Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 213.



§ I. Of the Titles given to Almighty God in Holy Writ, on Account of his Providence. — This divine providence producing so many different and wonderful effects, God has, therefore, a great many different names given him in the Holy Scripture; but the most usual and most remarkable is that of Father, as his beloved Son calls him in the Gospel, and he has been pleased it should be given him in several places of the Old Testament. And, therefore, David says, "As a father hath compassion on his children; so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear him, for he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust;" Ps. cii. 13. Another prophet, not content to call God Father, because his care is infinitely greater than that of a father, speaks thus to him: "Thou, O Lord, art our Father; Abraham hath not known us, and Israel hath been ignorant of us" (Isa. lxiii. 16), to give us to understand, that these, being our carnal fathers, deserved not that name in comparison of God.

But because a mother's affection is, generally speaking, more affectionate and tender than a father's, God is pleased to call himself a. Mother, nay, and more than a mother too. "Can a woman," says he, in Isaias (ch. xlix. 15, 16), "forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? and if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee in my hands: thy walls are always before my eyes." Can any thing be more tender than this ? or can any man be blind to such proofs of love as these are ?

Did we but consider it is God who speaks, he, whose truth cannot deceive, whose riches are inexhaustible, and whose power has no limits, what joy would such pleasing words as these bring us? But such is the excess of God's mercy, that, not content to compare his affection with that of common mothers, he amongst all others chooses the eagle, a creature the most remarkable for this love, and compares his tenderness to hers; saying, by Moses, " As the eagle enticing her young to fly, and hovering over them, he spread his wings, and hath taken them and carried them on his shoulders ; " Deut. xxxii. 11. The same prophet expressed this yet more lively to the people of Israel, when, on their arrival at the land of promise, he told them, " You have seen how the Lord your God has carried you through the wilderness all the way you went, as a man doth his little son, until you came to this place; " Deut. i. 31. As he does not disdain to call himself our Father, he does us the honor to call us his children; as a proof of which, we have in the prophet Jeremy (ch. xxxi. 20), "Ephraim is an honorable son to me, surely he is a tender child: for since I spoke of him, I will still remember him. Therefore are my bowels troubled for him : pitying I will pity him." Every word here should be weighed with attention, as coming from God, and should force from us a tender affection for him, in return of his tender love to us.

It is on account of the same providence that he gives himself the name of a Shepherd, as well as that of a Father. And to let us see that how great his pastoral care is, he says, "I am the good Shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me;" John x. 14, 15. How is it, O Lord, that thou knowest them ? How doest thou look after them ? " As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father." O blessed care I O sovereign providence! What greater happiness can a man enjoy than to be taken care of by the Son of God, just as his Father takes care of him ? The comparison, it is true, will not hold in all respects, because a begotten son deserves much more than one that is only adopted; but to be in any manner whatever compared with him, is a very great honour. God acquaints us with the wonderful effects of this his providence, fully and elegantly, by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, saying, " Behold, I myself will seek my sheep, and will visit Ahem. As the shepherd visiteth his flock, in the day when he shall be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered: so will I visit my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and will gather them out of the countries, and will bring them to their own land; and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel, by the rivers, and in all the habitations of the land: I will feed them in the most fruitful pastures, and their pastures shall be in the high mountains of Israel: there shall they rest on the green grass, and be fed in fat pastures upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my sheep : and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost: and that which was driven away, I will bring again: and I will bind up that which was broken, and I will strengthen that which was weak, and that which was fat and strong I will preserve: and I will feed them in judgment" (Ez. xxxiv. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16); that is, with great care, and with a particular providence. A little lower he adds: " I will make a covenant of peace with them, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they that dwell in the wilderness shall sleep secure in the forests. And I will make them a blessing round about my hill: and I will send down the rain in its season, there shall be showers of blessing" (ver. 25, 26); that is to say, wholesome showers, and such as shall do no hurt to the places which my flock feeds in. What greater promises can God make us, or what more tender expressions can he give us of his love ? For it is certain, that he does not speak here of a material but of a spiritual flock, composed of men, as the text itself plainly shows. It is no less certain that he does not mean fat lands, or an abundance of temporal goods, which are common to the bad as well as the good, but, like a good shepherd, he promises to assist those that are his with particular graces, on all occasions. It is what he himself has explained by Isaias (ch. xl. 11), where he says, " He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather together the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up in his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are with young." Is there any tenderness like this? The divine psalm that begins thus, " The Lord is my shepherd" (Ps. xxii.), is full of these charitable offices of a shepherd, which God performs to man.