MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA TREATISE I. GOD. 33. THE DISCRIMINATION OF THE GOOD AND BAD.
Conversion of St Pantaleon
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA
TREATISE I. GOD.
33. THE DISCRIMINATION OF THE GOOD AND BAD.
I. During our present state God s visible dealings are much the same towards the elect and the reprobate, so that we have no means of distinguishing one from the other. " Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred : but all things are kept uncertain for the time to come, because all things equally happen to the just and to the wicked " (Eccles. ix. 1, 2). If the secret of the future were once made known, it would be equivalent to determining that future and leaving it no longer within man s choice. On the part of the elect, ignorance as to the future keeps them in humility, and urges them to greater holiness so as to make their election sure ; and their merit is all the higher for labouring in uncertainty and in hope. The same thing is necessary for the reprobate in order that they may feel that their liberty is not impaired ; it stimulates zeal for their conversion ; it prevents others from despising them and exalting themselves above them, as they may yet, for all one knows, attain to a high degree of grace and glory. Submit humbly to this curtailment of your curiosity and your knowledge. Work out your salvation in fear and trembling, hoping always for the best, but never presuming upon it.
II. There are certain signs which afford us a reasonable presumption that we are in the grace of God and predestinate, subject, however, to our persevering until death. 1. Some of these are interior. One is the consciousness of a deep longing for the sight of God. Remorse of conscience following immediately on the commission of any sin is a proof that we are not in the state of obduracy. Profound humility ; this carries with it a submissiveness to the ordinations of God and His Church, which is a great security, and is also the groundwork of all the virtues. If we have a tender devotion and love towards the Blessed Virgin, we know that in one important respect the same mind is yi us that was also in Christ Jesus. 2. External signs. Among these are austerity of life and being deprived of the pleasures and advantages of this world ; for Our Lord has laid it down that we cannot expect to make the best of both worlds, and that, as a matter of equity, the abundance of enjoyment in the one life must be balanced by a lack of it in the other. So also the patient endurance of trials, losses, disappointments, and especially of persecution for our religion, is an important sign. An other one is charity, which covers a multitude of sins ; its chief forms are love of our enemies, forgiveness of injuries, and works of beneficence towards those in want. Consider those individually in yourself ; see where you fail ; resolve to practise them all.
III. Deficiency in some, or even in all these signs, does not, however, afford any presumption as to one s final re probation ; and we must not on that account despair of our own or of others salvation. The grace of God and prayer are continually working wonders in the supernatural order, and God is for ever raising up stones to be children of Abraham. The power and goodness of God are such as to justify the wildest hopes ; discouragement is an insult to Him ; despair, even under the most adverse circumstances, is a sin against the Holy Ghost. It is folly to disturb oneself about remote uncertainties and the possible evils of a future day. Your certainties and your duties are quite sufficient to occupy all your thoughts. Dwell rather on the past bounties of God, the assurances of His love, the prodigality of the efforts made by Our Lord to redeem you, the infallible efficacy of persevering prayer, the im possibility of being lost without your deliberate consent. There must always be ground for holy fear when you consider your weakness and fickleness, and the failures of many who had begun well ; but confidence should predominate, and God promises that it shall never be confounded.
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA BY THE RIGHT REV. JAMES BELLORD, D.D.