Conformity of the Human Will to the Divine

"The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away . . . blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1: 21


Book Two:

Chapter Five:
What are the Marks and Signs of a Human will Conformed to the Divine

THE Romans thought nothing of a soldier who had not firm-set ribs, and arms muscular enough to carry any weight. And besides this it was needful that he should have polished and glittering weapons, and the most complete confidence in his general. And so, let no one vaunt himself as a soldier of Christ, let no one think that he is devoted to the Divine Will, unless he can detect in himself certain indications that his own will hangs entirely on the Divine Will in all things. And that everyone may be able to put himself to the proof in this matter, let him look for the following marks or signs:-----

1. The First Sign. To desire to do all things at the bidding of the Divine Will, and, therefore, to set about nothing without first imploring the Divine Aid. He who truly follows the Will of God takes no business in hand without first asking God to be his Helper. But if anything seems to be of more than usual importance, or of more than common difficulty in execution, he so much the more frequently implores aid from God. And let this be a fixed rule for those who have to deal with weighty matters, and are entrusted with government, never to undertake anything hastily, without first asking counsel of God. No man living can easily estimate how much damage the whole world suffers from this cause: how many households are badly managed; how many kingdoms and provinces are improperly governed; how many unjust wars are undertaken; how many injuries are inflicted by one on another, through the neglect of this law. This is the most prolific source of evils; because masters of families, governors, rulers, and kings oftentimes are self-willed and arbitrary, and do not act according to reason, but by impulse; and do not consult the Mouth of the Lord, but follow impetuosity as their guide, and lean to their own understanding, and trust to their own shoulders, being very Atlases in their own eyes: and hence often arises a chaotic and disgraceful confusion of business to the injury of very many.

The princes of Israel sinned grievously, because they made a treaty with the Gabaonites, "and consulted not the Mouth of the Lord." [Josue IX. 14] And we are none the more inclined to take warning on account of their error, but often plan great undertakings, "and consult not the Mouth of the Lord." We seek for the priesthood, we contract matrimony, we mix ourselves up in worldly business, and yet we "consult not the Mouth of the Lord." But far otherwise those noble generals, the Machabees, who never engaged in any battle without first having "consulted the Mouth of the Lord" more than once. For not only before the battle did they exhort their soldiers to prayer, and joined with them in their devotions, but they also continued this combined prayer even while they were fighting. And so Judas Machabeus, looking upon the hostile array before him, "stretching out his hands to Heaven, called upon the Lord that worketh wonders, Who giveth victory to them that are worthy, not according to the power of their arms, but according as it seemeth good to Him." [2 Mach. XV. 21] Nor did Machabeus only before the battle "consult the Mouth of the Lord" with the utmost earnestness in prayer, but by his example he inflamed his soldiers also to do the same, and so he and "they that were with him encountered the enemy, calling upon God by prayers." [Ver. 26] And not merely at the beginning of the battle, but also in the very heat of the conflict they constantly called upon God, and so, fighting indeed with their hands, but praying to God with their hearts, they slew no less than thirty-five thousand, "being greatly cheered with the presence of God." [Ver. 27] That is to say, they solemnly "consulted the Mouth of the Lord."

It is the advice of Cassian that before every action these versicles of the Church should be used,-----"O God, make speed to save me. O Lord, make haste to help me." It was the practice of S. Pambo, whenever his advice was asked, to require time for commending so great a thing to God, nor could he endure to give any reply until he had first "consulted the Mouth of the Lord." And this practice was of so great use to him, that, when he was now near death, he affirmed that he did not remember that anything had ever been said by him of which he was sorry. Of a truth God immediately answers those who seek counsel of Him. "Thy ear hath heard the preparation of their heart." [Ps. IX. 17] That man does not trust in God, nor does he carefully search out the Divine Will, who does not derive the beginning of all his actions from God. We must consult the Mouth of the Lord in all things without exception.

