Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 179.



It is true, no man ought to think himself secure, since we see that Solomon, after he had led a pious life for several years, was seduced in his old age ; but yet this example is only a particular exception from a general rule, which is the same in effect with what the Apostle has taught us, and which the same Solomon tells us, in his Proverbs (ch. xxii. 6), in these words: " It is a common saying, a young man according to his way, when he is old will not depart from it;" so that, if he was virtuous in his youth, he will be so when he is old. By these or such like conjectures, which are to be met with in the writings of the saints, a man may humbly presume that God, out of his infinite goodness, has made him one of the number of his elect. And as he hopes to be saved through God's mercy, so may he with all humility conclude he is of the number of those that are to be saved, since the one presupposes the other.

This principle once settled, a man will soon see how strictly he is obliged to serve God for so extraordinary a favor, as is that of having his name written in that book, whereof our Saviour, speaking to his Apostles, says, "Rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject unto you ; but rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven;" Luke x. 20. For what greater benefit can there be, than to have been beloved and chosen from all eternity, ever since God has been God ? to have been lodged in his bosom, and made choice of by him for his adopted child, when he begot his own Son, according to nature in the glory of the saints, who were then all really present in the divine understanding?

Weigh, therefore, all circumstances of this election, and you will find that each of them is an extraordinary favor, and a new obligation to serve God. Consider the dignity of him who has elected you; it is God himself, who, as being infinitely rich and infinitely happy, had no need of you or of any one else in the world. Reflect next upon the person elected, how unworthy he is of such a grace, since he is no better than a poor mortal creature, exposed to all the necessities, infirmities and miseries of this life, and worthy for his sins to be condemned to eternal torments in the next. Observe how glorious an election this is, since the end for which you have been elected is so noble that nothing can be above it; for what can be greater than to become the Son of God, the heir to his kingdom and sharer with him in his glory? Examine, in the next place, how gratuitous his election was, since it was before all merit whatsoever, proceeding only from the good will of Almighty God, and, according to the Apostle, " to the praise of the glory of his grace;" Ephes. i. 6. For the more generous and free a favor is, the greater the obligation it lays on him that receives it. Consider, also, how ancient this election is, for it did not begin with the world, but was long before it, for it is co-eternal with God, who, being himself from all eternity, has, in like manner, from all eternity loved his elect, has always had them in his divine presence, and has them there still, beholding them with a fatherly eye of love, and being always resolved to confer so great a favor on them. Consider, after all, how particular this benefit is, since he has been pleased to honor you with so infinite a blessing, as is the admitting of you into the number of his elect, whilst there are so many nations quite ignorant of him, and which he has rejected, and, therefore, he separated you from the mass of perdition, to raise you to a holy union with his saints, making that which was the leaven of corruption become the bread of angels. Such a grace should put a Stop to our pens and tongues, that we may be wholly taken up in the acknowledging and admiring of it, and in learning what returns we are to make for it. But what should give a greater value to this favor, is the small number of the elect, whilst that of the reproved is so great, that Solomon (Eccl. i. 15) calls it infinite; the number of fools, that is, of the reprobate, is infinite. But if none of all these considerations is able to make any impression on you, be moved, at least, by the excessive price this sovereign Elector has given to purchase you; it is no less than the life and blood of his only begotten Son, whom he, from all eternity, resolved to send down into the world, to put this, his divine decree, in execution.

If this be true, what time can suffice to spend in humble reflections upon so many mercies ? What tongue can be eloquent enough to express them ? What heart capacious enough to conceive them ? What returns and acknowledgments can be made for them? With what love shall a man be ever able to repay this eternal love? Can any man be so base as to defer loving God to the end of his life, when God has had such a love for him from all eternity? Who will part with such a friend as this is, for any friend in this world? For if the Scripture sets such a value upon an old friend, how much ought we to praise that friendship which is eternal ? " Forsake not an old friend, for a new one will not be like him; " Eccl. ix. 14. If this advice holds good in all cases, who is there that will not prefer this friend before all the friends in the world ? And if this be true, that possession, time out of mind, gives him a title that had none before, what must a possession do that has been everlasting? It is eternity that has entitled God to the possession of us, that he might, by this means, make us his.

What riches or honor can there be in the world, which a man should not give in exchange for this blessing ? What troubles or misfortunes, which we ought not to suffer for purchasing it ? Is there any man, though ever so wicked, that would not fall down and kiss the ground a beggar trod on, were he assured by divine revelation that the beggar was predestined to everlasting happiness, that would not run after him, and, prostrating himself at his feet, call him a thousand times happy? Who is there that would not cry out, O blessed soul, is it possible that you should be one of this happy  number of the elect ? Is it possible that God should have made choice of you from all eternity, to see him one day in all his beauty and glory ? that he should have chosen you to be a companion and brother to the elect ? Are you one of those who are to be seated among the choirs of angels ? Must you hear the heavenly music ? And shall you behold the resplendent face of Jesus Christ and his holy mother? Happy the day which first brought you into the world; but much happier that of your death, because then you shall begin to live for ever. Happy the bread you eat, and the ground you tread on, since it bears such an inestimable treasure! But much more happy those pains you endure, since they open you the way to eternal ease and rest! For what clouds of affliction can there be, which the assurance of this happiness will not disperse!

We should doubtless break out into such transports as these, did we behold a predestined person, and know him to be so. For if all people run out to see a young prince, that is heir to some great kingdom, as he passes through the street, admiring his good fortune, as the world accounts it, to inherit large dominions, how much more reason have we to admire the happiness of a man elected from his birth, without any preceding merits on his side, not to a temporal kingdom in this world, but to an eternal crown of glory in heaven.

Here you may learn how great these obligations are, which the elect owe to God, for so unspeakable a favor. And yet there is not one of us all, if we do what is required of us, that is to look upon himself as excluded this number. On the contrary, " every one should use his endeavors," according to St. Peter, "to make his calling and election sure, by good works;" 2 Pet. i. 10. For we are most certain that he who does so shall not miss his salvation; and, what is more, we know that God has never yet refused, nor ever will refuse, any man his grace and assistance. It is, therefore, our main business, since we are assured of these two points, to continue in the doing of good works, that we may by that means be of the number of those happy souls whom God has chosen to be partakers of his glory for ever.