Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away
. . . blessed be the name of the Lord."
Many Kinds the Will of God Is, and In What Things Chiefly
S. CYPRIAN, bishop of Carthage, a man of the greatest eloquence and holiness of life, as well as a most valiant Martyr, has made a kind of summary of what the Divine Will demands from its followers. They are words worthy of Cyprian, and they should be engraven in gold. And would that they were inscribed on all the churches and houses of Christians! Would that they were engraved also on their hearts, as a comprehensive account of Christian life and perfection!
"The Will of God," he says [De Drat. Dam. 10], "is what Christ has done and taught. It is humility in conduct, steadfastness in faith, scrupulousness in our words, rectitude in our deeds, mercy in our works, governance in our habits; it is innocence of injuriousness, and patience under it, preserving peace with the brethren, loving God with all our heart, loving Him as our Father, and fearing Him as our God; accounting Christ before all things, because He accounted nothing before us, clinging inseparably to His love, being stationed with fortitude and faith at His Cross, and when the battle comes for His Name and honor, maintaining in words that constancy which makes confession, in torture that confidence which joins battle, and in death that patience which receives the crown. This it is to endeavor to be co-heir with Christ; this it is to perform the commandment of God, and fulfill the will of the Father."
1. And of these we must specially store in our inmost mind the foIlowing,-----innocence of injuriousness, patience under it, preserving peace with the brethren, and loving God with all our heart. We wretched mortals often deceive ourselves here most grievously; we acknowledge the Will of God with the readiest affection when it rewards us, and loads us with benefits; but when it chastises us we turn away from it, as if it were not the Will of God at all: but as if men, animated with the most malignant feelings, had conspired against our welfare and name, so that they might either destroy us altogether, or grievously harass us, and this as if God either knew nothing about it, or certainly did not command it.
This is downright blindness and madness. Are we to imagine that pleasant things only, and those which suit us are sent from Heaven? Nay, but sorrowful things also, and things which tend to our discomfort; nor is anything at all in this vast machine carried on, or disturbed, or thrown out of gear [sin only excepted], of which the cause and origin is not from that First Cause. Jeremias, in his lamentation, says,-----Who is he that hath commanded a thing to be done, when the Lord commandeth it not? Shall not both evil and good proceed out of the mouth of the Highest? Why hath a living man murmured, a man suffering for his sins?" [Lam. III. 37-39] How senseless and perverse is that man who believes that there is anything which God does not either send, or at least does not permit! Cassian [Coll. III. 20] puts it most clearly:-----"It behooves us," he says, "to believe with unshaken faith that nothing at all is done in the world without God; for we must confess that all things are done either by His Will or Permission."
The ancients fabled certain giants who attempted to thrust down the gods from their abode. Let us have done with fables; ye, O querulous ones, ye are those giants; for if all evils which afflict us here are not only permitted by God, but also sent upon us by Him, what are you doing when you chase and fight against them, but doing all that lies in your power to snatch away His scepter and power in ruling? All created things willingly obey, and submit themselves to that Supreme Law; while man alone, the noblest of all creatures, kicks against his Maker, and resists His Will. Why do we show our anger to so little purpose? Deaths of all kinds are from God, yes all, I repeat, all of them. If an earthquake has in one direction swallowed up some cities, it is from the Providence of God. If in another place a pestilence has mown down many thousands, it is from the same. If there is slaughter, war, tyranny, in this or that quarter, it is from the same. But, not to dwell on public calamities, if your enemy plunders you of part of your goods, if another assails your fair name, and a third injures you in other ways, it is all of God, Who not only permits, but also sends it upon you by His Divine Wisdom, that you may fully understand that all these things are sent upon you from Heaven. The Divine Will, therefore, not merely demands of us that we should be as averse to inflicting injury upon others, as if we were able to inflict none, but it also requires that we should so endure injuries inflicted by others, as to preserve peace with all men, even though they may not wish to preserve it with us.
we may more fully understand the mystery of the Divine Will, let me
explain that which I have already referred to above.
Queen Esther proclaimed this when she said,-----"O Lord, almighty King, all things are in Thy power, and there is none that can resist Thy will." [Esth. XIII. 9] And this S. Augustine also sets forth most excellently-----"These are," he says, "the great works of the Lord, wonderfully designed to fulfill all His Will, and designed with such a depth of wisdom, that, when the Angelic and human creation had sinned [that is, had done not what He, but what they, willed], even by that same will of the creature, whereby that which the Creator willed not was done, He fulfilled that which He willed, turning to a good account even the evil, as being Himself supremely good." Although, therefore, the wicked fight against the Divine Will, yet by their means God performs His Own Will, and turns their most perverse will to the best account. It is clear from what has been said that though God wills salvation for all, yet all will not attain to it, because they do not fulfill the condition which is required, being rebellious against the Divine Commands. And of these our Savior prophesied with severity when he said------"Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doth the Will of My Father Who is in Heaven." [Matt. VII. 21] A wise man early transfuses his whole self into the Divine Will.
this being so, we can do nothing better or more profitable than
submit and conform our own will to the Divine, and say with Heli the
is the Lord; let Him do what is good in His sight" [1 Kings III. 18];
Joab,-----"The Lord will do what is
good in His
[2 Kings X. 12]; with King David,-----"But
say to me, thou pleaseth me not; I am ready, let Him do that which is
before Him" [2 Kings XV. 26]; with Judas Machabeus,-----"As
it shall be the Will of God in Heaven, so be it done" [1 Mach. III. 60]
; with Christ our Savior,-----"My Father, if it be possible, let this
pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." [Matt.
39] For if the Son was so obedient, as perfectly to fulfill the Will of
the Father-----for, "I came down from
says, "not to do My Own Will, but the Will of Him that sent Me" [John
38]-----if this was required of the
less does it become servants to refuse to recognize His commands. Let
think it perfectly just that whatever from eternity has pleased God,
please man also. The soldier in camp, when he hears the signal for
collects his baggage; but when he hears the trumpet-call for battle, he
lays it down, and takes up his arms, being prepared with mind, hand,
eye, to execute every order of his general. And so let it be with
and in this our warfare let us follow our Leader cheerfully and with a
firm step, wherever He may call us. Whatever happens, let us bear it,
only patiently, but cheerfully, and let us rest assured that
of all seasons are according to the Law of Nature. And as a brave
endures wounds, counts his scars, and, though pierced through with
still loves the general for whom he falls, so let us keep in mind that
old precept-----"FOLLOW GOD."