2. The Second Sign. It is a mark of true devotion towards the Divine Will, not merely not to shrink from sorrows and calamities when they are present, but willingly to seek them when they are absent, and for this reason, because God is far nearer by His Grace to those who are afflicted in various ways, than to those who enjoy uninterrupted prosperity. With great delight the Psalmist, Jesse's son, sings,-----"Thou hast turned all his couch in his sickness." [Ps. XL. 4] And this, according to S. Ambrose and S. Chrysostom, means that God soothes a sick person, or one who is otherwise afflicted, with such consolations, as if He prepared for him the softest bed. As ladies of rank sometimes wait on the sick from a sweet feeling of pity, so Christ our Lord exercises a special guardianship over such as are afflicted either with disease or any other calamity, if they only show themselves worthy of this heavenly protection. The Roman philosopher [SENECA, de Provid. 4. 5] moralizes very devoutly on this subject:-----"Cease, I pray you," he says, "to dread those things which the Immortal God applies to your souls to urge them onwards. Calamity gives occasion to virtue. One may truly call those people wretched who are indolent through excess of prosperity, and whom a sluggish tranquillity holds fast as it were on an unruffled sea. And so those whom He loves God tries, and causes them to endure hardships, and corrects them, and disciplines them; but those whom he appears to deal gently with, and to spare, he is reserving for evils to come. For you are mistaken if you think that anyone is excepted. His own share of troubles will befall him who has been prosperous for a long time. Whoever seems to be in a low estate has his happiness deferred. But why does God afflict all good men either with ill-health or other troubles? Why, too, it may be asked, in a camp are the most perilous posts assigned to the bravest? A general sends his picked soldiers to attack the enemy in an ambush by night, or to examine the line of march, or to dislodge a garrison from some particular position. Not one of those who go forth says,-----'The general deserves no thanks from me!' but,-----'He has made a good choice.' And in the same way let those who are bidden to suffer things which to the fearful and slothful are subjects for tears, say,-----'We seem to God to be thought worthy to have the trial made in us as to how much human nature is capable of enduring.' "

And how agreeable is this to that which Wisdom proclaims,-----"For God hath tried them, and found them worthy of Himself." [Wisdom III. 5] Therefore, fly from pleasures, fly from that enervating happiness whereby men become effeminate, unless something interposes which may admonish them of the human lot, like those who are stupefied with perpetual drunkenness. God, therefore, follows the same plan with good men, as a master does with his scholars, who exacts a larger share of work from those from whom he feels more sure of getting it.

Do you think that their own children were objects of hatred to the Spartans because they tried their disposition by lashes inflicted in public, while their parents themselves encouraged them to bear the strokes of the whip bravely, and asked them, when they were lacerated and half dead, whether they should go on adding gash to gash? And what wonder is it if God severely tries noble souls? There is no such thing as an easy and gentle proof of virtue. Does Fortune lash and tear us? Let us endure it; it is not cruelty, it is a conflict, in which the oftener we engage the stronger we shall be. It is by endurance that the soul arrives at despising the power of evils. Fire tries gold, and misery tries brave men. Why are you astonished that good men are shaken in order that they may be strengthened? A tree is not firm and strong unless the wind constantly blows against it; for by the very disturbing force of the blast it is strengthened, and fastens its roots more surely to the earth. Frail are those trees which have grown in a sunny valley.

Behold, then, the most certain evidence of a human will which is transfused, as it were, into the Divine, if it does not refuse to follow it even through rough and difficult places. Whosoever, therefore, has welcomed to himself the Divine Will with a hearty embrace will exclaim in the midst of troubles, with more earnestness even than Demetrius,-----"This one thing, O my God, I can complain of concerning Thee, that Thou hast not earlier made known to me Thy Will; for I should have arrived before this at that point to which I I have now attained when called by Thee. Dost Thou will to take away from me wealth or reputation? I was ready long ago to offer them. Dost Thou will to deprive me of my children? I have already put them aside for Thee. Dost Thou will to take any! part of my body? Take it. It is no great offer which I make, for in a short time I shall relinquish the whole of it. Dost Thou will to take my spirit? And why not? I do not object that Thou shouldst receive what Thou hast given. Thou wilt take from a willing person whatever Thou shalt demand. I am driven to nothing, I suffer nothing against my will; nor do I serve Thee, O my God, but I agree with Thee." This is the true union of two wills.

