The Sinners Guide by Venerable Louis Of Granada
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The Sinner's Guide
Ven. Louis of Granada
1504-1588
With Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur

"If you walk in my precepts, and keep my Commandments, and do them, I will give you rain in due seasons. And the ground shall bring forth its increase, and the trees shall be filled with fruit: . . . And you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land without fear. I will give peace in your coasts: you shall sleep, and there shall be none to make you afraid.

   . . . I will set my tabernacle in the midst of you, and My soul shall not cast you off. I will walk
   among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people."-----Leviticus 26: 3-6,11-12

Apostolic Brief of Pope Gregory XIII

To our well-beloved Son, Louis of Granada, of the Order of Friars Preachers

Dearly Beloved Son, Health and Apostolic Benediction:
Your arduous and incessant labors, both for the conversion of sinners and for the guidance of souls to perfection, together with the valuable assistance you render those who are earnestly engaged in the work of the ministry, have always afforded us great consolation.

Your sermons and writings, filled with sublime doctrine and practical piety, are unceasingly drawing souls to God. This is particularly gratifying to us, for all who have profited by your teaching [and their number is very great] may be considered as so many souls gained to Christ. You have thus benefited your fellow creatures more than if you had given sight to the blind and raised the dead to life. For the knowledge of the Eternal Light and the enjoyment of the heavenly life, according as they are given to man on earth to know and enjoy, are far above the knowledge and enjoyment of the transitory goods of this world.

The charity with which you have devoted yourself to your great and important labor has gained for you many crowns.

Continue, then, to devote all your energies to the prosecution of your undertakings. Finish what you have begun, for we understand that you have some works yet incomplete. Give them tot he world for the health of the sick, for the strength of the weak, for the delight of God's servants, and for the glory of the Church both militant and triumphant.

Given at Rome the 21st of July, 1582,
In the eleventh year of our pontificate.
GREGORY PP. XIII

 

Chapter 1:


The First Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue and to Serve God:
 His Being in Itself, and the Excellence of His Perfections

 
 
Two things, Christian reader, particularly excite the will of man to good. A principle of justice is one, the other the profit we may derive therefrom. All wise men, therefore, agree that justice and profit are the two most powerful inducements to move our wills to any undertaking. Now, though men seek profit more frequently than justice, yet justice is in itself more powerful; for, as Aristotle teaches, no worldly advantage can equal the excellence of virtue, nor is any loss so great that a wise man should not suffer it rather than yield to vice. The design of this book being to win men to virtue, we shall begin by showing our obligation to practice virtue because of the duty we owe to God. God being essentially goodness and beauty, there is nothing more pleasing to Him than virtue, nothing He more earnestly requires. Let us first seriously consider upon what grounds God demands this tribute from us.

But as these are innumerable, we shall only treat of the six principal motives which claim for God all that man is or all that man can do. The first; the greatest, and the most inexplicable is the very essence of God, embracing His infinite majesty, goodness, mercy, justice, wisdom, omnipotence, excellence, beauty, fidelity, immutability, sweetness, truth, beatitude, and all the inexhaustible riches and perfections which are contained in the Divine Being.

All these are so great that if the whole world, according to St. Augustine, were full of books, if the sea were turned to ink, and every creature employed in writing, the books would be filled, the sea would be drained, and the writers would be exhausted before any one of His perfections could be adequately expressed. The same Doctor adds, "Were any man created with a heart as large and capacious as the hearts of all men together, and if he were enabled by an extraordinary light to apprehend one of the divine attributes, his joy and delight would be such that, unless supported by special assistance from God, he could not endure them."

This, then, is the first and chief reason which obliges us to love and serve God. It is a truth so universally acknowledged that even the Epicureans, who endeavored to destroy all philosophy by denying a Divine Providence and the immortality of the soul, nevertheless maintained religion, or the worship due to God.

One of these philosophers [Cicero, De Natura Deorum] proves the existence of God by strong and undeniable arguments. He proclaims the greatness and sovereignty of His admirable perfections, which oblige us to reverence and adore Him, and shows that for this reason alone, independently of any other title, God has a right to our love and service.

If we treat a king, even out of his own dominion, with respect and honor purely because of the dignity of his person, though we owe him nothing, with how much more justice should we render honor and service to this King and Lord, Who, as St. John tells us, bears written "on His garment, and on His thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS"! [Apoc. 19: 16] This is He Who hath "poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth." [Is. 40: 12]

All beings are in His power; He disposes of them as He wills. It is He Who propels the heavenly bodies, commands the winds, changes the seasons, guides the elements, distributes the waters, controls the stars, creates all things; it is He, in fine, Who, as King and Lord of the universe, maintains and nourishes all creatures.

Nor is His kingdom acquired or inherited. By His very nature it is for Him an inherent right. Just as man is above, the ant, for example, so is the Divine. Substance in an eminent degree above all created things, and the whole universe is no more than one of these little insects compared to Him. If this truth were so manifest to the Epicureans, otherwise unworthy of the name of philosophers, how much clearer ought it not be to us, who have been illumined by the light of true Christian philosophy! For this latter teaches us, in fact, that among the innumerable reasons which oblige us to serve God, this is the greatest; and though men were endowed with a thousand hearts and a thousand bodies, this reason alone should be sufficient to cause them to devote them all to His love and service.

Though of all motives this is the most powerful, yet it has the least influence on the imperfect. The reason for this is that, on the one hand, they are more moved by self-interest, self-love having deep root in their hearts; and on the other, being still ignorant, and novices in the ways of God, they are unable to appreciate His grandeur and beauty. Had they a better knowledge of His perfections, His beauty would enrapture their souls and cause them to love Him above all things. Therefore we shall furnish some considerations from the mystical theology of St. Denis which will help them to apprehend the perfections of the Master they serve.

To lead us to a knowledge of God, St. Denis teaches us first to turn our eyes from the qualities or perfections of creatures, lest we be tempted to measure by them the perfections of the Creator. Then, turning from the things of earth, he raises our souls to the contemplation of a Being above all beings, a Substance above all substances, a Light above all lights----rather a Light before which all light is darkness----Beauty above all beauties and before which all other beauty is but deformity. This is what we are taught by the cloud into which Moses entered to converse with God, and which shut out from his senses all that was not God. [Ex. 24: 16,18] And the action of Elias, covering his face with his cloak when he saw the glory of God passing before him, is a lively expression of the same sentiment. [3 Kg. 19: 13] Therefore, to contemplate the glory of God, man must close his eyes to earthly things, which bear no proportion to this supreme Being.

We shall better understand this truth if we consider with more attention the vast difference between this uncreated Being and all other beings, between the Creator and His creatures. The latter without exception have had a beginning and may have an end, while this eternal Being is without beginning and without end. They all acknowledge a superior and depend upon another, while He has no superior and is the supreme Arbiter of all things. Creatures are composed of various substances, while He is a pure and simple Being; were He composed of diverse substances it would presuppose a being above and before Him to ordain the composition of these substances, which is altogether impossible. Creatures are subject to change; God is immutable. They all admit of greater perfection; they can increase in possessions, in knowledge. God cannot increase in perfection, containing within Himself all perfection; nor in possessions, for He is the source of all riches; nor in knowledge, for everything is present to His eternal omniscience. Therefore Aristotle calls Him a pure act----that is, Supreme Perfection, which admits of no increase. The needs of creatures subject them to movement and change; God, having no necessities, is fixed and immovable, and present in all places. We find in all creatures diversities which distinguish them one from another, but the purity of God's Essence admits of no distinction; so that His Being is His Essence, His Essence is His Power, His Power is His Will, His Will is His Understanding, His Understanding is His Being, His Being is His Wisdom, His Wisdom is His Justice, His Justice is His Mercy. And though the last two attributes are differently manifested, the duty of mercy being to pardon, that of justice to punish, yet they are one and the same power.

The Divine Being thus comprises in its unity apparently opposite qualities and perfections which we can never sufficiently admire; for, as St. Augustine observes, "He is a profoundly hidden God, yet everywhere present; He is essentially strength and beauty; He is immutable and incomprehensible; He is beyond all space, yet fills all the universe; invisible, yet manifest to all creatures; producing all motion, yet is Himself immovable; always in action, yet ever at rest, He fills all things and is circumscribed by nothing; He provides for all things without the least solicitude; He is great without quantity, therefore He is immense; He is good without qualification, and therefore He is the Supreme Good." [Meditations, 19 and 20] Nay, "One is good, God." [Matt. 19: 17]

Finally, all created things having a limited being, their power is likewise limited; the works they accomplish, the space they fill, their very names, are no less limited. Human words can define them; they can be assigned a certain character and reduced to a certain species. But the Divine Substance cannot be defined nor comprehended under any species, nor can It be confined to any place, nor can any name express It. Though nameless, therefore, as St. Denis says, It yet has all possible names, since It possesses in Itself all the perfections expressed by these names.

