Consider first, that as the forgetting of God is the source of all sins, so the remembrance of his divine presence is the source of all our good - 'tis of infinite advantage both to sinners and to saints; it is a sovereign and universal remedy for overcoming all sorts of temptations, by its placing the soul near the source of all light and grace, and hiding her as it were under the divine wings; and it is putting at the same time a most powerful and effectual restraint upon her from daring to offend that tremendous majesty. For who shall dare by sin to commit high treason against God who sees God before him, and himself surrounded with God? Or who shall dare to affront the divine justice who has a lively sense of its being so very near him, and that it stands always turned against wilful sinners? O, 'tis true that the consideration of the eye of God being always upon us has obliged the most abandoned sinners to put a stop at once to their wicked ways, and to betake themselves to a life of penance. It was the case of the famous Thais, who, upon this consideration, suddenly determined to quit both her sins and the world, and to withdraw herself into the remotest parts of the desert, where, shut up in a lonesome cell, she spent the remainder of her days in weeping and doing penance for her sins.
Consider 2ndly, that a lively sense of the presence of God excites us also to perform all our works with due perfection, in order to please him, whose eye is always upon us; as the master's eye makes the servant more diligent. It helps to purity our intention in all things by drawing it to God. It cures our lukewarmness; it dissipates our distractions; it teaches us to pray; it makes us fervent in all our addresses to the divine majesty; it keeps us humble on all occasions, and perfectly annihilates the soul, seeing herself placed so near to so great a God. And as the soul that has a due sense of the presence of God knows that wheresoever he is he has all his attributes with him - his almighty power, his infinite wisdom, goodness, and mercy, his perpetual providence and loving kindness for his children, together with all the treasures of his divine grace: such a soul as this finds in the thoughts of God's presence a source of unspeakable comfort in all her tribulations, of counsel in all her doubts, of succour in all her necessities, and a continual attraction to the love of him. O how easy must it be to a saint with such helps as these. Now all these graces and more are laid up for thee, my soul, if thou wilt duly exercise thyself in the presence of God.
Consider 3rdly, the practical inferences we ought to make from our faith of the presence of God; that is, what we are bound to do in consequence of our believing that God is everywhere with us, and in us: 1. God's being everywhere requires of us that we should everywhere take notice of his presence. For can there be an object more worthy of our attention? And will he not then be justly offended if, while we amuse ourselves about every trifle that comes in our way, we let our God, the sovereign beauty and the sovereign good, pass unregarded? 2. God being everywhere present requires of us both a modest comportment on all occasions as to our exterior: 'Let your modesty,' says St. Paul, (Philip. iv. 5,) 'be known to all men, the Lord is nigh;' and a most profound respect as to our interior, considering that infinite majesty in whose sight we stand. 3. God being everywhere present, everywhere requires our love; for wherever we are we have him with us, who is infinitely lovely and infinitely loving; infinitely good in himself and infinitely good to us; and therefore, wherever we are he challenges our love. O turn thyself then, my soul, from all these earthly toys to this thy sovereign good, which is so near to thee; run to his embraces and dedicate thyself entirely to his divine love.
Conclude never to regret thy being alone since thou hast always in thy company that great God, the sight and enjoyment of whom is the eternal felicity of the angels. No company can be more honourable, none more advantageous, since thou hast here the inexhausted source of all good. His conversation is most delightful; the sweetest repose is to be found in him; all other recreations are vain if compared with this.
Consider first, that obedience is a virtue which teaches us readily to embrace and diligently to put in execution whatever is commanded us, either immediately by God himself, or by our lawful superiors, who have their authority from God, and whom he wills and commands us to submit to as to himself, and to obey for his sake, 1 Peter ii. 13. This virtue, like humility, her mother, is the special favourite of heaven, as God has abundantly declared, by preferring on many occasions our obedience before all other sacrifices we can offer him. 'Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims,' said Samuel to Saul, 1 Sam. xv. 22, 23, 'and not rather that his voice should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams; because it is like the sin of witchcraft to rebel, and like the crime of idolatry to refuse to obey,' viz., inasmuch as disobedience gives away from God and makes over to his enemy the best offering our poor stock can afford - that is, our will: now, our will he chiefly calls for, and whatsoever else we give him it is all nothing as long as we refuse to give him our will by obedience. The sacrifice of our hearts he calls for, and not for that of our flocks, or of any other things we can give him, without obedience.
