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 Three:

Chapter Four: That All Human Perfection Consists
in the Conformity of Man's Will to the Divine

ALL human actions derive their value from the end for which they are done; hence they are either good or bad according to their end. But, as an end and aim of our actions, we shall find nothing better or more sublime than the Divine Will, that is to say, than God Himself; and, therefore, there are no actions better or more sublime than those which are nearest to this end. And hence that saying of S. Basil the Great, that the whole sum of sanctity in a Christian man consists in his referring the causes of all things, great and small alike, to God alone, and most readily submitting himself in everything to the Divine Will. This is that virtue of resignation, so often and so greatly commended by the Holy Fathers and masters of the saintly life; it is the commencement of all tranquillity, as being that which places a man in the Hand of God, by far the safest of all resting-places, in such a way that he no longer desires to be his own, but God's, and not to live to himself, but to God, and to do everything for God's sake, being contented alike with adversity and prosperity. And this virtue God so greatly loves and delights in, that, when rewarding King David with a title of the highest honour, He called him-----"A man according to My Own Heart, who shall do all My Wills." (Acts XIII. 22) For that King kept his own heart so entirely fixed on the Divine Heart, that he stood ready and prepared to perform every indication of God's Will. And in this same way one may daily merit much if he refers to the Divine Will all those actions which in themselves are neither matter of blame or praise, such as eating, drinking, walking, and sleeping; and does not eat or drink merely because he is hungry or thirsty, but because it pleases God that it should be so. An ox or a cow would say,-----"I eat because I am hungry; I drink because I am thirsty; I lie down because I wish to go to sleep." But far otherwise should a Christian man speak, who is able to desire, eat, drink, stand, sit, and sleep, not because it is pleasant to him, but because it is approved by God.

1. The Heliotrope, as I have said (Book II. chap. ii), a flower most devoted to the sun, is accustomed ever to look towards it when it sets, and at all hours to turn round with it, even on a cloudy day. And let the will of man emulate the natural inclination of this flower, and constantly regard the Divine Will as its Sun, even on cloudy days, and in troublous times. And in this in good truth all sanctity of life consists, as a Theologian most admirably says,-----"The sum of a Christian life, and the compendium of all virtues is, to conform oneself in all things to the Will of God, so which is voluntary.

2. The Acts of the Saints abound with stories showing the marvellous power of the human will when joined to the Divine.

Those miracles of old time are well known-----the rod of Moses, the mantle of Elias, the staff of Eliseus, the apron of Paul, [Acts XIX. 12] the shadow of Peter. Of a truth such men as these obtain from God the power of ruling over created things, in return for which they give to Him the best thing which they have-----their will. By this law of transfer man deals with God as if he were to say,-----"My whole will I deliver to Thee, O Lord;" while God says,-----"And I deliver to thee My sovereignty, that thou shouldest be lord over beasts, that thou shouldest rule over the sea; in a word, that thou shouldest be a kind of God in the earth." For the most benign Creator wills not to be outdone in liberality. When anyone gives to Him that which he holds dearest, He does not deny him the most excel lent gift which He has, that is, to rule over all things. And as, in the olden time, King Alexander said of His beloved Hephrestion, [Because of his close resemblance to the King]-----"You are not mistaken, for he, too, is Alexander," in like manner it may be said of the man who is entirely devoted to the Divine Will,-----"He, too, is God," through a most intimate union of his own will with the Divine.

It is related that there was once upon a time a husbandman whose land usually produced more abundant crops than that of his neighbours. On being asked how this was, he replied that there was nothing wonderful about it, for that he had a most perfect agreement with the sky, and there was never any kind of weather but just what he wished. His neighbours laughed at him, and said that this was impossible. "Not so," he said, "for the favour of Heaven always answers to my wishes; since I never wish for any other changes of weather than those which God wills. Inasmuch, then, as the Divine Will is my will also, God wills that more abundant crops should spring up for me than for you, who very often are at variance with Heaven, and the Divine Will." Truly,-----"The creature serving Thee the Creator abateth its strength for the benefit of them that trust in Thee." (Wisdom XVI. 24)

3. The children of Israel presented a petition to Pharao, by the hand of Moses, in these words:----- "The God of the Hebrews hath called us, to go three days' journey into the wilderness and to sacrifice to the Lord our God." (Exod. V. 3) And many say Ithat the path to Heaven is a 'three days' journey." Onthe first day's journey the road is called Purgative, on the second Illuminative, on the third Unitive. And by this road, indeed, we approach closest to God, when the human will is most firmly bound to the Divine. Our Lord proclaims (Luke XVIII. 19):-----"None is good but God alone." And hence arises that saying of the holy Fathers and Theologians:-----"As the Divine Intelligence is the rule of entire TRUTH, and cannot be deceived, so the Divine Will is the rule of entire GOOD, nor can it be distorted. And as it cannot be that anything should be conformed to the Divine Intelligence and not be TRUE, so nothing can be conformed to the Divine Will which is not GOOD." S. Chrysostom admirably says,-----"That which is in accordance with the Divine Will, although it seems to be wrong, is nevertheless pleasing and acceptable to God. And, on the other hand, that which is contrary to the Divine Will, and other than what He wills to be done, although it is thought to be acceptable to God, is nevertheless the worst and most pernicious of all things."

The Book of Kings furnishes an example of this. A prophet, who had been sent by Divine command to rebuke Achab, because, contrary to the Will of God, he had spared the King of Syria, whom he had taken prisoner in battle, in order that he might not be recognized by his face when delivering the message, went to a neighbour "in the word of the Lord," and said,"Strike me." (3 Kings XX. 35) But he refused to do so, for he was afraid to smite a prophet. But quickly he heard the fearful sentence,-----"Behold, thou shalt depart from me, and a lion shall slay thee." (Verse 36) And it happened as he said. "Then he found another man, and said to him: Strike me. And he struck him, and wounded him." (Verse 37) And this he not only did without punishment; but also earned commendation for what he had done. "And what could happen more contrary to all expectation?" asks S. Chrysostom. "He who smote the prophet escaped without harm, while he who spared him suffered punishment. Of such moment is it to follow the rule of the Divine Will, or to despise it." When the Divine Will points out anything to anyone it is impiety even so much as to ask,-----"Why is this?" It must stand us in place of all reasons that God so wills. Therefore it is the safest height of Christian perfection to yield oneself as entirely as possible to the Divine Will, and to cease to be one's own that we may become God's.