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543

CHAPTER VIII.

A GENERAL MEANS FOR APPLYING OUR WORKS TO GOD'S SERVICE.

All whatsoever you do in word and in work, do all in the name of Jesus Christ.5945941 Cor. x. 31. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.595595Col. iii. 17. These are the words of the Divine Apostle; which, as the great S. Thomas says in explaining them, are sufficiently put in practice when we have the habit of holy charity, whereby, though we have not an express and set purpose of doing every work for God, that intention is implicitly contained in the union and communion we have with God, which dedicates all the good we can do, with ourselves, to his Divine goodness. It is not necessary that a child, while living in the house and under the authority of his father, should declare that all he gets is got for his father; for since his person belongs to his father, all that depends on it also belongs to him. So it suffices that we be God's children by love, to make all that we do entirely directed to his glory.

It is true then, Theotimus, that, as we have said elsewhere, even as the olive-tree set near unto the vine imparts unto it its savour, so charity being near the other virtues communicates unto them its perfection. Yet true it is also that if one engraft a vine upon an olive, it not only more perfectly communicates its taste but also makes it share in its sap; so do you not content yourself with having charity, and together with it the practice of virtues, but endeavour that it may be by and for it that you practise them, that they may be rightly ascribed unto it.

When a painter holds and guides a pupil's hand, the stroke that is made is principally attributed to the painter, because, though the pupil indeed contributed the motion of his hand and application of the brush, yet the master also for his part did so mingle his movement with the pupil's, giving the touch through him, that to the master is specially attributed the honour of whatever is good in the stroke, though yet the apprentice is also 544praised, because of the pliableness with which he accommodated his movement to the direction of his master. Oh! how excellent are the actions of the virtues when Divine love impresses its sacred movement on them, that is, when they are done out of the motive of love! But this happens in different ways.

The motive of Divine love pours forth a particular influence of perfection upon the virtuous actions of those who have in a special manner dedicated themselves to God to serve him for ever. Such are bishops and priests, who by a sacramental consecration, and by a spiritual character that cannot be effaced, vow themselves, as branded and marked serfs, to the perpetual service of God; such are religious, who by their vows, either solemn or simple, are immolated to God in quality of living and reasonable sacrifices; such are those who betake themselves to pious congregations, dedicating themselves for ever to God's glory; further, such are all those who of set purpose produce deep and strong resolutions of following the will of God, making for this end retreats of some days, that they may stir up their souls by divers spiritual exercises to the entire reformation of their life—a holy method, and ordinary among the ancient Christians, but since almost entirely left off till that great servant of God, Ignatius of Loyola, brought it into use again in the time of our fathers.

I know that some are of opinion, that such a general oblation of ourselves does not extend its virtue and carry its influence into the actions which we practise afterwards except so far forth as in the exercise of them we apply the motive of love in particular, by dedicating them in a special manner to the glory of God; yet all confess with S. Bonaventure, quoted by every one in this matter, that if I have resolved in my heart to give a hundred crowns for God's sake, though afterwards I make the distribution of this sum at leisure, having my mind distracted and without attention, yet is all the distribution made through love, because it proceeds from the first intention which Divine love made me make of giving it all.

But, prithee, Theotimus, what difference is there between him who offers a hundred crowns to God, and him who offers all his actions? Truly none, save that the one offers a sum of money, 545and the other a sum of actions. And why, I pray, shall they not equally be considered to make the distribution of the parts of their sum in virtue of their first purposes and fundamental resolutions? And if the one, distributing his crowns without attention, fails not to have the advantage of that first purpose, why shall not the other, in the distribution of his actions, enjoy the fruit of the first intention? He who has deliberately made himself a loving servant of his divine goodness has, by that act, dedicated to him all his actions.

Grounding himself upon this truth, every one should once in his life make a good retreat, therein to cleanse his soul from all sin, and should then make a determined and solid resolution to live wholly to God, as we have taught in the first part of the Introduction to a Devout Life; and afterwards, at least once every year, he must make the review of his conscience and the renewal of the first resolution, which we have put down in the fifth part of that work, to which on this point I refer you.

Indeed S. Bonaventure acknowledges that a man who has got so great an inclination and custom of well-doing as frequently to do it without any special intention, fails not to merit much by such actions; which are ennobled by love, because they spring from love as from the root and original source of this blessed habit, facility and promptitude.

 


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