Consider first, that after that greatest and first commandment, of loving God with our whole heart and soul, the next of all the divine precepts is, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' This, saith our Lord, is like to the other; and indeed it has so necessary a connexion with it that we cannot fulfil the one without the other. 'God is charity,' says the beloved disciple, 1 John iv. 16, ‘and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.’ And again, ‘he that loved, not [his neighbour] knoweth not God, for God is charity,’ v. 8. And again, ‘if any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar,’ v. 20. These two precepts of charity by which we are commanded in the first place to love God above all things, and in the next place, to love our neighbours as ourselves, contain an abridgment of the whole duty of a Christian. They are two branches that spring from the same root, and belong to the self-same divine virtue, because the same motives that oblige us to love God for his own goodness’ sake, oblige us also to love all that are made after his image and redeemed by the blood of his Son, for the sake of their maker and redeemer. It is he that requires this love of us, and requires it in such a manner as that we should love him in our neighbours, and love them in him. O the Infinite goodness and bounty of our God! that, notwithstanding the immense distance there is betwixt him and us, he should be pleased to put us as it were upon an equality, by requiring that we should love one another with the like love, and upon the same motive, as we love himself.
Consider 2ndly, that this charity to our neighbours is so essentially necessary to salvation, that without it, though we spoke with the tongues of men and angels, had the gift of prophecy, and all knowledge of the deepest mysteries, and faith strong enough even to remove mountains, we should still be nothing; and though we should give our whole substance to the poor, and our bodies to the flames, it would profit us nothing, saith St. Paul, 1 Cor. xiii. ‘He that loveth not,’ saith St. John, 'abideth in death,’ 1 John iii. 14. 'He is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes,’ chap. ii. 11. And this charity which is so necessary to salvation, must be general; for, as we learn from our Lord in the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke x., all men, without exception of nations or opinions, are here to be considered as our neighbours: and if there should be any mortal whom we should exclude from our charity, our heavenly Father would exclude us from his mercy. Matt. xvii. 25.
Consider 3rdlv, how much our Lord takes to heart that we should have this mutual love and charity for one another. He has made it his favourite commandment; the very badge by which he would have his disciples known and distinguished. ‘I give you a commandment,’ saith he, John xiii. 34,35, 'that you love one another as I have loved you. By this shall men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ And chap. xv. 12, 'This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.’ And this mutual love for one another he desires may be so perfect that it may in some measure resemble the love and union that there is between him and his Father; as he has declared in that heavenly prayer that he made for his disciples, John xvii. 20,21. 'And not for them only,’ said he, ‘do I pray, but for them also, who, through their word shall believe in me; that they all may be one as thou Father in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou best sent me' This mutual love, this union and charity, he inculcates in these strong terms in this last confidence of his mortal life with his beloved disciples, that both they and we might consider it as his last dying injunction, and as a most precious legacy which he has bequeathed to us all. O my soul, embrace this legacy of love which has been thus left thee by thy Lord dying for the love of thee.
Conclude to prove thyself henceforward to be a disciple of Christ indeed, by this spirit of universal charity for all, as he has died out of charity for all. In the beginning of the church, 'the multitude of the believers had but one heart and one soul,’ Acts iv. 32. Such was their mutual love and union. O blessed charity, when shall we see thee once more reign in this manner amongst Christians?
Consider first, that charity is the queen of virtues and the most excellent of them all, according to the doctrine of the apostle, 1 Cor. xiii. 13, and this, not only as she loves God in himself but also as she loves him in our neighbours, by loving them for his sake; for, as the motive is the same in both these loves, so the virtue is the same. Hence St. Peter calls upon all Christians, 1 Peter iv. 8, 'Before all things have a constant mutual charity; for charity covereth a multitude of sins.’ And St. Paul, Colos. iii. 14, ‘Above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection .' He adds, Rom. viii. 8,10, 'that the love our neighbours is the fulfilling of the law and commandments of God,’ and Gal. v. 14, ‘that all the law is fulfilled in this one word, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Hence also St. John, the beloved disciple, both in his words and in his writings, continually inculcated this duty of loving each other, as the favourite virtue of Jesus Christ, and in a manner the whole duty of a Christian. O my soul, let us then embrace with all our affections this amiable virtue, this chief favourite of Christ and his saints; let us value it as an in estimable treasure, and be ever willing rather to lose any thing else than this blessed charity.
