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what has been said here is most surely true, and the grace which failed not this Saint, will not fail thee, if thou turnest to God as he did.
Hear another example, no less remarkable. S. Augustine writes in the Eighth Book of his Confessions, that when he began to propose in his heart to leave the world, he found great difficulty in the change. On one hand his former pleasures came before him, and said, “Dost thou cast us off, and from that moment shall we be no more with thee for ever?” On the other side, he says that virtue appeared to him with a serene and cheerful countenance, accompanied by multitudes of good examples, maidens, widows, a multitude of every age and station, living chastely, and said, “ Canst thou not what these can, or can they either in themselves, and not in the LORD their God? Because thou standest in thyself, thou standest not.
Cast thyself upon Him, fear not, He will not withdraw Himself that thou shouldst fall, cast thyself fearlessly upon Him, He will receive, and will heal thee."
In the midst of this vehement conflict, the Saint says that he began to weep abundantly, and that he went away by himself, and cast himself down under a fig-tree, giving full vent to his tears, and began to cry out in his inmost heart, and to say, “And Thou, O LORD, how long ?” (Ps. vi. 3, Vulg.)
How long, LORD, wilt thou be angry for ever? O remember not our old sins.” (Ps. lxxix. 5, 8.) 'How long shall I say, To-morrow, to-morrow? Why not now, why is there not in this hour an end to my uncleanness?"
After these things, and others which the Saint relates, he says that GOD so changed his heart, that he never again had any desire for carnal vices or worldly things, but felt his heart entirely free from all its former appetites. And therefore, being released from these chains, he begins in the next Book to give thanks to his Deliverer, saying, “O LORD, I am Thy servant : I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid, Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder, I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of praise. (Ps. cxvi. 14, 15.) All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto Thee? (Ps. xxxv. 10.) Where was CHRIST JESUS my LORD? Where had my free-will been so many years that it turned not to Thee ? Out of what low and deep abyss didst Thou call it in a moment, that I might submit my neck to Thy easy yoke, and to the light burthen of Thy holy law? How sweet did it at once become to me to want the sweetnesses of the world ; and what I feared to be parted from, was now a joy to part with. For thou didst cast them forth from me, Thou True and Highest Sweetness. Thou castedst them forth, and for them enteredst in Thyself, sweeter than all pleasure, more beauteous than all other beauty.” These are the words of S. Augustine.
Tell me now, if this is the case, if the power and efficacy of God's grace are so great, what keeps thee in bondage and hinders thee from doing the same? If thou believest that this is true, that grace has power to make such a change, and that it will be denied to none who ask it, for God is the same that He then was, and there is no respect of persons with Him, what hinders thee from leaving this miserable bondage and embracing the Highest Good which is offered thee freely? Why wilt thou by one hell gain another hell, rather than by one paradise another paradise ? Be not cowardly or distrustful. Make but one trial, and trust in GOD. Before thou hast begun, He will come out with open arms to receive thee, like the prodigal son. (S. Luke xv. 20.) It is a marvellous thing, that if an impostor promised to teach thee some secret of alchemy, whereby thou mightst turn copper into gold, thou wouldst not fail to try, though the experiment might be costly; and here GOD tells thee the way to change thyself from earthly to heavenly, from flesh to spirit, from man to an angel, and thou wilt not try!
Finally, thou wilt have to know this truth sooner or later, either in this world or in the next. I beg thee to consider attentively how confounded thou wilt be in the day of account, when thou findest thyself condemned for having left the path of virtue because thou thoughtst it rough and difficult, and now seest clearly that it was far pleasanter than that of vice, and was the only way to everlasting joys.
Against those who are afraid to follow the Path of Virtue,
through Love of the World.
should perhaps find that one of the things that most dismay them is the deceitful love of this world. I call it deceitful, because it is caused by a false show and appearance of good that worldly things have, which makes ignorant men esteem them highly. For as timorous beasts start away from things because they fancy them dangerous when they are not, so these, on the contrary, love and follow worldly things, believing them to be delightful, which they are not. And therefore, as those who seek to cure such animals of this fault, try to lead them up to the very place where they refuse to go, that they may see that what they feared was but a shadow, so must we now lead these men to those earthly shadows which they so inordinately love, and make them look upon them with other eyes, that they may see plainly that all they love is but a shadow and vanity, and that such things are no more worthy to be loved than those dangers to be feared.