As limited beings, therefore, creatures can be comprehended; but the Divine Essence, being infinite, is beyond the reach of any created understanding. For that which is limitless, says Aristotle, can only be grasped by an infinite understanding. As a man on the shore beholds the sea, yet cannot measure its depth or vastness, so the blessed spirits and all the elect contemplate God, yet cannot fathom the abyss of His greatness nor measure the duration of His eternity. For this reason also God is represented "seated upon the cherubim" [Dan. 3: 55 and Ps. 17: 11], who, though filled with treasures of Divine wisdom, continue beneath His majesty and power, which it is not given them to grasp or understand.

This is what David teaches when he tells us that God "made darkness His covert" [Ps. 17: 12], or, as the Apostle more clearly expresses it, He "inhabiteth light inaccessible." [1 Tim. 6: 16] The prophet calls this light darkness because it dazzles and blinds our human vision. Nothing is more resplendent and more visible than the sun, as a philosopher admirably remarks, yet because of its very splendor and the weakness of our vision there is nothing upon which we can gaze less. So also there is no being more intelligible in itself than God, and yet none we understand less in this present life.

Know, therefore, you who aspire to a knowledge of God, that He is a Being superior to anything you can conceive. The more sensible you are of your inability to comprehend Him, the more you will have advanced in a knowledge of His Being. Thus St. Gregory, commenting on these words of Job: "Who doth great things and unsearchable, and wonderful things without number" [Job 5: 9], says, "We never more eloquently praise the works of the Almighty than when our tongue is mute in rapt wonder; silence is the only adequate praise when words are powerless to express the perfections we would extol."

St. Denis also tells us to honor with mute veneration, and a silence full of love and fear, the wonders and glory of God, before Whom the most sublime intelligences are prostrate. The holy Doctor seems to allude here to the words of the prophet as translated by St. Jerome, "Praise is mute before Thee, God of Sion," giving us to understand, doubtless, that the most adequate praise is a modest and respectful silence springing from the conviction of our inability to comprehend God. We thus confess the incomprehensible grandeur and sovereign majesty of Him Whose being is above all being, Whose power is above all power, Whose glory is above all glory, Whose substance is immeasurably raised above all other substances, visible or invisible. Upon this point St. Augustine has said with much beauty and force, "When I seek my God I seek not corporal grace, nor transient beauty, nor splendor, nor melodious sound, nor sweet fragrance of flowers, nor odorous essence, nor honeyed manna, nor grace of form, nor anything pleasing to the flesh. None of these things do I seek when I seek my God. But I seek a light exceeding all light, which the eyes cannot see; a voice sweeter than all sound, which the ear cannot hear; a sweetness above all sweetness, which the tongue cannot taste; a fragrance above all fragrance, which the senses cannot perceive; a mysterious and Divine embrace, which the body cannot feel. For this light shines without radiance, this voice is heard without striking the air, this fragrance is perceived though the wind does not bear it, this taste inebriates with no palate to relish it, and this embrace is felt in the center of the soul." [Conf., L. 10, 6; Solil., c. 31]

If you would have further proof of the infinite power and greatness of God, contemplate the order and beauty of the world. Let us first bear in mind, as St. Denis tells us, that effects are proportioned to their cause, and then consider the admirable order, marvelous beauty, and incomprehensible grandeur of the universe. There are stars in heaven several hundred times larger than the earth and sea together. Consider also the infinite variety of creatures in all parts of the world, on the earth, in the air, and in the water, each with an organization so perfect that never has there been discovered in them anything superfluous or not suited to the end for which they are destined; and this truth is in no way weakened by the existence of monsters, which are but distortions of nature, due to the imperfection of created causes.

And this vast and majestic universe God created in a single instant, according to the opinion of St. Augustine and St. Clement of Alexandria; from nothing He drew being, without matter or element, instrument or model, unlimited by time or space. He created the whole world and all that is contained therein by a single act of His will. And He could as easily have created millions of worlds greater, more beautiful, and more populous than ours, and could as easily reduce them again to nothing.

Since, therefore, according to St. Denis, effects bear a proportion to their cause, what must be the power of a cause which has produced such effects? Yet all these great and perfect works are vastly inferior to their Divine Author. Who could not but be filled with admiration and astonishment in contemplating the greatness of such a Being? Though we cannot see it with our corporal eyes, yet the reflections we have just indicated must enable us in a measure to conceive the grandeur and incomprehensibility of His power.

St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologica, endeavors by the following argument to give us some idea of the immensity of God: We see, he tells us, that in material things that which excels in perfection also excels in quantity. Thus the water is greater than the earth, the air is greater than the water, and fire is greater than the air. The first heaven is more extensive than the element of fire, the second heaven is more extensive than the first, the third likewise exceeds the second, and so of the others till we come to the tenth sphere, or the empyreal heaven, to the grandeur and beauty of which nothing in the universe can be compared. Consequently the empyreal heavens, the finest and noblest of all the bodies which compose the universe, being incomparably greater than all the rest, we may infer, adds the Angelic Doctor, how far God, the first, the greatest, the most perfect of all beings, spiritual or corporal, and the Creator of all, exceeds them, not in material quantity----for He is a pure spirit----but in every possible perfection.

Thus we begin to understand, in some manner, what are the perfections of God, since they cannot but be in proportion to His being. For, as we read in Ecclesiasticus, "According to His greatness, so also is His mercy with Him." [Ecclus. 2: 23] Nor are any of His other attributes less. Hence He is infinitely wise, infinitely merciful, infinitely just, infinitely good, and, therefore, infinitely worthy to be obeyed, feared, and reverenced by all creatures. Were the human heart capable of infinite homage, infinite love, it should offer them to this supreme Master. For if reverence and homage must be proportioned to the greatness and dignity of him to whom they are offered, then the homage we offer God should, if we were capable of it, be infinite also.

How great, then, is our obligation to love God, had He no other title to our love and service! What can he love who does not love such Goodness? What can he fear who does not fear this infinite Majesty? Whom will he serve who refuses to serve such a Master? And why was our will given to us, if not to embrace and love good? If, therefore, this great God be the Sovereign Good, why does not our will embrace it before all other goods? If it be a great evil not to love and reverence Him above all things, who can express the crime of those who love everything better than they love Him?

It is almost incredible that the malice and blindness of man can go so far; but yet, alas! How many there are who for a base pleasure, for an imaginary point of honor, for a vile and sordid interest, continually offend this Sovereign Goodness! There are others who go further and sin without any of these motives, through pure malice or habit. Oh! Incomprehensible blindness! Oh! More than brute stupidity! Oh! Rashness! Oh! Folly worthy of demons! What is the chastisement proportioned to the crime of those who thus despise their Maker? Surely none other than that which these senseless creatures will receive----the eternal fire of Hell.

Here, then, is the first motive which obliges us to love and serve God. This is an obligation so great that compared to it, all obligations to creatures, whatever their excellence or perfections, are only obligations in name. For as the perfections of creatures are mere imperfections compared with the perfections of God, so the obligations resulting therefrom cannot with justice be considered obligations when contrasted with those which we owe to God. Nor can our offenses against the creature be regarded as offenses, except in name, when we remember the guilt we have incurred by our many sins against God.
For this reason David cried out, "Against thee only, O God, have I sinned" [Ps. 50: 6], though he had sinned against Urias, whom he murdered; against the wife of Urias, whom he dishonored; and against his subjects, whom he scandalized. The penitent king knew that his offenses against creatures, notwithstanding their different degrees of deformity, could not equal the enormity of his revolt against God. For God being infinite, our obligations towards Him and our offenses against Him are, in a measure, infinite.

Chapter 2: The Second Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue and to Serve God:
 Gratitude for our Creation

  

We are obliged to practice virtue and keep God's Commandments not only because of what God is in Himself, but because of what He is to us, because of His innumerable benefits to us.

The first of these benefits is our creation, which obliges man to give himself wholly to the service of his Creator, for in justice he stands indebted to Him for all he has received; and since he has received his body with all its senses, and his soul with all its faculties, he is obliged to employ them in the service of his Creator, or incur the guilt of theft and ingratitude towards his gracious Benefactor. For if a man builds a house, who should have the use and profit of it, if not he who built it? To whom does the fruit of a vine belong, if not to him who has planted it? Whom should children serve, if not the father who gave them being? Hence the law gives a father almost unlimited power over his children, so natural does it seem that he should be master of an existence of which he is the author.

