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OF THE PRACTICE OF LOVING INDIFFERENCE, IN THINGS BELONGING TO THE SERVICE OF GOD.
The divine good-pleasure is scarcely known otherwise than by events, and as long as it is unknown to us, we must keep as close as possible to the will of God which is already declared or signified to us: but as soon as the Divine Majesty's pleasure appears, we must at once lovingly yield ourselves to its obedience.
My mother (or it would be the same of myself) is ill in bed how do I know whether God intends death to follow or not? Of course I cannot know; but I know well that while awaiting the event from his good-pleasure, he wills, by his declared will, that I use remedies proper to effect a cure. But if it be the Divine pleasure that the disease, victorious over the remedies, should at last bring death—as soon as ever I am certain of this by the actual event, I will amorously acquiesce, in the point of my spirit, in spite of all the opposition of the inferior powers of my soul. Yes, Lord, I will say, it is my will because thy good-pleasure is such; thus it has pleased thee, and so it shall please me, who am the most humble servant of thy will.
But if the Divine pleasure were declared to me before the event took place, as was to the great S. Peter the manner of his death, to the great S. Paul his chains and prisons, to Jeremias the destruction of his dear Jerusalem, to David the death of his son,—then we should have at the same instant to unite our will to God's in imitation of the great Abraham, and, like him, if we had such a command, we should have to undertake the execution of the eternal decree even in the slaying of our children: Oh admirable union of this patriarch's will to the will of God, when, believing that it was the Divine pleasure that he should sacrifice his child, he willed and undertook it so courageously! admirable that of the child, who so meekly submitted himself to his father's sword, to have God's good-pleasure performed at the price of his own death!
But note here, Theotimus, a mark of the perfect union of an indifferent heart with the Divine pleasure. Behold Abraham with the sword in his hand, his arm extended ready to give the deathblow to his dear only son: he is doing this to please the Divine will; and see at the same time an angel, who, on the part of this same will, suddenly stops him, and immediately he holds his stroke, equally ready to sacrifice or not to sacrifice his son; whose life and whose death are indifferent to him in the presence of God's will. When God gives him an order to sacrifice his son he does not grow sad, when God dispenses with the order given he does not rejoice, all is one to this great heart, so that God's will be fulfilled.
Yes, Theotimus, for God oftentimes to exercise us in this holy Indifference, inspires us with very high designs, which yet he will not have accomplished, and as then we are boldly, courageously and constantly to commence and to pursue the work as far as we can, so are we sweetly and quietly to acquiesce in such result of our enterprise as it pleases God to send us. S. Louis by inspiration passed the sea to conquer the Holy Land; the event answered not his expectation, he sweetly acquiesces. I more esteem the tranquillity of this submission than the magnanimity of his enterprise. S. Francis went into Egypt to convert the infidels, or amongst the infidels to die a martyr; such was the will of God: yet he returned without performing either, and that was also God's will. It was equally the will of God that S. Anthony of Padua desired martyrdom and that he obtained it not. Blessed (S.) Ignatius of Loyola having with such pains put on foot the Company of the name of Jesus, from which he saw so many fair fruits and foresaw many more in the time to come, had yet the nobility of soul to promise himself that though he should see it dissolved (which would be the bitterest pain that could befal him), within half an hour afterwards he would be stayed and tranquil in the will of God. John of Avila, that holy and learned preacher of Andalusia, having a design to form a company of reformed priests for the advancement of God's glory, and having already made good progress in the matter, as soon as he saw the Jesuits in the field, thinking they were enough for that time, immediately stopped his own undertaking, with an incomparable meekness and humility. Oh how blessed are such souls, bold and strong in the undertakings God proposes to them, and withal tractable and facile in giving them over when God so disposes! These are marks of a most perfect Indifference, to leave off doing a good when God pleases, and to return from half way when God's will, which is our guide, ordains it. Jonas was much to blame in being angry because God, as he considered, did not fulfil his prophecy upon Ninive. Jonas did God's will in announcing the destruction of Ninive; but he mingled his own interest and will with that of God; whence, seeing that God did not fulfil his prediction according to the rigour of the words he had used in announcing it, he was offended and shamefully murmured. Whereas if God's will had been the only motive of his actions, he would have been as well content to have seen it accomplished in remission of the penalty which Ninive had merited, as in punishment of the fault which Ninive had committed. We desire that what we undertake or manage should succeed, but it is not reasonable that God should do all after our liking. If God wills Ninive to be threatened, and yet not overthrown (since the threat is sufficient to correct it), why should Jonas think himself aggrieved?
But if this be so, we are then to care for (affectionner) nothing, but abandon our affairs to the mercy of events? Pardon me, Theotimus, we are to omit nothing which is requisite to bring the work which God has put into our hands to a happy issue, yet upon condition that, if the event be contrary, we should lovingly and peaceably embrace it. For we are commanded to have great care in what appertains to God's glory and to our charge, but we are not bound to, or responsible for, the event, because it is not in our power. Take care of him, was it said to the innkeeper, in the parable of the poor man who lay half-dead between Jerusalem and Jericho. It is not said, as St. Bernard remarks, cure him, but, take care of him. So the Apostles with most earnest affection preached first to the Jews, though they foresaw that in the end they would be forced to leave them as an unfruitful soil, and betake themselves to the Gentiles. It is our part to plant and water carefully, but to give increase—that belongs only to God.
The great Psalmist makes this prayer to our Saviour as by an exclamation of joy and with presage of victory: O Lord in thy comeliness and thy beauty, bend thy bow, proceed prosperously and mount thy horse.410410Ps. xliv. 6. According to the Septuagint and the Hebrew (Tr.) As though he would say that by the arrows of his heavenly love shot into human hearts, he made himself master of men, and then handled them at his pleasure, not unlike to a horse well trained. O Lord thou art the royal rider, who turnest the hearts of thy faithful lovers every way about: sometimes thou givest them the rein, and they run at full speed in the courses to which thou impellest them: and then, when it seems good to thee, thou makest them stop in the midst of their career and at the height of their speed.
But further, if the enterprise begun by inspiration fail by the fault of those to whom it was committed, how can it then be said that a man is to acquiesce in God's will? For, some one will say to me, it is not God's will that hinders the success, but my fault. This is not caused by God's will, for God is not author of sin; but yet for all that, it is God's will that your fault should be followed by the overthrow and failure of your design, in punishment of your fault; for though his goodness cannot permit him to will your fault, yet does his justice make him will the punishment you suffer for it. So God was not the cause that David offended, yet it was God that inflicted upon him the pain due to his sin. He was not the cause of Saul's sin, but he was the cause that in punishment of it the victory fell from his hands.
When therefore it happens that in punishment of our fault our holy designs have not good success, we must equally detest the fault by a solid repentance, and accept its punishment; for as the sin is against the will of God, so the punishment is according to his will.
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