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 Four:

Chapter Six: That Nothing Belonging to One's Own Will Is to be Retained,
As Well as in Difficulties of All Kinds, as in Death Itself

IN things of trifling importance we yield our will without much difficulty to the Divine Will; but in those which are of greater moment, as, for example, loss of riches, honour, or life, then shifts and excuses occur to us; there are delays and impediments; there is great perversity of our refractory will; and here our own TO WILL, and NOT TO WILL, stand in opposition to God's TO WILL and NOT TO WILL.

But why do we wretched mortals strive in vain? The Divine Will stands, and will for ever stand, like an immovable rock. We shall not draw that to us, but that will draw us to itself. We should laugh if a man, who had fastened his boat to a rock, were to continue pulling at the rope, and fancying that the rock was approaching him, when all the while he himself was drawing nearer and nearer to the rock. And is not our folly greater? since, although bound to that rock of the Divine Will, we desire, by our dragging and struggling, that it should follow us, and not we follow it.

1. There are some who instruct both themselves and others in the Divine Law, and such as these consecrate their understanding indeed to God. But where is their will, that most precious of all gifts? This they keep for themselves, making an unequal partition with God. Admirably, in the old time, was one thus accustomed to pray for another:-----"May God be gracious to you, and give you all a heart to worship Him, and to do His Will with a great heart, and a willing mind." (2 Mach. 2, 3) They, indeed, worship God with a very narrow heart, and a thoroughly unwilling mind, who in any simple and easy matter yield their own will; but when there is to be a risk of goods, or some point of honour, or when their life is hinging on the act, they, in such a case, retain the right over their own will with the utmost tenacity, and remain their own. Ah! you are not volunteers such as those of old, who of their own will enrolled themselves for service, promising to fight for their masters; and for this reason they were invested with the rights of citizenship, and were rewarded with their liberty. But if those who are so contumacious and refractory against the Divine Will would willingly yield themselves, and voluntarily submit their own will to that Supreme Will, of a certainty they would obtain a right to Heaven, and would be free to all eternity. Amongst those volunteers, David, the king of Israel, is conspicuous. "In me," he says, "O God, are vows to Thee, which I will pay, praises to Thee." (Ps. LV. 12)

There is nothing under Heaven so free as the will of man. All other things obey the Creator with marvellous subjection. Man alone possesses such liberty. that he wills whatever pleases him, even though it be repugnant" to Heaven, to Hell, and to God. There is nothing so much in our own power as the will: it is competent for man, as often as he pleases, to say NO, and to refuse, even when God Himself assents. And this is the prolific source of all sins, when God says,-----"I will that this shall be done," and man dares to speak against it, and say,-----"I will not do this ;" or when God says,-----"I will not that this should be done," and man says,-----"I will to do it ;" and as often as God says,-----"This is my Will," and man, nevertheless, replies,-----"But it is not mine." And on this account God complains most grievously. "Of old time," He says, "thou hast broken My yoke, thou hast burst my bands, and thou saidst: I will not serve." (Jer. II. 20) This is the very root of all sins. Let there not be this impious "I WILL," and there will be no sin. That, in truth, is the most excellent medicine which cures the disease in such a way as to pluck out also the root of the disorder. Now the proper remedy of sin is Penitence, which then only is true when it represses this rebellious struggle, and thoroughly subjects the human will to the Divine. But the first act of the will is TO LOVE, as it is of the ears to hear, and of the eyes to see. He who loves anything in earnest yields his heart and will to it with pleasure; nor does any labour, or pain, or danger separate him from it; and so the will, which truly yields itself to God, esteems all things as nothing in comparison with God, and cheerfully embraces as well what is bitter as what is pleasant and sweet, according as it knows it to be pleasing to the supreme Will. And this was King David's state of mind when he said,-----"In me, O God, are vows to Thee." "I know not how to thank Thee, O my Lord, because I feel in myself this happiness and readiness towards Thy Will. May the promises made to Thee by me be kept in my inmost heart, lest they come to nothing." Let the will of a Christian man, then, be such a cellar, that from it may easily be taken whatever pleases the taste of his Lord. Let it be a rich storeroom, which is furnished with every kind of food and drink. If the master wishes for oil, or honey, or perfumes, or wine, whether it be Chian, Thasian, or Cretan; oil, and honey, and perfumes are produced, and wine which is not cheap and common, but such as he has ordered to be brought. If the master desires a partridge or a fatted capon, the partridge or capon is at once produced. If he wishes for bread which is snow-white, and of the first quality, the bread is ready; if he asks for anything else, whatever he wishes for flies to him at once. And such let our will be. Let it be both an oil-store, a honey-chamber, and wine-cellar, as well as a store-room of every kind of household stuff, so that whatever pleases the palate of our Master may be produced from thence; and let this be done in such away, indeed, that if God desires a soul ready for poverty, disease, ignominy, or death, He may find one so perfectly prepared for Himself as to say,,-----"In thee, O man, are My vows."