What, then, should be the authority of God, the sovereign Author of all being in Heaven and on earth? And if, as Seneca remarks, those who receive benefits are obliged to imitate good soil and return with interest what they have received, what return can we make to God, when we have nothing to offer Him but what we have received from His infinite goodness? What, therefore, must we think of those who not only make no return to their Creator, but use His benefits to offend Him? Aristotle tells us that man can never make adequate return to his parents or to the gods for the favors received from them. How, then, can we make a suitable return to the great God, the Father of us all, for the innumerable blessings bestowed upon us? If disobedience to parents be so grievous a crime, how heinous must it not be to rebel against this gracious God!

He Himself complains of this ingratitude by the mouth of His prophet: "The son honoreth the father, and the servant his master: if, then, I be a father, where is My honor? And if I be a master, where is My fear?" [Mal. 1: 6] Another servant of God, filled with indignation at like ingratitude, exclaims, "Is this the return thou makest to the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is not He thy Father, that hath possessed thee, and made thee, and created thee?" [Deut. 32: 6] This reproach is addressed to those who never raise their eyes to Heaven to consider what God is, who never look upon themselves in order to know themselves. Knowing nothing, therefore, of their origin or the end for which they are created, they live as though they themselves were the authors of their being.

This was the crime of the unfortunate king of Egypt to whom God said, "Behold, I come against thee, Pharao, king of Egypt, thou great dragon that liest in the midst of thy rivers and sayest: The river is mine, and I made myself." [Ezech. 29: 3] This is, at least practically, the language of those who act as though they were the principle of their own being, and who refuse to recognize any obligation to serve their Maker.

How different were the sentiments of St. Augustine, who by studying his origin was brought to the knowledge of Him from whom he had received his being! "I returned to myself," he says, "and entered into myself, saying: What art thou? And I answered: A rational and mortal man. And I began to examine what this was, and I said: O my Lord and my God, Who has created so noble a creature as this? Who, O Lord, but Thou? Thou, O my God, hast made me! I have not made myself. What art Thou, Thou by Whom I live and from Whom all things receive being? Can anyone create himself or receive his being but from Thee? Art Thou not the source of all being, the fountain whence all life flows? For whatsoever has life lives by Thee, because nothing can live without Thee. It is Thou, O Lord, that hast made me, and without Thee nothing is made! Thou art my Creator, and I am Thy creature. I thank Thee, O my Creator, because Thy hands have made and fashioned me! I thank Thee, O my Light, for having enlightened me and brought me to the knowledge of what Thou art and what I myself am!"

This, then, the first of Gods benefits, is the foundation of all the others, for all other benefits presuppose existence, which is given us at our creation. Let us now consider the acknowledgment God demands of us, for He is no less rigid in requiring our gratitude than He is magnificent in bestowing His benefits; and this is an additional proof of His love, for our gratitude results in no advantage to Him, but enables us to profit by the favors we have received, and thus merit other graces from His infinite goodness.

Thus we read in the Old Testament that whenever He bestowed a favor upon His people He immediately commanded them to keep it in remembrance. When He brought the Israelites out of Egypt He commanded them to commemorate by a solemn festival every year their happy deliverance from bondage. When He slew the firstborn of the Egyptians and spared the Israelites, He commanded that the latter, in return, should consecrate their firstborn to Him. When He sent them manna from Heaven to sustain them in the wilderness, He ordered that a portion of it should be put in a vessel and kept in the tabernacle as a memorial to generations of this extraordinary favor. After giving them victory over Amalec He told Moses to write it for a memorial in a book, and deliver it to Josue.

Since, therefore, God so rigidly requires a continual remembrance of the temporal favors He grants us, what return of gratitude will He not demand for this immortal benefit? Such we truly call the benefit of creation, because with it we receive from God the gift of an immortal soul. The patriarchs of old were deeply sensible of this obligation of gratitude, and therefore we read that whenever God bestowed upon them any special favor or blessing they evinced their gratitude by erecting altars to His name and by rearing other monuments to commemorate His mercies to them. Even the names they gave their children expressed the favors they had received, so desirous were they that their debt of gratitude to God should never be forgotten. St. Augustine, speaking on this subject in one of his soliloquies, says, "Man should think of God as often as he breathes; for as his being is continuous and immortal, he should continually return thanks to the Author of his being."

This obligation is so deeply graven in nature that even the philosophers and sages of this world earnestly inculcate gratitude to God. Hear the counsel of Epictetus: "Be not ungrateful, O man, to this sovereign Power, but return thanks for the faculties with which He has endowed thee, for thy life itself and for all the things which sustain it, for fruits, wine, oil, and whatever advantages of fortune thou hast received from Him; but praise Him particularly for thy reason, which teaches thee the proper use and the true worth of all these things." If a pagan philosopher teaches such gratitude for benefits common to all men, what should be the gratitude of a Christian, who has received the light of faith in addition to that of reason, as well as other gifts vastly superior to those we have just mentioned?

But perhaps you will urge that these benefits common to all seem the work of nature rather than graces emanating from God; and why, you ask, should I be grateful for the general order which reigns in the world, and because things follow their natural course? This objection is unworthy of a Christian, of a pagan, of any but an unreasonable animal. Hear how the same philosopher answers it: "You will say, perhaps, that you receive all these benefits from nature. Senseless man! In saying this you but change the name of God, your Benefactor. For what is nature but God Himself, the first and original nature? Therefore, it is no excuse, ungrateful man, to urge that you are indebted, not to God, but to nature; for without God there is no nature. Were you to receive a benefit from Lucius Seneca you would not dare to say that you were indebted to Lucius and not to Seneca. Such a subterfuge would change your benefactor's name, but would by no means cancel your obligation to him."

It is not only a motive of justice which obliges us to serve God, but our necessities force us to have recourse to Him if we would attain the perfection and happiness for which we were created.

In order to understand this more clearly, let us call to mind the general principle that creatures are not born with all their perfections. There remain many to be cultivated and developed, and only He who has begun the work can perfect it. Things instinctively go back to their first cause for their development and perfection. Plants unceasingly seek the sun, and sink their roots deep into the earth where they were formed. Fishes will not leave the element where they were engendered. Chickens seek vivifying warmth and shelter beneath their mother's wings. In like manner a lamb, until it has attained its strength, clings to the side of its ewe, distinguishing her among a thousand of the same color, arguing, doubtless, with blind instinct, that it must seek what it lacks at the source whence it has received all that it is.

This is apparent in all the works of nature, and if those of art could reason they would doubtless proceed in like manner. Were a painter to make a beautiful picture and omit the eyes, whither would the picture, were it sensible of its want, go to seek its completion? Not to the palaces of kings or princes, for all their power could not give it what it sought; no, it would seek its first cause, the master who designed it. And is not this thy position also, O rational creature? Thou art an unfinished work. Many things are lacking to the perfection of thy being. Thou hast naught of the beauty and luster which are yet to be thine. Hence thy restless, unsatisfied yearning; hence those unceasing aspirations for a higher, a better state, which arise from thy very necessities.

Yes, God let thee hunger, in order that, driven by necessity; thou mightest have recourse to Him. For this reason He did not give thee perfection at thy creation, but He withheld it only through love for thee. It was not to make thee poor, but to make thee humble; it was not to leave thee needy, but to compel thee to have recourse to Him.

If, then, thou art blind, poor, and in need, why dost thou not seek the Father Who created thee, the Artist Who designed thee, that He may satisfy thy wants and supply all that is lacking to thy perfection? Penetrated with this truth David cried out, "Thy hands have made me and formed me: give me understanding, and I will learn Thy Commandments." [Ps. 118: 73]

Thy hands have made me, the prophet would say, but the work is incomplete. The eyes of my soul are still imperfect; they see not what they ought to know. To whom shall I go in my necessities, if not to Him from Whom I have received all that I possess? Enlighten, then, my eyes, O Lord, that they may know Thee, and that the work Thou hast begun in me may be perfected. Therefore, only God can perfect the understanding, the will, and all the faculties of the soul.