3. The Third Sign. The greatest possible distrust of self. This is pre-eminently a Christian virtue, and one which was scarcely known at all to the heathen of old time. He who distrusts himself ascribes even his most prosperous successes not to his own strength or diligence, but entirely to the Divine Power and Goodness; but his errors, and whatever arises from them, he imputes to himself, and he observes most faithfully the precept of S. Augustine,-----"Let God be all Thy presumption, so as to acknowledge that without Him you can do nothing at all, but all things in Him." Nevertheless the man who is entirely distrustful of self, and hopes not for success through his own powers, does not neglect to do what he can, relying with all the surer trust in God in proportion as he has none in himself. He knows that he can do nothing, and yet that he can do all things, but only with God. He works, indeed, with all his might, but he looks to the Divine Will for all the fruit of his labour, accepting with composure all those things which are only ills to one who bears them ill. But how different with those who trust in themselves, their own strength, their own skill, their own prudence, and their own schemes! How eloquent they are in extolling their own performances; with what unsparing tongue do they speak their own praises; and in the meantime how carelessly do they behave in many things through excessive self-confidence! But he who rests entirely on the Divine Will is like a pair of scales, he descends the lower on one side in proportion as he ascends higher on the other. A general who has undertaken the defence of a fortified camp examines weak and ill-defended points before the enemy advances, he provides for the commissariat, he arranges his artillery, he prepares against every kind of attack, for he knows that he cannot trust the enemy. And in the same way the Christian says,-----"I will not trust disease and death; I will fortify myself beforehand with Sacraments; I will furnish myself with prayer and fasting as weapons; I trust neither myself nor death." But he who is presumptuous, and confident in his own strength, thinks that he is well enough prepared to meet all the attacks of his enemies; or at least hopes that it will be easy enough to prepare when occasion arises. He trusts himself and Death! And well does Solomon say concerning each of these,-----"A wise man feareth, and declineth from evil; the fool leapeth over and is confident." [Prov. XIV. 16]

4. The Fourth Sign. Most complete trust in God, whence it comes that when anyone is injured or offended he does not immediately plan vengeance, but says to himself,-----"God has seen and heard this, and He will avenge in His Own time." And by means of this one thing he rises superior to all his enemies, because he feels certain that even if they were to move Hell itself against him, they could not harm him more than God permitted. But you may say,-----"There are some who neglect no opportunity of doing harm to others. If they cannot inflict actual injuries they at least try to hinder their neighbours' profit." It is so, I admit; but he who trusts in God so acts as that no amount of diligence should be wanting on his part; but everything else he commits to Divine Providence. And fruitlessly do the wicked attempt to strive against it,-----"There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord." [Prov. XXI. 30] How dishonestly did Laban deal with Jacob his son-in-law! He changed his wages ten times that he might diminish his possessions; but it was to no purpose, since all things turned out to Jacob's advantage, for God suffered him not to hurt him. [Gen. XXXI. 7]

Sennacherib threatened direst vengeance against Jerusalem; but neither he himself, nor his army, could escape the avenging Hand of God. An Angel slew the army, and his sons slew him:-----" And the Lord saved Ezechias and the inhabitants of Jerusalem out of the hand of Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, and out of the hand of all, and gave them treasures on every side." [2 Par. XXXII. 22] And so, my Christian friend, trust in God, and leave all vengeance to Him, for He is the Lord of vengeance. And let even the heathen teach you this. Tissaphernes, the Persian general, concluded a peace with Agesilaus; but it was only in pretence and not in reality, for he afterwards came with a vast army and summoned the Greeks to withdraw from Asia. But to the threats of the ambassadors Agesilaus dauntlessly replied,-----"Tell your general that I heartily thank him for having broken the treaty, and so made both gods and men his enemies. My forces will swell through the perfidy of my foe!" Words almost worthy of a Christian! It is as if he had said,-----that we should be saved "from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us." [Luke I. 71] He who trusts in God has all his enemies as vassals, because he has God on his side.

