The Sinner's Guide
Ven. Louis of Granada
With Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur
TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, INC.
Chapter 5. The Fifth Motive
which Obliges Us to
What would the benefit of Redemption avail us, if it had not been followed by that of justification, through which the sovereign virtue of Redemption is applied to our souls? For as the most excellent remedies avail us nothing if not applied to our disorders, so the sovereign remedy of Redemption would be fruitless were it not applied to us through the benefit of justification. This is the work of the Holy Ghost, to whom the sanctification of man in a special manner belongs. It is He who attracts the sinner by His mercy, who calls him, who leads him in the ways of wisdom, who justifies him, who raises him to perfection, who imparts to him the gift of perseverance, to which, in the end, He will add the crown of everlasting glory. These are the different degrees of grace contained in the inestimable benefit of justification.
The first of these graces is our [baptismal] vocation. Man cannot throw off the yoke of sin; he cannot return from death to life, nor from a child of wrath can he become a child of God, without the assistance of divine grace. For Our Saviour has declared, "No man can come to me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him." [Jn. 6: 44]
St. Thomas thus explains these words: "As a stone, when other forces are removed, naturally falls to the ground, and cannot rise again without the application of some extraneous power, so man, corrupted by sin, ever tends downwards, attracted to earth by the love of perishable possessions, and cannot, without the intervention of divine grace, rise to heavenly things or a desire for supernatural perfection." This truth merits our consideration and our tears, for it shows us the depth of our misery, and the necessity, under which we labor, of incessantly imploring the divine assistance.
But to return to our subject: Who can express all the benefits brought to us by justification? It banishes from our souls sin, the source of all evils. It reconciles us to God and restores us to His friendship; for in truth the greatest evil which sin brings on us is that it makes us the objects of God's hatred. God, being infinite goodness, must sovereignly abhor all that is evil. "Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity," exclaims His prophet; "Thou wilt destroy all that speak a lie. The bloody and the deceitful man the Lord will abhor." [Ps. 5: 7]
The enmity of God is evidently the greatest of evils for us, since it cuts us off from the friendship of God, the source of every blessing. From this misfortune justification delivers us, restoring us to God's grace, and uniting us to Him by the most intimate love, that of a father for a son. Hence the beloved disciple exclaims: "Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God." [1 Jn. 3: 1] The Apostle would have us understand that we wear not only the name, but are in truth the sons of God, in order that we may appreciate the liberality and magnificence of God's mercy to us.
If God's enmity be such a terrible misfortune, what an incomparable blessing His friendship must be! For it is an axiom in philosophy that according as a thing is evil, so is its opposite good; hence the opposite of that which is supremely evil must be supremely good. Now, man's supreme evil is the enmity of God; therefore, his supreme good must be the friendship of God. If men set such value upon the favor of their masters, their fathers, their princes, their kings, how highly should they esteem their sovereign Master, this most excellent Father, this King of kings, compared to whom all power and riches and principalities are as if they were not!
The benefit we are considering is largely enhanced by the liberality with which it is bestowed. For as man before his creation was unable to merit the gift of existence, so after his fall he could do nothing to merit his justification. No act of his could satisfy the Creator, in whose sight he was an object of hatred.
Another blessing flowing from justification is our deliverance from the eternal pains of Hell. Having driven God from him by sin, having despised His love, man in his turn is justly rejected by God. Inordinate love for creatures led him away from the Creator, and, therefore, it is but just that these same creatures should be the instruments of his punishment. Therefore, he was condemned to the eternal pains of Hell, compared to which the sufferings of this life are so light that they appear more imaginary than real. Add to these torments the undying worm which unceasingly gnaws the conscience of the sinner. What shall I say of his society, demons of perversity and reprobate men? Consider also the confusion and darkness of this terrible abode, where there is no rest, no joy, no peace, no hope, but eternal rage and blasphemies, perpetual weeping and ceaseless gnashing of teeth. Behold the torments from which God delivers those whom He justifies.
Another benefit of justification, more spiritual and therefore less apparent, is the regeneration of the interior man deformed by sin. For sin deprives the soul not only of God but of all her supernatural power, of the graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost, in which her beauty and strength consist. A soul thus stripped of the riches of grace is weakened and paralyzed in all her faculties. For man is essentially a rational creature, but sin is an act contrary to reason. Hence, as opposites destroy each other, it follows that the greater and the more numerous our sins are, the greater must be the ruin of the faculties of the soul, not in themselves, but in their power of doing good.