It is He alone Who satisfies His creature and never fails him. With Him the creature is content in poverty, rich in destitution, happy in solitude, and though despoiled of all possessions, yet master of all things. Hence the wise man so justly says, "One is as it were rich, when he hath nothing: and another is as it were poor, when he hath great riches." [Prov. 13: 7] Rich indeed is the poor man who, like St. Francis of Assisi, has God for his inheritance, though owning naught else; but poor would he be who knew not God, though he possessed the entire universe. What do their wealth and power avail the rich and great of this world when they are a prey to anxieties which they cannot calm, a victim to appetites which they cannot satisfy? For what comfort can costly raiment, luxurious viands, and overflowing coffers bring to a troubled mind? The rich man tosses restlessly on his soft couch, and his treasure is powerless to stifle the remorse which banishes sleep. Independently, therefore, of God s benefits to us, we are, from the necessities of our nature, obliged to serve Him, if we would attain our happiness and perfection.

Chapter 3. The Third Motive which Obliges us to Serve God:
 Gratitude for our Preservation and for the Government of His Providence

  

Another motive which obliges man to serve God is the benefit of preservation. God gave you being, and still preserves it to you, for you are as powerless to subsist without Him as you were incapable of coming into existence without Him. The benefit of preservation is not less than that of creation. It is even greater, for your creation was but a single act, while your preservation is a continuous manifestation of God's abiding love. If, then, your creation demands from you so great a return of gratitude, who can reckon the debt you owe for the gift of preservation? There is not a movement of your eye, there is not a step you take, which is not by His power. Far if you do not believe that it is through Him that you live and act, you are no longer a Christian; and if, believing it, you continue deliberately to offend your Benefactor, how can I say what you are?

If a man on the top of a high tower held another suspended by a small cord over an abyss, do you think the latter would dare to address injurious words to him who held him thus suspended? How is it, then, that you, whose existence hangs by a thread which God can sever at any moment, dare excite the anger of this infinite Majesty by outraging Him with the very benefits He mercifully preserves to you?

The goodness of this sovereign Being is so great, says St. Denis, that while creatures are offending Him and madly rebelling against His will, He continues to give them the power and strength which they use to resist Him. How, then, can you be so rash, so ungrateful as to turn against God the blessings with which He has loaded you? Oh! Incredible blindness! Oh! Senseless rebellion----that the members would conspire against their Head, for which they ought to be ready to make any sacrifice!

But a time will come when God's outraged patience shall be avenged. You have conspired against God. It is just that He should arm the universe against you, that all creatures should rise up against you to avenge their Creator. They who closed their eyes to the sweet light of His mercy while it still shone upon them and allured them by so many benefits will justly behold it when, too late for amendment, they shall be groaning under the severity of His justice.

Consider in addition to this benefit the rich and delightful banquet of nature prepared for you by your Creator. Everything in this world is for man's use, directly or indirectly. Insects serve as food for birds, which in their turn serve as food for man. In like manner the grass of the fields supports the animals destined also for man's service. Cast your eye upon this vast world, and behold the abundance of your possessions, the magnificence of your inheritance. All that move upon the earth, or swim in the water, or fly in the air, or live under the sun are made for you.

Every creature is a benefit of God, the work of His Providence, a ray of His beauty, a token of His mercy, a spark of His love, a voice which proclaims His magnificence. These are the eloquent messengers of God continually reminding you of your obligations to Him. "Everything," says St. Augustine, "in Heaven and on earth calls upon me to love Thee, O Lord! And the universe unceasingly exhorts all men to love Thee, that none may exempt themselves from this sweet law."

Oh! That you had ears to hear the voice of creatures appealing to you to love God. Their expressive silence tells you that they were created to serve you, while yours is the sweet duty of praising your common Lord not only in your own name but in theirs also. I flood your days with light, the heavens declare, and your nights I illumine with the soft radiance of my stars. By my different influences all nature bears fruit in season for your necessities.

I sustain your breath, the air tells you; with gentle breezes I refresh you and temper your bodily heat. I maintain an almost infinite variety of birds to delight you with their beauty, to ravish you with their songs, and to feed you; with their flesh. I maintain for your nourishment innumerable fishes, the water exclaims. I water your lands, that they may give you their fruit in due season. I afford you an easy passage to distant countries; that you may add their riches to those of your own.

But what says the earth, this common mother of all things, this vast storehouse of the treasures of nature? Surely she may tell you: Like a good mother I bear you in my arms; I prepare food for all your necessities; I procure the concurrence of the heavens and all the elements for your welfare. Never do I abandon you, for after supporting you during life, I receive you in death and in my own bosom give you a final resting place.

Thus can the whole universe with one voice cry out: Behold how my Master and Creator has loved you. He has created me for your happiness, that I might serve you, and that you in your turn might love and serve Him; for I have been made for you, and you have been made for God.

This is the voice of all creatures. Will you be deaf to it? Will you be insensible to so many benefits? You have been loaded with favors. Do not forget the debt you thence contract. Beware of the crime of ingratitude. Every creature, says Richard of St. Victor, addresses these three words to man: Receive, give, beware. Receive the benefit; give thanks for it; and beware of the punishment of ingratitude.

Epictetus, a pagan philosopher, fully appreciated this truth. He teaches us to behold the Creator in all His creatures, and to refer to Him all the blessings we receive from them. "When you are warned," he says, "of a change in the atmosphere by the redoubled cries of the crow, it is not the crow, but God who warns you. And if the voice of men gives you wise counsel and useful knowledge, it is also God who speaks. For He has given them this wisdom and knowledge, and, therefore, you must recognize His power in the instruments He wills to employ. But when He wishes to acquaint you with matters of greater moment He chooses more noble and worthy messengers."

The same philosopher adds, "When you will have finished reading my counsels, say to yourself: It is not Epictetus the philosopher who tells me all these things; it is God. For whence in fact has he received the power to give these counsels but from God? Is it not God Himself, therefore, Who speaks to me through him?" Such are the sentiments of Epictetus. Should not a Christian blush to be less enlightened than a pagan philosopher? Surely it is shameful that they who are illumined by faith should not see what was so clear to them who had no other guide than the light of simple reason.

Since, then, every creature is a benefit from God, how can we live surrounded by these proofs of His love, and yet never think of Him? If, wearied and hungry, you seated yourself at the foot of a tower, and a beneficent creature from above sent you food and refreshment, could you forbear raising your eyes to your kind benefactor? Yet God continually sends down upon you blessings of every kind.

Find me, I pray you, but one thing which does not come from God, which does not happen by His special Providence. Why is it, then, that you never raise your eyes to this indefatigable and generous Benefactor? Ah! We have divested ourselves of our own nature, so to speak, and have fallen into worse than brute insensibility. I blush, in truth, to say what we resemble in this particular, but it is good for man to hear it. We are like a herd of swine feeding under an oak. While their keeper is showering down acorns, they greedily devour them, grunting and quarrelling with one another, yet never raising their eyes to the master who is feeding them. Oh! Brute like ingratitude of the children of Adam! We have received the light of reason, and an upright form. Our head is directed to Heaven, not to earth, which ought to teach us to raise the eyes of our soul to the abode of our Benefactor.

Would that irrational creatures did not excel us in this duty! But the law of gratitude, so dear to God, is so deeply impressed on all creatures that we find this noble sentiment even in the most savage beasts. What nature is more savage than that of a lion? Yet Appian, a Greek author, tells us that a certain man took refuge in a cave, where he extracted a thorn from the foot of a lion. Grateful for the kindness, the noble animal ever after shared his prey with his benefactor while he remained in the cave. Some years later this man, having been charged with a crime, was condemned to be exposed to wild beasts in the amphitheater. When the time of execution arrived, a lion which had been lately captured was let loose on the prisoner. Instead of tearing his victim to pieces he gazed at him intently, and, recognizing his former benefactor, he gave evident signs of joy, leaping and fawning upon him as a dog would upon his master. Moved by this spectacle, the judges, on hearing his story, released both man and lion. Forgetful of his former wildness, the lion, until his death, continued to follow his master through the streets of Rome without offering the slightest injury to anyone.

A like instance of gratitude is related of another lion that was strangling in the coils of a serpent when a gentleman riding by came to his rescue and killed the serpent. The grateful animal, to show his devotion, took up his abode with his deliverer and followed him wherever he went, like a faithful dog. One day the gentleman set sail, leaving the lion behind him on the shore. Impatient to be with his master, the faithful animal plunged into the sea, and, being unable to reach the vessel, was drowned.

What instances could we not relate of the fidelity and gratitude of the horse! Pliny, in his Natural History [8, 40], tells us that horses have been seen to shed tears at the death of their masters, and even to starve themselves to death for the same reason. Nor are the gratitude and fidelity of dogs less surprising. Of these the same author relates most marvelous things. He gives, among other examples, an instance which occurred in his own time at Rome. A man condemned to death was allowed in prison the companionship of his dog. The faithful animal never left him, and even after death remained by the lifeless body to testify to his grief. If food were given to him he immediately brought it to his master and laid it on his lifeless lips. Finally, when the remains were thrown into the Tiber, he plunged into the river, and, having placed himself beneath the body, struggled till the last to keep it from sinking. Could there be gratitude greater than this?

