Vidi turbam magnam quam dinumerare nemo poterat, ex omnibus gentibus, stantes ante thronum.
Consider first, that on this day the church of God honours with a solemn festival the virtues, the triumphs and the eternal glory of all the saints and citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. First, in order to give glory, praise and thanksgiving, on their account, to the God of all the saints, and to his Son Jesus Christ, the author of all their virtues, of all their triumphs, and of all their glory, and to honour the Lord in his saints. Secondly, to encourage all her children to follow the glorious examples of the saints, and to walk in their blessed footsteps, in hopes of arriving one day at their happy company. Thirdly, to teach them to associate themselves in the mean time to the saints, by a holy communion with them, and to procure the assistance of their prayers and intercession. O how just, how pious, how wholesome it is to glorify God in his saints, who are the most excellent of all his works; to honour in them the bright trophies of the blood of Christ; to learn of them the practice of all Christian virtues, and especially of divine love; and to be admitted to share in their powerful prayers, and to a happy communion with them in all that is good! 'You are come,' says the apostle, Heb. xii. 22, & c., speaking to the children of the church, 'to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, and to the church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Testament,' & c. O happy communion indeed! O joyful festivity, in which the church militant solemnly associates herself with the whole church triumphant, in the worship, praise, and love of their common Lord, through him that is the mediator of them both, and through the great sacrifice of his blood! See then, my soul, what ought to be thy devotion on this day.
Consider 2ndly, on occasion of this festival, what encouragements we here meet with to dedicate ourselves, in good earnest, to the holy service of our God, when we reflect on the eternal weight of glory in heaven, with which he rewards the light and momentary labours and sufferings of his servants here upon earth. All these holy ones, whose feast we celebrate this day, have entered into the never-ending joys of their Lord at a very cheap and easy rate. The yoke of his divine servitude, which they bore for the short time of their pilgrimage, was very sweet to them, and their burden was very light. Grace and love made all things easy that they either did or suffered for their beloved. He himself supported them in such manner as to carry, as it were, both them and their crosses too upon his own shoulders. He never left them in life or death, till he took them to himself to his heavenly kingdom, where they shall live and reign for ever with him. My soul, hast not thou the same God as they had? Hast not thou the same Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has purchased the same kingdom for thee also, with his own most precious blood? Hast not thou the same sacraments and sacrifice, and all the same helps and means of grace as they had? Is the arm of God shortened? Or is the source of his infinite goodness and mercy dried up or diminished? Why then mayest not thou also aspire to the same glory and happiness? The saints carried about with them heretofore the like flesh and blood as thou now dost; but their correspondence with the mercy and grace of God raised them up from the dunghill of their corrupt nature, and made them saints; the like correspondence with the divine mercy and grace can do as much for thee also. O why then shouldst not thou also endeavour to be a saint?
Consider 3rdly, that as it is the love of God which makes saints, so it is the divine love which we particularly honour in all the saints. 'Tis this heavenly love which ought to be the great object of our attention, of our devotion, and of our imitation, on all the festivals of these generous lovers, and beloved of God, and more especially on this day, when we celebrate the virtues of them all under one solemnity. O what strong invitations, what great encouragements have we here, what pressing calls to labour to sanctify our souls with divine love, when we have here set before our eyes all these millions of heavenly lovers whom we honour in this festivity? The blessed virgin the queen and mother of beautiful love; they innumerable legions of angelic spirits, Cherubim and Seraphim, all on fire with love; these patriarchs and prophets, constant and faithful lovers of their God; these apostles of the Lamb, sent by him to spread through all the earth the bright flames of love, which he sent down upon them from heaven; these armies of martyrs, all victims of love, who all laid down their lives for love; these millions of holy confessors, and all these spirits of the just made perfect by love, who both in life and death have been always true friends and servants of divine love - and now, for all eternity, shall shine and burn in its beautiful flames; all these virgins, in fine, the spouses of love, whose love for the Lamb was stronger than death, and who now follow him singing hymns of eternal love, wheresoever he goes. O let us draw near to this great fire, to this heavenly company of seraphic lovers, that our frozen hearts may receive some small heart at least from all their flames.