Thus sin renders the soul miserable, weak and torpid, inconstant in good, cowardly in resisting temptation, slothful in the observance of God's commandments. It deprives her of true liberty and of that sovereignty which she should never resign; it makes her a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil; it subjects her to a harder and more wretched servitude than that of the unhappy Israelites in Egypt or Babylon. Sin so dulls and stupefies the spiritual senses of man that he is deaf to God's voice and inspirations; blind to the dreadful calamities which threaten him; insensible to the sweet odor of virtue and the example of the Saints; incapable of tasting how sweet the Lord is, or feeling the touch of His benign hand in the benefits which should be a constant incitement to his greater love. Moreover, sin destroys the peace and joy of a good conscience, takes away the soul's fervor, and leaves her an object abominable in the eyes of God and His Saints.
The grace of justification delivers us from all these miseries. For God, in His infinite mercy, is not content with effacing our sins and restoring us to His favor; He delivers us from the evils sin has brought upon us, and renews the interior man in his former strength and beauty. Thus He heals our wounds, breaks our bonds, moderates the violence of our passions, restores with true liberty the supernatural beauty of the soul, re-establishes us in the; peace and joy of a good conscience, reanimates our interior ; senses, inspires us with ardor for good and a salutary hatred of sin, makes us strong and constant in resisting evil, and thus enriches us with an abundance of good works. In fine, He so perfectly renews the inner man with all his faculties that the Apostle calls those who are thus justified new men and new creatures. [Cf. 2 Cor. 4: 16 and Gal. 6: 15]
This renewal of the inner man is so powerful, so true, that in Baptism it is called regeneration, in Penance, resurrection; not only because it restores the soul from the death of sin to the life of grace, but because it is an anticipation of the last glorious resurrection. No tongue can express the beauty of a justified soul; only the Holy Spirit, who is pleased to dwell therein, can tell the sweetness, loveliness, and strength with which He has enriched her. The beauty, the power, the riches of earth fade into insignificance before the unspeakable beauty of a soul in a state of grace. As far as Heaven is above earth, as far as mind is above matter, so far does the life of grace exceed that of nature, so far does the invisible beauty of a soul exceed the visible beauty of this world. God Himself is enamored with this divine beauty. He adorns such a soul with infused virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, imparting, at the same time, renewed strength and splendor to all her powers.
Moreover, God, in His boundless liberality, sends us the Holy Ghost Himself, whilst the three Divine Persons take up their abode in a soul thus prepared, in order to teach her to make a noble use of the riches with which she is endowed. Like a good father, God not only leaves His inheritance to His children, but also sends them a prudent guardian to administer it. This guardian is no other than God Himself, for, as Christ has declared, "If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." [John 14: 23]
From these words the Doctors of the Church and between the Holy Spirit and His gifts, they declare that the soul not only enjoys these gifts, but also the real presence of their Divine Author. Entering such a soul, God transforms her into a magnificent temple. He Himself purifies, sanctifies, and adorns her, making her a fitting habitation for her Supreme Guest. Contrast this glorious state with the miserable condition of a soul in sin, the abode of evil spirits and of every abomination. [Cf. Matt. 12: 45]
Still another more marvelous benefit of justification is that it transforms the soul into a living member of Christ. This, again, is the source of new graces and privileges, for the Son of God, loving and cherishing us as His own members, infuses into us that virtue which is His life, and, as our Head, continually guides and directs us. How tenderly, too, does the Heavenly Father look upon such souls, as members of His Divine Son, united to Him by the participation of the same Holy Spirit! Their works, therefore, are pleasing to Him, and meritorious in His sight, since it is Jesus Christ, His only Son, who lives and acts in them. Hence, with what confidence they address God in prayer, because it is not so much for themselves as for His Divine Son that they pray, since to Him all the honor of their lives redounds. For as the members of the body can receive no benefit of which the Head does not partake, so neither can Christ, the Head of all the just, be separated from their virtues or merits. If it be true, as the Apostle tells us [Cf. 1 Cor. 6: 15], that they who sin against the members of Jesus Christ sin against Jesus Christ Himself, and that He regards a persecution directed against His members as directed against Himself [Cf. Acts. 9: 4], is it astonishing that He regards the honor paid to His members as paid to Himself?
