Friday, 3 February 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 209.



§ I. Gospel authority for what has been said. For further proof of what I have said, I will add this divine sentence of Jesus Christ. St. Mark tells us, that when St. Peter asked our Saviour, what reward they should have who had quitted all for love of him, he gives him this answer: "Amen I say to you, there is no man who hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, who shall not receive a hundred times as much, now in this time; and in the world to come life everlasting ; " Mark x. 29, 30. If you weigh those words exactly, you cannot in the first place deny, but that Jesus Christ makes a formal distinction between the rewards of virtue in this life and in the next, the one being a promise of a future, and the other of a present, happiness. You must confess, too, that it is impossible this promise should not be performed, since heaven and earth are sooner to pass away than one tittle of these words, how hard soever they appear, shall fail. And as we certainly believe, there is in God both Trinity and Unity, because he has said so, though this mystery is beyond the reach of our reason, so are we to believe this other truth, though it exceeds all human understanding, since it is grounded on the same authority of God's own word.

What, then, is this hundred fold, which the just receive even in this life? For we see they are, for the most part, men of no very considerable quality nor very rich, of no great employment in the state, nor enjoy any other worldly advantages, but, on the contrary, many of them live retired, obscure, poor and necessitous. How then can this infallible word of God be proved to be true, but by acknowledging, that God makes them so spiritually rich, that they are more happy and quiet than if they were sovereign lords of the world, and yet are destitute of the conveniences of this life? Nor is this to be wondered at, because, as God may preserve mankind by other means, and not by bread alone, so it is not necessary he should satisfy those souls he has such a love for with temporal goods, having better ways of doing it. This we have seen in a particular manner justified in all the saints, whose prayers, fastings, tears and labors have given them far greater delight and satisfaction than all the joys and pleasures of the world could ever have done: which shows us plainly, that what they received was a hundred times better than what they left for the love of God. For instead of the false and apparent goods they forsook, they received such as were true and real; instead of the uncertain, those which were certain, spiritual instead of temporal, ease instead of care, quiet instead of trouble, and for a vicious and unpleasant life, a virtuous and delightful one; so that if, for the love of God, you have despised the base treasures of this world, you shall find in him such as are inestimable. If for his sake you have contemned false honours, you shall meet with true ones in him. If you have forsaken a mortal father on his account, the eternal Father will satisfy you with all kinds of delights. If, in fine, you bid adieu to hurtful pleasures for the love of him, he will entertain you with such as shall be free from the least tincture of bitterness or alloy. When you shall arrive to such a degree of perfection as this is, you will then abhor what you took the greatest pleasure in before. For when our eyes are once cleared up by this heavenly brightness, we discover a new light, which represents things quite different from what they appear to us at first. What we then thought sweet, tastes bitter to us now; and what we looked on as bitter then, we now find to be sweet. We are pleased now with that which frighted us before, and look on that as hideous and ghastly, which once seemed beautiful and charming. Thus we find our Saviour's words to be verified, by his bestowing on us the incorruptible goods of the soul for the corruptible ones of the bod}'-, and for the goods of fortune those of grace, which are incomparably better, and more capable to satisfy man, than all earthly goods.

In further proof of this important truth, I will give you an example, taken out of the lives of the famous men of the order of the Cistercians. It is there written, " that as St. Bernard was preaching in Flanders, full of zeal for the conversion of souls to God, amongst those who were touched with a particular grace, was a certain person called Arnulphus, one of the chief men of that country, and closely tied to the things of this world. But he at last, breaking through all, became a Cistercian monk, in the monastery of Clairvaux. St. Bernard was so pleased with this great change, that he used often to say, that God had manifested his power as wonderfully In converting Arnulphus, as in raising Lazarus from the dead, having drawn him from so many pleasures, which, like a grave, he lay buried in, to raise him to a new life, which was no less to be admired in its process than it had been in his conversion." But because it would be too tedious to give you a particular account of this holy man's virtues, I shall only make use of what serves our present purpose: "This good monk was very subject to terrible fits of the colic, which often put him in a very dying condition. One day it seized on him so violently, that he lost both speech and senses; whereon the religious, seeing but little hopes of life left, gave him the extreme unction. Soon after, coming to himself, he began to praise God, and cried out aloud, 'All thou hast ever said, O most merciful Jesus! is very true! The religious, surprised at his frequent repeating the same words, asked him what he meant, but he made them no answer, continuing to cry out louder and louder, 'All thou hast ever said, O most merciful Jesus, is very true! Some who were present fancied his pains had put him beside himself; but he, perceiving their mistake, said to them, 'It is not so, my brothers, it is not so, for I never was better in my senses than now whilst I tell you, that all that Jesus Christ has said is very true.' Hereon the rest of the monks said, It is what we all of us believe, but why do you repeat it so often ? 'Because. said he,' our Saviour has told us in his Gospel, that whosoever shall forsake his friends and relations for the love of him, shall receive a hundred fold now in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting; Mark x. 30. This is what I find true by my own present experience; for I assure you, I at this very moment receive that hundred fold; the excessive pains I endure being so pleasing to me, through the lively hope I have now given me of my salvation, that I would not exchange it for a hundred times as much as I left when I forsook the world. And if so great a sinner as I am finds so much satisfaction in what I suffer, what consolations must they who are perfect be sensible of? For the anticipated fruition of those eternal pleasures, which I now enjoy by hope, is not a hundred times only, but a hundred thousand times better than all the delights the world could ever afford me.' They were all astonished to hear a man of no learning at all talk so piously and sublimely; but it plainly appeared that what he said was dictated by the Holy Ghost."

This is a demonstration, that God can give those who serve him more pleasure and delight, than they forsook for his sake, and yet not enrich them with temporal goods. And thus we see how much in the wrong those men have been, who could never persuade themselves that virtue had a reward in this life. The twelve following chapters shall serve for the better undeceiving such persons, wherein we shall treat of twelve wonderful fruits and privileges that attend virtue even in this life; by which they who have hitherto loved nothing but the world, may understand that it is more delightful than they imagine. And though it is in some manner requisite for the perfect comprehending of this truth, that a man should have had some experience from the practice of virtue, because there is no one knows her own worth so well as she herself does; this defect may, nevertheless, be supplied by faith, since by means of it we believe the Holy Scriptures to be true, out of which I intend to prove all I shall say on this subject, that so no one may call the truth of it in question.