Consider first, that we are often put in mind by the church in the office of this time of our baptism, to the end we may be rightly sensible of the dignity to which we have been raised by this sacrament, and of the obligations incumbent upon us in consequence of the same. Baptism is to our souls the gate of life - an introduction to all that is good. It is called by the Apostle, Tit. iii. 5, ‘the laver of re-generation and renovation of the Holy Ghost:’ inasmuch as we, who by our natural birth from the old Adam were born in sin, children of wrath, slaves of Satan, and liable to an eternal damnation, are cleansed from sin and sanctified in this sacrament, 'by the laver of water in the word of life,’ Eph. v. 26, in virtue of the blood of Christ here applied to our souls; and by virtue of the same we receive a new birth, by which we are regenerated and renewed, 'being born again of water and the Holy Ghost,’ John iii. 5, to a new and everlasting life, and are made children of the living God, and heirs to his eternal kingdom. See, my soul, and admire the riches of the bounty of thy God, poured out in thy favour, in this sacrament. But O! take care never to forfeit these excellent treasures by sin, nor to degenerate from this heavenly birth by an unworthy conversation.
Consider 2ndly, that by baptism we are incorporated in Christ and made living members of his mystical body, which is his church; we are made Christians, brethren of Christ, and temples of his Holy Spirit; we who before ‘were not his people, are now the people of God,’ 1 Pet. ii. 10, 'a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people, called out of darkness into the admirable light of Christ,’ v. 9. We are dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to God by this sacrament, to be irrevocably his, eternally devoted to his divine love. O happy dedication! O my soul, how little hast thou hitherto reflected on these truths! How little hast thou considered the dignity conferred upon thee in baptism! O remember, that what is once dedicated to God ought to remain always his, and that it is a sacrilege to profane or violate what is once consecrated to him. See then how pure and holy thy whole life ought to be, in consequence of thy being dedicated to God in baptism.
Consider 3rdly, that ‘all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in his death, for we are buried together with him by baptism unto death: that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life,’ Rom. vi. 3, 4. 'Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, and that we may serve sin no longer,’ vi. 6, so that henceforward, in consequence of our baptism, ‘we must reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,’ vi. 11, and therefore, 'we must not let sin reign in our mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof,’ vi. 12. But as ‘Christ rising again from the dead dies no more, as death shall no more have dominion over him,’ vi. 9, so we must now die no more by sin, sin must no more have dominion over us. For 'as many of us as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ,' Gal. iii. 27, and ought to live so as to show forth the life of Christ in our mortal flesh, that we may be able to say too with the apostle; 'I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me,' Gal. ii. 20. Christians, compare your lives with these divine lessons; see what they ought to be, by the obligation of your baptism, and see what they have hitherto been; and now at least, labour in earnest to begin to live worthily of your calling, and of the glorious name and character of a Christian, and of a child of God.
Conclude to bear always in mind both the dignity to which you have been raised by your baptism, and the obligation of it; and ever to show forth in your lives that you are Christians indeed, by a constant imitation both of the death and resurrection of the Son of God.
Consider first, that in baptism we make a solemn covenant with God, by which he on his part adopts us for children, admits us to all the great and glorious advantages and prerogatives which belong to his children, and gives us an unquestionable right and title to the inheritance of his everlasting kingdom. But then, all this is upon articles, to which we on our part bind ourselves by the strongest engagements and vows, which if we violate, in that moment we forfeit both the dignity of children of God, and all the other excellent treasures we received at our baptism, together with all title either to the favour or the kingdom of God. The first of these articles, by which we engage ourselves to God in baptism, is the promise we there make ever to adhere to him by a firm and constant faith in all his divine truths. My soul, hast thou been true to this part of thy covenant? The faith which thou hast promised was not a barren, speculative belief like that of those who 'make profession of knowing God, but deny him in their works,’ Tit. i. 16.; but a 'faith that worketh by charity,’ Gal. v. 6; a faith that showeth itself by the life: ‘the just man liveth by faith.' Hath thy faith been such?
Consider 2ndly, that another article of our baptismal covenant was to wage a perpetual war with Satan; to renounce him for ever with all his works of darkness and sin, and all his pomps of worldly pride and vain glory; and to adhere to God by a strict and perpetual allegiance to his divine majesty. My soul, what has thy life hitherto been? Hast thou kept this covenant? Hast thou effectually renounced Satan? Hast thou constantly waged war against that usurper, that cruel tyrant, that mortal enemy of thy God? Or hast thou not suffered him to take possession of thee again by sin? Hast thou not been all thy life long his slave? Have not his works and his pomps had a greater share in thy affections than thy duty and allegiance to thy God? O, be confounded at thy past disloyalty and breach of covenant! O, dread the consequences of this perfidiousness: repent and amend.
