Friday, 28 July 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 239.



O, how true is every word this great saint speaks! for will any man be so mad, as willingly to follow a path that is strewed with flowers, if he is to die when he comes to the end of it ? And who is there that will refuse to take another that is nigged and uneasy, if it leads to life and happiness ?

Nor does this hope serve only for attaining so happy an end, but assists us in the means that that tend to it, and in bearing with all the miseries and necessities of this life. For it is this that supports a man in tribulation, that defends him in danger, that comforts him in afflictions, that assists him in sickness, and supplies all his necessities and wants, because it is by means of this virtue that he obtains mercy from God, who helps us on all occasions. We have evident proofs of this throughout the Holy Scripture, but particularly in the Psalms ; so that there is scarce any one of them wherein the royal prophet does not highly commend this virtue, and speak of its wonderful effects and advantages, as being, without doubt, one of the greatest treasures and comforts the virtuous can possibly enjoy in this life. To prove this, I will make use of a few passages of the Scriptures, but shall be forced to pass by many more than I can be able to quote. The prophet Hanani tells king Asa, " The eyes * of the Lord behold all the earth, and give strength to them that with a pure heart trust in him; " 2 , Paral. xvi. 9. The prophet Jeremias says," The Lord is good to those that hope in him, and to the soul that seeks after him." And in another place it is said, that " the Lord is good, he strengthens his servants in the day of tribulation, and knows all those that hope in him " (Nahum i. 7); that is, he takes care to relieve and assist them. Isaias says, " If you will return to me, and rest in me, you shall be safe; your strength shall be in silence and hope ; " Isa. xxx. 15. By silence is to be understood here, the inward rest which the soul enjoys amidst all her troubles: now this rest is nothing else but the particular effect of this hope, which banishes all kind of solicitude and immoderate trouble by the favor it expects from the mercy of God. The book of Ecclesiasticus says (ii. 8, 9, 11), "You who fear the Lord, put your trust in him, and you shall not lose your reward. You who fear the Lord, hope in him, and his mercy will be your delight and comfort. Consider, O ye children, all the nations of the world, and know that nobody ever yet hoped in the Lord and has been confounded." Solomon's advice to us, in his Proverbs, is this: " In all your ways think of the Lord, and he will direct all your steps; " Prov. iii. 6. The prophet David says, in one of his psalms, " Let those who know thy name, O Lord, hope in thee, because thou hast never forsaken those that seek thee;" Ps. ix. 11. And in another psalm, he says, "I. have put my hope, O Lord, in thee, and there-' fore I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy; " Ps. xxx. 7, 8. And in another place he says, " Mercy shall surround him that puts his trust in the Lord; " Ps. xxxi. 10. He has much reason to say, shall surround^ to let us know that he shall be surrounded on all sides with this mercy as a king is with his guards, for the security of his person. He treats this subject more at large in another psalm, where he says, " With expectation I have waited for the Lord, and he was attentive to me. And he heard my prayers and brought me out of the pit of misery, and out of the mud which I stuck in. And he set my feet upon a rock, and directed my steps. And has put a new canticle into my mouth, a song to our God. Many shall see this, and shall fear, and they shall hope in the Lord. Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord; and who has turned his eyes from vanities and deceitful follies." Ps. xxxix. 1-7. From these words we may learn another extraordinary effect of this virtue, which is to open a man's mouth and eyes, that he may be sensible, by his own experience, of the fatherly tenderness of God, and may sing a new song with a new delight, for the new favor he has received, to wit, the assistance he hoped for. If we were to cite all the verses in the Psalms, nay, and all the entire psalms that treat on the subject, we should never have done; for the whole psalm which begins, "They who trust in the Lord are like Mount Sion," is to this purpose; Ps. cxxiv. Heb. cxxv. And so is the psalm which begins, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High ;" Ps. xc. Heb. xci. They neither of them speak of any thing else but the extraordinary advantages of those who put their trust in God, and live under his protection. For this reason, St. Bernard, writing on these words of the psalm, " O Lord, thou art my refuge," speaks thus : "Whatever I am to do, or whatever I am to omit, whatever I am to suffer, or whatever I am to desire, you, O Lord, are my hope. It is this hope that makes you perform every thing you have promised, and it is you that are the chief cause of this hope of mine. Let another allege the good works he has done, and please himself with having undergone all the heat and burden of the day; let him say, with the Pharisee, that he has fasted twice a week, and that he is not as other men; I, for my part, will cry out with the prophet, "It is good for me to cleave to the Lord, and to put my trust in God;" Ps. lxxii. 28. If any one promises me a reward, it is by your mercy alone that I shall hope to obtain it; if any one should make war against me, my hopes of overcoming shall be in you. Should the world set on me, should the devil roar at me, should the flesh rebel against the spirit, I will hope in none but you. Since, therefore, the Lord is alone able to assist us, why do we not banish immediately out of our hearts all these vain and deceitful hopes ? And why do not we, with fervor and devotion, stick to so secure a hope as this is ? The saint, immediately after, has these words: "Faith says, God has laid up inestimable benefits for those that serve him faithfully; but Hope says, it is for me that keeps them; and as if this were not enough, Charity cries out, I will hasten and take possession of them;" St. Bern. Serm. 9. Ps. xc. 2.

Behold how advantageous this virtue is, and how necessary on several occasions. It is like a secure haven which the just put in at in bad weather; it is like a strong shield to keep off the attempts of the world; it is like a magazine of corn in time of famine, whither the poor resort to relieve their wants; it is the tent and shade which God promises his elect, by the prophet Isaias, to shelter them from the burning heats of summer, and from the storms and tempests of winter; that is, from the prosperity and adversity of this world. To conclude, it is a universal remedy for all our evil, because it is certain that whatsoever we hope with justice, faith and prudence to receive from God, we shall not fail of obtaining it, provided it is for our good. For which reason, St. Cyprian says, "that God's mercy is a fountain of healing waters, that hope is a vessel to receive them, and that the cure will be proportioned to the largeness of the vessel; for if we consider the fountain, it is impossible it should be ever dried up." So that as God himself told the children of Israel (Josu. i. 3), that whatever place they did but so much as set their foot on, it should be theirs; so, as much mercy as man shall put his confidence in, shall be his own. So that, according to this, he who, inspired by God, shall hope for all things, shall accordingly obtain all things. Thus, this hope seems to be a resemblance of the divine virtue and power which redounds to the honor of God. For, as St. Bernard very well observes, "nothing so much discovers the omnipotence of God, as that we see he is not only almighty himself, but that he in some manner makes all those so who hope in him;" Serm. 85, in Cant. Did not Josue partake of that omnipotence, who from the earth commanded the sun to stand still in the firmament? Josu. x. 13. Nor was his power less, who bid king Ezechias choose which he would, either to have the sun go back or advance so many degrees; 4 Kings xx. 9,11; Isa. xxxviii. 8. It is his giving his servant such power as this, that promotes the greatness of his glory in a particular manner; for if Nabuchodonosor, the great king of the Assyrians, valued himself on having so many princes to obey and serve him, that were kings as well as he, how much more reason has Almighty God to glorify himself, and say that those who serve him are in some measure gods, inasmuch as he communicates so much of his power to them.