Conclude ever to love, honour, and imitate the saints of God; but more especially to love in them what God loves in them; that is the gifts of his divine grace; amongst which the most excellent is love. Then shall thou be best entitled both to the intercession of the saints at present, and to their happy society hereafter.
Tuba mirum spargens sonnum per sepulcra regionum coget omnes ante thronum.
Consider first, that on this day the Church of God, attending to the necessities of great numbers of her children, who are departed out of this life in her faith or communion, but not without some blemish of sin in their souls - some lesser stains at least, of idle words, or other venial offences; some wood, hay, or stubble in their building, which cannot stand the fire, or some debt to divine justice on account of former sins not sufficiently expiated by penance - turns all her prayers and sacrifices towards the procuring for them from the mercy of God, through the merits of the precious blood of Jesus Christ her spouse, their remission of all their sins, and their speedy admittance into the happy regions of eternal rest, light, and peace, in the company of the saints. O my soul, how holy and wholesome is the institution of this day of expiation! Oh, how full of piety and charity is this apostolical tradition, this religious practice of the church of God in all ages, 'to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins'? 2 Mac. xxii. 46. alas, how few depart this life so pure as to be immediately admitted to that blessed city above, where 'nothing defiled can enter in'! Rev. xvii. 2. How few are fit to fly up to the embraces of the God of all purity, without some purgation after death! 'Tis then a duty of Christian charity, incumbent on all the children of the church of Christ, to assist by their prayers their brethren that are gone before them, that they may be discharged from their sins, and may rest in peace.
Consider 2ndly, that this kind of charity is highly pleasing to God, is very beneficial to the souls of the faithful departed, and is very wholesome to our own souls. The spiritual works of mercy are of all the most acceptable to God, the lover of souls. Now this is one of the spiritual works of mercy: it far exceeds all the corporal works of mercy. It tends to feed those souls that are hungry with the plenty of God's house, to bring them to quench their thirst at the fountain of life, to clothe them with immortal glory, to comfort and refresh them under their pains and sufferings, to loose their bonds, to deliver them out of their prison, and to help them forward to their eternal home which they so ardently long for. Now all this is most agreeable to the Father of mercies, who has a most tender love for these his children. 'Tis doing these souls of our brethren the greatest charity imaginable, by contributing all that is in our power to deliver them from all their evils, and to bring them to their sovereign good. And 'tis at the same time a most excellent means of obtaining mercy for ourselves also, whilst we show this mercy to them: 'for the merciful shall obtain mercy,' Matt. xi. 7. `'tis making to ourselves friends, who when we fail, may receive us into everlasting habitations,' Luke xvi. 9.
Consider 3rdly, that this charity which we owe to the souls of the faithful departed, is not only exercised by praying for them, but also by fasting or other penitential austerities, offered up to God in their behalf for the remission of their sins, as likewise by alms-deeds, performed with the like intention, according to the religious customs of former ages, and the practice of our pious ancestors, in their doles at the funerals of the dead. But the most effectual means of all to purge them from their sins, and to bring them to their God, is the offering up for them the great sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, and presenting to God in their favour that most sacred victim, by which was cancelled the hand-writing which was against us, and a general atonement was made for all our sins. In the old law, the high priests once a-year, viz., on the solemn feast of expiation, (Lev. xvi.,) carried the blood of victims into the sanctuary, to make atonement for the sins of the people; but this was but a figure of what was done by our high priest, who is gone out for all into the sanctuary of heaven, not with the blood of goats or calves, but with his own most sacred blood, shed here upon earth for our sins; and now ceasing not to exhibit the same to his Father, both by himself in heaven, where he makes continual intercession for us, and here by his ministers in the sacred mysteries. This blood pleads strongly for the remission of our sins; this is the source of all mercy and grace; this is plentifully applied to the souls, both of the living and the dead, by the great sacrifice of the altar.
Conclude to assist, to the best of thy power, the souls of the faithful departed, both by prayers, alms, and this holy oblation of the blood of Christ. Thy charity for them may stand thee in great stead, when their case shall come to be thy own. But remember withal, that the best thing thou canst do is to work now all thou canst for thyself, whilst thou hast time, and to do full penance for thy sins in this life, that thy soul may not stand in need of these helps hereafter.