2. There was once a Bishop whose name was, "What God wills." And let this be both the name and the single study of all Christians-----what God wills. It is the sign of an ill-disposed man only to say, "What God wills," when neither laborious or weighty commands are given. He excels all, who, when poverty oppresses, when disease harasses, when contempt assails, when death calls him, still pronounces with most willing mind-----what God wills! If He wills that riches, or health, or reputation, or even life itself should be taken away-----what God wills! So let it be done! Neither does he question why he must die now, or at this particular place, or with this particular kind of disease, but he is thoroughly prepared for everything; this one thing alone he constantly repeats-----what God wills! Most forcibly has Seneca said (Ep. 30),-----"What do you require in order to be good? To WILL to be so."

3. Of how great importance the conformity of our will to the Divine is in a mortal sickness, Ludovicus Blosius MADONNA AND CHILDteaches very admirably in the following way:
-----"Let each person who is dying rest on the merits of our Saviour JESUS Christ, rather than on his own. Let him trust in His goodness, and in the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Saints, and Elect of God. Let him set before his eyes the most bitter Passion and Death of Christ, and remember that ineffable Love which constrained Him to suffer such hummiliation, and into those gaping Wounds, and into that fathomless deep of His unbounded Pity, let him cast himself, and hide himself, with all his sins and shortcomings. For the greater glory of God let him offer himself, as a living sacrifice, to the Lord, so as patiently to bear, according to His most acceptable Will, and from sincere love to Him, every bitter pain of weakness, and even death itself; yea, and whatever the Lord shall see fit to send upon him in time or eternity. If he shall be able really to do this-----if, I say, from pure love he shall have offered himself with a ready mind, and with entire resignation of self, to endure every punishment, for the honour of the Divine Justice-----that man shall neither enter Hell, nor any place of torment, even if in his single person he shall have committed all the sins of the whole world." No exercise, then, can be more beneficial in the last condition than that one should resign himself afresh to the Divine Will; humbly, lovingly, and entirely trusting in the boundless Mercy and Goodness of God.

For it is impossible but that he who departs this life with such true and perfect resignation, and with a holy trust in God, should at once attain to the heavenly kingdom. For as no punishment at all, nor any fire of torment can affect God, so neither can they touch the man who is thus united to God by conformity of will, and by love. In such a state of soul did that justified thief die upon the cross, who did not ask from the Lord salvation for his body, but dying willingly for his sins, and for the glory of God, resigned him self entirely to the Divine Will, and offered himself wholly to Christ, that He should do to him whatever He willed. For nothing but Mercy and Grace did he seek when he said,:-----"Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy Kingdom." (Luke XXIII. 42.) But if at the near approach of death the infirmity of our nature mourns or trembles, such mourning and trembling must be cast down before God by means of resignation, and sure trust in Him must be excited. Let the Death of Christ assuage the pain of your death. He has gone before you, and so, too, has a countless host of His Elect. Let it not grieve you, then, to follow. The body which you are about to lay aside is but a vile garment. What matter if it turn to corruption, and be hidden for a time in the earth? Hereafter, this same body of yours will rise again, and then it will be immortal, incorruptible, glorious, and clothed with light. You should reflect also how resigned and ready for death were those elder Saints, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and others like them, when the Door of the Kingdom of Heaven was not as yet open. And so we read, at the end of Deuteronomy, that the Lord said to Moses when he had ascended the Mount:-----"This is the land for which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to thy seed. Thou hast seen it with thy eyes, and shalt not pass over to it. And Moses the servant of the Lord died there, in the land of Moab, by the commandment of the Lord." (Deut. XXXIV. 4, 5) See, with what a resigned mind Moses, the Friend of the Most High, welcomed death, according to the Good-Pleasure of God. He crossed not over indeed into that visible land, but he was received into the invisible and better Land, that is to say, into the secret abode of peace, and the Limbo in which the souls of the just used then to rest in great tranquillity. But now an entrance to the heavenly country is opened to us by Christ our Lord.