Consider 3rdly, that in our baptism we also engage ourselves to a strict observance of the whole law and the commandments of our heavenly Father, our King, and our God; but more especially of the great commandment of 'loving him with our whole heart, with our whole soul, with our whole mind, and with our whole strength;' and of loving our neighbours as ourselves.’ For inasmuch as he there adopts us for his children and his heirs, in return he strictly requires of us the obedience due from children to such a Father; with a love and preference of him before all things else, and a perpetual conformity in all things to his blessed will. See now, my soul, upon how many titles thou belongest to God, and art bound to love him and to serve him with all thy powers. Thou art his by creation - he made thee for himself. Thou art his by redemption - the Son of God having purchased thee with his own blood: ah, at how dear a rate! Thou art his by dedication, being consecrated to him in baptism. And thou art his by all the articles of the covenant then made with him.
Conclude to observe, henceforward at least, these thy baptismal vows, and since God claims thy whole being upon so many titles, give thyself to him without reserve for time and eternity, by perfect obedience, conformity, and love. O, beg of him continually that nothing in life or death may ever be able to separate thee any more from him.
Consider first, that the ancient ceremonies used by the Catholic church in administering baptism are very instructive, inasmuch as they show forth both the effects of this sacrament in the soul, and the duties incumbent on them that receive it. The person that is to be baptized is initiated as it were in Christ, by professing his desire of coming to him, by faith and the observance of the commandments; and then receiving upon his forehead and upon his breast the sign of the cross, to signify that the cross and passion of Christ is the source of all our good; that by this sacrament we are dedicated to Christ crucified, and must ever wear his badge, both on our forehead and in our heart. Then the catechumen is seasoned as it were for baptism, by a grain of salt solemnly blessed for that purpose, to signify the salt of true wisdom and that Christian prudence and discretion, which ought to season all we do, as also the seasoning of divine grace, which is to keep the soul from corruption of sin. Moreover, to make room for the spirit of God to come and take possession of the soul and to fix his dwelling there, the devil is cast out by solemn exorcisms, exsufflations, and prayers, and the senses of the soul are opened as it were to God by the application of the spittle to the ears and nostrils, with the Ephpheta, pronounced in imitation of our Lord, Mark vii. 34. O how great must that grace be for which the soul is prepared by so many mysterious ceremonies!
Consider 2ndly, that after this follows the solemn renunciation of Satan and of all his works and of all his pomps, as a declaration of an eternal war against this mortal enemy; and then, to give us to understand what kind of arms we are to furnish ourselves with for this warfare, we are anointed with consecrated oil on the breast and between the shoulders, to signify by this outward unction the inward unction of the Holy Ghost and his fortifying grace here given, to strengthen our breasts with heavenly charity, to love and keep the divine commandments, and to give force to our shoulders to take up our cross and to bear in a Christian manner all the labours, difficulties, and adversities of this mortal pilgrimage. To which is added, immediately after baptism, another unction on the top of the head, with the holy chrism; to signify our being by baptism incorporated in Christ, the great anointed of the Lord, and being solemnly consecrated to God for ever, by the unction of his grace; as all such things as are anointed with the holy Chrism are by the church dedicated to God for ever. Hence all Christians are called by St. Peter a kingly priesthood, from partaking in the dignity of Christ, and bring anointed through him with that holy unction with which God has of old anointed his priests, prophets, kings, and martyrs.
Consider 3rdly, that immediately after baptism, we are also clothed with a white linen garment, which the minister of God gives us, with these words, 'Receive this white garment, which thou shalt carry without spot or stain before the judgment-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thou mayest have eternal life:' Amen. And then, in allusion to the parable of the virgins that went forth with their lamps to meet the bridegroom, St. Matt. xxv., and of the servants that with the lights in their hands were ever ready to open the door to their Lord, St. Luke xii., we receive a lighted taper in our hand with these words, ‘Receive this burning light, and keep thy baptism, so as to be without reproof. Keep the commandments of God, that when the Lord shall come to his nuptials, those mayest merit him, together with all the saints, in the heavenly court, and mayest live with him for ever and ever,’ Amen. Which ceremonies put us in mind of the strict obligation of leading a holy and innocent life after baptism; of holding forth the light of faith in our lamps, to the edification of all men, and keeping them ever burning with the oil of charity and good works, till we meet our Lord in his heavenly kingdom.
