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.
CHAPTER VII. - OF THE SEVENTH MOTIVE THAT OBLIGES US TO THE PURSUIT OF VIRTUE, WHICH IS DEATH, THE FIRST OF THE FOUR LAST THINGS.
ANY one of the aforementioned motives ought to be sufficient to persuade men to give themselves up entirely to the service of a master that has obliged them with so many favors. But, because duty and justice have less influence over the generality of mankind than profit and interest, I will, therefore, add those great advantages which are proposed as the recompense and reward of virtue, both in this life and in the next, and shall first speak of the two greatest, The glory we shall acquire, and the punishment we shall avoid, by faithfully adhering to it. These are the two oars that are so serviceable to us in this voyage; they are, as it were, the compass by which we may steer our course more steadily and securely. This is the reason why St. Francis and St. Dominick, in their rules, both of them moved by the same spirit, and making use of the very same words, commanded the preachers of their orders, never to take any other subjects of their sermons but virtue and vice, heaven and hell; the one to instruct us how to live well, the other to incline us to it. It is a received opinion among philosophers, that reward and punishment are, as it were, the two springs which make the wheels of a man's life turn round in regular motion. For such, alas! is our unhappiness, and so great the corruption of our nature, that no one can endure naked virtue, that is to say, if the fear of punishment does not go along with it, or the hope of a reward attend it. But since there is no punishment or reward which can so justly deserve our consideration as those which are never to have an end, we will, therefore, speak here of everlasting glory and everlasting torments, together with those other two things that are to precede them, which are death and judgment. For any one of these points, considered with attention, may be infinitely advantageous to the making us love virtue and hate vice, according to the wise man, where he says: " In all that thou undertakest, remember thy last end, and thou shalt never do amiss;" Eccl. vii. 40. He means here those four things we have just now mentioned, and which we are going to discourse on.
To begin with the first, which is death. The reason why this, of all the rest, works most on us, is its being the most certain, the most frequent, and the most familiar of them all, especially if we reflect upon the particular judgment that is to be given on the whole course of our lives at that time, which, when once past, will not be reversed on the general judgment day; for whatsoever is then decreed shall stand good for ever. But how rigorous this judgment will be, and how severe an account will be taken of our actions, I do not desire you should believe upon my bare allegation, but that you give credit to a passage, related by St. John Climachus upon this point, to which he himself was an eye-witness, and is, indeed, one of the most dreadful I ever read in my life. He tell us, " there was a certain monk in his time called Hesychius, who lived in a cell on mount Horeb. Having led a very careless and negligent sort of life, during the whole time of his retirement, without so much of ever thinking of his salvation, he was at last taken very ill, and, being past all hopes of recovery, lay for about the space of an hour as if he had been quite dead. But afterwards coming to himself again, he earnestly desired that we would all go out of his cell. And as soon as ever we had left him, he walled up his door, and remained thus, shut up within his cell, for twelve years, never speaking one word to any person during all that time. He lived upon nothing but bread and water; and continued always sitting, keeping his whole thoughts, as if it had been in perpetual ecstacy, so bent upon what he had seen in his vision, that he never so much as once altered the posture he was in, but remaining as it were, always out of his senses, and in deep silence, wept most bitterly. A little before his death we broke open his door, and went into his cell, earnestly desiring him to speak some words of edification. But all we could get from him was: 4 Pardon me, my brethren, if I have nothing else to say to you but this, that he who has the thoughts of death deeply imprinted upon his mind can never sin.'" These are St. John Climachus's own words, who was present when this happened, and relates nothing but what he saw; so that, though the passage may seem incredible, there is no cause to mistrust the truth of it, since we have it from so grave and so credible an author. There is nothing which we ought not to fear, when we consider the life this holy man led, but much more if we inquire into the frightful vision that was the occasion of his long penance I This evidently makes out the truth of that saying of the wise man: " Be mindful of thy last end, and thou shalt never do amiss;" Eccl. vii. 40. If, then, this consideration be of such force to make us avoid sin, let us briefly reflect upon the most remarkable circumstances that attend it, to the end we may by this means obtain so great a benefit.