But whatever a man who trusts in God desires, he first of all seeks it from God. And here he lays down this rule for himself,-----It either is good for me that the thing which I seek should be granted, or it is not good, but which of the two it is God knows best. If it is good for me, God will either grant it immediately, or at some more fitting time, in order that in the meantime my patience may be exercised; if, however, God refuses me what I have asked, I am perfectly certain that my request was not for my good. In this way alone, and never in any other, does he who has yielded himself absolutely to the Divine Will present his petitions to God. They, on the other hand, who are ignorant of this mystery of the Divine Will, either do not implore God's aid, or do so sluggishly and carelessly, and before they do this weary out the patience of all their friends, and court the favour of as many as they can; and if they cannot effect their object in any other way, they even try to procure this favour by bribes, and they buy interest and honours, just as they would in the market.

S. John, who may be called the eye of the Lord, saw Christ carrying in His Right Hand seven stars. [Apoc. 1. 16] And what are these stars in His Hand? John himself, when unfolding this mystery, says,-----"The seven stars are the Angels of the seven Churches" [Apoc. I. 20], or the seven bishops of Asia. Behold, then, bishops and their mitres are in the Hand of Christ! But if a mitre anywhere wants an owner, there are numbers who offer their head for it; but they do not first hasten straight to the Hand of Christ.

They run indeed but oftentimes they reach the hands of kings and princes before they run to Christ. And the same thing happens in the pursuit of other offices and honours; human interest is sought, but the Divine favour only by a few, or after that of man. It is a transparent error; we ought to do the reverse: the Divine Favour and Will should be sought before all things. Sceptres and crowns are in the Hand of God; He apportions offices, dignities, places of trust, and magistracies; from Him, in the first instance, must all these be sought:-----"As the divisions of waters, so the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever he will he shall turn it." [Prov. XXI. I] As a gardener who has a little stream of water at his command in his garden does not always guide it to the nearest or best tree, but oftentimes to one of feebler growth, or in whatever direction he pleases; so the heart of the king, like a stream, contains offices and preferment of every kind: but God, like a gardener, guides the water from this stream towards those whom He Himself has chosen, without, however, forcing man's free-will. And therefore they act with consummate folly who throwaway so many prayers and bribes into the ears and hands of others, while God is saluted only in a cold and distant way. Oh! the madness of men! More purely are waters sought from the Fount itself.

5. The Fifth Sign. To be able to endure all things in noble silence. Consider, I pray you, the most patient JESUS, so nobly keeping silence amidst numberless reproaches and torments. The Jewish priests stood and constantly accused Him, but JESUS held His peace. They laid various crimes to His charge, but JESUS held His peace. They grew vehement against Him with loud cries, and demanded that He should be crucified, but JESUS held his peace. While He was hanging on the Cross they ceased not to revile Him with most bitter reproaches, but JESUS held his peace. And so, too, the mother of our Lord was perfectly silent amidst the greatest difficulties. S. Joseph perceived that she was with child, and therefore determined to put her away; and here the mother acted as her Son did, so that it may be truly said of her-----but Mary held her peace, and committed all this to the Divine Will and Providence. She heard that the Man Who was so inexpressibly dear to her, her own Flesh and Blood, was assailed with innumerable calumnies; but Mary held her peace. She saw her Son, Who was perfect in innocence, fainting beneath the weight of the Cross, she heard Him groaning on it, she saw Him dying in most bitter agony; but Mary held her peace. This Son, and this mother, very many have imitated successfully, for even when accused of the most grievous crimes they held their peace. David, that meekest of kings, understood the wondrous power of this silence when he said,-----"I was dumb and was humbled, and kept silence from good things: and my sorrow was renewed." [Ps. XXXVIII. 3] And again,-----"I was dumb, and opened not my mouth; because Thou hast done it." [Ver. 10] He brings forward no other reason for his silence than this,-----"because Thou hast done it." Therefore I hold my peace because I perceive that it is Thy Will. Thy Will, O my God, has pointed out this silence to me!

