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.
KNOW not what excuse men can plead for not following virtue, which is supported by such powerful reasons: for in its behalf may be urged all that God is in himself, all he deserves, what favours he has done us, what he still promises, and what punishments he threatens. And, therefore, we have cause to ask how there come to be so few Christians that seek virtue, since they confess and believe all that has been said. For it is no wonder that the heathens, who are ignorant of its value, should not prize what they do not know, like a delving peasant, who, if he happen to find a precious stone, makes no account of it, because he is ignorant of its value. But for Christians, who are well acquainted with these great truths, to live as if they believed nothing at all of them, to be so entirely forgetful of God, to be such slaves to their vices, to let their passions so tyrannize over them, to be so wedded to the things of this world, and so little concerned about those of the next, to give themselves over to all manner of crimes, as if there were neither death, judgment, heaven nor hell; this is what should surprise the whole world, and give us ground enough to ask, " Whence does this blindness, this stupidity proceed ?"
This mighty evil owes its rise to more causes than one. The chief one is the general prepossession of worldlings, that God reserves to the next life all the rewards he promises to virtue, without allowing it any recompense in this. This is the reason why men, who consult their own interests so much, and are so violently wrought on by present objects, concern themselves so little about what is to come, as looking after nothing that does not give them immediate satisfaction. Nor is this mistake a new one, for it is what was made in the days of the prophets. Thus we see that whenever Ezekiel either [made any great promises, or threatened severely in the name of God, the people laughed at him, and said to one another, "The vision which this man sees will not come to pass yet; nor shall his prophecies be fulfilled this great while; " Ezek. xii. 27. They also jeered the prophet Isaias, and repeated his words, saying, " Command and command again, command and command again, expect and expect again, expect and expect again, a while hence, another while hence Isa. xxviii. 13. This, then, you see, is one of the chief reasons of men not observing the commandments of God. They have nothing they think to hope for, from his mercy at present, but that all is to be put off till hereafter. Solomon, as very sensible of this common error, took occasion from hence to say," That the reason why men give themselves over, without any kind of consideration, to all manner of vice, is because the sentence passed against the wicked is not immediately put in execution." And afterwards he says, " That the greatest misery in this life, and what of all makes men sin most, is to see that the good and the bad, that those who offer up sacrifice, and those who contemn it, fare alike in all things, in appearance at least;" Eccles. ix. 2, etc. And, therefore, the hearts of men are filled with malice in this life, and they are afterwards plunged into hell. What Solomon said concerning the wicked is sufficiently confirmed in themselves, in the prophet Malachy (ch. iii. 14, 15), where they say, "He loses his labour that serves God; and what good have we got by keeping his commandments, and by our walking pensively before the Lord of hosts ? Wherefore we esteem those happy who are proud, since they are exalted, whilst they commit iniquity, and have tempted God, and are yet secure." This is the common talk of sinners, and one of the chief motives of their continuing in their crimes. For, as St. Ambrose says, " they think that to buy hopes with dangers is too hard a bargain, that is, to purchase future goods with present evils, and to let go what they have in their hands to feed themselves up with an imaginary possession of things which they have no hold of yet;" L. 7. in Luc. c. 7.