Monday, 4 September 2017

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 241.



Now what more need be said, were men in their right senses, to show how different the condition of the virtuous is from that of the wicked, and how much more happy they are than these, on the bare account of hope itself. Is it possible for a tree to flourish better in any place, than in such a one as the prophet has here represented? it fares exactly after the same manner with a virtuous man, for there is nothing imaginable but what goes well with him, because he is planted near the streams of the waters of divine grace. But, on the other hand, it is impossible for a tree to be in a worse condition, than to branch all out into wood, and to bear no fruit, because of its being set in a bad ground, and in a place where no one can come to prune it. This may convince the wicked, that it is their greatest misery to turn away their eyes and hearts from God, who is the fountain of living waters, to fix them on creatures, and to rely on their assistance, who are themselves so weak, and so deceitful, and may be truly called, "a dry, barren and uninhabitable land." By this we may see how much the world deserves our tears, being planted in so bad a soil, as having placed its hope in things that are so unable to assist it, if that may be called a hope, which is in itself so far from being so, that it is, on the contrary, nothing but confusion and deceit.

What misery is to be compared with this? Can there be any greater poverty, than to live without this hope ? For if sin has reduced man to such a low condition, that he can find no relief, but from the hope he has in God's mercy, what will become of him, if this anchor, which is the only support left him, should fail? We see all other creatures are in their way perfect at their birth, and provided with all things necessary for the preservation of their being. Man, on the contrary, by reason of sin, comes in such an imperfect manner into the world, that he has scarce any thing in himself that he stands in need of. but requires that every thing should be brought to him, and lives on the alms which Almighty God's mercy distributes. If, therefore, he were destitute of this means, what kind of life would his be, but an imperfect and defective one, subject to a thousand miseries and wants ? What is it else, but to live without hope, to live without God? What, therefore, has man left of his ancient patrimony to live on, if this support be taken from him? Is there any nation in the world so barbarous as not to have some knowledge of a God, as not to pay some kind of honour and worship to him, or to hope for some favour from his providential care? When Moses had been absent but for a little while from the children of Israel, they imagined they were without their God; and being as yet very raw and ignorant, they immediately cried out to Aaron to make them a God, because they were afraid to go on any farther without one. By which it appears, that man is taught by nature that there must of necessity be a God, though he is not always so happy as to know the true, and that he is sensible of his own weakness, though he is at the same time ignorant of the cause of it, and, therefore, runs naturally to God for a remedy against it. So that, as the ivy seeks some tree to support it, that so it may creep upward, not being able to support itself, and as woman naturally has recourse to the assistance and protection of man, her own imperfection telling her she wants his help, so human nature, being reduced to the utmost extremity, seeks after God to defend and protect her. And since nothing is more evident than this, what kind of life must those men live, who are unhappily neglected and forsaken by God?

I would willingly know of those who are in such a condition, who it is that comforts them in their afflictions ; to whom they have recourse in dangers; who looks after them when they are sick; to whom they can discover their ailments; whom they consult in their difficult affairs; with whom they hold a correspondence, with whom they converse, and whom they desire to assist in all their necessities; with whom they discourse, lie down and rise. In short, how can they, who are deprived of this help, get out of the confusion and disturbances of this life ? If a body cannot live without a soul, how is it possible for a soul to live without God, who is as absolutely necessary for preserving the life of a soul, as the soul is for preserving that of the body? And if, as we have said before, a lively hope is the anchor of life, what man will be so rash as to venture out into the stormy sea of this world, without carryings this anchor along with him? If hope is the shield with which we are to defend ourselves against our enemies, how can men dare to go without that shield into the very midst of so many foes? If hope is the staff that has supported human nature ever since the general distemper wherewith our first parents infected it, where will feeble and impotent man be, if he has not this staff to keep him up?

We have here sufficiently explained the difference there is between the hope of the good and that of the bad, and consequently between the condition of the one and the other? for the one has God to protect and defend him, whilst the other puts his trust in the staff of Egypt,, which, if he venture to lean on, will break and run into his hand; because the very sin man commits, in placing his confidence there, is enough to make God let him know, by his own fall, how foolishly he has deceived himself: as he has declared by the prophet Jeremy, who,, foretelling the destruction of the kingdom of Moab, and the occasion of it, uses these words  " Because you have put your trust in fortifications and in your riches, you yourself shall be taken; and Chamos," which is the god in which you have trusted, " shall be carried into captivity, with his priests, and with his princes Jer. xliv. 7. Consider now, what a kind of succour this must be, since the very seeking-and trusting in it is certain ruin and destruction to be the same with the particular providence we have treated of already, which God extends towards those that serve and love him, there is yet as much difference between them as is between the effect and its cause. For though there are several causes and beginnings of this hope, as the goodness and truth of God, the merits of our Saviour, and the rest; however, his paternal providence, from which this confidence proceeds, is one of the chief, because the knowledge that God has such particular care over him is the cause of this confidence in man.