Conclude from the consideration of all these mysterious ceremonies used in baptism, to settle in thy soul a great idea both of the dignity and of the obligations of a Christian, and to make it the business of thy life to correspond both with the one and the other. But O, take care above all things not to stain that robe of innocence by wilful sin.
Consider first, that how much the greater the dignity is to which we are raised in baptism, and how much the more excellent the advantages are which we there receive, together with the inestimable treasures of baptismal innocence, grace, and sanctity: so much the more dismal is that fall, by which we forfeit, and lose in a moment, all that dignity, with all those advantages and treasures. A dreadful fall indeed! by which the poor soul falls from heaven to hell; from God to the devil; from being a child of God to be a slave of Satan and of sin, that is worse than Satan; from being the spouse of Christ to be the prostitute of unclean spirits; from being the temple of the Holy Ghost, to be the habitation of the wicked one. This abominable tyrant, in the very moment she sins, enters in and takes possession of her; he robs her at once of all her treasures of virtue, grace, and merit; of all her share in Jesus Christ, of all her true right and title to his kingdom, and of all true peace and joy; and in exchange for all these good things he offers her nothing but husks of swine, which cannot satisfy her appetite; nothing but mere toys and fooleries, poisonous baits, which delude her with a momentary sweetness, presently followed with a bitter remorse, and a long train of other evils, ending in death and hell.
Consider 2ndly, the folly and madness of the soul that consents to such an exchange. Alas! she exchanges all her good at present, and all her title to any good hereafter, either in time or eternity, for a mere bubble, a brutish passion, an irksome slavery, an eternal misery! Ah! unhappy sinner, open thy eyes and see the wretched bargain thou hast made! See how strangely thou hast been deluded to part with thy God and all thy good for something so base, vile, empty, filthy, foolish, and miserable, accompanied by so much remorse, by so much danger, and by so much falsehood and deceit. Before thy sin heaven was thine, God himself was thine; but now thou hast parted with thy God, thou hast sold him for a mere nothing, thou art no longer his, thou hast made him thy enemy, thou hast exchanged heaven for hell, thou standest upon the very brink of a miserable eternity, thou are just ready to fall down that dreadful precipice. Can any folly or madness bear the least comparison with this?
Consider 3rdly, the enormity of the treason which the soul is guilty of, when she falls from the grace of baptism. She renounces her allegiance to her King and God; she rebels against him to follow Satan, she even drives him from his throne, which he held within her; she expels him out of his temple, to make room for his enemy. She sets up an idol in the house of God, which she worships in contempt of the living God. She violates all her solemn vows; she sacrilegiously profanes the temple consecrated to God; she breaks his holy covenant; she treads under foot the precious blood of his Son; and, as much as lies in her, she crucifies him again. O my soul, hast thou had no share in all this guilt ? Alas! how early didst thou fall from thy baptismal grace into the bottomless pit of sin and misery! How quickly didst thou exchange thy God for Satan! Thou wast strictly bound in consequence of thy creation, thy redemption, thy baptismal dedication, and the covenant then made in thy name, to turn thyself to God, as soon as thou wast capable of knowing him, and to consecrate thy whole self to his love and service for evermore: and instead of this, hast thou not, at thy very first coming to the use of reason, like the rebel angels, turned away front thy God, by running after empty toys and lying follies, in preference to him, and thinking but little or nothing of him.
Conclude, if thy conscience charge thee with this guilt, to bewail for the whole remainder of thy life the loss thou hast sustained, the misery thou hast incurred, the folly and madness, the heinousness and the enormity of this thy fall from God. And in order to make amends, after the best manner thou art capable of; endeavour now at least, and for every day and hour thou hast yet to come, to make a frequent offering of thy whole self without reserve, to the love and service of the divine majesty.
Consider first, that as God is the sovereign spirit, and the sovereign truth, so they that would offer him an acceptable homage must worship him in spirit and truth, John iv. 24, by joining with the external adoration, praise, prayer, and sacrifice, which is offered him in the church of Christ, the internal homage of their hearts, and the pure worship of the three divine virtues of faith, hope, and love. Where these are daily exercised all is well; there God is, and all good; but where any one of these is wanting all goes wrong; nothing else can supply that defect. Embrace then, O my soul, these three virtues, with thy whole heart and affection, and they will bring thee to God. There is no other way to heaven and a happy eternity, but by faith, hope, and charity.