Consider 2ndly, how precious in the sight of God this virtue of obedience must be, since he singled it out amongst all virtues, to be the proper exercise of our first parents, immediately upon their creation in the earthly paradise; that by the acts of it they might acknowledge their dependence on their creator, show their inviolable fidelity to him, and merit, by their perseverance in obedience, an eternal union with him. The happiness or misery, both of them and of all their posterity, that is of all mankind, both for time and eternity, was to be determined by their obedience or disobedience. But O the dismal train of evils they have entailed upon us all, by withdrawing their necks from the sweet yoke of obedience! - evils that must have been without remedy for eternity, had not the obedience of the second Adam stept in to cancel the disobedience of the first Adam: according to that of the apostle, Rom. v. 19, 'As by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many shall be made just.' The disobedience of the first parents of our flesh involved us all in sin; the obedience of the true parent of our spirit has purchased all mercy, grace, and salvation for our souls. But all this good purchased for us by the obedience to him, who because 'the cause of eternal salvation to all that obey him,' Heb. v. 9.
Consider 3rdly, that all such as have pleased God from the beginning, have all been eminent in the virtue of obedience. This joined with faith made Abraham the favourite of God, and procured for him that all generations should be blessed in his seed. This was the virtue of all the patriarchs and prophets, and of all the saints of God. 'Rather to die than not to obey,' was the general maxim of all the saints. But the great pattern of obedience was the Saint of saints, whose whole life, from the first instant of his conception till his expiring upon the cross, was one continued exercise of the most consummate obedience. All the thoughts, words, and actions of his mortal life were the fruits of obedience: they were all levelled at doing his Father's will and obeying his commandments. 'I came down from heaven,' says he, John vi. 38, 'not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work,' John iv. 34. 'I seek not my own will, but the will of him that sent me,' John v. 30. 'I lay down my life of myself, and I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father,' John x. 18. 'I have not spoken of myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak,' & c., John xii. 49. 'He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,' Philip. ii. 8, that we might enter into the like sentiments of perpetual obedience and humility, (verse 5). and shall not this great example of the Son of God himself, inspire us with an ardent desire of living and dying in the arms of obedience?
Conclude if thou desirest to please God, to offer him continually the sacrifice of thy heart, will, and liberty, by perfect obedience to God himself, for his own sake, 'and to every human creature for God's sake,' 1 Pet. ii. 13, that is, to all that have authority from God over thee, whether in church or in state. In obeying them, thou obeyest God, Luke x. 16; in resisting them, thou 'resistest the ordinance of God to thy own damnation,' Rom. xiii. 2.
Consider first, that one of the deepest wounds sin has left in the soul of man is a love of independence; a desire of being his own master; and of living, and acting, according to his own inclinations, without being controlled by rule, or law, or by the will of any other. Ah! here is the seat of pride, the throne of self-love, and the source of all the worst of our passions. Now the virtue that heals this wound is holy obedience, which strikes at the root of all these evils; inasmuch as it cast down that pride which always affects liberty and independence; drives self-love out of all its intrenchments; keeps all the passions under, by obliging them all to submit to the will and law of God, and to the command of every vicegerent of his; and ceases not till it has bound up that tyrant self-will, and laid him as a holocaust, to burn and evaporate on the altar of God. And are not these, my soul, most admirable fruits, which this blessed obedience produces, by a resolute subjection of our own will to the will of God, and to every lawful superior for God's sake?