Consider 2ndly, that we may with truth apply to charity what the wise man writes of wisdom that 'all good things come to him together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands,’ Wisd. vii. 11. What these riches are that come through the hands of charity, we learn from the apostle, 1 Cot. xiii. 4, &c. 'Charity is patient, is kind; charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own (that is, she is not selfish,) she is not provoked to anger, she thinketh no evil, she rejoiceth not in iniquity, (that is, in any thing that is wrong,) but rejoiceth with truth, (being pleased with all that is right and true,) she beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,' &c. See, my soul, how many virtues are the constant attendants and offspring of charity. O how amiable is this character of the truly charitable Christian! O how lovely is the parent of all this heavenly train.
Consider 3rdly, that charity, in the strictest sense, is indeed a heavenly virtue; as well because she maintains her ground in heaven and receives her full perfection there, where faith and hope are no more, ('Charity,’ saith the apostle, 1 Cor. xiii. 1, 'never falleth away,’) as also because the eternal charity of the saints is no small part of their heavenly happiness; their love of God is their essential bliss, their love of one another in God, and the joy that they conceive at one another’s happiness, multiplies, as I may say, their heaven to as many fold as there are happy spirits and saints in heaven. And no wonder, since charity, even here below, when it is perfect brings with it unspeakable joy, and in a manner a heaven upon earth, by keeping all the passions under and establishing the reign of peace and joy in the soul. As on the other hand, where there is no charity the passions are all let loose; hatred, envy, jealousy, revenge, &c.; the soul is always in a storm, she is a stranger to peace, she is in confusion and darkness, and the very image of hell; where it is no small part of their misery that they cannot love.
Conclude to aspire as much as thou art able after this heavenly charity; she will teach thee whilst thou art here upon earth to emulate the love of the blessed in heaven; she alone will bring thee to their happy company.
Consider first, that the charity which we owe to our neighbour, like that by which we love God, is in the nature of a fire, which is ever in motion, and must be kept alive by being nourished with its proper fuel by the means of repeated acts and these not exercised only by affection, but by effects: 'My little children,’ saith St. John, 1 John iii. 15, 'let us love, not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth.’ Fraternal charity is not a love of concupiscence, it is not selfish love that looks no further than at the honour, profit, or pleasure which may accrue to one’s self from our neighbours; it is a love of a sincere benevolence; now, as it is the nature of the love of benevolence to desire, to seek, to procure, and to promote whatever may be for the real good of the person beloved, to be delighted with all that is to his advantage, and to be concerned at all that hurts him: so this benevolent love which we owe to out neighbours, by virtue of the precept of fraternal charity, is to be kept alive in our souls by repeated acts of its own kind, by frequently exercising in favour of our neighbours as well the spiritual as the corporal works of mercy, with a pure intention of God’s glory and their welfare, by bewailing their errors and vices, by earnestly praying for their conversion and salvation, and neglecting nothing in our power to procure it. Do we evidence our charity for our neighbours by the exercise of such acts as these?
Consider 2ndly, that the love of true charity, which we are commanded to bear our neighbours is to love them for God’s sake, to love them in God, and in order to God. Fraternal charity is a branch of that same divine virtue by which we love God, and ought ever to be grounded upon the same divine motive of God’s own infinite goodness. No carnal, worldly, or natural affection, influenced by flesh and blood, or by any other consideration but God, can be called charity. If then we would fulfil this great precept, we must not content ourselves with loving our neighbours at any rate - heathens and publicans often love one another and assist one another, and yet they are void of divine charity - but we must love according to God and with relation to God; we must love in out neighbours the image of God; we must consider them as made by him and for him, and as redeemed by the precious blood of his Son; we must love them for his sake, and because it is his holy will and commandment. And we must exercise the acts of this love, by contributing on every occasion, all that lies in us, to bring them to the love of God here, and to his kingdom hereafter, that they may glorify him in a happy eternity. This is truly charity indeed.