Pray, then, with confidence, remembering that your petitions ascend to the Eternal Father in the name of His Son, who is your Head. For His sake they will be heard, and will redound to His honor; for, as is generally admitted, when we ask a favor for the sake of another, it is granted not so much to the one who receives it, as to the one for whose sake it was asked. For this reason we are said to serve God when we serve the poor for His sake.
The final benefit of justification is the right which it gives to eternal life. God is infinitely merciful as well as infinitely just, and while He condemns impenitent sinners to eternal misery, He rewards the truly repentant with eternal happiness. God could have pardoned men and restored them to His favor without raising them to a share in His glory, yet in the excess of His mercy He adopts those whom He pardons, justifies those whom He has adopted, and makes them partakers of the riches and inheritance of His only-begotten Son. It is the hope of this incomparable inheritance which sustains and comforts the just in all their tribulations; for they feel even in the midst of the most cruel adversity that "that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory." [2 Cor. 4: 17]
These are the graces comprehended in the inestimable benefit of justification, which St. Augustine justly ranks above that of creation. [Super. Joan 72, 9] For God created the world by a single act of His will, but to redeem it He shed the last drop of His Blood and expired under the most grievous torments. St. Thomas gives a like opinion in his Summa Theologica.
Though it is true that no man can be certain of his justification, yet there are signs by which we can form a favorable judgment. The principal of these is a change of life; as, for example, when a man who hitherto committed innumerable mortal sins without scruple would not now be guilty of a single grave offence against God even to gain the whole world.
Let him, then, who has attained these happy dispositions reflect upon what he owes the Author of his justification, who has delivered him from the multitude of evils which are the consequences of sin, and overwhelmed him with the benefits which we have attempted to explain. And as for him who has the misfortune to be still in a state of sin, I know nothing more efficacious to rouse him from his miserable condition than the consideration of the evils which sin brings in its train, and of the blessings which flow from the incomparable benefit of justification.
The effects produced in the soul by the Holy Ghost do not end here. This Divine Spirit, not content with causing us to enter the path of justice, maintains us therein, strengthening us against all obstacles until we arrive at the haven of salvation. His love will not permit Him to remain idle in a soul which He honors by His presence. He sanctifies her with His virtue, and effects in her and by her all that is necessary to win eternal life. He dwells in the soul as the father in the midst of a family, preserving order and peace by his prudent authority; as a master in the midst of his disciples, teaching lessons of Divine wisdom; as a gardener in a garden confided to his intelligent care; as a king in his kingdom, ruling and directing all; as the sun in the midst of the universe, enlightening and vivifying her, and directing all her movements.
Possessing, in an eminent degree, all the good that is in creatures, He produces, but in a far more perfect manner, all the effects of which these creatures are capable. As fire He vivifies our understanding, enkindles our will, and detaches us from earth to raise us to Heavenly things; as a dove He renders us sweet, gentle, and compassionate to one another; as a cloud He shelters us from the burning sensuality of the flesh, and tempers the heat of our passions; as a violent wind He impels our wills to good and sweeps all evil affections from our hearts. Hence it is that just souls abhor the vices which they formerly loved, and embrace the virtues from which they formerly shrank. Witness David, who cries out, "I have hated and abhorred iniquity." "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches." [Ps. 118: 104, 14]
It is to the Holy Ghost that we are indebted for all our progress in virtue. It is He who preserves us from evil and maintains us in good. It is He who is the principle of our perseverance, and who finally crowns us in Heaven. This it was which led St. Augustine to say that in rewarding our merits God but crowns His own gifts. [Conf. 1, 20]
The holy patriarch Joseph, not content with giving to his brethren the corn which they came to purchase, ordered also that the money which they paid for it should be secretly returned to them. God treats His elect with still greater liberality. He not only gives them eternal life, but furnishes them the grace and virtue to attain it. "We adore Him," says Eusebius Emissenus, "that He may be merciful to us, but He has already been merciful to us in giving us grace to adore Him."