Consider 2ndly, what mischief is continually produced in the soul by self-will wherever it reigns, to the end thou mayest set a greater value upon the virtue of obedience, which gets the victory over this hellish monster, the source of all our vices. Give ear to St. Bernard (Serm. 3 de Resurrect.), 'Self-will,' says he, 'is a perpetual enemy to God; it wages a most cruel war against him. What does God hate? What does he punish at any time but self-will: take away self-will, and there shall be no hell: for what is there that raging fire can take hold on but self-will? This fury attacks the Lord of majesty; it withdraws itself from his command, making itself its own master; and as much as lies in it, it robs him of all that is his.' He adds, that it sets no bounds to its pretensions, that 'the whole creation cannot satisfy its demands, that it sets itself up in opposition to the creator himself.' Yes, Christians, but this is not all: where this monster reigns it does not only fill the soul with all kinds of evils; it even blasts and corrupts the very best of her actions: inasmuch that where a man does not strive to overcome himself, and to subdue self-will, his virtue will be found to be false and counterfeit, and all his labours in the service of God or his neighbours useless and fruitless, as being only the productions of his own humour, his pride, and self-love; and not done for God. See then, my soul, how much it imports thee to get rid of this self-will, this mother of all mischief; and to acquire a perfect victory over it by the virtue of obedience.
Consider 3rdly, the other manifold blessings that attend the true children of obedience, as fruits of this excellent tree. A life of perpetual obedience is a perpetual victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil: according to that of the wise man, Prov. xxi. 28, 'an obedient man shall speak of victory: whereas the disobedient man is a slave to these enemies.' Obedience is a perpetual sacrifice, like a whole burnt-offering, by which a man offers his will and all its offspring to God. 'Tis a daily growing store of virtue and merit; it gives a double value to all our good actions, and consecrates the most indifferent, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, & c., and makes them highly acceptable in the sight of God. It leads us directly to God, and clearly points out to us, in everything, his holy will, the unerring rule of all our good. In fine, it brings the soul to a secure and sweet peace of mind, and to a certain paradise of contentment and joy in the Lord, and in the accomplishment of his blessed will: because the more the soul seeks and loves, follows and embraces by means of holy obedience, this divine will of her God, the more she relishes his sweetness; the more confidently she flings herself into his arms - and the more securely she leaves herself and all things else to his disposal, and commits all her pretensions and interest to him. O how truly wise then are all they that embrace with their whole souls this sweet yoke of obedience! They are walking in the royal highway that leads to peace here, and to heavenly bliss hereafter.
Conclude to set a great value upon this virtue of obedience, as the eldest daughter of humility, and the nursing mother of all other virtues. In every station of life obey them to whom God has given any authority over you, as God himself: 'tis his will you should do so, and he has never shown more remarkable judgments than upon those who have refused to obey the authority established by him. The Son of God, during his whole life, was not only obedient to his Father, but also to his own creatures, to the blessed Virgin, to St. Joseph, to every one in authority, and even to his very executioners. O let us learn to imitate him.
Consider first, that there is no salvation for us, without keeping the ten commandments. They are a short abstract of that natural and eternal law, which was imprinted in the heart of man from the beginning, before the written law was delivered to the people of God. They were published by the Almighty, in a most solemn manner, from Mount Sinai, in the Old Testament; and confirmed by the Son of God in the New Testament; declaring the observance of them to be a necessary condition to everlasting life. 'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,' Matt. xix. 17. The keeping of these he will have to be the test and proof of our love of him 'if you love me, keep my commandments,' John xiv. 15. and his beloved disciple assures us (1 John ii. 4,) that 'he that saith he knoweth him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him,' chap. iii. 24. See then, my soul, that the most necessary of all devotions is to dedicate thyself to the love and observance of the commandments of God: no devotion can bring thee to God without this. This is that instrument with ten strings, so often recommended by the psalmist, which makes a most agreeable harmony in the ears of his divine majesty.