Consider 3rdly, by what rules we are to be directed and regulated in the exercise of the love of our neighbours. The old commandment of the divine law was to love every neighbour as ourselves. The new commandment of the gospel of Christ is to love every neighbour ‘even as Christ has loved us,' John xiii. 34. Have we ever seriously reflected upon the perfection of the love which these rules require of us? - ‘To love our neighbours as ourselves.’ O how tender is the love we bear ourselves! how intent upon our own welfare! how sensible of everything that we apprehend as an evil to us! Is the love of our neighbours any thing like this Do we treat them as we would desire to be treated ourselves? Are we concerned at the evils which befall them, as if they had befallen ourselves? I fear we cannot say it. Again, 'To love our neighbours as Christ has loved us.' O what a love is this! He has laid down his very life for the love of us; and this without any desert on our side; for we deserved nothing but hell we were his enemies by sin. Can our love for our neighbours stand the test of this rule? Are we willing to part with so much as our own humour, our convenience or inclination, our pleasure or satisfaction, for the love of our neighbours, and rather than give them occasion of grief or sin? If not, how far are we from loving our neighbours as Christ has loved us.
Conclude to exercise daily repeated acts of fraternal charity, both in the affective and the effective way; lest otherwise thy love for thy neighbours, for want of nourishment, quickly languish away and die. Have thy eye always upon those two great rules of charity, and regulate thy love accordingly.
Consider first, that charity is fruitful in its offspring, and spreads itself into different branches, in order to make the whole man perfect, by regulating both his judgment and his will, and directing him in his thoughts, in his words, and in his actions. For there is a charity that corrects the natural bent of our corruption, which is ever tending to suspect and judge the worst of our neighbours, and to be harsh and censorious in their regard. And there is a charity that inclines the will in their favour, so as to wish them well in every respect, and to forgive all injuries. There is a charity that employs the thoughts, in studying to promote their good, and to prevent and remedy their evil. And there is a charity that directs the tongue, and restrains it from uttering any words to the prejudice of any one. In fine, there is a charity that seasons and sweetens the whole body of our actions, as far as they relate to our neighbours, and squares them all according to that golden rule of doing in everything as we would be done by. The practice of all these branches of charity in God, and for God, makes a perfect Christian, and brings us to God.
Consider 2ndly, that amongst the branches of fraternal charity, there is one that our Lord seems to take in a special manner to heart; insomuch that he has declared our eternal lot shall be decided by our diligence or negligence in the exercise of it, Matt. xxv., and this is charity to the poor. These he declares he has substituted in his own stead, and what we do for them he takes as done for himself ver. 43, 45. This branch of charity duly exercised, in proportion to every man’s circumstances, will bring thousands one day into the happy tabernacles of everlasting life. But where shall the unjust stewards then appear, who, having the substance of their master, viz., their worldly riches, intrusted in their hands, with express orders to employ their superfluities at least in relieving the necessity of his poor children, either covetously detain or prodigally squander away that which should be their support, and to which they have an indisputable title! Alas! What a figure will their extravagant expenses then make! What account will they be able to give of all that they have sacrificed to pride and vanity, to luxury and intemperance, to gaming and criminal diversions! Will not all these robberies of the substance of the poor cry to heaven against them for vengeance on that day.
Consider 3rdly, that there is still another branch of charity, the most difficult of all, and yet absolutely necessary to salvation, and that is, to love our enemies. ‘I say to you,’ saith our Lord, Matt. v. 44, ‘love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.’ And this he insists upon in such manner as to exclude from his mercy here, and from his kingdom hereafter, all such as exclude any one, how much an enemy soever, from their charity. But how shall we acquire, or how shall we practise this charity for our enemies? O! it is not a virtue of our own growth, it must come down to us from heaven, from our great Father, 'Who maketh his sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.’ It is by fervent prayer we must obtain it, and when we have got it, must lay it up in our hearts as a rich heavenly treasure, and exercise it as the saints have done, by praying for our enemies in sincerity of heart, and seeking, on all occasions, to overcome in their regard evil with good. O how happy shall we be, if by any such means as these we prevail to bring them, that before were our enemies, to be for the time to come friends both to God and to us! It is what the saints have often done by their charity, by their meekness, and by their prayers.