And therefore, my excellent Christian friend, when you feel death to be near, or even before you are conscious of its approach, unite your will as perfectly as possible to the Divine Will, and commit yourself entirely to it; and neither think nor speak anything but this one thing-----whenever it seems good to God.

4. But that WHENEVER comes amiss to nearly all men. They know, indeed, that they must die, and they desire to die, but not yet. They wish to pay the debt they owe to nature, but not yet. They are anxious to be received into Paradise, but not yet. And in this way we wretched ones are so mad as to desire to cease to be wretched, but not yet, and to wish to be happy and blessed, but not yet. But why, miserable man, are you erecting for yourself so high a gallows, as to have many steps, by means of which you may know that you are proceeding the more leisurely to death? Why do you wish for so many years to be added to your life, in which to look forward to your death with the lingering torment of thought? Go you must, whether it be today, or to-morrow. But I know what deceives many. When death knocks at the door, they think that an importunate creditor has arrived before the time. Fools! That is the time, WHENEVER it seems good to the Lord of death. Why do you try to avoid it? Why do you plead your unripe years? Why do you ask for delay? For a long time past you have been ripe for death. Delay, if granted, will make you none the more prepared or ready; for even after this you will wish to prolong the time, being perhaps all the less prepared, as the delay granted to you has been greater. A respite from death has made not a few all the worse. It is a bad preparation for death to be unwilling to die. He has gained half who wills it, whenever He wills it, Who can will nothing that is evil. Therefore, away with hesitation, and say to your soul, WHENEVER and HOWEVER it seems good to God, so let it be done!

5. Job, who was well versed in bearing troubles, pleased God more, as S. Chrysostom testifies, by a few words only, than by all his alms, bountiful as they were; for when he, who was so sorely afflicted on all sides, could say,-----"As it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the Name of the Lord" (Job I. 21)-----he commended himself to the Divine Will more than when he made the most bounteous offerings; for, as we learn from S. Bonaventure (De Grad. Virt. 24):-----"It is a sign of greater perfection to endure adversity with patience, than to devote ourselves zealously to good works; since God stands not in need of our works." (Ps. xv. 2)

He, therefore, who sincerely seeks the Divine Will, esteems it alike whether he be whole or sick, since the Will of God is our entire good. In sickness, then, we must only so far trust the physician and his medicines as that all the while our entire confidence be placed in the Providence and Will of God. And when King Asa did not do this, he was justly rebuked, for "in his illness he did not seek the Lord, but rather trusted in the skill of physicians." (2 Par. XVI. 12) Far better did Ezekias act, who ascribed the cure of his disease neither to the figs, nor to him who caused them to be applied, but to God. But if medicines are of no avail, or if the physician does not thoroughly understand the violent nature of the disorder, or if, for some reason or other, an error is committed, and the health is not improved, let not blame immediately be laid on this or that person, but let all be ascribed to the Divine Providence and Will, and let there be no other thought than God wills not that I should be restored to health. or He wills that I should recover slowly.

Lyduvina, a very holy virgin, who was harassed by all sorts of pains, till she became a miserable object to look upon, and, as it were, the habitation of almost all diseases, nevertheless fixed her will so firmly on the Lord, that it pleased her to think and speak and do nothing with premeditation which she thought would be displeasing to God. It is related that she very often said with patient Job,-----" 'And that this may be my comfort, that afflicting me with sorrow, He spare not, nor I contradict the words of the Holy One' (Job VI.10), since the performance of His Will is to me the sweetest consolation."

That man has found a remedy of perfect efficacy, for all difficulties and calamities, who has ever yielded himself to the Divine Will.