It sometimes happens that a master of excitable disposition goes into the servant's room, and disarranges the furniture, and throws everything into confusion, and then goes away lest he should be caught in the act. When the servant comes home and finds all the furniture in disorder he grows very angry; but when he hears that it has been done by his master, he holds his tongue and restrains his rage. And so David says of himself,-----"I held my tongue, and spake nothing." And why? "Because Thou hast done it." And in the same way he who has yielded himself unreservedly to the Divine Will is conscious indeed of adversity, but comforts himself with the thought of Divine Providence; and knowing that he will do no good by idle complaints, he says,-----"I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me. My help is from the Lord, Who made Heaven and earth." [Ps. cxx. 1, 2]
When King Assuerus and Aman sat down to their feast all the Jews were weeping. [Esth. III. 15] But how quickly did this bloody tragedy change, and the evil which he had devised for others recoil upon its author! If a monthly want of light did not obscure the moon, which changes as it waxes and wanes, Philosophers would not know that it borrows its light from the sun; and thus we, too, from the daily want of things, learn that every blessing comes from God. Is anyone sick? For the first time in his life he now knows how to value health, which he never would have prized so highly if he had not lost it. This is human nature, that nothing pleases so much as that which is lost. Does anyone suffer from calumny? He now understands what a serious thing it is to injure the reputation of another, which he may often have done, and yet have thought it a trifling matter. Has anyone been reduced to want? He now begins to recollect how he formerly bore himself towards those who were in need. And so he holds his peace, and, pondering on this, commits himself to the Divine Will.

But perhaps it is with difficulty that you hold your peace. Speak then; but only with your heart, and to God. Let the tongue be silent, and let the mind pray. Meditate upon the silence of Christ before the High Priest, upon the silence of Mary before those wicked citizens, upon the silence of David before his enemies. A person of greater dignity and influence than yourself reproaches you-----hold your peace! An equal reproaches you-----hold your peace! An inferior reproaches you -----and even then hold your peace? This may be harder than the rest, but it is more noble. Leave him alone, and draw near to God. Pray for your enemy, as David did, according to that saying of his-----"Instead of making me a return of love, they detracted me; but I gave myself to prayer." [Ps. CVIII. 3] He was accustomed to conciliate his adversary by silence, and God by prayer. Therefore hold your peace, and commend yourself most absolutely to the Divine Will, constantly keeping before your mind the saying-----"Because Thou hast done it."

<> 6. The Sixth Sign. To attempt for the honour of God things which are difficult, and which are supposed to be scarcely possible. And how courageous was S. Paul in this! "I know," he says, "both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound (everywhere and in all things I am instructed), both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me." [Phil. IV. 12, 13] And with an equally great and exalted mind, David says,-----"Through God I shall go over a wall." [Ps. XVII. 29] So that let Pericles come to life again, and build his walls to the Pirreus, forty cubits high, and so broad that two chariots yoked together would have room enough to pass, and yet I, says David, will leap over them. Let the Carthaginians re-appear, and raise their triple wall, famous in every age, and I will leap over it. Let the architects of Babel come back, and build a tower whose top shall reach to Heaven [Gen. XI. 4], and with the help of my God, I will leap over it; for by Him shall I be delivered from temptation. But David, promising still greater and more difficult things, says,-----"In Thee I will run girded; in my God I will leap over the wall." [2 Kings XXII. 30] It was too little for him to run and toil, but he desires to run even when clad in mail, and armed from head to foot. It was too little for him to pass over a wall, however wide or high, but now he desires to pass over a barrier, even if it reaches as high as Heaven. There can scarcely be a higher and wider wall put in the way as an obstacle: than his own will is to each individual. But this wall he must cross and leap over. Let each one reflect thus:-----"God desires that I should be patient, and chaste, and that I should quickly forgive my enemies; He wills that I should think and speak well of others. And why do I not will the same? Truly my will stands like a wall in the way of my doing this. But that wall need not terrify me. I shall pass over it; I shall leap over it, I can do all things through Him Who strengtheneth me."