Conclude to labour with all thy power, both to acquire and to exercise all these branches of charity, if thou desirest to come to God, who is charity, and who is not to be come at but by charity.
Consider first, how Christ Jesus our Lord has given us himself for a pattern of perfect charity in the parable of the good Samaritan, (Luke x.) He himself came down in person from his throne above to save poor man, who had unhappily fallen among the infernal robbers, and was stript by them of all grace, and grievously wounded in all his faculties. He was the good shepherd that came down to seek with sorrow the lost sheep, in order to lay him upon his own shoulders, and carry him home with joy to his heavenly fold. It is here we plainly discover the infinite charity both of the Father and of the Son. ‘By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us,’ says the beloved disciple, ‘because God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is charity not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to a propitiation for our sins,' 1 John iv. 9,10.
Consider 2ndly, that the whole life of Christ was a continual exercise of divine charity. From the first moment of his conception in the womb of his blessed mother till his expiring on the cross, his soul was ever employed in loving his heavenly Father, and in offering himself to all his wills; and for the love of his Father, and because it was his Father’s will, he dedicated his whole life also to the love of us; ever thinking on us, praying for us, and labouring for our eternal salvation. But O, the infinite charity he has shown us in all that he has endured in his passion and death for the love of us! Christians, pass over in your minds all the stages of his passion, from his prayer and agony in the garden to his expiring on the cross; and see the multitude and variety of torments he has there suffered for us. Ah! how much have our sins cost this innocent Lamb of God? Ah! how dearly has he loved us! O, my soul, in the midst of all these tortures he had thee in his heart; and even then was pleading thy cause with his eternal Father, when, by thy sins, thou wast crucifying him. O! what return shall we make him for this infinite love!
Consider 3rdly, that the Son of God has not only loved us during the whole course of his mortal life, and loved us even to death, by laying down his life for the love of us; but he has carried his love for us beyond the bonds of death in an admirable legacy, which he bequeathed us the night before his passion; by means of which, to satisfy his love, he remains always with us in the divine mysteries, even to the end of the world. Here he feeds our souls with his precious body and blood; here he unites us to himself in such a manner as to abide in us, and we in him; here he is a perpetual source of grace, of love, and of true life to our souls; here he communicates himself to us like the manna of heaven, for the support of our pilgrimage, till he brings us to the true land of promise, where he will lovingly give himself to us for all eternity. And shall not so much charity on his part oblige us to dedicate also our whole souls to this divine virtue.
Conclude to have always before thy eyes this great pattern of love, that thou mayest learn from him how thou art to love both thy God and thy neighbour.
Consider first, that when we celebrate the Christian solemnities we ought not
only to honour the mysteries we commemorate, and give
praise and glory to the author of all good, for his benefits to his church; but also to enter into the spirit of the solemnity by aiming as much as possible at the dispositions of soul which are suitable to the mysteries we celebrate. And thus when we are pre paring to keep the solemn feast of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Ghost came down upon the first Christians, it ought to be the great subject of our devotion to prepare our souls for the Holy Ghost, that so we may be also favoured with his visit at this holy time, and may plentifully partake of his gifts and graces. O my soul, do thou aspire after this happiness, (the greatest of any thou canst enjoy on this side of eternity,) to have the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the living God, to come to thee, to take full possession of thy interior, and to abide for ever with thee. O spare no pains in preparing a proper lodging for him.
Consider 2ndly, how the apostles prepared themselves for the Holy Ghost, Acts i.