Now, if beasts, with no other guide than natural instinct, thus show their love and gratitude for their masters, how can man, possessing the superior guidance of reason, live in such forgetfulness of his Benefactor? Will he suffer the brute creation to give him lessons in fidelity, gratitude, and kindness? Moreover, will he forget that the benefits he receives from God are incomparably superior to those which animals receive from men? Will he forget that his Benefactor is so infinite in His excellence, so disinterested in His love, overwhelming His creatures with blessings which can in no way benefit Himself? This must ever be a subject of wonder and astonishment, and evidently proves that there are evil spirits who darken our understanding, weaken our memory, and harden our heart, in order to make us forget so bountiful a Benefactor.

If it be so great a crime to forget this Lord, what must it be to insult Him, and to convert His benefits into the instruments of our offences against Him? "The first degree of ingratitude," says Seneca, "is to neglect to repay the benefits we have received; the second is to forget them; the third is to requite the benefactor with evil." But what shall we say of that excess of ingratitude which goes so far as to outrage the benefactor with his own benefits? I doubt whether one man ever treated another as we dare to treat God. What man, having received a large sum of money from his sovereign, would be so ungrateful as immediately to employ it in raising an army against him? Yet you, unhappy creatures, never cease to make war upon God with the very benefits you have received from Him.

How infamous would be the conduct of a married woman who, having received a rich present from her husband, would bestow it upon the object of her unlawful love in order to secure his affections! The world would regard it as base, unparalleled treason; yet the offence is only between equals. But what proportions the crime assumes when the affront is from a creature to God! Yet is not this the crime of men who consume their health, and who waste, in the pursuit of vice, the means that God has given them? They pervert their strength to the gratification of their pride; their beauty but feeds their heir flesh, to traffic in innocence, bargaining, even as the Jews did with Judas, for the Blood of Christ! What shall I say of their abuse of other benefits?

The sea serves but to satisfy their gluttony and their ambition; the beauty of creatures excites their gross sensuality; earthly possessions but feed their avarice; and talents, whether natural or acquired, only tend to increase their vanity and pride. Prosperity inflates them with folly, and adversity reduces them to despair. They choose the darkness of the night to hide their thefts, and the light of day to lay their snares, as we read in Job. In a word, they pervert all that God has created for His glory to the gratification of their inordinate passions.

What shall I say of their effeminate adornments, their costly fabrics, their extravagant perfumes, their sumptuous tables groaning under the weight of rare and luxurious viands? Nay, sensuality and luxury are so general that, to our shame, books are published to teach us how to sin in these respects. Men have perverted creatures from their lawful use, and instead of making God's benefits a help to virtue, they have turned them into instruments of vice. So great is the selfishness of the world that there is nothing which men do not sacrifice to the gratification of the flesh, wholly forgetful of the poor, whom God has so specially recommended to their care. Such persons never find that they are poor until they are asked for alms; at any other time there is no extravagant luxury their income cannot afford.
Beware lest this terrible accusation be made against you at the hour of death! The greater the benefits you have perverted, the more severe the account you will have to render. It is a great sign of reprobation for a man to continue to abuse the favors God has bestowed upon him. To have received much, and to have made but small return, is, in a manner, already to have judged oneself. If the Ninivites shall rise in judgment against the Jews for not having done penance at Our Saviour's teaching, let us see that the same Lord shall have no reason to condemn us upon the example of beasts that love their benefactors, while we manifest such gross ingratitude to the Supreme Benefactor of all.

Chapter 4. The Fourth Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue:
 Gratitude for the Inestimable Benefit of our Redemption

  

Let us now consider the supreme benefit of Divine love, the redemption of man. But I feel myself so unworthy, so unfitted to speak of such a mystery that I know not where to begin or where to leave off, or whether it were not better for me to be silent altogether. Did not man, in his lethargy, need an incentive to virtue, better would it be to prostrate ourselves in mute adoration before the incomprehensible grandeur of this mystery than vainly essay to explain it in imperfect human language. It is said that a famous painter of antiquity, wishing to represent the death of a king's daughter, painted her friends and relatives about her with mournful countenances. In her mother's face grief was still more strongly depicted. But before the face of the king he painted a dark veil to signify that his grief was beyond the power of art to express.

Now, if all that we have said so inadequately expresses the single benefit of creation, how can we with any justice represent the supreme benefit of Redemption? By a single act of His will God created the whole universe, diminishing thereby neither the treasures of His riches nor the power of His almighty arm. But to redeem the world He labored for thirty-three years by the sweat of His brow; He shed the last drop of His Blood, and suffered pain and anguish in all His senses and all His members. What mortal tongue can explain this ineffable mystery? Yet it is equally impossible for me to speak or to be silent. Silence seems ingratitude, and to speak seems rashness. Wherefore, I prostrate myself at Thy feet, O my God, beseeching Thee to supply for my insufficiency, and if my feeble tongue detract from Thy glory, while wishing to praise and magnify it, grant that Thy elect in Heaven may render to Thy mercy the worship which Thy creatures here below are incapable of offering Thee.

After God had created man and placed him in the delights of the terrestrial paradise, by the very favors which should have bound him to the service of his Creator he was emboldened to rebel against Him. For this he was driven into exile and condemned to the eternal pains of Hell. He had imitated the rebellion of Satan; therefore, it was just that he should share his punishment.

When Giezi, the servant of Eliseus, received presents from Naaman the leper, the prophet said to him: Since thou hast received Naaman's money, "the leprosy of Naaman shall also cleave to thee and to thy seed forever. And he went out from him a leper as white as snow." [4 Kg. 5: 27] God pronounced a like sentence against man; Adam wished to share the riches of Lucifer, that is, his pride and his revolt, and, in consequence, the leprosy of Lucifer, that is, the punishment of his revolt, became his portion also. By sin, therefore, man becomes like Satan----he imitates him in his guilt, and shares in his punishment.

Having brought such misery upon himself, man became the object of the Divine compassion, for God was more moved by the condition of His fallen creature than He was indignant at the outrage offered to His goodness. He resolved to restore man and reconcile him with Himself through the mediation of His only Son. But how was reconciliation effected? Again, what human tongue can express this mercy? Through our Mediator Christ such a friendship was established between God and man that the Creator not only pardoned His creature and restored him to His grace and love, but even became one with him. Man has become so one with God that in all creation there is no union that can be compared to this. It is not only a union of grace and love, but it is a union of person also. Who could have thought that such a breach would be so perfectly repaired? Who could have imagined that two beings so widely separated by nature and sin should one day be united, not only in the same house, at the same table, and in a union of grace, but in one and the same person [that is, in Christ]?

Can we think of two beings more widely separated than God and the sinner? Yet where will we find two beings more closely united? "There is nothing," says St. Bernard, "more elevated than God, and nothing more base than the clay of which man is formed. Yet God has with such great humility clothed Himself in this clay, and the clay has been so honorably raised to God, that we may ascribe to the clay all the actions of God, and to God all the sufferings of the clay." [Super Cant. Hom. 59 et 64]

When man stood naked and trembling before his Creator, who could have made him believe that one day his unhappy nature would be united to God in one and the same person? This union was so close that even the supreme moment of the Cross could not sever it. Death dissolved the union between soul and body, but could not separate the Divinity from the humanity, for what Christ had once taken upon Himself for love of us He never abandoned.

Thus was our peace established. Thus did God apply to us the remedy for our sovereign miseries. And we owe Him more gratitude, perhaps, for the manner of applying this remedy than for the remedy itself. Yes, Lord, I am infinitely indebted to Thee for redeeming me from Hell, for reestablishing me in Thy grace, and for restoring my liberty; but I should be still more grateful, were it possible, for the manner in which Thou hast wrought these wonders. All Thy works are admirable, O Lord! And when lost in wonder at a power that seems to have reached its limit, we have only to raise our eyes to behold still another marvel which eclipses all the rest. Nor is this any disparagement of Thy power, O Lord, but rather a manifestation of Thy glory!