He who meditates upon the acts of the Saints will very often give utterance to those words of the royal Psalmist,-----"God is glorified in the assembly of the Saints." [Ps. LXXXVIII. 8] "The Lord will give strength to His people." [Ps. XXVIII. 10] Yea, He has given strength to His Saints! And not to speak of ancient times, how great things did Francis Xavier, the apostle of Japan, dare to do for God! What wonders did he work! What walls did he not pass over! What fortresses did he not scale! You might say that he flew, if he could not approach his object in any other way. A thirsty man is sometimes wont to complain that a whole village seems to be on fire inside him, so fearfully does thirst oppress him; but the world itself might have been thought to be burning in the breast of Xavier, so ardently did he thirst for the salvation of all men. And what a fire did Xavier carry about in his soul, when with separate leaps, as it were, he passed from Italy to Portugal, from Portugal to India, from India to Japan, and from thence penetrated even to the most extreme borders of China, traversing country after country, and crossing sea after sea! Do you place in his way perils of land and sea? But such things, he says, the man does not fear who trusts in God. Or darkness of forests? A flame shines brightly enough in his breast. Or the raging ocean? Many waters cannot quench love. Or the secret attacks of robbers and pirates? But he is not safe, even at home, whom the Divine Will protects not. And so, trusting in God, he leapt over every wall, and in this way added to Christ, as Bozius affirms, three hundred thousand heathen. No one is ignorant, I suppose, that when meditating better things he is usually kept back by a thousand hindrances; but he must break through them by force, and must struggle upwards, even though Satan, with all his furies and appliances, stand in the way. Christ encouraging us to this says,-----"If you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you." [Matt. XVII. 19] Whosoever then has yielded himself absolutely to the Divine Will is confident that he can do all things.

7. In order that what I have said, as well concerning the knowledge of the Divine Will, as concerning the conformity of the human will to it, may be perfectly clear to an understanding however uncultivated, I will now proceed to condense what precedes under this short summary.

Whatever is done in the world (sin excepted), by whomsoever or howsoever it is done, must be said to be done by the Divine Will. All things that are done, God wills to be done; but whatever God does not will most surely is not done. "How could anything endure, if Thou wouldst not?" exclaims Wisdom. [Chap. XI. 25] Sin alone God wills not, but permits. He might, indeed, prevent sin; but, for reasons known to Himself, He does not prevent it. Scotus, that theologian of marvellously subtle intellect, says that all things which are done or exist, which have been done or have existed, which shall be done or shall exist, are known to God by the Decree of His Will. And observe, good reader, that the freedom of man's actions is not hindered because God has foreknown and willed them from eternity; for He willed them on this account, because He foreknew that they would be done. But let us proceed. God not only wills that whatever is done in the world should be done (sin excepted), but in reality He ever brings to pass that which is good, or rather, which is best. S. Basil the Great sets this forth very clearly when he says,-----"This one thing we ought to take for granted, that none of those things which happen to us is evil, or such that we can desire anything better than it." And here S. Augustine is worthy of all attention:-----"It is brought about," he says, "by the justice of the True and Supreme God, not only that all things exist, but also exist in such a way that they cannot at all be better." And what can be clearer? But hear his reason:-----"Whatever," he says, "has befallen you, which really is for your advantage, know that God has caused it, as being the Creator of all good; for you cannot desire anything good in the case of a creature which has escaped the Maker of that creature."