14, ‘They were persevering,' saith the Scripture, 'with one mind in
prayer.’ And Luke xxiv. 53, 'They were always in the temple, praising and
blessing God.’ They prepared their souls for this heavenly guest by a
spiritual exercise of ten days; they spent the whole time, from the ascension
of our Lord till Whitsunday, in recollection and prayer. Retired as much as
might be from the hurry and distractions of a busy noisy world, they attended in
silence to God and their souls. They were always in prayer in the temple of God,
and by that means they prepared their souls to be the temple of God. Happy they
that endeavour to make the like preparation! happy they that make it their
practice to prepare themselves every year at this time for the coming of the
Holy Ghost by a spiritual retreat of some days. If thy circumstances, O my soul,
will not allow thee this retirement and solitude, therein to breathe the
purer air of devotion, and to aspire in a more suitable manner after the coming of the Spirit of God, at least wish for this happiness; and if thou canst do nothing more, at least in the midst of all thy other employments, call in thy thoughts as often as thou canst into thy closet within, and there entertain thyself with thy God. Nothing will contribute more effectually to fix the Holy Ghost in thy soul than this practice of aiming at an inward recollection in the midst of all thy works.
Consider 3rdly, that the great means to bring the Holy Ghost into our souls is to invite him thither by ardent desires and fervent prayer. Thus the apostles obtained him, and the word of God in many places assures us that this is the way for our obtaining all good, ‘that our heavenly Father will give his good spirit to all that ask him,’ Luke xi. 53, and that an ardent desire, a perfect hunger and thirst after this heavenly spirit, the fountain of all justice, are the means by which to be filled both with him and his gifts. 'I wished,’ says the wise man, Wisdom vii. 7, ‘and understanding was given me; and I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me.’ O my soul, see thou seek him in this manner by fervent desires and prayer, but let it be with thy whole heart. In finding him thou wilt find all good, for he is the overflowing source of all good; without him thou art nothing but misery and sin. O come, divine spirit, to my soul, that longs after thee, and bring with thee all thy heavenly treasures. O do thou prepare thyself a proper lodging in in heart, and them take full possession of it for time and eternity.
Conclude to spare no pains in using all the means in thy power to engage this divine spirit to come to visit thee, and to take up his abode with thee; frequently invite him with the Veni sancte Spiritus, &c., a hymn that he himself has inspired. He willingly comes to those that sincerely and heartily invite him.
Consider first, that the soul which desires to receive the Holy Ghost must prepare a clean lodging to entertain him in; that is, a conscience and heart pure and clear from wilful sin. If any person of distinction were to honour us with a visit, and to take up a lodging with us, we should certainly take care to have our house clean, and to remove from the apartment designed for him whatever might offend his eyes; how much more, when we pretend to the honour and happiness of having the Spirit of God to abide with us and in us, ought we to take care to have our inward house clean, and to remove from thence, by virtue of the sacrament of Penance, the filth of sin, infinitely odious in his eyes Alas! all the while the soul is under the guilt of mortal sin, not removed by a serious repentance and conversion to God, she is spiritually possessed by Satan; she is become a den of thieves, and carries as many devils about with her as there are unruly passions to which she is enslaved. And can she expect a visit from the Holy Ghost without first ridding herself of such company? No: the Spirit of God can never reside in the lodging with sin and Satan.
Consider 2ndly, those words of the wise man, Wis. i. 4,5, 'Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins. For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful.’ And learn from hence what sins have a more particular opposition to the visits of the Spirit of God; that by the contrary dispositions thou mayest prepare thy soul for him. He is the spirit of love, union, peace, and charity, and therefore can never enter into a malicious soul. He is the spirit of purity, and therefore cannot dwell in a body subject to carnal sins. He is the spirit of sincerity and truth, and therefore will flee from all deceitful souls; that is, from all double-dealers and hypocrites, that seek him not in simplicity of heart. Banish, then, far from thee all uncharitable animosities and rancour against thy neighbour, all wantonness and impurity, and all deceit and double dealings, if thou hopest to have any share in the Spirit of God.
Consider 3rdly, that there is also an infinite opposition between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God; they cannot both reside in the same breast. ‘We have received,’ says the apostle, 1 Cor. ii. 12, 'not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God;’ ‘the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive,’ saith our Lord, John xiv. 17. For as the love of the world and its friendship is the great enemy of the love of God, James iv. 4, and 1 John ii. 15, so the spirit of the world is the great adversary of the Spirit of God. The spirit of the world is a spirit of pride and vanity; it is selfish, it is fond of Mammon, ‘the god of this world,’ 1 Cor. iv. 5, and of all sensual pleasures, even to idolatry; the spirit of the world is a spirit of dissipation, ever forgetful of God and eternity, and full of disorderly affections for empty, vain, and perishable toys. And what room, then, can there be for the Spirit of God in such a soul? No the Spirit of God will not come any where if he is not allowed to be supreme Lord and Master there. He will not admit of such worldly idols in his temple.