But what, O Lord, is the remedy Thou didst choose for my deep misery? Innumerable were the ways in which Thou couldst have redeemed me without toil or suffering; but in Thy magnificence, and to testify to Thy great love for me, Thou didst will to endure such pain and sufferings that the very thought of them bathed Thee in a sweat of blood, and at the sight of them the rocks were rent asunder. May the heavens praise Thee, O Lord, and may the Angels proclaim Thy mercies! What did our virtues avail Thee, or how wast Thou harmed by our sins? "If thou sin," says Eliu to Job, "what shalt thou hurt him! And if thy iniquities be multiplied, what shalt thou do against him? And if thou do justly, what shalt thou give him, or what shall he receive of thy hand?" [Job 35: 6-7]

This great God, so rich and powerful, so free from all evils, whose wisdom and possessions can neither be increased nor lessened, who would be equally glorious in Himself whether men and Angels praised Him forever in Heaven, or blasphemed Him forever in Hell; this great God, impelled by no necessity, but yielding to His love, came down from Heaven to this place of exile, clothed Himself with our nature when we were His enemies, took upon Himself our infirmities, and even death, and to heal our wounds endured torments more terrible than any that had ever before been borne, or that ever again will be undergone.

It was for me, O Lord, that Thou wast born in a stable, laid in a manger, and circumcised on the eighth day after Thy birth! For me wast Thou driven from Thy country and exiled to Egypt. For my sake Thou didst fast and watch, shedding bitter tears, and sweating Blood from every pore. For me Thou wast seized as a malefactor, forsaken, sold, denied, betrayed, dragged from tribunal to tribunal, buffeted, spat upon, bruised with blows, and delivered to the gibes of an infamous rabble. For me Thou didst die upon a Cross, in the sight of Thy most holy Mother, enduring poverty so great that even the consolation of a drop of water was denied to Thy burning lips. Thou wert abandoned by the world, and so great was Thy desolation that even Thy Father seemed to have forsaken Thee. At such a cost, O God, didst Thou restore to me my life!

Can we, without the deepest grief, behold this spectacle----God hanging as a malefactor upon an infamous gibbet? We could not withhold our compassion from a criminal who had brought such misfortune upon himself; and if our compassion be greater when the victim is innocent, and his excellence known to us, what must have been the astonishment and grief of the Angels, with their knowledge of His perfection, when they saw Him overwhelmed with ignominy and condemned to die upon the Cross?

The two cherubim, placed by God's command [Ex. 25: 18] on each side of the ark, looking toward the mercy-seat in wonder and admiration, are an emblem of the awe with which the Heavenly spirits were seized at the sight of God's supreme mercy in becoming the propitiation for the world on the sacred wood of His Cross.

Who, then, can contain his astonishment or forbear to exclaim with Moses: "O Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion, and true!" [Ex. 34: 6] Who would not, like Elias [3 Kg. 19: 13], cover his eyes did he see God passing, not in the splendor of His majesty, but in the depths of His humiliation; not in the might of His power, moving mountains and rending rocks, but as a malefactor, delivered to the cruelties of a brutal multitude?

While, then, we confess our inability to understand this incomprehensible mystery, will we not open our hearts to the sweet influence of such boundless love, and make, as far as we are able, a corresponding return? Oh! Abyss of charity! Oh! Boundless mercy! Oh! Incomprehensible goodness! By Thy ignominy, O Lord, Thou hast purchased honor for me. By Thy Blood Thou hast washed away the stains of my sins. By Thy death Thou hast given me life. By Thy tears Thou has delivered me from eternal weeping. O best of Fathers! How tenderly Thou loved Thy children. O good Shepherd, who hast given Thyself as food to Thy flock! O faithful Guardian, who didst lay down Thy life for the creatures of Thy care! With what tears can I return Thy tears? With what life can I repay Thy life? What are the tears of a creature compared to the tears of his Creator, or what is the life of a man compared to that of his God?

Think not, O man, that thy debt is less because God suffered for all men as well as for thee. Each of His creatures was as present to His Divine mind as if He died for him alone. His charity was so great, the holy Doctors tell us, that had but one man sinned He would have suffered to redeem him. Consider, therefore, what thou owest a Master Who has done so much for thee and Who would have done still more had thy welfare required it.

Tell me, O ye creatures, whether a greater benefit, a more generous favor, a more binding obligation can be conceived. Tell me, O ye Celestial choirs, whether God has done for you what He has done for us? Who, then, will refuse to give himself without reserve to the service of such a Master? "I thrice owe Thee all that I am, O my God!" exclaims St. Anselm. "By my creation I owe Thee all that I am. Thou hast confirmed this debt by redeeming me; and by promising to be my eternal reward, Thou dost compel me to give myself wholly to Thee. Why, then, do I not give myself to One who has such a just claim to my service? Oh! Insupportable ingratitude! Oh! Invincible hardness of the human heart, which will not be softened by such benefits! Metals yield to fire; iron is made flexible in the forge; and diamonds are softened by the blood of certain animals. But oh! Heart more insensible than stone, harder than iron, more adamant than the diamond, wilt thou not be moved by the fire of Hell, or by the benefits of the tenderest of Fathers, or by the Blood of the spotless Lamb immolated for love of thee?"

Since Thy mercy and Thy love have been so powerfully manifested for us, O Lord, how is it that there are men who do not love Thee, who forget Thy benefits or use them to offend Thee? To whom will they give their love, if they refuse it to Thee? What can touch them, if they are insensible to Thy benefits? Ah! How can I refuse to serve a God Who has so lovingly sought me and redeemed me? "And I," says Our Saviour, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself." [Jn. 12: 32] With what strength, Lord, with what chains? With the strength of My love, with the chains of My benefits, "I will draw them," says the Lord by His prophet, "with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love." [Osee 11: 4] Ah! Who will resist these chains, who will refuse to yield to these mercies? If, then, it be so great a crime not to love this sovereign Lord, what must it be to offend Him, to break His Commandments? How can you use your hands to offend Him Whose hands are so full of benefits for you, Whose hands were nailed to the Cross for you?

When the unhappy wife of the Egyptian minister sought to lead Joseph into sin, the virtuous youth replied, "Behold, my master hath delivered all things to me, and knoweth not what he hath in his own house: Neither is there anything which is not in my power, or that he hath not delivered to me, but thee, who art his wife: how then can I do this wicked thing, and sin against my God?" [Gen. 39: 8-9] Mark the words of Joseph. He does not say: "I should not" or "It is not just that I offend Him," but "How can I do this wicked thing?" From this let us learn that great favors should not only deprive us of the will, but, in a measure, even of the power, to offend our benefactor.

If, therefore, the son of Jacob felt such gratitude for perishable benefits, what should be ours for the immortal blessings God has bestowed upon us? Joseph's master entrusted him with all his possessions. God has given us not only His possessions but Himself. What is there on earth that He has not made for us? Earth, sky, sun, moon, stars, tides, birds, beasts, fishes----in short, all things under Heaven are ours, and even the riches of Heaven itself, the glory and happiness of eternity. "All things are yours," says the Apostle, "whether it be Paul, or Apollo, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; for all are yours" [1 Cor. 3: 22], for all these contribute to your salvation.

And we not only possess the riches of Heaven, but the Lord of Heaven. He has given Himself to us in a thousand ways: as our Father, our Teacher, our Saviour, our Master, our Physician, our Example, our Food, our Reward. In brief, the Father has given us the Son, and the Son has made us worthy to receive the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost has united us to the Father and the Son, the Source of every grace and blessing.

Again, since God has given you all the benefits you enjoy, how can you use these benefits to outrage so magnificent a Benefactor? If you are unmindful of the crime of your ingratitude, you are more ungrateful than the savage beasts, colder and more hardened than senseless objects. St. Ambrose, after Pliny, relates the story of a dog that had witnessed the murder of his master. All night the faithful animal remained by the body, howling most piteously, and on the following day, when a concourse of people visited the scene, the dog noticed the murderer among them, and falling upon him with rage, thus led to the discovery of his crime. If poor animals testify so much love and fidelity for a morsel of bread, will you return offences for Divine benefits? If a dog will manifest such indignation against his master's murderer, how can you look with indifference on the murderers of your sovereign Lord?

And who are these murderers? None other than your sins. Yes, your sins apprehended Him and bound Him with ignominious fetters, loaded Him with infamy, overwhelmed Him with outrages, bruised Him with blows, and nailed Him to the Cross. His executioners could never have accomplished this without the fatal aid of your sins. Will you, then, feel no hatred for the barbarous enemies who put your Saviour to death? Can you look upon this Victim immolated for you, without feeling an increase of love for Him? All that He did and suffered upon earth was intended to produce in our hearts a horror and detestation of sin. His hands and feet were nailed to the Cross in order to bind sin.

