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66

CHAPTER II.

THAT IN GOD THERE IS BUT ONE ONLY ACT, WHICH IS HIS OWN DIVINITY.

There is in us great diversity of faculties and habits, which produce also a great variety of actions, and those actions an incomparable multitude of works. Thus differ the faculties of hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, moving, feeding, understanding, willing; and the habits of speaking, walking, playing, singing, sewing, leaping, swimming: as also the actions and works which issue from these faculties and habits are greatly different.

But it is not the same in God; for in him there is one only most simple infinite perfection, and in that perfection one only most sole and most pure act: yea to speak more holily and sagely, God is one unique and most uniquely sovereign perfection, and this perfection is one sole most purely simple and most simply pure act, which being no other thing than the proper divine essence, is consequently ever permanent and eternal. Nevertheless poor creatures that we are, we talk of God's actions as though daily done in great number and variety, though we know the contrary. But our weakness, Theotimus, forces us to this; for our speech can but follow our understanding, and our understanding the customary order of things with us. Now, as in natural things there is hardly any diversity of works without diversity of actions, when we behold so many different works, such great variety of productions, and the innumerable multitude of the effects of the divine might, it seems to us at first that this diversity is caused by as many acts as we see different effects, and we speak of them in the same way, in order to speak more at our ease, according to our ordinary practice and our customary way of understanding things. And indeed we do not in this violate truth, for though in God there is no multitude of actions, but one sole act which is the divinity itself, yet this act is so perfect that it comprehends by excellence the force and virtue of all the acts which 67would seem requisite to the production of all the different effects we see.

God spoke but one word, and in virtue of that in a moment were made the sun, moon and that innumerable multitude of stars, with their differences in brightness, motion and influence. He spoke and they were made.5757Ps. cxlviii. 5. A single word of God's filled the air with birds, and the sea with fishes, made spring from the earth all the plants and all the beasts we see. For although the sacred historian, accommodating himself to our fashion of understanding, recounts that God often repeated that omnipotent word: Let there be: according to the days of the world's creation, nevertheless, properly speaking, this word was singularly one; so that David terms it a breathing or spirit of the divine mouth;5858Ps. xxxii. 6. that is, one single act of his infinite will, which so powerfully spreads its virtue over the variety of created things, that it makes us conceive this act as if it were multiplied and diversified into as many differences as there are in these effects, though in reality it is most simply and singularly one. Thus S. Chrysostom remarks that what Moses said in many words describing the creation of the world, the glorious S. John expressed in a single word, saying that by the word, that is by that eternal word who is the Son of God, all things were made.59591 John i. 3.

This word then, Theotimus, whilst most simple and most single, produces all the distinction of things; being invariable produces all fit changes, and, in fine, being permanent in his eternity gives succession, vicissitude, order, rank and season to all things.

Let us imagine, I pray you, on the one hand, a painter making a picture of Our Saviour's birth (and I write this in the days dedicated to this holy mystery). Doubtless he will give a thousand and a thousand touches with his brush, and will take, not only days, but weeks and months, to perfect this picture, according to the variety of persons and other things he wants to represent in it. But on the other hand, let us look at a printer of pictures, who having spread his sheet upon the plate which has the same mystery of the Nativity cut in it, gives but 68a single stroke of the press: in this one stroke, Theotimus, he will do all his work, and instantly he will draw off a picture representing in a fine engraving all that has been imagined, as sacred history records it. Now though with one movement he performed the work, yet it contains a great number of personages, and other different things, each one well distinguished in its order, rank, place, distance and proportion: so that one not acquainted with the secret would be astonished to see proceed from one act so great a variety of effects. In the same way, Theotimus, nature as a painter multiplies and diversifies her acts according as the works she has in hand are various, and it takes her a great time to finish great effects, but God, like the printer, has given being to all the diversity of creatures which have been, are, or shall be, by one only stroke of his omnipotent will. He draws from his idea as from a well cut plate, this admirable difference of persons and of things, which succeed one another in seasons, in ages, and in times, each one in its order, as they were to be. For this sovereign unity of the divine act is opposed to confusion and disorder, and not to distinction and variety; these on the contrary it purposely uses, to make beauty from them, by reducing all differences and diversities to proportion, proportion to order, and order to the unity of the world, which comprises all things created, visible and invisible. All these together are called the universe, perhaps because all their diversity is reduced to unity as though one said "unidiverse," that is, one and diverse, one with diversity and diverse with unity.

To sum up, the sovereign divine unity diversifies all, and his permanent eternity gives change to all things, because the perfection of this unity being above all difference and variety, it has wherewith to furnish all the diversities of created perfections with their beings, and contains a virtue to produce them; in sign of which the Scripture having told us that God in the beginning said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons and for days and years,6060Gen. i. 14.—we see 69even to this day a perpetual revolution and succession of times and seasons which shall continue till the end of the world. So we learn that as he spoke and they were made, so the single eternal will of his divine Majesty extends its force from age to age, yea to ages of ages, to all that has been, is, or shall be eternally; and nothing at all has existence save by this sole most singular, most simple, and most eternal divine act, to which be honour and glory. Amen.

 


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