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.
§ II. Of the Comforts they enjoy, who begin to serve God. —Perhaps you will tell me such extraordinary favors as these are for none but those who have already advanced in perfection and virtue. It is true they are for them, but yet God presents even those who are but just entered into his service, 'with all the blessings of his consolation. He feeds them at first like children with milk, and brings them by degrees to eat more solid meats. You see how the prodigal son was entertained at his return, and welcomed home with music and feasting. This is but a representation of the spiritual joy which the soul conceives, when she sees herself escaped out of Egypt, and freed from the captivity of Pharaoh, from the slavery of the devil; Luke xv. For how can a slave, when he has got his liberty, choose but to be glad of such a benefit ? What can he do less than invite all creatures to thank his deliverer with him? "Let us sing to the Lord, for he has gloriously magnified, the horse and the rider he hath thrown into the sea;" Ex. xv. 1.
If this were not so, where would be that providence which supplies every creature so fully, according to its nature, strength, age and capacity ? For it is certain, carnal men could ever be able to enter into this new road, and trample the world under foot, unless God showed them such favors. To this end, his divine providence takes care, as soon as ever it has determined to disengage them from the world, so to smooth and plain the way, that they meet with no rubs to make them stumble. This is admirably represented to us by God's leading the children of Israel into the land of promise, whereof Moses gives us this relation : " When Pharaoh had sent out the people, the Lord led them not by way of the land of the Philistines, which is near, thinking lest perhaps they would repent, if they should see wars rise against them, and would return into Egypt;" Ex. xiii. 17. The same Lord who took such care to conduct the Israelites into the land of promise, after he had brought them out of Egypt, takes no less at present to bring those to heaven, whom he is pleased to call to this happiness, after having made them quit the world.
But I would have you to conceive, that though such as have arrived to perfection in virtue are caressed after a particular manner, yet, God is so good to beginners, that, considering their poverty, he helps them forward in the new way they have undertaken, and perceiving they are still exposed to temptations of sin, and have passions to overcome, he gives them, imperfect as they are, so much comfort, that their joy does not fall short of what they possess, who are advanced much further. This he does for no other end, but to give them an entire victory over all their inordinate appetites, to make them break off with their own flesh, to wean them from the milk, that is, from the weak delights of this world, and to tie them to him with such strong bonds of love, that they may never be able to break loose. If this does not convince you, consider what God has been pleased to signify to us by the feasts of the Old Testament, where he commanded the first and last day to be observed with an equal solemnity. As for the six days which were between them, they were no more than the ordinary days of the week, but these two they always kept with much greater veneration. What can this be but a figure of what we are now treating ? He ordered the first day to be kept solemnly, as well as the last, to give us to understand that he makes much of those who serve him in the beginning of their conversion, as well as those who have attained the utmost perfection. This he does in consideration of what these have deserved, and of what those stand in need of, dealing with the one according to the rules of his justice, by giving them what their virtue has deserved, and treating the other according to the dictates of his grace and mercy, by bestowing on them much more than they have deserved, on account of their necessities.