Consider first, how often God has declared in his word, that all his people ought to be saints. 'Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy,' was what he perpetually inculcated in the Old Testament; and in the New, the Son of God calls upon us all, Matt. v. 48: 'Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.' All Christians are 'called to be saints,' Rom. i. 7; 'to be holy and without blemish in the sight of God in charity,' Eph. i. 4; 'a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people,' 1 Pet. ii. 9. Hence the name of saints is appropriated by St. Paul to all Christians, as if it were the same thing to be a Christian and to be a saint; which shows that, according to the doctrine of the apostle, all Christians, as such, are at least obliged to endeavour to be saints. This obligation is grounded upon the sanctity of the God whom we serve, of the gospel law under which we live, of the holy institute which we profess, of the great master whom we follow, of the divine sacraments and sacrifice which we frequent; and of that sacred dedication and consecration by which God has sanctified our souls for himself. O let us never forget the many motives we have to be saints!
Consider 2ndly, that our being saints is not merely a matter of counsel, or of greater perfection - 'tis a strict commandment; 'tis implied in the very first and chiefest of all God's commandments. For though all are not commanded to work miracles, nor to exercise extraordinary austerities; nor to retire into deserts, to spend the whole time there in prayer; nor to sell all they have, and give it to the poor, & c., (for there have been many very great saints that have done none of these things): yet all are commanded to love God with their whole heart, and with their whole soul, and with their whole mind, and with their whole strength. Now this it is that makes saints, and this is of strict obligation to all. Do this, my soul, keep this commandment, and thou also shalt be a saint; but without this, none of those other things, nor all of them together, can make any one a saint. Christians, reflect on the perfection and sanctity which is required of you all by this great commandment of divine love. To love the Lord our God with our whole heart, and all its affections; with our whole soul, and all its powers; with our whole mind, by directing all our thoughts to him; and with our whole strength, by dedicating to him all our actions. O this is to be saints indeed! Now, this our God calls for; and nothing less will satisfy him; it is the very first of his commandments.
Consider 3rdly, upon how many titles this great God challenges our whole hearts and souls, by love and service; and consequently that we should be truly saints; that is, a people sanctified, and consecrated to him. 1. We are his children; and therefore ought to bear some resemblance to our Father, by an imitation of his sanctity. 2. Our souls are espoused to him, and aspire to an eternal union with him: now, whatsoever is disagreeable to true sanctity defiles the soul and disqualifies her for that happy union. 3. We are his temples - the temples of God must be every holy. 4. We are the members of Jesus Christ, we are ingrafted in him, we are to live by his spirit, which is the spirit of sanctity. 5. We absolutely belong to God by our creation; he gave us our being, and gave it to us for no other end but that we should be saints. 6. The Son of God delivered himself up for us, by his passion and death, that he might wash us from all our sins in his own blood, and make us a kingdom of priest, (that is, saints,) to God and his Father, Apoc. 1. 5,6. In fine, by our baptismal vows, by our dedication to God at that time, by our frequent participation of the body and blood of Christ in the divine sacrament, in consequence of which we ought to abide in Christ, the God of all sanctity, and live by him; and by innumerable other titles, we belong to God; and are strictly obliged to give our whole holiness and justice all the days of our lives. And labouring in earnest to be saints; and that it is both the will and the commandment of God?
Conclude to begin, from this very hour, a new and saintly life, by yielding thyself up a perpetual servant to divine love, and striving henceforward to make a daily progress in this heavenly virtue. This is the shortest and surest way to all sanctity and perfection.
Consider first, that if our Lord calls upon us all to be saints, and even commands us all to be saints - he, that never commands impossibilities, furnishes us also with the means which, if we make good use of them, will make us saints. Witness those manifold graces and spiritual helps which he continually favours us with, by which if we duly correspond, we should all be saints. Witness that early knowledge he has given us of his heavenly truths, and those repeated invitations with which he sweetly presses us to turn from our sins and to come to him. O if we did but welcome these first divine calls, how quickly would they produce in our souls strong desires of dedicating ourselves in good earnest to divine love! Now, such strong desires as these are the beginning of true
wisdom, and the very foundation of all sanctity. For since God desires we should be saints, if we also sincerely desire it, the work will be done. Strong desires will make us earnest in prayer; they will make us diligent and fervent in spiritual exercises. Strong desires will make us labour in earnest; we shall spare no pains in the acquisition of virtue, if our desires are strong indeed. Such desires as these are that 'hunger and thirst after justice' recommended by our Lord, which never fail of being filled, Matt. v. 6. Who can complain of wanting the means to become saints when strong desires may do the work?