Consider 2ndly, that these three virtues are called theological and divine, from the immediate relation they have to God. They flow from him into our souls, and they take our souls along with them to him. They tend to him as the sovereign object with which they are taken up, and upon which they are wholly employed; and they are entirely grounded on him and on his divine attributes as their sole motive and foundation. Thus faith believes in him as the sovereign truth, and obliges the soul to bow down and to adore him as such; and to give an undoubted assent to all the truths revealed by him, because he is the sovereign truth, who neither can deceive nor be deceived. Thus hope puts her whole trust in him, worships him as the inexhaustible source of all good, and raises the soul to a lively expectation of mercy, grace, and salvation from him; grounding herself upon his almighty power, goodness, promises, and mercy, and the precious blood of his Son. Thus charity or divine love embraces him above all things; worships him by offering herself and all things else to him; loves him for his own infinite goodness’ sake, and all others that are made after his image and likeness for his sake. Thus these three virtues derive the excellence which they have above all others, from this immediate relation to the source of all excellence. O my soul, see thou give them the first place in thy inward house, and continually entertain them there. Make them thy favourites, and they will make thee the favourite of heaven.
Consider 3rdly, that to entertain these divine virtues in the soul, we must make frequent acts of them, otherwise they will quickly fade away and die. The soul that does not often exercise her faith by employing her thoughts upon the great truths of God and eternity, quickly forgets both God and herself; and by forgetting God and herself, is exposed to all manner of evils. In like manner, where hope is not frequently exercised by the help of prayer and consideration, it quickly degenerates into presumption. And as for charity or love, which is in the nature of a fire that is always active, it must needs die away if it be not maintained and kept alive by frequent exercise. As the just man lives by faith, according to the Scripture, so he must also live by hope and by charity; so that the whole life of a Christian ought to be continually influenced by these three virtues, which cannot be, without frequent acts of all the three. And this is the shortest and easiest way to all perfection.
Conclude to labour to acquire, and to entertain these divine virtues by frequent acts of them; and in order thereunto to be diligent in the daily exercise of mental prayer. In this school they are best learnt, improved, and brought to perfection.
Consider first, that 'Without faith it is impossible to please God,’ Heb. xi.6. This virtue is the groundwork and first foundation of all our good; here we must begin the work of our salvation. But, what is faith? Not, as some vainly imagine, a presumptuous confidence of the remission of our sins, and of our justification and eternal beatitude, excluding that humble fear, with which the Christian is taught to work out his salvation, Philip. ii. 12, Rom. xi. 20; but a firm belief of all those things that God has any ways revealed or promised; a close adhesion of the soul to all the divine truths, as coming from the eternal Truth; a firm assent, a bowing down of the soul to all that God has taught, how much soever above our comprehension or understanding. ‘Faith,’ says the Apostle, Heb. xi. i, 'is the substance’ (that is, the strong foundation) ‘of things to be hoped for; the evidence of things that are not seen.’ These good things we hope for, these truths unseen, are made as it were visible to the soul by faith; she embraces them, she adheres to them with a strong and undoubted assent, she casts down all proud thoughts and imaginations that raise themselves up against these truths of God, and she directs the whole conduct of her life according to this heavenly rule. This is that divine virtue of faith, to which the Apostle gives those great encomiums, Heb. xi. This it was that brought forth so many wonderful fruits in the ancient Saints, and made them the friends and favourites of God.
Consider 2ndly, that the merit of faith, which makes it so acceptable to God, consists in this, that it pulls down the pride of man, by captivating his understanding, and obliging it to believe what it cannot see, to adore what it cannot conceive, and to submit to truths that it can no ways reach to. Man fell originally from God by proud affectation of superior and more excellent knowledge than God was pleased to allow him, and which might make him like to God, Gen. iii. 5. And therefore it has pleased his divine majesty, that the first and most essential step for man to arise from sin, and to return to him, should be the humble assent of divine faith, which makes a sacrifice of what is most dear to our pride, that is, of the liberty we are so fond of; of thinking as we please in all matters, without restraint or control; and casts down all the powers of the soul to worship in the dark, truths, generally speaking, most incomprehensible to the understanding, most shocking to the will, and most humbling to the whole man.
