resist temptations, and soon tired with walking in the way of God's commandments. It also deprives the soul of true liberty', and of that sovereignty of the spirit, and makes it a mere slave to the world, the flesh, the devil, and its own inordinate appetites; bringing it under a harder and more unhappy servitude than that of the Israelites in Egypt or Babylon. Nor are these all the miseries which sin reduces the soul to: it oppresses it, besides, in such a manner that it can neither hear God speaking to it, nor perceive those dreadful calamities with which it is threatened; it is quite senseless to that sweet smell which comes from the virtues and examples of the saints; it cannot taste how sweet the Lord is, nor feel the strokes of God's hand, any more than those graces which he pours into it, to excite it to the love of him. Besides all these ills, it takes away the peace and joy of conscience, and so, by degrees, lessens and cools the fervor of the spirit, till it leaves poor man in such a miserable condition that he is foul, deformed and abominable in the sight of God, and of his saints.