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Chapter XXIII.

A Man Who Does Not Perceive His Own Emptiness, And Does Not Give All The Honor To God, Commits The Greatest Of Sins, And Falls Like Satan.

Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.Ps. 39:5.

To the end that man may acknowledge his own vanity, he is compared by the Psalmist (Ps. 39; 144:4), to a shadow; and again in another place (Ps. 90:5), to a dream. Now what is a shadow? It is a lifeless resemblance of that thing on which it depends; and has in itself neither substance nor life, but is nothing. In like manner, man of himself has neither substance, life, strength, nor indeed any ability whatsoever; but depends on God, even as a shadow on the body, or as light on the sun.

2. Whosoever, therefore, so forgets himself as not to depend on God, who alone is all in all, “thinking himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Gal. 6:3. He falls from the true eternal and Sovereign Being into his own nothingness; from the unchangeable Good into vanity; from truth itself into a lie.

3. This is not only the greatest of sins, but of punishments also. For the more man turns from God to himself, the more he approaches extreme misery and calamity. And man by this means, even by turning himself away from God, towards his own faculties and powers, in truth punishes thereby the very sin which he commits. He is then accounted to turn himself away from God, and to forsake “the rock of his salvation” (Deut. 32:15), whenever he ascribes to himself any degree of power or strength, art or skill, wisdom, or honor, or merit, so as to be willing to be thought somebody, and to be much accounted of; when, in very deed, all these in no wise belong to man, or to any creature, but to God only. Every creature is but a mere shadow, and of itself merely nothing; even so as the life, substance, faculty, wisdom, powers, and strength which it seems to have, are not properly its own, but are God's only.

4. Wherefore, as soon as a man ascribes all or any of these to himself, he becomes guilty of apostasy from God. Nor indeed was the devil's apostasy aught else, but the not abiding within the bounds, duties, and properties of a creature, which has all its life, substance, and ability in God, and ought to hold the same from him, as the shadow does with respect to the 245 body and the motion thereof. For any one, therefore, to ascribe those things to himself which are God's; or to challenge to himself honor, glory, wisdom, or esteem (forasmuch as none of these suit a creature, but are all to be transferred to God alone, to whom they really appertain), is properly to fall like Satan. Hence God permitted him to fall, not sustaining him any longer with his grace, which was by him disowned. The same thing must befall all men who, through pride and ambition, presume to arrogate to themselves any of those things which are God's. They are not upheld by the grace of God, who arrogantly turn themselves away from God, affecting to be as God. God alone being All in all, and moreover being the only Good, or the one Good, and the all-Good essentially; it would be most unreasonable for any creature to claim to itself aught of that which is good. Hence our blessed Lord saith, “There is none good but one, that is God” (Matt. 19:17); meaning, that he is the essential Good, and he alone is all that is good. This property of God, our Saviour was not willing to take unto himself in his state of humiliation, forasmuch as he was then held to be no more than a mere man; that thus, by his most bright example, he might instruct us that man ought not to ascribe to himself the things which are God's.

5. When man does otherwise, he commits the greatest of all sins, and, aiming at divinity, stains himself thereby with a most nefarious sacrilege, being turned from God to himself. And as many as are in this condition, seek help, counsel, and comfort, not from God only, as they ought, but from creatures, and sometimes even from the devil himself. But what greater madness, or what worse blindness is there, than to expect good from evil, life from death, blessedness from the damned, help from the helpless, blessedness from the accursed, and light from darkness? Whereas, on the other hand, it is the highest wisdom to look for good from the source of all good, to seek life from the fountain of life, to expect blessedness from the spring of salvation, and to go for help to him who can do all things, and “with whom nothing is impossible.” Luke 1:37.

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