Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 252.


§ II. Of the inward Peace and Satisfaction good Men enjoy. —Thus you see what the condition of the wicked is, whilst the just, on the contrary, because they know how with prudence to moderate their desires, how to mortify their passions, how to make God, and not the perishable goods of this life, the only object of their happiness, and the centre of their repose; how to aim at nothing but the acquiring of those eternal goods, which no one can deprive them of, how to be in perpetual war with self-love, with their own flesh, and with the whole train of their irregular appetites; and because, in fine, they know how to resign their will to God's, to conform theirs to his, and throw themselves entirely into his arms, are never molested by any such cares, so as to have their inward peace lost, or so much as interrupted.

This, amongst several others, is one of the chief rewards Almighty God promises to those who love him, as we may see almost every where in the Holy Scriptures. Holy David says, " Those that love thy law, O Lord, enjoy a perfect peace, and there is nothing that can make them fall Ps. cxviii. 165. God himself says by the prophet Isaias, " I wish you had observed my commandments, your peace should have been like a river, and your justice like the waters of the sea Isa. xlviii. 18. The reason of his calling this peace a river, is, because it is able to extinguish the flames of our desires, to appease the burning heat of our lusts, to water the dry and barren veins of our hearts, and to comfort and' refresh our souls. Solomon assures us of the same truth in a divine manner, though in a few words, saying, " When the ways of man are acceptable to God, he will force even his enemies to make peace with him ;" Prov. xvi. 7. What enemies are these, that are at war with man, but his own passions, and the evil inclinations of his flesh, which are perpetually fighting with the spirit ? The Almighty, therefore, says, that he will make the flesh and the spirit live peaceably together, when, by virtue of this grace and of good habits, the flesh, with all its desires, shall accustom itself to the works of the spirit, and by that means live quietly with it, whereas before it was in continual opposition. For though virtue, at the beginning, meets with a great deal of opposition from the passions, yet when it comes to its perfection, it acts with a deal of sweetness and ease, and with much less contradiction. It is this peace, in fine, which holy David, by another name, calls the enlarging of the heart, when he says, " Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, O Lord, and my feet have not failed me;" Ps. xvii. 37. The prophet by these words intends to show, how different the way of the virtuous is from that of the wicked, because whilst the one walk with their hearts oppressed and straitened by continual fears, solicitudes and apprehensions, like a traveler that is going through a narrow path, with steep rocks and precipices on both sides of him, the others, on the contrary, walk with a deal of security and joy, like a man in a plain and open way, that is in no apprehension of falling. The just understand this better by the practice than by theory, as being sensible, by their own experience, and the alteration they find in their own hearts, of the vast difference there is between the time they employed in the service of the world, and what they spend now in the service of God; for whilst they served in the world, they were on all occasions full of troubles, solicitudes, jealousies, fears, and narrowness of heart; but now they have forsaken I the world, and fixed their affections on eternal goods 2 and placed all their happiness and confidence in God, they are out of the reach of all these things, with hearts so open, so free, and so resigned to the will of God, that they are so often astonished at the change, and cannot think themselves the same they were before, or at least they imagine they have new hearts, because they find such changes in them. And we may with truth affirm, that they are, and are not, the same persons, for, though they be the same in nature, they are not the same as to grace, which works this change, though no man can be assured of it.

This is what God himself promised by his prophet Isaias, when he said," When you shall go through the waters I will be with you, to save you from being drowned; and if you walk in the very midst of fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame so much as scorch you Isa. xliii, 2. Now what are these waters but the rivers of tribulations we suffer in this life, and the deluge of innumerable miseries we meet with here every day ? And what is this fire but the heat of our flesh, which is the fiery furnace of Babylon, heated by Nabuchodonosor's servants, that is, by the devils, from whence the flames of inordinate passions and appetites are continually breaking out? How can any man live in the midst of this fire and water, which the whole world is perpetually in danger of, without receiving hurt, and not be sensible, at the same time, that it was the presence of the Holy Ghost, and the assistance of God's grace, that preserved him ? This is the peace which, as the Apostle says, exceeds all imagination (Philip, iv. 6), because it is so noble and so supernatural a gift of God, that it is impossible for man's weak understanding to conceive of itself, by what means a heart of flesh should come to enjoy such content, such quiet and such a calm, amidst the storms and tempests of the world.