When I look attentively on the world and all its joys, I find in it six different evils, which no one can deny; namely, shortness, misery, danger, blindness, sin, and delusion. They all accompany these joys, and plainly show what they are. We will speak shortly of each in its turn.
To begin with their shortness. Thou canst not deny that all the joys and pleasures of the world of whatever kind, are short. For man's happiness cannot be longer than his life. How long
this life is, we have said elsewhere, for the longest life of man hardly reaches a hundred years. And how many attain to this? I have seen people who were Bishops two months, Supreme Pontiffs one month, or married but a week; we read of many such cases in times past, and see many daily. But let us suppose that thy life will be very long. “Let us give a hundred years," says S. Chrysostom,“to worldly pastimes, add to these another hundred, and again two hundred more; what is all this in comparison with eternity ?” “If a man live many years,” saith Solomon,“ and rejoice in them all ; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.” (Eccles. xi. 8.) For in the presence of eternity, all past joys, however great, appear what they are, vanity. Even the wicked confess this in the Book of Wisdom when they say that as soon as they were born, they began to draw to their end. (Wisd. v. 15.) How short will all the time of this life then seem to the wicked; it will be as if they had lived but a day, and had been immediately translated from the womb to the grave. All the pleasures and satisfactions of this world will seem to them as dreams, unreal semblances of pleasure. Isaiah the Prophet signifies this in these words, “It shall be even as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth ; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty : or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh ; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite : so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.” (Isa. xxix. 8.) Their prosperity shall be so short, that when they have opened their eyes, and that moment of time has passed, they will see that all their joys were as a dream.
And tell me, what more than this was the glory of all the potentates and emperors in the world ? “Where," saith the Prophet, “are the princes of the heathen become, and such as ruled the beasts upon the earth ; they that had their pastime with the fowls of the air, and they that hoarded up silver and gold, wherein men trust, and make no end of their getting i For they that wrought in silver, and were so careful, and whose works are unsearchable, they are vanished and gone down to the grave, and others are come up in their steads.” (Baruch.) What has become of the wise man? Where is the learned? Where is he that sought out the secrets of nature? What has become of the glory of Solomon ? Where is the mighty Alexander, and the boastful Ahasuerus ? Where are the renowned Cæsars of Rome? Where are the other princes and kings of the earth ? What has their vainglory availed them, or their worldly power, their many servants, their false riches, their hosts of armies, the number of their jesters, the multitude of liars and flatterers that surrounded them? All this was but a shadow, a dream, a joy that passed in a moment. See, my Brother, how short the joys of this world are.
Besides its shortness, there is another evil connected with this joy, that it is accompanied with a thousand miseries which cannot be avoided in this life, I would rather say in this valley of tears, in this place of banishment, in this restless sea. For in truth man's miseries are more than the days or even the hours of his life ; each day dawns with its own anxiety, and each hour threatens its own misery. And what tongue is able to express all these miseries? Who can number all the diseases of our bodies, all the sufferings of our souls, all the injuries of our neighbours, and all the disasters of our lives? One goes to law with us for our property, another seeks our life, a third blemishes our honour; some with hatred, some with envy, some with deceit, some with revenge, some with false witness, some with weapons, some with their tongues worse than any weapons, wage deadly war against us. And besides all these, there are innumerable miseries which I cannot name, because they are unexpected occurrences. One man has his eye thrust out, another his arm broken; one falls from a window, another from his horse, a third is drowned in a river; one is ruined by heavy contributions, another by being security. But if thou wouldst know more of this, ask a worldly man to number to thee his hours of pleasure and his hours of sadness; for if the two were weighed in a balance, thou wouldst plainly see how much one outweighs the other, and perceive that for one hour of pleasure there are a hundred of sadness. Now if life is so short, as we said before, and so much of it is occupied by all these troubles, pray tell me how much remains for pure and true happiness?