Consider 2ndly, the happiness, of every kind, that always accompanies the keeping of God's holy law and commandments; as the same royal prophet witnesses in many places, particularly in Ps. cxviii., which is full of testimonies to this effect. And in Ps. xviii, 'The law of the Lord,' saith he, 'is unspotted, converting souls: the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones; the justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts; the commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring for ever and ever: the judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves: more to be desired than gold and many precious stones, and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. For thy servant keepeth them, and in keeping them there is great reward.' What encomiums are here heaped one upon another, of the law and commandments of God, under different denominations, and of the excellent fruits that grow from the observance of them! 1. The law of God is beautiful and pure, without spot, or blemish; and it has a wonderful efficacy to turn the soul from sin to God. 2. It is faithful to what it proposes and promises, and imparts the truest of all wisdom to little ones, that is to the humble, who willingly submit their necks to its sweet yoke. 3. It is right in every tittle, agreeable to the sovereign reason, and carries with it joy to the hearts that embrace it. 4. It is full of spiritual light, to enlighten the inward eyes of the soul with divine truths. 5. It is most holy in itself, and comes from the fountain of all holiness, and makes all them holy that observe it; and endures with them for ever and ever. 6. It is true and just, as being given by the eternal truth and justice, and justifies itself by its own evidence. 7. It is more amiable and desirable than all the treasures of the universe; and more sweet and delightful than anything this world can afford by reason of the spiritual riches of virtue, grace, and merit; and the manifold consolations and inward pleasures the observance of it brings to the soul; besides the reward hereafter, which is incomprehensible and eternal.
Consider 3rdly, that the observance of the commandments of God is not only essentially necessary to salvation and every way admirable in the fruits it produces, both for this world and the next, but is indeed very sweet, and easy to men of good will. Our Lord assures us, St. Matt. xi. 30, 'that his yoke is sweet, and his burthen light:' and that instead of oppressing us with its weight, it brings refreshment and rest to our soul. and St. John (1 John x. 3) tells us, 'that this is indeed the charity, or love of God, that we keep his commandments, and that his commandments are not heavy.' Love makes all things easy that are done for the sake of the beloved; and therefore the true lover of God finds no labour in the keeping his commandments: the grace of God makes them all sweet and agreeable to him. O teach us, dear Lord, to love thee, and command what thou pleasest: thy grace will make all things easy and pleasant that are to be done or suffered for the love of thee.
Conclude to seek thy happiness, both for time and eternity, in the observance of the law and commandments of God. Nothing else can ever make thee happy. Give ear to the apostle, Rom. ii. 9, 10: 'Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil - but glory, honour, and peace to every one that worketh good.'
Consider first, the wonders of divine grace on the call and conversion of St. Matthew - changed on a sudden, from a worldling, a publican, and a sinner, to be an individual companion and disciple of Christ; and not long after advanced to be an apostle, a pillar in Christ's church, a preacher, powerful in word and work: a worker of wonderful miracles, a father and converter of nations: an evangelist, or writer of the gospel; and, in a word, a most eminent saint. O! glorify God, who has wrought all these wonders, to manifest to all generations his infinite power, mercy, and goodness; and learn from this example never to despair of the conversion of any one, how remote soever he may seem to be at present from following Christ. The arm of God is not shortened: his power, mercy, and goodness are as infinite now as ever; he is equally both able and willing to call poor sinners, and to convert them to himself. But, alas! our misfortune is, we are not so ready as Matthew was, to attend to his heavenly calls, and to correspond with his inspirations and graces; we prefer the sitting still in the custom-house of the world, entangled in many vain and sinful affections to empty earthly toys; before the rising up without delay to follow Christ who calls us to him. O how pernicious are all those affections, which keep us from Christ?
Consider 2ndly, the lessons St. Matthew gives us in his conversion. 1. By his immediately rising up at the first call, to correspond with his whole heart with the grace of God. How often have we been called to be disciples of Christ? And have we ever yet followed the call in good earnest? This 'follow thou me,' with which our Lord called Matthew, is indeed addressed by him to all Christians; inasmuch as we are all called to be his followers: for the very name of Christian implies as much as followers of Christ: and yet how few are there of those that call themselves Christians who truly follow in their lives either the doctrine, or the example of Christ! Our Lord was passing by when he called Matthew, and very probably, had that call been neglected, he might not have favoured him with the like grace another time. What obligations then have we to his bounty and mercy, for his repeated calls to us! But what have we not to apprehend, if we continue to abuse his graces by refusing to correspond with his calls! 2. St. Mathew left all to follow Christ; quitting his worldly business, upon which his livelihood depended, and whatsoever else he seemed to possess in this world. Christ does not call to us to quit the business of our lawful callings, nor to give up at once all our worldly goods, but he insists upon our taking off our hearts from all these things, and our parting with every affection that would keep us from him. He expects we should follow him, not so much by our bodily steps, as by giving him the chief place in our affections, which are as it were the seat of the soul.