Conclude, if thou wouldst effectually invite the Holy Ghost to take up his residence in thy soul, to cleanse the heart thou designest for him not only from all wilful sin and affection to sin, but also from loving the world and the things of the world, and from every love or affection that shall dare presume to claim any part of thy heart, so as to hinder thee from giving it all to him.
N.B. - As the festivals of St. George, St. Philip, and St. James, and of the finding of the cross, usually fall between Easter and Ascension, we shall set down in this place the meditations that are to be read on these.
Consider first, that we know little more of the particulars of St. George’s life, but that he was a Christian soldier, an illustrious martyr, and a glorious saint. He was a soldier - we all ought to be soldiers of Christ. In our baptism we have declared a perpetual war with the world, with the flesh, and with the devil, as the mortal enemies of our great king, the king of kings, Jesus Christ; the mortal enemies of our true country, the heavenly Jerusalem; and the mortal enemies of our own dear souls. We have enlisted ourselves soldiers in our confirmation, under the royal standard of the cross of Christ, and have obliged ourselves to bear him perpetual allegiance and fidelity. But have we fulfilled these engagements? Have we behaved ourselves as becomes the soldiers of Christ? Have we stood to our colours? Have we fought manfully the battles of our Lord? Or have we not rather deserted the cause? Have we not been rebels to our true king? Have we not changed sides, and preferred following the standard of Satan before that of Jesus Christ? O be confounded at your past disloyalties, and now at least return to your allegiance.
Consider 2ndly, that St. George was a martyr; that is a witness to the divinity of Christ, and to the truth of his doctrine, by choosing rather to lay down his life by the worst of torments than to renounce Jesus Christ and his Gospel. We are all obliged to be witnesses also to Jesus Christ and to his Gospel, both by our profession and by our lives. We are all obliged to be in a constant disposition of suffering death itself; rather than renounce our allegiance to Christ by wilful sin. We must all make our way to heaven through many tribulations and persecutions, in one shape or other, and so far are we all obliged to be martyrs. But alas! how far are we from the dispositions of the martyrs, who suffered cheerfully all kinds of torments for the love of Christ, when we are so unwilling to suffer the least contradiction to our humour, or to part with any of our pleasures, for the love of him, and are quickly overcome with every slight temptation.
Consider 3rdly, that St. George, though living in the world in a condition of life which one would think most opposite to sanctity, was nevertheless a glorious saint: to teach us that sanctity is consistent with every lawful calling, and that if we are not saints, the fault is not in the station of life in which Providence has placed us, but in our nor corresponding with those graces which God daily offers us to sanctify us in our calling. ‘Tis the love of God and of our neighbours that makes saints; and the more perfect this love is the more perfect are the saints. As then no lawful calling excludes the love either of God or of our neighbours, so no lawful calling can hinder us from being even eminent saints, if we are truly desirous of it. The soldier that loves God better is a greater saint than the monk that loves him less.
Conclude to aim with all thy power at this heavenly love, as St. George did; and he that crowned St. George will also crown thee; the best way to honour the saints of God is to love and imitate in them that which made them saints.
Consider first, that St. Philip and St. James were both disciples of Christ, trained up in his heavenly school. In quality of Christians, we ought all to be such, as the very name of a Christian signifies a disciple, that is, a scholar and follower of Jesus Christ. They were both called by Christ, and readily left all things else to follow him; and from that time inseparably adhered to him. How often have we also been called by him, by his interior graces? But have we ever yet followed him in earnest? Have we ever yet seriously renounced the love of the world, and every tie that kept us from him? Have we as yet ever kept so close to him as to be his constant attendants? They were both chosen by Christ to be of the number of the twelve apostles; they were both zealous preachers of the faith, and after gaining innumerable souls to God, they both sealed their doctrine with their blood. Happy we, if by our words or works we can also be instrumental in gaining souls to God! Happy we, if we might suffer or even lay down our lives for so good a cause!