Consider 2ndly, the many particular helps to sanctity which we meet with everywhere in the church of God, which, as they have already made many great saints in every state and condition of life, are capable of doing as much for us; and will not fail of doing it, if we are not wanting to God and to ourselves, by the abuse or neglect of them. Such are the sacraments, those conduits of divine grace, instituted by Jesus Christ on purpose to make us saints, Such, in particular, is that most holy sacrament and divine sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, which we have always amongst us, and may daily approach, to the very fountain of all sanctity. O my soul, one good and perfect Communion might suffice to make thee a saint! Such again is the Word of God, which is so often preached to us, or read by us; the truths of eternity so often set before us; the gospel of Jesus Christ; the lives of the saints; the great examples of the living servants of God; the mysteries relating to our redemption, which we so often celebrate in the public worship of the church, in such manner as to make them as it were present to the eyes of our souls; with abundance of other spiritual advantages, which are continually found in the communion of the true church of Christ. O Christians, let us never complain of our wanting the means to become saints, when we have so many powerful graces and helps always at hand! If we are not saints it musts be entirely our own fault. And what an account shall we have one day to give for all these graces and helps, if we do not make good use of them?
Consider 3rdly, that in order to be saints, nothing is required on our parts but what God on his part will make sweet and easy to us, 'for his yoke is sweet, and his burthen is light.' We may apply to his commandment of our being saints what is written, Deut. xxx.11, & c., 'This commandment that I command thee this day is not above thee, nor far off from thee, nor is it in heaven to bring it to us; nor is it beyond the sea, that thou mayest excuse thyself and say, which of us can cross the sea, and bring it unto us. But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.' Yes, Christians, our God is very near us; he is the very centre of our souls. With him are all the treasures of grace and sanctity; with him is the law of love; he is all love; he is a consuming fire, the property of which is to destroy all our vices, and to transform our souls into himself. He is the inexhaustible source of all our good. We have no need then to go far to find divine love, which makes saints, since we have the very source of it within us; 'tis but turning into our own interior, by the diligent practice of recollection and mental prayer, and there we shall quickly meet with our God, and with his love, which will make all duties and all labours sweet and easy to us. This is the shortest way to all good, and the most effectual means to make us saints.
Conclude to embrace and put in practice all these means of sanctity, which divine providence continually presents thee with. Open the door of thy heart to every grace with which God visits thee, and cooperate with it to the full extent of thy power. Nourish in thy soul a great desire, a perfect hunger and thirst after the love of God, and all Christian perfection. Meditate often; read good books; be fervent in prayer, and in frequenting the sacraments. but particularly aim at a spirit of recollection, and a continual attention to God in thy own interior, and frequent aspirations of love, and thou shalt quickly become a saint.
Consider first, the error of a great many Christians, in placing sanctity in such things as indeed are no part of it. Thus some suppose that in order to be a saint one must work miracles: now, St. John the Baptist was one of the greatest of saints, and yet wrought no miracles, St. John x. 41. And indeed, one single act of humility, or self-denial, or of the love of God, goes farther towards the making a saint than even the raising the dead to life. Others again vainly imagine that sanctity consists in having visions, revelations and ecstasies, or in the gifts of prophecy, of tongues, of an eminent knowledge of the most sublime and divine truths; because they often meet with such things as these in the lives of saints. But none of these things made them saints; and they have been even found in such as were not saints: whilst, on the other hand, many eminent saints have had none of them; neither ought any humble Christian to desire, or to seek for such things as these; though every Christian ought to desire and endeavour to be a saint. Nor does sanctity consist in much fasting, or in wearing hair shirts, or in taking disciplines, or in giving large alms, or in reciting long prayers, or in any other extraordinary practices or observances; all which, however good in themselves, have been found in hypocrites, or in such as have been all the while slaves to pride, self-love, and passion. But true sanctity consists in unfeigned charity in both its branches, that is, as it regards both the love of God, and of our neighbours. It consists in conformity with the will of God in all things, and adhering close to him; it consists in being humble of heart, and sincerely despising ourselves; it consists in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross and following Christ. Such as do these things are saints; where any of these are wanting there is no sanctity.