Consider 3rdly, that St. Matthew, immediately upon his conversion, made a feast for our Saviour in his house, at which many publicans and sinners were present, who also followed our Lord, St. Mark ii. 15. See the force of good example, and how one perfect conversion draws many others after it. This conversion of souls was a more agreeable feast to the divine charity of our redeemer than any other entertainment St. Matthew could make for him. Christians, reflect that the Son of God expects also to feast himself with you, and to be entertained by you. 'Behold,' says he, Apocalypse iii. 20, 'I stand at the gate and knock; if any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' We entertain Christ by inviting him into our inward house, and keeping ourselves at home with him by recollection and mental prayer; we feast him by giving him our hearts, by love, by frequent and fervent oblations of all the powers of our souls and of our whole being to him; and he feast us in return, by giving himself to us. O happy feast indeed, which is in some measure a foretaste of the eternal banquet of heaven!
Conclude to imitate St. Matthew by a ready compliance with all the divine calls and inspirations; and by not suffering thyself to be kept from following Christ with thy whole soul, either by the world, or by any of its painted toys and cobwebs. Let thy example serve to draw others to him; and let the door of thy inward house be ever opened to him to entertain him, but kept close shut to all his enemies, thy vicious and irregular affections.
Consider first, that preface to the ten commandments, delivered Exodus xx. 2, 'I am the Lord thy God,' who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' and learn from thence who it is that enjoins these commandments; by what authority; and what urgent motives we have to oblige us to obey his law. It is the Lord himself, who is our lawgiver, the eternal, immense, infinite deity; the great creator of heaven and earth; who made us and all things, our God, our first beginning and our last end. And who shall dare refuse his commandments, or question his authority, or any of the manifold titles he has to our obedience? In these words he particularly inculcated the obligation the people of Israel had to keep his commandments, because he had delivered them out of the bondage of Egypt; how much more pressing motives have we Christians to oblige us to a strict observance of all his divine laws, because we have been redeemed by him from a slavery infinitely worse than that of Egypt, viz., the slavery of Satan, sin, and hell, and that by the precious blood of his only Son?
Consider 2ndly, that those words, 'I am the Lord thy God,' though not expressed in the form of a command, insinuate nevertheless the whole duty of man with regard to his God; by which he is bound to worship him, 1st, by faith, which bows down and adores God's truth; brings into captivity every understanding to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. x. 5, and cast down every proud thought or imagination that raiseth itself up against his divine word. 2ndly, by hope, which worships the almighty power, the infinite goodness and mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, and the veracity of all his divine promises, by a firm and constant reliance upon him, by building entirely on this rock, and fastening the anchor of the soul in him. 3rdly, by divine charity, by which we offer to God the sacrifice of our heart, which he chiefly calls for, by loving him in all things, and above all things. 4thly, by the virtue of religion, which considering God as our first beginning and our last end, daily worships him in spirit and truth, by adoration, praise, and thanksgiving; by an oblation of ourselves to his holy will, and of all things else to his glory; by joining in the offering of the great sacrifice of the death and passion of his Son; and by frequent and fervent prayer. See, my soul, thou never neglect any part of this Christian worship which thy God expects at thy hand.
Consider 3rdly, that by this commandment, 'Thou shalt not have strange gods before me,' we are not only called upon to turn away from all false gods to the true and living God, and to renounce all that kind of ungodliness, which may any way corrupt his worship with superstition or error, but also to make it the great business of our lives to be truly godly, by a serious application of our whole souls to the love and service of our maker. For what will it avail to know God, if we do not glorify him as God, nor serve him? Will not this be detaining the truth of God in injustice? Rom. i. 6. The great end of our creation was to glorify God, and to dedicate our whole lives to his service - we have, properly speaking, no other business upon earth; if we discharge ourselves well of this great duty, we are truly godly, and fulfil the first commandment. But alas! how many thousands are there that call themselves Christians, who live and die in a notorious breach of this great commandment, by neglecting and forgetting their God, and giving to everything else the preference before him and his service!
