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.
OF THE NINTH PRIVILEGE OF VIRTUE, VIZ., THAT GOD HEARS THE PRAYERS OF THE JUST, AND REJECTS THOSE OF THE WICKED.
ANOTHER extraordinary privilege virtuous men enjoy is, that God hears their prayers, which is a sovereign remedy against all the necessities and miseries of this life. To make this the plainer, we are to understand, that there have been two universal deluges in the world, the one material, the other spiritual, but both of them caused by sin. The material deluge, which happened in Noe's time, destroyed every thing in the world but the ark and what was within it, for every thing else was consumed by the waters, so that all the labours and riches of mankind, together with the whole earth itself, was swallowed up by the sea. But the other deluge, which was before this, and which arose from the first sin that was committed, was much more terrible and much greater than this was, because it was the ruin not only of those persons who were alive at that time, but even of all ages past, present and to come. Nor is the hurt it does to the body to be compared with what it does to the soul, which it strips and robs of those graces that were bestowed on the whole world in the person of our first parent, as we may see in an infant newly born, who comes into the world as bare of all these goods as it is of clothes to cover it.
From this first deluge flowed all those miseries and wants this mortal life is exposed to, which are so many and so great, that they have furnished a famous pope and doctor with matter to compose a book solely on this subject: Innocentius de Vilitate conditionis humanae, And several eminent philosophers, considering on one side the excellence of man above all other creatures, and on the other the infinite number of miseries and vices he is subject to, could not but wonder to see so much disorder in the world, though they were not capable of finding out the cause of all these miseries, which is nothing else but sin. For they saw that man was the only creature in the world that had such an infinite variety of carnal delights and pleasures; that none but he was oppressed with avarice, with ambition, an insatiable desire of life, care and solicitude about a funeral, but most of all, with a concern for that which must follow. They observed, that no other creature had a more frail and uncertain life than man has; that none had a more inflamed lust, none more subject to fear, and that without any ground, nor any more cruelly angry or enraged than he. They took notice, that other creatures spent the greatest part of their lives without sicknesses, or without being troubled with the physicians and medicines. They saw them provided with all the necessaries, without taking any pains or care. But as for unhappy, miserable man, they saw him exposed to a thousand sorts of infirmities, accidents, necessities, misfortunes and pains, not only of the body, but of the soul, and as much disturbed at the miseries of his friends as at his own. They saw him sorry for what was past, afflicted with the present, and painfully solicitous about what was to come; nay, very often toiling and sweating all his life-time for the poor sustenance of a little bread and water.
If we were to count all the miseries of human life, we should never have done. Holy Job says, "The life of man is a perpetual warfare upon earth, and his days are like the days of a hired servant, that labours from sun-rising to sunset;" Job vii. i, 2. Several of the old philosophers had such a lively sense of this truth, that some of them said, they could not tell whether to call nature a mother or a step-mother, because she has subjected us to so many miseries. Others, again, used to say, it were better never to be born, or at least to die as soon as we are born: nay, some of them have gone so far as to say, there are but few persons that would accept of life after having made an experiment of it, that is, if it were possible to make a trial of it beforehand.
Since, therefore, life has been reduced to this miserable condition by sin, and since we have lost our whole stock and substance in this first deluge, what remedy can we expect he has left us, who has punished us so severely ? If a man that is sick and wounded were to be at sea in a great storm, and there lose all he is worth, what could he look for afterwards, having lost both his goods and his health, but beggary and want? Every man must make this case his own; for since there is no one but has lost all he is worth in this universal deluge, and is left so poor and naked, how can he help himself, but by crying like a poor beggar at the gates of God for relief and assistance ? The holy king Josaphat taught us this resource when he said, " Since we do not know what we ought to do, we have one remedy left us at least, which is to lift up our eyes, O Lord, towards thee;" 2 Para. xx. 12. The good king Ezechias has instructed us fully on the same point, when he said, " In one day thou wilt put an end to my life, O Lord; but as for me, I will cry like the young swallow, and moan like the dove; " Isa. xxxviii. 14. As if he said, I am so poor, O Lord, and have such a dependence on your mercy and providence, that I cannot give myself any assurance of one day's life, and, therefore, all I have to trust in is, to be always moaning before you like a dove, and to cry out to you as the young swallow does to its dam. Thus said this holy man, though he was a great king; and David, though much greater, made use of this same remedy in all his necessities; and, therefore, inspired by the same spirit, and enlightened by the same knowledge, says, " I have called upon thee with my voice, O Lord, and with my voice I have addressed my prayer to thee, O my God; I have sought after God in the day of my tribulation, and I have stretched out my hand toward him in the night, when my soul refused to be comforted, and when my spirit failed me " (Ps. lxxvii. 1, 2, 3); that is to say, when I look round about me, and see all the passages of hope shut up, when nothing on earth can give me any ease, I immediately seek for a remedy from heaven by the help of prayer, which is the sovereign cure God has given me for all my ills.