Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 192.



Giovanni dal Ponte (1385 - 1437/8), Madonna col Bambino e angeli , 1410s. 

Thou hast given this man what thou never madest use of thyself; for nobody ever saw Jesus Christ curing the sick with his shadow. Now if it be certain that God has such a love for his saints, even at such a time and in such a place too as designed for them to toil and labor in, and not to receive their rewards ; how, great must that glory be which he has prepared to honor them with, and for which he will be honored and praised in them ! What may we imagine he, who has so great a desire to glorify them, and who, at the same time, both can and knows best how to do whatsoever is capable of contributing to their glory, has prepared and provided for this end? Consider further, how liberal God is in rewarding services done him. He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, whom he loved so tenderly; and just as the patriarch was on the point of complying with his command, his divine goodness stopped him, and would not let him proceed any further. "The angel of the Lord said to him, Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him; now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake. By my own self have 1 sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake, I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the seashore : thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice;" Gen. xxii. 12, 16, 17, 18. Was not this service well requited ? It is truly a return that becomes God, who ought to appear like himself in all things, as well in the favors he bestows, as in the punishments he inflicts.

David began one night to consider with himself, that he had a house to dwell in, and the ark of God had none, and thereupon resolved to build one for it. But God sent the prophet Nathan to him the next morning with this message : " Because thou hast thought of building me a house, I swear to thee, that I will build one for thee and thy posterity, which shall remain for ever; and I will give thee a kingdom that shall have no end, nor will I ever remove my mercies from it;" 2 Kings vii.; 3 Kings viii.; 1 Chron. xvii. This was the promise God made David; nor did he fail in the performance of it, for the kingdom of Israel was governed by the princes of the house of David down to the coming of our Saviour, who reigns there now, and will there reign for all eternity. What follows on this is, that heaven is nothing else but the general reward which God gives his saints, for all the services they have done him ; and would we but at the same time consider how generous God is, in the presents he makes, we might give some kind of guess at least at the qualities and conditions of this glory ; though it is an abyss too deep for us to fathom.

Another way of passing a judgment on it is, to reflect on the price God has thought fit it should be purchased at for us. For since he has been so liberal to us, we must not think he would set a greater value on things than they are worth in themselves. Yet that we might, after we had sinned, be made partakers of this glory, nothing less than the blood and death of his only Son could procure it for us. So that God has been pleased to die the death of man, that man might live the life of God. God has suffered those afflictions and tribulations which were due to man, that man should enjoy the rest and ease that belonged to God. Nor would man have ever been honored with a place among the choir of angels, had not God been nailed to the cross betwixt two thieves. How great a favor, then, must this be, for the procuring of which a God, has sweated blood, has been taken prisoner, has been scourged, spit upon and buffeted; and, after all, has been fastened to a cross I What can that be, which God who is so generous, has prepared, to procure at so great a rate ? Could a man but fathom this abyss, he could have no better way of finding out the greatness of eternal glory.

But besides all this, God requires of us as much as possibly can be required of man, which is, that we take up our cross and follow him; and if our right eye offend us, we pluck it out; that we have no further concern for father and mother, nor regard any thing in this world, be it what it will, if it be consistent with whatsoever God shall command us. And after we have punctually complied with all that he enjoins, he tells us he bestows this glory gratis. This is what he says, in St. John: " I am Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End. To him that thirsteth I will give of the fountain of the water of life, free cost;" Apoc. xxi. 6. How great a favor must this be, when God requires so much for it; and yet, when we have given him all we can, he tells us himself, he gives it to us for nothing. I say, " for nothing," with respect to what our actions are worth in themselves, when separated from the value grace puts on them. Tel] me now, if this Lord is so liberal in granting of his favors; if he has been so good as to bestow upon every one so many several kinds of benefits even in this life; if every creature, both in heaven and earth, has been created for man's use in general; if he has given the sinner as well as the just, the bad man as well as the good, a free and common possession of this world, how shall we be able to rate those inexhaustible riches, which he has laid up for none but the just? How will he, who has been so generous in conferring his favors on those who have not deserved them, reward those to whom his graces are in some manner due ? How noble must he be in requiting services done him, who has been always so forward in bestowing of his mercies! And if he is so bountiful in his gifts and presents, how magnificent will he be in the returns he makes ! It is certain we can neither express nor conceive the glory he will bestow on the grateful, since he has here laid so many obligations on the unthankful.