Conclude to have always before thy eyes the worship thou owest to thy God by this first commandment; and in consequence of it, to consecrate the days of thy pilgrimage to his divine love and service. This is the whole duty of man.
Consider first, that the making or worshipping of any idol is also forbidden by this divine commandment, by which name is understood any image or other thing that is set up to be served or honoured as God, or with any part of divine honour. Because our God is a jealous God, and will not allow his honour to be given to any other. As to that kind of idolatry which consists in the setting up of stocks and stones, there is no great danger of Christians incurring any such guilt as this: because, as it was long ago foretold by the prophets, (Isaia ii. 18, & c.,) that kind of idol worship has for many ages been abolished in all nations where Christianity has been preached by the apostles and their successors, the pastors and teachers of the Catholic church. The idols that are more to be apprehended in these our days are of another kind, viz., those of wicked imaginations, errors, and heresies; framed not by the hands, but by the heads of proud,
self-conceited men, deluded themselves, and seeking to delude as many others as they can, with the inventions of their own brain or the suggestions of Satan, which they set up and worship for divine truths, and father upon the word of God, in spite of the church of God and its authority, so strongly established and recommended by that divine word. Ah! Christians, beware of ever making to yourselves or bowing down yourselves to any such idols as these. But let the truth of God, promised you by the church of God, be ever the object and rule of your faith and worship.
Consider 2ndly, the danger of another kind of idols, formed not by the brain, but by the disorderly affections of the heart, which too many, who call themselves Christians, daily prefer before the living God, and set up in opposition to him in his very sanctuary, that is in the temple of their own souls, which at their baptism was consecrated to God. 'Tis the case of all the proud and ambitions, who make idols of their worldly honours: 'tis the case of all the worshippers of Mammon, the great god of worldlings, and of all the lovers of pleasure more than of God. All these in the language of St. Paul are idolaters, because they all 'worship and serve the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed for ever,' Rom. i. 25. And thou, my soul, hast thou no share in this kind of idolatry? Are there no idols of this sort set up in thy inward house, to confront the living God? Is there no predominant passion or affection there which takes the place of God, by drawing thee to offend him? Alas, how often have the very meanest of worldly toys and vanities been preferred by thee before him! And as to that idol self, the continual object of the worship of self-love and self-will, art thou not daily sacrificing thy God and all things else to this insatiable monster? 'Tis well if thou art not.
Consider 3rdly, that not only direct idolatry, but also all superstition, is forbidden by the first commandment. of this crime all those, in the first place, are highly guilty who seek any knowledge or cure, help or assistance, from the enemy of God and man, by making use of any such instruments or means as can have no effect of their own nature, or any otherwise than by his interposition. For in all these cases, there is a correspondence kept up, and a secret compact made with Satan or his agents, and consequently a high treason committed against the divine majesty. 2ndly, the guilt of superstition is likewise incurred by the observance of lucky and unlucky days, omens, dreams, & c. For all these are relics of paganism, and serve for nothing but to delude the soul, and lay her open to Satan; to take off her dependence from her God and his divine providence, and to transfer her faith to lying vanities and inventions of the devil. 3rdly, the guilt of superstition is also incurred by corrupting the truth of God's worship, by placing religion in certain empty things that have no tendency to his divine service, or to his greater glory, or by flattering one's self or others with an assurance of obtaining miraculous favours or salvation by the use or practice of any such things without any manner of warrant either of the word of God, or of the church of God. O beware, my soul of any such errors!
Conclude to renounce in practice every branch of idol worship and superstition. Cast out of the house of God which is within thee, every idol of the head and of the heart, and let the Lord Jesus reign without any rival in all the powers of thy soul. Have nothing to do with his enemy, nor with any of his inventions, nor suffer his worship to be vitiated with any mixture of falsehood and lies.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
Liturgia Latina Index