Monday, 28 August 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 240.



§ I. Of the vain Hopes of the Wicked. —You see here what a vast treasure the virtuous enjoy, whilst the wicked have no share of it; because, though they have not entirely lost all hope, yet what they have is only a dead one; because it is deprived of its life, so that it cannot work any of those effects on them which we have spoken of. For as nothing enlivens hope so much as a good conscience, so nothing ruins it more than a bad one, because it generally walks in dread and fear, as being sensible how unworthy it is of the Almighty's grace. So that distrust and fear are the inseparable companions of a bad conscience, as the shadow is of the body. By which it appears, that such as man's happiness is, such is his confidence; for as he places his happiness in worldly treasures, so his trust is in them, because all his glory is in them, and it is to them he has recourse in time of affliction. The book of Wisdom takes notice of this kind of hope ; where it is said, that "the hope of the wicked is like a flock of wool, which is blown away by the wind, and like a light foam which is scattered by the waves, and like a cloud of smoke which vanishes in the air;" ch. v. 15. Judge by this how vain such a hope must be.

Nor is this all; for it is not only an unprofitable but a prejudicial and deceitful hope, as God himself has declared to us by the prophet Isaias, saying, "Woe to you, children, that have forsaken your Father, who have taken counsel, but not of me, who have begun a web, but not in my spirit, that you might add sin to sin. You have sent into Egypt for help without consulting me, expecting help from Pharaoh's forces, and putting your trust in the protection of Egypt. But Pharaoh's strength shall turn to your confusion, and the trust which you placed in Egypt's protection shall be to your disgrace. All those that have trusted in the people have been confounded, because they could neither help them nor do them any good; on the contrary, they have put them to greater shame and confusion;" Isa. xxxi. 1, 3. These are the prophet's own words, who, not thinking that he has said enough, yet continues in the next chapter to make the same reproach to them, saying, "Woe to those that go down for help into Egypt, placing their trust in their horses, and confiding in their chariots, because they are many, and in their horses, because they are very strong, who have not their hope in the Holy of Israel, nor sought after the Lord. For the Egyptian is a man and no God,, and their horses are flesh and not spirit; and the Lord will stretch out his hand; and both he that assists and he that assisted shall fall, and they shall be all destroyed together;" Isa. xxxi. 1, 3.

See here the difference there is between the hope of the just and that of the wicked; for the hope the wicked have is that of the fleshy but the spirit, that of the just. Or, if this does not thoroughly express it, man is the hope of the wicked, whilst the hope of the just is God; by which it appears that there is the same difference between these two hopes, that there is between God and man. It is on this account the psalmist, with a deal of reason, advises us to beware of the one, and invites us to the other, with these words:  "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. Their life shall have no end, and they shall return to the earth out of which they have been created, and then all their designs shall perish. Happy is the man who has the God of Jacob for to help him, and whose hope is in the Lord his God, who created heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them." Ps. clxv. 3, 4, 5, Here we plainly see how different these two hopes are. The same prophet expresses it again in another psalm, where he says, " Our enemies have relied upon their chariots and their horses; but as for us, we will call upon the name of the Lord our God. They have been taken and are fallen, but we have risen and stand upright; " Ps. xix. 8, 9. Consider now how the effects of their hopes are proportioned, to what they are founded on, since ruin and destruction are the consequences of the one, and victory and honor of the other.

For this reason, they who rely on the first of these hopes are rightly compared to the man in the gospel, who built his house on the sand, which was beat down by the first storm that arose; but they who rely on the other, are like him that built his house on a firm rock, so that neither winds nor waves, nor any tempests whatever, were able to shake it; Matt. vii. 24, 25, 26, 27. The prophet Jeremy explains this same difference by a very proper comparison: 4 'Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like tamarick in the desert, and he shall not see when good shall come; but he shall dwell in dryness in the desert, in a salt land and not inhabited ;" Jer. xlii. 5, 6. But speaking immediately after of the just, he says, " Blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and the Lord shall be his confidence. And he shall be as a tree that is planted by the waters, that spreadeth out its root towards moisture; and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. And the leaf thereof shall be green, and in the time of drought it shall not be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit;" Ibid. ver. 7, 8.