Consider 2ndly, that St. Philip had no sooner found Christ, but he was willing to make his friend Nathanial partaker of the same happiness, and therefore brought him also to Christ. This was friendship indeed this was true charity, to take his friend with him to Christ. Alas! how many now-a-days engage their friends in a partnership of their errors and vices! how many lead them with them to their criminal diversions, or otherwise bring them into sin! But how few have the charity to carry them effectually to Christ! how few labour to reclaim them from the errors of their ways! and from the broad road in which they are walking! How few suggest to their friends how they may find Christ, by a spiritual retreat, by a good general confession, by the daily practice of meditation, &c.! - This would be friendship indeed.
Consider 3rdly, that St. James was remarkable for the great austerity of his life, for his continual prayer. Do we desire to come to a share in his heavenly glory? The mortification of our own humours and passions, frequent voluntary self-denials, and a spirit of penance for our sins, joined with constant and fervent prayer, will bring us effectually to his company. We are told that by reason of the great sanctity of his life, he alone was allowed to enter into the Sanctum Sanctorum, or the inward sanctuary of the temple. But what was a much greater advantage to him was that he was allowed to enter into the true sanctuary of God, in his own interior, as often as he pleased, and there to find him all alone, and to converse as familiarly with him as he pleased, by the means of mental prayer. This kind of entering into the sanctuary God is both willing and desirous to allow to us all; and the practice of this is the surest way to introduce us hereafter into his eternal sanctuary.
Conclude to honour and to imitate these blessed saints in such manner during thy mortal pilgrimage, that they may receive thee one day into the everlasting mansions of bliss.
Consider first, that on this day the church of God, to honour the passion of Christ, celebrates the yearly memorial of the finding of the cross, that sacred instrument of our redemption, sanctified by the blood of the Son of God. This holy tree of life had lain long deep buried in the earth, and a statue of Venus had been erected by the infidels over the place; when the pious empress St. Helen was inspired to seek after it, and at length happily discovered it, together with the title that had been fastened to it, and the nails with which our Lord had been pierced. This discovery of the cross of Christ was followed by illustrious miracles, to the greater glory of his name, who had humbled himself to the death of the cross for our redemption. Give thanks, Christians, for this miraculous finding of the cross of your redeemer. Turn this day your devotion towards the triumphs of his sacred passion; it was by the cross he was lifted up from the earth, and beginning his reign from that tree, he drew all things to himself. O beg of him now by all us mercy to draw at least your poor hearts to him!
Consider 2ndly, the lessons we are to learn by occasion of this festival; especially the dispositions we ought to be in with regard to the cross. If we have not the courage to seek it like St. Helen, at least we ought to receive it, when, without our seeking it, it comes to us from the hand of Providence; and to lay it upon our shoulders in order to follow him who redeemed us by the cross. O! if we did but know the measures of grace and of comfort here, and of heavenly glory hereafter, which are laid up for us in the cross, we should not only submit to it with patience, but embrace it with joy, as the inexhaustible source of all good both for time and eternity. Christians, assure yourselves there is no going to Heaven without a cross upon your shoulders. We must suffer with Christ before we can reign with him.
Consider 3rdly, that the cross is the school of all Christian virtues. As our Lord was pleased to give us most excellent lessons of them all from his cross, so he gives us the means and opportunity of exercising them all in the carriage of our crosses which he allots us. Here we learn to imitate his perfect conformity to the will of his Father; here we learn to practise his humility, by humbling ourselves under the hand of God; here we learn the practice of his meekness, his patience, his charity for his enemies, and his obedience unto death; and (which is hardest of all for us to attain to) his preferring in practice the poverty, pain, and ignominy of the cross, before all the riches, pleasures, and honours of this world. O blessed school in which we learn such heavenly lessons!
Conclude, if thou wouldst be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, not to fly from the cross, but to take it up willingly, wheresoever thou findest it, and to follow him. O never be of the number of those unhappy Christians whom the apostle laments as enemies of the cross of Christ; who, by indulging their passions and lusts, seek to bury the cross under the statue of Venus.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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