Consider 2ndly, that sanctity does not so much depend upon doing extraordinary actions, as upon doing our ordinary actions extraordinary well. Our life passes away in the daily ordinary actions, which take up our time from morning till night; such as our rising, our morning exercise, our daily labours, or the business of our calling, our regular devotions, and spiritual lectures, our meals, our conversation, the employment of our thoughts when our hands are at work, our examination of conscience at night, and our evening exercise, & c. Now, if all these daily performances are done extraordinary well, our whole time will be spent extraordinary well; and nothing more will be required to make us saints. Neither will it cost us more to do them well than to do them ill; on the contrary, the better we perform them, and the more diligent and fervent we are in them, the more easy and delightful they will be to us: and the grace of God and his blessing will go along with all we do. O! how inexcusable then are we, my soul, if we do not strive to be saints, when we may attain to this happiness, even by our daily ordinary actions, provided we perform them with due perfection!
Consider 3rdly, that the perfection of our ordinary actions depends upon the purity of intention with which we perform them; on our attention to God, in all that we do; and our seasoning all our labours and employments with frequent aspirations and ejaculations of divine love; and frequent aspirations and ejaculations of divine love; and frequent oblations of our selves and of all that we do to God. 'By thy ordinance the day goeth on,' saith the royal prophet, Ps. cxviii. 91, 'for all things serve thee.' Yes, my soul, all things continually serve the Lord but the rebel angels and the rebellious will of man. Now this rebellious will of ours we bring to serve him by beginning the day with an oblation of our whole selves to him; by directing all our thoughts, words, and actions by a pure intention to his glory; by making his holy will the rule of all we do; by beginning every work with an offering of what we are going to do, together with an offering of our heart to him; and by often renewing this offering in the midst of our works; by doing all our actions as much as we can in his presence; and by intermingling acts of divine love with all we do. Thus shall our days be found to be full days; thus shall they all go on by God's ordinance; thus shall they all serve him.
Conclude to take great care to give all thy ordinary actions their due perfection, by following these rules. And as to thy daily employments, and all the business and labours of thy lawful calling, ever consider them as appointed thee by the holy will of God; and ever perform them in compliance with and in obedience to his heavenly will; thus thou mayest make them all acts of virtue, and even acts of divine love. And if these thy daily employments be laborious or otherwise mortifying, or disagreeable to thy self-love, thou mayest also make them acts of penance, by accepting of them as imposed upon thee by God, for thy sins; and offering them up to God, in union with the labour and sufferings of Jesus Christ, for thy sins.
Consider first, that the Christian religion is in the nature of a religious order or institute, founded by Jesus Christ our Lord, and taking its name from him. The Son of God himself came down from heaven to be the founder of the Christian order. Its origin is heavenly; its rule is heavenly; being God's own word and the gospel of his Son. Its tendency is heavenly: it tends to deliver us from all those evils, both with regard to time and eternity, in which we are unhappily involved by our first parents' transgression, particularly from the death of sin, and from the second death of hell - and to bring us to our sovereign good, to all perfection and sanctity here, and to our true and eternal life hereafter. The means it furnishes us with for this end are also heavenly: such as the communications of divine grace; the sacred mysteries and sacraments, of divine institution: the daily conversation of God by prayer, and the communion of the saints, or a happy association with all holy persons in all holy things. The Christian makes his solemn religious profession at the foot of the altar, at his baptism; there he engages himself by vows to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to lead an innocent and saintly life; there he receives for his habit the white robe, denoting cleanness of heart and innocence, with a charge to keep it all his lifetime without spot or stain; there he puts on Jesus Christ, by a new birth, in order to a new and spiritual life, that he may know no death. O! can anything then be more holy than the sacred institute of the Christian order; where the founder, the rule, the exercises, the vows, the habit, and the whole manner of life that it requires are all most heavenly and divine!