Will you render all His sufferings and labors fruitless to you? Will you remain in the slavery of sin when He purchased your freedom at the price of His Blood? Will you not tremble at the name of sin, which God has wrought such wonders to efface? What more could God have done to turn men from sin than to place Himself nailed to the Cross between them and this terrible evil? What man would dare to offend God, were Heaven and Hell open before him? Yet a God nailed to a Cross is a still more terrible and appalling sight. I know not what can move one who is insensible to such a spectacle.

Chapter 5. The Fifth Motive which Obliges Us to
 Practice Virtue: Gratitude for our Justification
  

What would the benefit of Redemption avail us, if it had not been followed by that of justification, through which the sovereign virtue of Redemption is applied to our souls? For as the most excellent remedies avail us nothing if not applied to our disorders, so the sovereign remedy of Redemption would be fruitless were it not applied to us through the benefit of justification. This is the work of the Holy Ghost, to whom the sanctification of man in a special manner belongs. It is He who attracts the sinner by His mercy, who calls him, who leads him in the ways of wisdom, who justifies him, who raises him to perfection, who imparts to him the gift of perseverance, to which, in the end, He will add the crown of everlasting glory. These are the different degrees of grace contained in the inestimable benefit of justification.

The first of these graces is our [baptismal] vocation. Man cannot throw off the yoke of sin; he cannot return from death to life, nor from a child of wrath can he become a child of God, without the assistance of divine grace. For Our Saviour has declared, "No man can come to me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him." [Jn. 6: 44]

St. Thomas thus explains these words: "As a stone, when other forces are removed, naturally falls to the ground, and cannot rise again without the application of some extraneous power, so man, corrupted by sin, ever tends downwards, attracted to earth by the love of perishable possessions, and cannot, without the intervention of divine grace, rise to heavenly things or a desire for supernatural perfection." This truth merits our consideration and our tears, for it shows us the depth of our misery, and the necessity, under which we labor, of incessantly imploring the divine assistance.

But to return to our subject: Who can express all the benefits brought to us by justification? It banishes from our souls sin, the source of all evils. It reconciles us to God and restores us to His friendship; for in truth the greatest evil which sin brings on us is that it makes us the objects of God's hatred. God, being infinite goodness, must sovereignly abhor all that is evil. "Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity," exclaims His prophet; "Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie. The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor." [Ps. 5: 7]

The enmity of God is evidently the greatest of evils for us, since it cuts us off from the friendship of God, the source of every blessing. From this misfortune justification delivers us, restoring us to God's grace, and uniting us to Him by the most intimate love, that of a father for a son. Hence the beloved disciple exclaims: "Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God." [1 Jn. 3: 1] The Apostle would have us understand that we wear not only the name, but are in truth the sons of God, in order that we may appreciate the liberality and magnificence of God's mercy to us.

If God's enmity be such a terrible misfortune, what an incomparable blessing His friendship must be! For it is an axiom in philosophy that according as a thing is evil, so is its opposite good; hence the opposite of that which is supremely evil must be supremely good. Now, man's supreme evil is the enmity of God; therefore, his supreme good must be the friendship of God. If men set such value upon the favor of their masters, their fathers, their princes, their kings, how highly should they esteem their sovereign Master, this most excellent Father, this King of kings, compared to whom all power and riches and principalities are as if they were not!

The benefit we are considering is largely enhanced by the liberality with which it is bestowed. For as man before his creation was unable to merit the gift of existence, so after his fall he could do nothing to merit his justification. No act of his could satisfy the Creator, in whose sight he was an object of hatred.

Another blessing flowing from justification is our deliverance from the eternal pains of Hell. Having driven God from him by sin, having despised His love, man in his turn is justly rejected by God. Inordinate love for creatures led him away from the Creator, and, therefore, it is but just that these same creatures should be the instruments of his punishment. Therefore, he was condemned to the eternal pains of Hell, compared to which the sufferings of this life are so light that they appear more imaginary than real. Add to these torments the undying worm which unceasingly gnaws the conscience of the sinner. What shall I say of his society, demons of perversity and reprobate men? Consider also the confusion and darkness of this terrible abode, where there is no rest, no joy, no peace, no hope, but eternal rage and blasphemies, perpetual weeping and ceaseless gnashing of teeth. Behold the torments from which God delivers those whom He justifies.

Another benefit of justification, more spiritual and therefore less apparent, is the regeneration of the interior man deformed by sin. For sin deprives the soul not only of God but of all her supernatural power, of the graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost, in which her beauty and strength consist. A soul thus stripped of the riches of grace is weakened and paralyzed in all her faculties. For man is essentially a rational creature, but sin is an act contrary to reason. Hence, as opposites destroy each other, it follows that the greater and the more numerous our sins are, the greater must be the ruin of the faculties of the soul, not in themselves, but in their power of doing good.

Thus sin renders the soul miserable, weak and torpid, inconstant in good, cowardly in resisting temptation, slothful in the observance of God's commandments. It deprives her of true liberty and of that sovereignty which she should never resign; it makes her a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil; it subjects her to a harder and more wretched servitude than that of the unhappy Israelites in Egypt or Babylon. Sin so dulls and stupefies the spiritual senses of man that he is deaf to God's voice and inspirations; blind to the dreadful calamities which threaten him; insensible to the sweet odor of virtue and the example of the Saints; incapable of tasting how sweet the Lord is, or feeling the touch of His benign hand in the benefits which should be a constant incitement to his greater love. Moreover, sin destroys the peace and joy of a good conscience, takes away the soul's fervor, and leaves her an object abominable in the eyes of God and His Saints.

The grace of justification delivers us from all these miseries. For God, in His infinite mercy, is not content with effacing our sins and restoring us to His favor; He delivers us from the evils sin has brought upon us, and renews the interior man in his former strength and beauty. Thus He heals our wounds, breaks our bonds, moderates the violence of our passions, restores with true liberty the supernatural beauty of the soul, re-establishes us in the; peace and joy of a good conscience, reanimates our interior ; senses, inspires us with ardor for good and a salutary hatred of sin, makes us strong and constant in resisting evil, and thus enriches us with an abundance of good works. In fine, He so perfectly renews the inner man with all his faculties that the Apostle calls those who are thus justified new men and new creatures. [Cf. 2 Cor. 4: 16 and Gal. 6: 15]

This renewal of the inner man is so powerful, so true, that in Baptism it is called regeneration, in Penance, resurrection; not only because it restores the soul from the death of sin to the life of grace, but because it is an anticipation of the last glorious resurrection. No tongue can express the beauty of a justified soul; only the Holy Spirit, who is pleased to dwell therein, can tell the sweetness, loveliness, and strength with which He has enriched her. The beauty, the power, the riches of earth fade into insignificance before the unspeakable beauty of a soul in a state of grace. As far as Heaven is above earth, as far as mind is above matter, so far does the life of grace exceed that of nature, so far does the invisible beauty of a soul exceed the visible beauty of this world. God Himself is enamored with this divine beauty. He adorns such a soul with infused virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, imparting, at the same time, renewed strength and splendor to all her powers.

Moreover, God, in His boundless liberality, sends us the Holy Ghost Himself, whilst the three Divine Persons take up their abode in a soul thus prepared, in order to teach her to make a noble use of the riches with which she is endowed. Like a good father, God not only leaves His inheritance to His children, but also sends them a prudent guardian to administer it. This guardian is no other than God Himself, for, as Christ has declared, "If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." [John 14: 23]

From these words the Doctors of the Church and between the Holy Spirit and His gifts, they declare that the soul not only enjoys these gifts, but also the real presence of their Divine Author. Entering such a soul, God transforms her into a magnificent temple. He Himself purifies, sanctifies, and adorns her, making her a fitting habitation for her Supreme Guest. Contrast this glorious state with the miserable condition of a soul in sin, the abode of evil spirits and of every abomination. [Cf. Matt. 12: 45]

Still another more marvelous benefit of justification is that it transforms the soul into a living member of Christ. This, again, is the source of new graces and privileges, for the Son of God, loving and cherishing us as His own members, infuses into us that virtue which is His life, and, as our Head, continually guides and directs us. How tenderly, too, does the Heavenly Father look upon such souls, as members of His Divine Son, united to Him by the participation of the same Holy Spirit! Their works, therefore, are pleasing to Him, and meritorious in His sight, since it is Jesus Christ, His only Son, who lives and acts in them. Hence, with what confidence they address God in prayer, because it is not so much for themselves as for His Divine Son that they pray, since to Him all the honor of their lives redounds. For as the members of the body can receive no benefit of which the Head does not partake, so neither can Christ, the Head of all the just, be separated from their virtues or merits. If it be true, as the Apostle tells us [Cf. 1 Cor. 6: 15], that they who sin against the members of Jesus Christ sin against Jesus Christ Himself, and that He regards a persecution directed against His members as directed against Himself [Cf. Acts. 9: 4], is it astonishing that He regards the honor paid to His members as paid to Himself?