Let each one, then, glance over his life and consider, as the same holy Doctor suggests, all the good he has been permitted to do, and all the sins of impurity, injustice, and sacrilege from which he has been preserved, and he will comprehend in some measure what he owes to God. On this point St. Augustine well observes that God shows no less mercy in preserving man from sin than in pardoning him after he has fallen. [Conf. 2, 7] Indeed, it is a greater proof of love. Therefore, the same Saint, writing to a virgin, says: "Man should consider that God has pardoned him all the sins from which He has preserved him. Think not, therefore, that you may love this Master with a feeble love because He has pardoned you but a few sins. Your debt of love, on the contrary, is greater for His preventing grace which has saved you from committing many. For if a man must love a creditor who forgives him a debt, how much more reason has he to love a benefactor who gratuitously bestows upon him a like amount? For if a man live chastely all his life, it is God Who preserves him; if he be converted from immorality to a pure life, it is God Who reforms him; and if he continue in his disorders till the end, it is also God Who justly forsakes him."
What, then, should our conclusion be but to unite our voices with the prophet, saying, "Let my mouth be filled with praise, that I may sing Thy glory, Thy greatness all the day long." [Ps. 70: 8] St. Augustine, commenting upon these words of the prophet, asks, "What means all the day long"? And he answers, "Under all circumstances and without interruption. Yes, Lord, I will praise Thee in prosperity because Thou dost comfort me, and in adversity because Thou dost chastise me. For my whole being I will praise Thee, because Thou art its Author. In my repentance I will praise Thee, because Thou dost pardon me. In my perseverance I will praise Thee, because Thou wilt crown me. Thus, O Lord, my mouth will be filled with Thy praise, and I will sing Thy glory all the day long !"
It would be fitting to speak here of the Sacraments, the instruments of justification, particularly of Baptism, and the Divine light and principle of faith which it imprints on our souls. But as this subject has been more fully treated in another work, we will confine ourselves, for the present, to the Eucharist, that Sacrament of Sacraments, which gives to us–----as our daily food and sovereign remedy–---- God Himself. He was offered once for us on the Cross, but He is daily offered for us on the altar. "This is My Body," Christ has declared; "do this for a commemoration of Me." [Lk. 22: 19]
Oh! Sacred Pledge of our salvation! Oh! Incomparable Sacrifice! Oh! Victim of love! Oh! Bread of life! Oh! Sweet and delicious Banquet! Oh! Food of kings! Oh! Manna containing all sweetness and delight! Who can fittingly praise Thee? Who can worthily receive Thee? Who can love and venerate Thee as Thou dost deserve? My soul faints at the thought of Thee; my lips are mute in Thy presence, for I cannot extol Thy marvels as I desire.
Had Our Lord reserved this favor for the pure and innocent, it would still be a mercy beyond our comprehension. But in His boundless love He does not refuse to descend into depraved hearts, nor to pass through the hands of unworthy ministers who are the slaves of Satan and the victims of their unruly passion. To reach the hearts of His friends and to bring them His Divine consolations, He submits to innumerable outrages and profanations. He was sold once in His mortal life, but in this august Sacrament He is unceasingly betrayed. The scorn and ignominy of His Passion afflicted Him only once, but in this sacred Banquet His love and goodness are daily insulted and outraged. Once He was nailed to the Cross between two thieves, but in this Sacrament of love His enemies crucify Him a thousand times.
What return, then, can we make to a Master Who seeks our good in so many ways? If servants obey and serve their masters for a paltry support; if soldiers from a like motive brave fire and sword, what do we not owe God, Who maintains us with this Heavenly Food? If God in the Old Law exacted so much gratitude from the Israelites for the manna, which, with all its excellence, was only corruptible food, what gratitude will He not expect for this Divine Nourishment, incorruptible in Itself, and conferring the same blessing on all who worthily receive It? If we owe Him so much for the food which preserves our bodily life, what return must we not make Him for the Food which preserves in us the life of grace? And, finally, if our debt of gratitude be so great for being made children of Adam, what do we owe Him for making us children of God? For it cannot be denied, as Eusebius Emissenus observes, that "the day we are born to eternity is infinitely greater than the day which brings us forth to this world, with all its suffering and dangers."
then, dear Christian,
is another motive which should induce you to serve God, another link in
that chain which bind you irrevocably to your Creator.