Consider 3rdly, that the faith which God requires of us, and without which we can neither please him here, nor be happy with him hereafter, must be catholic, that is, it must be universal; it must extend itself to all revealed truths without exception. For as they all equally come from God by divine revelation, and are all built upon the same foundation, are all recommended to our belief by the same authority of the church of God, and all supported by those strong testimonies and evidences, by which the Scripture and Christianity itself are supported; it would be calling in question the divine veracity to dispute the truth of any one article duly proposed by the church; it would be in effect, the utter loss of all divine faith; because it would be believing by humour, and not by divine authority. Here we may say with St. James, ii. 10, 'He that offends in one point, becomes guilty of all;’ because he is a rebel against that truth by which they are all delivered. O! never suffer us, dear Lord, to be rebels to thy divine truth, or proudly to oppose our petty reasoning against any part of thy word, or the authority established by thee!
Conclude to lay this strong foundation of faith, if thou hopest to raise a spiritual building within thee in which God may choose to dwell, and which may entitle thee to an everlasting dwelling with God. To build upon any other foundation is to build upon sand.
Consider first, that divine faith is grounded always upon God’s infallible truth, inasmuch as every assent of divine faith is given by the soul upon the motive of divine revelation: she believes all these truths because God has taught them, who is the truth itself and who cannot deceive, nor be deceived. Whosoever believes upon any other motive, and not upon the testimony of God, may have an opinion indeed of heavenly truths, or human faith concerning them, but falls short of divine faith, which wholly builds itself upon God’s truth. And therefore, divine faith carries with it a greater and higher degree of certainty than any human sciences whatsoever; because nothing can be so certain, as that truth itself cannot lie, and that what God has taught must needs be true. See then, my soul, what kind of assent God expects thou shouldst yield to all the truths he has revealed; he expects thou shouldst bow thyself down to them, earnestly embrace them, and firmly adhere to them as most certain and divine.
Consider 2ndly, that though the only proper motive upon which a Christian believes with divine faith the truths of religion be divine revelation, or the word and testimony of God, either contained in the Scriptures, or conveyed down by tradition; yet, as this testimony or revelation first delivered to the saints, must come to us recommended by such evidences as may be sufficient to convince us that God has spoken indeed, and has revealed these truths, and does require our assent to them as divine, therefore this sovereign Truth has been pleased to set such marks upon all the truths that come from him, and has stamped them in such a manner with his broad seal, as may fully satisfy all sincere seekers and lovers of truth of their coming indeed from his divine majesty so that it would be highly unreasonable for them not to yield to them that assent of faith which is due to divine truths. Of this nature are all the prophecies and miracles, and other arguments of credibility upon which the Christian religion is grounded, together with the innumerable tokens of divine favour, which recommend to us that illustrious society of the catholic church of Christ, which bears testimony to the divinity of all these truths.
Consider 3rdly, by descending to particulars, some of the many strong and weighty arguments and motives that give force to the testimony and authority of this church of Christ, considered as an illustrious society, bearing witness to those truths which she delivers as having received them from God himself. This great and most ancient society is, and has been for 1700 years, spread far and near through all the world; she was foreshown and foretold long before by many plain and glorious prophecies; she was established by Christ and his Apostles, by signs and wonders and innumerable miracles, the gift of tongues, and other gifts of the Spirit of God; she was miraculously propagated in a short time throughout the world, in spite of all the opposition of the whole earth and hell; she has been maintained ever since by the blood of millions of martyrs, and by the saintly and miraculous lives of millions of other servants of God in all ages and in all nations; she has been embraced and followed by all the best and wisest of men, and defended by the most goodly and learned; she has in fine, all this time held forth the light of God to the whole world, by her constantly and fervently preaching all holiness, by the purity and sanctity of her doctrine, and by the efficacy of it in the conversion of innumerable sinners, in the withdrawing thousands of all conditions from the broad way of the world to a recluse and penitential life, and inspiring thousands of her children with a desire of wholly dedicating themselves to divine love; so that she has at all times, and in all places, produced many eminent saints, whose whole lives have been standing miracles of divine grace, and standing testimonies of the truth of that faith and church which they all professed. These and many other arguments and motives of credibility loudly proclaim to all mankind, that the hand of God and his truth is, and always has been, with this illustrious society of the church of Christ; and that she is entirely to be credited in the testimonies she bears to the divine revelations of all that she proposes as matters of faith.
Conclude with giving thanks to the goodness and all-wise providence of the Almighty, who has not only revealed to his church his heavenly truths, for the healing our souls from all their maladies and bringing them to the very fountain of health and life, which is with him; but also has given that illustrious authority to her whom he has made the guardian and depository of his truths that if we are sincere in seeking we can not well fail of finding both her and them. But then remember that the faith of divine truths, how infallible soever, will never bring thee to God, except it be a living faith that works by charity in Jesus Christ, Gal. v. 6.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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