Consider 2ndly, the blindness and misery of the greatest part of Christians, who live in a strange insensibility of the excellence of the Christian religion, of the obligations of it, and the sanctity it requires of them, in consequence of the alliance it gives them with the whole blessed Trinity. The dignity of a Christian is indeed very great. He has the honour to be enrolled in the service of the great king. He is made his domestic, his friend, his favourite. But this is not all; he is even adopted, through Jesus Christ, to be a child of God, and an heir of his eternal kingdom: he is ingrafted and incorporated with Christ, and made a member of that mystical body, of which the Son of God is the head; he is made a partaker of his spirit; of his kingdom and priestly unction, and in some measure of his divine nature. The grace of Christianity is so great that the apostle, writing to the Ephesians, seem to want words to express it. He calls it 'the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the mystery hidden from eternity in God,' Eph. iv. 8, 9, with a great deal more to the like purpose, as well with relation to the exceeding great goodness of God, manifested in his calling us, without any desert of ours, to so great a grace as this of the Christian religion, as also with regard to the incomprehensible advantage which this grace entitles us to. But oh! may we not too justly apply to the greatest part of those who are called to all these advantages that of the royal prophet, Ps. xlviii. 21, 'Man when he was in honour did not understand; he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them.' Alas! this seems to be the case of millions of Christians.
Consider 3rdly, that our eternal welfare absolutely depends upon our living up to the character of a Christian, and to the duties and obligations of the Christian religion, in particular those we have taken upon us by our baptismal vows, and which are insisted upon as essential, by our holy rule and founder. These are all reduced into a small compass, in those words of the psalmist: 'Turn away from evil, and do good.' This is a short abstract of the whole duty of a Christian. The first part requires a settled determination of the soul never to commit a wilful sin for any consideration whatsoever, no not even if life itself were at stake. The second part requires a constant attention to do the will of God in all things, and to advance every day in the love of God. Do this, my soul, and thou shalt be a Christian indeed; persevere in this until death, and thou shalt receive the crown of eternal life.
Conclude henceforward to have always before thy eyes both the dignity and the sanctity of the character of a Christian, and to show it forth in thy life, lest otherwise it rise in judgment against thee, and prove thy greater condemnation on that day when thou shalt be called upon to give an account of thy stewardship.
Consider first, those words of the Son of God, John viii. 12, 'i am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.' Poor man by sin had forfeited the true light, he was fallen from the light of truth and life, when he fell from his God; he was fallen into the darkness of ignorance, error, and vice, and was sitting in the shadow of death. God sent the true light from heaven, 'which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world, when he sent his Son from heaven, in the bowels of his mercy, as the orient (or dayspring) from on high to visit us, to enlighten them that sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to direct our feet in the way of peace,' Luke i. 78, 79. Jesus Christ then came from heaven to be our light; to enlighten our souls with the light of his heavenly truth; to bring us forth from the darkness of our errors and vices, to impart to us the light of faith as a lamp to shine unto us, in this dark place of this wretched world, till the true day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts, 2 Pet. i. 19; to give us here the light of his divine grace, for the time of our mortal pilgrimage, and to bring us hereafter to the light of glory, where, in the light of God, we shall see God the light for all eternity. Embrace, my soul, this light that comes down from heaven to visit thee, and see thou follow it in the whole conduct of thy life. O take care lest thou incur the judgment of condemnation by the light's coming into the world, and thy loving darkness rather than the light, John iii. 19.