Pray, then, with confidence, remembering that your petitions ascend to the Eternal Father in the name of His Son, who is your Head. For His sake they will be heard, and will redound to His honor; for, as is generally admitted, when we ask a favor for the sake of another, it is granted not so much to the one who receives it, as to the one for whose sake it was asked. For this reason we are said to serve God when we serve the poor for His sake.

The final benefit of justification is the right which it gives to eternal life. God is infinitely merciful as well as infinitely just, and while He condemns impenitent sinners to eternal misery, He rewards the truly repentant with eternal happiness. God could have pardoned men and restored them to His favor without raising them to a share in His glory, yet in the excess of His mercy He adopts those whom He pardons, justifies those whom He has adopted, and makes them partakers of the riches and inheritance of His only-begotten Son. It is the hope of this incomparable inheritance which sustains and comforts the just in all their tribulations; for they feel even in the midst of the most cruel adversity that "that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." [2 Cor. 4: 17]

These are the graces comprehended in the inestimable benefit of justification, which St. Augustine justly ranks above that of creation. [Super. Joan 72, 9] For God created the world by a single act of His will, but to redeem it He shed the last drop of His Blood and expired under the most grievous torments. St. Thomas gives a like opinion in his Summa Theologica.

Though it is true that no man can be certain of his justification, yet there are signs by which we can form a favorable judgment. The principal of these is a change of life; as, for example, when a man who hitherto committed innumerable mortal sins without scruple would not now be guilty of a single grave offence against God even to gain the whole world.

Let him, then, who has attained these happy dispositions reflect upon what he owes the Author of his justification, who has delivered him from the multitude of evils which are the consequences of sin, and overwhelmed him with the benefits which we have attempted to explain. And as for him who has the misfortune to be still in a state of sin, I know nothing more efficacious to rouse him from his miserable condition than the consideration of the evils which sin brings in its train, and of the blessings which flow from the incomparable benefit of justification.

The effects produced in the soul by the Holy Ghost do not end here. This Divine Spirit, not content with causing us to enter the path of justice, maintains us therein, strengthening us against all obstacles until we arrive at the haven of salvation. His love will not permit Him to remain idle in a soul which He honors by His presence. He sanctifies her with His virtue, and effects in her and by her all that is necessary to win eternal life. He dwells in the soul as the father in the midst of a family, preserving order and peace by his prudent authority; as a master in the midst of his disciples, teaching lessons of Divine wisdom; as a gardener in a garden confided to his intelligent care; as a king in his kingdom, ruling and directing all; as the sun in the midst of the universe, enlightening and vivifying her, and directing all her movements.

Possessing, in an eminent degree, all the good that is in creatures, He produces, but in a far more perfect manner, all the effects of which these creatures are capable. As fire He vivifies our understanding, enkindles our will, and detaches us from earth to raise us to Heavenly things; as a dove He renders us sweet, gentle, and compassionate to one another; as a cloud He shelters us from the burning sensuality of the flesh, and tempers the heat of our passions; as a violent wind He impels our wills to good and sweeps all evil affections from our hearts. Hence it is that just souls abhor the vices which they formerly loved, and embrace the virtues from which they formerly shrank. Witness David, who cries out, "I have hated and abhorred iniquity." "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches." [Ps. 118: 104, 14]

It is to the Holy Ghost that we are indebted for all our progress in virtue. It is He who preserves us from evil and maintains us in good. It is He who is the principle of our perseverance, and who finally crowns us in Heaven. This it was which led St. Augustine to say that in rewarding our merits God but crowns His own gifts. [Conf. 1, 20]

The holy patriarch Joseph, not content with giving to his brethren the corn which they came to purchase, ordered also that the money which they paid for it should be secretly returned to them. God treats His elect with still greater liberality. He not only gives them eternal life, but furnishes them the grace and virtue to attain it. "We adore Him," says Eusebius Emissenus, "that He may be merciful to us, but He has already been merciful to us in giving us grace to adore Him."

Let each one, then, glance over his life and consider, as the same holy Doctor suggests, all the good he has been permitted to do, and all the sins of impurity, injustice, and sacrilege from which he has been preserved, and he will comprehend in some measure what he owes to God. On this point St. Augustine well observes that God shows no less mercy in preserving man from sin than in pardoning him after he has fallen. [Conf. 2, 7] Indeed, it is a greater proof of love. Therefore, the same Saint, writing to a virgin, says: "Man should consider that God has pardoned him all the sins from which He has preserved him. Think not, therefore, that you may love this Master with a feeble love because He has pardoned you but a few sins. Your debt of love, on the contrary, is greater for His preventing grace which has saved you from committing many. For if a man must love a creditor who forgives him a debt, how much more reason has he to love a benefactor who gratuitously bestows upon him a like amount? For if a man live chastely all his life, it is God Who preserves him; if he be converted from immorality to a pure life, it is God Who reforms him; and if he continue in his disorders till the end, it is also God Who justly forsakes him."

What, then, should our conclusion be but to unite our voices with the prophet, saying, "Let my mouth be filled with praise, that I may sing Thy glory, Thy greatness all the day long." [Ps. 70: 8] St. Augustine, commenting upon these words of the prophet, asks, "What means all the day long"? And he answers, "Under all circumstances and without interruption. Yes, Lord, I will praise Thee in prosperity because Thou dost comfort me, and in adversity because Thou dost chastise me. For my whole being I will praise Thee, because Thou art its Author. In my repentance I will praise Thee, because Thou dost pardon me. In my perseverance I will praise Thee, because Thou wilt crown me. Thus, O Lord, my mouth will be filled with Thy praise, and I will sing Thy glory all the day long !"

It would be fitting to speak here of the Sacraments, the instruments of justification, particularly of Baptism, and the Divine light and principle of faith which it imprints on our souls. But as this subject has been more fully treated in another work, we will confine ourselves, for the present, to the Eucharist, that Sacrament of Sacraments, which gives to us----as our daily food and sovereign remedy---- God Himself. He was offered once for us on the Cross, but He is daily offered for us on the altar. "This is My Body," Christ has declared; "do this for a commemoration of Me." [Lk. 22: 19]

Oh! Sacred Pledge of our salvation! Oh! Incomparable Sacrifice! Oh! Victim of love! Oh! Bread of life! Oh! Sweet and delicious Banquet! Oh! Food of kings! Oh! Manna containing all sweetness and delight! Who can fittingly praise Thee? Who can worthily receive Thee? Who can love and venerate Thee as Thou dost deserve? My soul faints at the thought of Thee; my lips are mute in Thy presence, for I cannot extol Thy marvels as I desire.

Had Our Lord reserved this favor for the pure and innocent, it would still be a mercy beyond our comprehension. But in His boundless love He does not refuse to descend into depraved hearts, nor to pass through the hands of unworthy ministers who are the slaves of Satan and the victims of their unruly passion. To reach the hearts of His friends and to bring them His Divine consolations, He submits to innumerable outrages and profanations. He was sold once in His mortal life, but in this august Sacrament He is unceasingly betrayed. The scorn and ignominy of His Passion afflicted Him only once, but in this sacred Banquet His love and goodness are daily insulted and outraged. Once He was nailed to the Cross between two thieves, but in this Sacrament of love His enemies crucify Him a thousand times.

What return, then, can we make to a Master Who seeks our good in so many ways? If servants obey and serve their masters for a paltry support; if soldiers from a like motive brave fire and sword, what do we not owe God, Who maintains us with this Heavenly Food? If God in the Old Law exacted so much gratitude from the Israelites for the manna, which, with all its excellence, was only corruptible food, what gratitude will He not expect for this Divine Nourishment, incorruptible in Itself, and conferring the same blessing on all who worthily receive It? If we owe Him so much for the food which preserves our bodily life, what return must we not make Him for the Food which preserves in us the life of grace? And, finally, if our debt of gratitude be so great for being made children of Adam, what do we owe Him for making us children of God? For it cannot be denied, as Eusebius Emissenus observes, that "the day we are born to eternity is infinitely greater than the day which brings us forth to this world, with all its suffering and dangers."

Here, then, dear Christian, is another motive which should induce you to serve God, another link in that chain which bind you irrevocably to your Creator. 

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