8. As to the way in which God wills all things that are done, but permits sin, I propose to bring forward the following illustration:-----Pope Julius II ordered that Michelangelo, the most celebrated of painters, should paint the Last Judgment. The painter commenced the work, but, on account of his hostile feeling towards the Princes of the Church, he placed even Bishops and purple-robed Fathers in the flames of Hell. The Pope very often visited the painter, and saw through the daring of the man, which was concealed under the rules of art; and, although he strongly disapproved of it, yet for certain reasons he pretended not to see it, thinking to himself-----Let him only finish his work, and he will soon find out in prison the errors of his pencil, when he dines on nothing but bread and water. The Pope certainly wished that the Tribunal of the Supreme Judge should be painted for the benefit of those who looked upon it, and not for the injury or contempt of anyone; but this injury he knowingly and willingly allowed in order to attain a certain object. And in the same way God wills that we should paint for eternity, and produce immortal works; but we, with hand and affection which wander from His design, place sometimes one person and sometimes another in Hell; that is to say, we are harmful in a variety of ways to those whom we esteem our enemies; and many other faults, too, we are guilty of while performing our task. Nevertheless, a picture is elaborated of things which are most entirely different in their nature; for there is a marvellous connection, dependence, and arrangement in details, so that particular objects, which, taken by themselves, seem to be unsightly, or at all events less beautiful than others, when brought into connection with certain other objects are far more beautiful than they were before. Moreover, God, Who is so boundless in patience, waits till the whole of this picture is finished; and for reasons of perfect Justice He shuts His eyes to our manifold errors, just as if He did not see them. But at the Last Day it will at length be made manifest what each one has painted worthy of eternity, and what faults he has committed in his painting. As, therefore, the Pope, or any King, desires that a certain fixed subject should be painted, and yet does not interfere with the judgment of the painter, but allows even faults to pass unnoticed, for reasons known to himself, so God wills that all things which are done should be done, but permits sin; and yet permits it knowingly and willingly, since He might prevent it. And in this way King David employed Joab as General. He by no means approved of his crimes, but for a long time he dissembled knowledge of them.

Nor can anyone object here, why is man compelled to prevent sin when he can, and God is not compelled, though He always can? For over and above that God is the Lord and Ruler of all things, intent on the common good, but we servants and slaves, this consideration must also be added, that God produces from sin, the foulest of all things, some good which man cannot. S. Augustine [Ench. 10. 11], admiring this work of the Supreme Artificer, exclaims,-----"From all collectively arises the wondrous beauty of the whole, in which even that which is called evil, being well arranged and put in its proper place, commends things which are good in a more remarkable way, making them the more pleasing and more deserving of praise from being contrasted with what is evil."

9. But you may object in the first place,-----"Granted that all things which God wills are good, or even the very best that could happen, yet certainly they are not so to me." But what are you saying, rashest of mortals? "God hath equally care of all." [Wisd. VI. 8] And so in the perfection of His Providence He cares for you, and me, and each individual, as He does for all; and He wills not merely that which is good, but ever that which is best, both for you, and for me, and for each, and for all; and that which He wills He performs most efficaciously. S. Gregory [Moral. XVI. 5] most beautifully says,-----"God bestows His care on all in such a way as to be present with each. He is present with each in such a way as not to be absent at the same time from any. He rules what is highest, so as not to desert what is lowest. He is present with what is lowest in such a way as not to withdraw Himself from what is highest." "God hath equally care of all." Respecting His children, or those who are best beloved by Him, the case is certain and clear; but not even in respect of those who will be damned is it otherwise. God is their Father, their Preserver, their Defender, even to the latest moment of their life; and He will at last be their Judge, their Punisher, and the Avenger of such willful rebellion against Himself.

But you may object, secondly,-----"And how can so many incongruities follow the Providence and Care of God, if they are so great? And, to use a gentle term, how comes it that the most absurd of all absurd things are done? While I should shrink from saying that God sleeps, can I safely venture to affirm that He is aware of every trifling matter?" I reply, that God has an eye for all things, yes, even the most minute; and this S. John Damascene most aptly shows, replying to your dullness,-----"God occasionally allows something which is absurd and preposterous to be done, in order that by means of the action which has the appearance of absurdity something great and wonderful may be effected; just as by the Cross He procured the salvation of men." And will you deny the truth of this? Therefore God does not indeed will sin, but permits it efficaciously; or wills to permit it, and from thence produces the most beneficial results, and those which most redound to His Own glory. S. Augustine [In Ps. VII] lays this down clearly when he says,----- "Wherefore this ordinance also is to be ascribed to Divine Providence, not because it makes sinners, but because it orders them when they have sinned." Wherefore, although for a man, regarded by himself, it would be better not to have sinned, yet, if the whole order of nature and grace is regarded, it is much better that sin was permitted by God. The testimony of the Church is well known,-----Happy is the fault which has merited to have such and so great a Redeemer! This much then must be both known and believed concerning the Divine Will. And would that the human race would cease to be blind, if only in this one thing, and would be ready to embrace the Divine Will with as great promptitude as they can easily recognize it!