Consider 2ndly, that Jesus Christ came down from heaven to enlighten the world, both with his heavenly doctrine and with his heavenly life. he came from God to be our teacher, and to open in our favour his school of heavenly truths, truths to which the world was quite a stranger at that time, and which the children of this world, who being blinded with their passions, love darkness more than light, will not understand even to this day, because they will not come to this great light, lest their works should be reproved by it, 'for their works are evil,' John iii. 19, 20. This light of Christ reproves our self-love and all its unhappy offspring, with all our darling inclinations and affections; it confute's all the maxims of flesh and blood, and all the errors we are so apt to entertain, with relation to worldly honour, interest, and pleasure. It discovers to us the emptiness and vanity, the mere nothing of all that passes away with time, and shows us that nothing is truly great, or deserves our esteem or affection, but what is eternal. This light of Christ teaches us to know both God and ourselves; it teaches us all virtues, poverty of spirit, humility, self-denial, meekness, patience, penance, conformity to the will of God and divine charity: it shows us the way to all perfection, and to a happy eternity; it conducts to our God himself, and to the light of life that is with him.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to come at the light of life, we must follow Christ, not only by believing his doctrine, but by walking in his footsteps, and by an imitation of his virtues. 'We must imitate his life and manners,' says a holy man, 'if we would be truly enlightened and delivered from all blindness of heart; let it then be our chiefest study to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.' A Kempis, L. i. c. i. Yes, Christians, by often meditating on the life of Christ, we shall learn how we ought to behave on all occasions; the bright light of his virtues will show us what we are to avoid, and from what we are to fly, as well as what we are to embrace, and what we are to follow on every occasion. 'He is the way, the truth, and the life,' St. John xiv. 6. The light of his life shining on us, by the means of daily meditation, will conduct us into this way, will guide us to this truth, and will bring us safe to this life, even to the very fountain's head of eternal life.
Conclude to follow henceforward in the practice of thy life, the heavenly light both of the doctrine and of the example of Jesus Christ. Walk after him and his light, and thou shalt neither walk in darkness here, nor go into darkness hereafter. This following the light of Christ, will bring thee to the happy society of the children of light, in the region of light everlasting.
Consider first, O my soul, and open thy eyes to the great light of this divine sentence of thy Saviour: 'One thing is necessary.' It will be of infinite service to thee to dispel the darkness and mists that encompass thee on all sides, and to direct all thy steps to the sovereign truth, to the sovereign good. Alas! what a multiplicity of cares and concerns about empty vanities and worldly toys, is apt to take up our whole mind and heart. What a variety of amusements distract our thoughts! In what a dissipation do we generally live! How little is there of God in our daily conversation! How few of our words or actions are referred to him! Oh! 'tis too true that we let everything else take the place of that only business for which we came into this world! And yet all this other variety and multiplicity which employs all our thoughts, words, and actions, is just nothing at all to our purpose, whereas upon that one business our all depends for all eternity.
Consider 2ndly, what this one thing necessary is, that is here recommended by our Lord. Doubtless, 'tis nothing else but the dedicating ourselves to the love and service of our God, in order to the securing the eternal salvation of our souls. O! 'vanity of vanities, and all is vanity, but the loving of God, and the serving him alone.' - Kempis. Yes, my soul this is our only business, this is the business for which alone we came into this world; nothing else deserves to be called our business; whatever our employment or calling be in the world, it must be ever subordinate to this great business; all our thoughts, words, and deeds, should ever tend to God, and to our eternal salvation. Whatever takes us off from attending to this great business is hurtful, it is pernicious to us; whatever has no tendency to this one thing necessary, is all quite idle and vain. O, 'what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' Matt. xvi. 26.
Consider 3rdly, those words of our saviour, Matt. vi. 33, 'seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.' This kingdom of God, which we are here commanded to seek in the first place, is the kingdom of grace in our souls, 'tis the kingdom of divine love this kingdom of God is within us, Luke xvii. 21. It must be established in our own interior. This justice of God is that by which he makes us just indeed, through the merits of the blood of his Son Jesus Christ the just; `'tis the charity of God which is poured forth into our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us,' Rom. v. 5. This kingdom of divine love, this justice and charity of God in our souls, we must continually aspire to; this must be the first and greatest object of our longing desires; this we must seek with all our power, for this we must always pray with all the fervour of our hearts. And as to all things else, as far as they are proper and necessary for us, our heavenly Father will not fail to furnish us with them. We have his divine word engaged for it.
Conclude to follow, in the practice of thy life, these divine lessons of light and truth, by considering henceforward the love and service of thy God, and the salvation of thy soul, as thy only business, and all other concerns, compared with this, as nothing to thee. O take care of this one thing necessary and all shall be will with thee, both for time and eternity.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
Liturgia Latina Index